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Where It All Started

History books gloss over the exact minute when cultural change evolved. The world will point at new technology to mark the transition. They fail to accept the consequence until after it arrived. He didn’t notice when the shift happened in 1994.

He slammed on the brakes of the rented 1993 Mercury Marquis, whipping the wheel with frantic quickness. He made the turn into the driveway.

“What was that for?” his partner asked from the passenger seat holding on for dear life.

“I didn’t read the map right. This is the place.”

They were on a huge journey, D’Ante thought. The entrance to the resort resembled the opening scene of Caddyshack. The blazing early morning sun, offset the swishing sounds of sprinklers.

A clan of vacationers surround their bags waited to enter the mansion. It will be their home for the next six days. The group are longtime friends from their University. They decided to take vacation in the south.

They descended on Myrtle Beach for a golf outing. Congenial at first, the humid weather, the stress of playing disastrously. It showed a different side of the groups' personality, at least that’s what D’Ante told himself.

He heard the voice of his wife Georgina as she rummaged around in the trunk. “You didn’t give me the last tally, did everyone commit?”

“Everyone’s here, we did a great job putting this together,” he said patting her on the arm. He moves toward the group, “It’ll be fun,” he said as he waved at his friends.

“Is everyone playing the entire schedule of golf?” she asked.

“No, Sholanda and Soria are playing one round the entire week and Shamus and Jordan are playing three, but he said they might not play at all.”

“That sucks. Is it Jordan?”

“Of course. What is it about her?”

“I have never liked Jordan. She can’t say anything without sounding high and mighty.”

Georgina smirked, “I hope they know how to entertain themselves.”

“Me too,” D’Ante said standing next to their baggage. “They’re waiting for me.”

Weeks before they arrived the group settled on sleeping quarters through a draw. They pulled numbers out of a hat. The couple with the lowest selected first. The process continued until they parsed the rooms out. No hard feelings that way.

The leader of the adventure grabbed his golf bag, swinging it over his shoulder. He pushed the crowd to the front door. They step in. A wall of chilly air met them, contrasting the hot humid South Carolina air. From behind he heard the voices as the group moved with him. “Do y’all remember what rooms you picked?” he yelled. A collective yes greeted him. D’Ante smiled feeling excellent about the chemistry. No way we have a crappy time, he thinks. Looking at the red tile roof of the single story million dollar Spanish style mansion he sighed with satisfaction.

They enter the brightly lit foyer, succumbing to the gilded beauty of the home. The front room, decked out with a 70-inch TV, a leather wrap around couch with a polished oak coffee table centered in the glamorous open air room. There were six bedroom. Each with separate bathrooms to let everyone recede to their own corner, to collect themselves and refresh.

“Here you go,” his friend Shamus said handing him an ice-cold bottle of beer. “We brought it all the way from Texas. It’s a special brew we concocted just for this group.”

“It’s hard to believe that you’re a beer mogul from Texas. Incredible.”

“Yeah, well it’s not only a surprise to you,” the entrepreneur muttered.

“You worked hard to make it happen. You started with nothing to build a regional beer manufacturing company. I heard the story, not from you of course. Were you embarrassed to call your friend?”

“Well... when you didn’t come see me I thought you gave up on me.”

“Really? I didn’t know that. It wasn’t true. I didn’t understand how to approach you in that place. I’m sorry.”

“Yes. I heard it was true from a good source.”

Sensing his surly mood, he made a mental note, “What’s wrong, you look pissed about something,” D’Ante said as he took a long drag from his bottle. The friendship began when they were young living in the same neighborhood. Shamus’s mother would watch him during the day while his parents worked. They lost touch when the future beer mogul did a stint in prison for a white collar crime. Embezzled money from his employer.

A faint tick appeared. A little glint that his mind stressed him, “nothing is wrong.”

“You’re bothering my husband? Let him get unpacked,” Jordan said sliding her finger across his chest. She flashed a sly smile.

“Yeah, I better get unpacked, too. We have an early tee time tomorrow.”

