Leaning on the dugout railing, Alan Trammell sighed to himself.
Life was hard. Everyone was against him these days, even his mom, who had called him up to say that she thought he had horrible instincts when it came to bullpen use. His team was just now finally getting some runs, on the one hand, but they were coming against Jose Lima, on the other hand, which was kind of like getting runs off of a sweet little old lady with an arm withered from arthritis and a circle change grip.
Glancing up from the ever-inspiring sight of Vance Wilson stepping up to bat, Tram received a nasty shock. There in the stands, staring back at him with terrifying glowing eyes, was… well, he wasn’t entirely sure. It looked like… but, no, it couldn’t be…
It looked like the horrible, ravaged visage of Lee Mazzilli.
The next time Tram looked up into the stands, after patting Chris Shelton on the butt following his homerun and making a note to himself to wash his hands as soon as he possibly could, the specter was no longer there. Holding his hands carefully away from his body, Tram decided to forget the incident.
After the game he decided that, in the face of a victory, the team could forgo their usual postgame ritual of hysterical sobbing and self-flagellation and just go straight to the spread. A hankering for cold cuts led Tram to gravitate over to the neatly folded selection of thinly sliced deli meats. Shifting them around with his fork to find some choice slices, he nearly jumped out of his skin when a loud shriek issued forth from directly over his left shoulder.
“Oh my GAWD!” Omar Infante squealed, wringing his hands in dismay. “Look at it!” The team crowded around to see what had so distressed the small infielder. “It’s THE GRIM!”
Tram spun around to see Pudge vigorously crossing himself and gazing supplicatingly at the ceiling. Everyone else just looked confused.
“What the f!#& is a grim?” asked Chris Spurling, looming ominously over the table and idly bending and unbending a metal fork in his hands.
“It is a SIGN,” whispered Omar, his eyes becoming huge like saucers of Fear, or perhaps saucers of Warm Soup, as he gestured at the cold cuts. “It can appear anywhere. It is a terrible, terrible legend, the Grim. It takes the horrible form of the face of Lee Mazzilli, and those who first see it next see Death…… of their careers!”
There was a scream and a thud as Carlos Pena clapped his hands over his eyes and dropped to the floor to curl up into a fetal position under the table. Everyone else pressed closer to peer at the cold cuts.
“Gee, I dunno,” Brandon Inge said, squinting at the meat and compulsively snapping his gum. “If you turn your head to the left, it kinda looks like Mazzilli. But if you turn your head to the right, it kinda looks more like Lou Piniella.”
“That’s not a better sign,” muttered the ghost of Eric Munson, which had been busily haunting the clubhouse since late July.
Tram stared down at the little pile of deli-style goodness. Rucked up by his fork, they did kind of look like a face. And that face did kind of look like… well, it had a certain despairing sagginess to it that recalled to mind the departed Mazzilli. He started to feel a cold knot of fear in the pit of his stomach. Or perhaps it was hunger. But he couldn’t very well eat the cursed cold cuts now.
“I think it looks more like Tony Pena,” Craig Monroe added, elbowing Magglio Ordonez out of the way to get a better look. Magglio immediately groaned in pain and clutched at his stomach, slowly curling to the floor and joining Carlos under the table.
“Looks like FOOD,” Dmitri Young rumbled, marching up to the table and scattering teammates so that he could shovel the entire pile of meat onto his plate, glaring left and right before scooping up an enormous forkful and jamming it into his mouth. Everyone stared at him, Omar with his hands over his mouth in theatrical horror. Carlos Guillen tried to step back from the terrible scene and slipped on one of Nook Logan’s ‘do rags, causing his knee to go out from under him so that he collapsed to the floor with Magglio and Carlos Pena. Dmitri burped loudly at Omar and wandered off, balancing his plate deftly on one hand.
Shaking his head, Omar turned from this spectacle and patted Tram gingerly on the arm. “I am so sorry, Tram. I will pray for you.” He walked solemnly into the video room, where he tripped over Pudge, who had been kneeling on the floor attempting to lash together a bunch of spare bats to make a giant wooden cross.
“Ah, I wouldn’t worry ’bout it, Tram,” growled Kirk Gibson, coming over and smacking Tram violently on the back, causing him and half the players in the room to jump. Jeremy Bonderman banged his arm on Placido Polanco’s massive skull and whimpered as his entire elbow swelled to alarming proportions, the pain making him crumble to the ground, where he was carefully rolled under the table by Sean Douglass.
“I mean, it’s not like you been seein’ ol’ Mazzilli around anyways, right?” Gibby winked and grabbed a handful of knives from the table. “Now, I got some hittin’ coachin’ to do. Where’s Vance?”
Tram felt the cold pit in his stomach grow colder yet. What if what he had seen in the stands really was Lee Mazzilli, or, erm, the Grim? What if his career really was doomed to a horrible death, as presaged by this horrible visitation? What if Lee Mazzilli was really his benevolent and wrongly-canned godfather?
Only time, Dombrowski, and Illitch will tell.
I am very very sorry if you do not get this post. All I can do is shrug and tell you to get with the rest of the known universe and read your Harry Potter already.