GENRE: YA Historical
Old widow Johnson went home to meet her maker late Friday night. Ma Riley sat vigil at her side. Mrs. Johnson’s ragged breaths grew weaker with each tick of the clock on her mantle. At the stroke of midnight, Ma reported, the widow’s eyes popped open. She clutched at the faded quilt covering her withered body and gasped for air. In a clear voice she stated: “It is wondrous beyond.” Then she died.
Ma Riley was prone to dramatizing important events. For instance, she claimed the night Amos was born a meteor shower peppered the moonless sky. She watched through her bedroom window as a hundred or more stars shot down from heaven.
The moment Amos rocketed into the world, Ma Riley saw his name spelled out by God himself. A brief, fiery burst of the letters ‘A’, ‘M’, and ‘O’. The ‘S’ was nowhere to be seen, but she’d been distracted at the time. Amos and his brothers squirmed in an agony of discomfort with each retelling of the story.
The Riley men exchanged glances over the kitchen table. Not one of them could imagine “it is wondrous beyond” crossing the lips of Mrs. Johnson. A scrappy pragmatist, the widow clucked with her tongue when the church preacher dissolved into raptures during the sermon.
Nonetheless, Amos took the supposed parting words of the widow as a sign. It was wondrous, mayhap, beyond the fields and roads of New Madrid, Missouri. Maybe there, beyond the confines of the farm, he would find what he sought.