Chunky Beef had not intended to die. He had leaned out the school’s 4th floor window to see if the neon nerf ball was still lodged in the small tree below. Jeremy had accidentally thrown the ball out the window a week ago and perfectly lodged it in the top branches.

As he lost his balance and tumbled out the window, Chunky Beef briefly thought, “Shit. What an awful way to go.”

And then he went splat.

Attempting to make sense of the scene, school counselors labeled Chunky Beef a troubled young boy. His grades were poor. He wasn’t involved in any teams or after school activities. Another tragic youth who had just needed a friend.

This was extremely confusing to his four friends: Albert, Jonathan, Chelsea, and Banjo.

But everyone else was content enough with the rational explanation that had been placed on the unfortunate accident. After all, people don’t just die. There’s always a reason.

In this case the reason was that everyone called Brooks Dunham by his nickname: Chunky Beef.

Back in elementary school, little Brooks brought his lunch every day, and these lunches frequently included a small, pre-packaged container of soup that would be heated up in the classroom microwave.

There was chicken dumpling, chicken noodle, but most frequently: chunky beef.

Brooks was not a small child. He was always picked towards the end for teams on the playground and would start to get nauseous if he ran for more than four minutes

So, when one of his classmates jokingly called him Chunky Beef, the name stuck. At first Chunky Beef didn’t care for the name, but Albert pointed out that it kinda sounded like a cool 90’s rapper.

So, he figured it wasn’t that bad. Better than being Piss-Boy Peter, who had an unfortunate incident in the 3rd grade that haunted him until his family moved right before middle school. He now goes by his middle name, Adrian, and is on the track team. He’s doing pretty well for himself and recently started dating a nice boy named Mark.

While “Chunky Beef” was originally mixed with a portion of cruelty, by high school it was simply a name like John, Mark, or Susan.

So why was Chunky Beef suddenly the depressed victim of a lifetime of bullying in the eyes of the public?

Chelsea summed up the answer well, “Hell, none of these crying people even knew Chunky. Everyone’s just looking for a martyr. He just fell out that window and it fucking sucks! Why do we have to make it more than it is? I’m just sad, you know?”

Albert, Jonathan, and Banjo nodded solemnly. It did “fucking suck.”

No one at the wake knew how long was appropriate to stay before going back to their own lives. The pastor read from Leviticus during the funeral. Half the pallbearers would have struggled to recognize Chunky’s voice. His parents and four friends sat in the front pew and had tears in their eyes the whole time.

The funeral was weirdly sunny for that season though it did drizzle a bit towards the end. His parents appreciated that.

And then a month later, Chunky Beef woke up naked in his family’s backyard.

Sunrise had just started. He slowly got off the ground, wiped off some dirt and grass, and made his way through the sliding back door. The dew from his feet left a trail to the kitchen, then upstairs to his room, and then back to the kitchen.

His mother, Mandy, groggily went to go make her morning coffee. Eyes only half open she muttered a greeting to Chunky as she started the coffee pot. He was rummaging through the fridge seeing what types of jelly were there for his toast.

“Morning, mom.”


“Oh shi-oot. Aren’t I dead?”


“Yeah, I definitely died,” Chunky said. It explained a lot. Especially why half his room had been in boxes and he had needed to rummage to find a pair of gym shorts and a t-shirt.

After they both cleaned up the spilled coffee grounds, the two of them sat down in the living room.

“Are you a ghost?” Mandy began.

“I don’t think so. Stubbed my toe on the dresser while putting on my shirt.” Chunky pinched his cheek, emphasizing his being on the material plane.

“Did God send you back to us?” Mandy’s eyes were wide.

“If He did I don’t remember. Last I knew I was falling out that window after trying to see if that nerf ball was still stuck in the tree,” he paused. “It was by the way.”

Mandy took his hand. “So. It definitely wasn’t a, you know.” Her voice trailed off.

“Suicide? God, no! Why would I? No! I just fell.”

She breathed a sigh of relief. “That’s what Chelsea and your friends said.”

“See?” he replied. “I noticed a lot of boxes upstairs. How long has it been?

Mandy filled him in on the past month: how surprised everyone had been, the rumors about suicide, the weird pastor at the funeral, how her and his dad had struggled to believe it, how everything had felt like a dark dream.

Chunky Beef quietly ate his toast with peanut butter and peach jelly. His mind was whirling with questions. Was this permanent? Would he vanish soon? What if died again? Was this a super power? Would his friends really believe it was him? Do dead people still have to go to school? Did he want to go to school? If any girls now wanted to go on a date with him should he accept or not because they would only be interested in him because he had died?

