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The school bell rang loudly as Ms. Smith jingled the rusty bell. Anne ran out to her house her test in hand. She ran by the cobbled road with the yellow flowers blooming on the sidewalk. A beautiful crimson-red horse - drawn- carriage passed by her, barely missing a muddy puddle which would have splashed all over Anne’s new dress. When she arrived at her white farmhouse, she flew inside. She stared down at her test in admiration thinking about how she had gotten a 100. Her father would be so happy. He might even excuse her from milking the cow one day. She was so ecstatic to tell her father about the news. Next thing she knows, the door is opening and a man walks into her parlor. He was not her father, but instead their neighbor, Bill. He was a tall, skinny man wearing overalls and a toothpick in his mouth. But he had a resentful face on.
“Where is your father, girlie?” Bill asked.
“Uh…I don’ts knows, I thinks he’s gunna be here soon,” Anne answered, terror in her voice.
Just then her father strolled in, and the moment he saw Bill his faced got all screwed up into a terrified look, something Anne had never seen her father feel.
“Wh-a-a-at’s wrong? Is this about the-”but her father got cut off.
“Yes it is. Now tells that little girlie over there to hit the road. We have some business to take cares of,” Bill said.
Anne, figuring girlie meant her, left the room promptly. From outside the door though, she could hear and see almost all of their conversation.
“Now, is this about the…” her father asked.
“Yes, about the-” but there was a loud noise of a carriage crossing the road and she couldn’t hear what Bill had said.
“I…uh couldn’t hear you…what is it about?” her father asked, obviously lying.
“The-” but once again she couldn’t hear what Bill was about to say because as Anne leaned in to listen she tripped over her feet and fell on the floor, with a loud thud.
“Anne, are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
“Oh, sorry I still didn’t hear you, all I heard was my daughters pain,” Her father answered, this time even more obvious that he was lying.
“Here, I’ll writes it down.” The man scribbled something on Anne’s test, covering up the big 100. “Now you can’t say you don’t understand it because it is in plain English.”
“But I can’t read that-” her father tried to say but as he said it Anne came barging in.
Anne never interrupted her father when he was talking in private, she would be whipped for a month straight if she ever did that. But Anne had to come in and save her test before Bill completely destroyed it. Anne walked right in and grabbed her test off the table. Just then Bill yelled out:
“THAT IS IT! I AM FED UP WITH THE EXCUSES! YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT! AND BECAUSE OF ALL YOUR EXCUSES I WILL PUNISH YOU MORE BY KILLING YOUR DAUGHTER TOO!”
Bill pulled out a rifle and aimed it towards her father. Anne screamed and, still holding her test, ran to the door to get away.
“Run away now, Anne. RUN! Don’t wait for me.”
Anne listened to her father and ran out the door and made it to the garden path, 20 feet away before she heard gunfire and her father’s scream. She ran another 20 feet before she tripped over a stone in the corn field and dropped her test. She saw Bill running after her so Anne didn’t bother to pick up the test; she just ran and ran and ran.
The school bell rang and Anna breathed a sigh of relief.
“Turn off the computers and log-off. Don’t forget these essays are due on Tuesday and are worth a quarter of your grade.”
Anna logged-off as normal and met up with her friend, Julie. Together, as 8th graders at Jakeman Middle School, the girls were going to the park. The park was named after a farmer and his daughter who had lived there long ago. There was some mystery behind them but nobody felt like researching about some farmer.
Julie and Anna made their way through the winding roads of Connecticut to the park. When they arrived, they picked a bench and pulled out some snacks to munch on.
“So what are you going to write about for the research essay? You are supposed to write about something that happened in the 1800’s. But who in the world cares about the 1800’s?” Anna asked.
“I have no idea? I all know is that life stunk then because there wasn’t television,” Julie said and they both giggled together.
“I say we do the project together. Mr. Smith said we could do partners if we want. We could write about how lousy life is without television,” Anna said.
“I don’t know…I mean we should definitely work together but we should do something good. I mean it is worth a quarter of our grade and I already have a C so I need to do really well to boost my grade up.”
“How about we do…well let’s not talk about this now. It’s time to eat chips and talk about girl stuff,” Julie said. “Let’s play tag. I haven’t played it in years and it is about time we play now.”
