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 Eight Hundred Forty Nine

They came upon the town as dusk settled, the summer sun having finally vanished over the horizon. Their windshield and the front of the truck were spattered with grasshoppers, the sides streaked with mud and dust from many trips down chewed up gravel roads after the recent rains. The streets were quiet off the highway, everyone settled in for the night or at the hotel bar on main street, with its false fronts and appearance of history. Everything here was recent, in point of fact, having been built in the last fifty years. Yet, even the newest buildings looked as though they had stairs that creaked and were in need of a coat of paint.

It could have been any town in these parts. It was any town, with streets wide enough to run a military parade down them, but no crowd in sight. They drove down the side streets and residential areas and there were a few homes for a sale and a few that looked forgotten. All the yards were tidy, as they would be, though a few had vehicles that looked unlikely to be going anywhere anytime soon in the back alley. Seemingly everyone had an RV and a truck parked somewhere, so much so that the houses that didn’t could almost be assumed to be empty, their inhabitants out at the reservoir or further afield.

They talked about how things had changed since they’d last been through after another long drive across the prairies. The thing was, it hadn’t, not in any substantive way. The shops on main street might have different names and signs but in the twilight gloom they looked much the same. There were a few new houses on the southern edge of town, ostentatiously large, as though their inhabitants thought the town was too small to contain them. Everything else felt smaller than they remembered, desiccated despite the rain. It felt like everyone was trying to hold time still, with the result that they had shrunk and folded in on themselves, turning away from the brightness of their headlights. Except for the roads, which were wide, open and empty, stretching out into the growing darkness.