Lonny-Donny is five years old when his 83-year-old grandfather Alphonsus Januarius (Deuce) Laffingstock moves back into the house he built for his family more than 30 years earlier. Grandpa is two months removed from his second stroke, which took his voice. Stroke number two also knocked out most of Grandpa's right side.
Deuce Laffingstock's first stroke was nothing -- a stubbed toe. But the second one kicked Deuce's butt. Soon after Lonny-Donny's sixth birthday, one year after Grandpa returns to the homestead, he'll be struck again. Stroke number three finished him off.
Even voiceless and half-paralyzed after the second attack, Deuce manages to keep his spirits up. Lonny-Donny's grandfather is a world-class friend-maker. His young grandson turns out to be Deuce's last best friend, even though they barely exchange a spoken word.
"Lonny-Donny, leave your grandpa alone! Dad, you're supposed to be doing your therapy!" Mavis shouts from the kitchen, but she doesn't mean it.
They sit across from each other at the dining room table. In front of Grandpa is a big plastic bowl and hockey-puck-sized plastic checkers. In front of Lonny-Donny is a tabletop-sized plastic sheet with a checkerboard pattern. The boy is joyously interrupting his Grandpa's post-stroke physical therapy.
Grandpa's supposed to pick up the checkers with his bad right hand, place them in the bowl, then take them out. Grandpa has a better idea. He teaches Lonny-Donny how to play checkers. He plays one game against himself while Lonny-Donny watches, and then he coaches his grandson through a second game. By the middle of the third round, Lonny-Donny is holding his own. He comes seriously close to winning game four. Grandpa smiles crookedly.
As they take turns moving the oversized checkers around the tabletop, Grandpa imagines the stories he wishes he could tell his grandson about growing up out west.
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