Toward a Theory of Surprise

by Chris Bachelder
from Believer

Three mornings a week I drop off my three-and-a-half-year-old daughter at her daycare center. We have a routine. First we read a book, then we hug, kiss, high five, and wave before I leave. That’s how every drop-off goes. One recent morning she squirmed throughout the book, distractedly performed our separation ritual, then stopped me from departing by grabbing my wrist. She leaned sideways at the waist and with her other hand gripped the back of her knee. “Dad,” she said, “there’s something weird in my leggings.”

I turned her around and felt the back of her leg with the tips of my fingers. Sure enough, there was something weird in her leggings. The weird something was small and hard, seemingly unattached to her skin. It felt like a stone, a piece of gravel. In half a life how many rocks have I pulled from my socks? The adult mind settles quickly.

“What is it, Dad?” my daughter asked.

“I think it’s a rock,” I said. more

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