"What is the point of living if we're all gonna die anyway?"
"Uhhhh. Wow. That's ... that's a heavy thing to bring up right at bedtime, buddy."
"I know. I feel like I'm Atlas carrying the weight of the world."
"Well because it's heavy." He smirks a little, proud of this.
"Right, of course. Well, that's a good question. It's a great question, it's probably the biggest question ever. Everyone wants to know the answer to that -- philosophers and scholars and priests and artists have been trying to answer that question for thousands of years. They haven't yet. What do you think the point is?"
"I don't know, but I need to be good. I want to go to the Fields of Asphodel. (Ed. Note: The Fields of Asphodel, as near as The Editor can figure, is part of Greek mythology. It's sort of like purgatory, where souls hang out until they're judged. It figured prominently in recent Percy Jackson books and therefore this fourth-grader's mind.) I think people's spirits just hang around there, and then when a person is going to be born they find a family that matches them and then ZOOM."
He makes an elevator-shooting-into-space sound, complete with a hand motion.
"And then after you die?"
"Then you go back."
"Do you think you can do that more than once?"
"Maybe? I don't know. I wonder if you did come back if you'd be the same gender?"
"Or maybe you weren't even human. Maybe you were an animal, like a dog or a worm or something."
He wrinkles his nose, unhappy with this line of thought.
"Do you think that happened with you and your brother? Did you come up from the Fields of Asphodel? You match pretty well here, you know."
"Maybe. Who do you think was the first Vrabel?"
"Well I don't know the first first, but I know the first to have come to America."
"Was he here before cars?"
"Actually yeah, he was."
"Isn't it weird to think our ancestor might have invented the car?"
"He didn't, buddy, he worked in coal mines in Pennsylvania and Indiana."
"But he might have."
"Are you sure?"
"Isn't it weird to think that our ancestors might have invented the wheel?"
"Whoa, that is weird."
"So what do you think the point of life is?"
"Well, I think it's a lot of things. Some people think it's to be good so you get closer to God and go to Heaven. Some think it's to make a lot of money. To love your family and friends. To be kind, to be good to people. Some think it's to have a lot of kids. Some think it's to leave the world a better place than you found it, to do some good with your life."
"Do you think every life changes the world?"
"Yeah, I do. You know how we go throw rocks in the water with your brother? It's like when he throws a tiny pebble. Even the littlest pebbles, the tiny ones that we find by the parking lot, make a splash. They make a wave. You might not notice them, and I might not notice them, but they changed the entire ocean."
"Isn't it weird to think I'm drinking water with prehistoric atoms?"
"Very weird. Are you done with the water? It's time to shut the lights off."
"What was the name of Vrabel who invented the car company?"
"Get some sleep, buddy."
Jeff Vrabel had never heard of the Fields of Asphodel before Percy Jackson Book 2. He can be reached at jeffvrabel.com or followed at twitter.com/jeffvrabel.