“Camouflage,” by Lisa Fox

Apr 20th, 2021 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

So, this is what it’s like to breathe in hell.

The arid, gritty air grates my teeth, my tongue, my throat; it’s sandpaper to my lungs as I suck in deep gulps, heaving one breath after another. My once-black MGM Grand T-shirt clings with desert sweat. Dusty hues of the Grand Canyon paint me with the guilt of my crime. I lean into the canyon wall, a salamander channeling its camouflage as angry searchers scan the vast expanse, hoping for the slightest glimpse of me under the hundred-and-four-degree spotlight that is the sun.

It’s usually an easy scam, only five steps to victory.

One: Dress like a tourist. Vegas T-shirt, Jansport backpack, New York Yankees cap, Nikes with worn soles, scratched wire-framed Ray-Bans.

Two: Wander into the crowd. Target the most enthusiastic site oglers—those who lack the proper degree of situational awareness.

Three: Lift their wares, swift as the wind.

Four: Disappear into the crowd, meandering from tour group to tour group until I’ve reached the parking lot.

Five: Escape. Comfortable in the driver’s seat of… my black Ford Escape.

Fitting, isn’t it?

I’m halfway back to Vegas before they know what’s missing.

In six months’ time, I’ve amassed thirty thousand dollars in cash, fifteen iPhones, two gold teeth, and a diamond engagement ring.

It’s an easy living, but not today—thanks to the small, pale and exceptionally bored blond-haired boy playing Pokémon Go on a cell phone.

Who knew that was still a “thing”?

With the virtual Pokémon character taunting him through the tiny screen, the kid caught me in the ultimate photo bomb—just as I stashed a woman’s small, red canvas duffle bag into my backpack.

“Mom. Mom!” The boy tugged at his mother’s meaty arm. She swatted him back as she squinted through the binoculars glued to her eyeballs.

“MOM! She STOLE that lady’s bag!”

I felt the whiplash of eighteen tourist heads snap in my direction, their quick, accusing eyes lancing into me. A middle-aged woman screamed with the realization that her satchel had vanished—poof!—like in a Copperfield show.


I ran without thought, without direction—adrenaline overtaking my body and my brain. I dashed through the crowd, a clay dust cloud in my wake. I ran past the Desert View Watchtower of Grand Canyon National Park, past the native Hopis selling their weavings—their deep, knowing eyes following as I fled down the steep slope to a narrow ridge overlooking the canyon bed.

Angry voices echo as I quickly unzip the screaming-woman’s bag. Sherrie Miller, 43, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has furnished me with a stick of Cinnamon Red Cover Girl lipstick, a hair scrunchie decorated with miniature Elvises (or is it Elvis-ae?), a yellow Bic lighter, and half a pack of Marlboros. Digging deeper, I find a white handkerchief, one hundred and sixty-three dollars in cash, men’s horn-rimmed eyeglasses, and a red T-shirt with ‘Keep Calm and Play Slots’ emblazoned on the front. Anchoring the bottom of the bag is a black Totes travel-sized umbrella.

Nothing in this sack warrants a mug shot.

The distance between me and my Ford is too vast for a ready getaway. By now, I’m certain security is swarming, guarding each exit, as the hapless victim files her report. My only options: amble down the steep decline and hide at the bed of the canyon, prey in wait; or turn back, ascend the dusty gradient and find a way out.

I peer over the precipice separating me from the canyon floor. Tumbleweed drifts over the jagged slope. Somewhere in the distance, the distinctive clatter of a rattlesnake melds with the heat in a veritable sizzle. To dive deep into the desert haze and wallow in the belly of hell, indefinitely, without water or shelter save for the shade of a Totes umbrella would precipitate certain suicide.

I decide to turn back.

But first, I peel away my sweat-soaked T-shirt. I toss my Yankees cap and Ray-Bans aside and use the victim’s handkerchief to wipe the grime from my body. I turn the red “Keep Calm” T-shirt inside-out and pull it over my head, appreciating its clean coolness. I pull my long hair up in an Elvis-secured bun. I don the horn-rimmed glasses. They bear thin, slightly tinted lenses that thicken the canyon haze.

It will do.

I loop the umbrella cord around my wrist, pack the cash, Marlboros, and lighter in my back pocket, and carefully engage in my ascent.

I still hear the woman shrilling loudly in the distance and the murmurs of officers reassuring her that the perpetrator (me) will be found; and her valuables (questionable) retrieved.

I tread one foot at a time, ensuring my steps do not prompt a rockslide or worse—a fall into the Canyon.

I reach the top of the ridge, the Watchtower to my right. Groups of tourists mill about, crowding around an elderly craftsman as he weaves an intricate tapestry. Save for the woman’s distant cacophony, it’s quiet here. No one notices me materialize.

I open the umbrella, cloaking myself in its invisibility like some deranged Harry Potter.

Unsmiling officers block the path to the parking lot—tall and rigid. They’re prickly as cactus. A pudgy, red-faced cop hovers over the blond-haired child as he shares the cell phone screen implicating me and the precious Pokémon.

Turning away, I crouch under the sanctuary of my umbrella.

A chopper whirs in the distance. I find my oasis on a splintered wooden sign, painted in crimson: Helicopter Tours Over the Grand Canyon: One-Way to Las Vegas.

I approach the ticket counter. The portly, disheveled agent extends a filthy hand to accept my stolen $150 and absently slides me a crisp ticket. His eyes never leave his cell phone screen.

I release a Marlboro from its sheath, light it, and inhale.

So this is what it’s like to breathe in hell. Sometimes, it’s just too easy.


Lisa Fox is a pharmaceutical market researcher by day and fiction writer by night. She thrives in the chaos of everyday suburban life, residing in New Jersey (USA) with her husband, two sons, and their couch-dwelling golden retriever. Lisa has been previously published in Defenestration, and her work has been featured in various other publications, including Metaphorosis, New Myths, Flash Fiction Magazine, Brilliant Flash Fiction, and The Satirist, among others. You can find her online at lisafoxiswriting.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lisafoxiswriting, and on twitter @iamlisafox10800.

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