Category Archives: Twas the Night Before

Christmas Town: Steeple Hill Guidelines

Thinking about my new plan of doing a survey of a year’s worth of Steeple Hill book, to determine things like ratio of male believers to female believers AND MORE…I came across this page that explains what can’t be written about in Steeple Hill romances, and thought it might be interesting to us all as I critique this book blind:

There should be no explicit sex in these stories, and a minimum of sensuality and sexual desire. Intimate physical interaction between main characters must be strictly limited. And, unless it is part of the struggle the protagonists face, there should be no premarital sex or graphic violence.

Ah.  Just like in Twas the Night Before, when Tom and Noella never had sleepovers, even though they were both in their thirties and engaged.

Although the faith element is central to these stories, the degree of religiousness can vary. We would prefer that specific Christian denominations not be named unless the story requires it, e.g. we prefer “Good Shepherd Christian Church” to “Good Shepherd Baptist (or Presbyterian, Methodist, etc.) Church.” The progression of the story must incorporate the faith journey of each character, whether struggling to accept faith or simply being active members of their church community. By the end of the story, protagonists must be both believers and members of a church community.

This is why I want to do my survey—I have a sneaking suspicion that it is far more often the woman who leads the man (back) to Jesus, and I want to see if this is really the case.

Because Steeple Hill sells to both CBA and ABA bookstores, we must adhere to CBA conventions. The stories may not include alcohol consumption by Christian characters, card playing, gambling or games of chance (including raffles), explicit scatological terms, hero and heroine remaining overnight together alone, Halloween celebrations or magic, or the mention of intimate body parts. Lying is also problematical in the CBA market and characters who are Christian should not lie or deceive others. Possibly there could be exceptional circumstances (matters of life and death), but this has to be okayed by an editor.

NO RAFFLES WHY????

Also no Halloween.  I haz a sad.

Anyway, just some help in case anyone wants to write a Christian romance, and as we dig deeper into Christmas Town.

TSoA: Chapter 21, Part 2: Squaring the Circle

First of all, my readers rock.  You guys came up with fantastic theories about circles and squares and Morehead City.

Needless to say, your ideas were all far more excellent than the actual “clue.”

To be fair, I now realize that maybe I wasn’t entirely and completely accurate in the last post when I said that Murphy’s internal Wikipedia entry had nothing to do with anything:

Then Murphy remembered that Morehead City had a section known as the Promised Land.  It was settled by refugees from the whaling communities on Shackleford Banks.

The Promised Land!  [Methuselah's] clue must have something to do with the Old Testament.

Oh gee, DO YOU FRACKING THINK SO, MURPHY???  That’s one hell of an insight, given that you are currently obsessed with finding Noah’s ark, which is in the Old Testament, and Meth just told you that he was going to give you some help with THAT VERY SCHEME.

I mean, Jesus, Murphy, did you think the clue would have something to do with The Great Gatsby?

Having burned out both his brain cells with this astonishing idea, Murphy arrives at yet another abandoned warehouse.  A round abandoned warehouse.

In the middle of the empty warehouse is a boxing ring, which Murphy assumes (correctly, no doubt, because he’s the hero) was used for illegal fights.

There’s an envelope in the middle of the ring, and Murphy finds that the envelope contains a picture of an angel.

Murphy needs to “ponder its meaning” while I, a lifelong atheist, knew what was coming.

I thought RTCs were into reading the whole Bible and taking it seriously, no?  And Murphy doesn’t get it yet?

Well, he should get it pretty quick, because some huge dude enters the ring and begins wrestling (or rasslin’, if you will) with Murphy, while Meth cackles from an undisclosed location.

ANGEL

WRESTLING

THIS SHOULD NOT BE TOO OBSCURE FOR YOU, OH PROFESSOR OF BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY

Sheesh.

The huge guy gorilla press slams Murphy…

…thus marking the only point in the series that I wish I was there and had a camera.  I’d watch the scene again and again and again…

So, Murph is a martial-arts “expert” (heh), up against this dude he estimates as weighing 350 pounds (ZOMG, YOU GUYS!  More LaJenkinsian obsession with weight!), so he reaches into his bag ‘o tricks and pulls out…

Drunken boxing.

