Other than a railing and balustrades the Hagans’ stairwell was an open space for the lower half-dozen steps. Joni descended the stairs first and made John pause just before coming in view. Continuing to the bottom of the steps she faced the living room, extended her left arm, palm open and facing skyward, indicated the top of the stairs and announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages? May I introduce to you John Knopick and his haberdasher’s handiwork?”
Eight eyes looked over to the staircase as John, blushing but smiling, walked down the last few steps, struck a double arm, shoulder height, palms upward pose, turned his head first left and then right and with arms outstretched pirouetted in a clockwise direction. “Ta-da!” he exclaimed his face turning from rose to crimson, shaking his head and breaking into self-deprecating laughter.
Applause erupted from Joni’s siblings and their significant others and Bilhah hollered, “Woot, woot! Them’s some fancy threads!”
Joni, beaming, took John’s hand. In the lexicon of smile classifications John’s would undoubtedly be labeled sheepish but he nodded and bobbed his head as walked to the living room. “Very nice, John,” Ashley said. “That is a sharp suit. And old, isn’t it?”
“Very,” John replied, reaching for his crotch. “Look!” he declared, nodding his head vigorously while pulling back the cloth fly that covered his pants’ buttons. “Buttons! I think this thing’s pre-World War One.”
“Whoa, soldier! Keep that thing in the guard house, won’t ‘cha!” Jacob said. “All them buttons look like they’d really slow you down when you gotta go. And speaking of which, I gotta go. Anybody need a refill when I get back?”
“Yes!” Bilhah responded, holding out her wine glass.
“Me too,” Ashley added, doing the same.
“K. Joni? Amber?” Jacob asked, eyebrows high.
Joni shook her head and Amber scrunched her nose up. “Nooo,” Amber said. “I’m gonna pass. Thanks.”
Sean nodded and held his glass up. “Sure. Can you manage?”
Jake tilted his head down until his chin touched his chest. “Really, son? Really? Yeah. I got it. What kind you having?”
“The Zinfandel,” Sean answered.
“That’s the pink Zinfandel,” Payton said with a smirk.
Sean silently turned his head toward his brother-in-law and stared at him wordlessly. Amber said, “So the brother who doesn’t have any kids is questioning my husband’s masculinity? Fascinating,” she pursed her lips and nodded for punctuation.
“Screw you, Amber. We’ll have kids when we want,” Ashley proclaimed, emphasizing the word ‘want.’ “And at least I don’t have Pay’s balls in my purse,” she added sotto voce.
Jake grabbed wine glasses and announced, “And on that happy note I’m heading to the head. Three pink zins and two beers; right John? You’re still good?”
John nodded and sat between his wife and Bilhah. Bilhah looked at Amber, turned her head to John and rolled her eyes. “Oh! Hey,” she said to Joni, “your phone went off while you were gone.”
“It did?” she responded, picking it up from the end table and looking at it. “Hmmm,” she added looking at the screen.
“What is it?” John asked.
Joni turned the phone away from him and answered, “Nothing. Just a text. From Bill. He has a question I’d better answer. Be right back,” she declared, standing and walking over to the dining room table.
John wasn’t sure what he’d seen on his wife’s phone but he did know that the phone number didn’t start with the 708 area code of South Side Auto Supply. John twisted his lips to the right side of his face and drew his eyebrows together wondering what exactly this was all about.