bull


The Matador

by Erik Olsen



It is usually just before potential death when he thinks of his father. It is a long moment, one that seems to hold time still, as if everything and everyone has merged into a single object, as if God Himself stops and waits, hanging on the outcome of the next few seconds. In Spanish, this moment is called El Momento de la Verdad. The Moment of Truth.

For all matadors, El Momento is the culmination of the great contest. Man and bull have met on the field of battle and, God willing, man has won with only the few meager tools of his trade: a crimson serge cloth and a small glistening sword. And now all there is left to do is kill the animal, to finish him off, to watch the animal's blood slowly seep into the soft red earth of the bullring. And if the killing is done properly, there is cheering.

He is there now, suspended in time, savoring those delicious few seconds when the bull glares at him with blazing, feral eyes. Eyes that for the very first time know defeat. Pink froth spangles the animal's lips, his horrible mass heaves with the painful exertions of every steamy breath, and his tongue lolls from his mouth like a great pink slug. The bull knows it is soon dead. The matador has worked the bull to exhaustion, the banderilleros have done their job well, perfectly placing all eight of the banderillas, the horrible barbed spears, in the animal's back, so that blood now blankets the animal. The matador knows he has won, this time, and now all there is left to do is drive in the sword.

The matador stands on his toes, staring down, the sword raised, the crowd silent. He pushes his glasses high onto the bridge of his nose, and when the bull makes its final lunge, the matador springs delicately to the right, drifting over the bull's horn, the sword plunges down through the bull's upper back, is buried deep to the hilt so that it pierces the heart, and then the bulls falls, fades, dies. And there is cheering.

--------------------------------------------

There is nothing like the crowd, the admiring throng that comes to Las Ventas, Madrid's premier bullfighting ring. These are his people, true Spaniards whose love for the fight has been sustained through centuries. These people are the living testament of a bloodline that stretches back through time to the days of Christ, a people that have known exquisite conquest and horrible defeat. His love for them is as great as his love for family because they are his family. All of them. The heavy-set drunken men who drink too much fino, the ample-bodied women whose best years are long past, and their beautiful daughters who all want to share his bed. They came this hot Sunday afternoon to see him. From all over the country they arrived, bearing jugs of vino tinto, and the ever-potent fino. From Andalucia, the hot, passionate South, they carry gazpacho and pescaíto frito. From the cold, serious North, they bring fabada, and bacalao and lacón con grelos. The Catalans, whose self pride is said to exceed that of even their French cousins to the North, bring with them wide-lipped bowls of that heavenly ambrosia particular to Valencia, paella.

They are diverse in food, music and even language, but there is something that all they have in common: they have all come to see him, El Gafito, the Little One With Glasses. He is their matador, the greatest matador of the age. El Gafito, eldest son of Pedro Villanueva, perhaps the best bullfighter of all time, but a man of another era. El Gafito, whose slender form and curious gracefulness causes even the proudest women to swoon. El Gafito whose lithe and complex moves have revolutionized the sport of bullfighting. El Gafito The Matador.

To the older Spaniards, those who lived through the days of Franco, El Gafito is an upstart, a somber reminder of their own lost youth, but they love him nonetheless. The older men of the aficion speak of him as if he were a son that has gone wild and out of control. But there is always respect. The family, they say, was born to fight bulls. Something is in the blood that makes a Villanueva like the animal, so that he knows what the animal will do before the animal itself knows. The newspapers have come to call it simply, El sentido. The sense.

