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Saturday, 15 February 2014

Saturday Story - 'A lot of bull'

Not so long ago, I shared a Facebook image and comment about, apparently, Colombian Matador Torero Alvaro Munera ending his career after being overcome with remorse in the face of the ‘gentle beast’ standing inoffensively nearby. It seems the photo was not Munera, and the matador was sitting there simply mocking the dying bull. Whatever the truth of the matter – Munera seems to have renounced his career after being hospitalised by a bull in Colombia – the powerful image and words seemed to convey what many feel, I imagine. While I don’t condone hoaxes or scams like this, as I write fiction, I’m a great believer that truth can come from fiction.

Anyway, this post reminded me of a brief tale I penned some years ago.

This flash fiction stemmed from a writers’ circle set subject, ‘Fatherly Guidance’, and in response, I wrote this:

BULL
Nik Morton

 
"Your preparation has covered two years, my son. You came into this world during the winter, under the shade of a tree. You probably don’t remember your mother, but she suckled you for eight passings of the moon. Your first memorable confrontation with mankind came shortly after you left her side. You bear the marks of this day; the large brand on your right flank is a number, a symbol man uses to catalogue what he possesses. Yes, a man owns you.

"The free range you see beyond the rough-hewn fence is not for the likes of us. Men have tamed the land, and the beasts that live on it; but they have not tamed us, no matter how many insignia they imprint on our haunches, no matter how many ears are notched.

"Yet they honour you in their own strange way, my son; for they have given you a name that you may later carry to immortality. Your name is Bailador II, and I want you to bear it with pride. Pride is all we have, my son; use it to show men that whatever they do to you, they cannot take that away from you – it is a presence, a look that instils both fear and respect.  Already have I seen it in you, my Bailador.

"Now you come to the turning point in your life. The tienta is the testing of courage that will determine whether your destiny lies in the bullring or on the butcher’s block. I must prepare you for this initiation.

"First, you will be taken to a miniature bullring; here you will be tested and also see the young cows. Since they will never appear in the plaza de toros, there is no danger in their acquiring the knowledge that the true enemy is man. You may see a famous matador, dressed in sombre ranch clothes rather than in the glittering suit of lights; he will delight the spectators and even you, my son, with the easy purity of his passes, the total domination over the young cows; often he may end the performance by launching himself over the horn to slap the shoulders with his hand in perfect simulation of the kill.
 
"Yes, the kill. For we are all bred by man to be killed. For their pleasure, some say; for the glorification of the bullfight; for the raw beauty of the spectacle.

"After the tienta, you will be returned to the pasture, but will not be allowed access to the cows. If you are to be a toro bravo you must enter the plaza a virgin. For another twelve moons you will live a cossetted life. You will learn to use your horns by sparring and mock-fighting, and sharpen your reflexes. You may feel anger already at learning of the fate men have designed for you, but you will keep this anger latent, to explode at the right time, in the arena under the glaring sun.
 
"You see, my son, you can shape your own destiny, as have I. It was I, Bailador who achieved the unthinkable and eviscerated the famous Joselito in the plaza of Talavera de la Reina. As a reward, I was let out to sire you, my son.

"You have the power to be on every aficionado’s lips, to be spoken of in respectful whispers. My son, you can be great, the toro bravo, the fighting bull of Spain."
 
The words dimmed from the young calf’s mind. He looked around, at the men on horseback steering him and his brother bulls into the enclosure. Had his father’s spirit really spoken to him? Perhaps he had… He held his head up with its young horns, proud to be a fighting bull.


***

Notes:

1. Very few times a year a bull will be indultado, or 'pardoned', meaning his life is spared due to 'outstanding' behaviour in the bullring, leading the audience to petition the president of the ring with white handkerchiefs. The bullfighter joins the petition, as it is a great honour to have a bull one has fought pardoned. The bull is then returned to the ranch where he will live out his days in the fields and in most cases will become a 'seed bull' (he is mated once with some 30 cows and the offspring are tested after four years for their efficacy in the ring). In these circumstances a bull's lifespan can be 20 to 25 years. – Wikipedia, Spanish Fighting Bull here

2. On 16 May 1920, Jose Gomez ('Joselito') was gored to death by the bull Bailador. The story above is imaginary.

 
Spanish Eye - 22 cases of Leon Cazador, Private Eye - and not a bullfight in sight
 

 

2 comments:

Cathie Dunn said...

What a beautiful story! Very moving.

I had to blink back tears, especially as I think bull-fighting is one of the last publicly accepted (in certain countries) cases of animal abuse.

It's a shame about the hoax picture, however, I agree that sometimes the effect can outweigh the reason. If it served to increase the number of people opposed to bull-fighting, it has done some good.

Nik said...

Thank you, Cathie (haven't you had your hair cut recently?), I appreciate your feedback. It's a great feeling when a story, no matter how small, connects with a reader!