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Tue Apr 27, 2010 2:39 pm

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I once had lunch duty with an older teacher who would never let any of the students borrow a single, thin dime.

Her name was Anathema Honeycutt and she had a simple philosophy about lending money out to kids: "Don't do it."

Although it was just the two of us standing there and a cafeteria full of hungry, swarming, pre-teen hooligans, somehow, some way, they knew to avoid Mrs. Honeycutt like the plague and instead cut a bee-line straight to me.

I'd listen to their sob stories just like the still-nurturing, second year teacher that I was, and as soon as I made that inevitable reach for my ever-thinning wallet, I'd hear Mrs. Honeycutt "whisper" her well-worn philosophy: "Don't do it, DON'T do it."

The kid, of course, who was standing close enough to me to take my money, was certainly standing close enough to HER to hear every word.

"If Dante can afford those new hundred dollar sneakers he's so fond of," she'd say, "then he can certainly afford $1.50 for lunch!"

I watched Dante's face spasm with the insult, then had to hide my own guilty smile as he similarly "whispered" a reply of his own as he left.

One day I lent Hugh Philbert the last dollar out of my flimsy wallet. I sort of needed it for a soda later on for that all important, last half of the day energy spurt, but I knew Hugh from last semester and, trust me, he needed it a lot more than I did!

"I'm trying to cut down on caffeine anyway," I lied by way of an excuse. As if I needed one.

"You could have bought the Coke Company by now with all the money I've watched you lend out," Mrs. Honeycutt observed critically. "By the way, how much have they paid you back?"

"Not much," I fibbed, afraid to admit that not a single kid had EVER paid me back. Yet.

"Let's make a wager," she suggested, as hungry kids swarmed and then parted around us like a herd of cattle around two stubby but professionally dressed trees. "You don't lend any money out until one of those kids pays you back. Then if you ever get paid back, I'll lend the next kid the money."

"Wow," I said, trying not to sound too sarcastic, "That's a pretty generous bet."

"Don't worry," she assured me. "I'm certain I won't be reaching for my pocketbook any time soon."

And she was right. Sort of...

Because it was one whole week before Hugh Philbert walked proudly up to the two of us in the bustling cafeteria, a smile on his dirty face and a skinny, clutched fist full of sweaty change, mostly nickels.

"Man, Mr. Fischer, you don't know how many trips down the candy aisle I skipped after school last week to save this up," he told me -- loud enough, I hoped, for my betting partner to hear.

Of course, in the grandest of all junior high traditions, Hugh needed to borrow the dollar right back, then and there, the very same day, so that he could eat some lunch.

But since I had won the bet, I gladly let my "partner" foot the bill!

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