If she would have wanted to, Myrah honestly thought that she could have gone swimming.
It was the last week of February and she was in Galveston again. She was there for her yearly church obligation to volunteer with others from the congregation at one of the great sky-rise hospitals on the island. It was a warm Thursday.
She looked through windows at the bright sunlight outside as she sat reading to the aged. She helped deliver meals to their rooms. She sanitized her hands constantly.
In the hallways, people were always coughing and blowing their noses. The emergency ward was filled with victims of the seasonal flu. The disease seemed to be lingering around forever this year. Almost every other person that she saw had some kind of fever.
At lunch she sat watching television with an old man that was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. He quivered beneath his covers as the news depicted scenes of people pointing to a rock that was thought to have come from outer space. This was the local news and these people were members of the volunteer group who’d been searching the fields for Kinkaid.
Myrah set her sandwich on its plate and watched.
A reporter stood nearby wearing short sleeves. “It is unknown at this time if this is the actual New Year’s Day meter.” He said reading from a clipboard. “Searchers in the disappearance of local entrepreneur Terry Kinkaid located the object this morning and news of the find has piqued the interest of officials from the Johnson Space Center who have to this point been unable to locate any evidence of a strike.”
“Oh God damn it!” She spat.
The Taj Mahal flashed on screen burned out and vacant. Pictures from the courtyard taken on the night of the blaze as fire fighters fought the inferno while standing in the center of the mosaic sun. NASA trucks were shown from a distance in the shopping centers parking lot.
She wondered if Jack was watching this. She could see him sitting in his office with the television on. He would be worried about what this would mean with regards to his liability for the fire. He would be grumpy and short with everyone for days.
A policeman was stringing yellow tape around the charred stone. “This is not the New Years Day meteor that stuck the border between Iran and Afganistan killing tens of thousands but rather the one that is alleged to have struck here on that same date.” The reporter continued. “As you may recall, that strike closed down a local mall off of Interstate 45.”
“This find is significant in that it lies near where geologists from the University of Houston were able to triangulate the seismic activity from the incident.”
The old man perked up. “That’s what I used to do.” He mumbled from his bed.
Myrah nodded distractedly.
“I read the earth.” He said proudly.
“Since that time, the shopping center has sat vacant and even changed ownership while scientists have been at the location analyzing the area for any traces of meteorite dust or debris.” The report read. “They’re now curious as to whether or not they’ve been searching in the wrong place all this time.”
The Japanese had recently bought the mall so there was no telling how this might affect Jack’s future contracts with them. He would be worried about that for sure. He would be worried about his reputation and about losing work. He always danced so close to the edge with his projects. Anything it seemed could destroy him.
“NASA is currently in the process of pulling people off of that site and sending investigators out to examine this new scene.”
Jack would probably come home distracted. He was already annoying her enough with his sleeplessness. He would drive her crazy with worry. She didn’t want to hear him fret about his business anymore.
She owned a convertible and had conceived a sign that everyone loved. She’d been thinking of taking design courses at the local Junior College. She had her own things going on now.
A commercial for dog food.
When Myrah had met Markoff she’d been at one of the ultimate low points of her life. She didn’t have a car and she didn’t have a full-time job. She didn’t have a husband and she was struggling to pay the rent and feed her son. She was an uneducated little Mexican girl who’d gotten knocked up before she’d even had a chance to finish high school.
She worked 20 hours a week for a housecleaning service and her mother watched the boy. Jose’s father still lived locally back then but he wasn’t around much. For the sake of trying to provide the child with something that resembled a stable family life they still got together occasionally but always somehow drifted apart.
They were just kids themselves. They were immature and aimless. They were an on again off again couple. They argued and made love and pretended to be grown ups. To this very day he and Myrah would have probably still been going about things in clumsy spurts and sputters if it hadn’t been for Jack.
Jack had come along and he was a young, trim, dynamic man with a full head of hair. He talked of projects and dreams and aspirations. He’d said that he was going to build professional football stadiums one day. He owned his own house. It was much smaller than the one that they lived in now but still at least it wasn’t a tiny little apartment with linoleum floors and stains on the walls.
