In other words, now's a perfect time to check in on the tertiary characters in the Village of the Idiots, where a council has been convened to discuss Chrissie's reproductive organs:
"It's just plain foolishness," Parson Jimson was saying to her. "There are three young men who want to marry you and you have no right whatever to refuse them. The village population is dwindling in size; only thirty have survived the winter. This is not a time to be thinking only of yourself."
Perhaps some elaboration is needed. A mopey Chrissie has been called to the courthouse by what passes for authority figures amongst these misbegotten people: Jimson, de facto parson, Clay, a generic village elder, and Brown Limper Staffor, who started sitting in for the old Parson Staffor when the later became ill and just sort of grew into the role. Brown Limper's the only one of real significance, since he never liked Jonnie and is therefore a C-list villain. He's also the one making the most out of Chrissie's marital status, leading the other council-members to suspect that there might be an ulterior motive at play.
The village is starving because the menfolk didn't herd enough cattle before the snows came, and the two babies born that winter didn't last long in it. So it's up to Chrissie to do her part for the survival of her species and pop out some kids and hope that a few of them aren't mutants.
One could wonder, given the tribe's low numbers and struggle to survive in normal times, why the womenfolk aren't always pressured to spend as much time pregnant as possible. One could also wonder if waiting until the famine is over to start increasing the numbers might be a littler more prudent. This one, however, finds the issue unpleasant and annoying, and won't wonder at all.
Chrissie's barely paying attention, instead replaying a nightmare in which her beloved Jonnie was calling her name while being consumed by fire. This could imply a psychic connection of sorts between the two "love birds," or simply be one of the more obnoxious contrivances and cliches from bad love stories. Here's a hint: Jonnie's Marty Stu powers don't include psychic powers.
Despite Brown Limper's assurance that Jonnie must be monster chow by now, Chrissie insists that once spring comes and the passes open, she's hitting the plains to search for Jonnie, who she knows is still alive.
The council gives up, defeated, and vows to try again some other day.
Just like that.
Geez. With leadership this good, no wonder they're starving.
Next on the agenda is Parson Staffor, who is planning his funeral, which will be troublesome given the frozen ground and lack of food. Since this doesn't involve Chrissie, she leaves to gaze soulfully up at the winter sky, already planning on preparing Jonnie some packs of supplies and new clothes.
She doesn't really need to bother. Just whittle a chunk of wood or carve a rock to look like Jonnie, and she can look longingly at it while she's coldly ignored just the same as if he was still around.
Well, that was certainly a necessary and meaningful chapter. We end three-fourths down page 117. It says a lot about Chrissie that a chapter with her makes me look forward to reading how Terl fritters away an afternoon.
Back to Part Three, Chapter Eight