Stuffing, Dining. Last year, our hero went down in defeat. But not this time. Just so you know, I had a game plan. I actually did. The year before, I had eaten so much that, to my absolute mortification, I had slowly and painfully dragged myself upstairs and thrown up. Yes, I ate so much that I barfed. Sherrie was nice enough not to give me a hard time about it, just brought me a damp washcloth and taken my pants off and tucked me into bed for a nap. But I hadn’t forgotten it. And I was determined not to be such a pig this year. Just a few deep-fried oysters. Just a little Brie and crackers. Just a bit of hot crab dip. So I still had something of an appetite when Sherrie’s mom called us to the table. Fourteen of us, lots of laughter, a nice cool Pinot Grigio, dishes being passed. There was Sherrie’s sister’s vegetable casserole, yum, and that cranberry-orange relish that was so damn good, and ohmygod the turkey was so moist this year, what did you baste it in, Ruby, seriously. Still. I was not going to bust a gut this year. Eating so much that you throw up was for under-supervised five-year-olds with a pillow case full of Halloween candy, not 30-year-old reference librarians. Then my plate was suddenly, dismayingly, empty. I’d just consumed a delicious dinner. I should stop now. I could totally stop now. But then I would miss out on some more of that sweet potato casserole, and where did you get the idea for shaved Brussels sprouts, and yum, sharp Cheddar in the broccoli casserole, and I haven’t had any dark meat yet, and I have got to have some more of that relish, and whoa, there are crescent rolls, how did I miss those? I was full. Kind of, sort of, full. Not achingly stuffed, not yet. Sherrie looked like she was slowing down, taking stock, pacing herself. She sipped her wine. I think I saw her fiddle with her waistband under the table, maybe undoing the button. A couple of the kids asked to be excused and roared outside to throw snowballs. Sherrie’s dad topped up wine glasses. “This is a really smooth Merlot, try this, Walter.” My stomach was comfortably warm. I could feel the beginnings of a slight pulling at the edges of my belly. If I looked, my gut was probably pooched out a little. I was in the neighborhood of being full, but everything was so delicious, and the wine was giving me a very mild buzz. I probably needed to balance that out with some more food, didn’t I? We all seemed to be moving a little bit in slow motion. Sherrie took the sprouts from her brother Jake’s hand and almost bobbled the dish. “Whoops!” Laughter. “Wait, wait, I got this.” “Save some for me,” chimed in Jake’s wife, Allie. “And me.” Did I say that? I needed another roll; they were disappearing fast. Okay, now I was definitely getting very full indeed. Stuffed might be the right word. It was going to be an effort to clean my plate but that was certainly the polite thing to do. The Merlot was definitely smooth. Had Ed refilled my glass without me noticing? I was moving as though underwater. Voices sounded faint and sort of far away. My mind wasn’t working very quickly. All I could see, all I could think about, was the movement of fork between plate and mouth. My stomach was sending out signals full, stop, close the lid, no more but my mouth was urging me for the smooth tartness of the relish, the pungent slivers of sprouts, the fatty silkiness of the broccoli casserole smothered in cheese, the moist crumbliness of the stuffing, the rich swirl of sweet potatoes, the cleansing power of the rolls. I shifted a little in my chair. The waistband of my jeans creaked audibly. Not just my stomach but my whole midsection had pushed forward tautly. I was stuffed, gorged, bloated, swollen like a parade balloon. I rested a hand on my diaphragm and hiccupped, full and damp. Then someone was clearing the plates and setting out dessert plates and there was a slice of pumpkin pie, smooth and spicy, and one of mincemeat, rich and crumbly, and somehow, with my aching and distended belly begging for mercy I swallowed bite after small harmless bite until the plate was empty and I could feel a roaring in my ears. Only this time I wasn’t sick, I was triumphant. I had stuffed myself to the brim, I had prepared for hibernation, I was the alpha bear. I struggled to my feet and became aware of Sherrie by my side, her jeans already undone. She leaned gently against me and cradled her rounded and swollen belly. She groaned. “I am so stuffed.” She fumbled with my jeans, undoing the button and zipper after a brief struggle. “You’re stuffed too.” Well, duh. Sherrie slid her hand gently along my bloated midriff, swollen and tight as a drum, every inch filled to the brim. My sides ached, my gut pulled, the skin of my tautly distended abdomen was stretched nearly to translucence. But the pounds of food I had consumed would stay where they were put. I was king of Thanksgiving. In my glutted haze, I felt proud, accomplished, marvelous. “You okay?” Sherrie asked me quietly as we sank onto the sofa. I burped. “More than okay.” I had won.