The Vision: Meet Yancey, Future Serial Killer

The Vision: Meet Yancey, Future Serial Killer October 2, 2020

The Vision, pp. 101-118

So, this week you get to meet Yancey. He’s from New Jersey. And we need to talk about men, because in my read, this chapter is an illustration of the limits of evangelical ideas about women and assertiveness.

Meet Yancey from New Jersey

So, Yancey. He talks like this:

“Yo! What’s dis place? You guys sell anything, or you just here to smell up da town?”

See, Cheyenne and Magdalene are working at the Herb Den—we’ve skipped two weeks, and Magdalene has settled into her position as trafficked child labor. New characters Bobby Jo (who is big boned and worried about her weight) and Julie (who is slight and generally insecure) are also there.

That’s when Yancey walks in. We head hop with startling rapidity. Yancey notices from Cheyenne’s body language that she’s disappointed, which she is—she was hoping it would be Asher. Then we jump to Magdalene’s head. Magdalene notices Yancey’s expensive camera and concludes, via “her learned trait of sizing up men,” that he is either a professional photographer or a wealthy tourist. Either way, she doesn’t like him.

She’s right not to.

Next we hop to Julie’s head. Julie looks at Magdalene and worries she’ll try to steal the camera. She also recalls that “for some reason” Magdalene doesn’t like having her picture taken. Gee, I wonder why? But I don’t think that’s why Magdalene dislikes Yancey. I think it’s because she knows an asshole when she sees one.

So. Back to Yancey:

Pulling his sticky shirt away from his chest, eh ran his hand over his face like a windshield wiper, dripping sweat on the floor. “Swish … I had no idea it could get dis hot in May. Of course, I’ve never been dis far South. And you beautiful goils must be da famous Trio,” looking around, “except there seems to be four of you.”

Right. Sure. Sure he says that.

In my experience, when a friend group creates a name for themselves, that name isn’t much used by others. It’s more of an internal joke. This idea that everyone in town calls Cheyenne, Bobby Jo, and Julie “the Trio” because they work at the Herb Den together and often hang out strikes me as a creative fiction. And even if their families used the term amongst themselves, where on earth would a stranger have learned it?

At this point, Yancey is already being a problem. He started out trying to be all funny: “You guys sell anything, or you just here to smell up da town?” That kind of guy is frequently the worst. We all know that person. He’s entitled and has no idea how off-putting his “funny” comments actually are.

But this this actually isn’t a store. At the Herb Den, they pack herbs that are ordered online, and then ship them out. It isn’t a place for customers, and Yancey hasn’t told them why he’s here. He walked in and made an off-putting joke, and then a comment about the heat, and then set the girls off balance by showing that he knows more about them than they do about him—“you beautiful goils must be da famous Trio.”

He’s disrupting their work day and he still hasn’t said why he’s here.

“My name is Reuben Yancey, and I,” he lifted his camera as though he was stating the obvious, “am a professional, freelance photographer. I’m on assignment for American Joiney Magazine, from New Youk City.”

Okay, but he still hasn’t said why he’s here, in the Herb Den, bothering them. He’s simply monopolizing their time, as though he has a right to it.

“Really?” Bobbie Jo replied dryly as she continued to stare at the computer screen. “You might have fooled me. Sounds more like,” tilting her head back and imitating his nasal whine, “New Joisey to me.”

It’s interesting that Bobbie Jo knows this much about accents, but I’ll buy it. Bobbie Jo is the confidence one, and we learn later that she’s already twenty-seven. She’s probably the least sheltered of the “Trio.”

Yancey was surprised by her quick banter. Caught off guard by her tease, he retorted, “Well, I am originally from upstate New Jersey—and we pronounce it Jersey, not ‘Joisey’—but I live in New York now, or I did til dis week when I started dis assignment.”

