John Parker sat at the red light waiting to turn right. He yawned, surprised at the volume of traffic for 9:30 at night in Brevard, North Carolina. This was his hometown, where he had been raised. It was also where his father, Walter, had worked in a paper mill until it closed nearly twenty years ago.
The State of North Carolina had paid for Walter to go Blue Ridge Community College and learn about electricity. Walter came up with a business plan, then applied loans from the EPA, the VA, the SBA, the DoE, and the State of North Carolina. His plan was simple. He’d buy the solar panels and lease them to businesses. The businesses could write it off on their taxes and he’d do all the maintenance. Ten years later he had a multi-million dollar business that stretched across the Carolinas.
Ten years of business success had changed many things. But the Parker family still lived in the little white house a mile off the road just three miles north of Wal-Mart. For John, his brother and their two sisters it had been crowded at times but they had never lacked for anything. It had been a good childhood.
John was wondering how to wake Andrea. But when he looked over the young woman was wide awake, looking at the other houses along the street. He parked behind his brother’s SUV and switched off the Kia.
As he opened his door an outside light came on. The screen door opened and his younger sister, Natalie stepped onto the porch. John was the second oldest in the family. He was also the only one not married or on the way to the altar. His older brother Michael had married Jessica fourteen years and his oldest, Michael Junior was thirteen. Wow, how time flew. The couple’s other three children–Amanda, Walter and Emily—ranged from eleven to one.     His younger sister Natalie and her husband Calvin had their first child, Reagan, last year. And even the youngest sister Lydia was engaged to a local DMV clerk. Yeah, the family was kinda beginning to wonder when he would make the big announcement. Or if there would ever be a big announcement.
As he hugged Natalie John‘s brain seemed to switch on. The present! He’d forgotten about the present for his youngest sister. It hadn’t even crossed his mind during the entire drive up with Andrea. In fact he hadn’t thought about it since… sometime this morning. Did he even have it with him?
As he tried to think of a way out of this mess Natalie bent over and looked in the car. “And who’s this?”
Oh goody, a distraction. “This is Andrea Litz. Andrea, why don’t you pop inside and get something to drink?”
Andrea demurred, but Natalie was nothing if not persistent. Soon his “photographer” was in the house as he dug through his trunk looking for the present he thought he brought. At least John knew he’d bought it.
It was a wrist-organizer. It looked like a big athletic watch with a thick band. Actually the watch was a display and the band held the computer chips. The contraption combined a regular watch,  mobile phone, an organizer, and even a digital camera. Plus thirty other things he couldn’t remember right now.
He’d bought in New York last month. Cell phones weren’t allowed in the school where his youngest sister Lydia taught. This would be perfect. If he’d brought it. Ironically if it was in the trunk he’d have put it somewhere “safe.” Oh yeah, safe. Safe from him.
After thirty minutes he finally found it. He’d even remembered to personally wrap it. And yes, his sister would be able to tell he’d wrapped it himself. As he put things back he noticed Andrea’s bag. had several locks on the zippers. Ooookay. Who exactly was he laundering into Mexico?
As John walked to the porch he wondered why none of the guys had popped out to chat. Oh well, one reason he’d gone with Media Content was the short drive to Charlotte. It hadn’t been the highest salary or the most prestigious joint. But he was able to come home for lunch—literally.
When he came in everyone was watching Reagan deciding if she should let go of a stroller and walk to her daddy. Then she saw Uncle John, got excited, and sat down rather quickly. Chattering happily the one year old crawled over to him. He picked her up and gave Lydia her present. Then he passed Reagan off to Natalie and hugged his mother.
After a piece of cake and a cup of coffee it was time to go. Andrea was in the kitchen chatting with Lydia. She had been watching him carefully through the door. He had just decided it was time to go when, without even a gesture, she joined him at the door. His mother and sisters hugged them both. The guys shook hands, Lydia thanked him for the gift and then they left. Five minutes later he was doing the speed limit north toward Mills River.