On This Mountain

Entry by: Jim bob

3rd April 2015

' Another nice crop, Eli,' said Ian Missendean to his wife. He removed his straw boater and scratched at the tired mop of grey hair, specs of dandruff falling away from his head.
'It sure is,' she replied, as the teenage twins ran into the kitchen, their hair looking a youthful version of their fathers.
'You think they'll be any bigger this year?' he asked.
'You say the same thing every Summer, Ian,' she replied. 'They never are, and don’t you think they're big enough already?'
He ignored her, shrugging his shoulders, and walked out onto the patio scratching his untidy hair again, a reaction Eli was used to.

On this mountain the soil was fertile enough to harvest strawberries. Not just ordinary strawberries though, but strawberries as big as golf balls, as juicy as the ripest peaches and as flavourful as the maturest summer fruits. The red terrains were a bright dimension in landscape to this mountain, and it was on this mountain that the young family enjoyed much pleasure in cultivating a rich crop of wonderful berries for all the neighbouring folk around to savour every summer, year in, year out. It would be unfair to say that it all belonged to them; each pasture that stretched across the plains, that navigated through meadows, across streams, and shared with the wildlife. But it did. The young family had it all, every last acre. The Missendeans were a lucky family, a family that had fallen upon good fortune, just at the right time. Their escape from the city, with scarcely two pennies, Ian Missendean, and his family moved up this mountain back in the late nineties. Much hard work, and grafting, with determination, had nothing to do with this fabulous act of nature though,which had befallen them unknowingly.

'Strawberry fields is what we have here.,' Ian Missendean would often proudly declare to his wife, as he observed them from the kitchen window of the wooden home he'd constructed. Technically, they weren't actually fields though, but more like meadows that curved there way through the mountains topography; scatterings of growths, some big, some meagre, that popped up all over the place. And, whether it was the climate of subtle change, the soft rainfall, the gentle but warm, and even sunlight that shared equally the shadier hours of the day, that produced the abundance of amazing fruit, Mr Missendean didn't know. All he did know, is that when they had planted the first little crop- a request their daughter, Emma had made on her Birthday back in the early years of this millennium- they couldn’t have believed their luck. The rest, as they say, is history...

Ian Missendean planted the pipe in his mouth, lit it, then gently rocked in the bench, and looked over the landscape.
The twins came out and sat next to him. Emma,the prettier of the two, sipped gently from her mug.
' If it wasn’t for that birthday wish all those years ago, Em, we wouldn’t have this now' said Ian, smiling at his daughter, his teeth exhibiting a severe shade of rust. Emma smiled back in a way that lacked sincerity. She clutched at the hem of her blue frock. Winny, Emma’s twin, rose from the seat and started skipping down into the meadow that led to the first crop of strawberries.
' Dont go too far, Win' he shouted, and then coughed ingested smoke out, along with a few fragments of phlegm. This neither surprised Emma, or, disgusted her, for it was something she was used to.
' Hard work starts soon' he continued, but Winny either ignored this, or couldn’t hear him. The strong breeze that came across the mountain most mornings would douse the audibility of conversation, even loud conversation. A church clock, way down the mountainside struck eleven, its peals, carrying through the wind in a faint, coherent fashion. Ian Missendean folded his arms and gently rocked the seat, the weight added by Emma, providing momentum to the bench’s swing. His pipe emitted flumes of smoke that instantly were swirled up in the breeze, any aroma of burning tobacco quickly extinguished.
' Why don’t you go off and play with Winnie?' he asked,squeezing her arm, causing more pain because of her existing bruises. 'She hasn't been her usual self since her accident.' Emma did as he said, ignoring her father, and made her way after Winnie, who was now almost a yellow dot of a frock in the distance. Ian watched her go, smiling to himself, apparently appreciative of all he surveyed across this mountain, their mountain. He knew the hard work was about to begin, and pleased that this year, the extra hands of his twin daughters was going to be a relief. That was, of course, if they behaved; the onset of puberty in the first of the teen years was going to be troublesome, his friends had warned him. The number thirteen, he considered, one of the reasons it was un lucky, perhaps. But it wasn’t just girls growing up. It was deeper than that, and Ian Missendean knew this more than most things within his family, on this mountain. He watched his girls in the distance, a speck of blue and yellow among a sea of redness, the colours, a magnificent blend, almost hypnotic, that Ian acknowledged, and relished. A few birds flew overhead, some resting on the stone chimney stack. He watched them as they swirled around and up, making the sounds that a mountain summer was familiar to.
' Have some tea, Ian' said Eli. She'd appeared from the kitchen carrying a tray with hot drinks and biscuits. She sat where Emma had been sitting moments earlier, and handed him a cup.
'No' he replied. She took it back.
' Do you think the girls are going to be up for all the picking this year?'
'They'll have to be. Last year almost killed us, and my back wont stand it' he said. Eli cowered, a reaction that was purely a defence of her own protection for her daughters.
'You're too soft on them, Eli. They’re old enough, now and this is our livelihood'
He lit his pipe again, and crossed his legs, a move, that implied this was all he was going to say on the matter. She sipped on the tea, falling silent, both of them looking across at the colours, a sight she'd become unacquainted with over the years. Eli swept back her grey hair from the breeze, and applied a hair-grip she'd reached for from the pocket of her pink frock.
'I'd better get that basket to the Weston’s, and take it down to them tonight'. Ian said breaking the silence. 'He'll just moan if he don’t get the first pick of the crop. I hope you topped the tank up for me?'
'Yes, I did,' said Eli.
'Good',' he replied, placing the boater on his head.
'How long is it since their son disappeared now? Was it last year or the year before? she asked.
'Damned if I remember', said Ian getting up. 'Think it been three years.'
'Come on Ian it wasn't three years.' she replied. 'It was last year, I remember now. You had just just got back from the city with new crates for the strawberries.' Ian shrugged his shoulders and walked towards the Range Rover, ignoring her for the second time that morning. He honked the horn, a gesture of goodbye, making up, in some feeble way for lack of the verbal one, moments earlier, as the motor pulled away towards the dirt tracks.The mid-day sun warmed Eli's face as a few tears welled up, and overflowed down her cheeks. For a while she sat there, a few birds flying close by, some landing by her feet, trying to grab a few scant biscuit crumbs from the one she'd eaten earlier. The twins were making there way back as their specks of colour started enlarging against the red, patchy landscape. As Eli dried her eyes, she saw the fading trail of dust left behind from the range rover, as it made its way down the precarious twist and turns of this mountain.

