Somewhere in 2008 …
“Yeah, and if Abe Lincoln wore a skirt, he’d a been the bearded lady,” Ramiro scoffed. “Look, I don’t care how it got there, all I’m telling you is it wasn’t there on Tuesday.”
The three flannel clad men stood shoulder to shoulder around a five by eight foot depression in the Spanish colonial’s front courtyard. Remnants of the displaced cobblestone pavers lay at their feet, mixed in with the ring of loose dirt that lined the hole’s perimeter.
“Maybe it’s part of an old Russian satellite,” Gerry offered. “Decommissioned after the Cold War, no funding to maintain it? The news is always talking about those pieces of junk falling out of the sky.”
“That’s no satellite,” Blum replied, rubbing two day’s worth of stubble on his Popeye chin. “Where’s the hammer and the whatsamacallit?”
“Sickle, Bloomer. Hammer and sickle. If you’re feeling so smart, what is it then,” Gerry challenged.
In unison, all three leaned in for a closer look at the amber light pulsing within the small, metallic orb at the bottom of the crater.
“Meteorite, maybe? Whatever it is, that wasn’t made by any man,” Blum answered.
“I don’t care if it’s a plutonium care package from Ted Kaczynski so long as someone fixes this,” Ramiro announced, toeing the dirt as he removed his faded ball cap to run a hand through the unkempt brown hair beneath it.
“I figured out the smell. Cabbage. Smells just like microwaved cabbage,” Gerry mused. “You get a hold of your agent yet?”
“Yeah. She said there’s nothing she can do since it happened after the final walk-through.” He put the cap back on his head, snugging the visor down low over his bloodshot eyes.
“Probably doesn’t want to interrupt her afternoon bridge game,” Gerry snorted. “What about the seller?”
“Suggested I call the home warranty company,” Ramiro replied.
“They claim it’s a pre-existing condition. Besides, they consider the courtyard part of the landscaping, not the house. Won‘t cover it,” Ramiro lamented.
“It could be some kind of stargate,” Blum hypothesized.
“What,” he demanded in response to their withering stares.
“Stargate for who, Darby O’Gill and the six inch Klingons? Did your parents huff Reddiwhip or something,” Gerry asked.
“Screw you, Gerald,” Blum replied, resorting to disparaging his childhood friend through the use of his formal name.
“What about your home inspector,” Gerry asked, turning back to Ramiro.
“Called him five times, left three messages. Haven’t heard back yet,” said Ramiro.
“Yeah, because the mother of all termite colonies ate my courtyard on the day of closing,” Ramiro quipped.
“Just trying to help here, man. Of course, if you don’t need me …,” Gerry trailed off as he took the last swig of cold coffee from his Styrofoam cup and made as if to leave.
“Don’t get your underoos in a bunch, Geraldo. I’m just pissed is all,” Ramiro offered by way of an apology.
“I’ve got it,” Blum announced. “It’s the fallen sun of a tiny solar system.”
“What color is the sky in your world, Bloomer,” Gerry wondered.
“Depends,” Blum responded with a Cheshire cat’s grin. “Remind me what color the walls are in your mom’s room again?”
Gerry shook his head in exasperation and turned back to Ramiro, who had retreated even further beneath his hat.
“Looks like you’ve got yourself a real hot potato here, Ram. I’m fresh out of ideas,” Gerry confessed.
“Time capsule from the future,“ Blum proposed before shrugging his massive shoulders in similar defeat.
Ramiro looked from one to the other and nodded, coming to a decision.
“One for the money …”
“Don’t do it, Ram,” Gerry warned.
“Two for the show …”
“Don’t,” Gerry warned again.
“Three to get ready,” Ramiro continued, then jumped.
“Ramiro,“ Gerry shouted.
“And four to go,” Ramiro finished from the bottom of the crater. Determination shone in the green eyes that looked up at his aghast companions.
“Crazy SOB,” Gerry muttered, shaking his head.
“If I don’t make it out of here, tell your kids their real daddy loves them,” Ramiro instructed.
Gerry smiled, unable to deny the humor in the well-played jab.
“Oh man, oh man, oh man …” Blum mumbled as he swayed from one foot to the other.
Ramiro stretched one hesitant hand towards the glowing anomaly. Everything stopped as his index finger hovered a scant two inches from its smooth surface.
“I wouldn’t touch that if I were you,” a stern voice from topside advised.
Ramiro looked up to see an unfamiliar figure sandwiched between his friends. Eight pounds of yipping terrier strained at the other end of the pink leash he held. Electrical crackling and popping drew his gaze back to the now vibrating orb. The yellow glow had morphed into a deep, angry red.
“What the hell is it,” he called to the creased face that loomed over him.
“Nasty business, that’s what. You’ve got yourself a recent sales comp there, son.”
“Sales comp,” Ramiro mouthed, reflexively withdrawing his hand. “But I just closed yesterday?”
The old man pointed at something Ramiro couldn’t see from his vantage point as his friends dropped their cups and ran for their lives.
“Cowards,” Ramiro called after them.
“The Peters place … or the Peters place before the bank took it back, I should say. Just closed this morning.”
“How much,” Ramiro asked.
“Two fifty,” the old man answered.
“Two fifty?! That’s ten thousand less than I paid!”
“Oh, cry me a river, son,” the old man stiffened, “I’ve been getting pelted with these things for the past eighteen months. Last one took out my master addition. One before that got my kitchen remodel. Too many more direct hits and my retirement goes on indefinite hiatus.”
“So what do I do with it,” Ramiro asked.
“Nothing,” the old man replied.
“Nothing. The HOA board will be by with the space suits and shovels to fill in the holes this weekend. We bury our own in these parts,” he explained.
“But it will still be here,” Ramiro objected. “Shouldn’t we dig it up and get rid of it or something? I don‘t want this thing in my neighborhood!”
Steam began rising off the shuddering orb as a high pitched warble sent the cowering dog between its master’s legs.
The old man chuckled, extending a leathery mitt into the void.
“Fool’s errand, son. Like trying to drink your way out of the ocean. Dig up one just in time for two more to hit. They’ve started hammering us so hard that all we can do is bury them as best we can and pray the appraisers don’t find’em.”
“Yeah, swell,” Ramiro replied as he was pulled out of one hole and into another. “I think they bussed in a nearsighted cyclops from Calcutta to do mine.”