"Starshine" by James Ezra
They call him Cancer on account of the 69 stitched on his back.
Quiet killer, strong arm- he is a stranger of few words.
Down the line of laziness confined to the dugout, numbers 13 through 15 pass a grocery bag full of sour gummy worms and watch 69 through a slat in the earth. Sweat rolls down Tony’s forehead and into his tear ducts. Naomi’s stomach twists with building dehydration. Jensen scratches at the holes in his gums eaten through by manufactured sourness.
Their tongues like dry slugs hang out of their mouths but Cancer stands on deck unmoved by the hundred degree heat.
Contrary to one’s initial belief, he is not an alien or an android or any kind of celestial-robot hybrid. He’s someone’s cousin’s friend’s nephew from a few towns over, called in to alleviate their team from the embarrassment of frequent failure.
Salvation he provides as he finally walks up to the diamond with his bat dragging through the dirt behind him. Everything is reduced to teal pinstripes vs. dry tongues as Cancer glares at the opposing team, grip tightening on the duct tape-wrapped handle like these strangers owe him money.
Jensen pulls a clean gummy worm from his mouth. Grains of concentrated sourness pile atop the bed of his withering tastebuds but the star shimmering on the field distracts all from their suffering.
The gangly pitcher rockets the ball forward so fast that the rotation of red threads creates an illusion of a light pink stain. It spins to the left, pirouettes to the right, nosedives in the direction of 69’s kneecaps.
In a single swing existing in a realm of its own time and gravity, Cancer demands the air to separate for him.
A flash of brilliance. The pop of aluminum.
Who knew God would be sporting the reference of such a clichéd sex position.
69 jogs in a way that doesn’t make him look like a dumbass. He balls up his fists and keeps his head down from the eyeline of the sun as he chews up each base with the iron teeth strapped to the bottoms of his feet.
“Freak,” Tony grumbles with the blush of envy the same shade of a blistering sunburn coloring his cheeks.
“Cool,” Naomi corrects before licking a grain of sour sand from her bottom lip tacky with black lipstick.
“Gimme those gummy worms,” Jensen says and the inside of his mouth stings with the effort.
Cancer trots slower, slower, ends the entire game with the tips of his toes across that holy threshold of fourth base. The other team melts in shame under the glaring gaze of the scoreboard above. The cheers from the bleachers resound like the failing brakes of a moving truck.
Blinding starlight radiates from atop home plate.
The three still underground sweat iron in the spaces between their teeth.