The Fee Simple! O Simple!
The news, as long as it is about baseball, never travels as quickly as it does around a team's locker room. It is fair to say that the Reds were taken by surprise, which is to say poleaxed, which is also to say stunned, ambushed, shocked.
Stymied. Undercut. Poleaxed. Blindsided.
In a word: poleaxed.
The locker room, so often the site of boyish hijinks, was more like a freshly-dug grave, or a Trappist monastery, or a swimming pool in winter. No one dared speak. They had lost The Closer.
So often, The Closer had been their rock, their salvation. The Closer was famous for his merrimaking japes and jests -- everyone remembered that disastrous outing earlier in the year, when The Closer had staggered into the locker room, yelling, "Oooo, I got the Homer Neck! It hoits! IT HOITS!" Yea, The Closer had brought them through the good times, and the bad, a very Mercutio; always a smile wreathing his visage, always a can of shaving cream at the ready to hastily assemble a Santa Claus beard, or to squirt in Adam Dunn's cap right before it was clap't upon that slugger's mighty dome.
But, despite the presence of the mighty Sean Casey, there is no joy in this Mudville tonight. Tonight, the Reds weep bitter manly tears of regret. Of release. Of farewell...to The Closer.
For he had gone too far this time, bit his thumb at the wrong man, inflamed a local conflict with ill-timed words, taunting words, words that needed to be repressed within. But don't they understand, those Pharisees of the Ohio River? Mercutio is not to be contained within your narrow strictures! He was made to walk free! And damn the consequences!
The Closer is free now. He walks among them, still keeping that grim-visag'd rictus of a smile on his jaw. He distributes one last gift to each: to Ryan Freel, a box of condoms (O how they laugh!); to Ken Griffey, Jr., a fistful of soy sauce packets (O how they roar!); to D'Angelo Jimenez, nothing more than a jolly chest-bump.
But there is a lot of melancholy in that jolly. No matter how many handshakes are exchanged, no matter how many promises to "keep in touch," no matter how many humorous threats against anyone's wife and small children, The Closer is gone. And they all know it at once, and the slap-and-tickle fades to a grey mist.
Suddenly, up pipes Paul Wilson. "Hey, seriously, Danny, we know you're hurting, and we feel real bad too. We have an off night tomorrow, and we all wanna go out. You gonna be around? Or is the pain of taking the fall for our whole shitty season too much for you to bear?"
The walls wait, quivering, for an answer. An eon passes -- did I say eon? I meant an eternity.
And The Closer speaks one final line:
"'Tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church-door; but 'tis enough,'twill serve: ask for me to-morrow, and you shall find me a Graves man."