The dually trucks were right on schedule, each zipping into the park, diesel engines roaring. They were like jets flying overhead. But this was Texas. These were ranchers.
The smell of cooked meat from the concession stand’s big grill hung heavy under the bright lights. But this wasn’t football. This was little league baseball.
Plumes of dust from the trucks collided with grill smoke. The crowd, attired in denim and leather, rose from the bleachers with their hands half-circled above their brows. Lloyd stood with the crowd, but looked in a different direction. His eyes were on his son, Tommy.
With a palm the size of the panhandle, the umpire raised his arm to stop the game. He was known as Minotaur. Before the transformation, his name was actually Harold, but no one bothered to remember anything from before.
When the dust settled, all the players were off the field except the one under the transformation. Some said it was the combination of smoke and diesel fumes. People said a lot of things when it came to the transformation, but no one really knew.
What looked like horns rapidly protruded out of the boy’s head. His baseball cap, or what was left of it, hung loosely on the right horn. The next piece to go was Tommy’s jersey; his neck and chest bulged in comic book fashion. The jersey looked like the paper covering of a firecracker post-explosion.
Soon enough Tommy was on all fours. He ran and kicked into a new existence, but his cleats, though blown out at the toes, were still on his back hooves. He tossed his head back and forth to show anger. The ranchers were impressed. So was the crowd. Everyone stood up to cheer. Some even had cattle prods raised to the sky. There was electricity in the air. Hail Texas.
“Big day for your boy, Tommy,” Marv said, as he put down his cattle prod. Lloyd watched his son rub against the outfield fence. “Must’ve had him chewing his glove from the get-go.”
All of this was true. When Lloyd found out Tommy wasn’t going to be near the athlete his older brother Ricky was, he bought Tommy a baseball glove from the local factory. It was damn near bigger than him, but Lloyd knew it was the right move. Texas was cattle country. If townspeople didn’t live on a ranch, they worked at the glove factory. If young boys weren’t football players, they were made into baseball players. Support Local was the town motto.
The ranchers had parked their trucks underneath the scoreboard in centerfield. There was a picnic table next to the fence. Minotaur, careful not to rattle Tommy, trotted out to meet them. This was where the biddings took place. Lloyd’s son would be sold to the fattest wallet.
Marv smacked his lips. “I’m hungry. Want anything?”
Lloyd didn’t answer but continued to look at his son. The last thing he said to Tommy before the game was Own the plate. Lloyd sucked the back of his teeth for an elusive piece of steak that had been lodged between two molars since breakfast. “A fine specimen is a fine specimen,” he said to no one in particular, as he nudged Marv’s cattle prod with his boot just enough for it to fall underneath the bleachers.
The ranchers walked along the fence so they could inspect Tommy. He would either be deemed satisfactory for breeding or slaughtered like the rest.
Marv returned to the stands with a juicy burger, already two bites in. “Just don’t let it get to you. It’s up to Tommy now.” He licked meat juice off his arm. Marv was still in denial about his son, who was recently castrated by one of the ranchers. He would soon be served up at the local butcher, as well as the concession stand. “Here I am eating this knowing damn well Greg will be one soon. Wife says we have to steer clear of meat for at least a month. Let’s hope Tommy has more luck.”
Earlier that summer, Marv confessed that Greg never much cared for the glove chewing, or for baseball. That’s when Lloyd knew Tommy was different. The leather was always in his mouth.
The ranchers made bids by nudging their cap or raising a finger. The one on the right made the final bid. Minotaur moseyed his way back to the field and officially called the game. No one cared what the final score was because games were never completed. It was all about the transformation. As the ranchers drove off, the crowd of denim and leather again stood and cheered.
Everyone in the crowd packed up and left for home except Lloyd. Concessions were closed, but the odor lingered. He walked out onto the field. Shards of clothing laid scattered on the ground. He considered picking one up, but knew memories, just like the smell, would eventually fade away.
The lights went out and Lloyd decided to wait.
Rob Parrish’s work can be found or is forthcoming in Ellipsis Zine, Lost Balloon, The Harpoon Review, The Airgonaut, and MoonPark Review, among others. He is Editor-in-Chief at (b)OINK.