Turns out Murphy was taught drunken boxing by an actual Chinese guy while on a dig outside Shanghai, because China is where all the best Biblical archaeologists go to find artifacts.

“When you go out, get very drunk, you don’t know how you get home.  You keep falling down, bump into lampposts, walls, everything.  But when you wake up next day, everything fine!  No broken bones!  Maybe just a bad headache.  This is the secret of the drunken man,” Li had told him.

“Then you throw up, sit for hours in dark room clutching head, then have to call all friends on phone and apologize for night before.  This how all Chinese people talk!”

“I’m afraid I don’t drink anything stronger than root beer,” Murphy had responded.  “So I’ll just have to take your word for it.”

My Gawd, but Murphy is a smug bastard.

So, Murph goes all loosey-goosey.  I know just how it would look because I’ve played a lot of Jade Empire:

The big guy tries to run Murphy down like a fucking freight train, and Murph responds by ducking and kicking the guy in the back of the head, just like a man would who had been drinking.

Not that Murphy would ever, EVER drink the Demon Liquor.

The kick sends the huge guy flying out of the ring, knocking him out, and Murphy beats cheeks.  He who ducks and runs away, lives to rassle another day.

Good thing he only got slammed once, because Murphy needs all his brainpower to figure out Methuselah’s clue, which is of almost Agatha Christie-ish perplexity.

He started to go over every detail in him mind.  The Promised Land.  So they were talking Old Testament.

YES, WE’VE ESTABLISHED THAT

Then what?  Of course—the sketch.  An angel with outspread wings.  Okay, an old testament angel.  That didn’t narrow it down much.

So what else did he know?

Not much, by the looks of it.

He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel in frustration.

Yanno, I’d ask Murphy if he’d like me to draw him a picture at this point, but METHUSELAH ALREADY DREW HIM ONE!!!

That was it!  Of course!  The wrestling match.  Who’d wrestled with an angel in the Old Testament?

Jacob.

And what did Jacob have to do with Noah’s ark?  Murphy’s mind was in high gear now.

image

I’m sorry, Murphy, but it doesn’t help to be in high gear when your car is out of gas.

But Jacob and Noah’s ark can only mean one thing, right?

The Monastery of St. Jacob!

And needing to do some actual work means only one thing for Murphy, right?

Time to call Isis!

So, Isis takes her traumatized and endangered ass back to D.C. and the National Archives and Library of Congress, and has an answer for Murphy LATER THAT DAY.

Isis, you deserve so much better!  RUN!!!  Run while you still can!

But the big piece of info she finds is that some explorer from the 1830s claims that he was taken to a SUPER SEKRIT SQUIRREL ROOM of Noah’s ark artifacts, some of which were sent to Erzurum.

So, that was Meth’s plan all along!  Send Murphy a FedEx card directing him to a town where he would get his ass kicked and get a card with an angel on it, so that he would call his sorta-girlfriend to do research for him, to lead him to a different town in Turkey where some Noah’s ark shit may or may not be, depending on how much you believe the second-hand tale of a nineteenth-century traveler.

Makes sense to me!

Wintermas 2012: Time for a Vote!

It’s that time of year again—pre-Halloween, when the Christmas decorations start coming out.

I remember Ye Olden Dayes, when Christmas commercials didn’t start until the Halloween night horror movie marathons.  Hell, I remember Ye Evene Older Dayes, when Christmas didn’t start until Black Friday.

Sigh.

Anyway, getting into the spirit of Wintermas, it’s time for me to start thinking about my Very Heathen Critique Holiday Special.

Last year, as some of you may remember, I read Twas the Night Before, Jerry Jenkins’ Christmas romance about a grown woman who believes in Santa Claus.

This year, I have a couple of ideas…

1.  The Case for Christmas, by Lee Strobel

From the back cover:

Consulting experts on the Bible, archaeology, and messianic prophecy, Lee Strobel searches out the true identity of the child in the manger.  Join him as he asks the tough, pointed questions you’d expect from an award-winning legal journalist.

Lee apparently will come of a conclusion in a mere 84 pages.  So it’s possible that I could critique both this little bitsy book and…

2.  Christmas Town, by Peggy Gilchrist

This is an Inspirational Romance novel from Steeple Hill.

