Christmas Town: Chapter 6

So now we get to find out what Joella intends to do with Jordan on these afternoons.

Since this is a Christian romance, we can all rest assured that there will ne no fun sexytime involved.

No, sirree.  Instead, we get the guilt trip to end all guilt trips.

This chapter has been the most painful to read so far.  Joella’s plan for Jordan is manipulative, cruel, and carefully calculated from beginning to end.  It begins with a field trip to the home of the oldest retiree in the town, a little old lady in a wheelchair.  This is how Joella introduces Jordan to her:

“This is Mr. Jordan Scoville.  Young Mr. Scoville.  He’s hear [sic] to help Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Truman.  And he’s interested in meeting everybody in Bethlehem, so he can figure out how to help us all now that things aren’t going so well at the mill.”

Joella looked at him with a triumphant smile, as if she knew full well that he couldn’t dispute what she said in the face of this frail old woman.

A triumphant smile.  Oh yeah, Joella knows full well that Jordan won’t be able to get out of this.  She’s made very sure.

Guilt-tripping, complete with triumphant smile.  Yanno, I’m starting to understand why Nathan is as self-absorbed as he is.

Jordan is being pummeled with waves of guilt, even more so when the lady tells him that she started working at the mill when she was twelve years old:

“The family needed the money.”

And still do, [Jordan] speculated.  Had Scoville Mill ever paid its employees a living wage?

That’s an excellent question, Jordan.  You know who should have to answer it?  YOUR FATHER AND UNCLE, NOT YOU.  NONE OF THIS IS EVEN REMOTELY YOUR FAULT.

Not that Joella gives a damn.  Even when Jordan tries to get out of seeing anyone else on this Magical Mystery Mill Tour:

“It’s not going to work,” he said.

Joella smiled faintly.  “What isn’t?”

What?  Whaaaaat, Jordie?  Why, I can’t imagine what you might be talking about.  Fiddle-dee-dee.

“You’re trying to make me feel guilty.”

“No, I’m not.”

What do you call it, then.”

“I want you to see that what’s happening here is more than shutting down a bunch of noisy machines.”

“…by making you feel guilty for things that are in no way your fault.”

So, for two days, Joella drags Jordan’s hapless ass around town, introducing him to all kinds of hard-luck cases.  A few things occur to me:

1.  If life sucks so much when working for the mill, maybe it’s a good thing it’s closing, no?

2.  Maybe Joella should have thought of giving this tour to the Uncle Billys.  Especially since she thinks the idea came directly from God and all.

3.  Again, and most important, none of this is on Jordan!  His parents are the ones who kept the town in crap wages and living in crap houses and the Uncle Billys were the ones who gambled away the retirement money.  And now Joella wants to guilt-trip Jordan?  Frak her.

Then Joella brings the whole tour to a climax by taking him to the graveyard.  She takes him to his mother’s grave, which he hasn’t seen in years.  (He begs off, but hey, since when have Jordan’s feelings mattered to anyone?)  Turns out the townsfolk keep flowers on it all year long.

“Because they loved her.  And they love Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Truman.”

Jordan shook his head, felt a leap of something like anger in his heart.  “But they’re poor, and we’re the ones to blame.  Their whole lives, they’ve never had enough, while the mighty Scovilles had everything.  We’ve cheated them out of a decent life.  How…how can they forgive that?”

Joella leaned over the low iron fence and plucked a blossom from one of the bouquets.  She tucked it into his lapel and smiled at him.

That flower thing…that’s kinda creepy.

“To them, the Scovilles have always been their benefactors.  They want a reason to keep believing that.

“But what if they’re wrong?”

THEY ARE.

She looked at him with a faith that tore his heart out.  “That’s up to you, isn’t it?”

Jordan’s stomach flip-flopped, and he wished he hadn’t had that fifth frozen doughnut that morning.  Fuck my life, he thought.

AND YOU GUYS, I TOTALLY GET IT NOW.

