Cozy Christmas: Chapter 21
Here we go, guys: the big reveal to the whole town!
Josh is backstage at the movie theatre, thinking that his “perfect plans” (his words) will be all spoiled if Whitney doesn’t show. Heh, like there’s a chance she won’t show. She does, of course, thirty seconds later. Whew! For a minute there, there was almost tension.
“I like that red sweater. And leaving your hair down, too.”
Yeah, thanks, jerk. (No word of whether Whitney is wearing the despised glasses or not, but I’m betting not.)
Every soul in Bygones must be out there. People were crammed into the seats while the overflow crowd stood in the back and lined the outer aisles against the soundproofed walls.
Yeah, that’s how I like to watch classic movies: standing up in an aisle for two hours.
He heads out with Whitney and introduces himself:
“Those of you who know me as Josh Smith may be surprised to learn that my last name is actually Barton, although anybody who read the logo on the side of my helicopter has probably figured that out.”
Wow, smug to the end, eh, Josh?
There was an undercurrent of laughter in the crowd, along with a few louder exclamations.
So we’ve transitioned to everyone in town (including, I suppose, the other SOS businesspeople), just being a loud, formless mass of vague approval of Josh’s actions.
Then Josh immediately, right there on stage in front of God and everyone, proposes to Whitney…with a plastic mood ring from a local store.
There was a twinkle in Josh’s eye as he dropped to one knee and offered the ring as if it were an exquisite diamond.
Smiling, he said, Whitney Leigh, I love you. Will you marry me?”
No one breathed. Especially not Whitney. Not only was he asking her to marry him, he was doing it in front of hundreds of witnesses.
He seems SUPER sure of himself, considering this is actually the first time he has told her he loves her.
And I wish she would say no. That would be hilarious.
(Full disclosure: Hank proposed to me in a public place. But it wasn’t in front of the whole town, on an actual stage. Also we had told each other “I love you” many times. Also we had discussed marriage. Also there were, like six people there, not six hundred. So this isn’t a comment on public proposals so much as a comment on public proposals when…you legit might get a “no,” or maybe even a “let me think about it.”)
(Actually, this is more like the proposal in Working Girl, where Mick proposes to Tess, impromptu and because he is scared of losing her, at her best friend’s engagement party in front of everyone they know…and she says (sensibly) “maybe.”)
But OF COURSE Whitney nods yes.
And the crowd goes wild!
“Yay! This guy who pulled the wool over all our eyes and wouldn’t let locals get grants to open businesses just proposed to a local journalist who probably knew all along! Yay!”
They cheer for several minutes. Seriously?
Then Josh continues with the actual pertinent information:
“I’m not looking for praise or thanks…”
Oh sure you are.
“…I’m asking you all to forgive me for deceiving you…”
“…but not for having a weird cockamamie scheme that did not allow locals to participate in any meaningful way.”
“I’m happy to report everything turned out a lot better than even I had imagined.”
A few people started to clap for him.
Um, yay? Woo.
And then he drops the news of the new Barton Technologies branch in town.
This time, he stood back and accepted the loud applause and hoots of joy…
Yeah, I bet he did. The Poor Little Rich Boy still needs and craves and lives for the accolades of others.
“You all know Robert Randall.”
Heh, yeah, they know him. They know they’d like to punch him in the face a lot.
“He’ll be available after the movie when we have our supper out in the lobby. If you’re interested in applying for a job, be sure to see him.”
“Especially those of you who have to wear APRONS on the job. And I’m MAINLY talking to you, Brian, you girly-man, you!”
“Actually, I really love my work and my fiancee and I love working together, so—”
“Shut up, Brian, you’re desperately unhappy! You wear an APRON, man!”
“Dude, it’s no big thing. And hey, Josh, if you really cared about my happiness, why didn’t you give me a grant to open a mechanics shop, like I wanted to, six months ago!”
“I mean, why DID you decree that only outsiders could open businesses? What was UP with that? I mean, was there any kind of logical reason why you couldn’t throw a bone to the actual residents of the town?”
“And if you think I’m going to go crawling back to Robert Randall, of all people, now that you’ve thrown money at him—”
“But it was his nasty ex, Brian! It was a woman’s fault all along! By being emotionally blind, she forced him to close his business and put seventy percent of the town out of a job!”
“Yanno what, man? Screw this! You know we can watch this movie any time we want, right? Like, it’s after Christmas now. Allison and I watched this days ago in the comfort of our own home!”
Sorry, got carried away for a second. Of course the Stepford town has no problem with any of this. They’re just excited about this delightful little piece of news, and now they can sit back and watch It’s A Wonderful Life.
Yanno, It’s A Wonderful Life is a bit of an odd choice for this book. George Bailey discovers that, even though he feels he has accomplished nothing in his little conner of the world, he as in fact accomplished great things. And not with money, but with sincerity and responsibility and compassion and dedication. He has spent his life unwittingly earning the respect and love of everyone in town, just by being himself and having their backs. Which is kinda the opposite of Josh, who swoops into town secretly, funnels money (mostly badly) wherever it strikes his fancy, and thinks of himself the whole time as a “superhero.” And if there’s one thing George Bailey would never compare himself to, it’s a superhero.
And the romance: Mary has loved George Bailey since they were kids. She always saw his great qualities. And as they grew up, he suddenly realized he loved her too. And they had some traits in common: both a bit awkward, a bit march-to-the-tune-of-your-own-drummer. And they were also hot as hell for each other: the phone scene is honestly one of the sexiest movie scenes I can think of.
Somehow I’m just not getting this vibe from Josh and Whitney. And I don’t remember George Bailey ever negging Mary, either.
Hey, why didn’t Josh screen A Christmas Carol? His own mother thinks he was a Scrooge.
And the weird thing about this book is that, as opposed to It’s A Wonderful Life, Josh learns no lessons about anything. He doesn’t even get a comeuppance that could spur a lesson, since Whitney is the single, solitary person who has a problem with his lie. And we never do learn any details that might make sense of Josh’s weird grant stipulations. Why only
six five businesses on Main Street? Why no locals? Why not just open a new Barton plant in Bygones in the first place?
But the really hilarious part is that when Josh and Whitney take their seats for the screening, Coraline and Robert are sitting right in front of them. Yanno, speaking of It’s A Wonderful Life, I’m surprised the town hasn’t gone all Lost Ending on Robert’s ass:
Now THAT would be a Christian romance worth reading!