The next morning they were awoken by the sound of a loud commotion out front.
Markoff rolled over looking at the clock. It was ten past seven and already the archeologists were making noise. He could hear them shouting back and forth on his lawn.
Beside him Myrah still slept. He could see her legs twitching underneath the covers. She quivered slightly each time a new voice bellowed up from below.
It had been a late night.
He’d left Jose’s room and gone directly to his daughter’s in order to admonish her for throwing her soccer ball at the boys head. He told her to not do it again and she’d argued with him calling her brother a freak and a nerd.
“You need to not call your brother a nerd or a freak.” He said seriously as he sat with her on her bed.
“He’s an ass.” She spat. “A total dweeb ass!”
There was something in her language that reminded the builder of Kinkaid. “Just because he’s different is no reason to go throwing soccer balls at his head.”
It felt strange to the builder sitting amongst the trophies and ribbons and pink blankets of her bedroom. He’d just seen the likeness of the Taj Mahal reimaged on the boys game and now these titles and awards seemed naïve and childlike to him.
“I hate his dork game!” The girl spat. “He never comes out anymore. He’s the biggest dickhead in school.”
Markoff shook his head. “He’s not a dickhead. He’s just got a gift.”
He didn’t begrudge Justine for wanting to display her accolades. She’d earned them as the best player on her schools soccer team. It was okay for her to be proud of them. They represented a gift that she’d been given. Still, in light of what her brother was doing they now seemed immature.
“Just don’t throw soccer balls at his head.” He finished. He got up and left giving her a playful little shove.
After that he came into the bedroom where Myrah was changing into her pajamas. He stood in the doorway and told her about what her son was up to.
He told her how Jose had constructed an entire world out of computer code. He explained how the boy had taken his own strip mall which now sat vacant and burnt and how he’d rendered it into the mist of a mysterious looking mountain top.
“He’s populated it with foreign looking shoppers.” He said using his hands. “He’s filled the back corners of the thing with realistic looking garbage and he’s got a miniature riot going on in there now.”
“He loves those classes.” She said as she washed her face.
Markoff told her that the boy’s game was causing him to think likea builder now. He said that it made him proud.
They talked about this in bed. He explained to her once more that he was sorry for what he’d said. She told him that he should go walking with her and Tara once they started their routine in the springtime. He asked her about the Indian she’d talk to at the town hall meeting. She said that the man didn’t like the coat that’d she’d bought for him with all the straps. He told her that he liked it just fine. She said that she was angry that there was still a blood stain on the front of it.
Now, the student diggers were shouting in the yard downstairs. What was this about he wondered. They were never this loud for this long a time.
Markoff swung his feet out onto the floor and put on his slippers. He stumbled down the stairs wearing his sweatpants and his old sleeping shirt with the beer logo on it. He scratched his rear and looked outside.
The professor was in a fury. He could hear the man shouting through the glass: “This is supposed to be a protected dig!”
The cop stood at the curb nodding seriously as the scrawny old man pointed at the tent and waved his arms about in an animated fashion.
Several of the students were gathered around as well. They looked angry and sullen. They held tiny shovels and picks in their hands like weapons.
Together, they came and went from the neighborhood but collectively, they never took a day off anymore. They use to skip Sundays but now there had become a kind of relentless persistence to their presence. They dug everyday and in doing so they’d managed to make everyone’s lawns completely clear of grass just within the past month. The only thing left that marked the progress of their excavations was the depth of their holes.
“I demand answers!” The professor said indignantly.
The cop nodded again.
“This is an outrage!”
The kids raised their tiny instruments into the air and made a general sound of unhappiness.
The builder opened the door.
“Keep it down out here.” Markoff called sleepily from his front porch.
Without hesitation the man from the state swung around to face him. “You!” He said, raising a finger in the builder’s direction.
“Me?” Markoff asked. He stepped outside closing the door behind himself. “What’s you’re problem with me?”
“You’re the one with the tent in your yard.” The old man continued.
“Yeah?” He replied.
“You’re the one!” The archeologist said again angrily. He was literally shaking now with rage.
“Look,” Markoff sighed. “I hate that God damned tent and I hate being woken up at seven in the morning on a Sunday.”
The student’s glared at him.
The old man glared at him.
Absently he rubbed at his eyes. “Just keep it down okay?” The builder asked.
He could see that the sky was still peach colored from the sunrise. The morning was cool but it was still mid-February so that kind of thing was to be expected. Occasionally a shooting star could be seen in the darker parts of the horizon during this hour of the day. The builder looked up trying to focus his eyes enough to spot one.
The archeologist seethed. “Your friend!” He shouted. “You’re the one with the friend!” It was as if he hadn’t heard a word that the builder had just said.
“What about my friend?” Markoff asked looking down at the man angrily.
“He’s the one who always beats me up.”
The builder stretched. “Well, he’s been arrested for a while now.” He said without much enthusiasm.
“The tent!” The old man snarled.
Silently the cop put a hand on his bony shoulder and started to walk over to where Markoff was standing. He was a young officer with bulky muscles and the prerequisite standard-issue law enforcement mustache resting on his upper lip like a movie prop. He looked unsure of himself as he approached. It was as if he couldn’t believe that he’d been placed in this moment and this time.
“Hey man.” He said sounding somewhat embarrassed.
“What?” The builder asked.
“You wouldn’t have happened to have seen anyone messing around with the tent last night?” He asked.
Markoff gave him a sideways stare. “Isn’t that your job?”
“I guess.” The cop shrugged. “The thing is that I didn’t see anyone messing around with the tent last night.”
“So how’s that my problem?”
“Well,” The cop said glancing behind himself in the direction of the professor and his student. “These guys say that something’s missing.”
“The hell if I know?” The cop shrugged. “They just told me to watch the tent!”
Markoff looked at the tent. He looked at the professor and his students and then back to the cop. “You know that my neighbors gone missing too?” He asked nodding in the direction of Kinkaid’s house.
The cop sighed. “I was the arresting officer. They made me fill out all sorts of paperwork and testify that I had actually dropped him off at the city lock up.”
The old man from the state had grown tired of standing silently at the corner of the yard. “Where is my discovery?” He screamed.
“Keep it down!” Markoff shot back.
The man had grown bolder since Kinkaid had been sent off to wherever he’d been sent off to. No longer was the professor clinging to the side of Biggs’ yard distracting himself by reading his map. Now he was actively searching.
He brought out boxy instruments that thumped the earth and made the ground rumble. He used computers to look beneath the dirt in front of their houses and see what lie hidden. He called in students to analyze the readings and stood over them all like some kind of withered adventurer in his beaten hat and khaki pants.
There had been a flurry of activity the day before in Kinkaid’s yard. He’d found an anomaly on the screen and ordered his students to start chiseling away at the top of a section of earth. He’d set up the boxy thumping thing again on the Wells’ ruined lawn and made it beat the ground repeatedly. There had been thundering concussions all the way up until Markoff and his wife had left for the meeting.