~*~Part 4~*~

There are times in life when five minutes can feel like three hours. Ten minutes then can equal a good seven plus hours and a whole morning plus lunchtime...well that's pretty much an eternity right there. Especially when one is forced to carry out horrible, boring tasks like double-digit addition and spelling tests and learning about vowels. Afterall, who could possibly concentrate on stupid schoolwork when there was going to be a Christmas party right after lunch?

Clearly not eight excited little first graders.

After an eternity had passed, along with ample squirmings and whinings and shortness of tempers, the 1:30 bell rang loud and clear. Crowds of shrieking children scrambled from the snowy schoolyard into the school halls, eight of them rushing into Miss Birman's first grade classroom.

Snowsuits and hats and scarves and mittens were thrown carelessly about the coatroom since none had the patience to hang up their winter clothing...with the sole exception of one bespeckled little boy clad in an immaculate white suit. Tossing about one's London Fog longhair wool coat was clearly uncouth afterall.

The classroom served only to enhance the energized mood of the children. In the reading corner stood a long Christmas tree complete with a stack of gifts Miss Birman had bought for her students underneath. The cut-out Santas and elves and bells and stockings they had colored during the week hung about the room. Next to the Christmas books Miss Birman had rounded up from the library, were a row of brightly decorated boxes filled with all the nice compliments each student had written about their classmates. The holly and berries they had made from pipe cleaner and beads last art class hung from the ceiling and dangled in the ventilation-air breeze. But by far, the best part of the classroom was the Scribbler-table Miss Birman had dragged to the front. It was covered with a vivid Christmas tablecloth and completely packed with all the Christmas goodies that the mothers had made especially for the party.

"TODAY'S OUR CHRISTMAS PARTY!!!" Ken hollered, running around in a circle on the Storytime shag rug.

Yohji began lurking about the classroom, a Sherlock Holmes's detective hat perched on his head. "I detect the detection of exciting excitement!" He examined the food table with great interest. "Evidence of the Sugar Plum Fairy is evident!"

"CHRISTMAS CHRISTMAS CHRISTMAS!" Ken shrieked, jumping over chairs and past desks.

Bradley grimaced as he began the meticulous process of refilling his mechanical pencil with lead. "Must you act like such an ignoramus? There is no need to go windmilling about in such a boisterous manner!"

His voice was lost in the din.

"My mom made the BEST sugar cookies EVER," Omi was busy telling anyone who would listen...namingly his best friend Nagi. "She made them in all kinds of shapes like bells and angels and stars and then she put icing and little candies on them and then I got to have some TO TEST OUT!"

Nagi was crushed. "My mom made sugar cookies too." His lower lip trembled and curved downwards. "And they're in all kinds of Christmas shapes TOO!"

Both boys stared at each other in dismay.

Nearby Farfarello sniggered loudly, his mouth full of glitter glue. "Fooogiies," he chortled and shook a plastic Santa figurine with no head at them.

"Only DORKS bring the same food to a Christmas party," Schuldich proclaimed, smirking. "That's why you guys are like girlfriends. BABY GIRLFRIENDS!"

"No we're not!" Nagi screamed, his wide eyes shimmering. "I'm not a baby girlfriend, NO WAY!"

"Yeah well I bet you brought FRUITCAKE," Omi snapped angrily. "That really gross kind with rum and raisins and green cherries in it! You brought fruitcake because you SUCK!"

"Your head's a fruitcake!" Schuldich retorted.

"Your brain's a fruitcake!"

"Your pancreas's a fruitcake!"

"Oh BARF!" Ken yelled from atop his desk where he was busy swatting at the hanging pipe cleaner holly he had made. "Fruitcake is GROSS-O-RAMA!!!! There was this one time, one Christmas a really long, long, long, long time ago when my Aunt gave us some fruitcake and it was really old, like 1000 YEARS OLD and as hard as a BOULDER and my dad used it to pound a nail in wall and it cracked the whole thing open! 'Member when I showed you the crack in the wall Ran huh do ya? It's super-big, like the size of my HEAD!"

Ran nodded from his position by the front door where Ken had assigned him look-out for Miss Birman. "It's as big as Santa," he muttered in a near inaudible voice.

"Hey fatmouth, no one cares about your dumb stories," Schuldich snapped at Ken. "So shut up!"