There were two other brothers, Pepito and Manolo, dead now, gored in the ring. As youngsters the progeny of Pedro Villanueva were barred by child-protection laws in their early years from fighting in Spain, but used to fill the bull fighting rings of Mexico City, Southern France, and South America. Manolo emerged as a full-fledged matador at age sixteen, pushed forward rapidly by an anxious father. Too rapidly. Manolo was the most promising. He was quick, but clumsy, and on one particularly hot Spanish day, he performed the pase de pecho, when the matador brings the bull past his body. He should have known that this particular bull favored his left horn, his picador Manuel had stressed it; but perhaps the miserable heat had dulled his senses. The bull passed and swept upwards with the horn, like a dagger drawn by an angry Moor, intending - and succeeding - to eviscerate his victim. Manolo did not even get to say good-bye to his father, who at the time was sucking the last drops from a bottle of tinto at El Toro Loco, and mumbling incoherently into the plump breasts of a painted whore named Maria.

That was twelve years ago, here in this same ring. In Las Ventas. El Gafito knows the ring well. He knows the feel of the reddish soil beneath his feet (soil said to be red from drinking the blood of bulls and matadors alike). He knows every inch of the callejon, the circular aisle around the ring where the cuadrilla await during the fight, sometimes coming out to distract an angry bull. He knows the placement of every barrera, and the seats of the most important members of the aficion. Yes, it is here at Las Ventas where El Gafito has spent nearly every Sunday of his life during the bullfighting season, and many others besides. It is here he practices his craft, the only craft he knows: killing bulls. In just eight seasons, he has killed almost 500 of them. Some say he will replace his father as the finest bullfighter of modern times. If only that was what he had always wanted to do.

No, he had never dreamt of bullfighting. In fact, the sport repulsed him. It wasn't the killing. He didn't mind that. What good Spaniard did? Blood and swords and death have been a part of Spanish society forever. Just ask Goya. What he despised was the unpredictability of it. Each bull was different than another, each fighter had his own techniques, one was always concerned about the weather. Such unpredictability! You could never be sure when you were going to have a bad day, and a bad day often meant death. No, his dream world was a different place entirely, a world where strict rules governed, a world of numbers and defined laws, of internal memos and to-do lists, where the Xerox machine buzzed and lunch was always served at the same time. There was only one place where he knew all these things were a reality, and one occupation that provided them. He wanted an office. He wanted to be an accountant.

-------------------------------------

The crowd is cheering now, but he is still thinking of his father, and what the old man said to him while the life slipped away from his eyes in the way he has seen the life slip away from so many bulls.

"These are unfortunate times for us, my son," the old man grumbled on his deathbed. His father was 75, and although he was still famous throughout Spain, his career had long since set like the winter sun. "The sport is changing too quickly, and for the worse. It is no longer a sport for men. It is a sport for women, for ballerinas." El Gafito remembers nodding and smiling, like a good son. "Yes father," he replied, stroking the thin gray strands on his father's large head. "Oh, Enrique," his father sighed, and then coughed up a silvery gob of spittle. El Gafito wiped it away tenderly with his sleeve. "It is that Belmont," his father hissed. The boy looked away to hide his blush. He was embarrassed for his father. The old man blamed Belmont for everything. "That little arrogant oveja. He is the reason things have changed." The old man clenched his fists and coughed up a peso-sized piece of lung. He would soon be gone. The boy held back his sobs, but the emotion within him was like water building behind a flimsy dam. A tear sprouted from his eyes and scurried down his cheek. He tried to wipe it away before his father could see, but it was too late. The old man's eyes narrowed in his leathered face and became like slits cut into rawhide. "Puta," the old man said. The word was a small explosion of foul gas, like the fart of a rodent. In the way that fathers understand such things, his father knew that the boy was not interested in bullfighting. The old man's eyes took him in, and as they faded the boy saw in them a sad realization, his father's acknowledgement that the end to something great had arrived. The end of a lineage of the best bullfighters the world has ever known.

My father is right, he thought. The sport has changed. And I have changed along with it. I do not wish to be a part of it any longer.

