Cozy Christmas: Chapter 3

Josh debates calling Coraline to “learn what Whitney was up to” (um, doesn’t he already know?), which seems rather creepy and weird, but it doesn’t matter, because Coraline doesn’t answer.

He reflects that once people know who he is, “his comfortable niche in the community would disappear.”  What comfortable niche?  Being thought of as the standoffish outsider who looks down his nose at everyone and everything and is rude to women?  That niche?

Besides, Josh is thinking of selling out after the first of the year (which violates the terms of his own agreement, since getting a grant requires a two-year residency), so what does he care now about his niche?

Josh wanders out into his coffee shop and has a brief interaction with the one and only Bygones resident he has hired for his shop: a teenager named Matt, who has a dead mother and a missionary father who is in Turkey and who lives with his grandparents.  And Josh has basically hired the kid because Matt reminds Josh of himself.  So we can see Josh’s self-absorption continue apace, and frankly, hiring one teenager for part-time work is not exactly going to help a dying town.  Like, AT ALL.

Josh heads out to Main Street to strike up oh-so-casual conversations with his “fellow” grant recipients.  He starts with the florist, Lily, and she is immediately really sweet and offers him poinsettias for his coffee shop.

“I’m good on decorations,” Josh assured her, wonder gin where she thought he’d find room for one more unnecessary thing in his already cramped store.

Yeah, Josh, because Lily has no doubt memorized every inch of your stupid coffee shop.  And damn, can Josh even go five minutes without thinking something derogatory about a woman?

So it turns out that Whitney’s first “clue,” which Josh is now also tracking, is the set of holiday/congratulatory cards that the mysterious benefactor sent to all five of the store owners who will save this town.

Five, because Josh, in his infinite wisdom, did not send a card to himself.

Lily confirms that yes, Whitney was asking questions and yes, she seems to be “on a mission.”  That done, Josh heads to the pet store and the hardware store because they “had male proprietors.  Their take on Whitney’s questions might be more logical than that of the women involved.”

Nope, he really can’t go five minutes without denigrating women.  What a guy.  (And there is nothing in Lily and Josh’s brief interaction that could be characterized as Too Girly and Emotional on Lily’s part.  She’s just nice.)

Oh, and since it’s early days, I’ll quote Dan Olson from Folding Ideas.  Regarding Fifty Shades Freed:

“It’s okay, from a narrative perspective, if Christian is a dick.  It’s just that the conflict that arises out of it needs to go somewhere.”

His whole series on the Fifty Shades movies is awesome, btw.  Starts here:

So, it’s only been three chapters, and I’m doing this blind, so we’ll see if Josh’s near-constant misogyny will have any dramatic payoff or resolution.

But not yet, because we cut back to Whitney’s perspective, and she’s not doing the readers any favors either, regarding likability.  She’s questioning the bookstore owner, Allison, and Allison makes but two mentions of her boyfriend, Sam.  But these mere passing references make “set Whitney’s teeth on edge” and roll her eyes (Allison doesn’t notice), because ZOMG romance is just everywhere these days.

This despite the fact that Allison is incredibly useful to Whitney’s cause, since she’s saved the envelope her card came in.  Postmarked St. Louis.  Yeah, that “logical” manly man Josh sure is great at covering his tracks.

Whitney heads back to the coffee shop, where Josh has retreated to his back room where he does computer repairs as a “hobby.”  And it’s been a whole page, so time for Josh to look down on the everyone!

When he had first come to Bygones he had tried to design software on the ground floor.  Since it was too hard to concentrate when he had to keep stopping to brew fancy coffee drinks, he had eventually left the workshop area to serve as a diversion and moved his serious business to his second-floor apartment.

Gee, Josh, so sorry that people wanting coffee (yanno, the purpose of your shop, which you decided on) interferes with your serious work.  Jerk.

(Oh, and weirdly, it’s here that we learn that the coffee shop sources it’s baked goods…from the bakery two doors down.  How does that make financial sense?)

Whitney asks Josh about the card, and, like the true Christian hero he is, he lies without technically lying, just saying, “I’m not very sentimental.”  See, then Whitney can just infer he threw it out, so it’s totally being a truthful person, just like Jesus wanted!

This leads to an intensely uncomfortable conversation, where Whitney is all super sympathetic to Josh’s oh-so-sad childhood, what with the massive privileges and decorator-done decorations.

I’m sure she’s meant to be genuine, but it just comes across as laying it on thick, as she gently touches him and murmurs how she is so, so very sorry, as though somebody died or something.  Josh isn’t having it, though, and then this happens:

“I was an only child.” [Josh says]

“Oh, dear.” [Whitney responds]

It really is quite the race to the bottom with these two.

Josh goes full-on Ebenezer Scrooge: “I don’t need anything beyond my own company to be content—no matter what day it is.

This makes Whiney cry a single, romantic tear.  Then she quickly takes her leave, and bizarrely offers her hand to shake, but this is all so the official Electric Love at first touch can occur:

The moment their fingers touched, however, he felt a surge of emotion that went straight to his heart and sent warmth flowing through and around him as if an invisible blanket now encompassed them both.

Well, I’ll say this: these two people are both kinda jerks.  So I guess they deserve each other.

 

Posted on December 10, 2018, in Christmas, Cozy Christmas (In Progress). Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. John to be played by 1970s Donald Trump.

  2. “the florist, Lily”

    [facepalm]

    “Come to Josh’s Coffee Shop, where you can get exactly the same pastries as two doors down, plus a barista who’d rather be fixing computers. What’s not to like?”

  3. On the one hand, the contempt of women is laid on so thick it looks like it’s got to be an intentional character flaw. On the other hand… Christian fiction.

  4. InquisitiveRaven

    Well, he could have a deal where the baker makes certain items only for the coffee shop. That would actually make sense and helps keep money circulating in the community.

  5. Ok, I’ve decided I don’t like Whitney either. The authors of Christian fiction seem to be really good at making almost all their characters unlikeable jerks somehow.

    • It’s already slightly tricky in romance fiction, because you have to have two people who (a) are perfect for each other, (b) can have plausible obstacles to prevent them from simply getting together in chapter 1, and (c) aren’t currently involved with anybody else. (That last isn’t an absolute, but if it’s broken the “anybody else” needs to be completely unlikeable, which can make that protagonist look kind of stupid.) Not impossible of course, but it’s hard work, especially if you also want to be vaguely original.

      Add to that the requirement for pervasive Christian™-brand messaging (that there’s something a bit wrong about women with their own careers, unless they’re ferociously female-coded; that everyone wants children; that the woman can never have been involved with anyone else, unless they’re now dead and even that’s a bit iffy) and you have a pretty substantial writing challenge.

  6. it was too hard to concentrate when he had to keep stopping to brew fancy coffee drinks

    Josh might help the local economy more if he hires a couple of baristas to do that while he does “manager” stuff upstairs. Ones who can work during school hours.

    It’ll be interesting to see if Matt’s absentee missionary father becomes an issue.

  1. Pingback: Deconstruction Roundup for December 14th, 2018 | The Slacktiverse

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