Joella wants to be all the Ghosts of Christmas put together!  She’s envisioning Jordan having this moment:

Oh, and need I add that Jordan’s stomach aches every time he encounters a new person on this tour?  Poor guy and his food problems.

And to top it all off, Joella asks him on a picnic the next day.  It’s unclear whose idea it initially is, but Jordan brings the food: takeout from a deli outside town, including crab salad (YUM!) and fancy cheeses (YUM YUM!).

Joella calls it a Chamber of Commerce day, so I learned a new phrase today.  Also, now that the guilt trip tour is over, she’s back to fantasizing about Jordan, and wishes she had prettier clothes:

A soft, full skirt maybe, with little flowers on it, and a sweater.  In yellow, maybe.  What a thought!

A yellow sweater!  Why, you brazen hussy, you!  Next thing you know, you’ll be showing your ankles and painting your face like a common trollop.

Joella offers to take him to yet more people’s homes, but Jordan begs off, finally:

“The tour is over today.  I’m convinced.”

“Are you?  Of what?”

“That Bethlehem is a charming little town full of warm, deserving people.  That their livelihood should be preserved at all costs.”

She put down her plastic fork.  “Please don’t treat it lightly.”

He’s not; he’s completely serious, but I guess reactions are only okay when Joella approves of them and exactly how they are presented.

Jordan then opens up, and tells Joella that growing up in Bethlehem kinda sucked for him, because “the other kids…they either hated me for being rich or wanted to be my friend because I was rich,” and Joella finally admits to herself that he has a point:

She’d heard the way certain people in town had talked about the Scovilles this past month, the ill-disguised hostility, the jealousy that lingered just below the surface.  She’s been careful to keep him away from that these past two days.

Yep, because this God-inspired plan has been planned with the precision of a military mission, calculated to make Jordan feel maximum guilt, and pretend that any ill will against him or his family just doesn’t exist.

God approves of manipulation.

But just as the young couple is starting to have A Moment, the bratty child rushes in to SPOIL EVERYTHING.

He’s supposed to be in school, but guys in trucks have shown up to dismantle Christmas Town’s Christmas decorations, so I guess…the teachers let everyone go home?

Joella’s pissed, so I guess in the next chapter, Jordan will be blamed for more shit that HE HAS TO DO.

I feel like I’m ending every chapter this way:

Poor Jordan.

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Posted on December 15, 2012, in Books, Christmas, Christmas Town. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. “I want you to see that what’s happening here is more than shutting down a bunch of noisy machines.” Yes, because this entire time Jordan has been trying to figure out who to sell the machines of the mill to, and has not in fact been trying to get the employees paid.

    And yeah, the manipulation is pretty shameless, especially with the admission that quite a lot of people despise Jordan and Joella has deliberatly been showing Jordan only the poor kindly frail old ladies. But we’ve long since established that lies by omnission are totally fine with god.

    But I can’t figure out what the point of this whole guilt trip is. The problem isn’t that Jordan is a Mr. Scrooge who’s decided he can make a bigger profit margin by moving the production line to Indonesia. The problem is that there isn’t any money. The mill is bankrupt and the retirement funds are gone. I guess the Scoville’s probably have some money of their own stashed away that Jordan could try to use to keep the mill running for a few more months. But that’s not going to be enough to make this mill profitable. She doesn’t need to guilt trip Jordan, she needs to guilt trip god into coughing up the dough. But I guess in Christian fiction that isn’t allowed, and instead Joella must guilt trip Jordan so he starts to pray humbly and then god will gracefully grant them a miracle. Because your boss you may manipulate, but to god you must suck up and then shower him in praise if he gives you something that litterally costs him nothing, omnipotent that he is.

  2. This plot makes no sense! Jordan isn’t the bad guy. Like Ivan points out, he’s not shutting down the mill to line his pockets, he’s shutting it down because it’s bankrupt – because the “adorable” old guys screwed up. Guilt tripping him won’t magically make the money come back. Maybe she should’ve tried her plan with the guy who ran off with the retirement fund courtesy of the old guys.

