Twilight: Cooking with Vampires

Twilight Recap: Bella has gotten through a second day of class without incident, but she is both relieved and disturbed by Edward Cullen's odd absence, which seems somehow tied to her arrival in Forks.

Twilight, Chapter 2: Open Book

   Last night I’d discovered that Charlie couldn’t cook much besides fried eggs and bacon. So I requested that I be assigned kitchen detail for the duration of my stay. He was willing enough to hand over the keys to the banquet hall.

Charlie, it should be repeated, has lived in the house that he and Renee shared in their first years of marriage for the entirety of Bella's 17-year life. He has apparently lived alone -- if a live-in girlfriend has ever graced the inside of the house, she utterly failed to leave any kind of lasting mark on the decor, as the dark paneled walls and bright yellow kitchen cabinets are exactly the same as Renee left them. In the 16+ years that Charlie has lived alone and apart from his divorced wife and daughter, not only has he decided not to remodel or change the house in any significant way from the day they left, but he has also refused to learn how to cook for himself.

The more we learn about Charlie, the more he seems inestimably creepy in my eyes. I want to feel sorry for a man whose wife left him and whose daughter demands that he spend all his money and vacation time in California every year if he wants to see her, not because of any flaw in his own character but because both mother and daughter so thoroughly hate his home town, but... I can't. It's one thing for Charlie to still be in mourning over Renee and have him preserving their house as a sort of mausoleum to her memory, but it is quite another for him to stubbornly and persistently refuse to learn how to take care of himself in the belief that any day now his bride is going to come back and take up her rightful place in the kitchen.

The problem isn't just that Charlie doesn't know how to cook anything besides eggs and bacon. (A dish that, ironically, can be rather tough for novice cooks because the sweet spot between limp bacon and burnt bacon can be tricky to time, especially if the novice cook sees the stove burner as binary: either "off" or "full heat ahead!") The real problem, to me, is that he seems utterly incurious and unwilling to even try to learn how to look out for himself. Throughout the pages of Twilight, you won't catch Charlie in front a cooking show and you won't see him ask his daughter -- His daughter who can cook? Who is cooking for him? And who will presumably not be living with him for the rest of her life to do this cooking? -- to teach him how to expand his cooking repertoire to include maybe two meals instead of just the one. He isn't interested.

This is particularly odd behavior in light of the fact that Charlie's ideal weekend is one spent fishing with Billy. Perhaps he simply finds the act of fishing relaxing, but I had always thought that the point of fishing was to cook and eat fresh fish. Either Billy is doing all the cooking, or Charlie and Billy aren't catching many fish on their weekend fishing trips. [Please insert tasteful Brokeback Mountain joke here.] Or, and I fear this is most likely, the fishing haul is dragged back to the reservation for some unnamed woman to do the cooking and cleaning while the guys kick back with cool beverages and rehash the adventures of the day.

   I also found out that he had no food in the house. So I had my shopping list and the cash from the jar in the cupboard labeled FOOD MONEY, and I was on my way to the Thriftway.

Not only is Charlie utterly uninterested in learning how to take care of himself, he's uninterested in making even a token effort to take care of his daughter. Apparently, when Bella announced she was coming up to Forks to live with him, he sped down to the local reservation in a heady whirlwind of excitement in order to pick out a car for her, but it didn't occur to him to maybe pick up some PopTarts or a few boxes of Hamburger Helper while he was out.

Furthermore, the idea of a "FOOD MONEY" jar full of cash in this situation utterly baffles me. The last time I remember having such an arrangement was in college when I was working as a waitress for tips. People who are paid almost entirely in cash tend to retain a "cash economy" at home because it's often tricky to get to the bank before or after work to deposit your wages, and it's easier to just pay for everything with cash out of pocket. Likewise, the sort of strict budgeting that a jar can provide is self-evident -- if there isn't enough money in the food jar for your planned shopping list, then your list needs editing. It's as simple as that.

But it's hard to imagine Charlie as living on a cash salary when surely he draws a paycheck as Chief of Police. And even with his expensive California getaways with Bella, it's hard to imagine him needing to stick that stringently to a food budget -- especially when he's apparently not splurging on free-range beef or organic milk. The only way this scene makes sense to me is if Charlie cashes his weekly paychecks at the bank, takes all or most of it home as cash, and sticks a wad of that money into the FOOD MONEY jar. I'm really not sure I understand the point of all this when it seems like a debit card would work just as well, especially considering that this is a one-person household.

Indeed, this arrangement works so well for the "daughter buying the groceries" setup, that I'm tempted to call authorial shenanigans, but I've vowed not to do that, so instead I'm going to hazard a guess that someone else has been using the money in the FOOD MONEY jar to shop for Charlie. A live-in girlfriend still seems unlikely under the circumstances, so now I'm wondering if Charlie had some sort of paid help that came by once a day to cook dinner for him (or once a week to stick dinners in his freezer?) and do the grocery shopping.

