The Reaper’s White Elephant (Part II)

Start from Part I


The reception wasn’t nearly as suffocating as the ceremony. Without a tense central narrative to unite the mourners in their discomfort, and without the noon sun baking them in their suits and full makeup, they could shake off some of the grief; shoulders relaxed, bowties were loosened from stuffy necks, backs that weren’t what they used to be were cracked into alignment. Lively conversations broke out between old friends who hadn’t seen each other since the kids came. Smiles popped up here and there when the casual check-up warranted, like when someone brought up pictures of the aforementioned kids on their phone. And the guests seemed to have noticed this as a unit, that the unease had dissipated, and so if you traversed the room from one side to the other you’d notice the phrase “Claudia would have wanted” thrown around like percussive tinkling in the background, each time justifying the atmospheric cheer, like Claudia would have wanted her friends to catch up or Claudia would have wanted us to smile when we remember her or Claudia would have wanted us to laugh when we shared her favorite stories. Bit of a faux pas, the last one. A particularly morbid acquaintance muttered to the mixologist that Claudia would have wanted him to order another Salty Llama, but he didn’t say that within earshot of her immediate family.

Both of Jo’s hands were on her fidgeting son’s lapels, trying to keep them over his suit jacket. They couldn’t find a small enough tux on short notice. “Hold still, honey.”

“Mom, stop. No one cares.”

“I care.”

“Are you really gonna take pictures of me at the funeral? Really?”

yo, if you’re starting this story at the end of Book II, Josephine J.-E. is Charlie’s wife, Charlie J.-E. is Hector’s older brother, Jasper J.-E. is Claudia’s grandson. Charlie went missing earlier in Book II. It was a big deal. Jo is bougie—like, maximally bougie—and Jasper is obsessed with memes. That dig there at the end is a reference to Jo’s parenting blog (Jumping Jasper!) and his undesired centrality to it

“No, no pictures.” She’d already gotten a candid shot of him plucking and lining up marigold petals during the service. Jasper being old enough to have opinions on his website-namesake, she had to treat him like a contributor, and that was covered in detail in her honestly quite inspired post on managing your child’s need for privacy when you’re making their early development public-access. The thing Jasper was doing was called Setting a Boundary. The word ‘boundary’ appeared in eighty percent of Jumping Jasper! posts. Later she’d ask Jasper whether he wanted to show off his petal creation online. Having a baby memelord in the house worked in Jo’s favor, since she’d promised to link to his social media accounts once he came of age, the idea being he wouldn’t necessarily be able to siphon off her viewership but may get a head start off irony alone—the words ‘Jaden Smith’ may have been thrown around—and so they’d reached a verbal agreement about the degree of invasiveness she was allowed, and it was nonzero. In the privacy post, the one she’d received a fair amount of commendation for among parents who had to worry about such things, she clarified that every picture and anecdote had to be approved by Jasper himself. That was, if she caught a killer moment but Jasper thought the lighting made his eyebrows look like tiny mustaches, she’d buy a similar stock photo instead. Kids accumulated opinions and lost their cuteness more or less simultaneously, so it was implicitly understood she’d be relying on external cute-child databases as the blog matured.

If he allowed the photo to be posted, and it wasn’t like apocalyptic winter would start if he didn’t, it would be the header image for the latest post in Jo’s Childhood Grief series. Jo was aware that her son’s reactions were unique to her own snowflake and frequently interrupted her heartstring-tugging narrative spree to insert citations in case her readers’ own unique snowflakes had different patterns. Which isn’t to say these patterns were easy to spot. The current online child-grief literature was, in Jo’s opinion, too general and fatally lacking in cause-and-effect analysis. Like if there were an ideal flowchart-y approach to handling a child if X happens and they perform Y actions and show Z emotions, even if such a thing were inherently flawed, the other guides didn’t address it beyond the typical snowflake disclaimer. She didn’t feel confident to synthesize such a guide herself but was watching Jasper today for any insight his abuela’s death could bring to the table.

If Jasper was aware of how parched his mother was for information in this vein, it at least took a backseat to transferring the mud in his treads to the parquet flooring. It intrigued Jo how little she understood his process. In the first post in her Childhood Grief series—unofficial name—she left out the part where Jasper pressed ‘F.’ She’d resolved to dig for information without seeming too clinical.

“Hon, how are you doing?”

“You asked me two minutes ago. Mom, I’m fine.”

funeral tag game: tag yourself. I’m the Salty Llama mentioned earlier, there’s more salt in the captions later don’t worry

“Can I… get you something to eat?”

