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Joe and Misty were sitting in the Whinstone Tavern and beer erupted out of Joe’s nostrils. He coughed violently a few times and the other patrons looked at him to make sure he was okay. His coughing subsided and he grabbed a paper napkin and blew his nose into it. “Sorry!” he hissed, “Some went down the wrong way! Really!? For what?”

“Embezzlement. She was working at a bank and her first husband convinced her to steal some money. I don’t know much about it because the subject is taboo in our house. I do know three things though. One is that my dad stormed out of the house to bail her out of jail one night and that her ex, Bill Mako, did time while she got probation, and what it feels like to get set up like that. Of course the difference is that I hadn’t done anything except be naïve, dumb and young!”

“Wow.” On one of their first dates the conversation had turned to Misty’s experiences with Sun Life where she briefly worked while living just outside Washington, D.C. Misty had reddened and then gone on to explain that she had had a very bad time as an employee there. An investigation concerning misappropriation of funds at the Bethesda, Maryland branch had at first tainted her with the wide brush of guilt associated with the theft as it seemed likely that she was at least complicit in the financial misdeeds.

Fortunately for Misty an assistant manager had stepped up and testified that it was his boss who had cooked the books and that Misty knew nothing about the shenanigans and that she was only guilty of being young, naïve and overly trusting. She had been completely exonerated but the incident had left her so bitter that she had resigned her job and fled back to Brewster where she sat and licked her wounds for a while. It was the Sun Life incident that had led her to moving to Hartford after getting a job with Connecticut General.

“Yeah, wow! I promise that it wasn’t because we hired a good lawyer and he had a public defender, because she did too! I don’t know how he talked her into it but it sure looks like he was successful!”

“Holy crap! How long ago was this?”

“I had just finished tenth grade so it had to be the summer of seventy six.” Misty guffawed, “Ha! Real independence day!”

“Okay, so don’t talk about Peggy’s arrest record. I think I can remember that! Anything else?”

“Well, not so much something to remember as something to warn you about. My family is very Irish, stereotypical Irish American behavior. We’re big, loud and we drink a lot and stuff. I know you’re not used to that.”

“Oh, that’s too funny! My family can out loud anybody’s that I know and believe me we drink! Ruth never touches the stuff and Phil’s a lightweight but we have plenty of drinkers! Shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Yeah. Joe, it’s the ‘and stuff.’ You are the biggest square I know when it comes to drugs and Peggy is anything but. There could be stuff going on that makes you uncomfortable.”

“Alcohol is a drug.”

“Yes, Joe it is,” she said rolling her eyes, “and you know that’s not what I’m talking about!”

“So, if I get uncomfortable I’ll go to a different room. I mean, we’re not talking needles here, are we?”

“Not as far as I know. But stuff doesn’t just mean pot. Peggy and Karl and their friends do things most of us wouldn’t try. ‘Free spirits’ is one way to describe them.”

“You don’t sound like you like them very much.”

“Oh, she’s family and I love her but sometimes the victim thing, the free-spirit, the boys and men and drama just get too much. I do love her and she’s my big sister but she’s definitely my most distant sister. Karl’s weird and I just worry that he’ll drag her down rather than lift her up.”

“That sounds awful! I just have the one brother in law, James, and he’s hard to read but he seems like a good guy. I bet Phil and Courtney get married but so far I haven’t really had to deal with all this extended family stuff. What else should I know?”

“There’s too much to tell! Meghan’s the oldest and she’s married to-“

“Tom! You’ve talked about them before. They have kids, right?”

“Yes! Meghan is due to have their third kid this fall and then she swears she’s done, definitely not planning to keep going like my parents did. Dad kept insisting that they try one more time because he wanted a boy. They have a nine year old Marie and a four year old boy named Michael. We’re going to her house to make the wedding cake.”

“You’re baking the cake?” Joe knew that Misty had earned her associate’s degree in restaurant manager when she was 19 and knew her way around a kitchen but he still thought that baking a wedding cake was a big deal.

“Yeah, Peggy and Karl are on a budget and they want the cake to be all natural. Honey instead of sugar. Butter but no margarine or any kind of manufactured fat, that sort of thing. I don’t mind the real butter but I’m not sure how I’m going to substitute honey for sugar, I have no idea what the conversion is! Peg said chocolate cake with coffee icing, from scratch, and three layers. This should be a learning experience!”

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