Clearly, with Bella coming to live with him, he recognized her as a source of cheap labor, and sacked whoever had been taking care of him up to that point. This also clears up the mystery of why Charlie was so anxious to lie to Bella about the value of her car: if she'd declined the gift and decided to shop around for her wheels, Charlie would have been forced to drive Bella to the grocery store and maybe even enter the store to help her shop, and this obviously would have been a disaster. The more I think about this, the more it makes sense.

   The Thriftway was not far from the school, just a few streets south, off the highway. It was nice to be inside the supermarket; it felt normal. I did the shopping at home, and I fell into the pattern of the familiar task gladly. The store was big enough inside that I couldn’t hear the tapping of the rain on the roof to remind me where I was.

I've never heard of a Thriftway, but apparently they exist in the real Forks, Washington which is a therefore a nice little regional touch by S. Meyer, but from this week's weekly ad, it would appear that they only sell food and not a whole lot of non-perishable household goods, so I'm not sure I'd call it a "supermarket" so much as a "grocery store", but it's possible that popular connotation has rendered the two terms synonymous, and I'm not one to quibble over word choice. Instead, I'm terribly fascinated by the idea of Thriftway in a small town that houses a relatively moderate vampire community.

Presumably, the Cullens have to buy groceries at the local Thriftway like everyone else -- if S. Meyer is correct that a small community is a place where everyone knows your business, it seems impossible that no one would notice that the Cullens never frequent the local grocer. In a bigger town, of course, the family could easily get away with never buying groceries, because people would naturally assume that the reason they never bumped into the Cullens at Target was because they were instead shopping at the local Walmart, and vice versa -- it's not as if people are going to get together to compare notes and track their movements.

But with a small town store, with small town employees, aren't the Thriftway employees and owners going to notice when the rich new family with five hungry teenagers never once grace the inside of their store? And it's not as if the Cullen vampires are a self-sufficient community: even if they don't eat food, they're still going to need things from a local supermarket. They'll need cleaners for their clothes and bodies (particularly ones that can remove blood stains!), and they'll need oil and novelty fuzzy dice for their ridiculously expensive cars. (Question: Do vampires need toilet paper? Discuss.) So the question isn't whether the supermarket employees will notice the Cullens not shopping there, so much as whether the supermarket employees will notice the Cullens not shopping there for food.

It seems like the safest thing to do for the sake of the masquerade would be for Esme to buy food on her no doubt weekly shopping trips for heavy duty laundry detergent. Better to waste their unlimited supply of money on food they will never eat than to jeopardize their precarious situation with difficult questions. But then the question becomes: What do the Cullens do with all that food?

They can't just throw it all away, despite their wasteful behavior at school. A garbage bag would tear or raccoons would get into the trash bins, and eventually someone would notice the Cullens' grocery bags, unopened, food still glistening in its pristine packages, and this revelation would be so instantly suspicious that the game will be immediately up. On the other hand, I can't see the incredibly self-absorbed Cullens taking the time to drive the safe distance to a nearby town to anonymously donate food every week -- this sort of behavior would seem to require a level of compassion and selflessness that seems otherwise lacking in each member of the family.

It would seem to me, therefore, that an opportunity for characterization is here somewhere. The vampires are immortal and sleepless and have to get bored on occasion -- the constant disposal of food could tie nicely into a few hobbies. I'm picturing Jasper, patiently grinding up dried bread, nuts, and sugar-free cookies to put in his many bird feeders before standing motionlessly at the windows for hours, a bird spotting guide in one hand and his binoculars in the other. Or perhaps gentle Esme, disdaining the violent hunts that her children prefer, might be seen spreading peanut butter on trees and corn on the forest floor so that she can wait to ambush her food and kill it before it feels any pain or fear.

It's almost sad to me that these details have been so completely overlooked, simply because the epic romance between Edward and Bella holds far less interest to me than the question of what one does with an eternal life. Does one take the opportunity to grow, change, or at least pass the time pleasantly, or -- like Charlie -- does one just stagnate into a schedule of work, eat, work, eat, work, eat, with maybe a few scheduled recesses for sports and fishing.

   When I got home, I unloaded all the groceries, stuffing them in wherever I could find an open space. I hoped Charlie wouldn’t mind. I wrapped potatoes in foil and stuck them in the oven to bake, covered a steak in marinade and balanced it on top of a carton of eggs in the fridge.

And here is where I don't care for Bella's character at all.

Bella gets a lot of well-deserved flak for being utterly catty and judgmental, but I'd like to see a little of that judgmental attitude turned away from Friendly Mike and Chess Club Eric and instead turned onto Father Charlie. If I went to go live with my father and learned that not only did he not plan to cook anything for me but eggs and bacon, but also that he had not gotten groceries in advance preparation of my visit, but rather expected me to volunteer to do the cooking and shopping, I wouldn't "hope he wouldn't mind" where I stuck the groceries I'd had to go buy on a school night. If anyone minded where I -- as new Master Cook and Household Shopper -- chose to store the groceries, I would tell them where they could stick their opinion, and also that I hoped they enjoyed eating their eggs and bacon while I cooked for my own damn self.

Then again, I'm not Bella's age anymore, so there's that.