“After dinner, we can shoot the shit for a while.” D’Ante took a step toward his bedroom hearing the clatter of drawers down the hall. His old buddy makes a nervous nod. He wheeled around abruptly leaving him stand awkwardly alone.

Moving to his room he sees his gorgeous wife unpacking the suitcases. She’s hiding the contents away in the dresser. He flashes a playful smile at his best friend, patting her arm.

He left her to find Anand working in the kitchen cooking in a flurry of activity to have food waiting for the clan to join. Before the trip, everyone voted on each meal, except breakfast.

“What’re you fixing tonight?” D’Ante asked moving into the kitchen next to the two watching him.

Sholanda turns with a smile interrupting his answer. “Don’t you remember? We’re having steak.”

The group laughed. Anand cleared his throat as he chopped vegetables, “well, if you remember it isn’t exactly steak.”

“Oh, that’s right,” D’Ante said. “I think we settled on a specially prepared Wagyu Kobe Steak. They price this stuff by the ounce... really?” He grabbed a carrot, he took a bite, followed it with a bountiful mouthful of beer.

“Yes, that’s right. I was able to get a deal from our supplier with these. They didn’t meet our standards at the restaurant, but they’ll be fine. The taste will be out of this world.”

Sholanda stuck her finger in the sauce. “I’m sure it will. Anything you make tastes magnificent.”

D’Ante pushes the door open to see two friends talking near their car. They stop when he reached ear shot of their conversation. “Hey you two.”

Sholanda looked at Jeff standing tall at six foot ten. The gigantic person grimaced in defiance, “I or better yet, we heard Shamus and Jordan yelling at each other. There’s something going on.”

“We wanted you to know,” he said winking at his wife. He wrapped his long arm around her. “Not that you can do anything about it.”

“Thanks for telling me.”

Julia exited the house in a hurry, spying the group she rushed to them, “It’s Jordan. Through the yelling it sounds like she closed her business without telling him,” she said in a soft voice a decibel above a whisper. “They’re in trouble.”

D’Ante shook his head, “no wonder he’s distracted. Why can’t he be honest with me?” The transition from the chilly interior of the home to the frying pan outside acts similar to a condensation machine. Sweat forms on his brow, drifting down his face and neck, drenching the collar of the red Under Armour golf shirt.

Jeff, with his arms full of bags, moves to the doorway. “It’s the tip of the iceberg,” he said making long strides toward the gelid interior of the home.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean he’s still holding a grudge. Your presence is bringing back the feeling he’s always had. That life is easy for you, he’s continuing to live in your shadow.”

“That’s nonsense.” D’Ante followed. Opening the door chilly air greets them, mixing with the smells of food cooking.

He touched Georgina’s shoulder, bending over to kiss her cheek, “let’s go to dinner.”

His petite wife nodded grabbed his muscular arm for a hug.

D’Ante moved to the grand space considered to be the dining room. The room size is equal to a half basketball court. Eating the exquisite food only made the talk among longtime friends easy.

The next day, the group split. Everyone, except Julia and Sina, put their golf clubs in the vehicles, heading to their first tee time.

The South Carolina sun didn’t disappoint, baring its brutal teeth with a ferocity they had avoided in their northern protected life. Returning, the dried sweat formed stains on their shirts. Their faces showed the drain of energy, glossy and red from the radiation of the sun. Stumbling into the air-conditioned home, the coolness had a sleeping aid affect. The attitudes and temperament evident as they assembled before heading to their rooms.

D’Ante stepped forward to address the group of vacationers. “We have a choice to make. Go out to eat or have Anand make us dinner.” They turn to their chef laying on the couch sound asleep.

Julia, refreshed from her spa day says, “I think we should go out. That sun took everything out of everyone today.”

Sensing the difficultly to convince friends to agree, D’Ante struggled to stray from their golf and food arrangement. Jeff towers over everybody. He provided a focal point in the mansion. “I think we should go out... for those that want dinner.”

“I second that motion,” came a muffled sound from Anand.

“I thought you were sleeping,” Julia said holding a video camera.

The viewing screen extended she laughs. “Oh my god, Jeff. You did the recording wrong.”

“I’m resting my eyes. Let’s go out this one night,” the chef said.