“No thanks.”

“Oh.”

Jasper went back to scraping the floors. Was that a sign of struggling to process grief, or maybe the depths of his pain were too overwhelming for his little mind to put into words, and is saying he doesn’t want food a Boundary or does she go and get the food anyway, just in case, and is it okay to tell a kid to stop ruining the hardwood the day after his abuela dies, and after he’s already lost one immediate family member—can one do that?—and how does this fit in with that post on Nooboo Corner that goes back to 2014 about public vs. private expressions of trauma handling, and now Jasper’s flinching, and he’s looking around at nothing in particular and he keeps looking and his eyebrows go up is he seeing something what’s he seeing?

“Shu!”

For those who haven’t read the rest of the story: Shu is Aileen and Xiyuan’s son, and Jo doesn’t like him because he’s slept with everyone. That is, every woman excluding Jo herself, all other J.-E.s, his mom, and the smelly yoga forest lady Charlie had a fling with. Jasper, of course, thinks Shu is the coolest person to have ever existed. Shu can attribute his success with women to his legendary capacity for emotional labor, it’s been established, and he loves kids.

Shu caught Jasper’s small body as it was flung toward him. “Ah, there’s Jasi. How you holding up?”

Right—there are times the kid wants to talk to a third party, not a parent, and word on the series of tubes was that Jo had to acknowledge and accept that. But she was allowed her opinions on her tyke’s choice of third party. Jasper, him? Really? She remained at a distance, catching Shu’s eye so he knew he was being watched, don’t forget it, as her son started to spill his grief Cheerios. Or whatever metaphor ties together her latest post. She doesn’t know. It’s a work in progress.

“Shu, do you know why there are marigolds all over the place?”

“Shoot.”

“Marigolds are a symbol of death in Mexican culture. They have it in Coco. When they get to the place you go when you die, you have to cross a marigold bridge, and Héctor couldn’t cross the marigold bridge because his picture wasn’t on the ofrenda, but you don’t know his name is Héctor yet because they say it later in the movie.”

“That so?”

“But then Miguel and his family can go across the marigold bridge and it has all these petals and there are marigolds in the real world, too. They used a lot of marigolds to make the bridge. I tried to make one but it turned out way smaller. I was like, what is this, a bridge for ants?”

“Yeah, that scene was cool. Did you watch it with Abuela? She loves that color.”

“I thought her favorite was sunflowers.” Sic. Kids play fast and loose with grammar.

“You’d think so, right? They always face the sun and they feed everyone.”

“Like Abuela!”

lookin’ fresh, Joaquin. But if you think you’re going somewhere, think again: I locked the doors for everyone but PB&J members. Stay the f at the goddamn reception so I don’t have to keep teleport-herding you

“Yeah. That’s how that goes. But her favorite flowers are actually chrysanthemums. I asked her a long time ago.”

“Really? I don’t believe you.”

A poorer socializer would have asked Jasper who the heck he thought was going to definitively challenge this statement. “No, for real. She said she loves yellow, but she loves seeing all the different colors together more. I always get her a bouquet of chrysanthemums for her birthday.”

This seemed to placate Jasper, despite the claim being based completely on heresy, and he nodded.

“You know what? The next time I visit her, I’ll bring two bouquets. Sunflowers and chrysanthemums. Can’t hurt to have more variety.”

“You’re going to visit her? Can I come with you?”

All Jo’s energy was spent keeping her jaw from dropping open and she wasn’t even sure she was managing that. Seven moves and he has the kid voluntarily talking about honoring her memory? Flowers? That’s iconic; that’s a stock photo shot all its own.

“‘Course you can come. I know Claudia would be stoked to see her grandson. You can tell her what you’re up to, how you’re doing in school. All that. You know what she’s gonna say, she loves that sort of thing.”

“Can we bring the food she made and eat it there so she knows we like it?”

Mother. Fucker. Melting hearts and clearing fridge space in one effortless gesture. Unbelievable. Nooboo Corner would burn this man alive at the stake for witchcraft. If she could write down what he said, she—

“He’s sweet, isn’t he?”

Ok, last informal character intro: this is Gen, pro gamer and Shu’s second-favorite girlfriend

From the trips to San Myshuno she’d taken to drag Jasper out of the cool-person apartment, Jo recognized the speaker as Gen, pro gamer and Shu’s second-favorite girlfriend. The unexpected entrance sent Jo scrambling to get it together. Gen didn’t need to know she was almost brought to profanity mere seconds ago.

