Natalie came back. She brought our bed and the pots and pans. I couldn’t believe it. I crawled up off the floor and she cooked us eggs and made me human again. I scratched her back. Braided her hair. Worshipped her every square millimeter. We looked out the upper loft window and watched the last day and a quarter of winter. New grass popped up. Whatever those trees are called got heavy with a trillion common green miracles. South birds flapped back north and sang sang sang us love songs. Bees kissed the roses. All that. Warm days again. It kept going. The gray wolf came back next which helped thin those troublesome elk herds. Now fields had a chance again. Aspen, cow-parsnip, willow, and mushrooms had a chance. Meadows spread across the city streets. The beavers stepped out of the distant swamps and came back here to reconstruct their forgotten dams and the rivers returned to the natural courses and the water rushed down the avenues and boulevards and Natalie and me tore up our MetroCards and carved canoes from any old stray log. The calvary came searching for the natives but the natives had not returned. Then the natives returned and won. The buffalo returned. The Pyrenean ibex came back. The black rhino came back. The Javan tiger returned. The passenger pigeon, Tecopa pupfish, dodo, great auk, wooly mammoth, American lion, mastodon, Natalie’s passion, my passion, Natalie’s patience, my patience, the dire wolf, the glyphtodon (big as a Volkswagen Beetle)—all came back. Coal came back. Jobs came back. Golden epochs came back. Hi, how-de-do? The ancient Egyptians came back. They restored the pyramids, rented them out for proms and other special events. Jesus came back, took off his sunglasses and bowed, snuck into his cave and napped forever. That great apocalyptic comet returned but missed Earth this time and so the stegosaurus and triceratops and the gigantosaurus came back and stomped through the last of the suburbs. Vinyl came back. Great. The Ice Age came back. Shit. Natalie and me were huddled around the bonfire, shivering. We tried to make a baby, failed, tried again, failed, the fertility test came back a false positive. I came. She came. The super volcanos came back. The primordial ooze rushed back. The trilobites came back. The first single celled organisms came back. The old oceans surged back and smelled excellent but the swimming was treacherous. The thunderous crack of the universe beginning again was heard once more and I covered my ears and the ears of my baby boy and Natalie covered her ears and I looked at her and still couldn’t believe she was mine again. She’d paid half the rent, loved me for no special reason, dragged the bed up the stairs, put the pots and pans in the cabinets and she’d worn her wedding ring and everything. How? Everything had come back, but how? Fuck it. Who cares. None of it mattered to me except that Natalie had come back. Did you hear what I said? She came back to me.
Bud Smith works heavy construction in New Jersey and writes there too. His stories have been published by The Paris Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Hobart and others. He’s on the world wide web at neutralspaces.co/bud_smith