But he did remain a part of it. For eight years since his father's death he has fought bulls. And yet, all the while he has dreamt of another life, ever since that one day; the day he visited his uncle Roberto in his Barcelona office. The images of that day still dance in his mind like tormenting spirits: his uncle's mahogany desk, the computer that hummed quietly on top of it, the neat array of books on the bookshelf. Even the title of the books sent a delicious shiver down his spine: Financial Statement Analysis : Using Financial Accounting Information. The Design of Cost Management Systems : Text and Cases. Strategic Cost Management : The New Tool for Competitive Advantage. He spent over two hours wandering in and out of the dozen or so office cubicles where his uncle's employees worked. He watched them record numbers into leather-bound ledgers, creating wonderfully straight columns that spoke of a firm's financial health of its market value. He listened to the men discuss the intricate, but wonderfully considered rules for using the accrual method for reporting taxable income. And then there was the language of the profession, words so beautiful they rolled like poetry off the tongue: Depreciation, Assets, Liabilities, Retained Earnings, Budget Variance. These were magic words to him. Mystical and filled with wonder.

He begged his Uncle to let him stay, to allow him just one opportunity to work out a balance sheet. "My dear nephew," his Uncle admonished, placing his palm upon the boy's head. "This is no life for you. You are a matador, the finest in Spain. Go now. Forget accounting. Think only of bullfighting, for that is what God has chosen for you to do."

He tried to forget, but it was impossible. He went to the library and withdrew a book, Fess and Warren's Accounting Principles, fifteenth edition, and from then on, accounting terms became a part of his subconscious. Debit and credit columns slithered through his dreams like snakes, income statements descended upon him like great birds, pulling at his clothing and scalp with sharp, white talons. He could not escape the dreams. Ironically, he became obsessed with his work, believing that if he focused on bullfighting, these images would disappear, the dreams would go away. Long into the day, he practiced his veronicas, cambios de rodillas, and serpentinas, he worked the muleta until his fingers blistered; but then, as if it belonged to someone else, his mind would become involved in the intricacies of gross profit analysis or the amortization of a premium by the straight line method.

It became too much. He had to speak with someone. But who would listen to his bizarre and perplexing rant? Who would understand? One afternoon, after a long morning of practicing in the ring, he went to the home of his fiancée Elena.

Elena Diego-Cruz lived with her parents in a spacious and luxurious apartment in the Salamanca District of Madrid. Mr. Diego-Cruz was a Vice President for Telefonica, the country's telephone company. The family rode in the highest circles of Spanish society, and for them, frequenting the parties and festivals that constituted Spanish social life for the privileged, having a great matador as a son-in-law was a symbol of great social status.

El Gafito knocked and waited nervously. Elena's father answered the door.

"El Gafito! Mama, it is El Gafito, the great matador! Our future son!" Señor Diego-Cruz was a tall man, with a remarkably wide forehead and swept-back hair the color of Spanish silver. His tan face (bronzed from a recent weekend on Mallorca) was marked by sharp angles and lines that spoke of a lineage of good breeding. If he were alive, Velasquez would certainly have wanted to paint this man.

Señor Diego Cruz welcomed El Gafito into the house with an open, upturned palm, but then, as he closed the door behind him said, "You had better go talk some sense into your woman."

"Excuse me, Sir?" El Gafito asked.

"She says she does not want you to fight this Sunday. Something about a silly dream she had. You really must disabuse her of such a notion. No woman can truly understand what it is to fight the bull." Diego-Cruz leaned towards El Gafito, "I told you that I once fought bulls in Valencia, did I not?"

"Yes, sir, you did. From the Ganaderia Marquez de Bassarada. From Castilla. Those are excellent bulls."

"Yes, they are some of our fiercest bulls, I think. Bred strong, for the breeder's liking. And I think I held my own. Perhaps I might have even made a fine matador some day, if I had dedicated myself to it." Señor Diego-Cruz looked off in the distance as if lost in a not-so-distant memory. "Of course, you will keep this between us. Who knows what mama would do if she knew."

"Yes, sir," El Gafito said politely, thinking to himself that this was probably the twentieth time he'd made this promise.