“I don’t know what everyone sees in him, but he’s doing okay here, I guess.”

“Okay! Damn, even you admit it. It’s Shu. He’s world-class at this stuff.”

“I never—I guess I never really watched him interact with Jasper.” She’d been fixated on getting Jasper home, or as far from this travesty of a role model as she could manage. “How is he handling this so well?”

“Oh, that’s why I’m here. As the Shu’s-girlfriend representative at this funeral, it’s my job to watch the watchman. Look at this.” She indicated Shu, who was improvising some connection between Claudia’s childhood and the plot of Coco. “He’s known Claudia since before he could talk. He’s gotta be close to her to know all this sh—stuff, sorry about that, but even before the reception he’s been comforting the people who were closer to her. Over there, see. His dad basically needs a grief entourage. Bio dad, I mean.”

Her thumb pointed backwards towards Xiyuan, upright now but giving off vibes that he was about to use Bernard as a fainting couch.

“And he’s not letting it show how much it upsets him. He’s like a wounded deer. He doesn’t want you to know he’s sick until it’s too late. This freaking extravert. You wouldn’t even know anything is wrong unless you figured it out from context. So I guess the answer is, I don’t know how well he’s handling it, but I’m here for him regardless.”

“That sounds like a lot of work for both of you.”

Oh, the reference in the captions from last time was Atención. Fits ok, right?

“He naturally pays attention to everyone’s emotions. All. The. Time. That’s just who he is.”

“But what I actually meant earlier was, how is he handling the situation with Jasper so well?” The words came out before she could stop them. Shu had brought out a sketchpad and pencil, and, it looked like, was showing Jasper how to place the basic features of a head. When he’d finished his sketch, he handed it to Jasper to fill in the details.

“Stinkin’ cute.” Gen said what Jo wouldn’t admit she was thinking. “Right. I dunno, it’s kind of a combination of he knows what to do with everybody, for the most part, and kids really like him because he’s cool. It’s the piercings. The ones in his ear.” She leaned in toward Jo. “But you know something? He really cares about that kid. He doesn’t know how often I catch him reading Jumping Jasper!, it’s like the last thing he does at night.”

“He—what?”

“Honestly I’m dying at the mental image of him scrolling through your blog at 2 A.M. in some random chick’s bed, which is probably actually what happens after he folds all her laundry. Unprompted.”

“That’s—not what I expected.”

“You know what, I’m going to make him actually talk to you for once instead of being a creepy online stalker. Shu! Shu!”

She’d yelled out before Jo had time to object. She caught the target’s attention and waggled her eyebrows at him.

“Hey, hold up. I gotta see what Gen wants for a sec.” Jasper didn’t look up from the eyes he was trying to get right. Abuela had very round eyes, but not circles, that was too round. Luckily Shu’d also been carrying a decent eraser. Shu barely glanced at Jo before greeting Gen with a kiss, addressing her so quietly it almost got lost in the oddly jovial murmur surrounding them. “Babe, what’s up?”

“Jo wants to know why you’re so good with kids.”

“Oh, for real? You’re okay talking to me?” He was looking at her, not at Gen, not at Jasper. And he was perfectly chipper saying it. Jo thought about what Gen said about his cervine habits, but chose to believe his near-black eyes were widening with genuine excitement.

“I guess so. This is a rough time for Jasper.”

“But is it also a rough time for you? You’re kinda doing the work for two people.”

A piece of ombre hair fell in front of her face, and she brushed it behind her ear. She wondered whether he liked the blue and just wasn’t mentioning it. Seemed probable. Everyone liked the blue. “No, I’m fine, except I’m trying to figure out what’s best for Jasper. He seems to trust you.”

“Aw, it’s nothing you couldn’t do yourself. You gotta show kids you’re listening, and then they just run the conversation on their own.”

“But what you talk to Jasper, what are you responding to? What are your decisions based on?”

“Don’t worry about it. When you’re worrying about what to say, you’re not listening.”

“How—interesting. Actually, I’ve been doing some research for the next Jumping Jasper! post, and I’m curious to know how you would handle this situation after the funeral is over.”

i’m not entirely sure how one smolders while giving advice about child grief counseling but he seems to have managed it

“Oh, for the sake of research, sure. But I don’t want you to feel like I’m telling you what to do. You’re the boss here.” His hands were flopping about the whole time but the gesticulations were wildest on the word ‘boss.’ “Uh, what I’d do, personally, is do some activity that reminds him of Abuela. Keep her influence going. I’m guessing Claudia loaded your fridge with Mexican food?”

