When the astronaut comes home from space, she falls down in the front yard after the lab tech drops her off. Her wife is trimming daisies, plucks the face from one, places it in the astronaut’s hair.
I wish I could pick you up, she says.
I just forgot how heavy it was, the astronaut says, rolls onto her back, spreads her arms wide in the grass, all of this.
The astronaut stays on the lawn all day while her wife clips daisies. The grass tickles the back of her neck; she reaches for the sky, thinks, I have been there, I have just come back from there.
The sun is going down, she says.
It’s us going round, says her wife, without turning. You know that.
I know that, the astronaut agrees.
The astronaut’s wife cups her hand around a daisy. She has always grown daisies at this house since she and the astronaut came here, bellis perennis, she sometimes says to herself, like the ones, best, with a touch of blush to their white petals. She says: I thought you might not come back this time.
I came back, says the astronaut. I’ll always come back.
In the morning, the astronaut and her wife go out to the astronaut’s favorite kitsch store. The astronaut’s wife wears a lovely skirt, twirls so it flares up around her waist. The astronaut’s wife has always worn skirts since they were girls.
Pretty, says the astronaut. So pretty.
In the car, the astronaut plays the classic rock station, plays Lynyrd Skynyrd, plays Zeppelin, plays CCR.
There’s a bad moon rising, she sings.
The astronaut’s wife lets her fingers trail out the window.
At the kitsch store, the astronaut finds a hula girl statuette. When she taps it on the head, it sways back and forth.
She reminds me of you, the astronaut says to her wife. The way the skirt goes.
On the shelf, there’s a sepia globe. The astronaut spins it, watches the continents blur past. She wonders why anyone would color the earth brown when it is so very blue. She thinks of the smallness of the world, puts her fingertip to the globe, thinks here, we’re right here.
The astronaut’s wife is holding the hula girl statuette; the fake grass skirt makes a sound, a very small sound, when her breath rustles it.
The flower in her hair, says the astronaut’s wife. I can’t remember its name.
All the astronaut can think of when she tries is Andromeda, Pinwheel, Whirlpool.
Galaxies, she says, touches her wife’s small hand. Galaxies.
The hula girl sits on the dashboard for the ride home, dances.
The astronaut’s wife cuts daisy faces, floats them in a bowl of water on her kitchen table. The neighbors come for dinner, bring a balloon bouquet, one that says Welcome Home.
We wanted one that said Welcome Back to Earth, says the neighbor husband, but apparently, that’s too specific.
He laughs and his wife and astronaut laugh. The astronaut’s wife swirls her finger in the daisy bowl, sets the faces spinning.
The astronaut’s wife is bad at small talk. She relates various facts about hippopotamuses over dinner.
The largest hippopotamus was over nine thousand pounds, she says. But in space, it wouldn’t weigh anything at all.
She says: It would still have mass, though.
She says: It’s not like it would disappear.
The daisies are lovely, says the neighbor’s wife, sipping from her glass of wine. So lovely.
The astronaut’s wife says: Just because something is in space doesn’t mean it has disappeared.
She says: Nothing disappears, really, twists her fingertips in the daisy bowl, spinning them like galaxies.
Cathy Ulrich doesn’t grow daisies and she doesn’t look at the stars. She does like CCR, though. Her work has been published in various journals, including Atticus Review, Former Cactus and Black Warrior Review.