    And… I don’t really understand the Christmas decorations thing. Is he going to sell them off to try and get money for the retirement fund and/or mill or what?

  3. Guilt and manipulation. That sounds like an awesome way to start a romantic relationship. So healthy.

  4. Okay, on second thought, I do need to nitpick one of Jordan’s actions here, or at least the writer’s explanation for it. I initially thought it was about not spending the last scraps of money to buy and/or put up Christmass decorations. But now workers, paid workers in all probability, come in to dismantle the already installed decorations. Okay, WTF?

    How is this going to raise the money? In the short term, you’re paying money to remove it. And what will you do with them, sell them? To who? And when? I don’t know when this story takes place, but if they’ve already put up, are now dismantling, and in the near future will ship the decorations, it should be very nearly Christmass. These Christmass decorations are so huge, plentyfull or expensive that they can pay the salaries for 100+ people. And shitty salaries though they may be, if the salaries before tax are just 1000 bucks per month, that’s still over 100k. Any party interested in buying such large quantities of decorations will not have waited this long to buy them. Even if Jordan puts the whole thing on E-bay right now, does he seriously think it’s going to raise the neccesary cash in time?

    Unless the Christmass lights are so extravagant that the electricity bill alone will eat up the december salaries, this whole demolish-the-lights-to-raise-money thing seems pointless. Might as well leave them untill Christmass, then sell them off for next year and donate the proceeds to the retirement fund. Or if this village is so famous for its decorations that it’s know throughout the USA as Christmass Town, get some tourists in during the Christmass season and guilt trip them about the closing mill and the poor villagers. Then milk that Christmass Spirit that calls on everyone to be generous and help the needy for every penny it’s worth.

    Actually, that might be how this book is gonna play it. If they don’t feel like a ‘dehydrate LA’-level of divine intervention. It’s somewhat realistic, and since the solution is thanks to Christmass it’s still god related. Add in another line of narations that Joella or Jordan got the idea from god, and the mill will be saved in a fairly grounded Christmass ‘miracle’ that they can still give god all the credit for.

  5. I wish Joella would explain how it is that the mill workers think,”the Scovilles have always been their benefactors” and yet “she’d heard the way certain people in town had talked about the Scovilles this past month, the ill-disguised hostility, the jealousy that lingered just below the surface.” You said ALWAYS, Joella, and to me that includes the past month.

    I think I’m going to refer to Nathan as Deus — because his role seems to be a sort of deus ex machina plot-driver, and because it rhymes with “deuce” and that amuses me, given what a little shit the kid is.

  6. In answer to both depizan and Ivan’s question: yes, Jordan made a deal to sell all the town’s decorations to some resort. So the guys in the trucks are picking up the stored decorations and dismantling the (apparently few) decorations that have already been put up. Jordan made reference in a previous chapter to the decorations being worth a “fortune,” as some of them are antiques. And the money will be used as December paychecks.

    • But… that makes it a good thing to do. He’s trying to get these people money. Whut. This book hurts my brain.

      I mean, I’d think the whole tourist plan might be a better idea in the long run, but if there’s no way of getting to the long run, you do what you can.

    • OK, I just added “robbing Peter to pay Paul” to the list of Christmas Town drinking game phrases. It’s gotta be in there somewhere.

  7. I… gaaaaah. Just gaah.

    I just hope really hard that nobody uses this as a template for romantic relationships the way lots of conversations in LB are clearly intended to be used as templates for discussions with non-RTCs – because it’ll fail in just the same way.

    (Though I do rather think that Joella is being ingenuous in picking youngish attractive Jordan rather than the two old guys, even if she – and the author – don’t realise it.)

  1. Pingback: Deconstruction Round Up, December 21st, 2012 « The Slacktiverse

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