“Yeah.” When Jo claimed there were enough empanadas there to get Jasper into early adulthood, that wasn’t an exaggeration. She counted.

“Ok, so that’s something you can do together. Find an online recipe. Get him involved in it. Actually.” He craned his head left, which made the uncovered part of his neck look chiseled. “You can ask Hector if he’s up for it.” So that’s who he gestured at. Hector was at the bar eating the empanadas that were the latest result of unbroken generations of training, but wasn’t enjoying it much.

“Oh, that’s a good idea! I actually might try that.” Empanada dough was something Jo could make using her stand mixer. It was a winner because she got to talk about her stand mixer.

“If it’s okay for me to ask, what do you do that reminds him of his dad?”

Just the mention of Charlie shocked Jo away from Shu’s gaze. Maybe in some subconscious imitation, she examined the floor instead. “We don’t talk about that. I don’t want to remind him.” There’s the mud from Jasper’s shoes. “Do you have any suggestions?”

“Yeah—you have an entire rocket, like, Charlie used to build rockets with his own dad all the time. You’re also athletic, are you shooting hoops with him? That also helps with the sadness. It’s how Bernard got over his divorce.”

The vocalization Jo made was noncommittal, not that the advice wasn’t unwanted but that she wanted to kick herself for not coming up with it earlier. No one else spoke.

She was waiting for Shu to continue the conversation, then realized she didn’t want him to. Under the control of a less talented artist, the pause might have seemed awkward, and yet here Jo recognized it as intentional. The conversational equivalent of negative space. She was comfortable here, nothing to do or process. Like his presence alone was therapeutic.

She had to thank him.

When she allowed her gaze to drift upward, she saw that Shu’s hand had found Gen’s hip. The sight knocked her back. No matter how charming he was, his intentions were impure. Shame on him! Shame on her for forgetting! And yet this wasn’t the time to lecture him, and the sight of her son launching himself into his arms, and how he knew just what to do, just what to say, giving Jasper an outlet with pencil in hand—she found herself reflecting on where it went wrong.

“I wonder what today would be like if Charlie was still around.”

“We all miss him.” Shu hadn’t looked at the floor, not once. It struck Jo that he spent most of his life making eye contact, professionally, and it was that need for attention that caused her to dislike him in the first place. Excuse or not, her concerns were still valid. That’s what she told herself.

Still, this was the one conversation about the disappearance she’d had with anyone, save Moira, that didn’t focus on Jasper’s needs. It was giving her a new understanding of the phrase ‘word vomit,’ not so much that you said something you’ll regret but that you’re helpless to stop the words from leaving your mouth. “He’d—to tell you the truth, he’d probably shut down at the first sign of emotion and wander off, leaving me to deal with everything.”

“Aw, Jo, don’t think that. He knows he’s bad at that stuff. So he’d come to me for help first. We’re a team.” He must have noticed her staring at his hand on Gen’s waist. Did he? “If it means anything, he never asked me about you. It was the most important decision in his life and that was all him.”

“That really is good to know.”

The simplest question, how to do what’s best for her son, was the hardest to answer. It was splitting the world as she knew it in two, and she remembered the research avalanche she’d slept on trying to find Charlie, and how much that had helped her. How they’d ended up on the floor because she flung them at the wall—window—in frustration. How she clung to principles she didn’t understand. How everyone else did the same.

Perhaps she was barfing words because it was time to let them out.

“Shu. Can I ask you something?”

“Shoot.”

“Before the aliens took Charlie, we talked about what would happen to Jasper if something happened to either of us. Claudia was his godmother. And now—now, well—he doesn’t have a godfather. And I’m starting to think he needs one. And I’m starting to agree with Charlie on who it should be. Shu”—she silenced the part of her brain still hung up on the phrase ‘some random chick’s bed’—“do you want to be Jasper’s godfather?”

Now Jo’s reasons to doubt his excitement were gone. That little jump back he did was nearly inappropriate, regardless of what Claudia would have wanted, and likely to make every one of Claudia’s old gym buddies stare at him judgmentally. “Uh, yeah! Gen?”

“Oh, of course I’m on board. Remind me to ask Shannon if we can convert that extra room into a kid’s room. Chantel used to play her piano in there but now it’s basically just got a hookah and nothing else. Cushions, I guess. For the hookah.”