“Okay,” Anna agreed.
Both of them ran around the park, squishing the yellow flowers that lay all over the ground. They played until Julie tripped over a stone and fell on her back.
“Ow. That is some big rock. Hey what’s that?” Julie, while sitting up, saw a crumpled up paper out of the corner of her eyes.
Julie picked up the paper and analyzed what was on it. It was a yellowish color with dirt smudges all over it. It looked like a test because it had 10 questions with 10 answers. At the top she thought it might say 100% but over where it said that was some word she couldn’t decipher. Then she noticed in the top left corner the date.
“Wow! Do you see this Anna? This is from October 3rd, 1876. It seems to look like a test taken in that time period. The person taking the test was named Anne McDonald,” Julie exclaimed.
“And look. She seems to have gotten a 100. But…what does that word say over the 100? W-oc d-d-rut? Woc drut? What in the world does that mean? It can’t be a different language because the rest of the test is in English,” Anna said, confusion all over her face.
“I don’t know what the word means but I do know something else. Are you thinking what I am thinking?”
“Yep. That we shouldn’t be touching something so old or we’ll break it?” Anna replied.
“NO! I’m thinking we research about this test. It may have something to do with the mystery at this park.”
“Good idea. Let’s start the research tomorrow. Now, we eat more chips,” Anna said, with enthusiasm.
The next day Anna came over Julie’s house, test in hand. They decided first to see when the mystery at the park occurred. First they went to Google and typed up the park’s name. Nothing seemed to pop up except some directions to get there. Then they searched the park and the name of the girl’s test: Anne McDonald. Nothing seemed to come up, but after scrolling through about 10 choices, they found one website that read: The Mystery of Anne McDonald from CT.
They clicked it and it popped up with some background knowledge about where this occurred and names and ages and then the date the mystery occurred: October 3rd 1876. Both of them gasped, suddenly realizing that this test was historical.
“Wow. This really can be used as our research project. Then when we are finished with it we can donate it to that museum about the park,” Julie commented.
“THE MUSEUM!” yelled Anna.
“Yeah, they have this thing where you learn about stuff…yeah that is called a museum,” Julie pointed out.
“I know what a museum is. I was just saying that I didn’t know that they had a museum for the park. I bet they have a section in the museum about the farmer and his daughter. We have to go there to get more info. I say we go tomorrow.”
And low and behold the next day they were off to the Museum of Park McDonald. They asked the man at the museum whether they had anything about the old farmer and his daughter.
“Oh, I’m sorry. That section of the museum is having some renovations and no one can go in there for another two months. There is a section about the grass that grows in the park though,” the man answered.
“Aw man, that really stink,” Julie cried.
“I don’t think so. I have a plan. Follow my lead,” Anna said as she approached the man. “What if we make a deal? You let us into the section and you get something in return. I heard that any employee at the museum who finds an artifact gets a $500 bonus. I got something you might like to see. You can even test it to make sure it is positively real,” Anna said as she pulled out the test.
The man only looked at it with a face of boredom. But then he saw the date and cried: “Let me test that! Wait here, it’ll only take a minute,” and the man was out of the room in seconds.
“YOU GAVE HIM THE TEST!” Julie cried in anger.
“No…I gave him a fake, duh!”
“But how?” Julie questioned
“I snuck into my mom’s office room, in our house. You know how she has a copier in that room? Well anyway I copied the test there, very carefully of course, then I grabbed the copy and stuffed it in my pocket, just in case. Now let’s go before he finds out it’s a fake!” Anna and Julie crept through a door that read:
Do Not Enter. Under Renovations. Penalty of Being Kicked Out!
Julie started to hesitate opening the door, but Anna just pushed her aside and opened the door dragging Julie in with her.
They looked around and saw that some parts of the wall were completely bare but other parts had information all over it with artifacts on the wall too.
“You look over there and I will look over here. Now we need to be careful and call me when you see anything interesting,” Anna said as she approached an artifact that looked like a pen.
They spent three minutes in the room before Julie spotted something crucial.
“Look here, it says that the farmer who lived there was named Jim McDonald and that he got in trouble with his neighbor named Bill Smith. Apparently Bill killed Jim and his daughter, Anne escaped and went on to become adopted. Oh wow. It looks like Anne’s life went downhill after her father died. She got adopted by some mean people and never married. She seems to have died early,” Julie explained.
