|Olivia and her mother sat in the backyard garden. A ladybug landed on Olivia’s arm. Olivia leaned in and regarded it with large brown eyes the color of Belgian chocolate. For the past year she had been thinking about a career in entomology. “A bug lady?” her mother had asked.
“Please. A scientist,” Olivia had answered.
As they sat in the sun, Olivia noticed a tall plant adjacent to the flagstone walkway leading to the shed. “What is that thing?” Olivia asked, pointing at the twin spires of the plant, which towered up seven feet.
“I don’t know,” said her mother. “Some kind of weed. It just sprouted, so I let it grow, to see how high it would get.”
“Jack could climb it to the sky,” Olivia said. “You know, to find and kill the giant.” And then she was off and running on the subject of fairy tales. “I’ve never understood the endings of some of those old stories,” she pronounced. “You know, ‘They lived happily ever after.’”
“What do you mean?” her mother asked. “What don’t you understand?”
Olivia frowned in thought. “Well,” the pronoun ‘they’ and the verb ‘lived’ are self-explanatory,” she said. “But what about ‘happily,’ the adverb? I mean, what is happiness, really? And how about ‘ever after’? What does that mean, precisely? For the rest of their lives? For eternity? Does it suggest something about life after death?”
Warmth spilled from her mother’s eyes. “My philosopher grammarian,” she said under her breath.
“What?” said Olivia.
“Nothing,” her mother said. “But I was just thinking about what Dr. Holder said about you last week. How you’re precociously advanced. You know, for a seven-year-old.”
“Preternaturally,” said Olivia. “Actually, he said I was preternaturally advanced.”
Her mother smiled at Olivia and said, “I stand corrected.”
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