“Hey, Srirupa,” Teresa said, motioning out the window. “Check this out.”
She and Srirupa were in Srirupa’s dorm room and spread out on the floor surrounded by their Biology notes. The teachers had loosened up the rules about staying in their own rooms after Goodnight Circle. Srirupa’s neat handwriting filled sheets and sheets, while Teresa’s own scribbles were large and messy and her pages were covered in doodles.
Earlier that day, Teresa had gotten really flustered in Biology. She didn’t know what was she thinking when she’d signed up for classes here. She’d only taken the basic science and math classes at Middleton Middle. Srirupa must have noticed her drowning and felt bad because she offered to help her study.
After an hour and a half of the cells, chromosomes, and genotypes, Teresa needed a break and got up to stretch when out the window she noticed a girl—it was Caroline—slipping into the trees.
Srirupa approached the window and sighed, a hand on her hip. “She must be going off to meet those guys,” Srirupa said. She frowned. “It’s really stupid of her to go alone.”
Teresa turned to Srirupa. “Where’s Margaret anyway?”
But Srirupa didn’t answer. She was watching Caroline disappear into the forest. Sriurpa’s expression was hard to read—it was a mix of sad and angry and spiteful.
Stepping away from the screen, Srirupa said, “Speaking of kissing someone you shouldn’t, guess what I saw?”
“What?” Teresa prodded, intrigued now.
“Do you promise, absolutely swear, and all the rest, to keep it a secret?”
“Yes, yes, yes. Now tell me!” Teresa exclaimed.
“I saw Mrs. Todd,” Srirupa raised her eyebrows, “making out with Mr. Taylor.”
“Oh my Gawd! No way!” Teresa exclaimed.
Teresa shook her head. “There is definitely somethin’ up with that lady.”
“What do you mean?” asked Srirupa.
“Well,” Teresa began, taking a seat on a nearby bed, “when I was checkin’ out the classrooms the first day, I accidentally ended up in her office. The computer was on, and I saw this e-mail. I know that’s bad, but it was seriously right there staring at me. I still remember it. It said, ‘Smeat is safe and healthy, and I need those documents to say that.’ Isn’t that, like, totally strange?”
“Oh my Gosh,” said Srirupa, as she sat next to Teresa. “That’s so weird, because I heard her saying something like that to Mr. Taylor. She said, ‘It’s almost gone. This is almost over.’”
The two girls just stared at each other. Teresa could feel the hairs on her arms standing up.
Teresa, her mind racing, added, “You know, I also think it’s totally weird how they serve Smeat with every meal, I mean, every meal. She must have donated hundreds of cases to the camp. And she never eats with us. For all we know she never eats the stuff at all.”
With a funny look in her eyes, like dots were connecting in her brain or something, Srirupa asked, “You know who else doesn’t eat with us?”
“Who? One of the other teachers?”
“Not a teacher,” Srirupa replied. “Aspen.”
“Holy cannolis, you’re right,” Teresa exclaimed, jumping off the mattress. “I just figured she was mad at me and didn’t want to eat at our table anymore. But I haven’t seen her in the dining hall in at least a week.”
Teresa and Srirupa stared at each other without saying anything.
“There’s something wrong with the Smeat we’ve been eating!” Srirupa cried out.
“That’s exactly what I was thinkin’!”
Srirupa pulled out a notebook and suggested that they write down all the weird things they’d noticed.
Mrs. Todd making out with Mr. Taylor
Mrs. Todd’s strange e-mail—“Smeat is safe and healthy.”
Mrs. Todd telling Mr. Taylor, “It’s almost gone. This is almost over.”
Mrs. Todd donated hundreds of cases of Smeat to the camp.
Mrs. Todd donated thousands of cases of Smeat to African villages.
Mrs. Todd doesn’t eat with them.
Aspen doesn’t eat with them.
Teresa and Srirupa poured over their notes, trying to make sense of it. It felt like all these clues were puzzle pieces floating around in Teresa’s head. She imagined trying to fit them together. Some of the pieces stuck and some didn’t.
