Bathead Speed

When I kill for the kikes, I call meself Hank Greenberg. For the niggers, it’s Hammerin’ Hank. Don’t love it that Hank is so popular amongst those two races, but let’s face it, how many Jews were great home run hitters? Yeah … I’m waiting, boyo. You can count the number on the thumb stuck up yer arse. Bonds stays healthy a few more years and the problem’ll be solved. For the wops, it’s Joe D. The spics, Roberto Clemente. When the contract is white bread, I go with Mickey Mantle. It appeals to me own sense of vanity. Like I put the Mick in Mickey. Sorry, Babe. Fook, McGuire, the cheatin’ cunt. Don’t kill for the Irish. No profit in it.

Me specialty or speciality, as me sainted mother would call it, is blunt force trauma. I can take it deep with a mighty blow or play “small ball,” breaking every bone on me way around the bases. Either way, I always touch ’em all and never is the time I miss home plate. It’s management’s choice. He who pays controls the play. Nature of the business. I’ve rigged me iPod so to play the roar of the crowd and the explosion of fireworks in me ears when a job is complete. I’m afraid I’ve not yet figured out how to rig a curtain call. Some day.

When I began me career as a lad in the disco ’70s, there was great affection for the long ball. Clients wanted the work done quickly, with a single swing. And the pitch … Oh, he got all of that one. If it ever comes down, it’s a home run. Man oh man, have you ever seen a skull crack quite like that one? The ’80s saw the advent of junk bonds and morning in America. And with them, please god, came a jones for cocaine and cracked bones. Jaysus, even had the odd client wanted to watch me do me work. Discouraged it. Whenever I’d break the shins, it was vomitville. No sound like it, breaking a man’s shins. Came the ’90s, back we went to tape-measure shots. 9/11 has brought back bunts and bones broken one at a time. All business is cyclical in nature. I come to the knowledge honestly.

Was the day I tried changing with the times. Mistake. Turned my back on ash as me material of choice and went aluminum. As effective? Maybe more so. Saved on equipment in the long run. But the sound! Jaysus and his blessed mother, couldn’t stomach it me own self. That pinging was a horror. You kill a man, whatever the reason short of rape and child molestation, and he deserves more than a hollow ping! at the end of the road. Bollocks. Embarrassing, really, killing a man that way. Give me a solid thud, crunch, snap. That’s music for a man to die by. Lately, I’ve gone the way of Bonds and tried some of those maple bats from north of the border. Sweet. Lovely feel. But I’ll take ash when the job’s to be done right.

Yer thinking, how’d a thick-headed donkey like meself develop a taste for baseball? Fair question. First, I think it was out of necessity. Tis always the way, is it not? Came stateside when I was eleven. Da had a run-in with the Brits, the hoors. An explosive personality, me father, if ya catch the drift. Till I landed stateside, had a hurly near glued to my palms. A hurly, you say? A lethal piece of hardwood shaped roughly like a human femur. Hurling? Take a week to explain. Let it suffice to say it’s bloodier than politics or ice hockey and a fair bit more entertaining. The sport the real Fighting Irish play.

Guess I saw baseball as the closest thing to it, minus the carnage, of course. I’d more than make up for that. I was quite the prodigy. Couldn’t field worth shite, but I was a natural DH. Ron Bloomberg can kiss me arse. Shame me career predated the DH. Coaches tried burying me in right field. And in spite of me shortcomings, made it one game short of the Little League World Series. Didn’t show the qualifying games on TV back in the day, only the final on Wide World of Sports. Would’ve shown those Chinks a thing or three had we made it to the finals.

Pushing fifty now and still I’ve the bathead speed of a thirty-year-old slugger. Tiger Woods come to me, I’d get his club head speed up a good five miles. I’ve got the whole set-up in me house: batting cage, videotape, Virtual Reality exercises on the computer to keep me hand-eye coordination sharp. Do yoga, trunk strengthening, and quick-twitch muscle exercises every day. Read every book, seen every instructional tape on hitting that’s been produced. Fook Einstein. Ted Williams, now there’s a feckin’ genius. Charlie Lau was a cunt. Set hitting back a decade with his bat release shite.

