1522: Secret code

Ms Evelyn Zimmermann was frothing at the mouth. She was spitting tacks. Ms Zimmermann had spent two and a half months working out a complex, secret code. She would use it with her teenage literature class. They would decipher the code over a period of several weeks. She would help them bit by bit; a hint here and a hint there. The overriding question to answer was: What poem is hidden in the code? How exciting is that?

Ms Evelyn Zimmermann handed out the beautifully printed sheets. She had taken such care; the manuscripts were almost gilded. “This,” said Ms Zimmermann, “is the poem in code that together we shall decipher over the coming weeks.”

Willie Barros put up his hand. “The poem is obviously Tintern Abbey by William Wordsworth.”

Ms Evelyn Zimmermann was shocked beyond belief. She was thunderstruck. She was gobsmacked. Months of planning and several weeks of planned pedagogy had gone down the gurgler in seconds. To make matters worse, she would have to give the upstart student a high mark for his know-all insolence. She’d never liked him. He was one of those nerdy students – a goody-two-shoes with no personality. He had pimples and absolutely no dress sense. He was one of those completely yucky adolescent boys whose half broken voice squawked up and down like a clucky chicken.

“That’s very clever of you, Willie,” said Ms Zimmermann sweetly. “How did you know that?”

Willie Barros explained the code in detail. “The answer just came to me, almost without thinking,” he said. He was particularly pleased with himself, although he didn’t say so, because Ms Zimmermann was always nasty to him, although she pretended to be kind. In fact, at times she was downright cruel. Tyrannical even. She preferred the better-looking students.

That’s why, over the last few months, Willie Barros had hacked into her computer and knew everything there was to know.

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