I do think it's interesting that in a house that was previously described as having "no food" whatsoever, Bella finds it necessary to carefully balance her marinating steaks on a carton of eggs in the fridge. Either Charlie owns one of those little "college dorm" models of refrigerators, or that FOOD MONEY jar was really full and Bella went to town at the Thriftway tonight.


Sabayon said...

 (Question: Do vampires need toilet paper? Discuss.)  I would assume that vampires at the very least would need to pee, I mean with an all liquid diet that just seems inevitable.  Additionally, while not ever buying food is pretty suspicious it could be punted off simply by having Esme play the fancy rich lady in a small town and drive up to Port Angeles every week and returning with apparently full re-usable bags with the Farmer's Market logo on them, who would believe a household with three women never needing toilet paper?

Additionally,  I hope they cultivate Forks' greatest compost heap with all the uneaten food, or just throw it out, as actually attracting raccoons would be a bonus for the "vegetarian" vampires.  Essentially they would be shopping for food in a more protracted way.

M_Saito said...

My first thought on hearing that a cop has a lot of cash on hand is that he's taking bribes.

Could just be me, though.

Ana Mardoll said...


I.......I hadn't thought of that. o.O

I like the way you think. *grins*

Karen Nilsen said...

Although I'm having a hard time picturing the Cullens doing this (but then I had a hard time picturing them playing baseball until I saw the movie :), maybe they let loose and have a huge food fight every week.  I just had a vision of Edward covered in smashed eggs . . . gives a more literal meaning to the idiom  "he had egg on his face." 

Inquisitive Raven said...

This was the part that weirded me out: "  When I got home, I unloaded all the groceries, stuffing them in wherever I could find an open space."

Cupcakedoll said...

Re: Vampire toilet paper

IIRC, real vampire bats urinate almost constantly.  The real liquid diet has so few nutriants per tablespoon that they have to drink a huge volume and pretty much keep all parts of digestion operating all the time to keep some room in the system.

Transfered to human vampires this would mean all the Cullens walking around wearing adult diapers.   An image I admit makes me smile.

Kit Whitfield said...

I read Bella hoping 'Charlie wouldn't mind' as an element of her prickliness. My interpretation ... She's catty about her schoolmates and defensive around Charlie for the same reason: she doesn't like people and doesn't want them bothering her. 

It's not that Charlie minding would bother her because she wants to defer to his convenience. If Charlie minded, he'd tell her so, and then she'd have to talk to him. He might start telling her what to do, and that would make it harder for her to put her foot down and decide on what terms they relate. Bella wants to relate to everybody on her terms - usually as little as possible unless the circumstances are exactly right (either sunny or sexy) - and is constantly on the watch for situations where she might have to consider other people. 

I think she isn't worrying about whether Charlie would mind because she cares what he feels; she just doesn't want him making a nuisance of himself.


I absolutely love the idea of a birdwatching vampire. Somehow the spotter's guide in his hand makes it particularly charming: there's something so pleasingly earnest about it...

Kit Whitfield said...

I just told my husband about the birdwatching idea and he pointed something out: in a lot of legends, vampires are presented as obsessive and anal. You want to stop a vampire chasing you, throw a handful of millet at it: it won't be able to resist stopping to count all the seeds. Birdwatching fits into that beautifully. (Especially as it's also a rather middle-aged hobby, which you'd expect from vampires, plus it's a nice sublimation of the hunting instinct.)

It also raises the possibility of how the werewolves would fight vampires. We might say that if you leave vampires along long enough, they devolve into trainspotters. The possibilities for exploiting that are great. I'm picturing Jacob working away at the Cullens' favourite Wikipedia pages: 'Mahler was born in Australia to a family of circus contortionists ... Haemophilia is a paraphilia in which the subject becomes obsessed with rock-polishing ... The etymology of the word 'vampire' rests in the Old English word 'wankir' ... Elizabeth Bathory was a pioneer of the cosmetics industry...' and the Cullens checking every morning and crying, 'Agh! It's wrong again! I have to fix this!' Maybe the reservation gang breaks into the Cullens' house every now and again and puts all the furniture slightly out of alignment, and that's really why they stay out of school on sunny days: while they were putting on the makeup, the Blacks were at it again and now they need to tidy up.

The werewolves, I choose to believe, fight vampires by becoming griefers. That's why they're called 'trolls': it's a conflation of two different mythical creatures. 

Ana Mardoll said...

This thread is already the most awesome thing ever, by virtue of the Cullens in adult diapers, Charlie's FOOD MONEY being petty bribes, and the local werewolf clan are now Wiki vandals. I've got years in my eyes.

Ana Mardoll said...

Well, I meant TEARS in my eyes, but Swype disagreed, I sere.

Redcrow said...

>>> "Elizabeth Bathory was a pioneer of the cosmetics industry..."

You mean, she *wasn't*?
So what am I supposed to do with all those blood samples?


"Perfect for your relaxing bath", they said. "Rejuvenating effect", they said. "Natural ingredients"... "unique formula"... Never giving them my money again...

Sabayon said...

