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?”
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: