Josh glanced up from the plate balanced on his knee, half a piece of something other than turkey in his hand.
"Oh, please don't finish that thought until after I swallow," he suggested.
"Fine." CJ sat still, her hands crossed on her knees while she watched Josh chew.
"What is it?" Toby asked.
"Well, Toby --"
"What is it?"
"Are you finished?" CJ asked Josh.
Josh held up one finger, chewed for a moment longer, and then swallowed. "Yes," he answered.
"It's tofu," she said. "Tofu and soy and, possibly, other types of health food, as well."
"Why?" Sam asked from the other end of the sofa.
"Why did you cook us a turkey that is -- not so much a turkey?"
"Because, Sam, when I realized how generous of me it was to cook you anything at all, I decided not to concentrate too closely on your likes and dislikes!"
Sam held up a hand. "And it's very good non-turkey," he said quickly.
CJ settled back in the recliner and picked up the remote control.
Sam pointed at the TV. "You're not going to change the --"
"I just like holding the remote, Samuel. Take a breath."
Josh and Toby laughed a little, and Sam helped himself to another piece of tofu turkey.
"Is Donna coming?" CJ asked Josh.
"Yeah; in fact she said she'd be here an hour ago. She's probably still looking for a parking spot." As he said it, there was a knock at the door.
"Josh, you have got to talk to someone about parking," Donna said when Toby let her in.
"You didn't park in Mr. Mollohan's space again, did you?" Josh asked without looking.
"No, no, no," Donna said, struggling with balancing a covered plate while she attempted to take off her coat. "No, Mrs. Jennings is always much more polite about it. I brought cookies." She dropped the plate on the folding table set up in the middle of the living room.
"Well, that was thoughtful."
"They're burnt. All the way through. They're actually pretty inedible."
"What kind are they?"
"Chocolate chip. And there might have been some peanut butter or butterscotch in there, too."
Josh looked from Donna to CJ. "Let me ask you -- when you two get into a kitchen, do you just throw random ingredients into the mix without looking?"
"Yes, Josh, we learned it from your mannerisms during the campaign," CJ informed him.
"I'm just asking 'cause --" he pointed to the turkey -- "well, what else might be in here that you don't know about?"
"Does it taste good?" CJ asked.
"Then don't worry about it."
Donna plopped down on the floor and selected a piece of non-turkey. "Vegetarian?" she asked after tasting it.
"Tofu and other, unidentified things," Josh confided.
"I like it," Donna told CJ.
"Couldn't bear to think of Troy and Eric being --"
"Who are Troy and Eric?" Sam asked.
"Halftime's over," CJ replied, indicating the screen.
For just a moment they watched the game in silence; but it was at a dull moment, and Toby repeated, "Who are Eric and Troy?"
"Shut up," CJ repeated.
"They're turkeys," Donna replied.
"Oh, ho," Josh said as he started to laugh.
"Hey, you're the ones --"
"You felt bad for the turkeys!" he said gleefully.
"You're the ones who directed those beasts to my office in the first place."
"And you felt bad for them!"
"Well, it's --" She shrugged, suddenly embarrassed. "--not their fault they're turkeys."
"CJ --" Sam said.
"Sam, I'd rather you didn't join this conversation," CJ said abruptly.
"What did I do?"
"You mocked my meatless dinner."
Sam shrugged. "Yeah, but you cooked your meatless dinner, so I wouldn't --"
"Guys," Toby said, indicating the television. "Could we, possibly --"
"Uh uh," CJ said. "If they're going to mock my cooking, then they're certainly going to back it up with cooking of their own."
Josh and Sam looked at one another in alarm, while Toby and Donna started to grin.
"Uh uh," Josh said. "I mean, CJ -- no way."
"Why not? I cooked a whole meal here."
"And we're eating it," Josh pointed out.
"See, so nobody's going to be hungry," Sam added.
"Well, yes, but there's always room for pie," Donna suggested with an innocent smile.
CJ pointed at Josh and Sam. "Yes!" She stood. "Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Pie. I didn't make pie. And we need some."
"We need some pie?"
"Badly. Thanksgiving just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without pie."
"We can't, like -- give thanks for friends and football and, I don't know, your meatless dinner here, without having to burn Josh's house down?" Sam pleaded.
"No, you can't," CJ answered.
"Well, how come Toby doesn't have to help?"
"Toby brought beer," CJ explained.
"I have beer," Josh said.
"Toby's is better," Donna confided.
"Okay." Josh frowned. "But there's another snag."
