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 Six Hundred Eighty One

When she came of age she fell in love with a local boy and was banished from the Quarter. She had been trained as a teacher in Saskatoon when she finished her schooling and returned home after to take up teaching in a one room school about a day’s journey from where she grew up. He was a local youth with a reputation who had left school because his father was ill and could no longer manage the farm. They began to see each other, but word reached her parents and they were furious, for they had heard tales of this young man, who was given to drinking and partying in a temperance age.

At first her parents left well enough alone, assuming she would come to her senses and the romance would pass. When it didn’t they decided they had no choice but to act. War had broken out by then in Europe and young men across the Greater Dominions were being sent away to fight. The youth was not among them, for his work managing the farm was considered essential. But with so few men around there were opportunities for women and her older brother was able to arrange for her to be sent to the Eastern Dominions where she would do work in radar. There it was assumed her passion for the youth would fade and matters would take a different course.

When the war ended so did her exile. She returned home and looked up the local youth, who had been waiting for her. Her parents, seeing there was no help for it, blessed the union and they were married, a December wedding. They settled on the youth’s land and farmed. She had an eye for cattle and encouraged him to start raising them, which they did. He was restless in those early years, always talking of pulling up stakes and trying something new, having spent his whole life in the Quarter farming. She, having had adventures outside its bounds, was content to remain where they were, close to their families. They would talk of it often and always she would win the day for she wouldn’t leave and he could not imagine leaving her.

The years went by and they had children and became known across the Quarter and beyond for the cattle they raised. This enabled them to travel far and wide, including to see her brother and sister who had moved to America. They went many places neither of them had ever imagined, satisfying his wanderlust. His pride at the farm and their success grew and grew and he forgot ever wanting to leave it all and starting somewhere anew. The Quarter was his home and what made him, he claimed, though he and everyone else knew it was her.

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 Six Hundred Seventy Four

The snow drifted across the highway, restless tendrils stretching from one ditch to the other. An endless white world surrounded the narrow strip of pavement that wound its way across the prairies. A truck pulling a cattle trailer had the road to itself. The trailer had three bulls for delivery, separated into their own compartments to stop any trouble occurring. There were two men in the truck, one old and one young. A thermos of coffee rested on the seat between them.

Every now and again the old man would ask the younger to refill his cup. “You’ll regret this later,” the young man always said as he poured the dark liquid into the thermos lid. The old man would just smile and take the steaming cup.

They did have to stop eventually and the old man got out and pissed in the ditch, looking out into an empty field. Though it was bitterly cold he stood for a moment when he was done, casting his eyes across the horizon. The sun tried and failed to glare through the hazy clouds that blanketed the whole sky. The snow gleamed under the light that slipped through so that the day was a strange mixture of grey and bright.

The rancher at the first delivery seemed surprised to see them, though they had called the day before to let him know. He was dishevelled with a worn jacket that he didn’t bother zipping up despite the cold. They spent only enough time to unload the bull and be on their way. Their next stop were old friends who bought bulls from their family nearly every year. They arrived around noon and were fed lunch and then had to spend the first part of the afternoon being shown the cattle and told which calves were progeny of bulls they had bought from them in years past.

The sun was already low in the west by the time they left and it was dusk by the time they arrived at their last stop. The family offered supper, which the men declined, saying they needed to be back home that night. But the family wouldn’t let them leave without something, so they stayed for a drink and chat – rum for young man and whisky for the old. They talked of the cold and the snow, what it promised for spring, and the troubles of the last summer.

It was snowing by the time they left, huge flakes drifting to the ground, the wind barely stirring and the world silent. They drove home in the darkness, the roads clear at first, but gradually getting covered over. There were tracks from another vehicle to guide them and they met a car or two going the other way. Neither of them said much as they drove, the radio and the squeak of the wipers on the window the only sounds. They watched the snow fall, the flakes caught by the headlights looking much larger than they were. The signs they passed were covered by snow, but they knew the way home.

