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Ornament gives Mia another mysterious mission at park

Editor’s note: This is the fifth chapter of a 12-part continuing, fictional holiday tale, “The Golden Ornament” that is running daily through Christmas. Parents are encouraged to read it aloud to their children.

No matter how many times Mia told herself it was just a coincidence that she had that money in her pocket, she couldn’t make herself believe it. Something had happened, something strange and wonderful, and she was determined to figure out what it was.

Brandon sat next to her on the couch in the rec room. He held the golden ornament, turning it in his hands as he studied it. He frowned as he peered closer.

“You’re going to think I’m crazy, but I swear it looks like there are snowflakes moving all around,” he said.

“I saw them, too,” Mia answered. “What do you think it could be?”

He shrugged, handing it back to her. “I have no idea. I don’t see any kind of battery or anything.”

Mia toyed with the ornament, twisting it open. She gasped as she looked inside. “Brandon, did you put this there?” She held up another small piece of paper.

“No,” Brandon said, surprised. “It was empty just a second ago.”

Mia’s eyes sparkled with excitement. She unfolded the paper, partly expecting it to be blank, but like before, an address was written in the same neat script, followed by a short rhyme. She cleared her throat and read it out loud:

Help to find what Joey seeks, As you stroll along the creek.

She frowned, exchanging a confused look with Brandon. “Who’s Joey? And how am I supposed to know what he’s seeking?”

Brandon shrugged with a smile. “I guess there’s only one way to find out.”

“Brandon!” his mother called down. “I just got called into work. Are you okay watching Ellie?”

“Sure, Mom.” He grinned at Ellie as she bounded down the stairs.

“Perfect timing, kiddo. How do you feel about going to the playground?”

Ellie jumped around with excitement, and Brandon tapped the ornament. “That address is for Carlton Park. Trust me, we’re there all the time; it says the address right on the big sign. Might as well kill two birds with one stone — let Ellie burn off some energy and figure out this clue.”

They all bundled up and headed out. The park was just a few blocks away, and they let Ellie skip down the sidewalk a few feet ahead of them. Carlton Park was small, but fun, with a playground, bike track, walking trails, and a shallow creek that Mia and Brandon loved to wade in when they were younger searching for crayfish.

The big sign at the entrance did indeed show the address matched the one on the paper, and Mia paused at the little bulletin board next to it covered in posters and ads. Her heart always hurt when a “lost pet” poster was up. Today, there was only one, featuring a missing beagle named Biscuit.

“Hope you get home for Christmas, Biscuit,” she said, then left Brandon and Ellie at the playground while she wandered over to the creek.

She wished the note had been more specific. Part of her had expected to see someone named Joey also strolling along the creek, looking for … something. But they had the entire park to themselves. And she had no idea what she was looking for. What if it was a rare coin, or a piece of jewelry, or something else small? How was she supposed to find something if she had no idea what it was?

Then a noise from a nearby bush distracted her, and a second later a small dog came bounding out. He barked excitedly, jumping at her legs as his tail wagged out of control.

“Oh, hi there, little guy,” she crooned, kneeling down to pet him. His tail wagged harder with every pet. “Who are you? Let’s see if you have a name.” She reached for the tags dangling from his collar.

“No way.” A huge smile spread across her face as she read the name “Biscuit” engraved on the tag.

Read the next chapter of “The Golden Ornament” in tomorrow’s newspaper.

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