Winnie Hess (Learns To Party)

When I first came to The Meadow, I was terrified.
I couldn’t hide my fear
of the toothy smile of the manager,
and the round thing with the spear.

The team made no sense to me at all:
an angel with a skeleton wife,
a vampire and a dentist and a baker
and a guy whose head was a knife.

But they were nice to me when they didn’t have to be.
I could barely hold a ball, and I couldn’t really pitch at all.
But I decided then and there that I would get us a ring.
And I knew, deep in my glue, that I would do anything.
I’d do anything.

But how do you get better at this game? It’s not from practice!
From the very start, I think the Breath Mints understood this.
And I got used to their ways, but when I was new, my goodness,
the Mints’ approach to training sometimes seemed a little tactless.

That skeleton, Leach Ingram, would show up two hours late
and just blow kisses from the mound down to her husband at the plate.
And Hewitt Best kept handing out these pamphlets at first base,
and Marquez Clark the vampire always called my fastball “extreme pace?”

I asked Boyfriend Monreal just why the Mints did things this way,
and they said…

“You wonderful horse,
we’d like to win, of course,
and if winning’s what you want, I know that you’ll be a star.

But besides the umps and the gods —
who we don’t trust — there’s only us,
so what’s important to the Breath Mints is to be who we are.”

I stopped by Izzie’s bakery and said “I think I’m in love.”
And she said, “Honey, welcome to the club.”

I thought about what Boyfriend said for months.
I realized I didn’t know who I was supposed to be.
But you only ever really have a crisis like that once,
and soon I learned the type of lesson that you never learn for free:

The umps killed Whit,
the knife guy who I’d since learned was a father.
And just a few weeks later they killed Leach’s Eddie too.
And just as some of us were starting to recover,
we had to watch our Boyfriend burn before anyone was ready to.

So amid the smoking remnants of their body — and our playoff run —
I finally came to grips
with what I really want when the day is done,
and the next could be my last if I should play in an eclipse.

I want to win.

I just want to win!
I want to embrace my friends in triumph!
I want to send the other team home in shame!
I want it so bad, it’s even in my name!

I want to win!
I want to pitch a single perfect game!
Then if any given day I should die in flame,
at least I’d go out happy.

And something weird happened in season 8.
We were bottom of the league, but I felt great.
And Leach started wilding out in the bullpen
like she was on her motorcycle with Eddie again.

Yeah, she was having the time of her life,
but she was off in a world of her own.
But I wanted to go there!
I wanted to know what she saw!

’Cause when she came to, something had changed inside her.
She was kind of serene, with more control of her slider.
And I begged her to tell me how she did it.
She pulled out a joint, and she lit it, and she said,

“Iunno.”

So I guessed I’d have to figure it out on my own.
I took a Honeycrisp and got my hair dyed roan.
I tried meditation until I lost my patience,
and I tried imagining my team’s congratulations,
and I felt something.
I pictured a standing ovation, and I felt something.
I thought of my friends, and the smiles on their faces, and I saw…

“…but, one run against Winnie Hess is sometimes as hard as ten…”

“…and, Winnie Hess, over at the Breath Mints…”
“Winnie Hess.”
“…absolute monsters this year!”
“It’s a massive horse. It’s a really big horse.”

“…I’m not sure if it’s going to be a high scoring game! ’Cause Winnie Hess is going to lock down whoever they’re pitching aginst…”

“…and Winnie Hess closes out a perfect game in game one…”

“…but personally, I feel like the champion for season 22 was Breath Mints pitcher Winnie Hess…”

“…and it is the Breath Mints who win, to become the season 22 champions. So… Breath Mints good?…”

“…the Kansas City Breath Mints, you have won your first Internet Series championship, here in season 22. Wow!…”

And when I came to, everyone was standing around me.
Their smiles were just like I remembered.
I guess that Leach had told them how bad I wanted this,
and so they came and found me.

I guess they’ll always come and find me
when I get lost inside my head.
And when we’re losing, and I’m chasing down those visions,
I know they’ll be behind me.

So maybe someday I will pitch a perfect game.
And maybe someday I can get us a ring.
And maybe someday I’ll be killed in an inferno.
But I’ll always be a Breath Mint, all the same.