Perhaps one day, a few years ago, Charlie went to investigate the Cullen household after several teachers registered concerns about the children's eating habits and apparent lack of sleep.  There he saw the family crouched around a fresh-killed deer carcass.  He stumbled backwards, preparing to call for back-up, but was heard by the family patriarch.  Ever since then he has been receiving a large wad of cash and a vaguely threatening note about the perils of indiscretion in his mailbox every week.  The first one was most direct, saying "better to buy yourself a nice steak dinner than become one, eh?"  He has shoved the money into a tin marked "FOOD MONEY" ever since, as a reminder of what will happen if he talks.

Ana Mardoll said...


Not only does this delightfully dark interpretation explain the odd FOOD MONEY jar, it also explains why Charlie will be so immediately defensive and angry when Bella notes in conversation that something seems a little "off" about the Cullen kids...

Melissa Cookson said...

I assumed that Bella was exaggerating a bit about Charlie only being able to cook eggs and bacon and about the complete lack of food in his house. Assuming there's some exaggerating going on, Charlie sounded a lot like my Opa (German grandpa) after my Oma (German grandma) died. My Oma always cooked for him, so when she died he primarily ate what my aunt brought him, if he wasn't eating out at local restaurants and bars.

The difference between my Opa and Charlie, of course, is that Charlie is much younger. Also, my Opa eventually got a girlfriend. Maybe the local diner (can't remember what it's called, if it even has a name) gives Charlie food for free?

Inquisitive Raven said...

It's conceivable.  I know a paramedic who gets free coffee from her local convenience store after treating a guy who had a refrigeration unit fall on him. She wasn't responding to a call. She just happened to walk into the place between runs for a dose of caffeine and some munchies just in time to be the first on scene.

Nina said...

About the fishing trips: they could be doing all catch and release.  Or maybe they do some catch and release and then Billy takes home everything they catch.  My dad loves to fish, but he mostly does catch and release.  He gets the pleasure of fishing, without a lot of mess and dead fish if he doesn't feel like cooking them that day.  Plus, it's much less wasteful.  Depending on where you are, you can catch a lot of fish in a weekend.

Not that this interpretation really excuses everything else.  I mean, really, who does that?  Go to all the trouble of buying a car, but then don't bother with a quick trip to the grocery store?  Even for people who don't cook, grocery stores carry plenty of convenience foods.

Amaranth said...

I would be willing to write off Bella's assertion that there's "no food in the house" as exaggeration, but that's mostly because I happen to be a picky eater. Quite often I could look into a full refrigerator and see nothing in there that I'd be even remotely interested in eating. So while I might think to myself "there's nothing to eat in here", what I actually mean is "there's nothing in here that I want to eat". I'm imagining Charlie having a kitchen full of whole grain nut bread, diet cola, six-month old frozen meat, Hamburger Helper, and Kid Kuisene...and Bella, understandably, not seeing anything she'd consider "edible".

The "Food Money" jar and Charlie's obtuse unwillingness to even learn the basics of cooking is still baffling, though. (There's a scene in Breaking Dawn where he attempts to cook spaghetti, and manages to botch it as spectacularly as I imagine a well-meaning *seven-year-old* would...except the child might be curious enough to actually read the instructions on the pasta box...)

Ana Mardoll said...



He ruins...spaghetti? As in, the stuff that you cook in boiling water for 8-10 minutes, dump in a sieve, and then cover with canned sauce? Compared to that, fried-eggs-and-bacon is practically Iron Chef America. o.O

Was he trying to make sauce from scratch or something? WERE THERE MEATBALLS INVOLVED? :)

Silver Adept said...

"Nothing in the house" in this case might mean, as we see in Movie!Twilight, that Charlie has just been going out to eat since Renee left him sixteen years ago. (It's a throwaway line in the cafe scene where we see S. Meyer herself, something about Charlie always being there and ordering the same hamburger, like clockwork). Being Forks, where everybody knows your name, it's quite possible that he's been subsisting on sixteen years of good will and accumulated favors and perks (you want to be on the good side of the Chief of Police, so you've got to bribe him in ways that he, or Internal Affairs, won't raise a red flag over.), so that his salary provides him with enough to eat when he gets hungry.

Which might not be that often - his adamant refusal to move on from Renee could be the sign of an unresolved very deep depression, made worse by local geography. Of course, if that's the case, then one wonders why Isabella didn't hear about her father's suicide attempts over the course of the years...

...unless, of course, Charlie is in on the Cullen game and they need him around, and alive, so that they can hide in plain sight in Forks.

...which opens up an entire new world, including one, in my head, where Alice is always aware of when Charlie's depression is about to get him to the breaking point and she has Jasper "suggest" that he go "fishing" with Billy Black, who is also the town's procurer of all sorts of vices.

...or she tells Esme that she needs to cheer Charlie up again.

There are a lot of dark ways this story could go. Many of them seem to end up in "The Truman Show" or "The Stepford Wives" areas, which would have been fascinating stories to read. Especially at the point where Bella, who's reluctantly been confiding in her dad about all the weird things going on, finds out that her Dad is in on it, too, and he's been stalling just long enough for the Cullens to arrive and take care of the snoop... 

Julie Mcgalliard said...

