Amazing Kids! Magazine

The Hope of the Hidden Heirlooms

By Molly Knoell, age 13, Malvern, Pennsylvania

 

Sydney opened the door to the closet, and there, sitting on the floor, was a locked chest. But that’s getting ahead of the story. Let’s start at the beginning with the annual summer picnic in Sydney Johnson’s hometown of Southgate, Minnesota.

“Sydney, can you get the fireworks from the attic?” her dad called from the basement. Sydney’s dad, Mr. Johnson, was in charge of the picnic for the entire town, and he was running around like a madman for a whole week.

Sydney climbed the stairs to the attic and started digging through boxes upon boxes of old furniture and decorations. With no luck, she walked across to the other side of the attic where she had never searched before. But after she had moved aside two racks of Halloween costumes and three boxes of Christmas lights, Sydney found a doorknob. “That’s odd, I don’t remember a closet ever being here before,” she said to herself. When she moved everything out from in front of the door, she opened the closet and found the locked chest.

Sydney was extremely curious, one could see. She was constantly breaking school rules and liked to pretend she was a detective. But this wasn’t an ordinary mission of Sydney’s- this was a real mystery! That’s why Sydney stood there like an ice sculpture, frozen in time. She couldn’t believe that the chest was really there, sitting on the floor staring back at her. In Sydney’s world, it was a dream come true! For if there was one thing Sydney loved the most, it was a mystery waiting to be solved!

Sydney eventually found the fireworks and gave them to her dad, who was now baking chocolate cupcakes for the picnic. The thought of the locked chest lingered in her mind, toying with her imagination all through the day. She decided not to tell her parents that she found the chest- she first wanted to see what they were hiding. When the rest of the Johnson family was tucked into their beds, Sydney snuck down to her dad’s office, pulled open the left drawer where the spare keys were kept, and began searching for a key to the chest there. After minutes of examining different keys, she found one that stood out – it was small and silver, with the letters JJ engraved on it. She didn’t know what the letters meant, but she knew it probably belonged to a Johnson. She decided to try it out.

The next morning, Sydney found herself back in the attic with the key, admiring the chest. When she worked up the nerve to open it, she inserted the key and turned it. Click! It had worked. Inside was not gold, silver, or pirate’s treasure. Instead, two pieces of paper lay inside the wooden chest. Written on the first piece of old parchment were eight lines:

To those with rather venturesome eyes,

Who wish to claim a special prize,

Travel west of here and find the shoe.

Seek red amongst the shades of blue.

For those disposed to dice with death,

Don’t brood over means to hold your breath.

Once the red is smoothly found,

You can retrieve a box under the ground.

Underneath the riddle was a tattered map of Sydney’s hometown, Southgate. It showed the center of the town with the row of shops, all the main roads leading in and out of Southgate, Southgate Park, Bonefish Lake, many local businesses, and the local elementary school where Sydney used to attend. It was frayed in places, and looked like it had been made about a century ago.

Sydney sat down on the attic floor, clutching the papers to her as though they might sprout wings and fly away. She had never experienced a mystery like this before! She sure did crave the special prize mentioned in the riddle! She also wanted to figure out who had placed the chest in her attic. Sydney’s house had been in the Johnson family for decades, so she wondered if an ancestor had written the riddle. But once again, Sydney did not want to ask her parents. She wanted to act like a true detective and solve the riddle for herself.  She began rereading the riddle like a broken record, repeating line after line until she understood.

To those with rather venturesome eyes,

Who wish to claim a special prize…

Sydney knew what these lines meant – the author of the riddle was writing clues to find a prize.

Travel west of here and find the shoe.

Seek red amongst the shades of blue.

As Sydney pondered the third line, she looked at the map of Southgate for places west of her family’s home. A dentist’s office, Miller’s Grocery Store, and Bonefish Lake were the only places that stood out to her. She continued to read for more clues.

For those disposed to dice with death,

Don’t brood over means to hold your breath.

After rereading these lines monotonously, she knew where she had to go- Bonefish Lake! It was west of her house, and shaped like a flip-flop on the map (that would explain the line about the shoe.) The riddle explained that those who usually take dangerous risks shouldn’t worry about holding their breath- she wouldn’t have to go swimming in the lake! The lake was also blue, so it fit in with the fourth line. It all made sense! Sydney read the last two lines.

Once the red is smoothly found,

You can retrieve a box under the ground.

