David loved to sit on the front porch and think, and that was exactly what he was doing one warm summer day.

“I want to be very, very smart like my dad,” David said to the postman who delivered the mail. “I’m going to read and learn everything!”

The postman smiled. “That’s a very good ambition,” he said, “but that will take a lot of time and study.”

“Ambition,” David repeated to himself after the mailman left. “That’s a big word. The mailman is smart and uses big words.”

This gave David an idea. “That’s what I’ll do to become smart. I’ll learn smart-sounding words.”

Just then David’s little brother, Bobby, came around the corner of the house carrying a baseball and mitt. “Hi, David. What are you doing?” he called.

“Thinking,” David answered.

“What about?” Bobby asked.

David sat up tall and answered, “Ambition.”

“Ambition?” Bobby looked puzzled.

“Yes, ambition. Everyone has to have it you know,” David said with authority.

“Oh, but how do you think about it?” Bobby wanted to know.

“I’m thinking about how smart I am when I use ambition,” David said proudly.

“I’d rather play ball,” Bobby said as he ran off to do just that.

David went into the house and took the dictionary from the bookshelf. He put it on the table, closed his eyes, opened the book, and then with his finger he pointed to a word.

“There,” he said to himself. “This is where I’ll start.”

He looked at the word his finger had found. “Ex—ex—a exa—I can’t even say it!” David exclaimed. “How can I become smart if I can’t even say smart words?”

“What’s that, David? Is something wrong?” his mother asked as she came into the room.

“It’s this word,” David replied. “What does e-x-a-s-p-e-r-a-t-i-o-n spell?”

“Exasperation,” she answered.

“Exasperation,” David repeated with a smile. “That’s a good, big, smart word.”

“It certainly is,” Mother agreed.

David felt better now. He walked back outside and down the street. Mrs. Smith was sweeping her sidewalk and stopped to say hello to David.

“Hi, Mrs. Smith,” he answered.

He held his head high and tried to look very smart as he said, “Exasperation. Ambition.”

Mrs. Smith looked puzzled. “Oh my, David,” she murmured. “How perplexing!”

“Per-plex-ing. Perplexing,” David repeated after her. “That’s a very smart word to remember.” He went on down the street until he came to the corner grocery store. Mr. Packer, the grocer, was David’s friend.

I’ll show Mr. Packer how smart I have become, he thought.

David walked into the store and stood very tall in front of the counter and said, “Exasperation. Ambition. Perplexing.”

“What?” Mr. Packer asked rubbing his head in a curious way.

“Exasperation. Ambition. Perplexing.” David repeated the words loud and clear.

“My, my,” was all Mr. Packer could say.

David left the store and hurried home. “Oh, Mother,” he said. “I have become so smart. And it didn’t take much time at all!”

“Smart?” Mother wondered.

David stood very proud and tall, and said, “Yes, just listen to me. Exasperation. Ambition. Perplexing.”

“What?” Mother asked.

“Exasperation. Ambition. Perplexing.”

“But it doesn’t mean anything,” Mother said.

“It has to mean something?” David questioned.

“Yes, or no one will understand you. Do you know what those words mean?”

David hadn’t thought about that. He slumped down in a chair feeling quite silly while his mother explained.

“Ambition is a strong desire to achieve. Exasperation is a feeling you get when you are irritated or annoyed. And perplexing is when you are confused or puzzled.”

“Those words mean all that? I guess I’ll never be smart,” David sighed.

“Yes, you will. But you have to learn the meaning of words before you can use them,” she replied.

“That’s a lot of work!” David said.

“It certainly is,” Mother agreed.

David thought very hard. “If that’s what it takes, I’ll just have to do it. I’ll study and work until I learn the meanings too.”

Mother smiled and said, “Now that’s the smart thing to do!”

Illustrated by Julie Fuhriman