Pulling into the driveway, the builder was shocked to see that Thom Grey’s father was standing in front of his house and talking to one of the archeologist. He hadn’t heard from the man’s son since his wife Jill had come to live with them and no one had seen the Tower Shooter since the party. Despite the teams of students laboring in his yard, the grids, stakes and tents the Markoff couldn’t help but feel that the presence of the old man was one unwelcomed guest too many.
“You stay here.” He told his son stopping mid-way between the backyard garage and his front door.
“Is that him?” The boy asked.
Markoff nodded as he watched the two old men converse. “Yep.”
“He doesn’t look like the pictures on television.”
“That maybe wasn’t him.” The builder said opening the door and stepping outside.
They seemed to be engaged in some sort of academic debate. The withered man in his denim, khakis and battered hat was using his hands to place his argument in place before the Tower Shooter. They made a stark contrast between one another with the former being dressed like some desert adventurer and the later being clad in tweed and sweaters more suited to an ivy league atmosphere than a suburban front yard.
“Can I help you?” Markoff called from his position by the truck.
The Tower Shooter looked in the builder’s direction, his eyes narrowing. “Hold that thought.” He told his colleague. With his hands in his pants pockets he strolled casually over to where Markoff was standing. “Is Jill inside?” He asked.
Unconsciously, the builder glanced up at his house. The windows of the adobe structure were blank. “I have no idea.” He replied.
The man nodded. “That’s probably just as well.”
“What do you want?”
Clearing his throat the Tower Shooter explained. “I feel that I have become a burden to my son and an object of distrust in this neighborhood. I wish to extricate myself from his care however I need your help in order to achieve this.”
“My help?” The builder asked.
“Precisely.” The professor nodded. “I believe that I mentioned to you that in prison I was trained to sew.”
Markoff grunted his response.
“Well regardless, I think that I have a talent for this and I’d like to open a shop in one of the malls that you’ve built.” He continued. “I feel that my current calling is to design wedding dresses for women. I want to order the finest laces and cottons and see what I can come up with.”
The builder couldn’t help but notice the irony of the man’s desires. His presence was the reason that his son’s marriage had recently disintegrated and his own wife had refused to visit him once he was released from prison. The Tower Shooter, with his troubled past and his coarse demeanor had about as much business making brides look beautiful as he himself had bastardizing the wonders of the world. “How’s Thom?” He asked.
The old man raised his eyebrows and sighed. “I couldn’t tell you.” He said sadly. “Unfortunately he works all the time and when he isn’t working he’s locked himself away in the study.”
“Are you still in the safe room?”
“Indeed I am.” The man nodded. “It’s the only place that I feel comfortable. I’m intelligent enough to realize that I’m surrounded by some kind of communal hatred that is beyond my control.”
The builder squinted. “You could control it.” He said evenly. “It’s your air of superiority and the creepy way that you go about everything that puts everyone off. Heck, if you were normal you may have never been the Tower Shooter.”
The man looked towards the archeologist that he’d been speaking with. He still stood by the front porch opening staring at them both. He looked scared. “I’ve been speaking with this man about what they’ve found.” He said casually. “There’s a lot of interesting stuff beneath the ground here.”
“Like what?” Markoff asked leaning back and folding his arms.
“Like the initial skull that was discovered.” Professor Grey said turning back to face the builder. “Have you bothered to read any of the papers concerning the analysis?”
“I saw what they wrote about it in the local news.”
The old man shook his head in disgust. “I’m not talking about the press.” He said disdainfully. “I meant have you perused any of the scholarly text.”
“I’ve got to much on my hands to learn some new egg head language.” The builder shot back.
“Well it’s very interesting.” The old man nodded. “The jaw line is particularly enlightening.”