Luckily for Chunky Beef, he did not fade away. He was back, but the rest of the questions still needed answering.

After a couple days, his family visited both the hospital and the police station. Tests were done. Records were checked. Chunky Beef had definitely died and it was definitely Chunky Beef that was now in front of them. A technician joked the only other option would be an identical twin.

An attempt was made to check the grave, but a freak digger accident had ruined half the cemetery. Mandy was relieved that the accident had happened 17 days after the funeral and not three.

After the police and hospital staff had several heated conversations and calls were made to higher-ups, Chunky Beef’s death was legally labeled as a mass delusion, perhaps brought on by something in the water or radiation or “whatever the government does around here.”

The Social Security office said people “got marked dead all the time who weren’t supposed to be” and that they would do their best to take care of it. Whether that spoke more to the miraculous nature of the world or to the flawed nature of human bureaucracy is up for debate.

The best part of coming back for Chunky Beef was seeing his friends again. His mom invited them all over and mentally prepared them. When he walked out it was to a joyous cacophony of swears, tears, and questions. Eventually, they settled down, ate pizza and cake, played video games (mostly Street Fighter), and watched dumb comedies (mostly Will Ferrell) late into the night.

The worst part was figuring out what to do about school. It was early May now, so it didn’t make much sense to throw him back in for the end of the semester.

The principal, Mrs. Gertz, secretly met with Chunky Beef and his parents at an Applebee’s for lunch on a Tuesday. She was a pragmatic woman who had clawed her way through the ranks to being the high school principal. Over her time at the school, she had dealt with students struggling with drugs, abuse, sexual harassment, depression, bullying, the list went on, but she had never had to deal with the re-integration of a student formerly labeled as deceased.

“Mr. Dunham,” Mrs. Gertz began.

“It’s okay to call me Beef. I don’t mind.”

“Well, if you’re sure, Beef. As you’re well aware your situation is unique, and,” she paused. “Unusual.”

“Yeah, that’s what the doctors and cops said too.”

“I’m sure they did.” Mr.s Gertz stared off for a moment. “How about this: you were a decent student. You only missed a portion of the last semester. What if we give you some summer homework to finish out your year and then you can come back in the fall?”

Chunky Beef had mixed feelings. On the one hand, he was ready for life to get back to normal. But on the other, whenever he thought about having to go back to school and be around everyone again his fingers started to tap and twitch.

“I guess that would be fine. Wouldn’t be too much work for the summer, would it?”

“I’m sure it’ll be an easily, doable amount.”

Mandy interjected, “I think that sounds good. You can do that, can’t you?”
“Yeah, I can do that.” Chunky slowly nodded.

And he did. Barely. That summer Chunky would find himself staring out the window for long periods of time. He would go on walks (which he never used to do) and think about nothing at all.

He only talked to one person, Chelsea, about it.

“I haven’t felt like myself recently,” Chunky said while they wandered through the neighborhood.

“How so?” Chelsea tried not to let ideas of the supernatural come spouting out.

“Well, maybe that’s the wrong way to put it.”

The silence stretched.

“How would you put it?” Chelsea finally asked.
“I think I’ve been trying to change. You know there’s only a couple other people who have ever come back from the dead. Just Jesus and Lazarus who were really dead.”

Chunky Beef’s family was Methodist. They only went to church on Easter and Christmas Eve, but it had suddenly seemed a lot more relevant to the whole family.

“Some people die for a few minutes and are then revived. Saw a special on it. Completely deprived of oxygen. See weird stuff like the light closing in and all that,” Chelsea said.

“Yeah, but that’s not like dead dead. You know? Like I was buried. Those people weren’t buried.”

“Did you see anything weird when you died?” Chelsea couldn’t resist any longer.

“Nope, it was like when I got my tonsils out. One minute I was in the air. The next I was lying in my backyard. It felt like no time had passed at all.”

Chelsea pondered this. Chunky continued.

“I figure if only people like Lazarus and Jesus have resurrected it must make you important. Super important, like talk to God level. And I figure since it took me a lot longer than they did to come back it’s not as important as starting a religion or anything, but maybe at least I’d be some sort of minor prophet or something.”

“Minor prophet?”

“Yeah, I looked it up. Was looking at the Bible a lot after coming back. You’ve got your major prophets like Daniel and then all your minor prophets with weird names no one ever uses since they weren’t as important.”

“Oh.” Chelsea’s family was Catholic and she personally had never felt like paying much attention to the Old Testament. She distinctly remembered a priest explaining that Jesus was the essential part and that was good enough for her.

