I was afraid. She was gently cupping something in her dirt-ground hands.
I hope whatever it is it hasn't been dead long, I say to myself with complete disregard for the child who stood before me beaming.
"I can't guess."
"Try. It's not fun unless you guess."
"OK, let me think. ... It's not the neighbor's cat ..."
"MOM! The neighbor doesn't HAVE a cat!"
"Yeah ... that's why I've ruled that out. Smart, right?"
She squints in playful exasperation. "Really? OK ... I'll give you a hint: It starts with an E. What's your guess?"
"I dunno .. an earthworm."
Her mouth twists into the unmistakable expression of surprise deflated: "Oh-how-soon-yo-adult-types-cop-out-of-this-very-fun-game."
"So you give up then?"
"I give up."
Her hands open like a flower and inside is a tiny porcelain elephant.
"I found it buried in the garden."
"Wow. That's amazing," I said as I plucked the tiny treasure from her hands for inspection. "And my guess was so close, too."
"You said earthworm. That's not close at all."
"Yes ... but it begins with an E."