Not So Fast Fiction

…at the beginning of the end, when more things have gone than are with us and the summer’s sun withers the grass and wrinkles our faces baking us bright red – como un cangrejo te has puesto, hijo mío, en el sol de Somo, como un cangrejo – and — pulpo en un garaje — you grasp at the new words, the new colours, the new delights, your tongue trapped clumsily in your mouth like a red rag doll and the midnight bull charging the spectators who gather and olé, au lait … as the drunken bullfighter climbs the bull and kills the post.

The red cape flutters in our memories as we go to the slaughterhouse now where the open body hangs loose like a flag and the red meat of him held out for all to see and some to share … and this is his body and this is his blood, sacrificed in a circle of golden sand for our drunken amusement … for whatever I did, I never visited those bull fights when I was sober … at five thirty, they began, and at 3 o’clock we would gather in the city centre and slowly wend our way from bar to bar, up the Calle de Burgos, past the street where you lived and upwards, ever upwards, towards the bull ring at the top of the hill, from bar to bar, I say, and the bota, the wine-skin filled and re-filled with that dark red fluid that will set us all baying for the bull’s blood, or the matador’s blood, it doesn’t matter whose blood, as long as someone bleeds and the bull is butchered, torn from this life by a man on horseback, armed with a lance, and he thrusts the heavy blade between the shoulders of the bull, the blood first dripping red, then gushing, a small stream over the rock of the