Ran scowled at the orange-haired boy. "Why don't YOU shut up?"

Schuldich scowled right back. "Why don't you make me?"

"You're not allowed to tell people to shut up," Nagi cried, looking scandalized. "Miss Birman said!"

"You're a baby girlfriend AND a teacher's pet too!"

Omi was not impressed. "You're RUINING CHRISTMAS!"

Farfarello looked at Ken with interest. "What kinda nail?" he squeaked out, his lips sparkling.

"What're you talking about weirdo?" Ken vaulted down from his desk. "Oh man you're not supposed to eat glitter glue! Only babies do THAT!"

"What kinda nail did your dad use? Was it a long nail?" Farfarello began coloring his arm with a broken stump of a black crayon. "Did it have rust on it? Was it crooked?"

"Who cares what kinda nail it was?" Omi demanded. "It's only a stupid nail. No one cares about a nail. What a dumb thing to ask about."

"What do you know boogerbreath?" Schuldich glared angrily at Omi. He didn't like it when people told Farfarello that the things he liked were stupid. "You're too much of a sissy to know anything important anyways!"

Nagi was fed up. "You just better stop calling people names or I'm really tellin'!"

"Oh man oh man one time me an' Ran were at the playground and there was this real BIG namecaller and all day he kept stealin' my soccer ball and callin' me 'lice face' and 'girl kisser'...EWWWWW...and so I told him-"

"HEY GUYS LOOK HERE! GUYS COME QUICK!" Yohji was kneeling beside the Christmas tree, peering through his SuperMag 10005 at the pile of presents. "HEY GUYS LOOK WE GOT PRESENTS!"

All arguments and story-telling was abruptly forgotten.


"Oh honestly," Bradley huffed, watching his fellow classmates, with the sole exception of Farfarello herd around the tree. "Such a lurid display of obvious buffoonery!"

Farfarello slid up to Bradley's desk and stuck his glitter-caked face right up in front of Bradley's. "Gimme all your lead," he rasped out in a crunchy, dried voice.

Bradley was scared. "Here take it all, it's only 0.2mm," he babbled, his glasses fogging up as Farfarello breathed on them.

Yohji was busy shaking his present experimentally, his head tilted, an expression of profound concentration etched across his face. Everyone was gathered around him, eagerly awaiting his expert opinion. Secretly, Yohji was relishing the attention. His classmates were looking to him for answers, much like a client would look to a real detective for answers!

"What d'you think's in there?" Omi asked.

"It's something real shaky," Yohji deduced, frowning.

"Maybe it's BLASTING CAPS!" Ken shrieked straight into Ran's ear. He began bouncing in his spot. "We could put all our ammo together and bust a hole in the school the size of CHINA!"

"We're not allowed to use blasting caps," Nagi piped up. "Remember? Miss Birman said."

"Maybe it's fizzy candies," Ran ventured quietly.

No one paid any attention to that.

"Well whatever you guys get isn't what I'll get," Schuldich bragged, grabbing his own present. "Miss Birman likes me the best so I bet she gave me something extra cool. Something none of you guys got." He shook his present.

Yohji snickered loudly. "It sounds exactly the same as mine moron!"

"Miss Birman doesn't play favorites," Omi defended loyally.

"Well I think sometimes she DOES," Ken huffed. "She yells at me all day, all the time! She keeps sayin' that I talk too much and run around too much and I never did that in my whole LIFE!"

"Oh yeah never ever," Schuldich said sarcastically, rolling his eyes. 

"Shut your face," Ran snapped, looking angry.

"I still can't tell what's in here," Yohji declared. He shook the box some more. "I think my powers of deduction are kinda on the rusty side!"

"I didn't know sides could be rusty," Nagi said, puzzled.

Birman came into the classroom then, her arms filled with Christmas party things. She dumped her load onto her desk and clapped her hands loudly. "Okay folks, everyone into your seats! There'll be time for the presents later!"

There was a scuffle as everyone got sorted.

"Alright much better!" Birman beamed. "Today we're not going to do any work because it's the last day before vacation and it's also our Christmas party!"

There was a resounding cheer.

Bradley rolled his eyes. School class parties were so very tacky. In his august opinion, if there were no French-cut crystal glasses of apple juice and fancy hors-d'oeuvres and groups of knowledgeable, successful business men then it wasn't a party at all, but rather merely a gathering.