The man laughed and placed a hand on El Gafito's shoulder, "Now don't go patronizing me, Enrique. You know very well that the best bullfighters are born and not made. You, my boy, are from one of the finest bullfighting families in all of Spain. Bullfighting is in your blood. You know bulls like some men know their brothers. You must see bulls in your dreams, while all I see are numbers and costs and expenditures." Upon hearing this, El Gafito could hardly control himself. He bit his lip to conceal a smirk. Señor Diego-Cruz applied pressure to the hand on El Gafito's shoulder, leading him away from the vestibule and into the house. "Ah, but you are not interested in such things. You are a matador. El corazon de Espana. It is for you that I work as hard as I do. It is for you that we all must be proud."

They turned the corner and entered a magnificent salon. The walls were dressed with the finest Chinese silk. Massive beams of dark wood stretched across the ceiling and joined even larger beams that rose from the floor like trees. The long table before him was cut from a solid piece of teak, its ornately carved legs telling a story of heroes and maidens and monsters. Placed in its center was a magnificent porcelain vase from India, and above hung a chandelier of glistening crystal that cast an effervescence spray of rainbow sparkles on the walls. Elena entered from an adjacent room. She was beautiful. She wore a magnificent crimson Sevillana dress from Andalucia, worn by women in the performance of the flamenco. Her hair was as black as night, and her eyes like saucers of expensive black caviar. But there was something else in the eyes now. As she came closer, El Gafito could tell she'd been crying.

"My love," he said. "What is the matter?"

"Oh, Enrique," she cried, leaping into his arms. I had a horrible dream. I dreamt that…"

"Do not go on about this dream, daughter," said Señor Diego-Cruz sternly and with the obvious intent to end all talk about her dream, or perhaps any dream for that matter. "But father, I…"

"Obey your father. Enrique does not want to hear about your dream. He will fight this Sunday, and he will make us proud. He does not need to worry about the dreams of women." Elena, chastened, turned her gaze to the floor, at the thick, extravagant Moroccan carpet, shipped years ago from the casbah in Marrakech.

"Yes, father."

"Fine. Now, El Gafito, what can I do for you? What can I bring the greatest bullfighter in all of Spain?"

"A coke would be fine, sir."

"A coke. Yes. Lucinda! Bring a coke for El Gafito. And add a little rum for flavor!"

"Yes, Señor," said a woman's voice from behind a door.

"Sit," said Señor Diego-Cruz motioning with his hand to a lovely velvet-cushioned chair at the table. El Gafito smiled, and as he moved around the chair to sit, something in the corner of his eye moved that caught his attention. He turned and looked through the doorway that led to the study of Señor Diego-Cruz. Inside the study, there was little light, but he could see a magnificent wooden desk, the facing panels of which were inlaid with ivory and semi-precious stones, an intricate scene of a bullfighter delivering the recibiendo. But it was not the scene that made him look; he'd seen it many times before, indeed, Elena's father had boasted of the panels more times than he could count. No, what made him stare was a man sitting behind the desk. A man wearing glasses, a long white shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and an accountant's visor. He held a pencil in his hand.

"Who is that man?" asked El Gafito, his voice steady, but barely masking a swelling ferment. "That is my accountant Javier," said Diego-Cruz matter-of-factly. At the mere mention of the word, El Gafito's face flushed with excitement. His hand gripped the top edge of the chair so that his knuckles bent and whitened.

