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abraham_lincoln_statue_in_julia_davis_park_by_battle810-d5vbqw8“Actually, all of this should be tax free,” Payton said. “The cap on inheritance is like five point three million.”

Bilhah playfully clapped Payton on the shoulder, “Thanks, Johnny Cochran.”

Payton half turned to her and smiled, “At least that’s what the lawyer told me.”

Amber smiled too. “Gee. We could be in trouble couldn’t we?”

From the bottom of the stairs another louder, more insistent knock followed.

“Better see who it is,” Joni declared, scrambling down the stairs first. “John, are you coming?”

John followed fast on her heals and the sound of sixteen feet tromping down the uncarpeted steps was thunderous. Once Joni was at the bottom of the stairs she flung the front door open without checking the peephole or throwing out a demanding, ‘Who is it?’ A decision that struck everyone else in the house as a dangerous action.

John stood just far enough away from the door to allow it to open. Having scurried down the steps in a pack, Payton and Bilhah were standing on the floor immediately behind John and in front of the steps. Of those cascading up the steps Jacob was closest to the front door, followed by Ashley, Sean and then Amber.

Facing outward, the front door’s handle was on the left, hinges on the right. Joni simply turned the handle, flung the door open and stepped to the left. The insistent knockers had already opened the storm door and immediately entered the house, waiting for neither greeting nor invite. Amber yelped and threw herself down to a sitting position, covering her head with her arms, thus using her siblings and their significant others as human shields in the event that the invading couple might open fire. The pair rushed in and without a word grabbed John so that his arms were immobilized.

He cried out, “Mom! Dad! What are you doing here?”

Joni’s smile beamed toward her husband and in-laws as she watched the three embrace. “Surprise!” she called out, stepping forward and adding her arms to the group hug. “Come in, come in!” she eagerly commanded, taking hold of John’s arm and pulling him into the living room.

Turning her head over her right shoulder she called up the steps, “Ha! Fooled ya, didn’t I? It’s John’s parents, Dave and Deb. Surprise!

“Come in, come in,” she repeated, rubbing her mother-in-law’s arm, “it is so great to see you.”

Deb tilted her head to the left and a melancholy half smile emerged on her lips, “You too, Joni. I am so sorry about Lottie. How are you holding up?”

Deborah then turned to the others and declared, “Nice to see you, everyone.”

“Yes,” David echoed, “nice to see you. I’ll just get the suitcase,” he added, stepping back out onto the front porch.

“Come in, come in!” Joni declared for a third time. “The bathroom’s just down the hall and to the right,” she declared.

“Hey, everybody? Do you remember John’s parents, Deb and Dave? They drove over from Cedar Rapids for Mom’s funeral; wasn’t that nice of them?”

Jacob stepped forward and hugged Deb. “Nice to see you, Deb. Thank you so much for coming. Oh! I’m Jacob, and this,” he added beckoning Bilhah forward by wiggling his fingers, “is Bilhah. Bilhah, you remember Deb and Dave? John’s parents?”

Bilhah extended her hand, saying, “Of course I do! Deb, so nice to see you.”

David set the suitcase down and then closed the front door. Joni declared, “Dave? Deb? Let me refresh your memories. Everybody? This is Dave Knopick and his lovely wife, Deb. Deb, Dave, these are my brothers and sisters and their spouses. Jacob and Bilhah of course,” she said, nodding at each couple as she spoke, “Payton and Ashley, and Amber and Sean. You haven’t met Sean, have you?” she asked.

Dave scrunched up the left side his face and extended his right hand. “I don’t believe so. Dave Knopick. Pleasure,” he said shaking Sean’s hand. “Amber. Nice to see you again. Goodness how you’ve grown!”

“Mister Knopick. Nice to see you, too. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? What? Fifteen years? Goodness! I was in high school.”

“Please,” Dave said, lightly kissing Amber’s cheek, “call me Dave. High school? I would have thought grade school,” he said with a wink and a smile.

“Oh, Christ,” Bilhah whispered to Jacob, “he’s feeding the beast.”

Jake elbowed his wife and Dave turned to them, “I’m sorry?” he asked amiably, “I missed that?”

Jacob smiled and shook his head. “Nothing, Dave. We were just discussing age earlier during dinner, that’s all. But yeah, Mom and Dad moved to Chicago in, what, 1998? Right? Right after your birthday?” he asked, directing the last part to Joni.

“Yep,” Joni declared. “June twenty-first, 1998. Five days after my seventeenth birthday. As soon as they told us they were moving to Chicago I begged and begged to finish my senior year at Linn-Mar but they weren’t having any of it. Then you stepped in and said I could live with you for my senior year. My brother, my knight in shining armor,” she added, batting her eyelashes.

“And I begged to stay with you too,” Amber declared, nodding her head, “and Mom and Dad just laughed at me. I guess that’s how you wound up with John and I wound up with Sean. Whoa. So that means what? Coming up on nineteen years!? Wow. Time really does fly, doesn’t it?”

“And you married, let’s see” Deb ruminated, “summer of 2010?”

“June of eleven,” Sean gently corrected. “We’ll be celebrating our fifth.”

Joni said, “Good job, Deb!”

“Five years,” Deb repeated, nodding her head and smiling, “how nice.”

“Oh!” John declared, “have you met Ashley? Payton’s wife? They got married in fourteen; she wouldn’t have been at our wedding.”

“Well, no then, I don’t think we have,” Dave acknowledged. “Ashley, welcome to the family.  Payton. Great to see you.” Taking Ashley’s hand, he said to Payton, “You’ve obviously married up.”

“No doubt about that, sir. Good to see you. Long time.”

“Speaking of ‘long time,’” Dave asked, “where’s the bathroom?”