"I've got lots of wonderful things planned out for this afternoon," Birman went on, taking from her desk a shiny folder with a snowman on it. "But first I've got a great surprise in store for everyone. I checked my mailbox this morning and what did I find but a fat stack of letters written to you guys from Santa Claus!"

"Santa wrote us letters?" Nagi gasped, his eyes as wide as plates.

"Santa wrote us letters!" Ken bellowed, thumping on his desk in excitement.

"This is the best Christmas party EVER!" Omi shrieked, throwing some old spelling tests around.

Some among them were not excited.

"Oh really now," Bradley groused with great chagrin. "How can a fictitious character write us letters?"

"I hate Santa," Farfarello declared, pouting. "I don't want his stupid letter. He's a dumbbell."

Schuldich tried to be supportive. "It's not as bad as all that," he soothed. "I mean it's Santa. SANTA! How many times in a lifetime can a kid get a letter from Santa? It's like a miracle Farf!"

"I hate miracles," Farfarello grumped sullenly.

"It's like a miracle on 43th street!" Yohji chimed in excitedly.

"It's 34th street not 43th street," Bradley corrected in superior tones. "Any ignoramus with half a cerebrum would CLEARLY would know that!"

"Hey take a chill pill man!" Ken burst out. "Once I losted my Spiderman comics and Yohji found them straight away for me!"

"They were in his schoolbag," Yohji informed everyone. "Sometimes a detective just gots to look in the most obvious place."

"Alright everyone settle down," Birman called out. She waited for quiet before continuing. "So here's what we're going to do. When I call your name you come up to my desk and I'll read your letter to you."

"Oh how humiliating," Bradley complained bitterly, amidst many a shrieks. "As though someone of my intellectual caliber needs to be read to!"

"Alright then let me see..." Birman dug out the first letter. "Yohji you're up first."

"Aw man no fair," Omi moaned loudly. "I wanted to be first!"

"Buncha babies," Schuldich whispered to Farfarello who was still glum with dismay.

Grabbing his trusty notebook in one hand and his SuperMag 10005 in the other, because a detective always had to be prepared, Yohji scrambled up to Miss Birman's desk. He sat down on the little red stool and peered up at his teacher through his magnifying glass. "You sure it's the real thing ma'am? Could be a forged document you know."

Birman smiled. "It's the real thing Yohji. I can tell."

"But I should examine it just in case, don't you think?" Yohji earnestly straightened his Sherlock Holmes' hat. "There might be some kinda of villainy afoot!"

"Uh right." Birman handed the letter to the blond boy and watched as he scrutinized it extensively. Upside down.

"Alright it's legit," Yohji declared with great satisfaction, handing the letter back. "Case close!"

"I'm glad to hear it." Birman cleared her throat and began reading the letter. "'Dear Yohji. Merry Christmas to you! I received your letter only just yesterday. Sadly I will not be able to bring you a home autopsy kit being as I seemed to have run out of this year's stock.'"

"Aw shucks!"

"'But since you've been such a good boy this year, I will do my best to bring you the skeleton key, the self-fingerprinting kit and the lie detector testing machine you asked for. See you Christmas night! From Santa Claus, North Pole.'"

"Wow cow!" Yohji's eyes were shining from behind his plastic X-Men Cyclops sunglasses. "Now my ma's really gonna gotta look out! She messes up any of my stuff one more time and I'll print her and have her arrested!"

Birman was torn between high amusement and acute pity for Yohji's mother. "Yes well you must remember your Christmas spirit," she advised. "You can't go sending your mother to jail during the holiday season. That would be a very Scrooge thing to do."

Yohji nodded in agreement. "You're right Miss Birman, I'll wait 'til New Year's." He grabbed the letter from her and ran back to his desk, eager to share his new-found joy with his classmates.

Birman sighed and called up her next student, Omi.

The small, blond boy slid onto the red stool, beaming from ear to ear. "My mom said Santa wasn't gonna write me no letters 'cause I never ate all my spinach soufflé but oh brother am I ever glad she's was wrong! Guess that's how much SHE knows 'cause Santa still likes me!"

"Of course he does," Birman replied kindly. "Santa likes all his children."

Omi's grin grew brighter, if such a thing was possible. "This is gonna be the best Christmas ever Miss Birman!"

