In celebration of what would have been Opening Day for Major League Baseball (which I mentioned last year is my favorite day of the year), in today’s New Voices Revisited, we look back at Paul Crenshaw’s “The Monsters”, originally published on The Masters Review in April 2018. In “The Monsters” there is one very unusual team: vampires play the outfield; the pitcher is a werewolf; the catcher is a frankenstein; the shortstop is a satyr; and the coach is, of course, a minotaur. However, they are still, after all this, just kids.
The second and third basemen were both Bigfoots. The shortstop was a satyr. They whipped the ball around the infield so fast you couldn’t follow it, then, as if to remind us they were only children, the third baseman made a fart noise with his hand under his arm while the satyr splashed through a puddle behind the dugout.
“They’re monsters,” Miles told me, but I didn’t believe him because no one believes in monsters, even when they’ve seen them before.
We were getting ready for his first game. This was just after Miles’s father left. No note. Gave Miles his old baseball glove, but the webbing was torn out, which was Rick right down to the worn leather.
I’d heard of the Monsters already, but I thought they were just big kids. Last year, there’d been a pitcher for the Summerfield Rattlers who was already shaving. He looked to be seventeen, at least. Miles is twelve. You can’t put a seventeen year old pitching against sixth graders. They grow so fast those few years, and change so much. Their voices deepen. They start shaving. It’s a serious disadvantage.
But from what the other Little League mothers had told us, the opposing teams were already at a serious disadvantage. The Monsters had won their first four games by an average of fifty runs. None of the games went past the third inning before the umpire invoked the slaughter rule.
Of course we heard this from the other mothers, because most of the fathers didn’t make the practices. They’d be there for the games if they could, but never the practices. Rick used to come to T-ball games, and when he wasn’t depressed he would play catch with Miles in the back yard, but at practices it was mostly us mothers sitting in the hot sun fanning ourselves.
“There’s a team,” Judy McGruder said, when the last cool days of May hadn’t yet melted into July, “that is made up of monsters.”
“What do you mean monsters?” Sarah Smith-Canton said.
We had been talking about the men who’d left us and maybe she meant monsters in that way. Or she meant big kids, like how late in the year Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham pool all the best players for the Little League World Series.
“Monsters,” Judy McGruder said. “Vampires, werewolves, mummies. Picture Lon Chaney or Bela Lugosi.”
Lisa Larsen said monsters couldn’t be any worse than the men she dated, and we all laughed, then went back to watching the shadows of our boys stretch out, making them seem smaller than they were.
Miles heard about the Monsters from the other kids, who heard about them from the men who won’t even come to practice. He told me this sitting at the kitchen counter with a glass of milk and a PB and J. His glasses had fogged over after coming inside from the heat. His hands were so smooth it hurt me. The house was empty without his father there, and I wondered where Rick had gone, if he was trying out for some Single A team again, knowing he wouldn’t make it. Sometimes at night I listed the names of towns he might be in. I wondered when he might turn up again.