Two weeks later Jill left Thom.
Markoff became aware of what had happened as he was walking through a bevy of new construction at the Taj Mahal. He’d been let back into the shopping center only recently but already his workers were laboring around the clock. Checking up on them he watched as they beat dry wall into the charred I-beams of the shops and ran rebar around the outside of what was to be the new turret for the courtyard.
"Jill’s coming to live with us." His wife said matter of factly. She’d called him on his cell phone. "She doesn’t have much. Just her telescope and two or three suitcases full of clothes."
"Why?" He asked, jamming a finger in his ear. He had to strain to hear her over the saws and hammering
"Thom’s dad." Myrah answered simply.
"Just living with him?"
"Yep." Myrah replied. "He’s always creeping around the house upstairs."
"Doing what? Looking?"
"Yeah." She answered. "He’s apparently got some sort of sick fascination with the student diggers. He found that stupid rifle that she bought last summer in a closet yesterday. He started messing around with it and accidently discharged a round into their roof. She’s had enough."
"Did she bring the gun?"
"She’s not interested in the gun."
Markoff watched as a group of men mixed mortar in a corner of the courtyard. They poked at the bucket like the volunteers poking the grass in their search for his neighbor. "How long is she staying?" He asked.
"I don’t know." His wife shot back. "She doesn’t have a job and her families all dead so it’ll probably be for a little while."
The builder sighed. "Does Thom know?"
"I don’t think so."
"Somebody should tell him." He muttered.
"It sure as hell ain’t going to be me." Myrah spat. "He’s your stupid friend anyway."
"I don’t know if I’d call Thom a friend." Markoff admitted.
"Well you’re more stuck up his ass than I am."
"I’ll go over there and let him know tonight if he hasn’t already figured it out for himself."
The builder hung up. Down one of the avenues he could look off into the field next door and see where the slab had already been poured for The Forbidden City. The Japanese wanted the Taj Mahal rebuilt and repaired before they got too far with that project. He’d delighted them recently by securing a roller coaster designer from Disney World to work on a contract basis drafting plans for the ride that was to be set between the two. The man said he would give patrons a rocking thrill-ride through the wonders of the world.
Markoff began to worry about his own marriage.
Myrah had been short and abrupt with him ever since New Years Day. It had started out in little ways at first but over time the builder began to notice the change. Sometimes he feared coming home lest he be informed of another one of his shortcomings.
What had started off as a few minor disagreements had now evolved into an almost constant criticism of his life. His wife had called him fat, she had talked about his thinning hair, she had picked apart the movies that he loved, she had told him that his buildings were making the world an uglier place, the prize deer head that he’d mounted on the wall of his study annoyed her to no end. She’d called it disgusting and tacky.
Markoff knew that he wasn’t without sin in the matter. For too long a time he’d been an extremely self-centered and inconsiderate husband. Not in any outward way mind you but rather with a general disregard that he had for the things that she did. This thought had occurred to him one day while shopping for his daughter.
Until her son had refused to go to soccer anymore and Myrah had stopped bringing home new gear, Markoff had no idea of the things that she’d bought for Justine’s sport.
The fact suddenly dawned on him on the afternoon that she had called from a scrimmage needing new shin guards. That day he went everywhere looking for what his daughter needed himself.
His daughter had misplaced her gear and wouldn’t be allowed to play without new pads. She needed to have a replacement delivered to her fast. Markoff at first tried to contact his wife in order to get her to run the errand but when he couldn’t reach Myrah he’d gone to Decoys and Deer alone. It had been an experience that could best be related to a man becoming lost in the wilderness.
The builder had walked back and forth with an animal-like desperation. He’d paced through the taxidermal displays of wild game and lurched out of place and awkward around the huge tanks of swimming fish mounted in the floors. He’d wandered through the guns and the fishing reels frantically trying to find the place where Myrah had gone so many times in the past to buy the children’s their sports equipment.
Eventually the builder had to ask a kid stocking coats where to find the shin guards. The boy pointed him in the right direction and only then, after spending nearly forty-five minutes completely helpless in the huge store did he realize how daunting it must be for his wife to go in there. She’d bought him hunting equipment and a nice coat with straps and zippers all over it and he’d taken that for granted.
There were other ways that he realize that he wasn’t perfect as well. He let his mood about work affect his interactions with the kids. He was short and abrupt when he was looking down the barrel of the gun and worried about taking a financial bullet or a smear against his reputation. He would yell at Jose and he daughter. He’d force them out of the theater to sit alone and collect his thoughts while they ran to Myrah to tell her about the unjust way that he’d treated them.
Markoff felt particularly guilty over what he’d said about the boy’s weight. It wasn’t that he was wrong. The kid was fat. What bugged the builder most about what he’d said though was that the only solution that he saw to the matter was through sports.
It had come as a complete shock to his perspective on life when he’d dropped in on the boy that night after the town hall meeting. When he saw that the kid was becoming a talented builder he no longer felt that the kid had been lazy in spending all that time locked away in his dirty room. Markoff realized that there were grander achievements than the touchdown and better things than shin guards and soccer trophies.
The builder was slowly realizing that he might not have all the answers.
Without really knowing it Markoff was growing up. All this time he’d been functioning like an adult, and he looked like and adult but there were still challenges that he tackled like a child. The absence of Kinkaid had showed him that there was more to consider than muscle cars and beer. Dan’s accident revealed to him that the sporting life didn’t make you invincible. Thom’s misplaced happiness and decline of his marriage made him realize how his own was slowly coming off of its rails.
Wallace told the builder to love everything and he looked at his family and loved them for who they were, not who he wanted them to be. This was what he wanted to tell Myrah. He didn’t want to talk about building or budgets or his boat. He just wanted to tell his wife that he was proud of her for her sign.
Two workers pushed a pallet of sheet rock past him. In the parking lot at team of scientist from NASA pulled up in a black van. Getting out they walked into the courtyard and knelt inside the mosaic of the sun. Silently they began to pray.
The Space Agency no longer had any interest in this facility. It wasn’t a place where they were looking for the meteor. Be that as it may, the foreigners still came here to kneel.