"I hope so." Birman picked up Omi's letter and started to read it. "'Dear Omi. Thank you kindly for your letter. You don't need to apologize for the spelling mistakes since I know that you work very hard in school.'"

"I really do!"

"'I think that wanting to be a scientist when you grow up is a great choice and I will do my best to bring you the chemistry set you asked for. I can't promise that I'll be able to bring you some extra Bromothymal Blue and Hydrochloric Acid for your new beakers since the elves aren't allow to handle dangerous chemicals but I can safely say that there will be a whole bunch of new video games for your computer in your stocking this year. Have a wonderful Christmas Omi! From Santa Claus.'"

"Video games! A chemistry set!" Omi was so thrilled that he hugged Birman as hard as he could. "Thanks Miss Birman!"

Birman hugged the boy back. "I'm sure you'll have a wonderful Christmas, Omi."

"I'm gonna get chemistry!" the blond boy shouted, bouncing back to his desk.

Birman called Schuldich next.

"I'm super excited but Farf's not," Schuldich told his teacher, his eyes wide with disappointment. "He hates Santa and nothing I can say will make him happy. You won't be mean to him Miss Birman, will you? It's not his fault he's sad."

Birman looked at the worried boy and her heart softened. Schuldich was generally rude and nasty but beneath it all, he was a caring boy. He was very protective of Farfarello, defending the odd boy with a relentless sort of viciousness. "Of course not sweetie. We'll do our best to make him feel better, alright? I think if you're happy then he'll be happy also."

"Good. I don't like it when my best friend is sad. "

Birman smiled kindly and picked up Schuldich's letter. "'Dear Schuldich. Your letter made me very happy. Not a lot of children ask for presents for their friends. Thinking about other people is the true spirit of Christmas. You are a very good boy to write a letter for your friend. I will try my best to bring Farfarello the blender and electric mixer you suggested on his behalf. You're right, he isn't a bad boy, just a confused boy. I think you'll have a wonderful Christmas this year and I know there will be many wonderful presents for you under your tree. I look forward to visiting you this year Schuldich! Love from Santa Claus.'" Birman looked up from the letter. "That was a kind thing to do Schuldich., writing a letter for Farfarello. He is very lucky to have a friend like you."

Schuldich reddened a little. "No one else was gonna." He fidgeted with his hair. "You ain't gonna tell anyone except Farf are ya? I don't want people thinkin' I'm a wuss. I'm the boss of the schoolyard ya know!"

Birman hid a smile. "My lips are sealed. This will be our little secret."

"Thanks Miss Birman!" Schuldich headed back to his seat, pleased.

"Ran? Your turn honey."

"Go get 'em man!" Ken cheered, ramming his Hot Wheels dinky car into his math book.

Ran solemnly approached Miss Birman's desk.

"Are you excited Ran?" she asked the quiet boy.

He nodded, studying the floor. Talking to adults always made him feel a little bit shy.

"Okay then, well let me start." She cleared her throat. "'Dear Ran. Thank you kindly for your letter! I must say that you do indeed print very well for a first grader.'"

A slight smile appeared across Ran's face.

"You do indeed," Birman agreed. She continued. "'You don't need to worry about your little sister since she also has been a good girl. Both of you are very good children. I don't know if I will be able to bring you an authentic Samurai sword since I might get in trouble with your mom but I will definitely bring you all the books you asked for. I'm very pleased that you like to read so much. I look forward to seeing you and Aya Christmas night! From Santa Claus.'"

"I like to read," Ran offered shyly and then suddenly frowned. "I'd take good care of a sword, if I got one. I'd polish it every day and I wouldn't let Aya ever touch it. Mom shouldn't tell Santa not to bring me a sword."

"I'm sure your mom knows that you'd take good care of it," Birman soothed. "But Aya might not know to be as careful around it as you would. She's only still little and she might hurt herself."

Ran pondered that before nodding. "She is kinda a baby still. She wouldn't know any better. I wouldn't what her to get hurt."

"Of course not." She gave Ran his letter. "But it sounds like you'll get lots of presents all the same."

He nodded and sat back down with Ken. "Santa says I got good printing," he told the hyper brunette proudly.

"You're next Bradley."

Bradley strode up to the front of the classroom. "This is stupid," he fumed, folding his arms across his spotless blazer. "I'll bet you wrote all these letters!"

