“The Fog is a Snow Leopard Eating Owslowski”

The snow leopard hasn’t been fed.

The boy was in a suitcase.

The children hid beneath their desks.

The campers swam away from the island toward the open lake like jumpers from a burning building seeking salvation in the sidewalk.

The fog takes the mountains surrounding the playing field. The count is full. The home team is losing. The batter steps out of the box and takes three practice swings each one finished with the barrel of the bat pointed at Oliver. Oliver is the batboy. His uniform doesn’t fit. Hobbs is Oliver’s father. Hobbs sits in the stands behind home plate waiting for the foul ball to hit Oliver.

The fog wraps around the stadium lights. The lights burn dully like flame through wax paper. The umpire raises his mask and looks out at the fog. “Hurry it up,” he calls. The catcher

squats. The batter steps into the box. The pitcher’s eyes shift above the glove that covers his

 

mouth. He looks angry. He looks hungry.

How green the outfield grass shining beneath the center field lights! How deft and swift the fog! The fog is an iguana. It crawls up the flagpole and eats the American flag. It curls over the center field fence and pulls itself forward, lurching from side to side. Blue-tongued skinks, Chinese water dragons, and Jesus lizards that run so funny across the water; chuckwallas, four-horned chameleons, and ornate uromastyxs; Oliver loves them all. How rapt is Oliver dropping crickets into his tanks! See his mouth chew invisible with maternal synchrony to the lizard crunching crickets. To what hunger does he subscribe? To what order, mean and pervasive?  These are the things Hobbs wonders.

The snow leopard turns its head slowly. Oliver presses his face against the plexiglass wall.  The snow leopard shows Oliver its teeth. How white! How sharp!

“Look,” Oliver says. “He’s smiling. He likes me.”

The boy got lost in Brooklyn. His feet were in the refrigerator.

The children prayed inside the closet.

The Norwegians fell on the beach.

Columns of fog rise above the outfield grass knitting knives and swords and spears. The knives and swords and spears tumble forward. For whom do they come?

They come for the center fielder.

They come for Owslowski.

The pitcher steps to the back of the mound. The umpire and catcher stand together, masks lifted. All heads turn to center field. All watch Owslowski.

 

Up goes the fog, taking Owslowski’s cleats, his stirrups. Owslowski shakes a leg. The fog clings. Owslowski trots a few steps forward. The fog zips ahead and waits to meet him. Owslowski raises his hands in bewilderment. The fog makes giant hands of its own raised in bewilderment. The crowd titters. Owslowski swats at the fog with his outfielder’s glove. The fog makes a paw batting the glove from his hand. The crowd oohs. The paw makes a tail, wagging at the crowd. The crowd cheers. The tail makes a snake winding around Owslowski’s knees and thighs. The snake makes a leopard, sleek and grey and white, finishing Owslowski. Up goes the leopard taking Owslowski’s chest. Up it goes taking his neck, his chin, his open mouth. Up up up it goes and Owslowski is going . . .  going . . .  gone.

The fog sinks to the grass and retreats, slipping over the center field fence, leaving a space where once was Owslowski. Down it slides from the light poles. How green the grass!  How clean the infield dirt! The pitcher steps to the rubber. The catcher adjusts his chest protector. The batter steps into the box. “Play ball!” calls the umpire.

The pitcher winds.

He delivers.

Hobbs sits in the stands behind home plate waiting for the foul ball to hit Oliver.

 

 

 

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About Robert Solomon

Robert Solomon holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College. His fiction has appeared in Chicago Quarterly Review, The Gettysburg Review, Antioch Review, Fiction, Northwest Review, The Missouri Review, The Sun, Louisiana Literature, and other publications. He lives in Montpelier, Vermont with his wife Amy and son Truman.