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 One Hundred Two

We are heading to the mountains west of the Lost Quarter in the coming days. Normally they would be swollen with people from all over the world, the streets of the villages echoing with sound of dozens of languages. Now the mountain trails and camping spots are empty by and large, even though the quarantine restrictions have been raised and most everything is open. It seems a fine time to visit, a fine time to spend some time away from the Quarter and our home and all the usual toil and worry that has been a part of our days.

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 One Hundred One

Over the century mark and no end in sight. The days persist and so do I.

We are into summer truly, I now have tomatoes nearly as tall as I. The chard and spinach threaten to overtake everything.

Persistence does seem the order of the day. Waiting as well. For the defences we hope can turn aside the grippe reborn. For the jobs we hope will be there when they are finally erected. For the end of quarantine laws and the freedom to travel and go about our days free of protocols.

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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 One Hundred

Satchel Paige came to the Lost Quarter, it is true, barnstorming through those vast, arid plains. In those days baseball was the only game of summer and every little town along every rail line hosted tournaments for any team to attend. All the greats, banished from the major leagues, came north for exhibitions of their talent.

I met a man, an old rancher with a protruding gut, who still spoke with awe of the time he witnessed Satchel Paige pitch, of meeting and speaking with the great man himself.

I often wonder what those barnstormers thought of their journeys to the Quarter, of the games they played and the feats they performed in front of hundreds when they should have been before tens of thousands. The trips were arduous, even in those days of rail lines, the ways not always the same. As now, there was never any guarantee that a way back home would be open to them.

1932 Pittsburgh Crawfords: Satchel Paige, top row, third from left.

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 Ninety Nine

It has been cloudy most of the day, a strange and vast bank of clouds hovering above and seemingly immovable. There is not even a whisper of a breeze, so rare for the Lost Quarter. The air is humid as it never is in this dry land, though no rain seems imminent.

It all seems ominous, a portent of some approaching doom. I am left restless, chasing my thoughts to nowhere. A feeling I am left with so many days now, especially with my love returned to her tower to work. She was the anchor of my days and now I find myself adrift, flitting from idea to idea and settling upon none of them.

The feeling has come upon me again, with a kind of weight that seems to press against me. The terrible knowledge that our battle with the dread lord shall be a long while yet, its resolution unclear, and there is little I can do to change that. It ebbs and flows, most days never touching my thoughts, until finally the totality of it strikes me anew.

The world we knew is gone, never to come back; the world to come is still out of focus, unrealized, waiting to be shaped. Which of us shall get to do the shaping?

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 Ninety Eight

There is a grove of trees in the Lost Quarter that was planted by one of the first of Those Who Came, not long after Those Who Went Away were sent into their sorrowful exile. He sought to break the terrible winds that are as much a part of the Quarter as its grassy plains and rolling hills. At one time the trees must have been in rows, but they have long since grown beyond those confines, leaving winding looping paths through the undergrowth.

In my youth I would often wander those secluded trails. It was like entering another world, closed off from the surrounding great plains, the view of the horizon absent as it was nowhere else in the Quarter. Every year some new trees had sprouted, and older ones had fallen over dead, so that the paths were never quite as you remembered them.

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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 Ninety Seven

There is a crossroads not far from my home where much of the city comes and goes, or so it seems, on their way to other places. They do not linger, hurrying on to their destinations for there is little to see. I pass it most days on my way to here or there, hardly giving it a glance or a second thought.

There are two apple trees nearby, in full blossom, where one can find some shade. Dogs will often come to sniff about and mark their territory here, while their owners look on impatiently. This morning as I walked on the opposite side of the crossroads two dogs met there, snapping and snarling, held back and dragged away by their owners.

Later as I returned a dishevelled man with a shopping cart stood under the trees yelling at everyone who passed, incoherent with rage and desperation. He accused us all of committing nefarious crimes.

Though filled with anger his screams were almost mournful, as though he did not expect anyone to actually listen to what he said. And in truth no one did. A few people stepped out of their homes to see what the commotion was and I paused on my way through the crossroads, but none of us gave him more than a glance. Once we saw who it was, a man of the streets, addled by addiction and without hope, we all simply walked on and went about our days.

