A Birthday Riddle

By Lana Renetzky



“‘What’s handy for catching flies?’” Matthew laughed as he read the riddle tied to his birthday gift. “It’s a jelly sandwich? You got me a jelly sandwich for my birthday?”

Matthew’s father chuckled. “No, Matthew. Guess again.”

“One of Mom’s pies,” said Matthew.

“Try again,” said his father.

“I think I know what it is,” said Matthew. “Is it a baseball glove?”


Matthew tore the wrapping from the package. “All right!” he said, holding up the new glove. “It’ll sure be handy for catching flies,” he added with a grin.

Matthew’s family always put riddles on the gifts they gave. The riddle was a hint about what was inside. But you could open the gift even if you couldn’t guess the riddle.

Dad’s birthday is coming soon, thought Matthew. I want to find the perfect gift and make up the riddle myself.

The next day Matthew’s father was raking leaves. The rake looked rusty. A new rake might be a good birthday gift, thought Matthew. “Hi, Dad, how’s the raking coming?” he asked.

“Fine,” said his father. “This old rake never lets me down.” Matthew frowned. Dad didn’t need a rake.

Later that day Matthew saw his father washing the car. I wonder if Dad would like a new car brush for his birthday, thought Matthew.

“Look at that car shine,” said Matthew’s father proudly. “This car brush does a great job.”

On Saturday Matthew saw his father in the garage cleaning his fishing reel. That reel looks old, thought Matthew. A new reel would be a good birthday gift.

“This was Grandpa’s reel,” said his father, as if he had read Matthew’s mind. “Grandpa and I had many good fishing trips together. Someday it will be yours.”

That evening Matthew thought about what his father had said. I know what to give Dad for his birthday, thought Matthew. And I know what to say in the riddle, too.

His father’s birthday was the next Saturday. Matthew’s mother baked a special cake and invited Matthew’s aunts and uncles to the party. After the cake was served, his father answered the riddles and opened his gifts.

“This next gift is from Matthew. Let’s see what the riddle says,” said Matthew’s father. “‘What is useful and comes in a small package?’ Hmmm. Could it be a watch?”

“Try again, Dad,” said Matthew.

“A billfold?”

“Guess again,” said Matthew.

Matthew’s father thought hard. Finally he said, “I’m stumped. OK if I open it now?”

Matthew nodded.

Matthew’s father opened the box and read the note tucked inside.

“‘Dad— my gift is that I’ll help you rake leaves and wash the car. And I’ll be your partner when you go fishing. Love, Matthew.’”

“What a wonderful gift,” said Matthew’s father. “How about a fishing trip next weekend? You can use Grandpa’s reel.”

“All right!” said Matthew. He grinned. He had solved the riddle of finding the perfect gift for his dad.

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