I’ll keep up with the next few paragraphs before I start summarizing again, so bear with me for a moment. After Yancey’s completely appropriate response to Bobby Jo’s comment about his accent, we get this:

Three of the four busy young women looked up and smiled. Magdalene continued to stare at him like he was a poisonous spider. The pale face, eyes, and hair accentuated the vacant stare she threw in his direction, making him feel unwelcome.

I wish we were given more about Magdalene’s response here, but we’re not. In a moment, she’ll fade into the background in the back of the store. She’s the only one of them who doesn’t feel like she needs to play nice with Yancey, and she’s also the only one Debi decides to silence. Of course, she’s also the junior member of the team.

So then we get this:

Bobbie Jo fought down a grin at the man’s jittery distraction prompted by Magdalene’s spooky stare. Poor guy … even a jerk deserves to be treated better than that.

Does he though? Does he?

Bobbie Jo knew her biting sarcasm would be refreshing compared to Magdalene’s hexing look, so she broke the silence with syrupy mockery. “Oh, how interesting.”

What. Yancey only told Bobbie Jo where he was from in response to her comment about his accent. That merits … biting sarcasm and syrupy mockery? I am confused by Bobbie Jo’s response.

Still, Bobbie Jo has correctly identified Yancey as a jerk.

Here’s the thing, though: this is also a book written by Debi Pearl, who lives in a world where that kind of talk—and behavior—is standard, not strange. The men in my life who have talked like Yancey is right now (minus the accent, of course) tend to be in Debi’s camp. I’d like to see Debi explore this more fully, but of course, she won’t. In her book, Yancey is a jerk because he is from New York. He’s a city boy. He doesn’t know how to behave appropriately. Except that, as I noted, Yancey’s behavior is actually very very common in Debi’s world.

It’s weird!

Anyway. Back to the book for more tell, don’t show. I’m not skipping anything yet, by the way, sothis comes directly after Bobbie Jo’s “syrupy mockery”:

The change in his demeanor indicated he was resolved to start over. “You guys are real workers. I mean, no stoppin’ for anythin’.” He was trying hard to draw the girls into conversation.

Despite the show don’t tell, this feels very familiar.

Cheyenne tries to fix things::

Cheyenne had been edgy since Asher left. Yancey had accomplished just what she expected: slowing down all her workers. “It’s the daily grind. Work hard, finish the job, and then take a break. I you don’t work hard, you don’t finish the job and you don’t get a break. Simply logic.” She hoped her hint would send him on his way, or at least jump-start her workers.

Cheyenne, Cheyenne, Cheyenne.

I get it. I do. She’s trying to be nice, because women are supposed to be nice, but this is simply not the time. She should ask his business here, should tell him this is a place of work. Instead, she hopes he’ll get her hint. 

Cheyenne, honey. He won’t. 

Yancey and the Predatory Male Gaze

Yancey stands and watches as the women go back to work. He’s invaded their workplace and is just standing there, watching them. The result is that we get to see each of the women through Yancey’s eyes as he stands there and surveys them, and it’s not pretty. Magdalene is assessed as “early teen” and “almost like an albino.” Bobbie Jo is “bigger, bolder, sexy-looking.” (I’m on team Bobbie Jo, for what it’s worth.)

And then he turns to Julie.

Yancey could see the compassion in her soft brown eyes. She’s cute, not pretty, not beautiful, not even sexy … just cute in a sweet innocent kind of way. Yancey responded to her gentle smile with a subtle invitation in his eyes. She shyly diverted her glance as a blush stole over her countenance, quickly putting her face down, resuming her packing.

Yancey grinned. A bashful chick, obviously not used to confident men.

OMG, f*** this guy.

Yancey is bad news, and yet, no one here feels capable of getting rid of him. No one.

He turned his attention to the boss, deciding to make an appeal to her sense of social politeness. “Now dat you know my name, how ’bout tellin’ me yours?”

