In the evening, I walk up the mountain road to check on the pumpkin. It’s warm – maybe 45 degrees – and the sun is still just high enough to feel warm on my face. The road is muddy and rutted, soft beneath my boots. The mountain stream runs fast with snowmelt. I pass the town hall, then the church, then Bob’s hayfield, where at least a dozen deer graze at nubs of overwintered grass. I don’t bother stopping to watch them; they’re out there every day now. I saw them yesterday; I’ll see them again tomorrow.
It takes me nearly an hour to climb the hill. Three cars pass. Well: One car and two trucks. It’s no one I know, but I wave anyway. On the shoulder of the road, I spot a five dollar bill, and stoop to pick it up, then pause: the virus. But upon closer inspection, I can see that the bill has been there for a very long time, only just revealed by the receding snowbank. So I pocket it and carry on, already forming a story of how it came to land there, and feeling unaccountably lucky. I mean, it’s only five bucks. But still.
At the crest of the hill, I find the pumpkin. It’s moved a bit as the snow has melted out from underneath it, and something has been eating at it. It’s no longer orange. More of a deep beige. Not much to look at, really.
Back down the hill, sun low and barely visible through the trees, dark coming on fast. Much colder. I stick my ungloved hands in my pockets for warmth, wishing I hadn’t come quite so far, wishing I’d been smarter about when to turn back. But I wasn’t, and now there’s really nothing to do but keep carrying on.