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“Alice, can you read that sign for me?” Alice looked up at her mother, raising her head high and slow like an elk caught in the headlights. She placed her crayons to the side of her booster and peered out the window at the sign, but it dipped behind the tree line and out of sight. “No, Mommy, I can’t,” Alice said.

The long road twisted and curled, and their lonely little red car zigzagged along like a lady bug questing for food among the surrounding fields with their proud, golden stocks. Alice watched as the large, yellow sun dropped slowly out of her field of vision to light the old corn ablaze. A big blue road sign flew into sight.  “Alice,” said her mother, but she asked nothing further.

So, Alice drew on, making steady lines with the crayons and calf-mewing softly to soothe her mother.

“She’s almost seven,” her mother said suddenly.  “Maybe something's wrong?”

“Try phonics,” the speaker phone blared back, reaching into the back seat.  “At least three pages a day for three weeks.”

“Phonics,” her mother repeated the prescription as Alice felt her fingernails harden into hooves, antlers erupting from her head.

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