The tall exotic beauty that had frozen him out after that first welcoming smile answered, “Sorry, we’re just kinda busy, but my name is Cheyenne,” waving her hadn’t toward Julie, her voice softening, “That little blond sweetie over there packing orders is Julie.” Now Cheyenne used her head to motion in Bobbie Jos’ direction. “The shark at the desk is Bobbie Jo. Kiddo, back there is Magdalene.”

What the fork. Cheyenne needs to just tell him off.

Jesus Christ.

Bobbie Jo hollers across the room to Julie with a question about whether she finished an order, calling Julie “Jules” as she does so. So then we get this:

Yancey mentally noted the nickname of soft-spoken Julie. Then he began to quietly analyze Bobbie Jo. She was definitely a traffic-stopper: big, generously endowed, well proportioned; and with all that long, curly born hair, she was loaded.

I’m suddenly not sure whether we’re going to need to start checking trunks for Julie, or Bobbie Jo.

And still no one tells him to leave.

Jesus Christ.

His eyes wandered back to the quiet Julie. Meeting her glance, he noticed that everything about her seemed straight except for the soft curls that played along her brow. Her straight, narrow skirt accentuated her small figure and perfect posture. She looked clean and well-ordered. In that moment he decided he liked her. Let the other guys fight over the exotic beauties or the man-eating sharks; I like my girl to be mine and mine alone. No ogling from other men. No competition. No reason to feel jealous. 

Oh my god.

He sidled up to little Julie to try to start a conversation. “What’s deez enormous hay bales doin’ back here?” the huge bales of herbs were stacked against the back wall all the way to the ceiling. Not waiting for an answer, he continued, “To see dis place from da outside it looks run down, like it’s ’bout to go outta business, no flashing lights or anythings. But if you guys are able to move huge bales of products, den I guess looks don’t count.”

Why isn’t Cheyenne doing anything?!

I shit you not, Yancey next grabs the ledger and starts reading off financial records, and Cheyenne marches up to him and takes it out of his hand, then turns on her heels, and works back to where she was working. She says not a word. Bobbie Jo starts to worry that “one nosy dude could cause a lot of trouble for the berry project” but no one  does anything. Bobbie Jo realizes they need a distraction. Yeah—that’s it! A distraction!

She stood, arching her back and stretching her arms over her head, trying to loosen her muscles, then yawned with a loud groan to lighten the mood of the Herb Den. Her ploy worked better than she could have imagined. Yancey’s quick mind forgot everything as he stared flabbergasted at her full-figured body bent backwards. He tried to pull himself together to give Cheyenne the verbal cut he had already formulated, but his mouth was suddenly too dry to speak. Trying to avoid being seen gawking like a stupid teenager, he turned his back to the counter to look at the safe, empty, concrete wall.

I wish I were making this up, but Julie sees Yancey turn away from Bobbie Jo’s “unintentional exhibition” and decides that he must actually be a decent, kind man. Girl is going to end up in a trunk. 

Yancey the Raging Anti-Semite

Yancey keeps asking questions. Bobbie Jo starts lying to him to throw him off the track of the Berry Brew. She tells him there’s a nationwide rat problem, and they’re selling herbs that kill rats. In cause you’re wondering, we’re pages and pages into this, and none of the women has asked Yancey why he’s here, or what his business is.

Yancey tells them they should start a coffee shop in the Herb Den, since they have an area with couches and fluffy chairs (remember, this is where they have their weekly Bible studies). Julie tells him that Cheyenne actually had wanted to do that, but that there were too many health forms and regulations involved in serving food.

Yancey asks why they have all the couches.

Julie suddenly felt trapped, so her words came out a little twittery. “Well, everyone wants to know what God says about Islam in the last days, and about Israel. Since last year you can’t go anywhere, not even to the mall, without thinking you might get blown up, so it’s on everyone’s mind. If that were not enough, the news is full of a dozen different volcanoes that are threatening to blow, including Yellowstone. The Herb Den gives people a place to gather and ask questions. So basically, we do have a coffee shop minus the coffee and donuts. We just serve tea and cookies for free.”