Still, with all me own equipment, I love showing off for the colleens at the local batting cages. No matter the town I’m in or the job to be done, I manage to get a session in at the local bat-away. Particularly love the jobs in college towns or hamlets with a minor league squad. Visiting California, Florida, or Arizona is a pleasure. Always baseball to be played. Always a blonde to be had. Hustled me more money than Paul Newman and Tom Cruise put together. Though it grieves me hard to say it, I’ll cede the number of blondes to them boyos.

Currently, I’m on Long Island, expensive fooking shitehole. Bad timing as well. The Ducks, the local minor league squad, is on the road and the colleges are out of session. Needless to say, me mood’s not great. I’m still waiting for me wedge and instructions. Don’t like this much to be up in the air, but the money’s too good to turn away from. I’ve waited for two days now and me patience is near as thin as me own hair. The phone, praise god. Salvation at last. Instructions of a sort.

The bar was crowded but dark. I was in the loose-fitting, road gray Detroit jersey. Very retro. No name across the back. Even if there were, Greenberg wouldn’t resonate with this bunch. More likely think I was a dentist than a slugger.

“Hey, Hank,” she says, strolling up to me seat at the bar. Raven hair framing a green-eyed goddess’ face. “Whatcha having?”

Loaded question that. Let it hang there like blue smoke. Moved on.

“Sam Adams.”

“Not Guinness?”

“You’ll want to watch that. Stereotypes’ll get you in trouble,” I warned.

“Max! Two Sams.”

“Max is it? Know all the barmen on Long Island by their first names?”

“Not on the entire Island. Just Suffolk County.” The sarcasm dripped off her tongue like honey. “Slainte.”

Impressed me. Clinked glasses and put their contents down in a swallow.

“C’mon, Hank, let’s take a ride.”

Another loaded line. Curious. Said, “Where to?”

“Your motel room. I want to see your stuff.”

Christ, I wondered, did she say anything that wasn’t loaded?

Got in her yellow Vette. Stopped at me room. She stayed in the car. Picked up me Louisville Slugger. Burned The Mick into the top of the barrel me own self.

“Now where to?”

“You’ll see,” she purred.

Drove through a darkened industrial park. Pulled into an empty parking lot in front of what looked to be a warehouse. The local bat-away. She had the keys. Stepped inside the darkened hall, punched numbers into a keypad, threw a light switch. Have you ever entered an empty church? Was what it felt like for me. This was me own St. Paddy’s.

“Fast cage is over there.” She pointed to the far right end of the facility. “What size helmet?”

“Yer joking me, lady. Helmets are for pussies. No offense intended.”

“None taken. It’s your funeral.”

Got in the cage. Stood in the right hand batter’s box. “Whenever you’re ready.”

Five seconds later, a yellow ball whizzed by me at the knees. I made no move. Judged the speed at ninety. Next ball, same thing. Statues have made more movement. This time I eyed where the ball was coming from. Third ball I smacked right through the square in the netting through which the pitch had come. Next ball, same result. And the next and the next and the … Jumped into the lefty batter’s box. Closed my eyes. Listened. Smacked the ball just above the hole in the netting.

“Shite!”

“I’m convinced,” she said. “You’re the best I’ve seen.”

The pitching machine went silent. As I stepped out of the cage, the lights dimmed. Nothing more frightening than a dark church. Got into hitting position.

“Fuck is th-“

The tail end of the question was shoved back into me mouth along with me front teeth. Something snapped. Heard it more than felt it. Coughing up teeth and blood, I was down, dazed, me arms and legs as useless tits on a tennis racket. After a second she came back into focus. Standing over me, a hurly in her hands.

“Manny Alcazar,” she hissed. “Remember him, Mr. Clemente?”

Mind racing. Yeah, shite, I recalled. A thick-bodied, squat spic, took his time dying, too. He was one of my early nineties one-bone-at-a-time jobs. Didn’t know why management wanted him done or done that way. Never questioned the instructions.

“Yer father,” I choked.

“You caught on about five minutes too late, asshole. Fucking shame that I snapped your vertebrae. Would have liked to have you feel the bones breaking.”

“The hurly?”

“Shite and onions, my mother’s Irish, you prick.”

Last thing she said to me. She put down the hurly and picked up me own bat. Poetic justice, I suppose. I watched her shatter me legs. Well done. She’d a powerful swing. The girl had real potential and there was little doubt, with proper training, mind you, I could have added a good ten miles an hour to her bathead speed.

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