“Don’t worry, Jo. We’ll get rid of it. Should probably actually convert it to a kid’s room now-ish, actually.”

“Yeah, it’s a damn miracle you haven’t knocked someone up.”

Jasper sensed that the conversation was no longer child-appropriate and tugged Gen’s shirt. “What are you talking about?”

MCCC-wise, Shu has a 10% chance of not having any kids. And he doesn’t! Donaeis’s and my own experiences with MCCC happen to diverge hilariously

He specifically addressed the question to Gen, it being that his mom was the least likely to let him in on whatever spicy forbidden thing was happening, but the other two adult sims turned to Jo. It was her message to deliver.

“Shu has agreed to help take care of you.”

“Really?” He turned to Shu.

“Yep yep, really.”

“Really, Mom? Really?”

“Yes.”

“So you’ll let me go to his house now?”

Shu bent on one knee to be eye-level with Jasper. “You need to trust your mom, here, Jasi. She wants you to have the best life possible. If she thinks I can help with that I’ll do my best to look out for you. Okay?”

Combining Shu’s objective coolness with the objectively uncool pro-authority sentiment blue-screened Jasper, is how he would put it, and upon reset he found his attention occupied by the object he was holding. That wasn’t a literal reset. “I’m done with the face, Shu. Can you help me with the hair?”

Of course he could, and as they re-occupied the couch Jasi half-listened to Shu’s statements about the overall hair shape being a triangle and the headband being like part of two circles, roughly here. That left Jo with Girlfriend Two.

oh yeah—Spark’d. I have ideas for the wedding challenge but c’mon, a video? I’m not learning cinematography to give EA free content. Screw that noise, I’m gonna languish in obscurity forever

As Kendra, who’d previously been on the couch, left it, Gen spoke. “Well, I’m gonna bounce too, but it was nice talking to you. Kenny!”

What ideas? I’m thinking the main concept should be the use of save files as alternate universes, so you have the same couple getting married in five save files and they have each wedding at a different location. (Next caption shares my opinion on the locations themselves.) So you have the not-at-all-bleak theme of finding each other in any universe, get to use one of the game’s obvious features in an interesting way, get to establish consistency by constructing the weddings similarly enough so the audience can notice parallel details in each iteration, get to jump between five parallel versions of the same scene, and you can shy away from the existentially heavy implications of these AUs existing and don’t need, HEAVEN FUCKING FOREFEND, naughty language.

“Yeah.”

If Gen had looked back, she would have noticed the way Jo looked at Shu, her smile altogether too similar to Gen’s for comfort.

“Hey Mariam, where were you thinking of when you said you wanted a destination wedding?”
“I dunno. I kinda want something rustic.”
“‘Rustic’s not a place, dear, that’s more of a theme. I’m talking where, as in a location, do you want to have our wedding?”
“But it /is/ possible to have a rustic destination wedding, right? We can just go to a farm 100 miles away from our house.”
“We don’t have miles. We teleport everywhere.”
“Or in a different world. Who cares, it still counts.”
“I dunno, I guess we can do rustic then, but we haven’t decided on a place. I’ve always wanted to get married in a desert-slash-casino.”
“Alright, now I’m confused. Do you want to be married in like, either a desert or a casino, or does your brain think casinos have to be in the desert for some reason, or are desert weddings and casino weddings similar enough that you regard them as interchangeable?”
“Look, babe, I can only come up with three locations and desert-slash-casino is the only one that speaks to me. At least it’s not ‘spooky,’ ok?”
“Yeah.”
“Yeah.”

Gen slid into a seat in Kendra’s line of sight. “Kenny. Kenny Kenny.”

“‘Sup.” Kendra had changed into a dress people wouldn’t step on for the reception.

“You’re not gonna—oh shit, sorry for being so giddy. Uh, what do you need right now? Do you need somber-reflection vibes or are you down for a little distraction?”

“I’ll take distractions, sure.”

“Dude, dude. Shu went all Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Jo admitted he’s not a living shitstain.”

(Different conversation from above)
“hey, uh, boss, what should we put above them doors”
“slap a buncha gold things up there or what have ya and fuhgettaboutit”
“do the gold things have to match or I dunno like be thematically consistent?”
“ah, shaddup, will ya’? i pay ya’ ta do what i says”

“Oh, that’s big coming from her.”

“But how’re you doing?”

