MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK
It all started when the little round thing-a-ma-whoosie fell off the whatsit on Bigs Maloney’s chair.
We had just opened our writing journals. Our teacher, Ms. Gleason, was talking about similes. I was busy doodling a picture of a giant tidal wave crushing a city. There was one guy on a surfboard yelling, “COWABUNGA!”
Suddenly, CRASH! The next thing I saw was Bigs Maloney’s big feet kicking the air. The big lug had leaned back too far on his chair. That’s when—sploing—the thing-a-ma-whoosie that plugs up the bottom of the chair leg dropped to the floor. Plop, whirrrr, phlppt, phlppt. It rolled to my feet.
“Bwa-ha-ha!” roared Bobby Solofsky, pointing at Bigs.
Ms. Gleason silenced him with a look. “Are you all right, Charlie?”
Bigs Maloney’s real name was Charlie. But no one ever called him that, except for Lucy Hiller and Ms. Gleason. Charlie Maloney was the biggest, strongest kid in second grade. So everybody called him Bigs. Which was like calling the Atlantic Ocean a little damp.
Bigs scrambled to his feet. His face was as red as a tomato. “Yeah, I’m okay,” Bigs mumbled. He turned the chair upright again. It tilted to one side. Bigs frowned. “Uh-oh, I think I busted it, Ms. Gleason,” he said. “Now it’s all wobbly.”
I raised my hand to show Ms. Gleason the thing-a-ma-whoosie. “This fell off the chair.” I turned to Bigs. “Flip that chair over, Bigs. Let me try to push this thingy back on. That should fix it.”
Bigs flipped the chair over. Three of the legs had little round whoosies on them. One didn’t. “All I have to do is shove this back into the hollow leg,” I said. “Like … hmmmm … What’s this?”
I paused. Something was stuck inside the chair leg. It looked like a rolled-up piece of paper. I tried pulling it out, but my fingers were too big.
“Hey, Stringbean,” I called out. “You have skinny fingers. Let’s see if you can reach this piece of paper.”
Stringbean Noonan sighed, blew his nose into a soggy handkerchief (yuck!), and peered inside the chair leg.
“What do you think it is?” Ms. Gleason wondered.
“Probably just scrap paper,” Helen Zuckerman concluded.
“Or food,” Joey Pignattano offered, smacking his lips hopefully.
“Or the beginning of a mystery,” Mila Yeh voiced. Mila winked at me. She was my partner. We ran a detective agency together. For a dollar a day, we made problems go away.
Stringbean probed with his pinkie into the hollow chair leg. “Don’t rip it, Stringbean!” Geetha Nair urged. Slowly, carefully, Stringbean pulled out a long, round tube. It was a piece of paper, all rolled up, tied by two strands of red yarn.
Bigs took the tube from Stringbean. He untied the yarn. Then he unrolled the paper and smoothed it out on his desk. Everyone gathered to look over his shoulder.
The room fell silent.
“Awesome,” Danika Starling murmured. “This is, like, sooo cool.”
Copyright © 2002 by James Preller