When the Children Return
The aliens came and took all the children except for David Schmidt, who disguised himself in a cotton-ball beard and a fedora. We all looked pretty much alike to the aliens. They thought he was a short old man. He waved goodbye when his little sister went in one of their spaceships, crying Davey, Davey, bye, waved until the spaceship was gone, which was really no time at all.
With the children all gone except for David Schmidt, it is a much quieter world.
The children send letters from space: Having a great time. Wish you were here.
The letters get pasted on refrigerators next to drawings and A+ assignments and photos of David Schmidt.
Grandmothers take turns pinching David Schmidt’s cheeks until they’re red and sore. Mothers embrace him and fathers play catch and call him Sport or Champ. David Schmidt is passed from house to house until nobody can remember whose child he is, really.
David Schmidt gets all the Christmas presents and birthday cakes. He sits on a thousand Santa laps. David Schmidt is loved, loved, loved.
The others will return someday, and David Schmidt will be waiting for them with his cotton-ball beard and fedora, to be taken into their arms, to be told: Oh, we have missed you.
David Schmidt will be old by then, true old, a kind of old the children have yet to know, traveling at light speed through the galaxies, but they will know it must be him, for who else would be left? Who else to wait but David Schmidt?
Cathy Ulrich doesn’t want to go to space, but if all the other kids went, she’d probably go too. Her work has recently been published in Pidgeonholes Magazine, The Bookends Review and The Citron Review.
Also by Cathy Ulrich These Clouds Are Not the Same Clouds; This Sky Is Not the Same Sky / Ghost Among Ghosts
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[Picture from Sonny Abesamis]