“The trouble with knowing some things,” Alice said with a small, half-amused sigh, “is that them people expect you to know everything.” She lay back on the couch and tossed her feet up on the armrest. “They say, ‘What ho, Alice? You’re a smart girl. Come do my physics homework,” and you have to explain that you never studied the beastly subject and that, by the by, you are smart enough to know not to help someone cheat.”

“That is a bother, isn’t it?” said Mrs. Macy as she poured herself a third cup of tea and added two lumps and a spot of brandy.

“And they also fail to realize that there are different kinds of ‘smart’! There’s clever, and wise, and bookish, and savvy…”

Mrs. Macy set down her teacup with a startled clink. “Wherever did you learn that ghastly word?”

“From Freddie,” Alice said as she pried off her left shoe with her right toe.

“Who on earth is Freddie?”

“He’s the boy who brings the coal ’round on Tuesdays. Didn’t you know?” The first shoe hit the floor with a satisfying thud and Alice began to work on the second. “Freddie says his brother is savvy and never gets lost in town. Anyhow, there are people who know, people who learn, people who teach. Even stupid cousin Suzie always knows what to say when someone’s sad.”

“Alice!”

Alice picked her head up and threw it back down on the squishy pillow. “You called her stupid last week! I heard you telling Cookie about when Suzie gave her lunch money to the beggar outside the shop.”

Mrs. Macy sighed and cleaned her spectacles. “Suzie is kind, but that was not smart.”

“Well,” said Alice, “telling Cookie that, when I was right outside the door, was neither kind nor smart.”

Advertisements