Lunch had started when Sophie walked up to our table-- the same Sophie who hadn’t bothered to speak to me since she asked me to pass the paste in the second grade. Now she had legs that went all the way to Heaven under her pleated cheerleader’s skirt, and looked broken up about something.
“Robert. I need your help or I’m going to die.”
“What’s wrong Sophie? Did you snap instead of clap during last night’s game?”
“No!” She took the napkin off my tray and dabbed at her eyes. “That geeky kid James has been doing my German homework for me all year. I might have let him think that was the price for getting to third base.” She rolled her eyes sideways to see how I took that piece of information. I just shrugged and ate another tater tot. That Sophie was a tease had been shouted from the rooftops for years.
“Anyway on Friday he demanded payment. I laughed him off and he refused to write the essay that’s due for German today.”
“Look Sophie, I don’t take German, I can’t help you with the essay.”
“I studied all weekend and I wrote the essay myself. I think it’s the best essay that Mrs. Bowker will ever read. But James took it.”
“Took it?” My partner Langston leaned in for the first time, becoming interested now that there was a defininte problem.
“He pulled it out of my notebook during first period math and left this note in its place.”
She put the piece of paper down on the table. It read “I am flagged as the greatest lover since Casanova and you are missing out. I have an essay prepared for you to turn in if you give in to me. If not, good luck finding your own homework. I hid it in an obvious place.”
I looked back at Sophie, whose tears could have filled a fountain by this point. “Where have you searched?”
“I checked my hallway locker and my gym locker. I looked under my pom-poms in the gym, and by the mirror outside Art where I always stop to fix my hair. It’s not anywhere.”
I read the note again and noticed something odd. “Why would he say he was ‘flagged’ as the greatest lover…”
Langston snorted into his chocolate milk, “Greatest loser since the Cubs, more like”
“Unless that was a clue. Come on.” With that I grabbed my remaining fish stick to eat as I led us to the school lobby.
“I don’t get it Robert. Where are we going?”
“Right here.” I smiled a thousand watt smile and gestured at the lobby, where a mini flag of every nation was hung. It was supposed to be educational or something.
“Sophie, which one is the German flag?”
“I’m in the class because of the language requirement, why would I know anything about the flag?”
Langston shook his head; Sophie was managing to reaffirm all of his beliefs about cheerleaders existing only to look pretty. He walked up to the German flag on the wall and took a small slip of paper from around the miniature pole.
“A fortune wouldn’t fit on that it’s so small, it can’t be my essay.”
“It’s a clue.” Langston unfurled the paper and showed us the three words written on it. Earlier, thirty ill.
“I’ve got it.” I snapped my fingers and knew I was smarter than Bill Gates and Steve Jobs combined. “Remember last week – when kids got sick after eating the fajitas?”
“Ugh, I never eat school lunch; it would make me too fat to fit through doors.”
Langston nodded along with me, ignoring Sophie. “Thirty kids were sent home with food poisoning. Your essay must be in the cafeteria, come on.”
We walked back to the cafeteria with Sophie chattering about something behind us. Langston and I strode smartly through the halls, looking like we had the right stuff. Back in the cafeteria we stepped through the doors like gunslingers in the old west, only to have Sophie grab my arm.
“Robert I don’t eat school food, remember? This isn’t an obvious place, like the first note said.”
I realized she may have a point when something caught my eye. A freshman was playing with the menu board for the day changing ‘fish sticks’ to ‘sick shifts’. I grabbed the piece of paper out of Langston’s hand and stared at it. “What if it’s an anagram?”
The three of us walked back to the table we had only recently left and tried to find other words in the phrase. I pulled out a notebook and tore a sheet of paper out for each of us. Langston passed out pencils and began to chew on the eraser of his. The warning bell rung and Sophie jumped. “Class is in five minutes. Please, hurry.”
We worked on the anagram, finding a lot of words but nothing that made sense: liar, earth, artillery, tree, retail. Langston smirked, “You know you can get Hitler out of these letters?”
Sophie snapped at him like a mama bear defending her cub, “What would Hitler have to do with anything?”
“He was German.” I said, starting to see the edge of the answer.
“If you take the letters for Hitler out you can get literally" Langston said.
"Oh so now I don't make out with him and James calls me Hitler? Trust me, not even Hitler would kiss that scrawny, weaselly..."
I sighed. “No, that doesn’t use all of the letters. You get ‘literarily Hitler’.” As I said that phrase out loud a light bulb came on over my head. Langston and I looked at each other and said “Mein Kampf is literarily Hitler” at the same time. I laughed with joy at solving the puzzle. Sophie stared at us with wide eyes looking like a raccoon with her running mascara. “Um guys, do you know where my essay is?”
“It’s in the library. Look for it in the pages of Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler.”
“Thank you so much!” She threw her arms around me and hugged me more tightly than a python. She disengaged and did the same to Langston. Then she ran for the library.
I shook my head at Langston, amused by her antics. I was proud of another lunch mystery solved. Soon we would be more famous than Sherlock Holmes.
“Someday we’re going to have to get paid for this.”
***This is my entry for week 21 of LJ Idol, the topic was ‘hyberbole is literally Hitler’. I should probably apologize to everyone for the play on words, but really once I had the phrase 'mein kampf is literarily Hitler' I had to use it. If there’s a poll this week, I’ll post a link to it when it goes up. ***