And then, suddenly, they all fit together. Teresa said, “Mrs. Todd and Mr. Taylor are an item. They found out that there was something wrong with some of their Smeat. So they donated some of it to Africa to get rid of it. Then they donated some of it to the camp. And Mrs. Todd is trying to get someone to help her cover it up.”
“That makes sense,” Srirupa said, looking from the notebook to Teresa. “But why wouldn’t they just throw it away?”
Teresa squinted. “I don’t know. Maybe it was, like, an entire batch. Mr. Taylor said they could make something like 2000 pounds in a week. They could have had a whole warehouse full of the stuff.”
“And maybe she wanted to get some good PR out of it,” Srirupa added.
Suddenly Teresa felt like she’d swallowed a giant bug. She felt like throwing up. “And we’ve been eatin’ it all day, every day.”
Silently, Teresa and Srirupa approached the back entrance of the cafeteria. Luckily, no one else was around. When they got there, Teresa pushed ahead. “You do it like this,” she said quietly, while wiggling a window in the back of the dining hall. “See, if you jiggle it enough, it just opens. And then you can, like, stick your arm through and unlock the door.”
After recovering from the initial shock over Smeat, Srirupa had decided they needed a sample of the Smeat in question. If they were real detectives, Srirupa argued, they’d collect it for evidence. Then Teresa shrugged her shoulders and said, “So we’ll sneak into the kitchen.” She and her roommates—motivated by ice cream sandwiches—had found a way to sneak in on, like, Day Two.
“You’ve been doing this the whole time?” asked Srirupa.
“Yeah, I thought everyone did,” Teresa replied.
Soon the handle clicked and the door inched open. The room was filled with metal shelves and cardboard boxes of different sizes. As soon as they were inside, Srirupa was all business. “Okay, look for boxes with ‘Smeat’ written on them,” she instructed. “There must be tons of it.”
They split up to scan the room, Teresa taking the left wall and Srirupa the right.
“Over here!” cried Teresa. “These ones say ‘Smeat Lite.’”
Srirupa ran over to Teresa’s side. “Smeat Lite,” she read. “So this must be the stuff they messed up.”
“My Gosh,” said Teresa, giving Srirupa a wry glance out of the corner of her eye. “They’re poisoning us, and they’ve got us on a diet.”
Srirupa rolled her eyes at Teresa’s little joke while digging her hands into the nearest open carton.
“Here,” Srirupa said, “let’s just take a couple cans, one for each of us to keep. It could turn out to be evidence.”
“Sure, good idea,” Teresa agreed, taking the can Srirupa had handed her and stuffing it in her sweatshirt pocket.
Srirupa turned to leave, but Teresa headed over to an industrial-size freezer, stopping Srirupa in her tracks.
“Wait, hold on a sec. I gotta do one more thing,” Teresa said.
“What is it? What are you doing?” Srirupa asked. “We have to get out of here.”
Teresa opened the door of the freezer. She reached in, carefully moving items around. Her face brightened and she withdrew her hand. “Getting an ice cream sandwich. Want one?”
Srirupa shook her head and sighed. “Let’s go.”
But as Teresa closed the window and locked the door from the inside, her smile faded.
“So, do we tell everyone?” she asked, as she shut the heavy door.
“Definitely,” Srirupa responded, without missing a beat. “We don’t know what’s wrong with it yet, but we know something is. We can’t let everyone keep eating it, not knowing what we do.”
As Teresa handed Srirupa a frozen treat and peeled back the wrapper of her own, she considered that. “Well, Srirupa, like you said, we don’t even know what’s wrong with it. Do we really wanna spill the beans before we get a chance to, like, pull a Scooby Doo on Mrs. Todd?”
Biting on the edge of her nail, Srirupa reluctantly agreed to keep quiet for a little longer. But both girls knew they needed to figure out what was wrong with the Smeat Lite, and fast.