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.


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.

Joella responds:

“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.


Posted on December 20, 2012, in Books, Christmas, Christmas Town. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Okay, so Joella is not just manipulative. She’s also too dumb to put two and two together and get four. Why is Jordan interested in marrying her again?

  2. What in holy hell? You weren’t kidding about it taking a turn for the weird.

    And we’re supposed to be on the side of the townsfolk? O_o

  3. Re: the camping tourists (because I simply can’t resist with a town named Bethlehem, apologies in advance) Perhaps they’re camping out because there’s no more room at the Holiday Inn. *ducks and hides*

    Why is Bethlehem’s Christmas display the go-to place every year? My guess is because the town’s name is frackin’ Bethlehem and it’s along the same lines as sending your letter to Christmas, Michigan so you can have it postmarked “Christmas.” Holidays just make us do the wacky.

    “You know I can’t do that. I have a son. I have…things I believe in.”

    Um, last time I checked, it’s possible to have a son in Atlanta. And I’m pretty sure that if you move to Atlanta, they don’t make you check your beliefs at the door.

    Wait, now — Deuce is supposed to be around 6 yrs old, right? Are you seriously telling me a boy who’s 6 can read and understand the legalese that would indicate the retirement fund was lost through criminal means? Seriously?!?! When I was six I was still getting tripped up trying to spell the word “because” and I was by no means an unintelligent child. Bullshit, to the power of 19.

    I wonder, honestly now, if Joella thinks it’s impossible for either of the Uncle Billy’s to be involved solely because she wants so badly for them not to be involved. Still, there has to be a point at which denial says, “fuck this; I’m out.” Joella should be getting there pretty soon.

    • Oh, how naive of you. Atlanta is a big city. It has Democratic mayors and elected female, African American mayors before. RTCs should consider themselves lucky if they don’t get executed at the city limits.

      Though to be fair, the ‘things I can believe in’ might also just mean “You’re smoking hot and all but untill the altar call ending you’re a filthy hellbound sinner and I can’t very well marry you untill you become part of the colective’. Wait, that’s not being very fair at all, is it?

      And yeah, once again Nathan’s intelectual development age shifts between 5 and 25 in the space of a chapter. I can see why a little kid would find it funny if someone’s false teeth fall out, I won’t begrudge him for that. But I will begrudge him for feeling that way after learning and somehow understanding that the town’s hope not to go broke has been completely sunk.

    • I get the impression Joella’s spent much of her life thinking of the Scoville family as the town’s beloved benefactors, and of the Uncle Billys in particular as sweet old guys who just want what’s best for everyone. She may be gradually coming around to the idea that those two, for all their sweetness, might actually not be very good at running a business, but the concept of either of them stealing their own employees’ retirement fund is still unthinkable. (I’m assuming here that she’ll assume jail is only for thieves, not for people who stupidly hand money they’re supposed to be safeguarding over to con artists.)

  4. The campers can spend several weeks away from their homes, but they don’t want to spend lots of money. They insist on coming to this specific place.

    Sounds to me a lot like a cult.

  5. I could see the tourists being willing to pitch in to buy back the decorations. But investing in a losing mill in the hopes of somehow getting the lights back seems a stretch. I’m really confused by this camping business. They sound more like gypsies than tourists. And why is a 6yr old schlepping goods outside of town? I wasn’t allowed to ride my bike more than 4 blocks away at that age.

  6. You know, you can’t just pick a vacant field and start camping in it, especially en masse. There are sanitation issues. There are safety issues. The owner probably has to pay taxes as a business. Things like that.

  7. Out of all the other weirdness in this chapter, what stands out for me is Jordan wanting to marry Joella, given that, aside from the fact that Joella really hasn’t been behaving in a way that would make me believe Jordan would *want* to marry her, he’s only known her for a couple of weeks, at most, (it’s been a bit unclear how long it’s taken for things to arrive at this point since Jordan’s arrival) at this point. Deciding to get engaged after only “courting” for a few weeks are the actions God-fearing, wholesome young man who thinks premarital sex is a mortal sin and doesn’t want to wait for the wedding night, not a worldly, slick, cynical businessman who is also (presumably, at least) an atheist and wouldn’t have any problems bumping uglies before the wedding night. I mean, I can see Jordan asking Joella to come to Atlanta with him, since long-distance relationships are traditionally difficult to maintain, but I can’t really see him having no problem with proposing marriage just like that so Joella doesn’t have to worry about compromising her virtue when he’s only known her a couple of weeks. Especially when one of the major character traits about the Worldly, Cynical Big Businessman archetype that Jordan represents is that they fear commitment.

    • I think this is where the binary worldview cuts in: where a normal person could recognise that someone might be attracted to another person but have a moral code that goes against jumping into bed straight away, an RTC is told to divide the world into Good People (RTCs who speak the language and don’t have extramarital sex) and Bad People (who may claim to be Christians but are all sex-having bible-burning immoral scumbags).

      Which makes writing someone who isn’t on either of those extremes a bit of a challenge. As we saw with Cam Williams, it just stretches plausibility for a worldly non-RTC person to hew to RTC sexual mores.

  8. 1. How in the HELL does he expect anyone to believe this? He’s been running his own business deals in Atlanta for years, with precisely no access to or interest in the pension fund. I get that plenty of the townsfolk would probably like to think he’s guilty, because he’s the Big Bad Who’s Ruining Christmas Forever Just Because He Hates Jesus, but how is he going to convince lawyers and a judge, who presumably do not share the town’s prejudices?

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

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