Monthly Archives: December 2011

‘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?  😀

‘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???

‘Twas the Night Before: Chapters 16-17: More Santa

YOU GUYS

I AM SO SORRY FOR THE CONFUSION

Yesterday, I failed to address the why of how Noella got her necklace, despite being the only true believer in Santa.

Here it is, from Santa’s bedside conversation with Tom:

“If you gave Noella the necklace, you visited a home where not everyone believed in you.”

“She was the only one who did.  How did I justify? … She was old enough to decide for herself, and she chose to believe.  Further, her request was not for herself.  That is the criterion.”

So, there we have it.  Make a selfless wish, and Santa will break his rule.

Kinda sucks for the poor kids that they are quite likely to make wishes for themselves, isn’t it?  Helps when you’re an upper-middle class kid like Noella, who knows she will get everything she wants anyway and can afford to wish for someone else.

To hell with those selfish jerk kids who wish for food and books and shoes without holes.  Too bad for them if their parents don’t believe!

Anyway, sorry for accidentally leaving that out yesterday!

(Still, it was interesting to read your various theories on what was really happening.  Beats Santa’s lame excuse.)

***

In Chicago, Noella is all alone in her apartment.  She has just learned about the plane crash, and in her own little personal crisis of Santa-faith, has decided to adopt Tom’s “cynicism“:

He had been right.  Life was not fair.  Things did not always turn out the way they should.  Noella would never again be so naive.  It was time to grow up.

That seems to me to be two different things.  Yeah, being grown up is accepting that things aren’t fair.  But that’s not cynicism.

Noella extended her arms and longed to draw them back with Tom in their embrace.

And oh, how she wished that his strong, manly arms would hold her back.  She remembered the way his dark, cynical brows arched arrogantly as he moved in to claim her naive, manipulative lips for a kiss.

Yeah, I think Noella will be fine.

***

Tom is awake again, and has been fitted with a crutch.

It fitted as if ithad been made for him.  It had, [Mrs. Claus].  “The helpers measured you in the night.”

Oh, wow.

The Claus Clan has also given Tom a bag for the personal effects he inexplicably lifted from the bodies of the dead pilot and passengers.

[Tom] found everything in order.

Phew.  And here I was afraid the elves might’ve swiped his stuff.

Mrs. Claus feeds him, but hasn’t laced the food this time, so Tom stay awake and hobbles off to Santa’s sweatshop.

The miniature men scurried about, filling wheelbarrows from wagons and pushing them into the workshop through a side entrance.

Yeah, Fairyland is an awesome place.  I guess some Fairyland creatures are more equal than others.

“Surprised?” Kris said, wokring in half the uniform Tom assumed he wore Christmas Eve: shiny black boots, red satin pants held up by wide red suspenders, and a white undershirt.

“Even Santa sweats, he said.

THANKS SANTA BUT I DID NOT NEED TO PICTURE THAT.

Tom is surprised, but not because of the Santa Sweat.  (Santa Sweat would be a cool name for a band.)  He is surprised because there aren’t any toys in the workshop, only the equipment used to make the platinum necklaces like the one Noella owns.

Jenkins describes and describes the making of the necklaces, and it’s fairly boring because I don’t care.

Tom, naturally enough, has more pressing questions:

“You’re making so many.  Why don’t more people have them?”

“We make thousands.  There are billions of you.  And don’t assume you are the only dimension that exists.  You know now there are at least two.  Trust me, there are more.”

“More dimensions?”

“Not to mentions planets.”

“You mean?”

“Rule out nothing.”

Whoa.  IS JENKINS ACTUALLY ADMITTING TO THE EXISTENCE OF THE MULTIVERSE

Consider my mind officially blown.

But that’s it for the science-y talk.  Time to make some shit!

The necklaces come in one of two ways: either with a tree cut out, like Noella’s, or with a tree embossed.  Santa lets Tom make a necklace–or at least, cut one out before Santa writes on it.  Then he stamps Tom’s initials, T.D., on the back.

Yanno, if I was a Genuine Really Real Believer in Santa, and got one of these special necklaces for Christmas, I’d feel a bit cheated if I found out it had actually been made by some slob from Chicago.

Tom wonders why some necklaces have the cutout, and some the embossing.  Santa calls it “a Fairyland mystery.”

CAN YOU FIGURE IT OUT, LOYAL READERS?

Santa has already spent hours making these.  He doesn’t appear to be making anything else.

I guess that’s not surprising, since Santa refuses to visit homes where even one person is a nonbeliever in him.  He’s probably had to make maybe two toys in…ever.

Tom wants to ask Santa more questions, but Santa is having none of it:

“You’re not coming back to the house?”