Ditto on the idea of Charlie as being in the grip of depression, but I read it as low level rather than acute.

When Bella's not around, if he doesn't go out, he eats Chef Boyardee ravioli straight out of the can, possibly with his fingers in order to avoid dirtying a fork. He's too ashamed to do this around Bella, even though she's probably too self-absorbed to notice.

Silver Adept said...

@b037d28957ec5eb55c66c12d4156befb:disqus Unless Charlie has a very nice can opener that doesn't generate sharp edges when it opens a can, I think Charlie's going to have to dirty at least a fork and a bowl. It maybe only one, and repeatedly, without much care for doing the washing or dishes afterward, but if he tried to do it straight out of the can with just his fingers, they'd be bloody ribbons by the time he was done. Can openers are mean.

Ana Mardoll said...

Silver Adept

Obviously, for Maximum Woobie Points, he saves the plastic fork from his take-out lunch and eats from the can with that.

And he uses tears instead of salt. 

Ana Mardoll said...

Chelsea, that was incredible! Gave me actual shivers!

We shall call it... "Rightlight". *grins*

Chelsea said...

*hums a redone version of Rihanna's 'Rockstar'*

~Small city, Rightlight~
~School all day, awkward sexual tension all night~


Randall M said...

Bella gets a lot of well-deserved flak for being utterly catty and
judgmental, but I'd like to see a little of that judgmental attitude
turned away from Friendly Mike and Chess Club Eric and instead turned onto Father Charlie.

How do we know that she isn't?  Why assume that she is a reliable narrator here?  Perhaps Charlie is a perfectly adequate cook but not up to her standards, and she exaggerates from there.  "Oh, Charlie can't cook anything but  bacon and eggs.  And there's nothing in the house to cook!  I feel faint!"  And then everyone feels sorry for her.

Or so she hopes.

Amaryllis said...

Chelsea, well done! Very convincing.

I can report, from my own experience, that it is perfectly possible to ruin spaghetti. For instance, if it's supposed to be boiled for 12 minutes and you boil it for 20, it turns to mush. Or if you forget the salt it's pretty flat-tasting, and if you don't stir the strands at least a few times, it congeals into an unevenly-cooked lump. And I know someone who doesn't bother to boil the water first, just throws the pasta into the cold water and heats the pot. He says he can't tell the difference, but I say the pasta comes out slimy.

mercredigirl said...

That was great, Chelsea! :D

I would really read a vampire book like that.

The Dread Pirate Matt said...

Your etymology of 'vampire' just made my week.

The Dread Pirate Matt said...

@openid-79226:disqus Brilliant. Charlie-as-protagonist makes for a far more interesting story, with Bella's infatuation with Edward being a driving force for him. 
We know he's the chief of police, so he's probably thrown himself into his job after Renee left. Eats at the diner every night (and every morning); probably even takes it to his desk at the station in the evenings. But there's still one thing missing: 
- Charlie is either celibate (for 16 years!), 
- "self-medicating" (for 16 years?), 
- has had a casual relationship (or several) over the years,
- visits one of the larger cities semi-regularly (I assume that Forks isn't large enough to support a red light district of its own, especially not one that could safely be patronised by the chief of police),
- the fishing trips really aren't about fishing (given the predilection of the author, I'm ruling this out from an authorial standpoint)

So to give some back story for Charlie in Rightlight:
"Charlie knew things would have to change now that Bella had arrived. He'd spent the better part of his life avoiding the house, full of memories of a better time.Better? That made him chuckle. Nostalgia made it easy to forget the constant arguing, the broken plates and the tears. He wanted to believe that he was better off after Renee left, but he'd never had the strength to let go. Instead, he threw himself into his job, working his way up to chief of police in the years since Renee's departure. It meant long hours at the station, but he didn't mind. The whole town saw him as a man dedicated to his job, and he wasn't going to change that. Besides, the overtime helped pay for his annual trips down to California. The only thing he was really dedicated to was avoiding the house. Bella's arrival changed all of that.He'd have to spend more time at home with her now. Fewer late nights eating take-out from the diner at his desk. He might even have to learn how to cook. Having her around, he might finally find the strength to free himself from Renee's constant presence.What about Mary, though? He'd told her they'd have to stop seeing each other while Bella was around, or at least until things settled. His daughter was so like Renee in many ways. Sticking to her new resolution of a life here in Forks? Who knew how long that would last.Mary understood, or at least she said she did. He knew she was hurting, and he knew how to deal with that. He'd been doing it himself for the better part of sixteen years. So he hid any emotion from his voice when he reminded her that what they had was just casual. She held back the tears, at least until he'd closed the door behind him.Charlie was pretty sure most of the town knew about him and Mary, but they were too polite to say anything about it, at least to his face. He just hoped Bella didn't find out from someone at school. When the time's right... he kept telling himself. Right now he had more pressing matters to think about. Like how to keep his daughter away from that Cullen kid."

Kit Whitfield said...

Credit for that one must go to my husband. He's also of the opinion that if werewolves and vampires were largely groups of young men, they'd privately refer to each other as 'leg-humpers' and 'tampon-suckers' respectively.

