Down East 2013 ©
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (motto: Helping the Needy by Requiring Them to Fill Out Lots of Forms That Nobody is Ever Actually Going to Read, Although That Won’t Stop the Bureaucracy From Finding Some Excuse for Denying Any Benefits) is running a big deficit .
Not as big a deficit as the federal government. Not as big a deficit as Congress’s credibility gap. But it is almost big enough to cover the Boston Red Sox players’ salaries for next season with enough left over to pay for beer and fried chicken in the clubhouse every day.
The reason for this shortfall is kind of obscure, although it seems to boil down to all the money-saving ideas being instituted by the LePage administration didn’t work, as well as there being more poor people  around due to the recession that’s been over for some time.
No way anybody could have predicted that.
Anyway, the human services budget shortfall is increasing at the rate of about $50 million every two weeks, which means that by Christmas it will have sucked up every penny in the state, forcing residents to rely on a monetary system based entirely on cash earned by local winners  of reality shows.
That will require some difficult economic adjustments, but will still leave us with much to be thankful for. For instance, we’ll all be eligible to fill out forms to qualify for welfare. We won’t actually get any checks, because there won’t be any money, but it’s always nice to be eligible for something.
Also, we can be thankful we don’t live in Raymond. Unless you do happen to live in Raymond, in which case, you can be thankful you don’t live someplace worse. Like Syria.
While most of us will be enjoying a tranquil Thanksgiving with family and friends (“Johnny, there’ll be no pumpkin pie for you if you don’t take your sister’s head out of that turkey right now”), residents of Raymond will be contending with the racket caused by roosters .
A local woman brought home twenty-five of them last summer, and now that they’re grown, they do what roosters do. No, not that. The other thing that roosters do.
They applied for welfare.
Just kidding. Unlike people, roosters know it’s a waste of time to try and navigate the red tape at DHHS.
No, the roosters began crowing.
(Which seems wrong, somehow. I mean, crows should crow. But they don’t. They caw or cackle or imitate human speech in order to perpetuate identity theft. Roosters, on the other hand, should, well, roost. No, that’s not quite right, either. They cock? I suppose I’d better not go there.)
All that noise has prompted complaints from neighbors, and that’s led to the town select board considering an ordinance that would make it illegal to stuff your sister’s head inside a turkey.
Sorry, wrong ordinance. The one I meant to mention would make it an offense to keep animals that disturb the peace. The penalty for a first offense would be a fine, but if the problem persisted, the offending roosters would be seized by the town and turned over to the Red Sox for frying.
In other sports news, the University of Maine football team qualified for the playoffs last weekend on the strength of its 30-27 loss to New Hampshire in a game in which neither team could hang onto the ball for more than thirty seconds at a stretch. Officials of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (motto: More Complicated Rules Than Anything the Maine Department of Health and Human Services Ever Dreamed Of) apparently found comedic value in the bevy of interceptions and fumbles, because both the Black Bears and the Wildcats will be taking part in the postseason. Maine will play on Dec. 3 in Boone, N.C., against Appalachian State, a school with (gulp) three recent national championships.
It would work out nicely for the rest of this essay if Appalachian’s mascot was a rooster and the team name was something like the Fightin’ Poultry. But that’s not the case. Being in Appalachia, the teams name relates to the local economy. They’re known as the Fightin’ Welfare Recipients.
Speaking of institutions that are barely hanging on, the Portland Press Herald (motto: Still Publishing – At Least For The Rest Of This Week) reported that flight delays  are common at the Portland International Jetport. If the UMaine team decides to fly to North Carolina from Portland, there’s only a twenty percent chance it’ll arrive before Christmas. And that’s if all the luggage and equipment goes to Chicago.
Of course, it’s best to stay close to home this time of year, which is made easier by the news that AARP has named Lewiston as one of the ten best small cities  in the nation to retire to. The organization said Lewiston and Auburn are great spots for “Artists, nature lovers and owners of thick winter coats.” Other reasons to spend your golden years in the Cities of the Androscoggin: There are already a lot of old people there, so the locals won’t point at you and yell, “Go away, you wretched wrinklies, you’re uglifying the landscape.”
Also, according to AARP, housing is affordable, there are plenty of museums, and the cost of living is low because nobody has any money. There’s a brewery and a balloon festival and a hot dog place.
What else do old people need to be contented?
Oh yeah, stuff to complain about.
Let me tell you about the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. And how the roosters are going to keep you up all night. And don’t get me started on the UMaine football team’s troubles hanging onto the rock.
Al Diamon wishes all his readers a happy turkey day and advises them to check before carving the bird to make sure nobody has put his sister’s head where the stuffing should be. If they have, email email@example.com  for extraction advice.