“Confused, mainly. I’m still trying to process it. I was at work when I got the news.” Kendra had been slicing limes when the notification popped into her head and nearly butchered her finger in shock. Her boss took the knife away and gave her the rest of the day off. Today, as well, so she could attend the funeral. “This just came out of nowhere.”

“God, Kenny, I can’t imagine. I’m sorry.”

“It’s like I don’t even know how to feel. I need to wrap my head around what happened first. All the rest of my family was there when she died.”

may we stop here and appreciate that (a) I didn’t ask Hector to eat empanadas, that’s autonomous and (b) 1/2 the people in this picture are side-eyeing the other 1/2

There was nothing for Gen to say. She and Kendra both looked to the end of the bar, where Hector was leaning back to avoid salting his empanadas with tears. No one was talking to him, which Gen got: it’s not even a matter of saying the right thing, few people here were prepared to process this level of tragedy. She barely knew him but resolved to head over while Kendra was investigating.

“It’s like they were there, but they’re not actually telling me what happened. Both my dad and brother are just talking about how it made them feel. You heard what my dad has to say. If you talk to him, he swears up and down he had no idea what happened, but it’s like, Dad, no idea what happened? Just like at least tell me what’s going on. And Hector’s take is completely different. “

Come to think of it, the other mourners sorted themselves by relationship. Most of them seemed to avoid Mike as well. It struck Gen as odd. “What’s Hector say?”

“I’m not sure if I should tell you until I’ve sorted things out.”

“Totally reasonable. Makes sense.” And perhaps why no one wanted to get involved with the witnesses.

“So I’m never getting a straight answer out of either of them. It’s a hopeless deadlock. Giving up on that. You know, I need something—mechanistic. A neutral play-by-play. But, like, there’s still someone I haven’t spoken to who was there at the time.”

“Hmm?” Gen looked behind her despite not knowing who that was.

When she looked back, Kendra was scanning the room, more productively this time. “Have you seen Aileen? She’s the only person I can trust to tell me what happened.”

speaking of weddings, there’s a chapter in Book IV—I wanna say over 30 chapters away? Not short ones either, like this length, like the length of this entire chapter and not this one part—titled ‘Two Funerals and a Wedding,’ and if you can come up with a scenario in which the comic apex of that chapter relies on the most glib suicide note ever written, you know these sims very well indeed

“I don’t know why they don’t trust me to tell them what happened,” Mike said, addressing the only person left who would listen.

9 thoughts on “The Reaper’s White Elephant (Part II)

  1. What’s up with Mike’s question at the end? Does he seriously not know? Is it part of his act?

    I think Gen (my favorite character, btw) might be an ally for Hector.

    And Shu! He shines.

    Marigold bridges for ants are so cool.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hah at the follow-up comment! It’s interesting to think about because I’m not sure I know myself. Ferosh had some good insight in her S&L11 comment. I’ve faced this DARVO crap many times, but it’s so alien to me how one gets there, mentally, that I don’t know whether it’s subconscious or an active decision. Might vary.

      Oh, get ready to see much more of Gen! She’s one of the most fun for me to write. Not just because her career gives me an excuse to talk about Beat Saber, either (brb, still chipping away at those EX+ Camellia maps that came out months ago). And Shu’s… interesting. That’s why I love him.

      Zoolander’s a bit out of Jasi’s wheelhouse, him being more of a 90’s meme historian, but I couldn’t resist XD

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “A particularly morbid acquaintance muttered to the mixologist that Claudia would have wanted him to order another Salty Llama, but he didn’t say that within earshot of her immediate family.”

    -I don’t like this guy already lol. I’m glad he didn’t come up as the focus in this chapter since I’m super biased at his inconsiderate statement. xD

    Im a little disturbed by the “Claudia would have wanted” ‘coping mechanism’ being conveniently thrown about in the reception. That can’t be normal. Although I did come from a culture where funerals take 3 days (or 11 if you’re rich) and in no way would anyone put words in the deceased’s mouth unless they were super close or said person lived to a ripe old age or had a jester personality. I can’t help but think that everyone’s purposefully lively-ing (lol sue me) up the situation because of what was said at the end of the chapter, that everyone knows that something is amiss in the way Claudia died, and to relieve themself of this discomfort they’re talking about their grandkids and what not. This is so related to the white elephant in the room. That’s why Mike and Hector are ignored.

    When I think about that I feel rather irked though. Sounds like everyone apart from Gen actually truly cares for Claudia enough to approach Kendra to help her sort out her feelings. (Ofc there must be other mourners who care, but at the moment I feel like everyone’s just there out of obligation so they feel better about themselves.)

