Grow up in North Carolina and it’s hard to get too attached to a beach house, knowing, as you do, that it’s on borrowed time. If the hurricane doesn’t come this autumn, it’ll likely come the next. The one that claimed our place—the Sea Section—in September of 2018, was Florence. Hugh was devastated, while my only thought was: What’s with the old-fashioned names? Irma, Agnes, Bertha, Floyd—they sound like finalists in a pinochle tournament. Isn’t it time for Hurricanes Madison and Skylar? Where’s Latrice, or Category 4 Fredonté?
Florence, it was said, gave new meaning to the word “namaste” along the North Carolina coast.
“Are you going to evacuate?”
Hugh and I were in London when the hurricane hit, and was followed almost immediately by a tornado. Our friend Bermey owns a house—the Dark Side of the Dune—not far from ours, and went over to check on the Sea Section as soon as people were allowed back onto Emerald Isle. He found our doors wide open—blown open by the wind. A large section of the roof had been ripped off, and the rain that had fallen in the subsequent days had caused the ceilings on both floors to cave in, the water draining, as if the house were a sieve, down into the carport. Bermey took pictures, which looked so tawdry I was embarrassed to share them. It seems that rats had been living in the second-floor ceilings. So there were our beds, speckled with currant-size turds and tufts of bloated, discolored insulation.
All the interior drywall would need to be replaced, as would the roof, of course, along with the doors and windows. We were left with a shell, essentially. Had ours been the only place affected, it might have been easy to have the repairs done, but, between the hurricane and the flooding, thousands of homes had been either destroyed or severely damaged—and that was just in North Carolina.
Our other house, luckily, was relatively unscathed. It’s next door to the Sea Section, and when it came up for sale, in 2016, Hugh disregarded my objections and bought it. His argument was that if he didn’t get it someone would most likely tear it down and construct the sort of that has become the rule on Emerald Isle rather than the exception. The size of these new houses was one thing—eight bedrooms were common, spread over three or four stories—but what came with them, and what you really didn’t want next door to you, was a swimming pool. “It happened to us ten years ago,” moaned my friend Lynette, who owns an older, traditionally sized cottage up the street from us. “Now all we hear is ‘Marco!’ ‘Polo!’ over and over. It’s like torture.”
The place that Hugh bought is ancient by Emerald Isle standards—built in 1972. It’s a single-story four-bedroom, perched on stilts and painted a shade of pink that’s almost carnal. Like the Sea Section, it’s right on the ocean, but unlike the Sea Section it’s rented out to vacationers. At first, Hugh went through an agency, but now he does it himself, through a number of Web sites. Our friend Lee across the street rents out his place, Almost Paradise, as do most of our Emerald Isle neighbors, and all of them have stories to tell. People leave with the pillows and coat hangers. People grill on the wooden decks. They bring dogs regardless of whether or not you allow them, and small children, meaning all sorts of things get flushed down the toilets: seashells, doll clothes, dice. And, of course, people complain about absolutely everything: The TV only gets ninety channels! There’s some missing paint on the picnic table!
Lee once got a comment from a renter that read “I was shocked by your outdoor shower.”
体育投注平台“I was thinking, How surprising can it be?” he told me. “I mean, you’re at the beach, for God’s sake. Then I went out to wash up, and when I touched the handle for the hot water I got thrown clear across the room.”
体育投注平台Hugh bought the second house with everything in it, and, although it’s a bit heavy on the white wicker, the furniture is far from awful. He drew the line at the art work, though. It was standard fare for a beach house: garish pictures of sailboats and sunsets. Signs reading “If You’re Not Barefoot, You’re Overdressed” and “Old Fishermen Never Die, They Just Smell That Way.”
If he wanted to, Hugh could work as a professional forger. That’s how good he is at copying paintings. So for the rental house he reproduced a number of Picassos, including “La Baignade,” from 1937, which depicts two naked women knee-deep in the water with a third person looking on. The figures are abstracted, almost machinelike, and cement-colored, positioned against a sapphire sea and an equally intense sky. Hugh did three others—all beach-related—and got a comment from a renter saying that, although the house was comfortable enough, the “art work” (she put it in quotes) was definitely not family-friendly. As the mother of young children, she had taken the paintings down during her stay, and said that if he wanted her to return he’d definitely have to rethink his décor. As if they were Hustler体育投注平台 centerfolds!
“Can you believe that woman?” Hugh said, almost a year after the hurricane hit, when we arrived to spend a week on Emerald Isle. It was August. The Sea Section was still under construction, so we stayed at the rental house, which he was calling the Pink House, for reasons I could not for the life of me understand. “It’s just such a boring name,” I argued.
体育投注平台“It really is,” my sister Gretchen agreed. She’d pulled up an hour before we had, and was dressed in a fudge-colored tankini. Her long hair is going silver, and was gathered in a burger-size bun, not quite on the back of her head but not on top, either. She had turned sixty earlier that week and looked as if she were made of well-burnished leather—the effect of age and aggressive, year-round tanning. The skin between her throat and her chest had gone crêpey, and it bothered me to notice it. I cannot bear watching my sisters get old. It just seems cruel. They were all such beauties.
“Calling this the Pink House is just nothing,” she said.
The best name, in my opinion, considering that the rental was next to the Sea Section, was a choice between the Amniotic Shack and Canker Shores. Both had been suggested by a third party and were far better than what I’d come up with.
“And what was that?” Gretchen asked, opening a cabinet in search of a coffee cup.
体育投注平台“Country Pride Strong Family Peppermill,” I told her.
“Not that again,” Hugh said.
“It’s not a pun, but I think it has a nice ring to it.”
体育投注平台Hugh opened the refrigerator, then reached for the trash can. Renters aren’t supposed to leave things behind, but they do, and none of their condiments were meeting his approval. “It sounds like you just went to the grocery store and wrote down words.”