“So I’ve been trying to quiet my mind, I guess. It sounds super dumb, like insane, but I figured maybe if I silenced my mind and went into nature like one of those monks maybe God would talk to me or I’d have some sort of revelation.”

“An epiphany?”

“What’s that?”

“A kind of sudden revelation or insight. Maybe from God.”

“Yeah, that!”

“Have you had one? An epiphany, I mean?” Chelsea was on the edge of her toes.

“Nope. Nothing. Being kinda quiet makes feel a little better though, so I’ve been trying to do it more.”

“Maybe you’re a minor, minor prophet? Like a self-help guru? Maybe Mike Meyers can play you in a movie someday.” Chelsea was trying not to deflate too quickly.

They both laughed and continued walking.

Far too soon, at least for Chunky’s taste, the summer was over and then it was time to return to school.

He could only catch a few students staring at him out of the corner of his eye as he walked the halls, but he was definitely suspicious of his science teacher picking him as a “volunteer” that ended up getting poked and prodded a lot.

While standing in the cafeteria line (cardboard pizza day, yay!), Debs said hey to him. This was of note because Debs was fashionable, wore make-up everyday, and had been rumored to be responsible for at least 3 students leaving the school her sophomore year.

“Hey, Chunky. How you doing?”


“Classes going well?”

“Yeah, I guess. I mean it’s the first week. Just going over the syllabus really.” Chunky didn’t look up from his feet.

“Such a bore. Right?”


“Well after you get your pizza, you should come sit with me and my friends.”

“Oh, thanks.”

After paying too much for what Congress had decided was the minimal amount of nutrition required by a teenager, Chunky Beef rushed to his usual table with his usual friends. They were discussing whether or not Superman or Goku would be the dominant partner in a homosexual relationship.

“What you think, Chunky?” Banjo asked.

Chunky responded with his mouth full of his second bite. “Oh, Goku would be on top. Superman has his submissive kink with the whole Clark Kent thing.”

“Yeah, you’re telling me Lois Lane didn’t use a strap-on with him?” Chelsea interjected.

“Right, and Goku’s got his dumb masculine thing,” Chunky continued.

“What does that mean?” Albert asked.

“I dunno. I just don’t think he’s got the emotional range for being the girl in the relationship. Anyway, you guys want to hear something super weird?”

“Goku’s also been on top of you recently?” Johnathan finally chimed in to the laughter of the group.

“No. Debs invited me to sit at her table while we were standing in line.”

“Surprised you didn’t go over there,” Albert said as he glanced over to check out the kind of girls that had legs for days.

Chelsea scowled. “I’m not. She’s a bitch. Glad you knew better.”
“Why do you think she did that?” Chunky looked down at his stained Metallica t-shirt.

“Isn’t it obvious? They just want to interrogate you cause of what happened in the spring.”

Chunky Beef’s gang had a hard time saying resurrection. Not that the word was hard to say or anything (except for Banjo who had a slight speech impediment, especially when he wasn’t sober), but because it clashed too much with everything.

Chunky had died and now he was alive. It broke all the rules. So, they just kept acting like nothing had happened at all. Even if the rest of the school was letting curiosity get the best of them, it was a rule among the group to not talk about it unless Chunky brought it up. He didn’t know they had made this rule, but he definitely appreciated it.

School slowly normalized. Two freshmen got caught on the bus having sex which was a lot more interesting than Chunky just still being a breathing person. Drama and events continued to break at the lunch tables and leave him behind in everyone’s mind.

Meanwhile, Chunky realized that if he tried a bit more and listened carefully in class, take notes, and everything then it actually wasn’t that hard to turn his old C-s into B+s (except for math, math topped out at a C+).

Other than his newfound academic ability, things were back to normal.

At least until senior, Chris Spatemen, died in a car crash on the interstate. It was late at night and somehow he crashed into the concrete median. He was a popular kid: smart, leader of the tennis team, single (but he flirted a lot), and member of multiple campus clubs (including NKMABT [Nice Kids Making a Better Tomorrow]).

And suddenly all the eyes were back on Chunky Beef, because if he could come back why not Chris? Chris was great. He had a future. He had already been accepted to 11 colleges.

But Chris didn’t come back.

A month passed and then two months and the school’s favorite remained in the grave. Meanwhile, Chunky Beef walked the halls and slowly began to sweat more as a growing number of eyes bored into the back of his head each day.

Then there was the day Debs had her breakdown. Chunky Beef was casually walking back to his lunch table, tray in hand (chicken nugget day, one of the best) when Debs stomped over to him and slapped his tray. He gripped it tightly and the milk fell over.

