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The Greatest Key Collector in Atlanta 

Third Place

The contents of my aunt Nancy's jewelry box: a pearl necklace 11 inches long; a broach in the shape of a spider covered in diamonds, or maybe cubic zirconium; a picture of my cousin Andrew in a frame made of Popsicle sticks; reading glasses with "ARMANI" printed on the side, which is an Italian word I couldn't find in my Italian-English dictionary; pearl earrings that match the necklace; a diamond ring; a silver ring with an amethyst.

The hiding spot for the bronze key to her jewelry box: in a little mirrored box in the second drawer down in her bathroom.

The contents of my cousin Amanda's diary: a poem she wrote about a boy named Matthew Kammerer; a detailed account of the time she fought with her best friend Anna over a boy named Matthew P.; the date and time of her first sip of her mother's margarita when her mother wasn't looking.

The hiding spot for the tiny key to her diary: on a ribbon which she sometimes wears around her neck and sometimes leaves out in the open of her sock drawer.

The contents of the family safe, which my mother keeps in the closet behind a veil of an awful long black dress, which she sometimes wears to business parties: a copy of the divorce papers, which I can tell is a color copy because my mom signed in red ink; some bank statements; the passwords to all of my mom's e-mail and bank accounts, because she has a horrible memory and always forgets.

The hiding spot for the key to the family safe: in the plate that goes under a potted plant, which keeps the water from spilling out of the hole in the bottom and warping the hardwood floors – floors my mom put in her bedroom after my dad moved out.

I collect keys. I guess I also collect secrets, because the whole point of a key is to open a lock and the whole point of a lock is to keep someone, like me, from discovering the secret. My grandma, who is the only person I trust enough to tell about my investigations, calls me a snoop but she does so with one of those half-hugs she does to let me know I am not really in trouble. My grandma lives in a very old house, and it is the same house she grew up in. She moved out when she married my grandpa, who was a very handsome soldier in the United States Army. When he died 12 years ago, she bought the house on a whim and now she lives there all the time, which is nice because it is closer. She made me a copy of that key, and I keep it on a special keychain with my house key and a spare key to my mom's car and the key to my bike lock.

I don't think it is very fair that cars get a key but bicycles don't. So far I have collected 43 keys. Some of them I can't put on my keychain because if I did then whoever owns the key, like my aunt Nancy, would know it was missing and couldn't get her spider broach, which is really hideous but she wears it to every special occasion like the time we went to the ballet as a family. So even though I only have 33 keys on my keychain I really have much more than that.

I am telling you this because maybe you might know a clue. Two and a half weeks ago, my grandma showed me a classified in the newspaper: "I have a white box with no key. Key possibly stolen. Need key. Call Aurelia 404-583-4856."

My grandmother told me that a classified runs in a paper for 55 cents a word. Aurelia spent $8.80 a day to run that ad. I made my mom get the newspaper every day on her way home from work, and every day for a week Aurelia's message was in the second column. It was kind of like finding a message in a bottle. Being a key expert myself, I felt it was my civic duty as a citizen of the United States to call Aurelia myself. When I talked to her on the phone she didn't seem to mind that I was only 11 years old or maybe she couldn't tell because I have the least squeaky voice in the third grade, and I am meeting her today after school.

The bus usually drops me off at my apartment every day between 3 and 3:30, but today I got home late, which meant I would have to meet Aurelia later. I unlocked my bike and carefully put my keys in a pocket on the front of my backpack, which I always take with me when I go on a bike ride in case I find a key, or something to take home like the time I found that bird with the broken wing.

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