BUCKSPORT — He diverts a fat squirrel from the bird feeder with a slingshot kept handy by the woodstove. With his camera, he records the retreating line of ice and recalls a springtime paddle up that channel. Out of nowhere, a woman’s shrill voice commands him to capture an eagle and crows fighting over a dead fish near an abandoned ice-fishing hole.
At Walgreens, he finds an old friend, Arthur, with whom he once worked closely. The two catch up and split the remaining bottles of the multivitamin Centrum on the drugstore’s shelves. His bottle never makes it home, having been set down on the car’s roof.
Those are just a few moments from Bucksport writer Hans Krichels’ new book “We Have Met The Enemy: Stories and Other Writings from the Days of Pandemic in My Town” (Maine Authors Publishing, 2021, $12.95). The slender volume includes 32 pieces begun on “Day #3 of this Pandemic in Our Town.” The 32 writings — vivid and insightful — take the form of essays, stories and verse. His experiences are wide-ranging from his vehicle being diagnosed with warped rotors at Charlie’s Auto Shop to catching COVID-19 and winding up in a hospital room in Venice, Italy.
Whether in Europe or downtown Bucksport, Krichels is a sharp observer and takes a keen interest in his fellow travelers during the coronavirus pandemic. Before and since the virus took hold, nature also is a constant in his life.
In “Like Daffodils Out of Season” (Day #27 of this Pandemic in Our Town), Krichels watches and eventually follows school buses amid the bare branches and winter landscape. He writes “I can see tiny buds, swelling, swaying in the breeze, brushing against the yellow splashes of these school buses, filing like boxcars through the streets of our town.”
From his car, he watches a school bus driver delivering “lunches and dinners by the boxfuls” for households rather than bringing their children home. Coolers, resembling bank vaults, have been put out at roadside. Human contact prevails. He sees the masked and rubber-gloved drivers and eagerly awaiting children make contact through waves.
In “A Blue Light for Gladys” (Day #276 of this Pandemic in Our Town), Krichels recounts installing a blue light picked up in a hardware store’s bargain bin to illuminate his woodpile. Friends find the 89-cent bulb a bit tacky, but a neighbor, Old Gladys, tells him it’s a beacon in the cold, dark night. All her life, she had cared for a brother who recently died.
The light burns out, but Old Harold at the local hardware store comes up with a blue bulb. He calls Old Gladys a saint “the way she’d taken care of her brother” and waives the charge.
In nature and community, Kirchner reveals the power and importance of such encounters and moments and their value as a comfort and for keeping the faith in tough times.
To purchase “We Have Met The Enemy: Stories and Other Writings from the Days of Pandemic in My Town,” go to maineauthorspublishing.com. To learn more about the writer, go to hanskrichels.com.