"Come, let us enjoy a fine almuerzo," offered Diego-Cruz. But El Gafito heard nothing. He stood and watched the man behind the desk. He studied him, observing his every movement, knowing beforehand what the man would do before he did it. He knew that the man was preparing a statement of cash flows, one of the most perplexing of all accounting sheets, but also one of the most important, for it is the statement of cash flows that explains the critical changes in cash and cash equivalents over a defined period. To fully understand the SCF, as is known, the accountant must understand how short-term, highly liquid investments may or may not be convertible into known amounts of cash. He must determine whether to choose the direct or indirect method of net cash flow from operating and investment activities, whereby all accruals of expected operating cash receipts and payments, such as those changes which occur in a period of receivables and payments, shall be accounted for. These are the things he must know. El Gafito could tell there was something special about this man. The way he entered the figures into a calculating machine with the tip of his pencil. The man moved briskly, but without wasted motion of any kind. His eyes moved from the SCF to the calculator and then to the ledger on his left with a motion so smooth it was like the finest Natural. The machine whirred and clicked. The pencil danced over the ledger like a painters' brush across the canvas. The man was good. Perhaps the best he had ever seen. Yes, the man was a professional, an artist. There were accounting software programs that did such things, but the man did not use them. In fact, there was no computer in sight. Like a good matador - indeed any professional craftsman - the true accountant succeeds with the simple tools of his trade: a pencil, a calculator and a ledger. That is all.

El Gafito wanted desperately to introduce himself. Diego-Cruz, though confused as to the reasons behind the young man's compulsions, saw this immediately and thought to ask his accountant for lunch, something he had done before, but was not going to do today because not only did he want to keep the lunch gathering a family occasion, but also because the work the man was doing was of the utmost importance for a meeting he had the following day with a powerful - and extraordinarily obese - Bank of Switzerland financier from Geneva.

"Javier." The accountant, surprised to be disturbed, looked up, the shape of his eyes distorted fish-eye-lens-like behind his thick glasses. "Come. You will join us for lunch."

"Yes, Señor," the accountant replied, rising obediently from the desk.

The family, El Gafito and the accountant were gathered around the table. A large serving bowl of soup was brought by the maid, who used a long silver ladle to fill each bowl. Javier was seated across from El Gafito, who stared at him with an expression bordering on awe.

"Yes, well," opened Diego-Cruz. "You may have heard of our guest here, Javier. This is Enrique Villanueva. Son of the late matador Pedro Villanueva, and known to the world as El Gafito." "I know of him," Javier said, bowing his head in respect. "It is indeed a great pleasure to meet you, Señor Villanueva."

"And this, Enrique, is my accountant, Javier Rodriguez. Known widely to be the finest bean-counter in all of Spain." There was laughter around the table, but El Gafito felt the blood in his body rush into his skull as if a giant hand had gripped him and squeezed. Hearing the derisive term leveled at his secret passion was like being slapped across the face. He gaped at Javier, hoping to see anger and outrage equally manifest in the accountant's eyes, but Javier merely smiled at the term and stuck a spoonful of chicken and rice into his mouth. The lunch proceeded without further incident with much of the conversation given over to discussion about the coming betrothal of El Gafito and Elena. During this time, El Gafito controlled the urge to ask Javier questions about his profession. He wanted to know more about the man: what led him to become an accountant, how difficult was it, when did he decide to give his life over to the profession, what did he think would be the appropriate tax treatment for interest income on a non-performing annuity. However, El Gafito said nothing.

When lunch was over, Diego-Cruz announced that he had some business to attend to and El Gafito watched as he and the accountant excused themselves into the study. Elena and El Gafito repaired to the living room where they stood alone facing each other.

"Oh Enrique. I am so worried about you. Father does not want me to talk about it, but I have to tell you that I had the most horrible dream."

"Tell me, my love."

"Darling Enrique, I dreamt that you had been gored. That you fought the meanest bull in all of Spain, and that it…it…oh it is simply too horrible!" she buried her face in El Gafito's chest and clutched his arms.

"My love. Don't you know that there is not a bull alive that I cannot kill? I have met the meanest bulls in Spain, and I have vanquished them all."

"I know, my love. I know I am being silly, that it was just a dream. But it seemed so real. I just thought you should…"

"I am sorry, Enrique," said Diego-Cruz, who had silently entered the room, and was obviously aware of the topic of conversation. "But it is time for Elena to visit her aunt in Toledo. Surely she has told you that the poor old woman is sick with gout. Have you not, my dear?" "No father, I did not tell him."