    I can’t help but think how suitable Jasper is for the limelight seeing as at his age he worries about his eyebrows looking like moustaches. xD

    Gen was like Shu’s wingman there. Nothing so flattering as some guy disregarding his date and prioritising her thoughts at 2am, being a champ with her son, doling out sound advice to her dilemma, then redirected Jasper’s query back to Jo in respect to her position. My gosh he’s good. Jo has a secret crush on Shu, doesn’t she? The way her gaze gravitate towards his hand and her disappointment at finding them at Gen’s waist. Phew! … the drama! Especially when she suddenly asked Shu to be Jasper’s godfather! I was taken aback when she did that but then I realised all this time her logical reasoning was pushing Shu away, but this sudden extended uh.. invitation was based on her heart. Am I right? (I’m probably all wrong since this is my first introduction to them but Idk it just seems like it here.)

    Lol omg I rambled. haha

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Jo has a secret crush on Shu, doesn’t she?”
      ^^^ PEOPLE

      No but really, Jo’s hated Shu since she laid eyes on him
      (ex: https://willoughbywhippetsandtibetanspaniels.com/2019/05/26/charlie-j-e-josephine-liu-i-call-shotgun-pt-i/
      https://willoughbywhippetsandtibetanspaniels.com/2019/05/30/charlie-josephine-j-e-i-call-shotgun-pt-ii/
      https://willoughbywhippetsandtibetanspaniels.com/2019/06/13/guide-me-north-star/
      https://willoughbywhippetsandtibetanspaniels.com/2019/11/09/look-what-youve-done-to-me-xishu-liu/ from Shu’s perspective). Like you’ve stated, this is what relationship experts refer to as “Oh HELL no.”

      And FYI, after my real-life friend read this, the first thing I asked her was “did it come across that Jo’s developing a crush on Shu?” So I’m jumping for joy that someone pointed it out.

      Whoops, I meant to imply Shu’s date was already asleep. I’ll add that in. He’s fun to write; I got sick of all the promiscuous male characters who attracted women because they were So Manly and So Alpha or some BS like that, and instead had him be successful with women because he’s uber-considerate and will clean the grout after you hook up with him. As you can see. Hahaha.

      I hadn’t been focusing on how disturbing it is that everyone’s still trying to “have a good time” at her funeral, but YES. Claudia’s friends are Claudia’s friends because they appreciate her personality—jester personality, as you put it—and they pick up on the fact that she wants to be a beacon of light in the darkness by pushing all the sad feelings down. They don’t know what happened that day. They didn’t even hear Hector—only Kendra knows Hector’s take at this point—but have picked up on the fact that something is wrong. Maybe they’ll try to comfort immediate family on a surface level. I agree that it’s partly a social awkwardness thing: everyone’s like “uhh… this is weird… what do I say now?”, like Jo but on a larger scale.

      3 days?! Sounds like Victorian mourning culture. I’m not the expert here.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I read pt 1 and pt 2 and have to stop for now and I see Jo’s immediate dislike for Shu, but I haven’t entirely abandoned the notion of Jo crushing on him unknowingly. Its still possible through the ‘thin line between love and hate’ concept. Shu rubbed her the wrong way in their first meeting but her dislike of him are based off completely unfounded observations that somehow affirmed her biases and threw him in the category of people she doesn’t like. Charlie described Shu as ‘high charisma’ and ‘bard’. Those are good things, so the relatively good expectation only to have it broken as she meets Shu in person fuels disappointment. Disappointment turns to hate, but there was an initial emotion before the whole string of shattered impressions leading to hate. From this chapter it seems like that initial feeling could’ve been the opposite side of the extreme emotion of ‘hate’. I mean, she turned so quickly! Didn’t even struggle with herself for a bit.

        Ok I’ll stop injecting stuff that isn’t there. But the situation I mentioned is entirely plausible. I haven’t read the two more links so I may withdraw/confirm my speculations in the future but it’s fun to speculate! I suppose this is how romance fanfiction is born through people like me hehehe! 😆

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You are absolutely right: Jo does have a crush on Shu!

        It’s just surprising in context, because people expect them to hate each other.

        (And the ‘high charisma’ and ‘bard’ thing was just a D&D joke; Jo is more disappointed because she wanted Shu to be like Charlie and he’s not. She initially saw Shu as more of a con artist.)

