What Did the Boy Do When
He Came Back to Life?

Benjamin Woodard

Perhaps he smiled when his eyes fluttered open to stunned faces crowded over his body. After all, the view was like that shot at the end of The Goonies when the Goonies all peered down at the handful of rubies that saved the Goondocks forever, and he loved The Goonies. Perhaps he answered their questions directly and then flapped his limbs on the floor to comfort his gym teacher and classmates and, particularly, the boy responsible for this chaos, who moments ago piledrove the boy’s head into the mat atop the parquet floor and now paced the court, quietly swearing to himself between sobs. Perhaps he said, “Jesus, Danny, this isn’t WWF!” or “You’re not Koko B. Ware!” or “It feels like my neck is shorter” or “I don’t remember anything and my mouth tastes like pennies.” Perhaps he did say these things, but in another language. Maybe it was a language he never knew, something from a past life. Perhaps he used ASL. Perhaps he pretended to be paralyzed, instead, if only to watch the jaws drop for a moment, long enough for his teacher to panic and flash forward to his inevitable termination and ostracization from public schooling because a kid was seriously damaged on his watch. (Who could hire a P.E. teacher with such a vicious black mark on his record?) Perhaps he asked a question of his own: “Do you want to know about the afterlife?” Perhaps he told them about the white light and the echoing voices, if such things existed. If not, he explained the crushing feeling of nothingness, the empty void that waits on the other side.

            Perhaps he did all of these things, the performing and smiling and explaining, one after another, until nobody wanted to listen to his tall tales and he returned to his status as the weirdo who wasted his days reading fantasy novels and drawing comic strips. Or perhaps he opened his eyes to the worried face of his crush, Angela, and he admired the ceramic strawberry earrings that dangled from her soft lobes. Perhaps the charms reminded him of last Halloween, when his grandmother visited from Peru. Back then, she mistook the small cloth and Styrofoam ball ghosts hanging from trees for some kind of valuable fruits protected from the elements by their owners, as if anything in this town was worth money. Perhaps he said “Yes” to “Are you okay?” and “Can you breathe?” when they were asked, or perhaps he continued to picture his grandmother’s face as he returned to life and then he laughed at the memory.

            Perhaps he giggled and shook on the gymnasium floor until his classmates decided through teenage telepathy to answer the questions on his behalf.

            The possibilities, really, are endless.