James Montgomery June 2023 Highly Commended

Diamonds in the Earth

by James Montgomery

The bat splinters, the crowd roars, and the boy’s held fast by the arc of the baseball, blitzing a course straight at him, a mere speck in the outfield, twin eye black smears masking each cheek, a boy pinned to parched, rain-hungry grass, when one lone voice, his father’s bark—look sharp, Bobby!—barrels out from the bleachers, jolts the boy into action, who stumble-runs as the ball skims the crest of the August sun, and the boy’s running back, back to last Tuesday, and the promise of an empty house—his mother running errands, his father out of town—and in the cheval mirror, in a slant of light, with only the floating dust motes to bear witness, there he was: lips alive with painted red, nape and inner wrists perfumed anew, socked feet slipped into his mother’s Mary Janes—the heel but an inch high yet it felt like touching God, like discovering some heavenly body until now unfound—and behind him, his father, unexpected and unannounced, the bedroom door silently ajar, the quickening panic of dad, dad, dad, and, as the ball begins its descent, the boy knows if he can only grasp it tight and hold it close all will be absolved, so he runs and runs, extends both arms, and stretches back through hand-stitched, chain-linked muscle memory, towards freshly-cut weekends, diamonds drawn in backyard earth, the easy throw of nice one, bud through air, the soft ache of an unbidden shoulder squeeze, and the close grain of freckles on sun-blessed faces, as the boy reaches, for his father, for the ball… which, with a short, sharp pop, funnels like a fastball, powers into the glove’s pocket, while something small and hard—as if leather cased—catches in the boy’s throat.

About the Author

James Montgomery’s stories appear in Reflex Fiction, Maudlin House, Gone Lawn, and elsewhere. He won the Best Micro Fiction Prize at the 2021 Retreat West Awards and is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. Find him at http://www.jamesmontgomerywrites.com and on Twitter at @JDMontgomery_

share by email