Friday the 13th: Unlucky for Mum!

Friday the 13th: Unlucky for Mum!

“Oh no, Mummy,” said Meena. “Friday the 13th is My Day the 13th! By the way, everyone is looking forward to the Treasure Hunt.”  On her daughter’s big day, Mother explained her pet project. “The clues are based on proverbs,” she told the young guests. “Your first: An apple today may be hidden away.”

The children lunged for a bowl on the dining table, sending fruits flying. In her eagerness to identify the ‘apple’, Shashi stepped heavily on a fallen mango. “Oh no!” screamed Mother. Ashwin suddenly realised that ‘may be’ meant that the apple need not be ‘hidden’. Sure enough, it sat on the fridge atop the second clue.

“All work, all play”, Ashwin told himself, had to be where Meena kept her board games and sports gear. Peering into a tin of chessmen, he was joined by Shashi, Venkat and Rajesh, followed by Rita and Seema.

They sifted through Scrabble letters which rained out of the box. Scrubbing the splotch on the dining room carpet, Mother heard balls and racquets tumbling out of closets.   Poor Mother! She had set a cunning trail, not foreseeing the consequences of its pursuit.

“It’s Friday the 13th,” she wailed; “things will get worse.” They did. The playroom looked tornado-struck by the time Ashwin figured out the catch in the clue. “All work,” he repeated aloud, “so ‘play’ could be Shakespeare.” The children dashed to Meena’s study where the next clue reposed in ‘As You Like It’.

“There’s some use trying under spilt milk,” announced Rajesh. “Tiddles!” yelled Shashi. The children scampered to the kitchen where Meena’s pampered cat splashed meals about, since supplies were regularly replenished.

As Rita reached for the fourth clue from beneath the bowl, Tiddles appeared, causing her to upset the dish and drop the paper. Milk flowed freely, and the clue was soaked. Engrossed in trying to decipher what was written, the children did not notice Meena’s mother gazing in horror at the floor, where Tiddles — far from crying over spilt milk — was lapping it up joyfully.

“A bird in hand...” began Venkat. “I can’t make out the rest, so let’s tackle old Polly.”
“Stop!” begged Mother, but the children were already on the verandah. Seema opened Polly’s cage and reached within for the parrot. Rajesh grabbed Polly from Seema, and a feather came off in his hand.

“You missed the last bit,” panted Mother, running up to the children. “A bird in hand is worth less than its stand.”  The clue was clearly visible on a wooden structure upon which the cage rested. “Sorry, Aunty, we slipped up,” admitted Ashwin, going on to read, “Pride shows before a wall.”

The children were silent. Meena and her mother looked at each other wondering whether clever Ashwin would decode the clue. “Sheela aunty has fun with words,” he said slowly.

“Pride therefore....” Breaking off, he dashed to the drawing room with the other hunters at his heels.

Ashwin pointed to a painting. Away in South Africa on his daughter’s birthday, Meena’s father had acquired it on an earlier trip to that country. “That,” said Ashwin, “is ‘pride’ — a pride of lions.” Behind the picture was a book coupon: the Treasure.

“Congratulations, Ashwin!” said Mother warmly. Ashwin grinned. “You know what they say, Aunty,” he said. “Friday the 13th is lucky for some.”  “It has certainly been a triumph for Mum!” proclaimed Meena. She hugged her mother, who smiled as the children cheered.

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