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Cast of Thousands, chapter 17

The ride passed quickly and she spent a blissful twenty extra minutes in the school library, immersed in "Mama's Bank Account," before Algebra began.

Algebra itself offered a free ride of sorts as well; the teacher passed out sheets of practice questions for an upcoming test, and she chewed them over by herself for most of the class time. She was still puzzling over a few of them as she made her way to German class.

Harley was busily trying to attach small bells to the end of each braid. "Christmas is gonna come early this year," she grinned evilly.

Jessica popped into her seat and twisted around to watch her friend self-decorate. "Can I help?"

"Sure. Grab a braid." Harley had organized a whole pile of silver bells with rubber bands laced through them. "I started in English. Our teacher doesn't care what we do as long as we're not asleep on our desks."

"Lucky," said Jessica, although she would not have given up her own class for anything.

Between them they belled most of her braids by the time the class began. Harley quickly swept the rest of the hair tchotchkes into her backpack and assumed a pose of innocent attendance.

"Good morning, class," Fraulein Schau said briskly. She wrote "Kein Problem" in large letters on the board behind her. "Natalie, tell me, what would you say if I asked you to do ten extra pages of homework tonight?"

"Uh... 'Kein problem?'" Natalie guessed hopefully.

"That is correct. Now can you tell me what this means?"

"It looks like it means 'no problem.'"

"Sehr gut. Thomas, there has been a collapse in the B building and they want you to rebuild it single-handedly."

"Kein problem," Thomas said idealistically.

"Harley, I want you to make sure your bells do not make noise during class."

"Kein problem," she said, trying not to smile and tying her braids back.

"Jessica, you will be teaching German class tomorrow because I have been abducted by aliens."

"Kein problem," Jessica said, glad this was only an exercise.

"Now you all know how to use the phrase. But in German you must be careful because this term can be interpreted a number of different ways. You might come off as cocky, because you think you can rebuild the whole building yourself. One might think you were not sure what you were doing and were just lying about it being 'kein problem.' Or that you think it will be kein problem because you do not intend to work very hard on a project." She clapped her hands together. "Now, I want you all to work at your desks in writing a simple dialogue between two people, one of whom must ask the other one to complete some project or do something for them, and use 'kein problem' in whatever way you wish. Afterwards, if we have time, we may read some of them aloud."

They all worked industriously on this, with interruptions for general help from Fraulein Schau, until they were freed by the bell. Everyone stampeded on to their next class. Jessie sailed to English on a rising tide of backpacks and jostling elbows, and pitied the teachers who stood heads above the crowd and tried to beat their students to class.


Chapter 18?