“No, I didn’t.”

“Yes, you did. See? You had the camera on when you were in the cart, but you turned it off when you went to shoot more action. This is funny.”

“No, it’s not,” Jeff said closing his eyes.

Sholanda stretched over her shoulder to watch the replay, “yep... she’s right. You’re wrong.”

“It can’t be.”

“Get used to it, you messed up. Take it this one time,” Julia said.

“We can ride together in two cars,” D’Ante said moving away from them toward the front door. “I’m hungry. By the time we get there I’ll be ready to eat my hands.”

The group gathered to travel, except Shamus and Jordan. “We’ll follow in our car,” he said with no emotion.

“You can ride with us, we have room,” Jeff insisted.

“No,” he said shaking his head. “We’ll follow you.”

D’Ante hesitates, debating internally whether to push the issue. Shrugging he waves everyone forward. “Let’s get going. They’ll get there when they get there.”

Sholanda’s face fell. The conflict disturbed her, “can’t we wait for them? We’ll get there together as one happy group.”

Sina steps past them to the door, opened it he looked over his shoulder, “let’s go. I’m starving and if we don’t, I don’t think I’ll make it.”

Grumbles from the group confirmed his view. They file out of the home leaving Shamus and Jordan O’Reilly behind. With the two Ford SUV’s the trip to the restaurant took less than fifteen minutes. When they rolled into the parking lot, the sign said GRUB N’ BOOZE BAR AND GRILL– the socially unacceptable place to eat.

“What the hell is this place?” Sholanda asked.

Anand smiles, “they have great food. That’s what I heard from several clients. One of them asked me to replicate the menu for their outing.”

D’Ante shook his head. Jeff gave him a sign to move with his eyes. After a few minutes, the greeter became rude. He pressured D’Ante to leave or relocate in the restaurant with the rest of them. Scanning the parking lot, he fell in behind everyone else, Shamus will catch up.

They traveled in a single line through the outdoor seating. They made it resemble a farmhouse wrap around porch. On both sides they had tables placed, filled with customers in different stages of eating.

D’Ante overheard yelling ahead, craning to see what the fuss was. Georgina turned to smile at him, “do you hear that? Get ready for some fun.”

He didn’t grasp what she said until a second after she spoke, “what are you talking about?”

“The ambiance, they yell at you. They make fun of your inability to react in enough time, which is never. It’ll be exciting to watch them try to mess with Jeff and Sholanda.”

D’Ante checked the rest of the group to sense their response. He noticed the smiles, satisfied they will have fun. Finding their table, he grabbed the menu. His eyes wandered through the list settled on the Wha Wha Brisket sandwich. Under the heading it said, ‘if you are sensitive or just a tree hugger you might consider something else’.

“Did you see the menu?” Jeff yelled at D’Ante. “A Wha Wha Brisket? How cool is that?”

He nodded as the waiter rushed through the drink slate. He told them he wouldn’t repeat the list. They make their selection in a flash to avoid being subjected to the shouting. Sitting outside, it should be easy to have a conversation, but for a reason he couldn’t pinpoint, they could barely hear each other talk.

“Wow, that was fast,” Anand said from the table behind him. He turns to see the faces grinning.

Julia leans in from across the aisle, “this looks good. I hope Jordan and Shamus make it.”

Jeff yells, “If not, it’s their loss.”

“Yeah, they’ll have to catch up,” Georgina agreed.

Seconds later the waiter brought their drink order. D’Ante turned around to see at the entrance Shamus and Jordan behind the greeter. They chose to sit with Jeff and Sholanda.

In the chaos of their arrival, the din of fellow diners and not having their mind entirely in the moment. The speed demon server did his speedy list of drinks. At the end he said, “I will only say this once.”

Jeff interrupted, “just say Bud Light.”

Before he said the last word, Jordan bats her blue eyes at him, with everyone around her whispering not to ask questions, she said, “can you repeat the list? I don’t like Bud Light.”

The waiter’s eyes grew wide. His face turns to disgust. “I don’t care what you don’t like,” he yells. “I gave you a list to pick from, can’t you remember what you hear? Who do you think you are?”

