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"Everything sure looks good!" commented Chuck as Maggie showed everyone to their seats.

"You have Maggie to thank for that," said Charlie, advertising the fact that her friend had done a good job in the kitchen.

Linda Downen seemed awed by the fact that her daughter could have been part of anything that had turned out successful. She also noted Jeff's attentiveness to Maggie. Even Debbie seemed to like her. While thoughts of Maggie as a wife preoccupied Linda's mind, Doug Downen was busy relating old stories of his son, Wayne. There was the time Wayne pitched a no hitter in Little League, and the time he locked himself out of his car and had to break the window to open the car door, and several other memories of a son that had been missing in action for over thirty years. The years of waiting and wondering without Godly hope had taken their toll on Doug. The only way he felt he could deal with the pain was to drink alcohol. If only Doug and Linda had lived according to Psalm fifty-five, verse twenty-two! "Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and He SHALL sustain thee." Doug had not cast his burden upon the Lord; he had been carrying it himself, all these years-- and the weight of it was crushing him.

"So, you're a cop, huh?" asked Doug, helping himself to more turkey.

Jeff nodded politely, but tried to say as little as possible to Maggie's father. Doug was obviously drunk, and Jeff didn't want to provoke him into some scene that would embarrass Maggie. But Doug, drunk as he was, noticed Jeff's attentions to his daughter.

"Do you beat people you arrest?" asked Doug. "You know, like them cops we see on television."

Jeff had never beaten anyone in his life. He just smiled and shook his head.

"Please pass the baked beans," asked Charlie, hoping to turn Doug's attention away from Jeff.

"This stuffing is really good," commented Vera.

"Maggie made it," replied Charlie.

"Really?" asked Linda.

"Charlie helped," said Maggie.

"It's delicious, sweetie," said Linda to her daughter.

Maggie beamed. All she needed was someone to take a chance on her, to take the time to teach her what to do and how to go about it.

"If only she could learn the difference between weeds and vegetable plants," thought Charlie, smiling to herself.

This meal was a sign from God that Maggie belonged in a home of her own. Yes, Charlie had really done most of the work, but Maggie had successfully proven to everyone that with time and a lot of practice, she could accomplish more than anyone had previously thought she was capable of.

Doug, seeing he couldn't provoke the policeman, finished his meal and sat down on the sofa to take a nap. The minute he dozed off, everyone in the room breathed a collected sigh of relief.

After everyone had their fill of turkey and stuffing, Maggie, Vera, and Linda cleared away the dishes. Jeff patiently listened to Chuck's story of how he was diagnosed, what medication he was on, and what mental exercises he was doing. Poor Debbie was unwilling to stir from her seat. Doug Downen's smelly breath and caustic behavior toward her father had caused her to wish for the earliest possible time they could leave.

Dessert was soon served, and everyone, (except Doug), helped themselves to apple and pumpkin pie, vanilla ice cream, butter cookies, and a healthy glass full of Jeff's apple cider. All faces shone with the contentment of full stomachs.

"I'm going to have to let my belt out a notch," noted Chuck.

"I might have to do the same," laughed Jeff. As the dessert dishes were cleared away, Debbie whispered something into her father's ear. Jeff nodded, and said, "soon."

In the kitchen, Charlie divvied up the leftovers into plastic containers for each family to take home with them. Even Jerome received one.

"Well," declared Linda, "that sure was a good meal. I'm obliged to you, Charlie, for letting Maggie be a part of it." To Charlie's surprise, Linda gave the teenager a hug. "Doug and I have to be getting on home now. Thanks again for the meal, and the leftovers."

Linda roused her husband from the sofa and walked him out to the car. Doug muttered something that amounted to "thanks," and shuffled out the door.

"I'll do the dishes, Charlie," volunteered Maggie.
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