Authors: Emily Fairlie
To my fellow Fairlies:
Hank and Barbara,
Sarah and Robert,
and Zuzu, Pepper, and Binky
Maria Tutweiler stood on the stage and gazed out at the students seated before her. As Mrs. Reynolds read her opening statement, Principal Tutweiler's eyes moved from student to student. Who would be the one? Principal Tutweiler suppressed a smile. The school had been a wonderful idea. Her plans had come together better than she'd ever dreamed.
Mrs. Reynolds finished her remarks, and Principal Tutweiler took the podium. She cleared her throat. “Welcome, Tuckernuckers! You are the first, the proud students who will lead future generations and carry this school to greatness. But first, a challenge. Who among you can unravel the puzzle? To reveal what is hidden, you will need a great many thingsâcourage, persistence, intelligence, and creativity. But to begin your journey, all you need is Hope. The prize? A treasure beyond bounds!”
Principal Tutweiler paused in satisfaction as ripples of excitement washed over the student body. The Tuckernuck challenge had been issued. Now all she had to do was sit back and watch.
EIGHTY YEARS LATER â¦
New Student Orientation Letter, page two
And finally, students, remember to stop in the lobby and read school founder Maria Tutweiler's challenge for yourself. Remember, just because the puzzle hasn't been solved yet doesn't mean it won't be solved. Maybe by YOU!
Tuckernuck's Number One Clucker!
Tuckernuck Hall was seriously messed up. Maybe there was something in the water. Laurie didn't know how else to explain everybody getting so caught up in a lame nonexistent challenge.
Her parents had gone to Tuckernuck, so that meant that Laurie had to go too. Never mind that her best friend in the world, Kimmy Baranski, was going to Hamilton Junior High, where they didn't have dumb things like school challenges. Nope, Laurie had to be a stupid Clucker and get all excited about some dumb lost treasure she'd heard about a thousand times, but which probably didn't even exist.
Laurie didn't know why she was even bothering to read the challenge. She was going to need all her brain power to convince her mom to let her transfer to Hamilton. Preferably before the next bell.
She'd ditched lunch when Tessa Tysinger started figuring out the calorie count in her ice cubes and telling Laurie to dye what Tessa called her dishwater blond hair. And instead of trying to find a new place to sit, she'd wandered around until she ended up staring at the plaque engraved with Maria Tutweiler's famous challenge.
She chewed on her lower lip and read the last line of the challenge again.
“â¦ to begin your journey, all you need is Hope,” Laurie muttered to herself. There was something about that last line, but she couldn't quite get it. It had been bothering her since that morning, when she'd read the challenge on her way to homeroom. Not that she was taking the whole treasure thing seriously, of course.
“So you're trying to find the treasure too?” A voice behind her interrupted her train of thought. Crud. Busted.
Calliope Judkin was standing two steps behind her, looking up at the plaque. “Got any ideas?”
Laurie shrugged. Like she was going to tell Calliope Judkin if she did. “Some.”
Calliope nodded. “Me too. I did some investigative work over the summer, and I've got a few theories. Along with a highly placed source in the school system, if you know what I mean. Insider tips.” She patted a notebook she was carrying and then carefully tucked it back in with her books.
Last year Calliope had decided she was going to be a reporter, and she had proceeded to make everyone's life miserable with her investigations ever since. “I just may be the one to crack this thing.”
“Huh,” Laurie said. She didn't know what to say. If she had to put money on anyone finding the treasure, Calliope Judkin would be the smart bet. She was also the last person Laurie would ever bet on.
Calliope glanced at her watch. “Oh, gotta run. See you!” She trotted off down the hall.
Laurie frowned. Highly placed source? Forget the treasure, if she could beat Calliope, that would make it all worthwhile. Not that Calliope wasn't niceâshe was. But how many things did that girl need to win? She was already the fifth-grade spelling bee and geography bee champion, winner of the local VFW's “What America Means to Me” elementary school essay contest, grand prize winner in the science fair three years running, and cast in the lead role of the Statue of Liberty in the fifth-grade play,
Our Glorious Nation
. It was that last one that really rankled. Laurie was cast in the minor role of Rhode Island. And everybody knows Rhode Island doesn't get any good lines.
Just once, Laurie wanted to be the winner, the top dog. Top dogs didn't worry about where to eat lunch or get unsolicited makeover advice or get cast as the tiniest state. Plus, finding the treasure would be a good way to pass the time until she managed to get that transfer.
Laurie dug in her backpack and pulled out the handout Principal Winkle had given them at the assembly that morning.
Welcome to the flock, new Tuckernuckers! Your fellow students and I are very excited to welcome you to the school. You may have heard that, sadly, the school is in danger of shutting down, but until it does, you are Tuckernuck Cluckers, brave and true. So please memorize the attached pagesâyou'll need to know the words to the Tuckernuck Clucker Anthem and pledge by heart! Our next assembly is coming up, so get clucking!
Laurie crumpled up Principal Winkle's memo and tossed it into the trash can in the lobby. There was no way she was studying some dumb Clucker anthem.
Laurie glared at the portrait of Maria Tutweiler hanging above the plaque. “Your stupid challenge doesn't say anything! How is this even a challenge? A challenge to what?”
Laurie took a deep breath and focused on the plaque. All you need is Hope.
And it was like a lightbulb going off.
With a quick glance around to make sure that there were no nosy administrators lurking in the shadows, Laurie took out her cell phone and dialed quickly. Sure, it was just for emergencies, but if solving the Tuckernuck challenge wasn't an emergency, she didn't know what was. Laurie smirked. And Calliope thought she was so hot.
“What's up?” Laurie's brother Jack's voice came through the phone. He sounded muffled, like he was trying to be quiet. Laurie hoped he was at lunch too, and not in some class. Not that it really mattered, with news like hers.
Laurie tried not to sound smug. “Yeah, the challenge? Totally solved it.” Well, not too smug anyway.