Frankly, this is on Cheyenne’s head. She knows Julie is shy and won’t feel like she can tell Yancey to leave her alone. Cheyenne should not be letting Yancey bother her employees like this.

Yancey looked interested, yet took on a cynical tone. “Yeah, good old Father Abraham sure produced da scourge of da earth. Da*# Jews, excuse my French, ladies. Anyway, the bombin’s is why I left da Big Apple. About half da population up here have fled. Here have been 86 bombin’s in da last six months alone. No sense pushin’ fate. Since nothin’ has happened down dis way, I figure I’ll sit it out in da deep South.

Everyone seemed to freeze as they all tried to decide what he had almost said. For a second he sounded very anti-Semitic.

Sounded? Sounded?! 

It was a touchy subject due to the White Supremacists in the area making such a big issue of their hatred for Israel.

Uhhh. See in my understanding it’s not Israel that White Supremacists hate, it’s Jews. Which is actually the word Yancey used, by the way. Jews and Israel are not synonyms.

An awkward silence filled the room until Cheyenne finally muttered under her breath, “Maybe … at least we hope not … not yet, anyways.”

Oh ok, that’s her response. Ok then. She decides to ignore his blatantly anti-semitic remark and focus instead on Yancey’s concern about bombings. Cool cool cool.

Yancey strolls around their workplace and finds a copy of the God’s Story book—their graphic novel Bible. He declares it quality artwork, and then:

Yancey suddenly looked up with narrowed eyes and his voice held question, “Malachi Freeman … sounds Jewish?”

Cheyenne had been leaning down to pick something up off the floor so she missed Yancey’s expression. “Naw … not Jewish. Lot son Christians use Old Testament names fo retire kids. But yeah.” Cheyenne’s smile showed her dimples, but her eyes remained elusive: Why was this guy so interested in whether they were Jewish? 

Cheyenne. Girl. You can’t be this naive.

So then they start talking about their plan for giving the graphic novel Bibles to Muslims, with Yancey playing skeptic. “Have you got a better idea how to solve the problem fo Muslim terrorists?” Cheyenne asks.

Which. Lovely.

Next, Bobbie Jo invites Yancey to come to their Bible study.

Yancey flushed with the feeling of unexpected success.

I’m just going to pause here to note that we still don’t know what Yancey’s motivations are as a character. Why is he here? Is he exploring a story on something related to the Herb Den? Did he come here to try to garner an invitation, or is he only excited to be invited to the Bible study because he’s decided to seduce Julie?

We don’t know.

This book is awful. 

The Hillbilly Woman Who Puts Yancey in His Place

At this point, someone else comes in. A hillbilly. No really—this section is titled “hillbilly woman.” That’s what Debi decides to call her. To which I will simply say, I don’t know enough about East Tennessee to understand the divides between Debi and her people, and the people she calls “hillbilly” people.

“Howdee. Kin I c’mon in, or yuns onliest mail order?”

I already like this person better than Yancey.

A young, very pregnant woman stood peeking through a small opening in the big glass door. Her clothes looked like Goodwill would have thrown them out, and her greasy hair was covered with an equally worn out old cloth—an attempt to be what the locals called an Amish wannabe. When she smiled, her teeth showed several rotten spots which screamed of bad breath. Altogether, the poor girl grabbed the girls’ heartstrings as someone pitiful and in need of a friend.

I feel like there are words that should be said here.

Always the advocate of the downtrodden, Cheyenne moved toward the front counter and smiled with welcoming warmth at the young woman. Speaking in a friendly voice, trying to put the girl at ease, she replied, “Well, we are mail-order, but we can help you this once. Come in. I haven’t ever seen you around here. Where’re you from?”

