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 Seventy Four

The alkali flats glisten in the sun, shadows of birds flitting across its unbroken white surface. He pulls the truck up as close as he dares and walks down the rest of the way to where the grass ends and the slough begins. The divide is very clear, the ground going from hard and dry, spiked with tendrils of dull grass, to the wet cement texture of the alkali. Beneath the white surface the mud is dark, almost black.

He skirts the edge of the alkali, following an old cow trail. There are tracks in the alkali, coyote and bird, though they don’t go deep into the slough. Littered on the ground, in the flats and alongside, are bits of old machinery and scrap metal. Old wagon wheels, bent and warped. Parts from a Case 830, the only remnants left of that piece of machinery. He pauses here and there, kicking at the pieces, or digging into the alkali to pull them up to get a better look at them. Each time he shakes his head, clicking his tongue, throwing the piece back into the alkali, before continuing on.

Soon he has made a complete circuit of the flats to the fenceline that creeps in to the far edge of the alkali, so he turns around and makes his way back to the truck. He takes a wider route this time, farther from the slough. There is less detritus here, but he still takes the time to inspect all of it, his head down. A clump of tiger lilies bloom and he kneels down to look at their vivid orange and gold colors, his hand reaching out to brush against their petals.

Back at the truck, he leans against the hood, resting his head on his hand, staring off across the flats as if expecting it to reveal its secrets. A meadowlark calls and the wind stirs the grass. He shakes his head and gets into the truck and goes.

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