In anticipation, here's an excerpt from the beginning of the story, when Shea's home is destroyed and he meets the grandmother he never knew ...
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I should’ve been home. Maybe I could’ve saved him. He turned from the flattened fields and saw a thin plume of dust rising along the road. A yellow cab. A shiver ran through him, remembering the last taxicab to come out this far from the city, bringing his dad home from the airport. Shea stayed in Oklahoma to mind the farm while his dad went to Cape Cod to bury his father and brother. A murderous wave rolled their fishing boat, killing them both in one fell swoop. It had been a hard few months for the men of the MacNamara family.
The taxi stopped halfway up the drive, where the John Deere tractor lay on its back blocking the road like some passing giant’s discarded toy. The rear passenger door opened and a wisp of a figure emerged, dressed all in black. Shea watched the woman lean in to say something to the driver before turning toward him. Tilting her head to one side, she cupped a hand to her mouth and called out, “Are you Shea Thomas MacNamara?”
He nodded, not trusting his voice. He watched her pick her way around the John Deere, walking the rest of the way up the graveled driveway to where he stood rooted. Spreading her arms wide, she gave him a sad smile. “Come give me a hug. I’m your Gramma.” When he didn’t move, she lowered her arms and sighed. “I guess boys these days don’t hug. More’s the pity.” She closed the distance between them and extended her right hand. “I’m Martha MacNamara. But you can call me Gramma.”
So this was the grandmother he’d never met.
“You’re sure to be having lots of questions,” she continued, as if sensing his curiosity, “but there’ll be plenty of time for catching up. First things first, let’s have a look at you.” She put both hands on his shoulders and squinted her eyes behind her half-moon glasses, nodding to herself. He could see that behind the lenses her eyes were blue, just like his dad’s were. Had been. “And how old are you now, lad? Fourteen, is it?”
“Fifteen,” he corrected, squirming under her scrutiny. “My birthday was Saturday.” He’d planned to spend the day in Oklahoma City, watching baseball and celebrating with his best friend. Instead, he’d spent the day sitting by the Hansen’s phone, waiting in vain for word about his father.
She cocked her head to one side, her eyes glittering brightly. “Is that so? Fifteen already? My, oh, my, how the time does fly.” She shook her head and took a step back when John and his father approached. Mr. Hansen and his sons had been checking to see if any farm equipment could be salvaged from the collapsed barn.
“Hello there!” Mr. Hansen reached a meaty fist toward Martha, enveloping her entire hand with a hearty shake. Even in the midst of the devastated farmland, it was hard for the big man to tone down his boisterous nature. “You must be Tom’s mother. My wife called to say you stopped at our house first. I’m so sorry for your loss.”
John sidled over to Shea. “She looks like she might be okay,” he whispered. Shea didn’t acknowledge John’s words or even spare him a glance. His eyes were riveted on the woman who claimed to be kin, sizing her up as she chatted with John’s dad. Mr. Hansen’s blond bulk towered over the thin, grey-haired woman with the sharp blue eyes, and yet Shea had the feeling the little old lady would be the victor of any argument. There was something odd about her, but he couldn’t quite put a finger on it.
She looked nothing like his father, for starters. Except for the eyes. And while her long braided hair was steely grey and her clothes screamed “old lady alert,” there were very few wrinkles on her face. Behind those half-moon glasses, her eyes looked clear. As he made his assessment, she turned those sharp eyes toward him, catching him with her gaze.
“Let’s not dawdle then,” she said, cutting off whatever it was John’s dad had been babbling about. “We need to get your things, dearie, and get a move on.” She kept her eyes locked with Shea’s.
Mr. Hansen was startled. “But surely you’re not leaving right away. Aren’t you going to stay for the funeral service?”
Martha narrowed her eyes. “Have you found my son, then?”
The big man shuffled awkwardly under her piercing gaze. “Well, as a matter of plain fact, no. But folks here thought it would be the decent thing to have a ceremony. Put some closure on this tragedy.”
“Tragedy it is,” she agreed, taking her glasses off. She pulled a lace handkerchief from somewhere up her left sleeve and polished the lenses while they stood watching her. She took her time, rubbing first one lens and then the other, sliding the handkerchief along the brass while everyone else stood silent. She finally slipped the half-moons back on, her eyes sparkling more brightly. “But I’m afraid there will be no closure for now. Nothing is over,” she added cryptically. “It’s only just begun.”
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