So, there is Stuart Fenwick, admiring Valerie on midsummer, with her back-combed hair and her stretchy flower-patterned pants.
Where “the metal drum the smell of fish spread out in widening rings”. (Not where the fish-smell emanates. As we read about the ‘spread’, we take time for those widening rings.)
Where another man “should have been a naval officer. Instead, he was dedicated, by his own choice, to Shell Oil for ever and ever.” (A lifer at Shell Oil – but, here, we can feel the weight of those years in the ‘ever and ever’, as well as alight on this increasingly global and corporate presence, which also aligns with the story’s intent.)
Where so many people have gathered to beat the “summer rush” and experience a “cross-section of Europe” but, in fact, actually gather in familiar groups (mostly three ethnicities), to speak English “the common language of this place and season”.
The shape of the narrative matters. The words chosen. Even to Stuart, who is mostly preoccupied by a sense that he is alone on Midsummer. By a sense that what has come before is different from what had been expected to come and different again from what is yet to come. Stuart notices all these words.
Because Stuart is attending to Valerie’s way of expressing her thoughts and how “there was nothing to do but walk on, for he could not see how to move on through this conversation, which seemed enclosed by some special Valerie-minded fence”. He cannot navigate the exchange, this barrier. “Either her mind spread and darted and flew, too fast for him to follow, or it tucked its head under its wing and slept.”