From the back cover:

Everyone was talking about the arrival of Jordan Scoville.  The millionaire had been raised in Bethlehem, South Carolina, the town his family still owned.  But Jordan hadn’t been back in over ten years, and rumor had it that the savvy businessman had returned in order to close down their little “Christmas Town” forever!

But that didn’t stop struggling single mother Joella Ratchford.  Everyone she really cared about lived in Christmas Town, and she was convinced that all Jordan “Scrooge” Scoville really needed was faith.  For surely the joys of the season would make him realize that it was up to him to save this town…and maybe find a happily ever after of his own.

Given my genuine and unabashed enjoyment of Christmas stuff, there is a good chance I might like this one.

Which brings me to my final point: whether I read one or both of these books, I will go into them blind.  Unlike the Underground Zealot and Babylon Rising series, I have never read either of these books.

And thus I leave it to you, my lovely and loyal readers, to decide what will be under the Heathen Critique Wintermas tree…

‘Twas the Night Before: Epilogue: And the Joker Got Away

The epilogue of ‘Twas the Night Before is only one half of a page, but holy crap do we get some fun.

Tom and Noella get married on December 26th.  So now they’ll have their anniversary on the date Noella thought was her birthday.

Man, this is just gonna suck so hard for them when it comes to presents.  Within one 72-hour period are Noella’s birthday, Christmas, and the anniversary.

Noella is just going to go through the rest of her life getting one gift for three different occasions.

I’d feel sorry for her, but she’s a big jerk.

***

Noella’s friend Sue is the matron of honor, which only makes sense.  I’m fine with that.

FatUgly Rufus both gives away Noella and is the best man.

Heh, guess Noella let go of that whole “you father should stand up with you and family is forever” thing.  And I notice they didn’t wait until brother Tim was out of prison.

I guess Santa is the only family Noella needs.  ;)

And I can tell you that if it was my wedding, I would just love for a man to “give me away” when I had known him for a grand total of EIGHT MONTHS.

Because the idea of nobody giving away the bride is just plain ridiculous.

***

Betsy Taylor, of the Tom-made pseudo-Santa necklace, serves as flower girl.  Because it’s PERFECTLY NORMAL to ask a girl you’ve met exactly ONCE to be your flower girl.

***

And this wouldn’t be a LaJenkinsian novel without the humiliating come-uppance of the “villains” of the piece: those people who have the audacity to dislike, annoy, or even slightly inconvenience our “heroes”:

Gary Noyer mistook Dr. Connie Ng’s car for Tom’s and affixed four pounds of Limburger cheese to the engine.  Dr. Ng has filed suit.

You remember Dr. Ng, right?  Noella’s department chair, who wrote Noella that “nasty” e-mail JUST BECAUSE Noella took four days off without notice?

Guess it’s a good thing they both got what they deserved, eh? 

WHAT A LOVELY ENDING TO A GENTLE CHRISTMAS ROMANCE

Oh well, I give poor Gary Noyer points for using a German cheese.

I guess.

Anyway, as Tom and Noella ride off into the sunset with their interlocking Santa necklaces, I hope you enjoyed this Special Wintermas Special.

Now that it is 2012, we shall return to our regularly scheduled Soon critique.

But for now…

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

(Picture from Wikipedia)

‘Twas the Night Before: Chapter 21: Santa Plays Favorites (That One Kid)

Noella calls Tom to tell him all about The Miracle of the Resealed Letter.  This being 1998, she gets his answering machine.  She then calls her own machine, and gets a message from Fat Ugly Rufus about the family she interviewed.  Remember, with the little girl who still believed

The dad wants to have A Talk with Noella.

But before that reveal, Tom and Noella meet up and share their Christmas morning miracles.  I just can’t help but feel that Tom got the better end of the deal:

Tom:  Honey, guess what???  Santa came to my apartment and left me a personalized letter and decorated my empty Christmas tree and got me to look for my very own special Forever and A Tree necklace!!!

Noella:  Babe, that’s great!  Santa visited me, too!  He…resealed a letter.