"I don't know how to make a pie."
"Well, Josh," CJ said, "I'm quite certain that a man of your intelligence and prominence and, you know, ability to learn new skills will pick it up fairly quickly from the directions in a cookbook."
Josh looked around. "Which cookbook?"
"The one you're going to buy when you purchase the ingredients for our pie."
Josh sighed, then laughed. "Okay."
"So we're going grocery shopping on Thanksgiving night," Sam clarified.
"And you truly think that something will be open."
"Okay." Sam stood and reached for his coat. "Josh. Let's go."
Josh stood, wearing his conqueror-of-the-universe expression, and followed Sam to the door.
"Well, that was fun," CJ said when they were gone, and she settled back into the recliner. Donna sprawled out across the sofa and nodded.
"As long as it's not my kitchen they destroy," she agreed.
On the street, Josh and Sam spent a full five minutes deciding whose car to take. They spent at least another ten deciding which store to visit, and then six arguing over the quickest way to get there. By the time they pulled up outside the darkened and obviously closed grocery store, most of their humor was gone.
"Okay," Sam said. "Okay, we're smarter than a piece of pie. What now?"
"So ... by that you meant *I* am smarter than a piece of pie?"
"I have ideas," Sam defended himself. "I have plenty of ideas. After all, we're two grown men of reasonably sound mind who occupy important positions in government. We have options. But here's the thing."
"We have no options."
"What do we do, Josh?"
"I mean it. What do we do?"
"Well, we start by not panicking because one grocery store is closed."
Sam drew a breath. "Right."
"We can't panic."
"Just because this grocery store is closed and I really only ever shop here, so I don't know where else to --"
"There's another one just a couple of blocks down," Josh reassured him.
Four closed stores later, they finally found one that was open. "Okay, let's do this," Sam said as though preparing for combat.
"Yes," Josh agreed. "Now, remember. Act cool. We don't want them to think we're up to something."
"Are we up to something?"
"Then why --"
"Because you've got that panicked look in your eyes. You look like a man who's up to something."
"I don't look like a man who, you know, works in the White House?"
"I think that's my point. Remember --"
"Act cool. I know." Sam nodded, and together they entered the store.
"Please, God, tell me you have pie," Josh demanded the instant they came in sight of the cashier.
"It's round -- kind of sweet --" Sam offered.
"I know what it is."
"In this case, kind of orange."
"Pumpkin or sweet potato?"
"At this point, I'll take Orange Crayon Merengue. Just give me something convincing," Josh pleaded.
"Sorry." The cashier shook her head. "We sell out our pies as soon as they're finished this time of year."
Josh's eyes widened. "So you bake them."
"Bake us a pie."
"Please. We'll do anything. Just bake us a pumpkin pie."
Sam jumped in. "We'll pay. We'll send your kids to college. We'll offer you our undying devotion and, you know, a gratitude beyond that which most cashiers ever manage to receive from their customers. Just, please. Bake us a pie."
"Why can't you?"
"I don't have the ingredients."
Josh's eyes widened in panic. "You don't have the ingredients? Well -- do you have cookbooks?" he asked.
"Cookbooks?" she repeated.
"You know ... recipes ... tells you how to make, like, pie?"
"Well-said," Sam whispered, and Josh ignored him.
"I don't know that we do," said the cashier. "Not traditional ones, anyway."
"What do you mean?"
"Our health food section boasts a Vegan collection of recipes. So if you want to make a pie with no animal products, there's your source. And probably your ingredients, too. Not much rush for tofu this time of year, or any other."
Josh and Sam looked at one another and started to grin.
"Oh, this is too good to be true," Josh muttered.
"Where's your healthfood section?" Sam asked, and the cashier pointed them in the right direction.
"Well, that's what I thought," the President was laughing. "But he declined. I think it had something to do with yams, but I could be mistaken."
"I think it had more to do with he's taking his sister to see their grandparents," Leo corrected his friend with a smile.
"Although I wouldn't rule out Jed's thing," Abbey said. "His annual speech praising the history of every food, and, for that matter, building, park, or war that catches his interest, can be tiresome." She was grinning at her husband while she spoke.
"Yeah, but that's all anc-- Is that your phone?" the President asked.
Leo looked around and then dug into his coat pocket. "Excuse me, sir," he said, and at the President's nod, he left the table. "Leo McGarry," he answered.
"Leo, you gotta help us," came a desperate voice on the line. "We can't find molasses or nutmeg and we're a little low on cinnamon."
