The plan, then, was that we all work together.
A core group of Treasure Hunters met in my office to look over the journal, pick up the blank map, and talk about staging the finding of the book and journal.
We kicked around ideas for a weathered negative to be tucked in the journal, something to give a face to Clement and his daughter, maybe even show the holy grail. It wouldn’t be easy; we’d need to find models we could photograph who weren’t easily recognizable to current students, and we’d need to come up with a way to age the negative.
We wondered if we wanted a letter from Clement’s daughter, who switched out her puppet for buried treasure. If so, what would it say?
We talked about the value of giving the reader (or audience) room to fill in the blanks, providing enough detail to hang a story around, but not answering every question.
We discussed the work we’d need to do to have an innocent photographer or filmmaker capture the expression of an innocent bystander discovering the objects. It would take some work, but we thought we could do it.
Our bit of stagecraft would take place on the day we returned from spring break, April 1st. Naturally.
We would stash the book and journal in the attic before the break, and the map in a closet in the main office. The final clue of the journal would include an antique key, an original from 1949’s C.E. Mason Elementary School. The key fits the one door on campus that hasn’t been updated, that closet, and we could imagine the experience student would feel as the key turned in the lock.
From there the map would lead any treasure seekers to the north end of campus, out onto the grassy lawn, and (if everything went according to plan) to the spot where they could dig up the mason jar and finish the treasure hunt.
If everything went according to plan.
But this is life, not a script, and we knew that the unexpected should be expected. We’d need to be ready for things to go sideways, for something we hadn’t anticipated to happen. We’d need to be prepared -like artists or pirates- to improvise.
So we left, knowing that we had a few weeks to put together the finishing touches, and then we’d be back to help bring our adventure to life.
Our first chance to improvise came when I got an email from our facilities department. It read:
Lucy at Archaeological Inc called and they will be here on March 20th around 9am. They will mainly be in the back North East corner of the property doing “shovel tests”. Their employees will be wearing bright orange vests with the company name on it. After students leave at 12:45, the company will have their “above ground crew” enter the building and do some additional work.”
So… looking for buried treasure.
I made a couple of phone calls, pleasantly surprised when the folks at the district office laughed, said they knew me well enough to know this wasn’t too out of character, and agreed to help make sure the orange vested archaeologists wouldn’t dig up my mason jar. I checked my calendar and made the decision to hide the journal and book after March 20th, and tried to think how I could use this visit to bolster the credibility of our little ruse.
The next day one of the students brought in a pair of pliers from the early 1950s. They were an amazing detail that added to our cheeky verisimilitude.
A brilliant artist took on the Herculean task of creating the map.
We were almost ready to set sail.