Eventually a police officer came and talked with the man awhile, listening to his yelling, and talking in quiet tones, urging him to move along. When I passed through the crossroads later, there was no one beneath the apple trees, an absence that felt strangely ominous.

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 Ninety Six

There are few towns in the Lost Quarter now and those that remain are shrinking from what was their zenith. When Those Who Came first arrived, after Those Who Left were banished from both land and memory, they quickly set about building villages to serve the burgeoning homesteads of the settlers. These hugged the rail lines that soon crisscrossed the Quarter, as they did the rest of the Dominions. The towns were named after the first arrivals in the area, the first sentries in the conquest of the territory, or after supposedly great men in distant lands, all now forgotten by and large.

There is one south of the Glover’s Lake and the Old Place, typical of many such villages that sprang up in those years. In the first decades after its establishment it blossomed, becoming one of the main stopping points on the rail line. There was a grand hotel, churches, banks, blacksmith shops, and other industry springing up by the day, all with an unstoppable momentum, until a fire burned half the town one fall. Many left following that disaster and much was never rebuilt. When the seasons turned to drought and the Quarter fell into the depths of a decade long depression, even more abandoned the area.

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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 Ninety Five

There is so much talk lately about the economy now that so much of the greater world has raised some measure of defence against the grippe reborn, forcing so many from work. Even in the Lost Quarter, where we have begun to loosen some restrictions the return has been muted.

It brings to mind the last great depression that struck the Lost Quarter, as it did so much of the world nearly a century ago. Those Who Came had managed to build successful lives in the Quarter, starting farms and building homes, having families. All of that was upended by the depression and environmental calamity, the sad result of their own poor practices, and their lives of plenty became hardscrabble ones.

Those who lived through the times never forgot them. It informed every aspect of their lives thereafter. Old junk and scraps were never tossed away; they had to be kept because they might one day become necessary. Every penny was saved and nothing was wasted, because there was no promise that there was more to follow.

There were many who did not survive the depression in the Lost Quarter. Having lost everything, and seeing their lands ruined by wind and drought, they abandoned their plots and moved away. Some to far away cities, others to the north and west where they took up farming again in a more verdant plain, though the winters were even more unforgiving. Those who remained carried on.

The same dislocations, migrations and perseverance await us all in the weeks, months and years to come. We just don’t know how the story will go this time or the characters we will play. The not knowing is the worst of all.

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 Ninety Four

The sun shining through the clouds following an afternoon thunder shower. It never seems so bright as it does at this very moment, the earth still damp though quickly drying, the pools of water vanishing. Soon all signs of the storm will have vanished, the clouds drifting elsewhere.

The first flash of lightning was so bright it startled me and I wondered if an explosion had taken place. The rumble of thunder came much later, almost an afterthought.

Nothing smells as sweet as grass and leaves after a shower. It smells of life, the promise of it, and brings me memories of wandering through fields in my youth. How I would watch the storm clouds coming along the horizon and hurry for cover when the first drops struck. After I would walk through the pastures, the damp grass soaking my shoes, their long strands still heavy with drops seeking the ground.

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 Ninety Three

Waiting in a closed room, the blinds drawn shut. A dim light from the bedside, but I sit in the shadows of the corner. My eyes are half-closed, though not from drowsiness. I am ragged with unease at what is to come.

Standing outside the old grain exchange, while the wind blows newspapers by, gusting and floating. For Lease signs on the darkened windows. The doors are locked, no getting in.

A dog snarls and snaps, held back on its chain. Menacing eyes stare at me, daring me to give them a reason.

The clouds pile up, adrift in the sky, staying where they are. Trees in the distance, waving in the wind. A magpie struts along the fenceline calling out warnings. One step too close and it flies away with a taunting caw, landing in some tree to shout down obscenities.

I wander across field and pasture, no direction or purpose. The hills roll on like waves of some dead sea frozen in antiquity that we have forgotten ever existed. I glance off to the side and see a coyote upon one of the hills, staring back over its shoulder at me. Our eyes lock for an instant and then it is gone, a blur of movement along the horizon.