“He ain’t building anything.” Myrah said to Jill. “It’s the forth of July and there’s snowfall.”
They were standing in line at the store trying to get a few things and get home before the roads got too bad. “Normally he’s praying for a hurricane this time a year.” She continued. “He pisses and moans that he’s overdrawn from the summer and he begs God to wipe out his tacky little buildings so he can be rid of them and collect on the insurance money. I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon do you?”
Jill looked at the basket. “This is too much.” She said.
“Clara’s coming over.” Myrah explained. “Jack invited Kinkaid, whatever the hell he is right now and his wife. That God damned astronaut is already at the house. We’re going to need a lot of food.”
“But do you really think people are going to want to drink beer and eat hamburgers?”
The builder’s wife shrugged. “It’s the forth of July.” She said.
An older man was in front of them. He was trying to synch up his phone with one of Gary Biggs’ coupon terminals. He held the device up to the machine and waited.
“You have to plug it in.” The cashier said as she watched him struggle without much interest.
“What’s that?” He said giving the phone a little jiggle.
“There’s adapters.” She said, pointing to a system of plugs that were laid out to the side of the consol. “Just find the one that fits your phone and plug it in.”
“I can’t.” He said. He continued sweeping the phone back and forth across the black box.
The girl folded her arms. “Why not?”
“Virus’s.” The old man said. “I heard about them on the news.”
Jill picked up a box of crackers and pretended to study it. “So Jack’s not going to get the mall job is he?”
“No.” Myrah answered.
“They turned him down.” The builder’s wife said. She spread her hands as if to say that was all she knew about the subject.
In front of them the old man continued to wave his phone back and forth. “These kids.” He said shaking his head. “They put these little things inside people’s phones. They use them to steal personal information. I’m too old to begin again.”
“Our systems fine.” The cashier responded. “If you want the discount then you’re going to have to plug in.”
Jill tossed the box back into the cart. “Jack’s been busy this year.” She said as she picked up a package of hamburger meat. “He probably doesn’t need the work.”
“Oh he needs it.” Myrah laughed. “Every time that the Japanese pay him for something they get him going again on new work. Pretty soon the entire stretch of highway from here to the beach is going to be covered in plastic shopping malls that look like putt-putt golf courses. He doesn’t even ask me where he should build anymore. They tell him where to go now.”
“He hates working for them.” The girl muttered. “He complains that they steal his designs.”
The builder’s wife rolled her eyes. “He steals his designs.” She said with exasperation. “He picks them out of pictures that I show him in the National Geographic and he always gets them wrong. Everyone thinks its original but it’s just because he doesn’t pay attention.”
The old man dropped his hands to his side. “Can’t I just show you what I’ve got on my phone?”
The cashier shook her head.
“His daughter got a letter from her mother a couple of months ago.” Myrah continued. “It was cold hearted and cruel. In it, the woman basically said that she was leaving for Mexico and not to worry about contacting her again.”
“That’s terrible.” Jill said.
The builder’s wife nodded. “I showed it to Jack and he went into her room to have talk to her.”
“Maybe so.” Myrah agreed. “Still, he did the whole thing half assed.”
The old man sighed. “How can I know that this won’t implant anything in my phone?” He asked the cashier.
“You can’t.” She said. “But honestly, why would you even care about that? You had to connect it to something to get the coupons sent to you. It’s not like you’re starting with a pure uninfected body now is it?”
“He bought her a card and told her to love everything.” Myrah continued. “Then he started getting wrapped up in what Jose was doing and now I’m left trying to figure out how to relate to her weird tomboy way of doing things.”
“She needs a mother.” Jill nodded.
“She’s never had one!” Myrah exclaimed. “She doesn’t even know what mother’s and daughters are supposed to do with one another. I keep offering to take her to get her hair done or go shopping.”
“There’s not many places to shop, now that the mall is closed.”
“Exactly.” The builder’s wife said nodding. “I tried to take her to one of Jacks places but it was so crowded with people lining up to have their pictures taken with a giant dragon that I couldn’t stand it. We left. Not that the girl was interested much in anything that I had to show her anyway.”
