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 Three Hundred and Seven

They met in a rest station parking lot off the highway, one car from east, one truck from the west. The mountains arched high above, peaks heavy with snow, foreboding and silent. The dim sounds of traffic coming from the highway reached their ears through the stands of pines that encircled the station. Ravens circled above the trees, calling to each other and anyone who could hear them.

They exited their vehicles, gathering in a loose circle. There were five of them, standing uneasily and looking at each other, unsure how close to get. What was allowed and what wasn’t. They shared awkward greetings, comments on the drive. Uneventful for everyone, the roads clear of snow and ice. The day was cold and their breath rose in clouds in front of them. A few of them looked at those clouds and winced, leaning back imperceptibly, resisting the urge to step even further back. Talk shifted to what they had been up to lately. Nothing, said with a wry chuckle.

Cars arrived from off the highway, people hurrying in to use the bathrooms, not wanting to linger outside on a cold day. They barely gave the five a glance, though they always became self-conscious at another car’s approach, shifting their feet and moving about, as if what they were doing warranted scrutiny. When the restrooms were empty each of them went in, one by one.

Gradually their conversation became easier, lighter. There was laughter and smiles. Thermoses of coffee were pulled out and they sipped steaming mugs to ward off the cold. By now it was eating into the their toes and fingers. They stamped their feet and clenched their hands into fists. Someone had a runny nose and kept apologizing for having to wipe it.

The afternoon shadows grew long, the sun descending behind the western peaks. The trees surrounding them looked darker, more ominous, though the ravens had wandered off somewhere. They looked at each other and said their goodbyes, got in their cars and went back out to the highway, heading in opposite directions, returning home.

A raven emerged from somewhere within the trees after they left and settled atop the rest stop building. It turned its head from side to side staring down at the empty parking lot, calling out raucously. There was no answer.

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