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.With the din of an anarchic show tune ringing in his ears, Richard drank six shots of slivovitz and immediately regretted being born.When all the men were equally ferschnickered on thirteen shots apiece, they set off for home, stumbling and singing, the long way around the mountain.And promptly got lost.Back at the lodge the snowball fight had escalated.There were now five lodges involved, some of whom had big kids who wanted to hurt us.After four hours of heavy skirmishing, things had settled into a stalemate.One of the lodges had set up something of a sniper’s nest on their roof and up there were three big kids with freakishly good eyesight who were accurate throwers.They had a pile of pre-compacted snowballs, could pick off anyone who showed themselves and were holding the entire neighbourhood hostage.A kid at one lodge had attempted to get them off the roof with a hose, but the hose had frozen, his mum had cracked it and he had to go inside immediately and watch the rest of the fight forlornly from the window.Gee, we envied that kid.He was indoors, safe and warm.We, on the other hand, were pinned down behind a frozen tree, completely unable to move.Pretty soon we descended into trench-talk about all of the great things back home at the lodge.‘Remember how we used to play that imperfect yet strangely comforting game of Uno?’‘The one that used to go on forever, no end in sight and no idea how one may achieve victory?’‘Yeah, that’s the one.God I miss that utterly pointless game.’‘You know what I miss? That game of Kerplunk with dried Milo over the holes so you could only get about five sticks in.’‘The one with only four marbles?’‘Yeah.Gee we would play a game of that quickly.’‘I’m cold.’‘It’s best not to think about it.Hey, remember Miss July, 1974?’‘I sure do.’‘I bet you wouldn’t be so cold if she was out here with us now.’‘No.But I bet she’d be pretty freezing.’Laughter.‘You hear about that kid that got busted with the hose?’‘I hear he bought it.’‘Nah.I hear he got a free pass back home.I bet you right now he’s dry and warm and drinking Milo by a fire.’‘Well, I know one thing.He wouldn’t be missing this godforsaken mess.’‘That’s for sure.That lucky sonofabitch.’Meanwhile somewhere on the mountain the men were properly lost.With each rendition of ‘There’s snow business like snow business’ they lost a little more strength, enthusiasm and hope.Before long the song had subsided to something of a mumbled mantra, a suitable soundtrack to a death march.Sensing the group was about to give up and begin carving their wills into the surrounding trees, Richard attempted to take charge of the situation, stepping up onto a tree stump to address the group.‘Gentlemen.We must.’Richard, overwhelmed by a sense of purpose and a skinful of slivovitz, fell backwards off his makeshift plinth and into a snowdrift.While the slapstick interlude did have the effect of raising morale, it wasn’t quite the lofty address he had hoped for.It took him a while to gather himself and once again clamber up into a speaking position.By the time he spoke again he had everyone’s undivided attention.‘As I was saying.Gentlemen.We must not give up hope.I assure you that I will lead you all back home.For I was a regimental sergeant major and I have extensive field experience in the field of navigation and orienteering in the field.’There was a half-hearted smattering of applause at this point.The men were reassured by his confidence but unnerved by his overuse of the world ‘field’.Sensing that his support was on a knife-edge, Richard attempted to bring it home.‘I can tell you exactly which direction we are heading in because I know for a fact that moss only ever grows on the south side of a tree.’Richard then stepped off the stump and strode towards the nearest tree.With a generous helping of theatre he made a grand gesture of stooping over to inspect the trunk.All the men huddled around to inspect it with him.The sense of optimistic anticipation built within the group, all of them conveniently ignoring the fact that even if they did know which way was south that really wouldn’t lead them any closer to the lodge.This, it turns out was the least of their problems, as they all saw at the same time that moss was growing all the way around the tree.Maintaining his role as the unflappable leader, Richard stepped back onto the stump.‘Gentlemen.I believe we’re fucked.’Back in the village things had gone from bad to worse.Amid sporadic fire, we were still pinned down behind a tree unable to move, only now one of the kids in our group needed to go to the toilet.In an attempt to bring about a ceasefire, my sister, Suzie, pulled a white hanky out of her pocket and waved it above her head, making it just visible above our fortification.‘Hold your fire!’There was a pause that seemed to go on forever.The world stood still as we waited for a response [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]