“That’s a shame.” Jill muttered.
“You’re one to talk.” Myrah snapped. “You let the foreigners convince you to start taking classes and now you’ve all but dropped off the face of the earth.”
The girl turned to her friend still holding the package of hamburger meat. “It’s something that I’m passionate about.” She said defensively.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Myrah said waving a hand. “It’s your moment and all that.”
“I don’t know what you’re so mad about anyway.” The girl quipped. “You wanted Jack to get closer to Jose. You used to complain about it all the time. Besides that, what happened to you taking nursing classes anyway?”
“There’s more to life than that.” Myrah said. “I feel like I’m supposed to do something bigger.”
“Okay, be a doctor then.” The girl shot back. “I’ve heard you talking about it. Take some classes.”
The builder’s wife shot the older man a look. “What I really need is something else to happen.” She said slowly. “Like maybe someone having a stroke or a heart attack right in front of me.”
The both waited for the old man to keel over. Instead he gave a heavy sigh. Looking defeated, he began to walk away.
Jill tossed the meat that she was holding down. “It’s not like any of this matters anyway.” She said. “The world’s going to end pretty soon.”
Myrah blinked. “Do you really believe that?”
“Jack saw a report.”
“But no one believes him.” The builder’s wife said incredulously.
“It looks like the world is ending.” Jill said, nodding in the direction of the windows. Outside, the older man was sloshing across the parking lot with his head down. The snow was coming heavier now that it had been all morning. It struck an odd contrast against the paper flags and pictures of barbeque grills that had been strung across the front of the store as seasonal decorations.
“I think Jack just dreamed that.” Myrah scoffed. “There’s never been any mention of it since he woke up that morning.”
“Sanjay says that you can’t tell.”
“Can’t tell what?”
“Can’t tell what’s going to come next.” The girl answered darting her eyes nervously upward.
They waited for the cashier to pull the older mans items from off the counter. She rolled her eyes and flashed them a look that was somewhere between an apology and misplaced anger. It was still early and she seemed to be the only one working.
“Don’t worry about it.” Myrah said. “If it ends it ends.”
“You’re one to talk.” Jill replied turning to her in dismay. “You were just praying for that old man to die so you could have another moment.”
Myrah frowned. “Is it wrong that I really like saving people?”
“You need to find a better outlet for it.”
As the cashier stood piling things into a basket that the older man had left abandoned at the end of the register the builder’s wife thought for a moment. “I don’t know why Jack’s gotten so wrapped up in freaking everyone out here lately.” She said. “I think that he’s losing his damned mind. He says that the governments after him now and that some weird shadowy figure blew up the mall in my old SUV.”
“Sanjay says that the government’s after him too.” Jill nodded.
“What’s going on between you two?”
“I like him.” The girl replied. “He makes me feel comfortable.”
“Like a warm coat.”
There were rolls of toilet paper, TV diners, magazines and pills. One of them was for a prescription. The cashier held it up, taking a look at the words printed across the bag. “Procardia.” She said, giving it a toss to the side.
“He talks to me and tells me things.” Jill continued. “I think that I missed that with Thom. When I was living with him everything was a mystery. I kept having to guess at what I could do to make him happy. There was never any feedback.”
“Are you in love?”
The girl shook her head. “No.” She answered. “I don’t think its love. Besides, he’s got a girlfriend.”
“Then what is it?”
“Inner peace.” Jill answered.
“It’s funny.” Myrah laughed. “You find peace in a man that can’t tell you what’s going to happen and I’m getting more and more perturbed by Jack and his constant gloom and doom.”
There was a gritty scrapping sound from outside followed by a thud. All three of the women turned towards the windows to see the old man sprawled out on the snowy pavement. A car sat in front of him, its windshield wipers going and the lights on.
The cashier gasped.
Jill turned to Myrah. “Oh no.” She said. “You don’t have any sweaters.”