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 Six Hundred Sixty Seven

A chinook has arrived in these parts after more than two weeks of the bitterest cold. For a time it seemed it would never come. Weather forecasts promised it for days, but the cold would not release its grip. Typically when a chinook arrives, the winds roar over the mountains and the temperature can swing by twenty degrees or more in a matter of hours. This time the cold was so lodged in that the wind had to fight to get here. At one point an inversion took place, the warm air coming from the west rising above the city, the cold holding fast below, smog developing as a result because the air could not dissipate. An ugly day at the end of an ugly few weeks.

There is something especially disheartening about a December or January cold snap. The days are at their shortest so you have both maximum cold and darkness. A frigid week in February is somehow more tolerable just because there is a bit more sunlight.

My love, who grew up in a land without winters, despises the cold in these parts. She does not like going out into it or the boots and jackets and accoutrements that are required to survive it. These last two winters have been especially hard as the Grippe Reborn has denied us the opportunity to be out and about indoors in malls, movie theatres, restaurants and the like. When it is as cold as it has been and there is nowhere to go it feels as though there is no relief.

I have always taken a certain pleasure in the winter. When it arrives it is a change, a comforting one in its familiarity. The cold is bracing and the snow beautiful. There is nothing quite like the darkness and the stars in the winter. Even I struggle through stretches of cold like we just went through – a snap seems the wrong word for something that lasts more than a week.

The winter always wears out its welcome though. By March I am done and ready for spring, even as it lingers on into April. Right now that is how I feel about the Dread Lord Grippe Reborn. He has worn out his welcome and can wander off into the pages of history. Nearly two years and right now it feels like we are always having the same conversations, dealing with the same anxieties and living the same constrained lives. It is fitting the Dread Lord arrived in March, for we are now forever in the March of his presence, forced to endure it and always casting about for any sign of spring.

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 Six Hundred Sixty

A new year and yet again I wonder why we celebrate new beginnings in the darkest depths of winter. Blame the Romans, blame the moon. This year, as with the last, there is no feeling of newness. It is as though we are stuck in the same place we were in that long ago March when the Grippe Reborn revealed himself in these parts. As with last January the news seems only grim with the numbers of afflicted rising exponentially and the hospitals beginning to fill up as well.

Will this never end? We are reassured constantly that at some point it will, that the Dread Lord will have afflicted everyone he is able to and that then we will all have some measure of defence against him. The inoculations were supposed to help with that, and no doubt they have, but now that the Dread Lord can somewhat evade their protections we are left with a situation where he will forever be able to return and find those most vulnerable to his depredations.

Governments everywhere have seemingly decided there is little hope of containing his power in this new guise. The only hope is that enough of us are dosed and the doses provide enough protection that we are not overwhelmed. I cannot say they are even wrong. The only alternative is to shut everything down as we did during the first months of the Dread Lord’s arrival and it seems no one has the appetite for that.

My love has now received her third dose. The city has an inoculation bus set up – more of a van really – that visits various parts of the city and we went to it one bitterly cold day. It was in a parking lot by the downtown library, surrounded by idling cars of people waiting their turn. We chose to wait in the library itself once she had added herself to the queue. It was quiet during those strange days between Christmas and New Years, the cold and the Dread Lord conspiring to keep people home and most places closed.

I felt none of the excitement and relief that I had when my love and I received our initial doses. There was a sense of camaraderie then, of everyone coming together to take a stand against the Dread Lord and begin the resumption of our lives. At last we could something that wasn’t hiding ourselves away. This time it felt like yet another task to be seen to in a busy time. There was none of the hope that we were doing our part to see an end to this, though of course we were. But as hard experience has now shown us, the Dread Lord will visit more suffering and hardship upon us before this ends.

We are battle weary. Tired of the Dread Lord, tired of even hearing his name. I understand now why no one spoke of the Grippe Reborn in his earlier forms in the aftermath of the great battles fought with him in the last century. By the time he was vanquished there was nothing else to say and people wanted to turn to new things.