John stashed the cigar box full of money back in the closet and they headed downstairs. The first floor of the house, other than her parents’ room and the clean dishes that sat next to the sink in the drain board, was as Joni had left it. “We need to spruce this place up a bit,” she directed, lifting the large, old, black, heavy cast-iron skillet from its resting place in the drain rack and moving it to the lower cupboard to the right of, and adjacent to, the stove. “Would you vacuum the living room, please? And maybe Mom’s bedroom? Just in case,” she added.
“Sure,” John agreed. “Uhm, I moved some of the stuff from the Treasure Room into Lottie’s. Do I need to find it a different home?”
Joni did a quick, one shouldered shrug and her mouth, nose and forehead curled up for a tenth of a second as she said, “No. I don’t think so.” She returned to the dish rack but quickly added, “Did you stack the stuff neatly?”
It was John’s turn to make a duck face by pursing his lips. He whistled “The Worms Crawl In,” song, turned his eyes upward and to the right, clasped his hands behind his back and sauntered to the master bedroom. After straightening the previously dropped items into a semi-neat, leaning Tower-of-Pisa in a far corner of Lottie’s room he walked out to the entry way coat closet and retrieved the vintage Kirby vacuum. Rolling it down the short hall and back to the master bedroom he paused at the kitchen and asked, “How old do you think this is?”
“Kirby? Oh, Lord. That was Grandmop Rose’s for goodness sake. Geeze, I don’t know? Older than we are. Way older. Maybe from, say, the late forties? Go ask Toaster,” she added with a wink.
John laughed. “I would but I think he’s on Mars. Worst. Sequel. Ever!” he cried out. “Well, not the worst but it just didn’t stack up to ‘The Brave Little Toaster.’” He started to push the vacuum down the hall but stopped mid-step. “Huh. That’s a coincidence. Your grandmother was named Rosanna, right?”
“No. My,” air quotes, “grandmother, was named Margaret. My grandmop was named Rosanna. Or Rose. Why?”
“Just a coincidence. This book I’m reading? Some Luck? That’s the name of the first point of view character that we meet. She was born in 1900.”
“Well Grandmop Rose wasn’t born until twenty-nine. And you took me to see ‘The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars.’ I’m not sure that high schoolers were the target audience for that particular sequel.”
“Hmmm. Point taken. My tastes in fifth grade -or was it fourth? -were a bit different than they were in ninety-eight. Why Grandmop?”
Joni laughed. “Because my grandfather Robert was called Grandpop. We ended up with a Grandpop, a Grandmop, a Grandad and Grandmother Margaret. Never Grandma. Never Peggy. Never Maggie or Mags. Always, always, Grandmother Margaret. Try saying that when you’re two years old! I think I sounded like wanmuddah magwet.”
“Your mom’s folk came from Iowa, right? Out west?”
“Yep. Well, sort of. Really the center so far as east west goes, just way north. Outside of Mason City? Why?”
“That’s where this book takes place. Little town called Denby. Ever heard of it?”
“Nope, but there are a lot of little Iowa towns I’ve never heard of. I couldn’t even tell you the names of most of the ninety-nine counties.”
“I could. Or at least I used to be able to. Big fourth grade social studies unit. We got Iowaed to death!”
“I was still in Illinois in fourth grade. Hey! Get to work! We have promises to keep and less than two hours before my sibs to here shall creep.”
John smiled, blew Joni a kiss, saluted her and asked, “Did you just call your brothers and sister creeps? Naughty, naughty,” as he pushed Kirby to the Hagans’ old room.