“And look! Jim seemed to have been selling his animals on the farm because he was running out of room on his farm… and wow! It says that it happened when Anne came home and that her father died by rifle while she was running away. OH MY GOD! She must have been running with her test in hand and must have tripped and dropped her test. But…what was that writing on the test?”
Just then they heard someone trotting towards the door.
“QUICK! HIDE!” Anna whispered loudly.
They were able to hide in just the nick of time and when the man walked in, he couldn’t find them and just left.
“That was close. Tomorrow we go to town hall and see if they have any records of Jim McDonald or Bill Smith. Now, let’s get out of here,” Anna said as they crept out the door and down outside the museum to their house, when they were finally safe.
Anna opened the large door of Town Hall and walked up to the front desk. Julie by her side. Anna, much more outgoing, was eager to find out another piece of the puzzle.
“Do you have any records of Bill Smith or Jim McDonald? They were from the late 1800’s,” Anna asked politely.
“Yeah, let me just go in the back and hop into a time machine and see the records of these men,” the woman at the desk said. When she was done talking she rolled her eyes rudely.
“Well then, I’ll just go look up the records myself,” Anna said as she started acing towards a door the read: Records.
“I don’t think so,” the woman began as she shoved Anna away from the door, “Any records from before 1905 were burned down in a fire. Now will you just leave because I have the power to do that to you, because I am better. Scram!”
“Lookie here woman,” Anna started but Julie lightly nudged Anna in the stomach giving her the look meaning be nice, “I can tell you are an unhappy woman and I have something that will make you happier.”
Anna pulled out the test and explained: “This was found in the park and it is from October 3rd, 1876. The museum would buy it for $10,000 and I will hand it right over to you and you can even test it to make sure it is real. I mean I know that you can’t let us see those records because the FBI is all over it because of the mystery that occurred there. But I am giving you a huge amount of money. Now do we have a deal?”
“You kidding?” the woman said and Anna and Julie breathed out a sigh of disappointment. “Of course! Now where do you test this thing?”
Anna didn’t expect the woman to fall for this trick. She seemed like the woman who would be clever enough to tell it was a trick. But then again the moment Anna had said $10,000, the woman’s eyes got large and she didn’t seem to be thinking straight. They better do this quick before the woman was able to think straight.
“Uh…you can test it with this lemon juice and cotton swab I brought along. Julie will show you. But first, I need the info!”
“Whoa, whoa. I’m not that stupid. Let me test it first. Than I’ll show you where we keep them.”
“So they do exist. Follow my lead,” Anna whispered to Julie.
“Okay, Julie will show you what to do. Can you show me where the little girl’s room is? I REALLY have to go!”
“Yeah, take a left down that hallway,” the woman said half concentrating on what she was saying; she was just staring at the test.
Anna went instead to the records room. Inside she saw a room that was all white with about 20 shelves that were white also, full of thousands of records. Then she saw a door in the back of the room that read: Confidential Records. Of course the door was locked, but Anna had an idea. She checked under a mat that lay in front of the door. As she thought, there lay a key. Whoever had decided to put a mat under the door was brainless; because it was so evident the key was there. The key worked, of course, and inside the room was another room that was all white fewer white but with shelves. On the shelves were tons of grubby, aged looking records.
Anna went through each shelf, noticing that they were alphabetical order. Finally she saw a record that said Bill Smith 1829 (his birthday year). She also found Jim McDonald and decided to take Anne McDonald’s too. Then she heard the woman yelling: “Why isn’t this working? Is that girl in the records room? Oh, I am so stupid. No duh she wasn’t going to the bathroom.” Then Anna heard footsteps. Anna raced out the confidential room, locking the door behind her and slipping the key under the mat again. She was able to hear Julie trying to stall the woman. She was talking about how it would take 3 full minutes for the lemon juice to really work. Anna safely made it out and flew into the bathroom flushing the toilet just to make the noise.
She left the bathroom and zoomed back to the front desk. The records were hidden inside her sweater.
“Oh…did she find out yet that it was a fake?” Anna asked.
“I knew it! It was a fake. Well you kids are wasting my time so get out!”
“But-” Anna tried to act like she wanted to stay.
“No buts. Just get out!”