They head off to Betsy’s house together and it starts to snow.  Tom is delighted by this Christmassy event, so I guess he’s no longer worried about the plight of silly non-Santa believers like LaShawna Jackson and her four kids.

Turns out little Betsy got HER VERY OWN Forever and A Tree necklace from Santa, and the dad thinks Noella gave it to her, and that it’s inappropriate and too expensive.

(Despite being the only believer in her family, Betsy got the necklace for the same reason Noella got hers: the making of a selfless Christmas wish.  Noella wished for a nice Christmas for her cousin; Betsy wished for a restful Christmas for her father.)

This throws into relief the true idiocy of Santa’s Forever and A Tree necklaces.  Noella was lucky: she was given her necklace during a family gathering when possibilies for the potential gifter were up for grabs.  But little Betsy only has her father, and he knows he didn’t give it to her.  That leaves only Noella, who has a necklace just like it.

The other piece of this is that Noella came from an upper-middle-class family where expensive gifts were not unusual.  How does Santa know that poor families won’t take PLATINUM NECKLACES and trade them in for things like, oh…dunno…FOOD AND CLOTHES???

Noella explains that she didn’t give the necklace to the kid, the father (for obvious reasons) doesn’t believe her, but it’s all swept under the rug almost immediately.

Oh, and the final BIG REVEAL of the story: Betsy’s necklace is THE ONE TOM MADE IN FAIRYLAND.

Now, this does provide in-story proof that Santa is real, but (as I mentioned earlier) I can’t help but feel that Betsy got robbed here.  Shouldn’t she be getting a necklace made by Santa himself, not some dork who writes a newspaper column? 

Anyway, those are the Christmas miracles from Santa.  He does bang-up work, don’tcha think?  :D

‘Twas the Night Before: Chapter 21: Santa Plays Favorites (Noella)

Noella’s Christmas gifts from Santa are a bit different than Tom’s.

Okay, a lot different.

As you recall, Noella was given a letter by her mother.  That letter laid out the elaborate scheme in which Noella’s true birthday would be concealed from the world, so that her mother need not be reminded of the terrible Christmas when her brother took his own life.

As astute commenter inquisitiveraven points out, the fly in that ointment is that even though Miriam doesn’t want to be reminded of a Christmas suicide, she names her duaghter…Noella.

Noella’s Christmas miracle is that sometime in the night, Santa magicked the letter back into the envelope, and resealed it.

You read that right: Santa used his formidable supernatural powers to RESEAL A LETTER.

I can only imagine the conversation that would take place between our own dear Noella, and the woman who came up with the brilliant suicide-forgetting-birthdate-changing-naming-child-after-holiday plan.

***

Noella: Good morning, Mom!  Merry Christmas!

Miriam: Hmpf.

N: What is it, Mom?  Are you upset about something?

M: Well, if you don’t know, I’m certainly not going to tell you.

N: Well, fine then, mother.  I’ll just withhold affection from you until you cave.  It works with my fiance!  Withholding affection…now.

M: No!  I can’t take it!  Okay, okay–I’m upset that you didn’t read my letter!

N: How much ‘nog did you have last night, Mom?  I read the letter.  I was so touched to learn about how you’ve lied to me for over thirty years.

M: Nuh-uh.  The letter is sealed.  I saw when I was making your bed.

N: You make the bed of your now-33-year-old daughter?  Isn’t that a bit weird?

M: No, it’s not.  Anyway, I saw that the letter was sealed in the envelope.

N: *starry eyes* SANTA CAME!

M: Wha?

N: Santa came and resealed the letter so that my faith in him would be restored!

M: Uh-huh.  Honey, this Santa thing…

N: What?

M: Don’t you think you’re just a bit old for this?  I mean, you’re 33 now.  You have a Ph.D. and you’re going to be married soon–

N: Well, at least I don’t need a metronome to play an instrument I taught for twenty years, Mom.

M: OH YEAH???

*they fight*

***

Well, that’s how it went in my head, anyway.  D:

In the book, Noella doesn’t find anything approaching a plausible explanation for her mother.  (“I must have sealed it back up.”  What, in your sleep, Noella? 

***

Oh, and one last thing I forgot to mention last time: Tom’s two-part series about meeting Santa is called…”A Santasy.