“Sorry,” Kris said.  “More work to do.  And you need your rest.”

Tom was suddenly so sleepy he could hardly speak.

HE’S BEEN DRUGGED AGAIN

Man, Tom has the worst luck ever when it comes to relationships with manipulative people.

Speaking of whom, more on Noella tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

‘Twas the Night Before: Chapters 16-17: The Claus Clan

So the elves bring Tom to the Claus cottage.  Mrs. Claus appears:

A rosy-cheeked woman in robe, slipper, and nightcap bustled out, whispering in a vibrato that never dropped below high C.

Ouch.

Mrs. Claus explains why Tom can’t understand the elves when they speak, but he can understand her:

“They speak the language of the place,” she said quietly.  “We understand each other.  Father and I speak a universal language for our kind, so the occasional mortal can understand.”

Well…that clears things up.  I guess.

Then Santa shows up!

Tom pushed himself up with his good arm.  This couldn’t be real.  Snow-white hair, big beard, twinkly eyes, half glasses low on his nose.  A cherry-wood pipe.

I just love that the pipe gets its own special sentence.  And that Tom is able to identify the wood.

“Convinced we’re figments of your imagination?” Kris asked.

Tom nodded.

Kris smiled.  “Is there a mortal without pride?  Your imagination is responsible for only so much of what you see.”

Nice to see that the arrogance and condescension of Jenkins’ characters continues apace.

We are here introduced to the basic conceit of the place: it’s real, but the particulars depend on what you, the visitor, think when you think of Santa.  There are reindeer when Tom shows up, but there aren’t always–they’re just there because he associates reindeer with Santa.

More snideness from Jolly St. Nick:

“We’ve hosted Western mortals before, but none has had the wherewithal to conjure Rudolph.”

Nice.  Sorry to disappoint you, Kris. 

They take Tom to a comfy bedroom, and he sleeps it off.  His injuries, I mean.  Sorta.

This starts a minor theme of this story: Tom conking out whenever the Clauses tell him.

***

Back in Chicago, Noella learns of the plane crash.  She takes off her necklace in remorse.

Jenkins tells us that Noella had decided just before hearing the news that she would “admit her fantasy” to Tom and give up the Santa-belief.

WOW GOOD THING SHE WON’T HAVE TO NOW, RIGHT???

(Only Jenkins can use the phrase “admit her fantasy” without a wink.)

***

Tom wakes up with some of his injuries seemingly healed, and Mrs. Claus won’t even let him leave the bedroom (saaaay…):

She brought him stacks of flapjacks and a creamy fruit mixture that hit him like a narcotic.  He fell asleep eating, and when he awoke, it was nighttime again.

Can I be the only one freaked out by the fact that they’re keeping Tom drugged and incapacitated?  It’s starting to feel like A Very Misery Christmas.

Kris is back to talk to him:

“When does this fantasy end?  I have so many questions?”

“That’s why you’re here.”

“Where is ‘here’?  The Black Forest?”

“You came to us through the Black Forest.  You could have found me at home or in England, France, Russia, Holland–”

“You’re an idea, a spirit.”

“I am Santa Claus.”

“My former fiancee believe you are real.”

“I know her well.  A Christmas Eve baby with a lovely name.”

GUYS, IT’S THE BIG REVEAL

NOELLA WAS BORN ON THE 24TH, NOT THE 26TH

“Sir, she was born the day after Christmas.”

“Begging your pardon,” Kris said, “’twas the night before.”

And we have a title.

Now, this is the novel’s big revelation, though I myself feel that it rather pales in comparison to the following facts:

1.  Tom was transported from the Black Forest of Germany to FAIRYLAND

2.  Santa and Mrs. Claus are REAL

3.  Nobody gets sick or hurt in FAIRYLAND, and time doesn’t really pass, which means that the elves have been kept in slavery mining platinum for Kris Kringle’s stupid necklaces FOREVER

But I guess that’s just me.

And NOW things start to suck.

Let that sink in.

You see, when Tom arrived in Germany, Jenkins called it “following a rich journalistic tradition to update the Santa myth.”

And now Jenkins is keeping up a long tradition of making Santa Claus unintentionally creepy:

“I do not visit every home.  One doubter will keep me away.  I get things to believers, sometimes through skeptics, but I visit only the rare home where belief in me is unanimous.”

OH THAT’S NICE

Sorry, Tiny Tim, I know you were hoping for a new crutch this year, but your older sister doesn’t believe.  Ha!  Sucks to be you, I guess.

So it turns out that Noella was right when she said that poor kids could get gifts if only their parents believed.

