‘Twas the Night Before: Chapter 5: Tom and Noella, Part Three

Well, we are a long way from the Simultaneous Cookie-Eating of Buck and Chloe, folks!

And we are at least a little ways from the Waiting Eighteen Months to Kiss Your Girlfriend of Buck and Chloe, too.

And so, I have graced this section of story, the telling of Tom and Noella’s budding romance, with my patented Actually Not That Bad. 

The Actually Not That Bad is kicked off when Tom admits he is attracted to Noella’s confidence and accomplishment in her profession, not just her womanly qualities of beauty and sweetness.  Granted, where Tom has seen confidence, I have seen an inability to accept “no” as an answer, but hey, whatever floats Tom’s boat.

Once again, we see the theme of Tom needing to change, while Noella is free to remain the same.  She finds Tom’s humor too dark.  I would provide an example of his dark humor, but damned if I can find one.  I think Noella’s making it up.

Tom asks her out via e-mail, and they date for about a month before The Big Date, in which Tom invites her to his bitchin’ apartment.

The ice was finally broken one night when Tom seemed nervous after dinner and appeared to have to work up the courage to make a suggestion on the way to the car.

It took a month of dating to “break the ice”?  Really?  Damn.

“How about dinner at my place next Friday?” he said.

She shot him a double take.  “You cook?”


“Tube steaks are my specialty.”

“Tube steaks?”

“You probably know them as hot dogs.”

She laughed.  “May I bring anything?”

He shook his head.  “Just your buns.”

Why, Tom, you rascal, you!

Had this been any other book, I would have assumed that Tom’s nervousness was due to the fact that he was inviting her over for dinner and then some fun sexy times, but of course, this is not to be.  This is Christian Santa Fiction, after all.

Instead, Tom charms us by spending a whole afternoon cooking…

…a nice meal of chicken breast and London broil.  It required char-grilling both meats before baking the concoction over rice in the oven.

This is a weird meal to me.  Chicken and beef together?  I admit my bias, due to the fact that I never eat chicken and rarely eat beef, but still.  Where are the veggies, Tom?  Remember your nutrition pyramid!

Well, when in Rome:

Aw, but I forgive you for not making a balanced meal, Tom, because you are just so sweet:

He hoped his neighbors didn’t notice him on the balcony, firing up the grill in the dead of winter.  He hurried in and out, turning the meat, warming his hands over the charcoal.

When Noella arrives, we get an example of the quick wit that has so impressed Tom:

“Ah, I cook like this for myself every day.”

“And I’m the mayor.”


You would think that after dinner would be the time for the horizontal rumba, but no.  Instead it is time for HOT SCRABBLE ACTION.

Yep, Scrabble.  And not even Strip Scrabble.  What a waste.

And then they watch a movie.  In the action that shows the exact age of this story more than any other, Tom has rented (Blockbuster bag and all) Sleepless in Seattle.  Amusingly, he correctly predicts that Noella already owns her own copy and has seen it hundreds of times, but he goes ahead and rents it anyway.  Minus one for imagination (and guts) on Tom’s part.

(It occurs to me that I live a very different sort of life from the life of a RTC Heroine.  Around the time of this story, my college boyfriend and I watched The Opposite of Sex on our first date “in.”)

[Noella] loved that [Tom] was the type that didn’t talk during movies.

Aw, man, strike two for Tom.  Where’s the fun of watching a movie, especially one you’ve seen many times, if you can’t make fun of it?

And when the movie is over, it’s still not time for sexy fun.  Nope, the evening is over, because their relationship is “still embryonic.”  Yep, dating for a month and still embryonic. 

Tom gives her one kiss, out in the parking lot.  (Because, as we all know, a true courtship would never involve something so risky as kissing in private.  That might lead down the slippery slope to S-E-X, and these characters are in their thirties, so I’m sure, just like Our Buck, they’re still saving themselves for marriage.)

Well, I can see that there will be no chance for an Actually Not That Bad in the next post, because it is time for Tom to act like an ass!


Posted on December 11, 2011, in Actually Not That Bad, Books, Christmas, Twas the Night Before. Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. Good Lord, Jenkins is trying to write Christian porn without any of the porn.

    That tube steak and buns thing? Begs to have its innuendo built on to the point where Tom and Noella are both giggling so hard they can’t talk. 😛

  2. I find it debatable as to how “nice” Tom’s meal is. Beef and chicken bake for different lengths of time. When the breasts would be done, the broil would still be practically raw, and when the broil would be done, the chicken would be shoe leather. And lemme guess — no wine. No alcohol of any kind. And they think they’re being risque by drinking mineral water.