It really is quite the commentary on this story that that doesn’t even make my personal Top Five Dumb Things in it.

‘Twas the Night Before: Chapter 21: Santa Plays Favorites (Tom)

“Boy, Santa’s really into labelling people.”

-Mike Nelson, Santa Claus, MST3K Episode #521

IT’S CHRISTMAS IT’S CHRISTMAS IT’S CHRISTMAS IT’S CHRISTMAS IT’S CHRISTMAS

Well, in the story it’s Christmas.  But here in reality, something even better is going on right now:

AFTER CHRISTMAS SALES AFTER CHRISTMAS SALES AFTER CHRISTMAS SALES AFTER CHRISTMAS SALES

So, between that and after-Christmas weather, I didn’t get around to posting yesterday.  But since we have only this chapter plus the epilogue left, I think it’s safe to say I’ll be done before New Year’s.  ;)

Tom waked up in his apartment on Christmas morning.  Remember, last night he wrote his very first grown-up Christmas list:

Some people, when they make grown-up Christmas lists, wish for an end to all wars and for everyone in the world to have a friend.

Tom wishes his fiancee still believed in Santa Claus.

Given that this is the parable of faith, this is not too surprising.  After all, I’ve seen RTCs claim that God helped them find their missing keys, because God was apparently not busy ending famine and curing diseases.

In the living room, Tom was met with a sight that made his entire body rigid.

“Noella??  Baby, you shouldn’t be here right now.  And where did you find a Naughty Elf costume???”

The tree was beautifully decorated, every inch a stunning masterpiece of color.

That’s what Santa did at Tom’s house: he decorated Tom’s Christmas tree.  Because I guess he didn’t have anything more pressing to do.

[Tom] laughed and cried and whooped until he remembered the neighbors and pressed a hand against his mouth.

“Oh my God Santa!  It’s a Christmas miracle!  This is SO MUCH BETTER than you bringing toys and clothes to poor children, which is what I thought you should do before I met you!”

This is upsetting, really.  Tom is the same guy who, back in Chapter 8, said:

“Kids in the ghetto actually believe Santa is going to bring them something to make their lives all right.”

To which Noella responds:

“If those parents really believed, the outcome would be different.”

So now, not only is Tom okay with the poor kids getting nothing, but he’s okay with the reason they get nothing: because the childrens’ parents don’t believe.

This really is a parable of faith: Tom is behaving exactly as Rayford Steele and Buck Williams in the Left Behind series: even though neither of them believed for DECADES, and would have gone straight to hell had they died then, they immediately find hell to be completely just once they convert.

It’s the classic I’ve Got Mine, Screw You mentality of RTCs.

Another way in which Rayford and Tom are alike: each is presented with much better evidence of the existence of Jesus/Santa than almost everyone else.  Rayford, to cite just one example, is visited by the Archangel Michael.  Tom got to MEET Santa, visit his workshop, and craft a special Santa necklace (THIS WILL BE IMPORTANT SOON), and now, he gets a letter back from Santa:

Dear Thomas,

Merry Christmas.  Enjoy the gift I sent home with you, which seemed only appropriate under the circumstances. 

Your friend,

KK

Tom gets all confused, because he doesn’t remember any gift, and the only thing he brought back from Fairyland was the bag with the victims’ belongings that he looted. 

So he goes to the Tribune office to check his mail.  There he finds a package from the wife of one of the Canadians.  She thanks him for his “thoughtfulness” in looting her husband’s corpse, which is pretty nice of her considering that she no doubt would have gotten his wallet back if Tom had just left it alone and not left the crash site.

AND GEE THANKS, JENKINS, I HAD ALMOST FORGOTTEN THAT YOU KILLED OFF THREE FOREIGNERS JUST SO TOM COULD BELIEVE IN SANTY CLAUS.

Oh, and we find out the Canadian’s name: Marcus Kroeker.

I really, REALLY hope that is not a play on the fact that Marcus “croaked” in the plane crash.

I really do.

The wife has sent back something that was not her husband’s:

OMG A PLATINUM PENDANT JUST LIKE NOELLA’S

Except where it’s different:

Instead of “Forever And,” it says “A Day.”

(Sadly, it does not say “A Tree.”)