“I hate you! Why are you here? You died! You should be dead! Not him! Why do you get to come back and he doesn’t? Everyone loved him! I loved him! Who the fuck loved you? I didn’t even know there was a kid here called Chunky Beef until your funeral. What a dumb fucking name! You didn’t even exist before, why should you exist now?” Tears flowed down her cheeks.

“Chris had a future, you know?” she continued. “Chris was brilliant and wonderful! So why can’t he come back? Why do I have to see you everyday and not him?” she whispered at the end as teachers rushed over to guide her out of the lunchroom.

Chunky Beef stared wide-eyed as he walked over to his table and sat with his friends and they didn’t say anything. Chunky wished people didn’t have to chew so loud.

The silence stretched until the end when Banjo finally said, “It’s not your fault, you know? You didn’t have any control over it. It just happened. They’re just sad and mean and lashing out.”

“Yeah!” Chelsea agreed.

“It just sucks, man. But, it’s not your fault,” Banjo finished as the lunch bell rang.

That night Chunky Beef stayed up until 4 a.m. reading the Bible, the Koran, the Tao Te Ching, Witchcraft for Dummies, and a marketing book he had found in a thrift shop from the 60’s that advertised itself as highly life changing for ambitious, young men.

It wasn’t.

He was a zombie the next day wandering the halls. He dozed in class and dreamed of hands grabbing him from his desk and pulling him towards hell.

He dreamed of everyone asking him why he deserved to come back and his mouth being filled with sand.

He dreamed of Chris peeking at him behind corners, slipping him notes with drawn stick figures committing suicide.

After school, Chelsea was coming over to work a on a group project, and he didn’t want to cancel on her. So the two sat in his basement.

Mandy knew the two of them weren’t an item and could be left together, no worries, though the door was still always kept open. She was a mother and wanted to keep up appearances. The two of them had known each other since 6th grade and briefly tried dating in 8th grade. It didn’t go great (Chunky had accidentally licked her nose when trying to kiss her for the first time).

“So have you found those stats about Ethiopia yet?” Chelsea asked.

“Huh?” Chunky was still deep in a daze.

“The poverty rate? Have you found it?”

Chunky’s laptop had gone to sleep. “No.”

Chelsea’s frustration was growing, but then Chunky said, “Hey, why do you think I came back?”

“Fuck, I don’t know. Can’t we just get this done real quick?” She kept trying to work.

“If anyone was going to come back shouldn’t it have been Chris instead of me?”

Chelsea finally looked up. “Is that what’s been bothering you? Did Debs or one of those bitches yell at you again? I’ll take care of them for you.”

“No, no one else has said anything. He just seems like deserves it more than me, you know? Why I should I come back? I’m just average. Only thing above average is my weight.”

Chelsea realized the project was not getting done tonight. “Hey Chunky,” she moved and sat next to him. “You know how happy we all were when you came back? Me, Banjo, Albert, Johnathan, your parents, lots of other people were super happy too.”

“Yeah, but wouldn’t more people be happy if Chris came back?

“You don’t know that. Maybe he was secretly an awful person? Maybe he didn’t deserve to come back?”

“That’s just mean,” Chunky mumbled.

“Okay, you’re right. That’s mean. You still been trying to have that epiphany?”

“Yeah, hasn’t worked. I stayed up all night reading religious books. I liked the Tao Te Ching best right now cause it’s the shortest, though it kinda makes the least amount of sense.”

“Tell me about it.” Chelsea knew she wasn’t the best at cheering people up, but she knew one of the tricks was to get them talking about something else. Didn’t solve the issue, but at least bought some processing time.

“Well,” Chunky thought deeply. “It’s about light and dark, but it’s not about good and evil like Star Wars. The two are more like male and female and everything needs to be in balance. In fact, it talks about how good and evil need each other and that the world is actually better without good and evil.”

“How can the world be without good and evil?”
“I think it’s suppose to just be at peace with itself and doing whatever comes naturally. It talked a lot about flowing water.”

“Mhmm.” Chelsea let the ideas, such as Chunky had conveyed them, sink in. “So maybe you just need to go with the flow too? It’s not fair or unfair that you came back and Chris didn’t. It just is, right?”

“I mean yeah,” Chunky was impressed that Chelsea had picked up on all of this a lot faster than him. He had to read the annotations at the back before it started making any sense. “But it still feels wrong to me.”

As he looked down, Chelsea went over and gave him a hug. A hug like he gave Albert after Albert’s dog died. A hug like Banjo gave Johnathan when his dad moved out. A hug like Chunky had given Chelsea when her family had to cancel their trip to Disney World because their car had a breakdown. And, that made Chunky feel just a little bit better.

