Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.
The week that followed the building of the nest was snowy and cold, winter returning, if only briefly to the habitation. Bess having laid her eggs, they both stayed close to the nest during this time. But after a seemingly endless string of overcast and snowy days there came a bright and cheerful dawn that promised that spring might in fact truly be near.
For the first time since the snows had begun to fall, Hoss left the vicinity of the nest and made his way to the river, leaving Bess to watch over the nest. It was a short journey, but it felt terrifyingly far, for he had to go up a rise and then descend down the river banks, losing sight of not only the nest but the trees that surrounded it. After so many days staying so near, refusing to let either the nest or Bess from his sight, it felt dislocating to be so far from it.
He could hear other geese chattering in the river and enjoying the sun, though he could not yet see the water through the tangle of trees and underbrush that clung to its banks. Before he could make his way through the undergrowth to the water, or fly above it, a gander emerged from the thicket and sauntered toward him.
“Hallo,” the fellow honked loudly. “How goes the day?”
Hoss was momentarily taken aback. It had been so many days since he had conversed with another creature that he could not find his voice to give a reply. The gander didn’t appear to notice, coming closer. He had sharp, curious eyes and a confident, almost strutting attitude. “Friend, you’re not from around here are you?”
“No,” Hoss had to admit. “We usually just pass through.”
“But now you are staying for the season, I’d venture,” the gander said with a perceptive eye.
“We have decided to,” Hoss admitted.
“An excellent choice, I assure you,” the gander said with a certain bonhomie. “The river is so pleasant now that the humans have gone, wouldn’t you say?”
Hoss agreed and the gander, taking that as an invitation to continue, said, “We have space and plenty and, except for a few nosy coyotes, we are all safe as can be.”
Hoss agreed again, saying how nice it was to not have to worry about these things, while trying to edge past the gander. He did not want to be waylaid by this stranger for long, needing to eat and return to the nest so that Bess could go as well.
But the gander didn’t notice his impatience, continuing in his loud, confident voice. “Yes we are all safe as can be. Until the humans return of course.”
He looked sidelong at Hoss who bobbed his head nervously. The thought, he had to admit, had never occurred to him. The humans had been there and now they were gone. It was like the seasons themselves, and one didn’t question the seasons. Of course, if they were like the seasons then the humans could always return again. What if they did during this season? The river would be crowded and insufferable. He shuddered at the thought. “Do you think they will?”
“Who can say,” the gander said in a confiding tone. “And there are others we have to worry about as well. Coyotes. Ducks. Magpies. All of them think they should have the run of the place. But I have a plan, my friend, to make certain that the river is ours.”