Birman resisted the urge to roll her eyes, even though the boy wasn't far from the mark. She'd gotten her boyfriend to write the letters as she had dictated. "Don't be silly. Does this look like my writing?" She showed the boy his letter.

"Clearly no but that doesn't prove anything." The dark-haired boy raised his chin arrogantly. "You may be able to fool all these babyish ignoramuses but you can't fool me. I know there's no such thing as Santa Claus."

Birman scowled. "Need I remind you Bradley, that name-calling is in itself babyish?"

"Well you know what I mean Miss Birman!" Bradley cried, flushing.

"So you're saying that you don't want to read the letter Santa wrote for you?"

"Oh I'll read it if I must," Bradley condescended in a lofty tone. "But I'll feel horridly foolish the entire time. It's all so juvenile really."

This time Birman did roll her eyes.

Bradley whisked the letter from his teacher and read it silently to himself. His eyes widened behind his glasses. "Santa says he's going to bring me a new, more compact laptop and a pager!"

Birman arched an eyebrow.

"I mean that's just what it says here, I was only reading it," he said hastily, looking both flustered and embarrassed.

"I understand," Birman replied seriously, trying not to laugh. "You're only reading it because you must." She knew she was being a bit mean but honestly, the boy was so pretentious.

Bradley fled back to his seat, his cheeks burning. When Miss Birman wasn't looking, he reread the letter. A new laptop and a pager too! What a great Christmas this was gonna be!


The small boy ran up to her desk and climbed onto the red stool.  "I never got a letter from Santa in my whole life!"

"Well he is a very busy man."

Nagi bobbed his head in agreement. "He can't write to every single kid in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD can he?!"

"No he definitely can't. I guess you guys were lucky, huh?"

"Yeah I GUESS!"

Birman began reading yet another letter. "'Dear Nagi. Thank you so much for the letter you wrote me. I must also thank you for the detailed map of how to find your house you drew for me. It will be very useful come Christmas Eve.'"

"I highlighted my house so that Santa wouldn't miss it," Nagi informed Miss Birman. "I even put glow-in-the-dark stickers around it just to be extra sure!"

"That's very creative of you Nagi." Birman resumed reading. "'I will be sure to bring you supplies for your frog Mayfly as well as the new 'The Cat Burglar' movie, 'The Cat Burglar Burgles the Cat Burglary'. I have a bunch of other presents for you but you'll have to wait until Christmas morning to see what they'll be. Oh and don't worry, I like molasses cookies just as much as I like chocolate chip cookies. Have a very Merry Christmas Nagi! Love from Santa Claus.'"

"Neat-o mosquito Dorito!"

Miss Birman laughed. "Sounds like things will be quite exciting at your house come Christmas morning."

"Yeah I HOPE so!" Nagi scampered back to his desk, all fired up to tell Omi everything Santa had written to him.

"Okay Farfarello? Come up sweetie."

"Oh man alive no fair I'm LAST," Ken wailed, banging his head on his desk.

"I'm not going up." Farfarello glowered at Miss Birman. "I hate Santa and I hate his stupid letters and I hate Christmas!"

"Aw come on Farf," Schuldich wheedled, tugging at the surly boy's hand. "You gotta go up! Santa wrote a letter just for you! You just gotta go. For me? Please? We can do anything after school you want to, I promise! It won't be so bad, for real!"

Farfarello looked at his only friend. Schuldich looked sad in his eyes. Farfarello slowly shuffled to his feet. "I'm only going up 'cause you want me too."

Schuldich smiled gratefully. "Thanks Farfie. You won't be disappointed for sure!"

"What a weirdo," Yohji said in a low voice so that Schuldich wouldn't hear. "Who wouldn't wanna letter from Santa? You don't get letters from Santa every day you know!"

"Well clearly he's neurologically imbalanced," Bradley diagnosed in a snooty, know-it-all tone.

He received blank stares.

"The guy's bonkers," Bradley clarified, rolling his eyes.

Nagi giggled loudly. "Bonkie bonkers!"

"Bonkie boonkie bonkers!" Omi also started sniggering.

"I think they're the weird ones," Ken whispered loudly to Ran.

"I concur," Bradley chimed in.

Yohji made a noisy gagging sound and pretended to strangle Bradley behind his back. He hated the geek's stupid attitude.

