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"This potato salad is delicious, Cheryl," said Mary.
"Why, thank you," said Cheryl, "it's my mother's recipe."
"I'd like to get it," said Becky.
"Any more beer?" asked Hank.
I pointed to a cooler sitting next the deck railing. "In there."
Hank walked over and pulled out a bottle. "Anyone else?"
Uncle Billy raised his hand. "Right here."
Hank pulled out a second bottle. "Anyone else?" Not getting any response, he closed the cooler and came back to the table. He set a bottle in front of Billy.
"Thanks," said Billy.
"Say, where's Eb?" asked Dottie.
Mary put down her fork. "Oh, he and Becky are still at the hospital with Brad ... they're coming here as soon as visiting hours are over."
"How is Brad doing?" I asked.
face saddened. "Well, he's out of any immediate danger with the heart issue ... and he is awake and looking around ... but he is still not responding to any requests, like squeezing my hand or blinking his eyes."
"You must be concerned," said Cheryl.
Mary nodded. "I am ... we just don't know what to expect."
Billy took a swig from his beer and set it on the table. "Well, we're all pulling for him."
Mary smiled. "Why thank you, Bill."
Billy continued. "Yeah, Eb's been next to worthless since his uncle has been ill."
Hank shook his head. "Jeez, Bill ... what's the matter with you?"
Billy shrugged. "What? I'm just saying ..."
An early firework soared above the tree line beyond the deck, bursting in brilliant colors and followed by a loud bang.
A startled Dottie looked up. "Wow, that was loud."
Cheryl laughed. "That's just the beginning ... when it gets darker you won't believe the firework displays in this neighborhood."
A few lessor reports could be heard echoing in the distance.
"Yep," said Billy. "I come here on the Fourth every year ... it's a lot less congested than going to a park to see a municipal display ... and it's louder and lasts and whole lot longer."
Another rocket bloomed over a house down the street.
Hank raised his beer. "Well, here's to the Fourth of July."
Mary wiped her eyes with her napkin. "Too bad Brad couldn't be here ... he loves fireworks."