I had just finished filling my plate from all the wondrous foods that the potluck had to offer, and was taking a chair at a table, when I noticed Old Man Trouble standing in line.
I watched cautiously wondering which food he would choose. He picked up a spoon and began scooping Ma Smith’s potato salad onto his plate. I breathed a sigh of relief because I had chosen Alice Eagles’ potato salad. Last year someone’s salad had created an intestinal event that was not to be forgotten. The word pot-luck had taken on a new meaning.
I watched as he passed up the pork n beans and headed for the pies. Again great choice since I had taken the cake instead.
But I noticed, as he scooped up a slice of pecan pie, a disturbance across the room. Thelma Baker and Freeda Crust were having a very loud argument. I over heard the word pie and then-- Thelma said,”that’s cause you stole that recipe from me!”
“ Now how would I do that ?” Freeda replied narrowing her eyes.
“I remember—I caught you in the kitchen at the last prayer meetin’ pretendin’ you was lookin for somethin’ and I know now it was just for a peek in my recipe box.”
Freeda “Harrumppped” and turned away.
Old Man Trouble was smiling broadly as he sampled the pie. I watched as he went to sit at the table across from me. He shouldered in and intruded himself into the conversation.
“I probably shouldn’t say this but__” Shermon Shues said looking around and then right into trouble’s eye. “I hate the color of that new carpet in the sanctuary. Who picked out that ugly mess anyway?”
“That would be me,” retorted Fergus Colourblnd, ”Pastor and me decided on that carpet and I think it looks right nice.”
Sam Ferguson choked on a mouthful of cake and trouble beat him on the back while Kerry Watso started laughing.
“ What’s so funny?” Fergus demanded the color rising in his cheeks.
“It looks like someone shoulda had their glasses on when they picked that out cause it looks like some garage sale reject from the 70’s.” Shermon giggled.
Fergus stood up”I don’t have to take this!” He shouted “I ain’t had nothin’ but grief from you three and I aint’ takin it no more!” He stomped away throwing his plate into the trash as he passed.
Trouble stood too and made his way back to the table. I hunched down a little in my chair covertly watching what he would choose next. He stopped at a bucket of chicken and handled the pieces then he chose a leg and bit into it just as two little boys ran up and grabbed handfuls of brownies out of a pan.
“Mary! Those children of yours are out of control again!” shrilled Connie Crumpet. “You best get control of those boys or they’s goin’ to grow up to be hoodlums.”
Mary Finch turned on Connie and glared—“ Look whose talking!! Where’s your Eddie been these last few months? Huh?”
“That is not fair! Everyone knows he’s bipolar and can’t help himself. He needs prayer not criticism.”
“Well so do I!” Mary insisted..
There was a loud squeal and everyone turned to the stage where 6 year old Hannah had grabbed the microphone.
“Just look at that! What’s that little girl doin up there foolin with the mike? Someone get her down!” Deacon Downs commanded.
Just then little Hannah began to sing in her small off key voice –“Amazing grace how sweet the sound---the words rang out pure and true—“that saved a wretch like me”—“I once was lost but now I’m found was blind but now I see.”
Deacon Downs sat down.
“Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved –“
Thelma touched Freeda’s hand and mouthed “I’m sorry.”
Fergus, drawn by the singing, returned to the table.
“ How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.”
Sherman Shues put his arm on Fergus’s shoulder.
“When we’ve been there 10,000 years bright shining as the sun—“
I looked for Old Man Trouble just then and saw his retreating back at the doorway.
“We’ve no less days-“
Mary Finch reached for Connie Crumpets hand and squeezed it.
“to sing his praise –then when we’d first begun.”
Suddenly we were all on our feet cheering and patting each other on the back.
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