Incantation I
C. A. Kaufman

I'm told I used to tell everyone I met that I was a genius. This is one of the stock family anecdotes about me, something trotted out at holiday dinners where I blush and stare deep into my plate, worried I'm blushing not because I'm embarrassed of my child self but because I'm embarrassed that I still believe it. I didn't have a very firm grasp on the word until well into my childhood. It must have been said to me often enough to sink in, but I have no idea who the culprit would have been. I have only one memory of saying it to someone. I was six, it was August, and I had just learned to ride a horse earlier that summer. My dad had taken me one state over to a farm with a trail and at the outset of the hour-long ride I told the trail leader I was a genius. Afterward my dad knelt down in front of me with his hands on my shoulders and told me never to say it again. I remember simultaneously trying to recall having said it in the first place and making a covert effort to watch several kittens pile on top of each other in the dirt by the stable behind my dad's right ear. When he went to return my riding helmet I said it aloud for the last time in my life. I walked up to the kittens and said it to the shadow I cast over them.

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