Christmas Town: Chapter 2

Time to be introduced to the requisite Cute Kid in this Christmas story: Nathan Ratchford, son of Joella.

There’s always the question in Christian romances of why each half of the couple is still single.  The untimely death of a beloved first spouse is common, because divorce needs to be handled delicately—considering the number of Christians who consider divorce immoral under almost all circumstances, with possible exceptions for abuse, adultery, and abandonment.

In this case, Joella’s jerk of a husband was the valedictorian of their high school in Christmas Town.  He and Joella married and escaped their one-horse town and went to college, but…

…two years later, Nathan was born and college put on hold for the more important job of motherhood.  But Andy [her husband] stuck with it, graduated with Joella’s help and took a promising job with a major bank.  Not long after, Andy told Joella his lawyer would be in touch.  She didn’t fit his plan any longer.

So, abandonment.  And Nathan is none too happy about never seeing his dad.  This is the e-mail he composes in his head, but never sends:

Dear Deadbeat Dad,

In case it has slipped your busy, important mind, you have a son, aged seven years and eight-point-two months, who is growing up without the bare essentials—a computer, a pair of purple-and-teal high-top sneakers, or even one measly ticket to a Charlotte Hornets home game.

Yours truly,
Nathan the Half Orphan

Okay, that is waaaay too precocious a thought process for a seven-year-old.  And I’m sorry, but the letter is just so…acquisitive.  Nathan doesn’t ask for his father’s love and attention, he just wants stuff.

Upping his cuteness factor, Nathan is bespectacled.  And his glasses are off as he’s sitting at Venita’s desk, and so he has a foreshadowing reaction when he sees a blurry Jordan Scoville:

Dad!

But when Jordan is introduced, precocious Nathan knows exactly who he is:

…the man everybody said was coming to town to fire them all and put them out of their homes.  Wo!  Nathan was excited.  A real, live, bad-to-the-bone business tycoon!

Not the reaction I think I would have had if I had met the man who was about to put my mother out of a job…

Mommy, the guy who’s about to fire the whole town is SO COOL.

Also, Nathan thinks of the Uncle Billys as “old geezers.”  Not sure I like this kid.

And then comes the big meet, Joella and Jordan for the first time.  Joella shows up to pick up her son and announce herself as informal stand-in for the rights of the mill workers.

Refreshingly, Jordan is impressed, not put off, by Joella’s directness and take-charge attitude.  He appears not to be an Alpha Male, which makes me like him.  He’s quite conflicted about the whole mess, but one thing is clear in his mind:

There was no way anybody from the mill was going to sit in on meetings about closing the mill.  Not until Jordan had figured out a way to cover up the things that needed covering up.

Otherwise, Mitchell and Truman Scoville [his father and uncle] would spend their last years in prison.

Well, shit.  It’s worse than I had initially assumed.

Jordan does put Joella off, though: he comes across as a cold bastard.  Again, I kinda like that; it’s artfully done: putting the couple at cross-purposes, but both of them doing things they think are right and good.

The romance was the worst thing (okay, one of the worst things) in Twas the Night Before, but I’m getting the feeling that it might not be bad here.

Later that evening, Joella and Nathan engage in some banter at the dinner table that continues to establish that Nathan is ever-so-cute (I can see why so many romances feature babies and toddlers—it’s much easier to make them cute).

Joella worries about her finances:

If push came to shove, she’d have to humble herself and let all those social services people take Andrew to court for child support, the way Venita had been telling her to for years.

Wait, what?  Joella could have been making Andy pay child support all this time, and hasn’t?  Jesus, lady, it’s his kid, too!  Nothing humbling about asking him to share a bit of responsibility.  Holy crap.

Money is so tight, in fact, that Joella tells Nathan that they can’t have a Christmas tree.  Also, there probably won’t be any Christmas Town Christmas lights, which leads us to a point from the guidelines I just posted!

No lying, not even to your little kid.

So in answer to his direct question about Christmas lights in town, Joella is forced by Christianity to respond:

“I don’t know, Nathan.  Maybe not.  Nobody’s sure yet.”

Weird thing: Joella apparently taught her kid about Santa Claus.  (A school friend set the kid straight.)  So, how is this not a lie?

Santa and Jesus

This revelation turns Nathan against Jordan.  I mean, sure, it was all well and good when all he was doing was firing the whole town, including his mommy, but now it’s all Jordan’s fault that there won’t be any Christmas lights, and that, Nathan cannot abide!

“He doesn’t believe in Christmas and he doesn’t care if anyone else does, either!”

Weird kid.

The chapter closes with Joella praying that God, with her help (or her with God’s help—it’s unclear) changes Jordan “from the Grinch into jolly old Saint Nick.”

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Posted on December 9, 2012, in Books, Christmas, Christmas Town. Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. I’m astonished — they’re setting up a love interest with a divorcee! (Yes, abandoned by Bad Husband. Still, for a Xtian fic, that’s downright scandalous.)

    You totally called it on Nathan’s letter. No seven year old talks like that. And for the record, I don’t particuarly find “bespectacled” children cute. I used to be a bespectacle child myself (from age SIX — ha! Beat you by 1 year and 8.2 months, Nathan!) and I have trouble believing that any child that young feels anything but resentment at having to wear glasses. And a resentful child is one I can’t quite trust. But I might be juuuuuuust a little biased on that point.

    Wo! Nathan was excited. A real, live, bad-to-the-bone business tycoon!

    Is Nathan trying to out-Republican Alex P. Keaton? And for that matter, what is this “wo” exclamation supposed to be? Is the author going for “woo” or for “whoa”? Either way, fail.

    Not until Jordan had figured out a way to cover up the things that needed covering up. Otherwise, Mitchell and Truman Scoville [his father and uncle] would spend their last years in prison.