He went to an all-boys school, you see. :-)


If someone was in the grip of a depression bad enough to take away their appetite, vices probably wouldn't make much of an impact on them. If you can't enjoy food, it's unlikely you'll enjoy much else. It's more likely that the fishing trips would be part of a routine that held him together: a reliable way to get himself out of the house and doing something with another human being to give himself a little bit of energy. Fishing sounds about right for that: as it mostly involves sitting still and staring ahead of you, you could hide your inertia pretty well by pretending to watch the water and your slowed thinking by pretending you don't want to scare the fish. Nothing so intimidating that he could get too scared to do it and end up staying home again. 

If that was the case, then eating out rather than cooking at home also sounds right. Things get difficult when you're depressed, and routines that spare you having to make decisions can be a lifeline. I'm seeing a man who has a schedule for all his time off that's the same every week: at the diner for lunch at 12.30, at the diner for supper at 6.30, fishing every Saturday, and Sundays a frightening wasteland where he couldn't think of anything to schedule in. 

Which might explain the car, actually. Maybe the Sunday before Bella arrived Charlie was suffocating under the weight of another empty day when it occurred to him that Bella might like a car and, briefly energised by the prospect of a project that would give him some human contact that day and make his daughter pleased with him - because while it can be hard to work out what other people are feeling through the fog, teenagers like to have their own cars, right? - he pulled himself together and went straight out and bought something. When Bella starts questioning him about it, he's evasive because he's feeling criticised and hopeless and he doesn't want to give her ammunition to point out all the ways he probably screwed up buying it like he screws up everything. Renee didn't love him and neither does Bella, and really, if he can't even get buying a car right, why would they? 

The best he can do is to keep an eye on Bella and stop her ruining her life like he ruined his. She won't like it, but she doesn't love him anyway, so it's not like he's losing anything. If he can just get her through childhood into adulthood where she's reasonably safe, then he will have done what he had to do. It probably will be settled before he has to retire, so he'll still have his gun. Then he can do what's right for everyone and take himself out of their lives so they won't have to feel guilty about him any more. Another five years, maybe seven, and then he can rest. 

The Dread Pirate Matt said...

I can relate. 5 years of high school at an all-boys private school; 8 years in a band whose internal humour has merely got cruder over time. And the two women in the band are the worst! :-)

Charlie never struck me as "depressed" so much as "weak-willed". He lets Renee walk out without a fight, and he caves to Bella's demands of going to not-Forks for vacations without even a token protest (or so Bella-the-omniscient-narrator implies). Maybe a little depressed, but more the poetic loneliness of a Harry Chapin song than the all-food-tastes-like-ash variety.

I know the routine would help offset this, but Forks must be seriously short on candidates if he's that disconnected and still manages to be chief of police (unless of course the Cullen's are greasing *other* palms to keep him in power). Deputy, sure. But chief? I think in that case he'd also lack the motivation to get elected to that position (assuming it's an elected office as it generally seems to be in small-town USA -- remember, I'm writing from Australia). The routine and the *lack* of responsibility would fit better.

It's hard to know, though, because even the characters who *aren't* Mary-Sues are just as empty of any consistent characterisation and back story.

Kit Whitfield said...

Thinking about the car, there might be another reason why Charlie bought something so old. If he's invested in who she dates and want to have a say there - which seems to be the case - buying her a car that would need constant repairs she couldn't afford would mean she'd have to look around for someone to help her fix it. Who could she ask except her childhood buddy Jacob? She doesn't know anyone else in town, Jacob's a good mechanic these days, and he's grown into a good-looking kid, but he's a nice boy too; Bells would be safe with him. No harm in giving things a little push, right? 

Silver Adept said...

Hrm. Normally, @Kit_Whitfield:disqus , I'd say that interpretation wouldn't jibe, from what I know of small-town USA (they tend to view anyone not themselves as "exotic", and usually "troublemakers", and with First Nations tribes, based on the appaling conditions of most reservations, there would be more than a few other adjectives added on), except Charlie and Billy Black have some sort of friendship going on, so setting Bella up with Jacob as a "boy/girl next door" thing works more than it would normally.

@openid-75620:disqus Chief of Police positions in the urban areas are usually appointed by the local elected official rather than as an elected position, however, weirdly enough, regional sheriff positions for unincorporated areas are usually elected offices. Weird people, us USians.

Ad as for depression, well, it could have a destructive bent to it, too - Charlie's weak will leads ot depression about not being able to do anything for himself, and while it's not enough to stop his appetite, based on his regular schedule at the diner, it might turn out in other ways - a control obsession, or a rage that comes to the top at certain points... maybe Charlie's smothering parenting style of "I know what's best for you, Isabella, and you'll obey my rules while you're under my roof" is a reaction to how he believes Renee walked all over him many years ago. Charlie-with-a-grudge could be an interesting character, too, especially if one of his outbursts had been written in for the terrifying thing that it would be.

Gelliebean said...