The end of the riddle was easy enough- once she found something red near the lake, she could dig up a box underground. A thunderstorm of thoughts pounded on Sydney’s brain that night- her excitement was overwhelming her. So after the summer picnic had passed, and Sydney was freed from her family’s watchful gaze, she got on her bicycle early in the morning and pedaled to Bonefish Lake. She had the map and riddle jammed in her pocket, and an adventurous mind ready to take on whatever came her way. Her feet weren’t the only part of her body pedaling fast- her heart was speeding too. After twenty minutes of biking, she turned right onto the path leading to Bonefish Lake. She remembered it clearly from when she had visited six months prior- a deep, shimmering lake surrounded by trees that invited swimmers and boaters into its mysterious, royal blue waters. She could still hear the lap, lap, lap of the water and the songs of birds echoing off the lake’s surface.

When she parked her bike in the bike rack and walked through the trees towards the lake, she pulled out the riddle to read it. She would have to find something red. And red happened to be the first thing that Sydney saw.

Welcome to BONEFISH LAKE!

  • No fishing, swimming, or boating from 6pm to 6am
  • Swim at your own risk
  • Do not feed or hunt the wildlife

Enjoy your stay!

It was a large, red sign with white letters staring down upon her like a hawk. It stood in front of the lake, buried in the sand, as if it was the lake’s security guard. Sydney looked around- she didn’t see any other red objects near the lake. The picnic tables to her left were empty, there were no boats on the water, and the premises were deserted- a perfect location for a scavenger hunt! Sydney reread the end of the riddle.

Once the red is smoothly found,

You can retrieve a box under the ground.

She could only guess at what she would have to do next- start digging under the sign. Some kids might have turned away at that point- if Sydney was spotted by an adult, she would be in serious trouble! But not Sydney Johnson. She was determined to find the box that had been mentioned in the riddle. Sydney found herself kneeling down beneath the welcoming sign and digging. She moved the sand away from the sign with her hands, working as fast as she possibly could. She dug a small hole around the sign, and pulled out the sign post stationed deep in the earth. Sydney moved at the speed of light! The box has to be somewhere beneath the sign, she thought. After forty-three minutes of digging, Sydney’s hand touched something hard! When the top of a small, wooden box appeared, Sydney reached her hand into the three foot hole and pulled out the container. She said a silent prayer that the contents of the box would not disappoint her. And finally, with sweaty palms and a racing heart, she removed the lid.

Sydney sat on her bed, holding a golden compass in her hand. She turned it over, admiring it, and thinking about the wooden box she had found over a year ago. Inside the box was a golden compass, a letter, and a sack of golden coins. This is what the letter read:

To the person who found the wooden box,

Congratulations – you have successfully solved my riddle! Hopefully you find my prize to your liking. My name is Jack, and just like you, I love to explore! Did you find a locked chest containing a riddle and a map in the attic of the Johnson family household? That’s where I left it. I was hoping that someday one of my descendants (like you) would be clever enough to not only find the chest, but also play my little game. I am pleased to inform you that I am your ancestor. I’m the father of Michael Johnson – maybe this will help you look back at our family history and determine exactly how I am related to you. Anyway, my father passed down a chest to me many years ago, containing a sack of coins from ancient times. We don’t know exactly where the coins and chest came from (maybe a real pirate’s ship), but they have been in our family for quite some time. The reason I didn’t simply hand over the valuables to my child was because I wanted the recipient to be worthy of such a treasure. Very few people these days enjoy exploring as much as I do – I wanted the recipient of my treasures to carry on my values of rule breaking and adventure. I decided to hide the coins and my golden compass far from the chest, leaving a riddle and map, created by me, inside the chest for someone to find. I can now rest in peace knowing that my magnificent prize is in the hands of a worthy descendant. My hope for these hidden heirlooms is that the compass will lead you towards yet another adventure, and the coins will fund your next exploration (they are of great value.) Never stop exploring!

Your ancestor,

Jack Johnson

This had explained everything to Sydney – Michael Johnson was the name of her grandpa, which meant it was her great-grandpa, Jack, who had placed the chest in the attic and written the riddle. Eventually, Sydney had told her parents and grandparents about her adventure. They had never noticed the chest before. They explained that the attic hadn’t been sorted out in decades. Sydney’s dad claimed that the key must have been put in his desk by Sydney’s great-grandfather many decades ago. Wow, Sydney thought, there sure are perks to living in an old family home! Sydney kept the treasures for herself. After all, it was her great-grandfather’s hope that she would use the coins and compass for an adventure.

As Sydney sat on her bed later staring at the compass, she wondered what adventure she would use her treasure for. The possibilities were endless, and as she drifted off to sleep, she dreamed about where her next adventure would take her.

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