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.

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