He took a deep breath. “Evolution is a peculiar thing. It conforms to environmental conditions be they of survivalism or complacency. Tigers don’t develop stripes as a fashion statement and today’s humans aren’t the natural predators that they once were. Sure, some are rugged, conniving and remarkably adept at manipulation but it’s those who are not that fill out the majority of the population of this species.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about domestication.” The professor said raising his eyebrows once again. “I’m talking about the fact that the jaw line of the specimen found here is 20% bigger than that of the average person today. I’m talking about the cranium and how it had a larger radius than those which the bulk of modern humans currently possess. I’m stating that the body of this creature was more compact, the head superior in size and its mouth dangerous and perfectly designed.”
“A caveman?” Markoff asked.
“A seed.” The professor corrected. “You’re sitting on top of the pinnacle of human evolution. This would be right after the dinosaurs died off and the mammals began their ascension to the top of the food chain. This is where it all began here on earth. This is the top of the slide.”
The boxy device that the scientist used to probe into the earth thudded loudly on the ground from out in the middle of the street. The sudden sound made the builder jump. He glanced in its direction to see a group of students gathered around the device reading the data.
“Around 9,000 years ago mankind settled in villages and began raising crops and livestock instead of hunting for them on the open plains.” The old man continued. “Communities sprung up, bartering and commerce began, individual skill sets decreased in variety, grooming replaced self-protection and the entire society began to rely on the more industrious among them to provide their basic needs. As a result our species has begun to take on an increasing amount of physical traits which are more juvenile in nature. For many, the form remains flabby and lacking in musculature well into the later years of the life cycle. The characteristics that we were given to survive have slowly faded away. The teeth have become dull, the jaw-line has shrunk, and the brain has diminished in physical size. In essence most humans have self-domesticated themselves.”
“That’s a load of crap.” Markoff barked. “People are smarter today. You can’t argue that.”
“The knowledge is trivial.” The professor argued. “It’s gleamed from other people’s exploits and forgotten almost as soon as something new comes on the television or a product is introduced that they simply have to have. Commercials, credit cards, signs for fast food and disposable goods, these are the tools that the true inheritors of the legacy which the bearer of the skull left behind use to enslave their livestock. You should know this. You give the herds a place to graze.”
“Shopping malls?” The builder asked cocking his head.
The Tower Shooter nodded. “Shopping malls, grocery stores, civic centers for distraction. These are the places where the lower classes are sedated into believing that my ultimate theory has not come to pass.”
“That the lower classes have been put in reserves.” Markoff muttered. “That’s a crackpot idea.”
“Is it?” The older man asked. “Where is your wife when she isn’t at home? Where do you go when you walk through the door after a long day at work?”
“She’s shopping and I try to watch my God damned television.” Markoff spat back. “This doesn’t mean that we’re enslaved.”
“How’s your credit card debt?”
The builder raised a finger. “You see?” He said angrily. “This right here is why no one likes you. You take something like a caveman being found in my next door neighbor’s back yard and you turn it into some sort of weird assed insult that directed towards at personal income. It’s insane.”
“It’s my job.” The old man shrugged.
“No.” Markoff continued. “You don’t have a job anymore, remember? You were put in jail for being the Tower Shooter and now that you’re out you’ve got to live with your son in his safe room.”
“I’m not the one who’s been put in a cage. I can crack a beer, watch TV and go hunting anytime that I want to. You’re the one who’s trapped.”
Thom Grey’s father smiled. “You see that’s precisely why I wanted to talk to you about opening a store.” He said. It was amazing how effortlessly he maneuvered the tone of his voice towards a more colloquial and less pedantic manner. “In prison I was taught a skill. I can sew. I intend to use it to make wedding dresses so that I can buy things for myself and explore the other side of the fence in this society.”
“Talk to the Japanese.” Markoff said turning away and heading back in the direction of the truck. “They own everything around here, not me. I just do the building.”
“On bank draws?”
The builder swung around leveling the man with an icy stare. “Get off my damned driveway.” He growled.
The Tower Shooter laughed. Markoff watched him as he slowly ambled back across the torn up street in the direction of his son’s house. He carried himself like royalty through the ruins. To the builder, he didn’t look trapped at all.