It came as a complete surprise when the mall was destroyed. It happened in early June, at lunch, on a weekday. The devastation was harsh and sudden.
To make matters worse, by that time it had already begun to become apparent that the neighborhood wouldn’t be holding its annual Forth of July cookout. The weather had turned frigid and things around the cul-de-sac had taken on a more somber tone after the death of Gary Biggs. No one went out much and those who did simply couldn’t find a way to justify holding a celebration so soon after his accident.
Myrah was particularly upset about all of this. Not that she wanted to belittle the man’s memory, but things around everyone’s houses had already been dismal enough without his passing to help bolster the collective depression. A little cook out might have been just what they all needed to pull their spirits out of the funk but now after Gary had died the whole idea seemed too tacky to be considered.
“We should just go ahead and have one anyway.” She said, arguing out loud with no one in particular.
Across from her Jill looked up and shook her head. “No one wants a cook out.” She replied. She’d been sitting hunched over their table reading a text book while listening to the builder’s wife list out pros and cons of holding the event for the past five minutes now.
Myrah thought for a moment.
For a man who’d spent such a large portion of his life on planes it seemed ironic that Biggs would have met his end by drowning. He’d been riding on a ferry, crossing Puget Sound when the tidal wave from a Pacific Ocean meteor strike had capsized the vessel that he was on.
“It could be a memorial.” The builder’s wife suggested.
Jill frowned. “No.” The girl answered sternly.
There was a test coming up in the summer course that she was auditing and even though it wasn’t for credit she was still trying to study for the thing as much as she could. The debate with the builder’s wife was a distraction that she didn’t need right. It felt pointless.
The wave had swept over Gary Biggs’ ship completely swamping the craft. It continued onward into city of Seattle’s streets killing scores and doing billions of dollars in damage. No one had seen it coming. It was the first fatal strike that had affected the American mainland and their neighbor had been one of the victims. Everyone was still in mourning.
“We could charge for plates.” Myrah suggested. “It could be a fundraiser.”
“For what?” Jill asked growing visibly annoyed.
“For the victims.”
The girl sighed. “We only know one victim.” She said turning a page. “He’s dead.”
In the days leading up to his demise Biggs had told everyone that he didn’t feel right doing his job anymore. He’d said that the constant travel was beginning to affect him. In one week he’d be in Miami talking with a big named rapper and sitting on the beach. The next he’d be visiting a factory in the snowy north where minimum wage workers mass produced grocery store interfaces for him. He hated the constant dichotomy of the landscapes that he found himself surrounded by.
“What about the people who use to work for him?” The builder’s wife asked.
Jill looked at her. “No” She said evenly. “There’s too many of them and besides, none of use would even know how to distribute the funds.”
Myrah grimaced. She had met opposition plenty of times in trying to plan this cookout but still, she didn’t intend to give up. Until the actual day had passed she would press for a party on the forth.
To her, the death of their neighbor had been just another thing in a long progression of misfortune. With Dan locked away in his safe room, Clara’s recovery from the bus accident and Kinkaid’s amnesia the year had been a bad one. It didn’t help that every time she turned on the TV there were more craters and more people dying.
For the most part, the meteors tended to strike in tiny, third world nations. Jack claimed that this was always the way that disasters had worked since the beginning of time. For some reason, those with the least to lose were always the first to have those things taken away from them.
Biggs could never quite reconcile the disconnection that had become inherent in his life as a salesman. He admitted that he wanted to experience the world of the rich and famous but he knew that he was nothing but a fat, short, balding man who ran a software company and was riddled with anxiety. He disliked being away from his son very much. He detested the factories and offices.
“Tara’s a victim!” Myrah offered excitedly. “She’s a widow!”
“Tara’s rich.” Jill added.
When the wave had hit, Gary Biggs had been on his way to sell his company to a technology investor that lived in a sprawling mansion on an island just north of the city.
The funeral had been closed casket. His body hadn’t been found for several days and by the time that it was finally recovered the corpse was beyond repair. Fish had been at him. He’d washed up on the coast wearing a suit.
“She hasn’t seen a penny of that money yet.”
Jill sighed. “She’s been bought out.”
“For a fraction of what everything was worth.”
“She’s already moving on.”
Even though the diggers remained and the street was still largely closed off Gary Biggs’ widow was determined to sell the house that she had shared with her husband and move into a more upscale neighborhood closer to the city. She’d put it on the market almost as soon as the man was buried. She kept it clean and spent her days and nights directing people to make minor repairs to the inside while taking care of her son. No one had come by to look at it but even so, she was still packing her boxes.
“Do you think that she’ll be able to sell?” Myrah asked.
The girl shrugged. She didn’t seem at all interested in venturing a guess on the matter.
Temporarily conceding defeat, Myrah distracted herself by looking over her bags. She had dozens of them spread out on the booth beside her. Most of them were clothes. Sweaters and jackets for her; nothing for Jack and the kids. These were not normal summer fashions.
The two of them were in the food court waiting for Clara to finish getting her hair done. It had been an ordeal getting the woman out of her house. She’d been completely consumed by her work ever since the bus accident and the only way that Myrah had been able to convince her to come out shopping with them was by telling her about a new projection system that had been set up to display commercials on the ceiling over the area where people skated.
Absently, the builder’s wife looked back in the direction of the display to see that there was one on right now for pet food. An image of a woman was cast larger than life in the space above and behind her head. The model smiled as she stooped to fill the bowl of an eager collie.
Myrah watched it and wondered if maybe she should buy a dog. If they weren’t going to have a party then at least she should have something in her life to give it meaning. She wondered how much a full bred spaniel would cost her.
She looked outside to see that an SUV just like the one she’d had stolen in Galveston had pulled up at the corner. It was big and intimidating. She missed that car.