Stepping in heavily and moving aside for the door to shut, the pregnant girl responded gratefully to Cheyenne’s friendliness as though starved for female conversation. “Well, wees from up th’air in the hills. We ain’t got no car, so we ain’t out to these parts much ‘cep when we gots t’ lay in supplies. Then we make camp oer yonder unner the bridge with our horses.”

I gave you that much partly so you can see how thick Debi writes her accept. Her name, she says, is Zulla Mae. She says she’s here to buy herbs, and that she’s studying to learn how to use herbs. So they get to talking herbs. For a good long while. Cheyenne, of course, has loads of information to share.

And then we get this:

The pregnant lady looked highly impressed with Cheyenne. “Are you da’ Indian gal folks talks about that makes a stuff that can bring fold back from da’ dead?”

Cheyenne puts her off, but she looks nervous, and Zulla Mae spots Yancey and clues in. Zulla Mae is no dummy.

Zulla Mae then she goes off on this whole string about needing herbs to kill rats. This is odd, because that’s what Bobbie Jo had said too. Zulla Mae has this whole thing about the return of the Black Death plague in South America. It’s unclear whether that’s true, but it is clear that Zulla Mae is trying to get Yancey to forget what she said about raising the dead. This goes on for pages. Rats, plagues, history. On and on.

Meanwhile, Yancey is at the other side of the store snorting derisively and looking at Zulla Mae dismissively. Finally, he gets to where he is literally shaking with laughter at Zulla Mae.

Zulla Mae finally does what Cheyenne should have done ages ago.

She stands up to Yancey:

Zulla Mae took three long, quick steps toward the mocker, bringing her uncomfortably close. He looked up, startled, tried to jump back, but was already against the wall, so he just flattened out, looking apprehensive. Aggressively posturing herself in front of the shocked Yankee, she stared him in the eye and hissed with such vehemence that everyone was stunned. Yancey looked to the left nad right, obviously trying to decide the most favorable direction of retreat.

“You’uns kin mock if’n you want too, but I’m a telling’ you a sumethins’ bad is a gonna happen!” Her eyes were ablaze with a strange fiery confidence. “I snowed ’bout things like this here. I gots the gift. And I smell death. Ne’er been wrong in all my bornd days, and don’t spect I’m a wrong now. Might not be this month’s moon ner the next, but yer gonna see death within a yaar—bodies a laying’ in the streets. Maybe yer body, city boy. Write that down on yer calendar. Make yer mark in big red letters. Make shore you put my name a’side it, ’cause I wont you to ‘member it wuz me that warned ye.”

Yancey responds by raising his camera to take a picture—as a sort of defensive reflex—but Cheyenne stops him. Zulla Mae takes her herbs and tells the women to “pay him no mind” and that “he’s one thems deceived.” She warns Cheyenne that she’s seen “the foreigner” watching their building, and then she leaves.

And that’s how the chapter ends.

Zip.

The next chapter picks up somewhere else entirely, so we never learn whether Yancey left after Zulla Mae told him off, or whether Yancey kept hanging around after Zulla Mae left. This isn’t Yancey’s last time hanging around at the Herb Den uninvited, though, so I’m guessing he did the latter.

I am so freaking frustrated by this section.

Cheyenne is a terrible employer. She needs to learn to stand up for herself, and to be more assertive. Which is odd, because we were given to believe earlier that she’s—what was the word—-something about southern girls being tough as nails? Well, this ain’t it. There was nothing touch about Cheyenne letting Yancey waltz in, flirt with her employees, read her ledger, make anti-semitic comments, and just generally hang around uninvented.

I don’t even know what more to say.

Someone needs to fire Cheyenne and put Magdalene in charge, because Magdalene would not have put up with this. Or maybe Zulla Mae. She’d run this place better than Cheyenne did just now.

Does Debi think Cheyenne’s lack of assertiveness was okay? I don’t know! I don’t know what moral we’re to take from this section, at all! And that’s part of what makes this such a bad book!

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