One summer day, Collin went to stay with his cousin, Russell, who was thirteen. Colin was four years old (practically full-grown!). Together, they had an adventure involving a river, a key and a talking fish.
They bellied down on big rocks by the Bass River. They held their hands very still in the water, hoping a fish would swim into them. Collin’s hands got very cold, and he fidgeted. Russell was still as stone. A large fish swam into Russell’s hands. He moved like lightning, and he threw the fish onto the riverbank.
“Let me go! I can’t breathe!” the fish exclaimed, its mouth gasping and its brown speckled sides heaving.
Russell was startled and fell into the water, shouting: “It talks!” He stood up, hair dripping.
“Throw me back!” the fish yelled. Collin crouched down by the fish, and looked into its wheeling green eye. Russell said to Collin: “Don’t throw it back, I caught it fair and square.” Russell squished wetly back to shore.
“I’ll give you the key to a treasure if you promise to throw me back.” The fish was pleading for its life. “It will solve this riddle: three bay salts hide the door, the key slides under the fossil and turns widow shins, then look under the pie right. Promise me!” The fish looked up at Russell.
“What?” said Russell. “That doesn’t make sense!”
“Promise and you’ll get the key,” gasped the fish. The boys promised to throw him back, and the fish spat a large, old-fashioned key onto the sand. Russell picked up the fish and threw it back into the river. With one silvery flash it was gone.
Collin picked up the key and rinsed it in the river. When it was clean, Collin could see letters. The key said “Pirate” on one side and “Jonah” on the other.
“Three bay salts, bay salts.” Collin repeated over and over all the words spoken by the fish, remembering them, but not understanding them.
“Salts doesn’t make sense,” Russell said. “This is fresh water, and nowhere near the bay.”
“Bay Salts,” Collin repeated.
“Basalt is rock formed from lava,” Russell said. He’d studied geology in science class. “It’s black, but most of the rocks around here are gray metamorphic like granite and quartz.”
Collin pointed to a rocky bank upstream. At the top, large black rocks were almost hidden by a willow tree.
“You’re right,” Russell said. “Those might be basalt.” The boys climbed up the bank, and found three rough, black rocks, pitted with many small holes. Between them was a flat gray stone with a fossil. “An ammonite fossil! I saw one of these at the science museum. What did the fish say about the fossil?” Russell asked Collin.
“The key slides under the fossil and turns widow shins.” Collin remembered. “What does widow shins mean? Did he mean willow shins?” Collin turned to look at the willow tree.
“Widdershins! That means counter-clockwise.” The boys felt around the edges of the fossil, until they found a small hole, at an angle which made it hard to see in the gloom cast by the willow tree. They put the key in and turned it counter-clockwise. The three black rocks rumbled clockwise, and the gray stone sunk, revealing a small opening. Only Collin was small enough to fit into it.
“I slid down into a cave.” Collin called up. “There’s enough light from the opening to see, but all I can see are piles of rocks. Some are gray, some pink, some black and some shiny.”
“What was the last part of the riddle?” Russell called down. The sun had dried his hair already.
“Look under the pie right!” Collin called up. Russell exclaimed: “Pyrite! That’s fool’s gold. Look under the shiny rocks.” Collin shifted the shiny rocks, and he found an old leather satchel. He slung it over his shoulder and climbed out.
Together the boys unbuckled the straps and opened the bag. Inside, wrapped in an oil skin, was a diary of Jonah Salt, pirate of Buzzard’s Bay. With it was a frayed parchment showing an old map of Cape Cod. At the bottom were some silver and gold coins and some chunky old rings.
The boys did a happy dance around the willow tree before running home to show their parents and friends. They donated the find to a local museum and got their pictures in the paper. They never told anyone about the talking fish. Collin got to keep the key.
Copyright 2013 Brenda Davis Harsham