In his own way, Santa is worse than TurboJesus.  At least TurboJesus doesn’t force people to remain unsaved because their siblings are unsaved.

And on that depressing note, Santa makes Tom fall asleep again.  (Well, he has been awake for nearly twenty minutes.)

Tomorrow, Tom joins Santa in the sweatshop workshop.  Stay tuned!

‘Twas the Night Before: Chapters 14-16: The Crash, Giant Earthworms, and the Elves

Hang on to something, folks, things are about to get weird!

But first, a bit more on the crash, because of the questions in the comments:

Tom starts out at the Stuttgart Airport.  Given the number of airlines at that airport, why he takes a chartered, rickety four-seater across the Black Forest is anyone’s guess.

As to the cause of the crash, that is also anyone’s guess, and probably why Tom slept through most of it.

The engine is a two-engine, and the trip on it is only supposed to take ONE HOUR.  So Tom’s concern when he comes to after the crash seems more than a bit unwarranted.  I mean, I get that Tom is panicked and quite possibly in shock, but…

Look, I’m no survival expert, but Tom just seems to do EVERYTHING wrong.

He knows the pilot got off a Mayday, and he knows the flight was short.  Surely it will only be a matter of (very little) time until searchers find him.

He’s in the forest, in the snowy winter.  He has no knowledge of the area.  Why would he not just STAY PUT?  Especially since he has some injuries.  Considering he’s the only survivor, he’s pretty lucky, but he does have a possibly-broken ankle, wrecked knee, cracked ribs and collarbone, and assorted cuts and bruises. 

WHICH MAKE IT EVEN DUMBER TO MOVE, BECAUSE HE WOULD MOVE INCREDIBLY SLOWLY

The biggest danger is hypothermia.  But you know what Tom has?  A wrecked plane for shelter, his own and everyone else’s luggage for warmth (and possibly fuel).

His first priorities should be to gather the supplies together and get a fire going.  The fire would signal rescuers, keep him warm, and melt snow for drinking water.  (Tom whines in his head about there being no food onboard, but this is really the least of his worries.  He could survive weeks without food.)

And I know, I know.  It’s spooky and ghoulish to hang out there with dead bodies.  Plus there is the very human impulse to do something, to move.

Tom is supposed to be smart.  But he spends his energy retrieving personal items from the bodies of the pilot and passengers, and dragging his injured body across the snow.  He wears himself out, makes himself dizzy, and worsens his pain.

I would accept this if this was Tom being panicked and stupid because of it.  But we are repeatedly told that he is being “pragmatic” and has “no other choice.”

So, off he goes.  No map, no knowledge of German, only one working foot.  He gets a few hundred yards in ONE HOUR.

I hate to repeat myself, but this is SO STUPID.  Tom is using up precious reserves of strength, making himself colder and wetter, and greatly reducing his chances of being found.

On top of it all, he eats snow.  THIS IS A BIG NO-NO.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, Noella briefly toys with the idea of letting go of the Jesus Santa thing.

It had been the only issue between them.  Could she renege?  Could she mean it?

She fingered the medallion.

No.

That’s our Noella!

In the forest, Tom is hungry.  Sadly, the snow presumably makes it impossible for him to locate one of the MASSIVE FRAKKING EARTHWORMS that live in the Black Forest, and which I’m sure would feed an army.

I’m serious.  There are these huge-ass earthworms, and they only live in the Black Forest.

Holy SHIT

Picture from Naturpark Sudschwarzwald

But Tom is about to discover something better than HUMONGOUS EARTHWORMS:

Elves!

NO NOT THAT KIND!

I take that back.  Actually, they’re just that kind.

Tom slips in and out of consciousness: elves, Noella, and a bit I kinda like about snow:

Was he dreaming?  Hallucinating?  Remembering the snowstorm that hit Chicago?  It would be just like Mother Nature to pelt him with the same flakes.  No two alike?  They were probably all duplicates!

Okay, never say I don’t give credit where it’s due.  That’s pretty clever and funny and very much like the thought process of a person who’s semi-conscious.

Tom decides (albeit in the throes of his hallucinations) to lie about Santa forever if it means he can marry Noella.

Simultaneously, in Chicago, Noella decides that she should discuss Santa again with Tom:

If nothing else, that would give her an excuse to see Tom.  She would not hold him or kiss him or tell him she loved him.  But she could see him.

Stay classy, Noella.  Withhold that affection!  It’s the only way to have things the way YOU WANT THEM, and that’s the most important thing of all, isn’t it?

Back in the worm-infested Black Forest (I am NEVER getting over this!), Tom blacks out, and the elves save his ass!  They drag him back to their home and their little beds.