    Scrabble. SCRABBLE! Frickin’ Scrabble. After a month of dating. And Noella doesn’t like people talking during movies. Dear holy Flying Spaghetti Monster, I’m genuinely wondering if Jenkins is incapable of even imagining what Normal People behave like.

    I will give them a pass on no sexy fun time — call me a prude but I don’t know that I’d be comfortable having sex after only a month of dating. But no kissie-kissie even? No make-out session? For two nonChristian professionals in their thirties? Sad. Just . . . very very sad.

    • Actually what weirded me out was the very idea of two meats on the same dish. The energy density of meat is really high and having both chicken AND some kind of meat on a plate sounds like complete overkill.

      When I have meat with a meal it’s usually just one meat – be it hamburger meat, or a steak, or chicken, or what-have you. But not two – like, I wouldn’t put ham AND chicken in the same meal.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      I find it debatable as to how “nice” Tom’s meal is. Beef and chicken bake for different lengths of time. When the breasts would be done, the broil would still be practically raw, and when the broil would be done, the chicken would be shoe leather.

      Maybe Jenkins knows as much about cooking as he does about Investigative Reporting or geography outside of Chicago?

      And lemme guess — no wine. No alcohol of any kind. And they think they’re being risque by drinking mineral water.

      This is CHRISTIAN(TM). i.e. completely Dry. Can’t do anything that could possibly offend the Church Lady demographic, you know.

      (100 years ago at revival meetings, the Say-the-Magic-Words Altar Call included signing a Dry pledge, and among Southern Baptists and Non-denoms the Battle of the Booze still goes on.)

  3. I quite enjoy Scrabble, but it’s hardly the first thing my girlfriend and I did together (in fact, discovering that we both enjoyed it came after we’d been together for a year or so).

    No intrinsic objection to a double meat dish (after all you don’t have to have huge slabs of each), but meat-on-rice seems a bit lacking without some sort of sauce, gravy, or vegetable.

    Renting a film generally considered to be a chick flick (without talking about it before hand) sends a bit of a message, at least to my perception – “I’ll subordinate my tastes to what I assume yours are”. OK, so I’m not suggesting he rent Commando, but there ought to be a middle ground…

    • “I’ll subordinate my tastes to what I assume yours are”…

      Oh, yeah. Keep your eyes open for this one, guys. As we move forward, Tom constantly says how it’s “against his nature to cave,” and then, he caves. Hell, he did it with the whole I-don’t-want-to-lecture-okay-maybe-I-will.

      This could have been a case of a person discovering the beauty of compromise, which every relationship needs. Instead, it just reads to me as Noella always getting her own way.

  4. Jenkins evidently has some weird ideas about cooking. Admittedly, I’m a lifelong vegetarian, but I’ve never heard of people having two kinds of meat on the same plate, unless its some sort of stew (like this one). And if he absolutely must grill, why do it on the balcony barbeque in winter, for heaven’s sake? Doesn’t Tom’s fabulous designer kitchen have an electric grill? And yeah – what about the veggies?
    Noella’s ‘no talking while I’m watching my fave movie’ actually fits what we know of her, It’s a ‘focus totally on one thing at a time and don’t you dare interrupt me!’ trait that makes her so obsessive in her pursuit of Tom. She’s definitely got a personality disorder, and I fear for Tom.

  5. Ah, the perfectly chaste heathens that make them safe heroes for the RTCs to admire, while completely undercutting the point that society needs RTC morals to not become sex-crazed degenarates. Or that the people that realize they need forgiveness don’t really need all that much forgiveness except for “God made men imperfect and you need to ask God forgiveness for not being perfect”. Just a question, are either of em supposed to be RTCs yet?

    Say what you want about Paul (and we do), at least he really needs some forgiveness. Too bad Jenkins thinks that he only needs forgiveness for brutally trying to exterminate the wrong group, and the actual adultery but not the endless disrespect for his wife. And really, he doesn’t seem all that broken up about those two things either. He hasn’t cheated yet and admitted he might not have been a perfect husband (not to his wife, of course, only to his friend), but he acts the same towards Angela as he did when he wanted to get into her panties. And as far as the snippits that Ruby showed us go, he never wrestles with guilt over the people he killed, except for that ridiculous retcon that he didn’t think he was persecuting Jesus by killing RTCs.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Ah, the perfectly chaste heathens that make them safe heroes for the RTCs to admire, while completely undercutting the point that society needs RTC morals to not become sex-crazed degenarates.

      i.e. What’s Wrong with This Picture?

