I say, "Why, yes," and then he crosses his arms and leans back and says, still staring me in the eye,
"'The Charge of the Light Brigade' is the bomb."
I do what anyone would do, which is to become slack-jawed and slightly dizzy. Undeterred, he remarks that Alfred Lord Tennyson is his favorite poet, that he'd accidentally discovered Tennyson's poems in a book in his grandfather's house; also, that he hasn't quite gotten his brain around "In Memoriam" and that other long stuff but "The Eagle" and "The Kracken" are also the bomb.
Eventually I see that I have no choice but to walk down to my car and dig out a copy of my new book for this boy, who happens to be hiking the Appalachian Trail with his dad. The boy seems to be very pleased with the gift. He admires the thinness of my collection, which he says will make it easy to carry on the trail, and he promises to email me with his remarks. Really, I can't wait.