' Is he back tonight, mum?,' asked Winnie.
'He said he'd be,' she replied, stroking her hair, trying to straighten out the knots she'd made worse since being out in the pastures. Emma cleared the table off in preparation for their lunch, not that any of them were hungry. However, formalities die hard up here, and having a sense of order helped maintain a sense of place. Eli observed Winnie s eyes. The swelling had gone down a bit, but bright redness remained in the left one. She knew that it was crucial they get her to a doctor. She applied a bit of ointment which made Winnie cringe and she began to cry, tears spilling over her frock. Her mother wiped them with the cotton wool.
'You just sit down here, love,' she said. Emma sat down next to her at the kitchen table and put her arms around her.
'We'll be okay, sis,' she said. 'Just you see.,' She smiled, trying to console her, something that wasn't easy to do. Eli went to the freezer to remove a pie, noticing the abundance of dead animals in there; badgers, foxes, rabbits, and, even chickens. Ones he'd shot at whilst they'd ravaged the strawberries. The thing was, he hadn't even butchered them. They all lay there haphazardly, their frozen faces staring up at her with the same expression they'd had when the bullet entered them. Eli slammed the freezer shut, a wave of nausea overwhelming her.
'Perhaps his car will go over a cliff tonight' said Winnie.
' With enough beer in him, it may' said Emma.
'It may' interjected Eni, 'but it wont'. She put the pie in the oven, knowing that in all likelihood they probably wouldn't eat much of it. They'd seen,and eaten enough meat pies on this mountain to drive anyone crazy.
'What makes you so sure, mum'. asked Emma.
' I emptied enough petrol from his fuel tank for him to breakdown.'
In amazement, the twins eyes widened, and mouths dropped almost simultaneously; Winnies eyes somewhat slower, the blows her father had administered, ensuring this.
'He'll be able to fill it up in the village' said Emma finally, and hoping this wouldn’t be possible.
'He wont' said Eli. 'The garage will be closed, and anyway, I told him I'd put petrol in it this morning. You see, we always fill the tank up from our supply right here, so he wont even think of going to a garage..'
'Is this something to do with a little plan you mentioned to us about a year ago, Mum', asked Emma, an anticipatory look emerging on her face.
'You could say that' replied Eli. 'So, we have to get ready, but first, we must all try to eat something.'
Afternoon sunlight shone through the window. Eli pulled the blind down shutting it out, as well as the view which she'd learned to loathe over the years.
They ate sparingly, without appetites, however, managed to consume half of the pie. The last pie they'd ever eat, Eli hoped.
' What if he stays at the Weston’s?' asked Winnie.
' He wont. Jim doesn’t like having him about when his wife is there. He's given her the creeps, ever since their son went missing. Anyway he'll be wanting to get you two picking tomorrow, bright and early.'
'But that’s not going to happen now, is it Mum?' asked Winnie.
'I don’t think so, love' she returned, a comforting smile on her face.
'What is going to happen, then?' asked Emma.
For a few moments there was silence, the girls just staring at their mother apprehensively.
'We are going to find him, and then we are going to feed him to the fucking wolves, right on this mountain.'