        Like

  3. Okay, I am DELIGHTED that someone else wrote about Jo having a crush on Shu because I definitely got those vibes. She was trying hard to put them back in their respective boxes but all the while, her interaction with Shu was leaving her a bit flustered. I enjoyed the heck out of it. Although, when she commented on Shu’s need for attention all I could think was ::looks directly into camera::

    I loved the opening of this chapter. It was a short paragraph but I was immediately in the middle of the funeral, I could almost hear the conversations. That bit about loosening the ties? Loved it. I mean grief is weird. Funerals aren’t for the dead, they’re for the living. The dead end up being the “host” that we can foist all our desires and needs and sadness on, but the experience is for those who are still around. In that way, all the “Claudia would have wanted” made sense. It felt real.

    Man, the amount of work Jo puts in to making her life feel effortless on the internets is a whole mood. Though hearing her talk about everything that went into the blog made me less annoyed. Like, it’s a job and it’s wild that all these suckers on the internet believe the thing she presents is real, not curated. Or maybe they are in some sort of shared delusion where they all pretend not to know that she’s spending every free moment figuring out how to capture, talk about, and monetize that moment.

    Um, also fuck Mike. Just have to say that on a regular basis. It makes perfect sense to me that everyone ignored him because…well…Mike is an asshole and I don’t think people actually like him. I never really thought about it before, but Mike acts like the “big man on campus” but he doesn’t really have friends and people do not seem generally drawn to him. It makes the way he treated Claudia even worse in my mind. I mean, was he punishing her for having the popularity and friendships and interactions that he wanted (and frankly, felt like he deserved)?

    Gonna have to think on that one.

    What else was I going to yell about?

    – Made heart eyes at the Lin caption. YAS.
    – Lock the doors to keep everyone from leaving? I’m not being flippant when I say: that’s fucking genius and why the fuck didn’t I think of that? It could have saved me so many headaches.
    – Jo’s hair – that ombre is the business.
    – Gen’s tattoos and octopus necklace? Bless.

    Oh and the Spark’d (I keep pronouncing is Sparked-D in my head) Wedding Challenge? That idea was speaking to MY HEART. I actually thought about doing a time loop chapter where you saw all the ways a single moment for Vlad/Alice played out but I ended up cutting it because I wanted to explore different stuff in the story and sometimes you gotta kill your darlings.

    Lily. Feng. Side-eye. Yes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay, you picked up on the crush! Makes me feel like I’m doing something right when that happens. Everyone is, here. Oh, Jo, you’re a mess. I think I find her funny for a different reason everyone else does; the comments all have insightful paragraphs about the psychosocial impact of her blogging career and I’m here snickering like an asshole because her writing’s fricking awful. The blue’s great, though.

      Glad to know when people like the setting bits. I don’t know how everyone else does it, but I’ve settled into a groove of writing the dialogue first and then priming myself with a related piece of literature before chipping away at those paragraphs with a sigh. They turn out okay; they’re just so much work. But, oh my gosh, the relief when someone gets that funerals-aren’t-for-the-dead vibe you were trying to convey. I don’t know if this is how you felt when someone noticed the swordfighting wasn’t really swordfighting, but I’m guessing it’s similar.

      I’ll have to think on that point about Mike. Immediately? Yeap. He’s an asshole and everyone knows. On the other hand, he has friends: his wife’s friends. They’re a package deal. I’ll have to ruminate on whether they’re abandoning him immediately or if there’s some social awkwardness where they work out Claudia not being there before going back to, I don’t know, spotting each other or something. BEER ME, BRO. Probably it’s gonna be split.

      Hah—so I can assume you have a Vlad and Alice and Maybe Also William Club, and a Side Peeps Club, and a Mindless Sheep Baa Baa Stay In The Damn Room Club now. I wish I could say the sim herding was some careful plotting on my part. It wasn’t. I clicked the door as Mike, of all people, and the ‘Lock door for…’ option opened up, and I was like, sure yes, there are a heck of people I’d like to lock in this room. Thanks, PB&J!

      Oh, of course we had similar ideas for the Spark’d challenge. I’m ultimately glad we both focused on our own stuff instead. You bet I’ll hunt for those extra-attention details in BBD!

      The next part may read like I’m pandering to you—and I swear I’m not, I set it up a year in advance, but even as I was writing it I was like… did I accidentally plan an entire chapter for Ferosh? It’s—okay, okay, I’m trying very hard not to spoil it here.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s