The two girls sluggishly walked out with there heads pointing towards the ground. When they were safely home, they explored the records.
“Okay Jim McDonald first,” Julie said as the two girls lay on the living room floor staring at the record and reading everything.
“It says here that he was a poor farmer who was killed October 3rd, 1876. But we already know that. I don’t see anything new here. Let’s look at Bill Smith’s record.”
They turned open the record of Bill Smith.
“Hmm…he too was a farmer. Says here he had some anger issues. Oh and Jim was seen in Bill’s yard a lot in the month of October 1876 with a white bag whenever Bill wasn’t home,” Anna pointed out.
“Well he was doing something to Bill’s yard when he wasn’t home. He could be dumping or playing tricks on Bill.”
“It say’s that Bill was dyslexic. What does Anne’s say?”
“In Anne’s it says that she wrote a book when she was older about what happens that day, and look here is an exert from her book,” Julie pointed-out.
I was walking home from thy schoolhouse and I had just gotten a 100 on thy test.
I was eager to tell thy father about thy grade.
When I arrived at thy house Bill, thy neighbor was there.
He asked for thy father.
I was young and didn’t know that thy man was up to no good.
Thy father arrived and talked in private to Bill.
I listened in.
Bill kept trying to tell thy father something
but thy father couldn’t hear Bill.
So Bill wrote down on thy test what thy was trying to speak.
I impulsively barged in, because thy man was ruining thy test.
Bill got very mad and yelled that thy man would shoot thy father and I.
Thy father told me to run and I did, with my test.
As thy ran I heard thy father get shot.
It ended there and the two girls sat for a couple minutes trying to put the pieces together. Finally Anna spoke.
“So…Bill was trying to talk to her father and her father couldn’t hear Bill so Bill wrote down that word, woc drut, on her test and she barged in and grabbed the test. Then Bill said he would shoot them both so Anne’s father told her to run and she did. I guess while she was running she must have dropped the test.”
“But we still don’t know why the man wrote woc drut. Was that some secret code?” Julie questioned.
“Wait, I think I know. Wasn’t Bill dyslexic? He must have written the word backwards. What does woc drut backwards spell? C-cow d-du-rt? Was he trying to say cow dirt and spelled it wrong too?”
“No! Woc drut backwards doesn’t spell cow dirt it spells cow turd. As in cow poop,” Julie screamed, flabbergasted.
“That’s what Jim must have been dumping in Bill’s yard. Oh he must have been discarding it in Bill’s yard because at the museum didn’t it say that Jim was out of room in his yard and he was having to sell some animals because they took up too much space. He must have dumped it in Bill’s yard to save room so he wouldn’t have to sell anymore animals. Bill must have found out and because of his anger issues, decided to kill Jim out of anger,” Anna explained.
“So let me get this straight. Jim was out of room in his yard so he dumped cow poop in Bill’s yard to save room and Bill found out and because of his anger issues went over to Jim’s house to murder him? Then he tried to tell Jim why he was there but Jim couldn’t hear him so he wrote it down on Anne’s test and because he has dyslexia he wrote it backwards. Then Anne came in and Bill got even angrier and wanted to kill both of them but Anne escaped and her father died. Then Anne lived a horrible life after her father died?”
“Yup, that’s it. The thing that is woebegone is that something as small as cow poop can wholly change a person’s life. Anne was a merry girl but then the entire cow turd thing happened and her life went way downhill,” Anna answered.
The two girls lay there mournfully thinking about how much poop and everything in the world had an impact.
A week later the girls handed in their project. The project was on a yellow poster board and had a picture of the test and all the information about the mystery. It also had an entire 8 1/2 by 11 inch page of their resources. (They even thanked the lady at Town Hall for allowing them to search the records room.)
When the girls handed in the paper, the teacher looked down at it and smiled brightly at the organized, well thought-out poster that now lay in her hands.
“I will have these posters graded in two days,” their teacher stated.
“What do you think we got on it? I say 100. We did awesome,” Julie exclaimed.
“I don’t know. I think she’ll have to take off some points when she finds out about how we snuck into the museum room and the record’s room,” Anna answered and the two girls started cracking up.
Cornish, New Hampshire
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"A cynical young person is almost the saddest sight to see, because it means that he or she has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing." - Maya Angelou