Anyway, the Fenimores, Mr and Mrs Fenimore, I say, Mr Fenimore is really pioneering. He’s small and slim, but always looks as if he’s setting out on an adventure with an imaginary hiking stick in his hand.
I know the type, Paula says.
He takes over the after-school chess and judo clubs, I say. He starts up an after-school cookery class and takes a lot of flak for being a man who runs a cookery class. Mrs Fenimore helps. She always helps. She is always there helping, she’s a shy person who smiles a lot, while her husband, whom she looks at with eyes full of a sad, hopeful love, runs the school clubs, and not just those, he forms a neighbourhood wine club where our parents and the other neighbours who don’t have kids go to the Fenimores’ house to taste wine, Mrs Fenimore puts invitations through everybody’s door, smiling shyly if you look out the window and see her on her rounds. JACK AND SHIRLEY FENIMORE INVITE YOU TO A SPECIAL WINE TASTING. Loads of people go, all the neighbours go, my mother and father go, and they never usually go to anything. They’ve never done anything like it before. Then everybody talks about how nice the Fenimores are, how much they like the Fenimores’ house, car, garden, cutlery, design of plates. Then the Fenimores organize a theatre visit. JACK AND SHIRLEY FENIMORE INVITE YOU TO EDUCATING RITA AT THE EMPIRE. Everybody goes. JACK AND SHIRLEY FENIMORE INVITE YOU TO A MULLED WINE EXTRAVAGANZA. JACK AND SHIRLEY FENIMORE INVITE YOU ON A SOLSTICE ASSAULT ON BEN WYVIS.
Assault on Ben who? the man (I’ll call him Tom) says.
No, I say. Ben Wyvis is a mountain. Ben is a Scottish word for mountain.
Yeah, I know, I know that, Tom says.
You don’t know nothing, Paula says. You didn’t know what angora was a minute ago.
Anyway, I say. About twenty of us, who’ve all lived under Ben Wyvis for most of our lives and have never been up it, seven or eight adults and the rest kids my age, some younger, a couple of older ones, get into a minibus the Fenimores hire, because Mr Fenimore’s just got his minibus driving licence, and drive to the foot of Ben Wyvis to see how high up it we can get on the Sunday before Christmas, December 21st, a gloriously sunny Sunday, bright and crisp and blue-skied.
And then what happens?
Oh, okay, I get it, it’s a game, Tom says. Okay. You get to the top and you have the most fantastic party and you kiss your first boy up a romantic mountain on the shortest day of the year.
The minibus breaks down, Paula says. You never even leave the neighborhood.
Halfway up the mountain, I say, the sky changes colour from blue to black, and half an hour later it starts to snow…
- from “Present,” a short story by Ali Smith in her 2008 collection The First Person and Other Stories