“Sir,” Shamus said meekly.

“Shut up, I’m disgusted with you for wasting my time. I have a lot of customers here wanting food and you’re making them wait.” He twisted around to rush off to another table.

Shamus is crestfallen, “she wanted to hear the list again.”

“WHAT! Are you kidding me? You’re literally the only people here that don’t know the drink they want,” he bellowed.

Jeff raised his hand to interject. He lowered it with a smirk.

Jordan’s face was beet red. Tears welled in her eyes. “Bud Light,” she stammered.

“The wonder never ceases. You finally decided. What in god’s green earth got into you? Anyone else?” Heads shook, everybody forced a knowing smile.

“I don’t understand the treatment. We only wanted to hear the list of drinks again,” Shamus said his voice faltering.

D’Ante leaned across the aisle, “I told you it’s part of the clowning around. You know, the entertainment or challenge depended on how you look at it.”

“Why does anyone think it’s funny to watch someone yell at another person?” Jordan sniffed.

Jeff interjected, “what’s upsetting you?”

“Yeah, well it wasn’t funny,” Shamus shouted, his face rosy from the anger brewing inside.

“Relax, man. Don’t be a stick in the mud,” Anand yelled from the table across the aisle as he ate a nacho chip as cheese dripped off the side.

“Screw you - and you too, Jeff. We don’t need your crap... or this. We’re tired and want a pleasant quiet dinner. Not this. We’re leaving,” Shamus said with a hand out to help Jordan to her feet.

D’Ante looked at them. A heaviness overcomes him, as he tried to recall something to settle the situation. The group relished the atmosphere, except the two latecomers finding offense. “Stay. They won’t continue any longer. Just stay with us. Our food is coming.”

Shamus gave him an angry glare. Jordan saddened. Her aloof demeanor demanded justice for the wrong committed against them.

“That’s okay let them go,” Anand said as he chomps on a large burger with cheese. The pickle hung out of the bun. “There’s something wrong with them. I don’t know what it is, but it wasn’t too long ago when they were mocking everything we’re doing. It didn’t take much for those two to laugh at someone else’s embarrassing moment.”

Georgina sat eating, she watched them leave. She grabs fries from D’Ante’s plate, “it’s amazing to me when people are offended by random acts that are inconsistent with their past.”

“It makes them seem disingenuous.”

“Moral superiority is out of control with them. I don’t understand why they’re doing this,” Georgina added.

D’Ante leaned back in his chair. The tension left his body. The trip was their vacation too, why let another opinion dampen their fun? “It’s a matter of choice... right? We still believe in that?”

“We do,” he heard from the others sitting around him.

The remainder of the group erupts in joyous chatter about their golf and adventures. They left the hidden tension of their missing friends alone. Finishing their meal, they have drinks and dance. They head back to their vacation quarters fed and tired.

Arriving at the mansion, D’Ante looked for Shamus’s vehicle. “Where are they? I don’t see their car. Where do you suppose they went?”

He shrugged as he wheeled the SUV in a parking spot, “I don’t know, we’ll have to wait til they show up.”

The groups strode in the mansion, they each found a comfortable place. They pass out alcohol filled sundowner, a specialty of Anand’s. A few hours later, the front door shuts. Shamus shuffled into the living room his wife close behind.

D’Ante stood with his drink, “where did you two go?”

The two sullen faced friends look at each other before Jordan answered, “we went out to eat.”

“You didn’t have to leave, Shamus,” Jeff said from the couch, his legs stretched over a coffee table sitting in front.

“Yeah, we could have fixed it,” Anand chimed in.

D’Ante kept his eyes on his friend. He watched the color of his ears transform to a light pink. They turned crimson with each second, spreading down his neck. “I think we need to forget about it. Tomorrow’s a new day.”

“Easy for you to say,” Shamus responded with venom.

“What’s that mean?” Georgina throws back at him with surprising malice.

“What I mean is this whole vacation is a mess. We’ve been lied to and beat up for everyone’s entertainment. This is how it’s always been with us. Everything falls your way just like a big brother I never had. My parents didn’t treat us as equals. You were treated better. You always grabbed the spotlight, overshadowing me.”

