DARRELL HUCKABY - According to the Sleep Wellness Institute, 88 million Americans snore.

According to the Sleep Wellness Institute, 88 million Americans snore. Show of hands. Are you one of them?

Those of you with your hands up - how do you know? You have to take somebody's word for it, don't you? How do you know you can trust that person to tell you the truth?

And those of you who do not snore but sleep in the vicinity of someone who does - when you accuse them of it, do they deny it? Certainly they do! It's instinctive.

Now you can laugh if you want to, but having a spouse who snores can be a huge problem, for a lot of reasons. My lovely wife, Lisa, complains almost every morning that I kept her up all night with my snoring - but I am still not convinced that I actually snore. In fact, I told her that I wanted a second opinion, but none of the folks I suggested met with her approval.

If you are in this same predicament you know what we go through. She races to bed every night and tries to beat me to sleep. Now I don't mean that she physically beats me until I fall asleep - I mean that she tries to get to sleep before I do because she tells me that my snoring isn't loud enough to wake her up if she is already asleep, but that it is impossible for her to fall asleep once I get started.

Now it will put a crimp in a marriage in a hurry when one partner is determined to be fast asleep before the other partner even turns off Sports Center and heads to bed.

But that's not the worst of it.

Well, maybe it is the worst of it, but it's not all. If I do happen to get into bed and manage to fall asleep before she does and allegedly begin to snore before she can get to sleep - yes, I say allegedly, because I am still not convinced that I actually snore - but if I fall asleep first, or if she wakes up and can't get back to sleep, she punches me to wake me up.

Once in a great while she will just haul off and kick me, but usually she punches me. Some mornings I wake up with bruises all over my arms - and it hurts! In fact, every now and then she will start punching me before I ever get to sleep and I know for a solid gold fact that I don't snore while I'm still awake. And I'll ask her, "Why are you punching me? I'm not snoring!"

And that's when she will accuse me of "breathing heavy."

"Breathing heavy?" I'll say. "I'm not even on the phone!" That usually goes right over her head, actually, but I'm here to tell you - I love my wife and I want her to get a good night's sleep, but I ain't about to stop breathing just so she can get her 40 winks.

Well, this has gone on for a long time and I began to wonder if we are the only couple who has these types of problems, so I did what I always do when I need to have a little research done. I called my good buddy Roy Lee Wilkes, of the Baxley, Ga., Wilkeses."

Roy Lee got an insurance settlement a few years ago when a pulpwood truck turned over on his leg and he had to have his left big toe amputated. "Sold that bad boy to the Yankees," he told me - meaning, I suppose, that the insurance company in question was headquartered up North somewhere, but at any rate, Roy Lee only works part time now, down at the Baxley Bait and Barbecue, which leaves him lots of time for his second job, which is Internet research.

I think he practices for that job by researching things polite people don't normally research on the Internet, but I am not certain. At any rate, I called Roy Lee and asked him if he snored.

"Not a bit," he assured me.

"How do you know?" I asked him.

"Easy," he replied. "I got tired of my wife Lulu accusing me of snoring so I set up a tape recorder under the bed and turned it on one night without Lulu knowing anything about it. The next day I asked her if I had snored the night before and she insisted that I had. 'Well, let's see I told her' and started playing the tape.

"After about 10 minutes, Lulu started talking in her sleep. The first words out of her mouth were 'Oh, John ... ' which ain't my name. Lulu snatched the tape player away and told me we didn't have to listen to any more of it because she made the whole thing up about my snoring. So, no, I don't snore and the woman I sleep with every night will testify to it in court if I need her to."

So there you go. The next time your spouse starts punching you in your sleep, just let them read about Roy Lee and Lulu and threaten to buy a tape recorder.

I liked the idea so much that I tried it - and if there is a reader out there named Pierre, I need to have a word with you!

Darrell Huckaby is a Rockdale County author and educator and a Newton County native. E-mail him at DHuck08@bellsouth.net.