They change his clothes (saaaaay…) and tend to his wounds with Magic (TM), then they load him onto a sled and drag him up to the Claus residence.

Guys, I am not even joking about ANY of this.

Tomorrow, Tom meats the Clauses!

‘Twas the Night Before: Chapters 12-14: Breakup and Crashdown

Noella is in the depths of despair following the I-believe-in-Santa breakup.  Understandable, I suppose. 

But remember, Noella has a terrific career that she loves.  From Chapter 1:

Noella loved being in her office.  She told herself she didn’t teach journalism, she taught students.  The more hours she spent in her office, the more contact she enjoyed with them.

This love is so great that Noella sits in her office all day on the day after Thanksgiving, the only faculty member to do so.

That is how dedicated she is.

Noella has called in sick on the eighth and ninth [of December], sent a message to her classes on the tenth saying they could study independently that day, then gave them Friday, the eleventh, off as her Christmas gift.  They left for the holidays.

Well, I’ll give it Jenkins: he did the research on the 1998 calendar.  The 11th of December was indeed a Friday that year. 

But, the rest.

Okay, I am not now and have never been a journalism student, undergraduate or grad, but do these students not have exams or final projects?  Can Noella really just check out for the month of December?  Is this the RTC view of “ivory-tower intellectuals”–that going to work is optional?

Apparently not, because Noella gets the following “nasty” phone message from Connie Ng, the department chair:

We don’t write our own schedules here.  If you have an emergency, you’ll find me more than accomodating.  I can’t help but wonder whether you simply sliced yourself a bigger piece of the holiday pie than your tenure warrants.  Better save some days for your honeymoon.

Okay, I am really trying to see this as “nasty,” but I am hard-pressed to think of a message that is kinder or gentler, given Noella’s actions.

(Oh, and can I say that I dislike the fact that the only characters who are probably non-white, Connie Ng and LaShawna Jackson, are negative, the one being the “nasty” department chair and the other the poor, pitiful, poverty-stricken single mom?)

Noella gets some sympathy from her “feminist” pal, Sue:

“It was my decision, Sue.  It wouldn’t have worked.  I’m sanguine.  He’s–”

“Oh, stop with that.  You’re the best thing that ever happened to him, and if that didn’t make him a more positive person–”

“I tried to make him something he wasn’t.”

“A man with half a brain would change for you, Noella.  One day he’ll realize–”

“Sue, I need you not to think ill of Tom.”

Yeah, real feminist, that Sue.  Men should change for women.  I’d say that this was Jenkins’ own little Straw Feminist, but turns out that Sue is right, and Tom will have to change for Noella, so…

Meanwhile, Tom is depressed and turns in a “mediocre” column.  His editor, Walt, calls him into the office, but instead of dressing him down, says he needs to cure his depression by getting out of the city.  He suggests that Tom use a trip to write his annual Christmas piece.

Tom seems to crawl out of his funk, at least a bit, as he researches Christmas traditions.  He wants to go to the Black Forest in Germany and interview people about Kris Kringle.  So the paper flies him to Germany.  I have no idea if this is remotely plausible, but it does sound like an awesome paid vacation.

Is this gorgeous or what?  Picture from Das Seegerhaus.

(This is not presented as important, but it appears that Tom speaks not a word of German.  How he is going to get these interviews without an interpreter, I’m sure I don’t know.  I have heard that many Germans speak excellent English, but is Tom really counting on that from every German person he wishes to interview?)

While Tom is winging to Germany, Noella is interviewing the single father with three kids.  Although we were told that the dad teaches the kids that Santa is just a myth, the youngest child and only girl, Betsy, really believes.  She and Noella bond over this.  Sorta.

“I wrote him when I was little.” [Noella said]

“What did he bring you?” [Betsy asked]

Noella showed her the necklace.

“Did you ask for it?”

“No.”

“I bet your daddy got you that.”

“It was Santa.”

“Nuh-uh.  Not if you didn’t ask for it.”

Oh, SNAP!  Noella just got told!  By a second-grader!

In case you are wondering: Betsy, despite her brothers’ teasing, is asking Santa for only one thing: a restful holiday season for her father, who works very hard.

PAY ATTENTION BECAUSE THIS WILL BECOME IMPORTANT LATER

Back in Germany, Tom gets a charter flight into the Black Forest.  It is just him, the pilot, and two Canadian businessmen delivering a printing press.  To the Black Forest. 

I guess people in the Black Forest need Canadian printing presses, too.

Tom falls asleep on the flight, and wakes up to find that the plane is crashing.

And I know this will shock you all, but Tom is the only survivor.

Tomorrow: Tom’s survival techniques, and his (heh) unlikely saviors.