School still sucked.

No one directly accused him again, and Chunky knew he wasn’t responsible in anyway, but that didn’t magically make everything better. Some days were fine. He’d chill with his friends, class wouldn’t be too boring, and it would be like nothing ever happened.

Other days, he’d notice a freshman point him out to someone or realize someone was staring. He did his best to ignore it all even on the days he just wanted to scream. After all this he was still in many ways a “troubled young boy.” He hadn’t lost weight. His life hadn’t changed. It had just continued.

Late one night, he got to thinking.

Wasn’t it worth something that he’d returned? He was the definition of a miracle! Lazarus, Jesus, Chunky Beef! (He doubted even the history books would call him Brooks Dunham).

No prestigious newspaper would believe him. The paper trail had been covered up and personal testimonies could be disputed. But what about an un-prestigious one? He googled the National Enquirer. From his understanding, they mostly ran stories about aliens and Elvis Presley, but maybe he’d be interesting enough for them.

The front page of the site was mostly weird celebrity news. It actually appeared to be all be celebrity news. He realized his understanding of the publication may have been inaccurate.

He typed, “newspaper with bigfoot and aliens.” Weekly World News was the first result. The front page was reporting hordes of killer birds in the midwest. Chunky felt like he was in the right place. There was sign-up for a newsletter that said “Aliens are Coming! Be the first to know. SIGN UP NOW!”

He clicked the tiny contact button at the bottom of the home page and entered his name and email.

In the message block, he typed:

“Dear Sir or Madam. Hey, my name is Brooks Dunham, though most people call me Chunky Beef. School thing. I recently died by falling out a window and then came back to life a month later in my backyard with no explanation. As the only person living who has died, I think I’m newsworthy for your website. Looking forward to your response. Thank you.”

And then clicked enter. (Two months later a bored editor for the site would read the message, scoff, and delete it).

After his submission, Chunky’s mind began to swirl. What would he say if they actually called? How many people would be skeptical of him and the town assuming anyone was willing to support him? The government wouldn’t.

Hell, for all he knew resurrections might happen all across the world from time to time and people just kept quiet about it, because it’s too rare to track and too unbelievable for everyone else. Maybe he’d be the first one to come forward? Maybe he’d suffer tons of online and public abuse or maybe he’d be famous and he wouldn’t be able to go out in public anymore.

But, people report ghosts, and aliens, and Big Foot all the time and they’re not taken seriously. What luck does a high school boy have? Particularly a boy like Chunky Beef?

No, if they called he’d deny it. Say it was dumb prank one of his friends did. Hopefully, they wouldn’t care enough to follow up on it. He didn’t want to talk to anyone especially not some weird crackpots.

Wasn’t it enough to just be alive? Maybe he would save someone’s life when he was older? Be a hero. How did he know what the future had in store for him and what part he may have to play in the fabric of the universe. If a horseshoe could decide the rise and fall of empires, maybe Chunky Beef could change the world someday too.

He didn’t know how he ever would, but life is long and change starts small. Or, in his case, lumpy, insecure, and sleepy.

At the end of his first semester back, Chunky Beef made all B’s in his classes. First time he’d had a report card that good since elementary school.

Chelsea was walking home with him from the bus. The whole gang was coming over in a couple hours to celebrate winter break with video games, mountain dew, and Cheetos. Banjo said he might be able to sneak a small bottle of vodka from his brother (he wouldn’t actually until next summer and it would only be enough to give everyone a small buzz).

The sky was an overcast gray. Small flurries fluttered through the wind, melting as they hit the pavement. The sun would be setting within the hour.

“How are you doing, Chelsea?” Chunky Beef asked her as they walked.

“I’m doing good. Why do you ask?”

“Oh. Just realized I never really ask people how they’re doing. I say ‘what’s up?’ a lot, but that doesn’t really count. If you say anything besides good people think you’re weird or in deep shit.”

Chelsea laughed. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. But I really am doing good. Going to kick all the ass tonight at Mario Kart.” She paused and looked down. “How have you been doing, Chunky?

“I’ve been good. I won’t lie. This semester’s been rough, but I think things are looking up. Spent a lot of time trying to figure why I came back, but I’m done with that now.”

Chelsea’s ears perked up. “Did you figure it out? Do you know why you came back?” She tried not to sound too excited.

“Nope, I don’t know. Don’t think I ever will until a lot later in life, if at all.” Chunky Beef turned towards her and smile, “But, I’m glad I did.”