Also, it has Tom’s birthdate.

Also also, the tree is embossed instead of cut out.

Also also also, it has “KK” (Santa’s initials) on the back.

So, Tom has his Christmas tree decorated by Santa himself, and his letter from Santa, AND his own “Forever and a Tree” necklace.

Sucks to be you, poor kids!

‘Twas the Night Before: Chapters 19-20: Present Time!

Were you all on the edge of your seats waiting to find out what those mysterious three presents were?

Well, we’re about to find out!

Turns out that the three Very Special Presents from London were for Noella, Noella’s mom, and Noella’s grandma.

I guess you can go ahead and read whatever you want into the fact that Tom got Extra-Special Snowflake gifts for his fiancee and son-to-be in-laws, but not for his own parents.

Now, remember, Tom got these all at the same “exclusive shop“:

1.  A “leather-bound collection of poetry” for Old Biddy Who Tells It Like It Is (Tom wants to read some to her)

2.  A handmade metronome for Mom, who apparently is completely incapable of playing the piano without it.  (Speaking as a former amateur musician myself, this is bullshit.  I think Miriam just doesn’t want to practice.)

3.  For Noella, “an exquisitely tooled jewelry box with ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’ carved delicately in the top.”  It’s for her Forever and a Tree necklace for January to November, which admittedly is pretty sweet.

Sadly, Noella is still not happy.  (And I’m sure you’re all shocked by that fact.)

Noella missed Santa.  While she had come to her senses about him, at times like [opening presents on Christmas Eve] she wished she hadn’t.  Changing her mind hadn’t changed her heart.  The little girl in her wanted Santa as part of this Christmas.

Yanno, if this is a parable of faith, this attitude must be the Santa-equivalent of the RTC notion that religious faith is the only thing that allows people to have love and joy and peace in their lives.  RTCs are fond of the conceit that nonbelievers live lives of quiet desperation, devoid of real love and happiness.

Guess this idiotic notion is the reason Noella is incapable of being truly happy without Santa, even though she has her awesome mom and grandma and a fiance who just managed to survive a plane crash and who, incidentally, does her every bidding.

Poor Santa-missing Noella also gets a letter from her mom, explaining the whole uncle-dying-birthday-changing scheme.

(Sometimes, I feel like Jerry Jenkins wants to be Tom Clancy.  Right now, I feel like he wants to be a writer for Leverage.

Nate Ford:  Okay.  Let’s go steal a fake birthday.)

As she is reading the letter, Tom is getting home from what was no doubt an excruciating evening with his abusive, negligent father and his enabler mother.  He buys a last-minute tree and apparently there are no 24-hour drugstores in all of Chicago, as Tom cannot track down so much as a candy cane to decorate the tree, and he “wasn’t going to pop corn [for stringing] or cut paper dolls [for ornaments].”  Oh, are we too good for that kind of holiday activity, Mr. Big-Time Santa-Believing Reporter Man???

So Tom puts the naked Chriatmas tree in his living room, and meditates on ghosts of Christmas Past, particularly one Christmas when his father was on a bender and there was no money for presents, and his enabler mother told him Santa wasn’t real.

Tom pretended he had known, but the truth was he was shattered.  He traced much of his cynicism to that day.

OH COME ON

REALLY????

REALLY REALLY????

Who do you know, EVER, who became cynical because he learned Santa wasn’t real?

I just…this is just so DUMB. 

Not to mention insulting. 

***

Once upon a time, a poor little boy named Tommy was born on the South Side.  His daddy was a drunk and constantly said that he hated Tommy and wished Tommy was dead.  Tommy’s mom didn’t care about Tommy as much as she cared about her drunk husband, and didn’t help Tommy when he needed it.

But Tommy was JUST FINE.

Then, one day, Tommy found out that Santa Claus wasn’t real.

Gasp!  Shock!

This shattered his sunny outlook, and Tommy stayed a cynic for the next quarter-century.

***

Newly-not-cynical Tom writes a letter to Santa (on Christmas Eve!) asking Santa to renew Noella’s faith in him (Santa, not Tom).