D’Ante’s eyes narrowed, “what’re you talking about?”

“You did,” Shamus said his voice rose as frustration took over.

“I did? When was that?”

“It started with the rooms. You got the best room. You downplayed it so we wouldn’t take it. Then we got stuck driving our own car while you shared the ride. Then the last straw. That restaurant was offensive. How dare you suggest we go there!”

D’Ante couldn’t comprehend what he heard. None of it true. “Let’s talk about the restaurant for a minute. Why did you get offended by it? The staff was doing their job at our expense. When did you become such an elitist that you can’t take a joke or laugh at yourself? That’s not you?”

The crimson turns to red, “we were offended. Everyone should have left with us. That’s what real friends would have done. It should have been you they were making fun of. YOU should have caught their rath!”

Anand stood, “We did too. You weren’t there. Why are you offended? We had a good time.” He sipped from a glass mug in his hand.

“Yeah, it was fun. I’m shocked that it got to you considering all the stuff we’ve done in college and stuff,” Julia chirps. “The dysfunction of your accusations is worrisome.”

Shamus didn’t stop, “I don’t care. He’s the one with dysfunction. Y’all are part of it. You should do what I tell you to do because we were offended.”

Silence overtook the group. After a few minutes Jeff stood. He pushed past Shamus and Jordan to enter the kitchen. “I’m glad we went. I had fun – that’s why I’m here. I don’t know where you come off being so greater than thou. When did you become the moral compass? You didn’t like the restaurant... so what, move on. There’s a lot of shit you do that I don’t like, but it’s your thing. You own it.”

“We’re a group. If one person objects, then the group should stop,” Jordan said. Her voice crumbling. She stomped her foot with her arms crossed in front of her.

“We agreed to the details for this vacation. Where were you then?” Georgina asked.

D’Ante stepped in the middle, “it wasn’t a conspiracy, I’m sorry you’re upset.”

“We didn’t agree on the restaurant,” Shamus yelled spit flew across the room, it landed on Jeff’s stomach.

“Nice shot,” he said laughing. “I agree with Jeff. This sudden bout of moral correctitude is disturbing. We give and take, compromise, discuss. That all took place. You can’t dictate to us now if you disagree. It’s your choice, right? But it’s ours too. Choice. Isn’t that freedom?”

“You don’t get it. We got screwed,” he countered, his hand clinched into a fist. Jordan grabbed his arm, she tugged him toward their room. “We’re in this together!”

D’Ante followed them, “come on, don’t get upset. What’s going on? We talked about this several times in the past months, you never mentioned any of this.”

Shamus turned to face him, “I did. You didn’t hear me.” He returned to move in his bedroom.

“Leave him go,” Jeff said. “He wants to make this out to be about us. He has a choice to walk away. To be himself, you know, independent thinking. Personal responsibility is becoming outdated. Everything is being replaced by group think. You either agree or you’re bullied until you do.”

Sholanda followed him, “we had fun - by the way we’re not in this together... that’s okay. Just relax and take a breath.”

D’Ante stood watching them leave the living room. Closing his eyes he resolved to move on. An adequate night of sleep might help everyone find serious rest.

In the morning he stepped out of the bedroom ready for golf. He saw Anand prepare breakfast. “They’re gone,” he said in a nonchalant tone, stirring food in a pan.

“Who?” Georgina responded.

“You know who. Shamus and Jordan. They left about two.”

Jeff entered scratching his stomach, “that’ll screw up our groups.”

D’Ante grinned, “he always found a way to screw up our group. He’s like a broken egg in a carton.”

Decades later, D’Ante sits at his dining room table. He watches his grandchildren play. In the background the news is on. The next shrill political issue is stirring hate and resentment by the commentators in the way Shamus did. Turning off the TV, he focuses on the future. The conversation reminds him of the trip ending with a bout of moral superiority. Isn’t that and political correctness the same?

The kids lounging on the carpet in his house find ways to have fun and love each other. That’s what he desires... the opportunity to live his life. Chuckling he reflects on where it all started.

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