Leo was silent for a long moment before saying, "Is this a prank call?"
"The question stands."
"Leo, please. We're desperate."
"And you think I just, you know, have these things at my fingertips?"
"I think you're in a house right now that is quite full of such luxuries as these."
"I'm not asking you to hand-deliver these items. But if you could, you know, have someone drop them off in the west wing, we could --"
"What the hell do you need nutmeg and cinnamon for?"
"And molasses," Josh corrected.
"CJ's making us make pie."
A slow smile spread across Leo's face. "You made fun of her cooking?"
"Last Fourth of July I ended up grilling like 87 hotdogs for people I had never met because I mocked the sauce she brought for the hamburgers."
"She handles criticism well," Josh agreed.
"Hey, she cooked you dinner, the least you can do is not complain about it."
"I know that now."
"She use tofu instead of turkey?"
Josh paused. "Yeah. How'd you --"
"She felt sorry for Eric and Troy."
"Hey, who could blame her?" Leo was laughing.
"Leo," Josh said. "If you have molasses and nutmeg, or if anyone on the premesis --"
"Oh, no. I don't mess with CJ at dinnertime. You're on your own," Leo said, and hung up the phone.
In the parking lot of the grocery store, Josh sighed deeply, and at last hung up his phone as well. "We're on our own," he told Sam.
"Okay," Sam said. "Let's not panic. "I'm sure there's someplace we can -- And you're certain you don't have this stuff at home?"
"Yeah, Sam, 'cause I have a secret habit of baking pumpkin pies on weekends."
"Fair point." Sam sat down on the hood of Josh's car and thought about it. For a moment he was silent; then he stood again and pointed at Josh. "Ainsley Hayes."
Josh pointed back. "Yes."
"Where does she live?"
"I don't know."
The phone rang again.
"Leo?" This time it was Sam. "Do you know where Ainsley Hayes lives?"
"I swear, if either one of you dials this number again --"
"You could always turn off your phone."
"Good idea. I think I'll try that right now."
"Do you have Ainsley's address?"
"It's on that card."
"The one she sent everyone for Thanksgiving."
Sam frowned. "I didn't get a card."
Sam covered the mouthpiece. "Josh? Did Ainsley give you a Thanksgiving card?"
"Yes." Realization dawned. "Okay, tell Leo nevermind. I'm sure I've still got that card in the glove box or somewhere."
"How come she sent you a card and not me?"
"All right." Sam turned back to the phone conversation. "Josh says he thinks he has it. Thanks, Leo." He hung up before Leo could, and leaned back to let Josh open the glove box.
Josh dug through handfuls of candy bar wrappers, out-of-date coupons, an old drivers' license, a pocket dictionary of American Sign Language, and ...
Sam raised his eyebrows. "You're kidding."
"Look at this! Nutmeg, right here in my glovebox!"
"That's ... disturbing," Sam admitted.
"I forgot about this!"
"I went to my high school reunion, see, and --"
"No, Josh, please don't tell me why."
"'Cause the important thing is --"
"That's one more ingredient off our list."
Sam nodded and piled their current grocery selection into the back of the car. "Where to now?"
"You think Ainsley would have molasses?" Josh held up the Thanksgiving card.
"Yes!" Donna was jumping up and down on the sofa, pointing at the television. CJ was pounding on the arm of the recliner, and even Toby, seated in the rocker, looked enthusiastic.
"I need a soda!" CJ suddenly announced, and stood up. "Toby? Donna? Do you --" She stopped. The phone was ringing.
"Do you suppose I ought to get that?" CJ asked.
"Go ahead," Donna said.
"It's not my phone."
"Who cares? It's ringing," Toby advised.
"I'm going to get it." CJ reached for the receiver and then stopped. "What if it's his mother?"
"What if his mother thinks we're --"
"Oh, please don't finish that thought," Toby begged.
"I'm not going to get it."
Two rings later, she started to think it through again.
"That's getting annoying!" Donna complained.
"I know it is," CJ said, still standing near the phone, staring at it and willing it to fall silent. It did not. "I'm going to get it," she said at last.
"CJ, I am not going to get upset if you answer my phone," Josh muttered into his cell.
"I'm not going to get it," CJ said. "He's going to be upset with me if I answer his phone."
"No, he won't," Toby said.
"But if he is, I'm going to lose all bargaining priveleges, and I want that pie," CJ reasoned.
Ring seventeen ... ring eighteen ...
"Oh, I'll get it," Donna said. "It's what I do." She picked up the phone, but the caller had already hung up.
