Across the blistering town, nestled under the bald glower of Greyere’s Hill, sat the cozy two-level home of Dr. Speck, on what had been swampy ground ideal for hunting frogs and snakes before it had been drained, filled, leveled and planted with trees that had yet to expand into any kind of shelter. The hill itself was not part of the doctor’s allotment, but he regarded it as such and had been known to come bursting out his back door, storming up the hill and waving an ax handle to frighten off children who had gathered there to play. Kids who had already reached their defiant years returned the favour by periodically pasting his stucco with eggs. The good doctor endured this indignity only briefly before acquiring a pair of vicious mastiffs named Frankenstein and Mengele. So the kids taunted the dogs – making them meaner – and tossed their little white bombs from a greater distance, and the civil war of petty means but implacable animosity bubbled on.
As the only significant point of elevation in the municipal area, Greyere’s Hill had, in winters past, attracted tobogganners, sledders and super-slider-snowskaters from all over the district. Happy days of exploiting gravity for fun and thrills came to an abrupt end when young Ronnie Renchuk flew down the hill on an immaculately waxed crazy carpet and into a string of barbed wire that mysteriously lay concealed in a drift fifteen yards nearer to the hill’s bottom than it had been when the snow first began to fall.