“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: WEDNESDAY EVENING
The Giggling Mackerel sat on the Intracoastal Waterway, right where the causeway from the mainland completed its elegant swoop into Ocean Isle Beach.
On summer nights, its open-air bar was jammed with tanned, tattoed bodies. Once the cousins and friends had all reached drinking age, it had become a favorite hangout during trips to Ocean Isle – before breathing tubes and infidelities ended all their idylls.
Belinda readily agreed to her brother’s texted proposal to stop there; perhaps the Mackerel could return savor to an evening gone sour.
But from the moment they walked in, heard the college bowl game on ESPN blaring out over a small crowd in the bar, Belinda wanted to flee.
Dutifully, the gang ordered a pitcher of Yuengling; Belinda absent-mindedly shelled some peanuts, not even bothering to eat them. The others resumed teasing Jeremy about his chaotic turn on stage at Dick’s.
Steffi’s cell sounded, a Black-Eyed Peas ringtone. She looked at the screen, rolled her eyes, mouthed, “My mom,” to Belinda and headed outside. Ten minutes later, she returned, looking as if she’d just risen from the dentist’s chair.
Once the pitcher had been killed, Belinda proposed, “This scene is weak. How about Catchphrase back at the house?”
Dan readily agreed. As did the other beach veterans.
Paul, however, was deep in conversation with a guy he’d met at the bar and invited back to their table: “You’ve never been to a Gogol Bordello concert? My God, you’ve got to do one.”
Told they were leaving, Paul waved a hand, “OK, I’ll meet you back at the house later. I’ve got my rent-a-car.”
Out in the parking lot, Steffi asked, “Dan, what happened to Carly, where is she?”
“Not sure I know. Not sure I care. Last I saw she was playing a video game with somebody.”
With that, Dan got into his car and closed the door with a firm tug.
Back at the house, Scoot pried a small blue disc, about the size of a small Frisbee, out of his backpack and held it aloft: “Stef, it’s pre-set to your category: Around the House.”
The word game Catchphrase was another beloved ritual of Parsons/Steele beach weeks past. On the plastic disc’s screen, familiar phrases appeared; the player holding the disc shouted clues to his teammates, who tried to guess the phrase. All the while, the disc emitted piercing beeps, letting you know time was running out. Once one team guessed correctly, the disc was tossed like a scalded spud to the other team. Whichever team was holding the disc when it sounded its final buzzer lost the round.
Over the years, Steffi had become notorious for her bewildering clues, and her love for one category of phrases: Around the House.
Though missing players from the old days were a thick presence in the room, the five warmed quickly to the contest.
“He’s a dog in a cartoon,” Dan shouted.
“Oh, oh, from Family Guy … Brian!!!”
“No, no, more old school. He goes Ruh-Rohhh!”
The disc flew from hand to hand.
“You go to see movies here, but in your car!”
“No, no, you watch them IN your car.”
“Almost, almost, a drive-in what?”
“Finally! Thank you.”
Hands waved, fists smacked to foreheads as brains rummaged for answers. An hour passed. Dan’s team won game one. (No surprise; UNC grads who pull six figures at Research Triangle jobs tend to be sharp.)
Steffi’s brow wrinkled: “Paul and Carly are sure hanging at the Mackerel. What’s it been, an hour?
As if on cue, the glow of turning headlights cast shadows in the room; stones crackled outside.
“Sounds like them,” Dan said, with no air of pleasure.
In a moment, they heard the winch inside the elevator creak into action, lowering the compartment to ground level.
“Category: Entertainment,” Scoot announced.
They played the round; the elevator seemed silent, no sign of Paul and Carly.
“Hey, I wonder if they got stuck in the thing,” Steffi said.
“Or got off at the first floor,” Scoot said.
“No, Paul and my bedroom’s up here,” Belinda said, getting up and heading to the elevator door in the far corner of the room.
Just as she was about to press the button, the door flew open and Paul stumbled out. His face was flushed; the front of his shirt hung down over his belt. A cowlick of his black hair stood on end. Carly stood behind him in the elevator, face also red. She was shoeless.
“Uh – h-hey Beebs. W-we, we thought you guys probably had crashed for the night.”
“Obviously,” Belinda said. She took a step back, looked at the floor, then tilted her chin up, eyes boring in. “Obviously. Well, Paul, you thought wrong. Very wrong. And, Paul, it turns out it’s real good you rented your own car, because tomorrow when I get up, I want you to be gone. I don’t care if you leave now. I don’t care if you leave at 5 a.m. Just be gone. And be sure not to let me know where you’re going.”
With that, Belinda walked slowly out to the porch. Paul, after a moment, made a move to follow. Scoot positioned his lean frame in front of the door, glared at Paul.
Dan walked over to Paul: “Nice going, ace. Real, real jackass move. Better go pack, Paul. Hope you’re not too drunk to drive. Not that I care that much.”
“Screw you.” Paul headed to the master bedroom with an attempt at swagger.
Dan stared into the elevator at Carly, who was leaning back into a corner, hoping it would swallow her.
“Danny, I …” Dan held up a finger, wagged it and said, “Not here. In our room. Come.”
Dan and Carly went downstairs. Steffi moved to the porch to join her best friend.
In a few minutes, Paul emerged, a suitcase in tow. Without a word, he walked down the stairs. From the first floor, a rustle of voices. Doors opened and closed. The sound of plastic wheels on hardwood. Dan trudged up the stairs, went to the refrigerator, grabbed a beer, went out to the porch.
Scooter and Jeremy followed the comings and goings wordlessly.
A card door slammed, then another; headlights flared, then came the grunt of a transmission being slammed into drive.
“Wow,” Scoot said.
“Wow,” Jeremy agreed.
“That was random,” Scoot said, then paused: “Play some Wii?”
“Wii? Definitely.” ?