“Let Nothing Ye Dismay” is fictional holiday tale. It tells the story of a group of Millenial 20-somethings trying to celebrate Christmas together, for the first time away from their parents, in a rented beach house. Various adventures, romantic and otherwise, ensue.
Time: MONDAY AFTERNOON
The shout rose above the clatter of suitcases tumbling onto the baggage carousel at the Myrtle Beach airport.
Dan Steele’s head turned; his face bloomed into a grin.
Belinda Parsons watched her stocky cousin walk towards her gang’s position, right beneath the digital sign reading Flight 486, Philadelphia. She watched as Dan traded quasi-hugs – fists tapping backs like NBA stars at tip-off – with her brother, Scoot, then with Scoot’s best friend, Jeremy.
Then Belinda felt Dan sweeping her into his muscled arms. “Hey, cuz,” he whispered.
A young woman with red hair and matching nail polish hung back a few steps, watching the scene with a tentative smile. Dan waved her toward the circle: “Guys, this is Carly.” Belinda gave her cousin’s new girlfriend a hug; Jeremy and Scoot each offered a Yo!
“So I guess I’m chopped liver here?” a thin fellow with a coal-black goatee asked as he yanked a suitcase off the rotating slats.
“Oh, gosh. My bad, Paul. Dan, Carly, this is Paul. Paul, Dan and Carly.”
Belinda’s cousin extended a hand to Paul Flatley, Belinda’s boyfriend of six weeks. Paul’s hand was curled into a fist, seeking a return bump. Their hands tangled clumsily, then retreated.
Dan smiled at Belinda: “So, I guess this is it, finally. The new adventures of SLALOM begin.”
“SLALOM? What’s that?” Paul asked.
“Oh, that’s Dan’s name for our pathetic little band. Look at us, with nowhere to go at Christmas, no one to be with but each other. SLALOM: the Sad League of Absolute Losers, Outcasts and Misfits. ”
“Which am I?” blurted Jeremy.
“You’re a triple play,” Dan replied.
Jeremy, 5 foot 5 to the tip of his neat Afro, reached up to punch Dan on the arm. And with that, they headed to the rental car counter.
There’d be seven of them, all told, in the beach house on the North Carolina shore. Belinda’s best friend, Steffi, was flying in from New York that night.
Seven 20-somethings who had either no chance, or no desire, to spend Christmas with parents; seven loose ends brought together by Belinda’s insistent machinations.
For Belinda, planning an event down to the second, imagining it again and again in her vivid mind’s eye, was more than half the pleasure of the thing. She risked, and sometimes suffered, acrid letdowns when life frustrated her meticulous fantasies. “B-Bear, can’t you just let things happen?” her mother had often asked. But Belinda reaped such delight when her plans worked out. She deemed her emotional ledger to be well into the black.
Sitting at her desk in a University of Pennsylvania office, she’d stolen many moments to plot this Christmas bid for healing and release, this trip back to the North Carolina island where her extended family had gathered for so many summer weeks now golden in memory.
They had been so close, so happy, during those summer weeks at the beach, joined by the best friends who’d become honorary members of the family.
So happy, back before a clump of cells gone haywire, then a bubble in the brain, had robbed Dan of both his parents inside 10 cruel months.
So happy, before last summer, when a midlife fever in her mother’s blood had destroyed what Belinda had imagined a perfect marriage, a perfect family, turning her parents into strangers to their children.
The inching line at the Avis counter drove Belinda nearly mad, eager as she was for them all to see the house on Ocean Isle Beach. She’d picked it finally after weeks of pondering, revising, fretting.
“I just can’t wait for you guys to see the house,” she said. “It’s got four bedrooms, an ocean view from the porch with all those rockers, two living rooms with big-screen TVs, a pool shaped like a kidney in back, a really nice kitchen, even an elevator!”
“We know, Beebs,” Scoot said, calling her by her family nickname. “You sent us the link with the photos like six times.”
As the clerk finally handed her the paperwork to the SUV, she could feel an agitated touch on her wrist. Paul.
“Just one car?” he asked.
“Well, Danny has his. With the SUV, that should be plenty for the seven of us.”
“Well, I need one for myself. I have some side trips in mind; I don’t want to be stuck.”
“I thought the point of this week was for us to do things together, for you to get to know the people I love most in the world.”
Paul tried a winning smile: “Oh, I’m all for togetherness. But I’m also for the chance to escape it every once in a while. …. Excuse me; do you have any mid-sizes available?”
Here it came, the acidic flutter that rose inside Belinda whenever her plans began to veer off the path she’d intensely imagined. She tamped it down, forced a smile: “OK, sweetie, have your Camry, if you must.”