I am really loving the reinterpretation that Charlie could be under the vampires' thrall - but it doesn't have to be money or threats.  Jasper's power is to manipulate emotion, right?  What if he were 'treating' Charlie periodically to keep him functional, but as each fix wears off Charlie lapses back into his depression and can only function on ingrained routine until the next week rolls around.  He could be passing information on to the Cullens about Mrs. Lynde who lives alone across the way and keeps her binoculars trained on the neighbors' curtains, or about upcoming poaching stings, or the paranormal theorist who's chasing Bigfoot and ignoring property lines; in exchange, the pain and despair of losing his wife and baby daughter just... goes away for a little while and lets him keep up appearances.  Of course, this also means that he never really is able to deal with it and move on.

Of course, I'm also kind of digging the idea of Renee being a witch - if you have vampires and werewolves, the lack of a witch seems like a glaring omission. 

She'd left him twelve years before, and still in unwary moments he would forget that she was gone.  He would see her shadow disappearing around a corner, or catch a whiff of her perfume in the room they used to share, or hear her quiet giggle echoing down the stairwell for hours while he sat in front of the dead television set with a beer that he never opened.

How was a man supposed to move on with his life when his ex-wife still haunted their house?  He'd never managed to remodel, afraid of invoking her retribution from a thousand miles away for painting over her favored yellow in the kitchen.  One night, half-drunk, he'd stood in front of the ugly cabinets with a hammer in his hand when her voice came to him, clear as if she were standing there - "Ah-ah, don't you change a thing.  I like those."  The sound was light, airy; with a hint of laughter behind it.  He stood there for a full five minutes, the hammer shaking in his hand, knowing that she was mocking him.

He couldn't date, because her face would appear in front of him.  He couldn't cook for himself, because everything he made tasted like her cooking.  He could fish with Bobby, because something about the water seemed to block her memory... but once the fishing was done, he would go right home because she'd never liked him being out of the house.

"You'll never forget me, Charlie Swan," she'd said as she went out the door with their baby girl in her arms.

He never had.

Chelsea said...

I've heard it suggested by a friend (granted, one who usually is wearing slash goggles) that the movies at least seem to be hinting at Charlie and Billy Black having romantic feelings for each other, which would certainly be an interesting twist on things. But the idea of Charlie having someone else at all makes his character seem a lot less pathetic. Not because someone has to be dating in order to be "manly" or what have you, but because it provides an explanation for his seemingly pathetic living conditions. The reason his house has never changed is because he doesn't spend much time there, he spends it with his partner. The reason he doesn't have any food is because Mystery Lover is the cook of the couple, and he prefers eating at hir house anyway.

I think it would be really interesting to see Twilight done in an omniscient third person perspective, with everyone's perspective showing up at least once. Otherwise, it's too easy to do what we're doing right now, which is fill in the blanks that Bella seems to be completely oblivious too. And I think Meyer intends for us to take Bella's perspective as reality, but dear GOD that is a depressing reality. 

Chelsea said...

Oh, also, I meant to add that I think the books also could have been a lot interesting if Bella and her father had teamed up to deal with the supernatural menaces plagueing Forks. I mean, he's the Chief of Police. It's totally baffling to me that Meyer didn't do anything at all with that. Instead, every character in the book does their best to keep Charlie in the dark. So weird.

Nina said...

Ooh, chilling!

The Dread Pirate Matt said...

I got the feeling that Forks was more of the Stephen King-esque small town. You know, like 'Salem's Lot, except without the interesting vampire stuff. Within that framework, the idea of an elected sheriff (or a chief of police appointed by the local councillor/s) seemed to gel.

The political dynamics of a place like Forks might bear further scrutiny. How did Charlie get/keep his job? Are the Cullens a sort of local cabal secretly running the town from behind the scenes? Are they using their vamp mojo to do this, or the more traditional greasing of palms?

My last trip to the US was in '93 to visit my dad's family in North Dakota at the time but I wasn't really old enough to understand the town dynamics first hand.

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little said...

Whole-wheat spaghetti solves the mush problem; it takes a long darn time to get past al dente to mush, compared to semolina spaghetti. Might not be available in Forks, though.

The bit about Emmett's birdwatching and Esme's deer-baiting sounds like something straight out of Growing Up Cullen.

Silver Adept said...

Oh, Cullen Forks would be a really great place to have a political thriller, as Charlie works to unravel the Cullens' hold on the town (while not tipping his hand), and his daughter falls in love with the most forbidden person she could. The addition of the vampire revelation later on would only make things that much more chilling.

Julezyme said...

I just want to say, I love you guys. This is awesome.

Slacktiverse: Turning bad fiction into great stories, one book at a time.

Julezyme said...

So, questions: Can TurboJesus kill vampires?? Is Bella immune to Carpathia's mind mojo? Between Edward and Buck, who is the more annoying virgin?

Ana Mardoll said...

I just want to say, I love you guys. This is awesome.
Slacktiverse: Turning bad fiction into great stories, one book at a time.

I know, right? It's not quite the same level as, say, picking up litter at the park, but I still think everyone in this thread deserves some kind of community service award. I *love* these new re-writes that people are coming up with -- so talented!

Between Edward and Buck, who is the more annoying virgin?

