"Mary seems to have a bit of a problem with exaggeration Mrs. Thomas." The shrill teacher disrupted the principal's mellow tone. "She doesn't have a problem with exaggeration, she lies outright." Mary's mama was flabbergasted. She turned on the teacher and spoke in a calm even voice. "My little girl has never told a lie in her life!"

The teacher was seething, her face and neck burning bright red, veins throbbing near her temple as she spoke. "Your little girl has been telling one whopper after another. I think it may be pathological."

The Principal moved to separate the two women, gesturing for them to sit down and calming them with his oft-practiced fatherly tenor. "Let's not get too excited, we're all adults here. Mrs. Thomas, let me try to explain. The incident occurred while the class was working on the alphabet. Mrs. Wallace was using flash cards depicting an animal to represent each letter and every time she showed a new letter, Mary interrupted."

"She didn't merely interrupt, she claimed to have every animal at home as a pet. 'A' is for 'Armadillo', I've got an armadillo named Sam, 'B' is for 'Bobcat', I've got a bobcat named Trudy. The children thought it was funny but it was disruptive and I can't allow that."

Mama smiled broadly for the first time that morning.

"We do have an armadillo but his name isn't Sam, it's Salmon P. Chase. Trudy is really her sister's bobcat, she has her own bobcat named Butch but she hasn't spoken to him since he ate Caesar."

The Principal shot a glare at the dumbstruck teacher then returned Mama's warm grin. "And Caesar was..."

"Caesar was Mary's newt. Her Daddy warned her that he would come to a bad end with a name like that but Mary insisted."

"Wait just one minute!" Mrs. Wallace exploded from her chair. "Are you also going to sit there and tell me that you have a gorilla and a crocodile cohabiting at your house?"

"Oh no, Mrs. Wallace, did Mary tell you that? The croc lives near the pole barn on the far side of the pond. He pretty much keeps to himself. We haven't had a gorilla around since the trouble with Oscar. We didn't know until it was too late that Oscar had a terrible crush on me since the day we brought him home. One day he saw my husband kissing me and he went into a murderous rage. We eventually had to ship him off to the Zoo in Iowa; same with the emu but that was mostly because of the smell."

The Principal was gleefully running through the alphabet in his mind and imagining the menagerie. When he arrived at the letter 'X' his smile waned. Mary's defeated teacher guessed at his dilemma and in a resigned monotone muttered, "'X' is for Xylophone, she's got one of those too."

Mama beamed. "Mary can play all of the songs from that Doctor Dolittle movie. She always wanted her daddy to get her a Pushme Pullyou like they had in the film. Remember that? It was a fantasy animal with the head of a llama on each end. We had the darndest time convincing her that it was a movie trick and there was no such animal in real life. Her daddy told her that a real yak was better than a phony two-headed llama so she settled for Annabelle."

"Let me guess, Mrs. Thomas, 'Y' is for Yak?"

"Oh she adores that yak. I think it stinks worse than the emu but Mary doesn't seem to mind."

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