    Well, wow! First a divorcee and now illegal shenanigans! (Unless, it’s more Uncle Billy-esque than we thought, and they just misplaced eight thousand dollars and one or both of them are ready to jump off the local bridge without a Clarence nearby.)

    If push came to shove, she’d have to humble herself and let all those social services people take Andrew to court for child support, the way Venita had been telling her to for years.

    *sigh* OK, I’m friends with two single moms and both of them have deadbeat baby-daddies. One reason (among many!) that neither have pursued as hard as they might have for child support is that after so many years, they both just got too worn down to fight any longer. Too much time spent on court appearances, too much legality, too much money wasted fighting . . . sometimes it’s just not worth it, especially when you know nothing is going to come of it anyway.

    But no “social service” person is going to volunteer to pursue child support if the mother herself doesn’t push and push and beg and plead for help. And it is not a matter of “humbling” yourself so much as it is asserting yourself and your rights — you’re definitely right about that, Ruby.

    • Yeah, I’ve had glasses since I was about three. I disliked them so much as a kid that I used to bury them in the sandbox. Then, my teacher would scold me in front of the class and make me go dig them up. My parents finally got me to keep them on by telling me that if I wore them when I was little I wouldn’t need them later. Liars. (Oh, yeah, these are some of my earliest memories too. Joy.)

      So, I agree, using corrective lenses as a prop to make kids “cute” is just annoying. It leaves out everything that comes attached to wearing glasses before your peers. Like the sense of isolation. And the bullying. And always having to protect your face so they don’t get damaged. And the periods of time when your eyes get worse so you can’t see the board until a new pair comes in.

      • Everything you mentioned — I hear ya! Glasses suck.

        (OK, granted, they’re better than wandering around in a world of blur . . . but.)

  2. I’d say I’m pleasantly surprised that the book _does_ realize that the vanishing retirement fund is criminal, but… This really is going to take a miracle to fix, isn’t it. *sigh*

    Also, I am not believing the kid.

    • Since the book seems to be presenting “Dad and Uncle go to jail” as a Bad Thing, I still think it’s possible that they took the retirement fund to cover operating expenses on the theory that keeping the mill running and the employees working was better for everyone than preserving the retirement fund and shutting the mill down. After all, if they kept the mill running, it might become profitable again, and then they could use the profits to replace the retirement money, and then the employees would have both long-term paying jobs and retirement checks to look forward to. (This, of course, is the sort of reasoning that got Bernie Madoff into so much trouble.)

      And that kid does come off as 7-going-on-40, doesn’t he? Or maybe his father is a hardcore materialist who loves business and hates displays of emotion, and Nathan’s trying to earn Daddy’s approval by acting the same way.

      • Oh, I’m sure that’s the case. I was just kind of afraid the book would act as though retirement money can spontaneously vanish.

  3. >>>Okay, that is waaaay too precocious a thought process for a seven-year-old.

    Maybe he’s a very well-read seven-year-old?

  4. Yeah, the kid can go take a hike. But I still like our male protagonist. He’s being given an actual flaw, though with a credible reason for doing it. Trying to keep your family members out of prison may be immoral if they really did commit crimes, but it’s a realistic drive for a character. Not sure about Noella the second though. She comes across as a bit too Stepfordy. Still, we’ve had decent female protagonists in previous books, so for now I’ll settle for having a decent male one.

  5. Heh, hadn’t seen this when I went on my rant-ette about the guidelines. I actually find it very encouraging to see a heroine who isn’t either a virgin or a widow; like Grammar Police, I’ve probably been reading about too many of these things.

    But on the other hand, that letter still reads to me like something written by an adult. I can believe the acquisitiveness, but the “busy, important mind” feels wrong.

    I don’t quite get the child support thing, but I guess it’s a combination of “I am a proud woman, not like those grasping trash who take every benefit they can” and a bit of self-interest on the authors’ part (“since he’s no longer doing the job of a husband, he shouldn’t be paying either”).

  6. Nathan the Half-an-Orphan? Look here, Christmas Town, you got me to make one Monty Python reference, but don’t start pushing your luck.

  7. I’m sorry, we were supposed to find this child endearing? *squints* *squints some more* *tweaks appraisal settings* *squints* No. Just… no way that’s sweet or endearing on any level. And about as far from believable as you can get flying straight angle from believable for a week. At lightspeed.

    Also, what? Alimony is not automatic over there? I know I shouldn’t be surprised given how badly US legal system sucks if you’re not already stinking rich and male but what? (In Finland there’s child benefit, single parent benefit and automatic alimony that can be negotiated/ chosen between both parties to not be taken but it’s a given that both state and the non-present parent will help to support the child. Only if you’re absolutely broke and living on social security, child benefit is seen as income that reduces the social security payment by equal sum. The right-wing ideology, it burns.)

    • Even if the non-present parent is supposed to be paying child support, getting it out of them can be an enormous struggle over here. And, stranger still, if you enlist the help of the courts to do so, apparently they take money out of what you’re owed to pay for it. (At least if I understood my coworker who’s trying to get her awful ex to pay up.) So it’s pretty much a mess.

      Though the idea that going after what you’re rightfully owed is “humbling” is… bizarre.

  8. I don’t think its all that strange to feel “humbled” going after child support. Especially if you have prided yourself on not needing that rat bastard who left you high and dry. I imagine having to go to the courts and say, well, actually I do need that rat bastard can be quite a blow to the ol’ ego. Doubly true if your motto is “god will provide” and god doesn’t provide in quite the way you were expecting.

    So, awkwardly not-cute kid aside, I’m kind of liking this story so far. At least it has all the recognizable signs of a romantic plot.

  1. Pingback: Deconstruction Round Up, December 14th 2012 « The Slacktiverse

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