Towards the end of January, Markoff got his twelve point buck. He’d been hunting on his lease near the north end of Houston when he saw it creep out of a thicket of elm and mesquite. He’d shot the animal right through the heart and strapped the beast to his truck.
He came home wanting to show it off but no one was around. Myrah was having a spa getaway with the rest of the girls, Thom was in Huntsville visiting his father at the State Penitentiary and Biggs was away in Detroit selling his software to another rap star. Even the kids had gone off for the weekend for sleepovers and trouble making.
In his driveway, the builder drank a beer alone. He waved at the cop that was watching the tent and he looked at the carcass. It was majestic.
Kinkaid would have surely been impressed. He would have exclaimed in his raspy voice as soon as he saw it and then brought over a beer of his own to drink. The man didn’t hunt but he had an appreciation of the sporting life. He knew that it took time and patience to make a clean kill like this one.
Blood ran down the grooves in the truck’s bed and dripped onto the surface of the driveway. Markoff set his can down and got a hose to wash it off. He sprayed the driveway in the cold. He wore his hunting jacket with its straps. He admired his trophy.
Kinkaid was still lost in jail. No one had been able to find him. There had been no phone calls and no contact. His lawyer had even gone down to the county lockup and searched its rolls. The word missing was uttered. The bail bondsman was even worried now.
Markoff didn’t know if the older man had any family that he should contact. He’d checked his mail throughout the week following his second arrest and it revealed nothing. There were subscriptions for adult-magazines, auto-magazines, cable bills, water bills, credit card bills and royalty checks for the business that he used to run. Never was there anything about an unknown son or an ex-wife that he could call.
The bondsman wondered what this meant for the bail that he had already posted from the first arrest. He was concerned that Kinkaid would miss a court date or be late paying a fine. The builder assured him that he would appear before the judge and explain the situation if the man wasn’t found on time. The bondsman nodded. “You’re responsible for him.” He said sternly.
Markoff put an old greasy towel from the garage under the blood flow. He picked back up his beer and drank proudly.
Dan would like this he thought. Dan would get a kick out of such a big God damned deer. He would clap the builder on his back and tell him that it was a real beauty. He would compare it to others that he had seen and he would know almost immediately if it was close to some kind of a record. Markoff was sure that it wasn’t but still, he wanted to talk about it.
He walked over to the house.
Honestly, he didn’t know if Dan was still even there or whether the man had been moved into some kind of long-term care facility for paraplegics and vegetables. Rumors were all over the place regarding his condition. Biggs had claimed that he didn’t have any arms while Grey said that he was legless and completely bald.
The builder rang the doorbell. He waited.
As he stood at the entryway, it occurred to Markoff that he’d never been inside the Well’s home before. He assumed that Myrah had, because of her close friendship with Clara, but he’d just hung out with Dan wherever the man happened to show up. He’d never sought him out as he did now.
He didn’t know why he’d never gone over before. If you wanted to talk about fishing or any other kind of outdoors activity Dan Wells was the perfect friend to have. If you cared to discuss sports he knew his way around most of the major bowl games and a few of the professional franchises. If you wanted to talk business or finances he held his own. The builder assumed it was because there was something guardedly uninteresting about the man.
Markoff had always considered Wells to be kept. He was a pretty boy with an ugly-assed high-powered wife who brought home all the bacon. What could he possibly know about the world? He was all froth and no center. He was window dressing. He was better than him at almost everything that mattered but he had no perspective on the kind of things that killed a man’s soul.
A curtain moved.
Markoff readied himself. He planed out what he would say. He would ask Wells how he felt. He would offer to show the man his deer. If Wells was okay in doing that he’d then offer him a beer. If he accepted the first one then he’d offer him another. They’d drink and catch up and then he’d ask what they hell had happened to the man that had taken off his ear.
He waited. He rang the doorbell again.
There was an importance in knowing why and how a handsome man was scarred. There was something imperative in understanding the forces that led to an explosion or a fish attack or a piece of heavy machinery falling unexpectedly and taking off an attractive person’s hair, legs, arms and ear. Hubris was a beast who’s habits had to be studied. It was safer knowing what provoked it.
A latch clicked.
The Christmas lights still hung around the columns and over the entryway. Everyone else in the neighborhood had already taken theirs down but the Wells decorations still remained. The wreath was still mounted over the glass. Behind the green plastic leaves and glued on ornaments of Santa and cellophane a figure moved.
Seeing him, the builder’s brows lowered. “What the hell are you doing here?” He asked.
The astronaut smiled from the doorway. “I’m here to spread my love.” He said simply.
Wallace took a step out onto the porch, closing the door behind him. “Because the man inside needs love.” He said barely above a whisper. “His wife hired me to inspire him with my uplifting message of change and success. I’ve been working with him for a week now. I feel that the affection that I’ve directed into him is taking hold. He’s coming out of his shell and soon will be a whole man again.”
“What about his ear?” The builder asked.
“What about it?” Wallace countered.
“How’s his ear?” Markoff said again. “He didn’t have an ear the last time that I heard anything. How’s the ear situation?” He found it inexplicable that the man was even here. He was also wearing a suit which was strangely off putting.
The astronaut nodded. “The ear situation is under control.” He said.
“Listen, is Dan earless or not? How does he look?”
“I didn’t know him before.”
“Well how does he look now?”
“As fine as anyone I suppose.”
“Does he have arms?”
“Two of them.”
“Does he have legs?”
“Indeed he does.”
“Can he walk?”
“Listen,” Wallace said, pulling him out into the driveway. “My man in there ain’t got nothing wrong with him that a little love can’t heal. True, he’s been beat up and tore up. He’s been hurt pretty badly but they’ve don’t patched all of that mess up for him. He’s going to be fine. He’s going to be a-okay. He’d be past this if he could ever get what happened out of his head.”
The astronaut smiled.
“Well?” Markoff asked.
There was a long pause as they both looked out over the dug up lawns of the cul-de-sac. “There are some things that are better left off unsaid.” Wallace answered with some finality to his tone. He placed his hands in his pants pockets.
“But you know?”
“I know.” He nodded.
“But you won’t tell me.”
“I’m an astronaut.” The man explained. “People trust me not to tell their secrets.”
“So you can’t?”
“You can’t or you won’t?”
Wallace nodded in the direction of Markoff’s jacket. “You seem to be bleeding.”
The builder looked down. There was a reddish-brown smear across his chest from where he’d lifted the deer into his truck. “That’s not my blood.” He explained, wiping at the stain. “It’s from a 12-point buck that I killed this morning.”
The astronaut whistled through his teeth. “That must be a sight.” He said.
“It’s a big as an elk.” The builder answered proudly.
“Mind if I get a look?”
“Come on!” Markoff said. He led the man over to his driveway where the deer still sat bleeding in the back of the truck.
Wallace admired it.
“I’ve seen them this big before.” The builder continued pulling at the horns to give the man a better look at them. “Not often though.”
The astronaut stood there taking it in.
“Want a beer?” Markoff asked.
Wallace flashed him an eager grin. “I’d love one!”
Together the two men stood there drinking and discussing the beast as the sun slowly faded behind the evenings grey clouds. Wallace said that it was a once in a lifetime shot. Markoff said that he hoped that it wasn’t. They laughed and talked about golf and business and outer space.
When it was late enough, the astronaut said that he needed to get back inside. Markoff watched him cross the street towards the Wells’ home. “You can tell everyone about this.” He called out to the man. “I don’t care.”