The Sharpest Thing in the World


The bed felt soft and warm. Melissa hoped her sister Shelly wasn’t asleep yet in her bed. As Melissa watched the shadows made by the moonlight streaming through the window and across the dressers and beds, they made curious gray shapes on the wall.

“I wonder what the sharpest thing in the world is,” Melissa said.

“Who cares about that?” responded Shelly, who thought Melissa was a nuisance when she asked so many questions.

“Well, it couldn’t be shadows,” Melissa said. “Even though they have corners, they’re very soft.”

“Oh, are they really?” Shelly declared sarcastically.

Melissa lay quietly for a moment, but she kept thinking. Soon she said, “If I wanted to find out what the sharpest thing in the world is, I’d start by letting every single horse bite me.”

“Oh, no,” moaned Shelly.

“Then I’d let every dog bite me.”

“What a dumb idea,” said Shelly. “You couldn’t do that.”

“Pins are very sharp,” Melissa continued, undeterred. “They can go through most anything. Or Mama’s best scissors might be the sharpest thing in the world. Remember how easily they cut my hair?”

“Go to sleep!” Shelly said crossly.

“Our sharpest knife cuts through a loaf of homemade bread in a second. But Daddy’s nails go through wood. Oh!” Melissa cried excitedly, “I think I know what the sharpest thing in the world is. Great-great grandpa Johnson’s sword! If you got poked with that it would really hurt.”

“Will you please be quiet, Melissa, so I can go to sleep!”

“If I could try all the horses and dogs and pins and scissors and knives and nails and swords, then I’d know what the sharpest thing in the world is.”

Shelly suddenly sat up in bed. “Melissa,” she shouted, “if you don’t be quiet, I’m going to tell Dad. I wish I had a bedroom of my own. I wish I didn’t have to share a bedroom with a sister who talks all night!” Then she lay down again, turned her back to Melissa, and pulled the covers over her shoulder.

Melissa was quiet for a long time. Finally, out of the darkness came a wistful voice. “I know what the sharpest thing in the world is.”

“Please, be quiet,” said Shelly.

“It’s words,” Melissa said quietly. “They hurt the most.”

Shelly turned over and looked at Melissa with a mixture of surprise and affection. “Oh, Melissa,” she said. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean those things I said. I like sharing my bedroom with you. And I like having you for a sister.”

The girls were both silent for a few minutes thinking. Suddenly Melissa whispered, “Shelly.”

“What now?” Shelly asked laughingly.

“I know what the softest thing in the world is,” Melissa declared thoughtfully. “Softer than shadows and darkness and pillows and kittens and blankets and moonlight.”

“Tell me,” said Shelly good-naturedly. “What’s the softest thing in the world?”

“It’s words,” said Melissa.

Through the darkness she could almost see her sister smiling. And then she felt soft arms around her and Shelly whispered, “Oh, Melissa, I love you.”