      Long ago, I came to the conclusion that RTCs are just as screwed up sexually as everyone else, just in a different direction. (And I’ve seen a LOT of sexual screwups during 20 years in Furry Fandom.)

  6. As much as everyone else is confused by the meat dish and the scrabble (and I’ll admit they weird me out too) the bit that gets me the most is hating talking during movies. When my group of friends has movie nights, we put subtitles on for *action movies*, with dialogue *in English*, just so we can talk through them as much as we want. Even leaving that aside as an outlier, though, if you’re on a date watching a movie and not discussing it, you’re definitely missing something. I mean, I’m a guy, with more-or-less standard guy movie tastes, but I make a point of watching rom-coms/dramas for a decent share of my movie dates, on the grounds that you’ll learn a lot more about the other party, at least as far as the relationship is concerned, discussing eg 500 Days of Summer than Iron Man. (I also make an exception for Dark City, on the grounds that if you don’t learn *something* about them talking about that movie, then they’ve got the personality of cardboard, in itself a vital piece of data. ;)) Anyways, the key point is that you need to talk, lots, and the only thing Tom has gotten out of his movie date with Noela is that she’s the kind of uptight person who won’t let you talk during a movie whose dialogue she presumably can recite by heart. If it floats his boat, I guess, but that *really* doesn’t float mine.

    • My parents won’t let anyone talk through movies or television shows. I think that might just be focus issues. My friends and I, on the other hand… we talk constantly. It’s made for some great funny moments, but if the jokes get enough momentum to carry through the sad parts it can lessen the emotional impact. Personally, I prefer that to sadness, but there are some people who’re way bigger on catharsis than I am.

      • I really don’t get catharsis. I mean, I certainly get sad at the end of sad movies, but I’m not sure why I’d *choose* to. When I’m happy, I want to watch something happy. When I’m unhappy, I want to watch something happy. Not sure where the catharsis comes in.

  7. Wait, there are people who seriously use “tube steak” to mean hot dogs? I’ve only ever heard that phrase in its slang-for-penis capacity, and was briefly shocked at the idea of a Jenkins hero openly suggesting sexual activity.

  8. I have only ever heard “tube steak” in Full Metal Jacket and here. Do folks really say this in some region of the US? If so, where? I’d do some Googling myself but I’m afraid of what else would turn up.

    I’m in Noella’s camp on movie-talking, by and large. Nothing’s more fun than a roomful of people riffing on a film. And nothing’s more obnoxious than this exact same thing, when not everyone in the room has agreed to it. Obviously it depends on the situation — in a big general party setting everyone’s talking all the time anyway. But, you know, sometimes it’s movie night and you just want to watch the damn movie without Vermic doing his Crow T. Robot routine next to you, brilliant and incisive though his comments may be. And in actual public movie theater — don’t even get me started. So I applaud Tom for erring on the side of politeness in a date setting. He rented Sleepless in Seattle for Noella’s benefit; it should be her who gets to decide whether to open the conversational floodgate.

    That said … the fact that Noella doesn’t open the conversational floodgate is a bit disturbing. Even on her zillionth viewing of Sleepless in Seattle, even with an actual date sitting next to her, she’s still gazing at the screen in rapt silence the entire time. I think that’s a bit of a red flag. Like, if I’m Tom, I’m looking over at my slack-jawed paramour and wondering if she doesn’t also sleep with a ripped-out handful of Nora Ephron’s hair under her pillow every night.

    So what I’m saying is, movie conversation is great, but it needs to be a mutual thing. But by the same token, dates are about conversation. So if you rent a film for date night, it should be the kind of film you can feel comfortable talking over. If you want to watch a film in silence together and not touch each other, that’s what the damn cinema is for. You get to dress up a little and also there will be Junior Mints.

  9. Chicken and beef?

    I’ve eaten a meal with chicken and beef in the same, er, dish, but it was definitely not the kind of thing I’d make for ‘date night’. (link is probably SFW, but you might not want to risk it) The idea of serving that… over rice?

    • Okay, I know it’s very wrong of me, but that first video made me giggle almost as much as the creators of it.

      “What’d you say?”

      “It’s a double cheeseburger with a Hot ‘n Spicy in the middle. [long pause] We’ve ordered it before.”

      “Oh, right. Go on.”

      Yanno, I can almost see that tasting good, if you like both components. The McWhitey, however, sounds disgusting, and I actually like fast food fish sammiches.

    • Holy jesus fuck, DDDDDX DO NOT WANT.

      Look, I like McDonald’s, but that? JUST OH MY GOD NO.

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