Michael Catherwood

Clearing the Fence

Playing 500 baseballs were lost to weeds in the sand & gravel lot. Out of the sky we fielded grounders for 25, hoppers 75, fly balls 100. That summer we closed in on the fence, lengthened our swats, split balls like zippers-- the red seams unraveled into wounds. It was the summer Joe's brother went to war; the summer Joe cleared the chain link fence, cleared the street into Old Man Rock's yard. Soon we all cleared the fence, filled the sky with baseballs. One by one Rock took our balls. This was the July we broke into our old grade school, stole equipment-- a few bats, an entire case of fresh Rawlings baseballs. They sat in their case white as eggs, entire solar systems wound inside. We bruised them dizzy cracking 500. When our crime made the Sun Newspaper, we wore guilt and played little 500. But break-ins continued all over North O: Minne Lusa Tavern, Blessed Sacrament, Miller Park Pool. We all had suspicions, but no one squealed, being more frightened than loyal. Joe bought a car, a turquoise blue 57 Chevy, disappeared into a filament of pot, girls, music, things baseball couldn't reveal. Soon we were back banging 500 against Old Man Rock's house. In the scrunch and grind of sand & gravel, our hands were quicker than feet. Joe never played again, just vanished that late fall. Never came back.


that field in Kansas, I watched a barn fall in, the flames digging up from the ground. Now I hear fire walk in at night across dark heaps of books and tables and chairs. I smell the watery stare, hear the yellow lick the floor slats like frosting, dream myself back into that field, that junkyard of grass in Kansas as real as blue sky. I dream I crossed with my cousin through ravines, through Chevys and Hudsons. Back at Danny's house our fathers took baseball bats, knocked golf balls into that screaming charmed field of flame and color.

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