Omi, Nagi and Ken all burst into hoots.

Farfarello plopped down onto the red stool with an audible thunk. "I didn't even write a stupid letter," he grumbled, biting on his wrist.

"I know you didn't honey." Birman brushed a strand of dark hair from her cheek. "Schuldich wrote a letter for you."

Farfarello blinked his one good eye. "He did?"

"Yes he did. It was a very selfless thing to do. He's a very good friend."

"He lets me come to his house," Farfarello said, examining the bite marks on his skin. "I'm allowed to watch the toaster oven and play with his dad's shaver."

"Uh, that's quite lovely." Birman picked up his letter. "Shall I read it?"

Farfarello thought for a bit while squishing his bottom lip in his fingers. "Well okay."

"'Dear Farfarello. I know you're mad at me and for that I'm very sorry. I wish there was something I could do to make you truly happy but it seems that you've got a wonderful friend to do it for me. Schuldich was kind enough to write a letter for you. He cares very much and is a good friend. I shall do my best to bring all manners of things to you for Christmas, including your own blender, a turkey baster, sporks, and a tarantula. Maybe I'll see you on Christmas Eve night. Have a Merry Christmas Farfarello! Love from Santa Claus.'" Birman looked up and studied the boy. "Well? Was that so bad?"

Farfarello shrugged and blew glitter off of his grimy fingers. "I like sporks."

And Birman could get him to say nothing more.

"That was nice," Farfarello said squeakily, sitting down next to the orange-haired boy. "You're my best friend."

Schuldich beamed, his cheeks a tiny bit pink. "That's what friends do."

"Alright and lastly-" Before Birman could finish, Ken was already bouncing on the red stool, chatting his heart away.

"Oh man ALIVE I hadda wait some long time Miss Birman! I nearly turned into a old geezer, kinda like my dad! His birfday was last Saturday and guess what? He turned THIRTY-FIVE! He OLD, like older than a ICE AGE! All the candles on the cake nearly made me BLIND! But holy mackerel I thought Santa was never gonna write me, ever since the time I punched that fat kid at the park who tried to sit on Ran! I got in big trouble for that, my mom nearly blew her STACK! She said Santa wasn't gonna bring me no presents but hah hah I guess that's how much she knows! 'Sides I was only trying to keep the justice, like how Spiderman does!"

Birman's head began to throb. "Well I suppose Santa knew that."

"Good thing too! Ran's my bestest friend in the whole WORLD and I gotta have his back. Even if that means gettin' into trouble, I gotta do it!"

Birman shook her head and had to laugh. The boy was so earnest. It was rather endearing actually. She picked up his letter. "'Dear Ken. Thank you for writing me such a long, detailed letter! I'm sorry to hear that you skinned your knee. I'm sure that it will heal in no time. I agree with you, building a tree house made of snow would be very difficult but spring will be here in no time so you can build one made of wood with no problem. Sadly I must say that it is illegal for me to bring you supplies to make bombs and explosives so I can't bring you anything like that.'"

"Aw man alive that was what I was hopin' for the MOST!"

"Well you wouldn't want Santa to go to jail would you?"

Ken's eyes widened. "No way man! But if that did happen then I'd hafta bust him out! I'd be the hero of the CENTURY!" He swung his legs, blinking rapidly. "Okay keep goin'."

"'But I do have a good deal of soccer and Spiderman things that I think you will enjoy. I will also see if I can bring you a metal detector so that you can find buried treasure but it might be tricky since those things go haywire around my sleigh. I'll see you Christmas Eve if you're not sleeping Ken! From Santa Claus.'"

"Holy moly maybe they should just rename metal detectors to SLEIGH detectors! I sure hope Santa brings me one 'cause me and Ran really wanna find some buried treasure in the woods! If we ever do find some treasure, I'll give you a dubloon Miss Birman! But you can't gimme anymore F's 'kay?"

Birman had to laugh. "We'll see."

Yanking the letter from her hands, Ken jumped back into his seat and promptly launched into a full-fledged description of everything that had occurred upon leaving Ran's side.

"Okay then we're all done!" Birman stood up and beamed at her students. "What should we do now?"


"Food it is!"

~*~Author's Notes~*~

Phew that was damn long. It only took me three years to update this old chess nut. Wow go me. This sort of slothy inaction takes real discipline dammit!