Good grief, that's a good question. They're evenly matched: Both men are older than their brides and like to dip into annoying paternalistic condescension as much as possible, they strangely insist on "waiting" until marriage even when there doesn't seem to be a compelling reason to do so (the world is ending in LB, and Edward and Bella aren't conservative Christians), and the author keeps talking Buck/Ed up as THE BEST THING EVAH.

I think we could make other parallels... Buck abuses his position as a journalist to bury important life-saving information, whereas Edward utterly fails to use his mind reading powers to help people, preferring to instead use his talents to "prank" kids at the local high school by finishing their sentences for them.

It may come down to simply "who is the most unrepentant murderer", but it's worth noting that for all Edward's angst on that issue it's generally more OH BOO HOO I HAVE NO SOUL and less "I feel kind of conflicted for murdering and eating those people". Plus, it's extra annoying because the author keeps trying to smooth it all over. Of the two options, sometimes I actually PREFER Buck's unapologetic preening. :P

Kit Whitfield said...

I dunno; give Edward credit for at least acknowledging that he has a sex drive, and that while acting on it might be a bad idea, sex under the right circumstances can be fun...

Ana Mardoll said...

Those who have finished the series will have to fill me in -- in the movies, Edward shuts down Bella on TEH SEXY until they are married because he's "old fashioned" and he considers it disrespectful to sleep with her.

There are several issues with that, obviously, not the least of which is the "I will respect you by following MY beliefs about how you should live instead of YOUR beliefs about how you should live," but it sort of feels -- in the movies -- like she's going into the marriage just for the chance to have sex with him. They make her out to be... not unopposed to life-partnering, but opposed to "marriage" as a concept, presumably because of her parents' issues.

But that's the movies -- I deliberately haven't finished reading the series yet.

Gelliebean said...

No, that's pretty much how it went in the books too...  :-/ 

Ana Mardoll said...

Sure, but it's the same problem with Buck and Chloe - they're virginal because their authors and audience are, not because it makes sense to the character.

kbeth said...

I have a lot of male friends who fall into the "absentminded software engineer" category, and they never keep food in their houses and also can't cook anything -- not because they're depressed, not because they're waiting for someone to come along and do it for them (though they wouldn't object), but just because they don't think food is important enough to spend any more time on than necessary. They generally eat out a lot. On the other hand, I definitely get the impression that for some of them, the "food is boring" mentality came from rationalizing their aversion to doing "women's work".

Brin Bellway said...

kbeth: they never keep food in their houses

What, not even pre-packaged snacks? *looks at Cheez-It box*

aravind said...

Oh my god. OH MY GOD. That's both amazing and completely terrifying! Eeeep. I'm not sure if I'll sleep tonight, when Renee could be under my bed. :P

kbeth said...

Brin: I occasionally see some instant oatmeal or ramen or some chips, but when I say they always eat out I mean they ALWAYS eat out, order in or are fed by their employers (that last one actually accounts for quite a bit of the food they consume). Grocery shopping gets lumped in with cooking as "one of those things I don't want to deal with" (which, again, may possibly be "one of those things I shouldn't have to deal with") and they make enough money that they can afford to not deal with groceries and cooking.

kbeth said...

Whoops, forgot to say -- I don't know if Charlie would make enough to afford eating out all the time, or how much age factors into this (I and my friends are all in our early twenties), but I just wanted to point out that there is a certain work-obsessed personality that doesn't deal well with food preparation, and this may be what Meyer was trying to convey with Charlie. Though I do think it's somewhat more likely that this was a misguided attempt at getting us to feel sorry for Charlie ("Aww, the poor single man needs a feminine touch in his life!").

Gordon said...

It's entirely possible Charlie doesn't eat at home much. My dad was always on call, and he often didn't eat at home. And people took him out for lunch all the time. Mostly his co-workers. Or he took them out. And if he goes to Billy's often, then he may not have much call to cook. I know several local restaurants that offer food free of charge to officers in uniform, because the police often drive by when they are open late. It discourages loitering.  Especially Whataburger. And more than one business offers endless refills on coffee after you've bought that first 75 or 15 cent cup. Seriously, there's a group of older men that make morning rounds to those places.

I admit it's a bit negligent that he didn't buy anything in preparation for Bella's coming, and I find the FOOD MONEY jar a bit baffling. I think it's more a case of the pieces just not fitting into a any kind of clear picture.

In Texas, at least in my hometown, the Chief of Police is an appointed position. The city council makes the appointment, which is made up of officials representing each city district(of which I believe there are 6) and then the mayor. It's a permanent position with no set limit. You're in it until they kick you out, or you leave, voluntarily or involuntarily. Of course, as I understand it from my government class two semesters ago, there's no set way for a city or county to organize itself, so It can vary wildly.

Kat said...

In Breaking Dawn, I think there was mention of the Cullens never wearing the same outfirt twice, and frequent donations to Goodwill.

Redwood Rhiadra said...

Edward and Bella aren't conservative Christians

Well, in some sense, they really are. I mean, the author basically imposes *her* moral values on them, and she's a conservative Christian (well, Mormon).

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