Jack Markoff wined and dined her. He encouraged her to get her GED. He told her that he wanted to take care of her. He said he loved her son. He built a grocery store within walking distance of her apartment complex. He seemed to have all the answers.
Sadly, her husband never got to build any professional football stadiums. Instead he continued to construct one new shopping center after another. He lined the freeways around their home and neighborhood with garish facades and plastic decorations. He manufactured false environments and ignored geographical limitations. For a while, he’d been determined to make a replica of the Eifel Tower just because she’d told him that she wanted to visit France.
It had taken her some time to grow disillusioned with the routine that their had been centered around for all these years but eventually she got tired of always having to think commercially. She’d see an empty field and her mind would spin building fantasy world among the dirt and weeds. She’d show him a picture from a magazine and Jack would try to replicate the image with an anchor store and a food court. He always got it worng.
These adult amusement parks were fun but now there were so many of them they were easy to overlook. She could drive south for forty-five minutes and pass almost every wonder of the world. Markoff Construction had remade them all. They were miniature in scale and laid them out between glowing super-stores.
On the bed, the old man straightened himself up. “Back in the old days, the oil companies would sweep any geologist up who had a college degree.” He muttered with a nostalgic tremor to his voice. “They’d just hire you and then put you to work searching for oil out in the gulf.”
“I don’t have a degree yet.” Myrah sighed.
“I didn’t do earthquakes.” The old man continued shaking his head as if he hadn’t heard her or didn’t care. “That’s a baloney field of study.
“My husband doesn’t have a degree either.”
“I read shell from a thousand feet below the water.” He smiled. “You can tell a lot about what used to be around there if you know what to look for.”
She cleaned bedpans, she applied topical solutions to open sores, she sorted magazines in the waiting room.
When she left the hospital, she headed downtown to the wine bar in order to pick up a few new bottles. True, Myrah had bad memories of the last time she’d gone there but everyone had loved what she and Clara had picked out that day. It was expensive but it made her feel more cosmopolitan that she could actually make good choices without having to be an expert.
She parked close by and headed inside to make her purchases. Six bottles were placed in a box for her to carry. One had a picture of golden mountains on it, one a dog, one was named after a fish, one came in a cube shaped bottle, one had wax sealing it’s cork, and one had glitter embossed on the label.
When she went back outside Winston Wallace was standing by the open roof of her car. “It’s a top down kind of day ain’t it?” He said drunkenly.
She set the box down on a nearby table and looked at her watch. “It’s three o’clock in the afternoon dude.” She chided him.
“And a real pretty day.” He commented swaying from side to side.
“How much have you had to drink already?”
The man rolled his eyes back into his head struggling to count mentally. “Two beers and a bottle of Chardonnay.” He said ticking them off on his fingertips.
“Dude!” She said throwing her arms out in his direction. “Look at you! That’s enough to put an elephant to sleep.”
The astronaut laughed.
“Do you have a way to get home?” She asked.
“I can get a taxi.” Wallace nodded.
“You’re a mess.” She said shaking her head. “Get in the car and I’ll take you home.”
“That’s okay.” He mumbled as he smiled back at her sleepily. “I don’t want no ride.”
“You’re going to get one if you want it or not.”
“All I wanted to do was just say hi.” He continued. “I seen this beautiful new car and I said to myself ‘That’s my main man Jack’s wife in there.’”
“Get in the car.” She said.
“It could have been Dan’s old lady Clara but I was hoping it was you.”
She picked up the wine and put it in her trunk.
“I thought ‘I should go up and say hi to her.’” Wallace said following Myrah with a lazy roll of his head. “I thought ‘She could benefit from my sunny disposition on this perfect day.’”
“Get in the car!” She yelled. She pointed to the open seat with the hand that held her keys.
He nodded and got in.
As they drove through the streets and avenues of the island the radio played the news. The reporters were reading the headlines in the clipped tones that all radio chatter is relayed in. They talked about the dig, they talked about the search, they talked about the Taj Mahal, and they talked about the meteor that had been found.
Myrah turned it off.
Beside her the astronaut leaned back in his seat, soaking up the sun. “I bet you never thought that you’d get your whole life told to you on the news one day?” He said smiling.