"They didn't answer," Josh said.
"Really?" Sam sighed.
"I'm trying again."
"You don't have time to try again."
"We're almost to Ainsley's place."
"The way you drive --"
"If you're so worried about your car --"
"Nevermind." Josh put down the phone. "I think that's her building."
Sam pulled the car into the first available parking space, and led the way back to the front of the building.
"What number?" he asked Josh.
Josh held the card up sideways, trying to catch the streetlight. "18," he said. "Buzz her."
"You do it."
Sam shrugged and hit the buzzer.
After a long moment, a voice filtered through the intercom. "Yes?"
"Is that Sam?"
"Yes -- how did you know --"
"I know your voice. What do you need?"
Sam pointed at the intercom and mouthed to Sam, "She knows my voice!" Josh rolled his eyes, and Sam said to Ainsley, "We need molasses and cinnamon. I don't suppose you have either of those things, do you?"
"Come in." Ainsley rang them in, and Sam and Josh jogged to her door.
"Cinnamon," Ainsley said as she opened the door. She thrust a canister into Sam's arms. "All the cinnamon you could possibly want. As for molasses, you're on your own."
"Uh -- thanks." Sam handed the cinnamon to Josh. "So -- are you having a good Thanksgiving?"
"Oh, great," she said. Sam noticed the darkened apartment behind her.
"You want to come help us make a pie?"
Ainsley laughed. "You're making a pie?"
"CJ's punishment," Josh explained. "We're watching the game, too. You're welcome to join us."
"Oh, no thank you. I'm going to stay here and wait for my mother to call. But I appreciate the offer."
"All right," Sam said. "If you get lonely, you know, just --"
"I will." She grinned, obviously happy to be asked, and closed the door.
"Leo, why don't you turn that damn thing off?" the President asked when Leo's phone went off again.
"I'm waiting for a call from my sister."
"Well, let's hope that's her, and not another desperate cry for cooking class."
"Yes, sir." Leo left the table again. "Hello?" he said into the phone.
"Oh, for crying out loud, Josh, what?"
"We've been unsuccessful in locating molasses. We've tried everything. You've gotta help us!"
"Josh, really. If this is the way you react in crisis, then I would hate to see you if this country, you know, faced anything for real."
"The country I can handle, Leo. This is the kitchen. This is a whole other thing."
"I need molasses. I've been out here for an hour, looking for it. The game is on, the tofu turkey is cold, and everything's closed. Leo, please!"
Leo rolled his eyes. "Hang on." He turned back to the table. "Sir?"
"They still short an ingredient?"
"Send 'em over."
"Thank you, sir." Leo turned back to the phone. "The President says come over."
"Thank you!" Josh cried. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
"Don't ever call me again," Leo answered, and hung up.
Josh and Sam arrived in record time, and the President handed them a jar of molasses before they could speak.
"Thank you, sir," Josh said, and Sam echoed, "Thank you, sir."
"You're quite welcome. Any time a couple of my senior staffers are getting their asses kicked by a dessert tray, I certainly enjoy helping out."
"We -- appreciate that, sir. Really."
"You can go now," the President replied.
"Thank you, sir." Sam and Josh headed for the door, holding their breaths. Could it be? Could they make it out of the White House on Thanksgiving without being subjected to the entire history of the holiday and everything associated --
"You know," said the President, "there's an interesting story involving molasses."
Josh and Sam let out their breaths and turned to face the President.
Donna had fallen asleep on the sofa, and CJ and Toby were close to it when Josh and Sam at last arrived.
"Where did you shop?" CJ asked without looking. "The Federated States of Micronesia?"
"Please," Josh sighed. "We just spent 45 minutes listening to the story of the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919."
CJ turned to face him. "You mean you actually faced the President tonight?"
"We were desperate."
"We needed molasses," Sam explained.
"Don't you know better than to ask the President for any type of food, no matter what, ever?"
Josh and Sam stood forlornly facing CJ. "We're going to go make the pie now," Sam said.
CJ looked at them for a moment and then laughed. "I'll help you," she offered, and followed them into Josh's kitchen.
"Oh, for the love of --" Leo snatched his phone out of his jacket and left the table one more time. "What?" he demanded. "What could you possibly want now? We've been through every ingredient you could possibly dream of putting into a pumpkin pie, and now we've shared in the poignant tragedy of a massive flood of sweetener, as well! What do you want from me?"
There was a silence, and then a hesitant voice said, "Leo? It's Josie. Is something the matter?"