“Come Back” by Dave Nielsen

Dave Nielsen


After the disaster a few years ago, my friend Victor and his fiancé, Amalia, invested in a year’s supply of toilet paper. In their little two-room apartment there was no place to store it, so they had to find ways, other purposes, for which the rolls of toilet paper might serve. 
For example, they got rid of the twin nightstands that lined their small bed and built two small platforms of toilet paper instead. Victor asked to borrow my saw, and he sawed off the legs to the kitchen table, which he then replaced with the appropriate number of toilet paper rolls, balancing the table part of the said table on top of the rolls. 
Amalia, for her part, proved her creativity by dismantling her eyeglasses and placing the lenses in the dual ends of two rolls, which she then held to her eyes like binoculars. 
Life pressed on. Before any of us knew it, the next disaster was upon us. Soon we were all asking the two lovers if we could borrow just one more roll of toilet paper. I hesitated to do so, however, for each time that I did, some piece of furniture or spectacular invention of Amalia’s had to be dismantled. 
As luck would have it, this was Armageddon, and to make matters worse, none of us could stop wiping our asses. I remember the last time I visited. The front room was entirely bare, not even a TV stand. I had a small vase of flowers that I meant to bestow upon them, a sort of thank you for their many kindnesses. 
I had only a few minutes. According to the radio, the world was scheduled to end at 10 PM. Quickly I moved to place the vase somewhere out of the way, in the corner of the room, I supposed, except that I could never quite get there. Each time I stepped toward it, the corner retreated backwards, deeper into the shadows. 
This went on for quite some time. Step by step, deeper into the shadows. At last, I looked back toward the middle of the room, and it was like looking through the wrong end of Amalia’s binoculars. I saw her and Victor standing there—I could just barely make out the sound—alternately shouting at me and pointing at their watches.

from Rattle #74, Winter 2021


Dave Nielsen: “One day early in the pandemic, I visited the grocery store with my 15-year-old daughter, Rosie. I don’t remember what we were shopping for. I think we just wanted to see all of the empty shelves. There was something strange and amazing about it. We had never seen entire aisles utterly empty like that. Then suddenly—I wouldn’t have noticed it myself—Rosie pointed out a display pyramid of hummus, little packages stacked one on top of the other. ‘It’s the end of the world,’ she said, ‘but at least we have hummus.’ According to Rosie, the best poems don’t make anything up. She’ll be a little disappointed this one isn’t something about hummus.”

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