Notes on the Grippe

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.

Day Forty Two

People come and go in the Lost Quarter, as they do everywhere. That was never more the case than in those years when Those Who Left were exiled and Those Who Came began to stream into the Quarter looking for a better life. Some found it there and set down roots, while others came for a time and then passed on.

Mabel was one of the latter. She came with her husband, after the first rush of Those Who Came had settled. Her husband was an itinerant labourer who went from job to job, never staying anywhere long, and as such they had lived a somewhat desperate existence in several towns on the outskirts of the Quarter. Her husband was a man of schemes, forever hitting upon one idea after another to make his fortune, until at last he decided upon buying a smallholding in the Quarter. It would be hard, toiling work, but there was money to be made. Everyone said so.

Mabel was not included in these schemes, though she went along with them all willingly enough. The idea of settling on a smallholding was attractive to her. It meant no more jobs as a seamstress or maid, or working in hotels or boarding houses. She would be without a boss, free to have a garden and tend her own home.

They went and settled on a smallholding, setting up a sod shack. Two years later they had made enough to build something more permanent, a shack still in truth, but with a wooden frame. For a time it was good.

They had no children, a point of sorrow for them both. It was a blessing in others for her husband was given to violence, particularly when he was in his drink. The isolation of those years in the Quarter, where their closest neighbour was a mile and a half away, seemed to fuel his anger. Certainly it gave him no one else to direct it toward, and when the times turned hard and the fortune he had dreamed of failed to materialize, he grew angrier and angrier.

One night he struck Mabel. It was certainly not the first time, but this was different. Blood was drawn and it did not seem like he was going to stop until she was seriously injured. Mabel fled the house and, though it was the dead of winter, she walked down the road to the neighbours. By the time she got there she was shaking and her fingers were blue.

She never went back, staying with the neighbours for a few days while she recovered from the cold and hurt, before leaving the Lost Quarter never to return

Her husband too passed on from the Lost Quarter, but in a different manner. He never went after Mabel when she ran off into the night, figuring that she would have to return. When she didn’t he turned even more heavily to drink, refusing to speak of her again. One night while sitting at cards with some friends he bet his smallholding and lost. He tried to win it back with a game of Russian roulette, but he had failed to clean his revolver properly and when the chamber spun around, he lost it all.

What became of Mabel is unknown, but they still talk of her walk on a cold winter’s night, with only a dress and a sweater to keep her warm. Only the most iron of wills, the force of being to survive at whatever the cost, kept her going, one foot in front of the other through that darkest of nights.

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