Tag Archives: Pinch Hitter

Pinch Hitter, Part 4

(Click here for Part 3 of Pinch Hitter)

“Are you all right?” Herman asks and leans forward, looking truly concerned.

I sit back into the uncomfortable couch, relax my throat, and take a slow deep breath. No, I haven’t been poisoned, but something’s definitely up with this coffee.

“What the heck you put in here?”

“Good heavens, I didn’t even think to warn ya. I make my coffee a little strong.”

“Do you add a few drops of water to a bag of coffee grounds or something?”

Herman belts out a laugh. “No, no, you don’t have a problem with alcohol, do ya?”

“Only if I can’t get enough of it.” I raise the cup again and take a whiff. “It’s certainly not whiskey.”

“No, it’s not whiskey. Can you keep a secret?”

I’ve kept more than my share, old man. “Sure.”

“It’s moonshine. My own special blend. I make it in that ol’ wooden shed behind the garden. I think I poured in a little too much this time though. Didn’t even think about it when I offered you some. It’s just how I prepare it.” He laughs again. “I should figure that not everyone drinks their coffee this way.”

“Coffee brewed in part with moonshine? Works for me. You’re full of surprises, Herman. Your name is Herman, isn’t it?”

“That’s right.”

“Well, Herman—here’s to moonshine and gardening.” We clink coffee cups and each take a healthy gulp. “That’s some potent stuff.”

“It’ll do the job, all right,” he says with a grin.

Herman may not be as religious as his late wife, and his role in the church may have mainly been to pacify her, but he doesn’t exactly strike me as a killer either.

“So, do you have a secret behind the success of your garden too?”

“No, I’m afraid I can’t take too much credit for the nice produce it yields. I just do a little maintenance. My grandson—he’s got the green thumb of the family. He’s the one who prepared the soil and planted all the seeds. Did all the early care to make sure the crops would thrive. He still comes by to check on it from time-to-time, plants new seeds. I just tidy up and pull off fresh produce.”

“It sounds like he’s the one I should be talking to, eh?” Looks like Kenny Black will have to pay this little punk a visit.

“That’s right. I’ll have to introduce the two of you some day. Say, would you like some of his fresh tomatoes?”

Tomatoes grown by the aid of human flesh—I’ll pass. But once again, I say, “Sure.”


Pinch Hitter, Part 3

(Click here for Part 2 of Pinch Hitter)

You can tell that Herman hasn’t changed a thing since his wife had passed. The living room is a mishmash of pastel furniture with decorative throw pillows, dark-colored end tables with lace doilies underneath the table lamps, and a collection of religious paintings and quotes on the walls.

“Please, Kenny, make yourself at home,” the old-timer says and motions to the living room couch.

“Thank you,” I say and sit on the small, uncomfortable couch that has a gaudy-looking afghan draped over the top. The cushions screech at my weight.

“Would you like some coffee? I just brewed a pot.”

“That would be great.”

“Care for some cream, sugar?”

“I prefer mine black.” Just like my name.

While Herman’s tinkering around in the kitchen, I wonder why the hell I just accepted coffee from this stranger who may know more about me than I know about him. He could be slipping something into my steaming cup of coffee this very minute.

My mind begins to race. Did I even come over with a plan? That’s so unlike me. Just because he’s old, doesn’t mean he’s weak.

I’m relieved when Herman returns with a tray, containing a coffee pot and two empty mugs. He sets the tray on the coffee table and pours me a cup, than one for himself. He’s also drinking his black. I wait for him to take a sip, and then take a gulp from mine.

“So…you’re interested in my garden, huh?” he asks as I take a second gulp.

And then I realize my big mistake. Just because the coffee itself was fresh, doesn’t mean a thing. The poison could’ve been at the bottom of my cup all along!

Shit, Kenny, you’re losing your touch. Old-time criminals are old for a reason; they’re a lot smarter than you are, ya dumb bastard.

“What’s the matter, Kenny?” Herman asks.

My throat begins to tighten and my head feels heavy. It’s getting hard to breathe.


Pinch Hitter, Part 2

I said I’d update you in a week, but it’s been two. This nut has been a little harder to crack than I had thought. Besides, apparently my writing rotation is only every other week. Don’t blame me, it’s the arrangement the Rogues have made with each other.

In case you missed part 1 of my little saga, you can read it here: Pinch Hitter. Good—now you’re all caught up.

So far I’ve got nothing on this Herman character. No skeletons in his closet—just bones in his garden. He’s 82 and lost his wife of 56 years to cancer last May. She was cremated, so the bones can’t be hers. He’s a vet and received the Purple Heart from an injury received during the Korean War. Never been charged or convicted of a crime. Can’t even find record of a single driving citation for him. Plus, he’s an elder and an usher for his church.

Sometimes if a person looks too clean, it’s because they’ve worked pretty damn hard to pull off that illusion. So people would never think twice about them being capable of such evil deeds. Fortunately for you, the Kenny Blacks of the world are here to sift through that bullshit.

I need to get a little closer to my subject matter, so on this gray, drizzly day, I step on his creaky wooden porch and ring the doorbell. A feeble “Just a minute” filters through the metal door. Herman eases the door open and offers a gentle smile. “Can I help you?” he asks. His fine white hair is thin and slicked straight back.

“Hi, I’m Kenny—your neighbor from across the street.”

“Oh, yes—I thought I’d seen you before. Forgive me, I’m old.”

I chuckle at his comment; how else does one react when the elderly make fun of themselves? “We’ve never officially met, so I just wanted to introduce myself.”

“It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Kenny. What took you so long?” he asks with a wink and a grin.

Funny, he didn’t offer me his name back, but some people are like that. “No, you’re right. I should’ve come by sooner. I’ve been wanting to start a garden in my back yard. The other day I saw you out back working in yours, so I thought you may be able to give me some gardening tips.”

“I’d love to. Won’t you please come in?”

I wonder if leading with the garden was a mistake. He didn’t seem to have a reaction. But if he’s smarter and craftier than he looks, he may be on to me. And if that’s the case, I may be walking into a trap.

I follow Herman inside anyway.

~Kenny Black


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