A thousand moons, ten thousand moons, Deuce has kept his Uncle Joe alive in his thoughts. Seventy years gone, and those memories are all that's left of Uncle Joe. Memories are about all that's left of Deuce, too.
Across the table, on the other side of the makeshift checkerboard, sits Deuce's young grandson Lonny-Donny, Joe McCready's great-grand nephew. There's someone I'd like you to meet, thinks Grandpa.
Lonny-Donny looks up and nods. The two lock eyes, a smile-and-a-half between them. His name is Joseph McCready, my mother's youngest brother. He was my first best friend, and my best best friend. Till I met you, that is.
Too young to know what's impossible, Lonny-Donny lets his grandfather's memories roll over him like a warm breeze, a strangely familiar melody. A young man, not much older than Lonny-Donny's big brother Chuck Jr., and a boy near his own age sit on a sandy bluff above blue-gray water. The man Grandpa calls Uncle Joe dances in a crowded, dimly lit room, spinning a dark-haired girl in mad circles, nearly falling, laughing.
Lonny-Donny doesn't understand all the images that appear in his mind, and some of them are scary, but his grandpa reassures him, all is well.
Even a five-year-old knows all isn't well. All is never well. But even a five-year-old appreciates a loved one hoping you'll believe it is. What in particular isn't well with Deuce is that he's about ninety-percent dead. But Deuce intends to put the ten percent he's got left to good use. He's going to try to undo his second-biggest mistake.
Deuce always loved his youngest son Chuck, but he didn't like Chuck until it was too late. As a result, Chuck hated him, and it was entirely Deuce's fault. Now Chuck has given his cold-hearted father the greatest treasure he's ever received: a wonder of a checker-playing grandchild.
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