Christmas Town: Chapter Ten
Well. Now things are starting to get weird:
A few weeks before Christmas it was sunny and bright, but Joella felt as if the town was in the midst of a storm.
Bethlehem was overrun with visitors. It seemed that almost everyone who came for the annual celebration stayed once they learned what was going on. Lyle Exley’s tobacco field was full, and the overflow had now spilled into the vacant lot where the truck stop had shut down a year ago.
Let’s just unpack this, shall we?
These people have all come to see the Christmas lights, and all apparently have both the time to stay in town for several WEEKS, and the resources on hand to just up and CAMP on a whim.
Let’s note, once again, that the tourists aren’t exactly touristing. They aren’t using hotels or motels and don’t even appear to be renting their “campground.” In essence, they’re squatting.
They’re not even patronizing the Cold Coffee Diner—the brat has been using his “business” to haul canned soup to the campers in a wagon. So they’ve probably managed to spend all of six dollars in the town.
I CAN TELL THAT THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT IS GOING TO TURN THIS TOWN’S FROWN UPSIDE-DOWN!!!
At this point, the mill can barely keep two shifts going, but despite the utter failure on every conceivable level, some of the mill workers are trying to band together to buy the mill. Sure, they have no money, and no experience running a business, and the mill sucks, but…
Wait, actually I can’t think of a good “but.”
The interested people are having a meeting at the church (natch), and there have even been rumors of a few of the campers chipping in to this good cause (like, what A WHOLE DOLLAR???), but…
“…they want to invest thinking that’ll bring the celebration back. We’ll be doing well to keep the mill running. Where would we get the money for a Christmas celebration, too?”
Good point, whoever said that. Also, what, there is NO OTHER TOWN IN THE NATION that has a Christmas light display??? Really?
The guy in charge of the “plan” turns his ire on Joella when the rest of the town isn’t one hundred percent behind his AMAZING IDEA ZOMG:
“Or has young Mr. Scoville convinced you he’s going to take care of you?”
Well, we’re ten chapters in (out of fifteen) and for the first time, I feel as bad for Joella as I do for Jordan. The town dragooned her into being their representative, and now that things haven’t taken a turn for the miraculous, it’s all her fault, the hussy.
Well, Joella runs out of the church in tears (as you would expect, because what else can a good Christian woman do, yell back at the asshole?), and runs smack into Jordan, who’s been…kinda listening in on the whole thing.
Not that I blame him. It’s no worse than the town has done to him.
Jordan takes Joella for a drive to make her feel better, and they end up at his mother’s sculpture garden. Jordan is all nervous because the walls are closing in on him with the retirement account and NFL stadium problems, but he still has enough courage to ask Joella to come to Atlanta with him.
“You know I can’t do that. I have a son. I have…things I believe in.”
Jesus, she makes it sound like he’s asking her to be his personal Companion.
But basically, Jordan wants to ask her to marry him, but he’s a little worried about the future, since he is seriously considering completely taking the fall for the Uncle Billys (as in, go to prison) for the retirement fund.
So they have to leave it at that.
Later, Nathan is up to his usual brattiness. He has managed to figure out that the retirement money is all gone. He just so happened to be at Venita’s desk and just so happened to read a memo outlining the problem…
So it’s totally not like he was snooping!
Nathan’s Sunday school teacher senses that something is wrong, and…
He imagined telling her that he’d just found out that every penny in the Scoville Mill retirement fund was missing and somebody might have to go to jail if it didn’t turn up.
She’d probably drop her false teeth right into her lap.
That made him grin.
Why, you little punk. I see your mother has been diligent in teaching you respect for your elders.
But he declines, and instead tells said mother, who advises him not to tell anyone else until she figures out what to do.
Sensible advice, perhaps, but not so sensible are the conclusions Joella draws:
…she simply couldn’t believe that [Jordan] was responsible for the missing money, no matter how badly he might need it for his own big business deal.
That left Mr. Mitchell or Mr. Truman, and that was, if anything, even more unbelievable.
Hmmm, thought Joella. On one hand, we have a successful businessman, who’s had no connection with the running of our failing mill ever until a few weeks ago. On the other, we have the two doddering old fools who’ve been running the show for years, at least one of whom appears to be having short-term memory problems. BUT IT COULD NOT POSSIBLY BE THEM.
Holy crap, this town. Must be something in the water.