***

And at THAT moment, Noella finishes the letter.  She puts two and two together for the first time in her life:

1.  the results of the professor’s tests on her necklace are that it is really real platinum and engraved by a master artisan, and

2,  nobody in her family would have given her such an expensive with her REAL SECRET BIRTHDATE.

Tom and Noella hit the hay. 

Seperately, because sleeping in the same house as your fiance is just plain wrong.

‘Twas the Night Before: Chapters 19-20: Reunion of the Lovers

When Tom gets to O’Hare, he has to give remarks to reporters.

I’m serious.  Many reporters. 

Noella couldn’t park near [the airport] for all the remote-broadcast trucks and reporters in the car.

Since I’m spending Wintermas with my brother, Angus, who works in news himself, I laid out the scenario for him:

Ruby: So, this guy is a columnist for the Tribune.  He went to Germany and he writes two AMAZINGLY POPULAR stories about meeting Santa.  Kinda written in a ‘Yes, Virginia’ style.  And now a bunch of reporters have been waiting for him at the airport.

Angus: No.  *long pause* Just…no

Ruby:  He was the only survivor of a small plane crash.  Does this change things?

Angus:  No.  These TV reporters would not accost the guy at the airport.  First of all, that’s unprofessional.  Second of all, any Chicago station has plenty to go live with on any day without covering the return of some columnist.  If you did anything at all (which you wouldn’t necessarily, because they’re, yanno, a competitor), you would maybe do an in-studio interview with the guy on the morning show after asking him.

Expert opinion is expert!

Since it would be so much WORK for Noella to walk or take the shuttle to the airport to meet Tom, Rufus picks him up so he can deliver him to Noella at Round-the-Clock.

“I’d hug you, Tommy, but I need to drive.”

“That’s all right,” Tom said.  “I don’t want to hug a big ugly man right now anyway.”

That’s a reminder, just in case you forgot, that Rufus is FAT and UGLY.

And it’s every bit as funny as it was the first five times.

To top off the sadness, Tom and Noella start kissy-facing the moment they see each other, completely ignoring Rufus.  Nice.

Tom and Noella talk at cross-purposes, as Noella tries to convince Tom that she has given up her belief, and Tom tries to convince Noella that he really does believe, and his columns were the total TRUTH.

“I even found out how you qualified for your pendant. … He knows you.  Knows you’re a true believer.”

“I’m so relieved you’re alive,” [Noella said] “I know you’ve been through a horrible ordeal, but you sound the way I did when you concluded I was in denial.”

“But I was in denial, Noella!  I was wrong.  You were right!”

“So how did Santa blow my birth date?”

“That’s not the kind of mistake they make there.”

“Really.”

Parable of Faith Alert!

It couldn’t be that Tom was objectively evaluating the evidence and concluding the conclusion that BILLIONS of others have concluded.

Nope, he was in denial, just like EVERYONE who doesn’t accept the existence of Jesus Santa.

But they leave the discussion at that, and decide to split up for Christmas.  That is, Noella will spend Christmas Eve (and spend the night) with her awesome mom and Old Biddy Who Tells It Like It Is grandmother, and Tom will have Christmas Eve dinner with his emotionally abusive parents.

As Noella says, “Family is forever.”

But before going to her family’s house, Noella goes to Northwestern to talk with a friend of her father’s who JUST SO HAPPENS to be a geologist.  She wants him to evaluate her necklace, and he is only too happy to do this on Christmas Eve.

Of course he is.

While Noella is occupied, Tom calls Noella’s mom and asks her about Noella’s real birthdate.

YOU GUYS

THIS IS THE BIG REVEAL

NOELLA’S BIRTHDAY MYSTERY: SOLVED

PLEASE DO NOT REVEAL THE INCREDIBLE SECRET OF TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE

Noella’s mother’s brother committed suicide on Christmas Eve of 1963.  This is Noella’s uncle, the father of the cousin on whose behalf Noella wrote the Santa letter.

Noella’s mother was so sad, and so did not want to be reminded of the tragedy, that when Noella was born exactly two years later, on Christmas Eve of 1965, they decided to tell everyone that Noella was born on Boxing Day instead.

That’s the big secret. 

Tom, newly-sensitive RTC Santa-believer that he is, insists that Noella’s mom tell her daughter the truth.  He does this for two reasons:

1.  “It would right a wrong.” 

No argument there.

2.  “…it seems you were protecting your own family’s reputation.”

Um, what???  Tom, you jerk.  Miriam just told you about the pain of her horrible loss, and how she “would not have been able to abide being reminded of the suicide every year on [Noella's] birthday.”  And you, who have also known family pain, have the gall, the absolute nerve, to accuse her of “protecting reputation.”

TOM.  YOU.  ARE.  AN.  ASS.

Oh, sorry.

Tom, you are a butt.

And to everyone out there who is not a butt, Merry Wintermas.

 

‘Twas the Night Before: Chapter 18: The Great Christmas Novella…er, Column

Tom wakes up in the hospital.

“Wristband says Zwingli, Zurich.  Switzerland?” [Tom asked]

“Zwingli International.” [the doctor "answered"]

Huldrych Zwingli was a Reformation leader from Switzerland, but I don’t see where he has a city named after him, or how the name “Zwingli International” means anything.  Then again, I don’t speak German beyond “bier” and “Auf Wiedersehen.”

Anybody have any ideas?

Tom explains that he looted the corpses, and has to explain which things belong to which victim.  Everyone is very kind and doesn’t mention the fact that they could have much more easily figured this out had Tom not looted in the first place.

Tom is counted “fortunate” that some kind stranger apparently found him in the middle of the Black Forest and lugged his ass all the way to the hospital.

Then he gets his phone back and is able to call his editor.  Because Walt doesn’t believe it’s really Tom, Tom has to convince him using the patented Information Only We Would Know technique.

“Rufus is my buddy!  Noyer is a butt!”

HA!

That’s our cynical, South-Side-of-Chicago-raised, globe-trotting reporter: the man with the insults of a first-grader.

It’s so cute when RTC writers are hampered by curse words making the Baby Jesus cry.

Speaking of Rufus, he’s the one who gets to call Noella and inform her of the joyous news:

***

“Hey, Rufe,” she said wearily.

“Sit down, hon,” he said.

“Did they find the body?”

“Tell me you’re seated, and I’ll tell you latest.”

Rufus was sweet.  A bit chauvinistic, but she humored him.

This is a common Jenkins theme, seen on a number of occasions in the Left Behind series: misogyny is cute.  It’s so adorable when the men’s condescension and fear cause them to belittle and insult you, but you just have to smile and let them have their fun.  Boys will be boys, and there’s no harm, is there?

***

Tom writes his Very Special Christmas Column on the way back to the States.  He has a stopever in London, where a big point is made out Tom discovering…

…an exclusive shop where he selected three perfect handmade gifts.

I’m sure he’ll have the money to burn, because the story of Santa’s workshop is apparently ZOMG AMAZING.  As Tom’s own editor puts it:

“…everybody says the series has Pulitzer written all over it.  Reader’s Digest wants exclusive magazine rights.”

And if that wasn’t quite enough of how UTTERLY FANTASTIC the trip to Fairyland was:

“We’re printing around the clock and already have more requests for copies than of any other piece ever, including the moon landing and all the Bulls’ championships.”

Really?  Huh.  So Jenkins’ Tom’s story of Santa and elves and a workshop is so incredibly amazing, so unheard of, that it has become, OVERNIGHT, better than the MOON LANDING?

I am officially calling bullshit.

***

And finally, Noella’s reaction:

Noella had devoured Tom’s account of the necklace-manufacturing process in the Tribune Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.  She loved Fairyland and the warm and wonderful Mrs. Kringle.

That is what stood out to Noella?  The opiate Smuckers?

But, Noella, there is so much more!  The enslaved elves!  The unjust denial of gifts to children whose parents don’t believe!

He wrote with the same passion as always, including specific, nitty-gritty things that made her feel as if she were there with him.

There she goes again, confusing details with emotions.  Just like learning the ages of poor children made her feel cold.

Tom and Noella have now switched places: Tom believes and Noella has convinced herself that her Forever and a Tree necklace must have been from her father.

HOW WILL THEY RESOLVE THEIR DIFFERENCES NOW THAT TOM HAS PRAYED THE PRAYER VISITED FAIRYLAND???

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