bull’s shoulder, and down the bull’s front legs, to slither on the sand, and the bull still ready to charge the horse, and the bull’s head steadily dropping as the muscles in the back and neck are gashed and torn and there’s no purgatory any more so this must be hell, this gaping wound between the bull’s shoulders and the blood flowing freely and vanishing into the sand, the golden sand, once pristine, stained now with blood, and soon to be further stained with feces and urine, and the picador, his job done, walks his blind-folded, armored horse out of the ring, and the bull, un-armored, un-enamored of this process that turns his torment into a spectacle staged for our drunken delight, as we pass the bota round, and the blood red wine travels from hand to hand, and we squirt the bull’s blood squarely between our lips and it dashes against tongue and teeth and we swallow the body’s sacrifice hook, line, and sinker, as the banderillero runs in, harpoons in hand, waving his banderillas and plunging their arrowed barbs into the gaping wound that flowers on the bull’s back, and the bull stands there, twitching, wriggling, saliva and drool slipping down, sliding stickily into the sand, as the matador doffs his hat, takes his vorpal sword in hand and treads the light fantastique in his laced-up dancing pumps, his Waltzing Matilda feet so swift, so sure, eluding the lumbering rush of the charging bull, the load of bull, that tumbles down the railway track towards him as he stands there, the matador, poised like a ballerina, as stiff and as steady as a lamp-post around which the bull circles, a drunken man, staggering a bit, but still bemused by the red flag tied to a stick which waves before his eyes and goads him onwards, ever onwards, in his plunge towards a brilliant death, as he pauses, feet together, and the matador makes his move, one, step, two steps, tickle you under … and the bull lurching forward to impale himself on three or four feet of curved, stainless steel, and the matador immaculate in his reception of the bull – and what is happening? What will happen next? Sometimes, the sword pierces the spinal cord and death is instantaneous. Sometimes, the sword pierces the heart, and death is more or less swift, but definitely certain. And sometimes the sword pinches against the bone and flies from the matador’s hand, and the matador must bend, and pick it up, and try, try again, the red rag below the bull’s nose, the bull drawn forward, to impale himself, yet again, on the sharp end of the sword, and this time, the sword goes in, but the wound is in the lungs and the peones, the pawns, the workers, the drones, the little men help, turn the bull round and round in ever tighter circles so the sword will open and even larger wound, sever the main arteries perhaps, and the bull, blood spurting through nose and mouth, lurches now, then falls to his knees, and lies there, bleeding, and the matador chooses the descabello, that little sharp sword with the razor blade at the end and he tries to sever the spinal cord, there at the back of the neck, and sometimes he does, and sometimes he doesn’t, and if he can’t then it’s the little men again in their colourful sea-parrot suits all gleaming with sequins and stars and they carry a sharp little instrument, with a pointed end, la puntilla, that short, double-edged, stabbing knife which is plunged into the occipito-atlantal space to sever the medulla oblongata in the evernazione method of mercy killing, and the puntilla is plunged again and again into the bull’s neck at this atlanto-occipital joint, until it severs the medulla oblongata, and when it is severed, in this glorious neck stab, then finally the bull drops dead, and the show must go on and the horses come in, black funeral horses with colourful feathers on their heads and they loop a rope around the bull’s horns and away he goes, trailing blood, and urine, and excrement, all across the sand and other little men appear to sweep the sands clean, though if seven maids with seven mops, swept it for half a year, do you think, my neighbor, the local carpenter, asks, they’d ever sweep it clear, and I doubt it, says the little man on my other side who wears a large walrus moustache stained red now and purple with the wine that he has splashed about, and shaking the wine skin he finds it as not as full as it was, so he sheds a bitter tear, and since the death was slow, the crowd and my neighbours all whistle and boo the matador and his merry men, but when the death is swift and quick then the crowd is aroused and they wave white hankies at the presidential box and the president awards the matador an ear, a salty, smelly, sticky ear which the peones cut off the bull before he is towed away, and then the matador throws the ear in the direction of his current sweet heart, the fairest lady in the crowd although she be as black as charcoal or as brown as the beauties baking daily on the summer sand where the sea horses dance and there are no bulls, and no bull shit, and no seven maids with their seven mops, just the scouring sea, and sometimes the president gives away two ears, or two ears and the tail, dos orejas y el rabo, though this I have seldom seen, and what does the bull care that he dies bravely and well, for now he is dead he hasn’t a care in the world, and the butchers in the butcher’s shop are carving him away, carving him to the skeletal nothingness of skin and bone that awaits us all, the nothingness of this more or less glorious death, with our tails cut off and our ears hacked away to be pickled or smoked or other wise kept in the fridge as the butcher’s trophy … and who now will walk stone cold sober into that magic circle of sun and shade and stand there, unbowed, before the might of the untamed beast, the untamed bestiality that drives us wild as it wanders through our nightmare cities and our wildest dreams … and now the crowd call música, música and the band strikes up and martial music plays as the bullfighter and his troupe march gaily round the ring, their trophies held high for all to see then thrown to the ravening crowd who bay like dogs as they taste fresh, bloodied meat …


8 thoughts on “Bullfight

  1. I think the choice of images–stone silent, stone still, stone cold–is excellent contrast to the hot, loud motion of the words. Really, the images are perfect. I think the long sentence works breathlessly well. But when sustained throughout, its power is diluted, and the piece suffers. –@

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the comments and the analysis, allison. This is actually an early version and the final version is shorter and pays attention to exactly the dilution to which you refer. Now I have to remember where I e-filed the final version! The Toros de Guisando, incidentally, are Celt-Iberian and go back to 200 BCE. They appear in a poem on the death of a bullfighter by by Lorca:

      …and the bulls of Guisando / partly death and partly stone / bellowed like two centuries / tired of treading the earth … (Wikipedia)

      and are also mentioned by Cervantes in the Quixote: a long and breathless literary tradition.


  2. I am amazed and impressed at how this flows so easily and with so few sentences. This, Roger, is a masterpiece. Which only confirms one of my earliest and often tested beliefs; that the best works are written either in a rage or frustration; in gentle euphoria following making love for hours; or in a drunken stupor. I tested the first two, and the last, often enough. I was always too tired and absorbed in contentment after the other, to feel like writing. However, I did compose a poor poem on ‘A Smile’ after my very young first daughter smiled at me. That, was composed in a moment of unbelievable happiness.
    Excellent piece of prose.


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