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Into the Life of Things

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Janet liked Emmett immediately when Thomas brought him home for dinner. She'd been quite pleased when Thomas asked, tentatively, if she thought it would be okay with the Sprat if he invited someone over; she still worried that law school wasn't the right fit for him, and she was relieved to find he was making friends.

"He seems interesting," Thomas told her, in between trying to coax Sophia to eat her broccoli. "Right here on the spoon, Sprat. -Not an English major, worse luck, nor Classics -- which might after all be to his favor -- but he's read many of the right books, and I think he can be trained up to the ones he's missed. We do need to take him to see some Shakespeare, mind. He's a little crazy, too -- freshman proctoring and temping at a law firm in addition to class, can you imagine? I don't know how he sleeps. I only got him to come to dinner with the promise that we'd review Torts afterwards."

Thomas continued, "He's rather impressive, really. I know who he is because he got thrown out of Stromwell's class the very first day; he'd done the reading, but not well enough." Janet nodded; Thomas had complained to her often enough about how strict Stromwell was, and how often students got kicked out of her class, although Thomas had so far avoided this fate. "And I suspect he approached a couple of study groups who were wary of him because of it." Thomas frowned. "Well. Since then, even on his own, he's been doing quite well in class, but I think he needs a friend; he's a bit of a lone wanderer. -Sprat, lovie, that piece might be too big."

Janet, coming back to the table with more food, dropped a kiss on Thomas’s head as she laughed at the spectacle of Sophia trying to cram a huge chunk of broccoli into her mouth. The talk turned to what foods Emmett might like and how much tolerance he was likely to have for food thrown on the floor.

Emmett, the next evening, turned out to have a fairly high tolerance for food on the floor, which was a good thing, as Sophia was apparently bent on impressing him by showing how far under the table she could throw the pieces of bread she was given. After several rounds of this, Janet gave up and went into the kitchen to rummage around for something to wipe up the crumbs.

When she returned, Emmett and Thomas had started discussing The Tempest, which apparently Thomas had browbeaten Emmett into seeing. "I still don't see why Prospero had to break his staff at the end," Emmett said doggedly. "Why would he give up that power?"

"That's a superficial reading," Thomas retorted. "Power, surely, but at what price? What's he making himself into? What is he opening himself up to?"

Janet remarked from under the table, a little muffled, "You know, it does seem rather like someone should have given him the advice to just renounce the not-so-great parts and keep the rest."

Thomas said, sounding a bit strangled, "I don't think it works like that. Prospero can't just give up the bad parts; the corruption is running through all of it and infects even the parts that seem good. He's got to make a fresh start in a different world, and that means giving up his magic."

Janet looked at him, a little worried, but before she could say anything, Sophia, apparently deciding it was time to make her own opinion known, pronounced emphatically, "Dadadada!" All three adults smiled. Emmett asked, "How many words can she say?"

The talk went from there to Sophia's general development, to Emmett's childhood reading, to Janet's courses as a first-year graduate student, to a general comparison of Janet's experience in the Harvard English department to Emmett's and Thomas's experiences at Harvard Law, with suitable interjections by Sophia, who appeared to fancy herself a great expert in all these matters, of a dogmatic "Dis!" or "Baba!" Emmett was frank, opinionated (but willing to have his opinion changed), and had interesting things to say both about books and law school; he was, Janet thought, someone she was interested to get to know better, and all in all a quite satisfactory friend for Thomas to have made.

Finally it was Sophia's bedtime; tonight it was Janet's shift. "Well, Emmett," Janet said, "this was fun; we'll have to do this again."

"Em!" Sophia said loudly. "Em, Em, Em!"

Thomas beamed. "It's settled, then," he said. "Lo, the mouth of the Sprat hath spoken it. You're to be one of the family."

Emmett smiled, his whole face lighting up, and Janet smiled back. "I'd like that," he said.