"We will be leaving shortly, Elena. Please pack enough clothing for the evening. We will likely be staying the night."

"Yes father." Elena kissed El Gafito on the cheek. "I will see you Sunday, my love," she said as she walked from the room.

Diego-Cruz, his impressive brow furrowed, stepped closer to him.

"She told you about her dream." It was not a question.

"Yes, Señor, she…"

"Do not let it worry you Enrique," Diego-Cruz said, his voice that of a man who is often burdened by his own certainties. "Women will always worry about their men. They do not understand manly things. They think only with their hearts. Please," he said, leading the young man to the door. El Gafito obediently followed. "I am very anxious to see you fight this Sunday. I believe this will be your best fight yet."

"Thank you, sir. I will be glad to see you there."

"Good-bye until then, El Gafito."

The door closed behind him. He stood on the brick steps of the Diego-Cruz front porch and thought about the rapidly approaching Sunday, the day of the week that bullfights are held in Spain. The way that it has been done for centuries. He looked at the cool blue sky above, knowing that on Sunday the weather would be very hot. It always was. He thought for a moment about Elena's dream. And then his mind drifted to his own.

----------------------------

The tunnel that stretches from the toreador's dressing room to the ring beneath the bleachers is known as el útero, the womb. For it is through this dark and narrow passageway that the matador must proceed before facing the bull, where he waits in safety before walking into the harsh light of day.

It is here where El Gafito stands now, digesting his final thoughts and the last bits of a ham sandwich. The cries of the crowd pierce the darkness, but the sound is muted, like the roar of a distant lion. And that is how he thinks of them now: Ruthless, greedy, hungry for blood. For his blood. For now matter how much they say they love him, no matter how the papers celebrate his name and print photographs of his finest moves, every aficionado secretly longs to see the bullfighter gored. Why else do they come?

Manuel, El Gafito's first banderillero (and son of his brother Manolo's picador, Manuel), stands next to him in the tunnel, clutching in his fist the menacing, frilly spears of his trade. The young banderillero thinks of his matador as a hero. A man whose stature is just a foal's hair short of God.

"Enrique, what is it?" the banderillero asks the dark figure that stands before him.

"They do not know me. They only…" El Gafito's voice trails off in the tunnel like a departing train.

"What? What is it?"

"Nothing, Manuel. It is nothing. Please. Leave me for a moment."

"But it is time. We must…"

"Leave me, please!" orders El Gafito, his voice cuts like a razor through the blackness. He immediately regrets raising his voice. I am cruel, he thinks. Manuel is not to blame. Manuel, who has been with me for six years, his entire professional career. I owe him more than that. He looks fondly at Manuel, seeing only the glint of brocaded gold on the man's capote de paseo. "I will come soon," he says quietly. "I will not make them wait."

"Yes, Maestro," Manuel says as he tucks his capote away beneath his arm and walks towards the light.

El Gafito stands alone for a minute and then enters the ring. He feels the sunlight fall upon him and then the crowd explodes into cheers. He does his part, assuming a proud stance. He struts across the ring to greet his cuadrilla, the men who will help him in this fight. The commissars enter on horseback and assume their traditional somba, or shadowed, seats near the matador. A trumpet blows. The men in El Gafito's cuadrilla split and position themselves behind the barreras, the half dozen wooden barriers that are spaced evenly around the out section of the ring. The fight begins. A swift black animal bursts into the daylight. It is a monstrous hulk of thick muscle, hide and sharp horns. One by one, the cuadrilla emerge, acting as bait for the furious bull. El Gafito moves into the center of the ring and draws his muleta. The bull charges, it hooves pounding the red soil, its body containing the inertia of a school bus, its horns as sharp and deadly as stilettos. El Gafito stands still as the bull comes, his chest out, his feet firmly planted. The bull passes through the cape, stunned that its horns did not rip through the flesh of this little man who dares torment him. As he draws the muleta across his field of vision, El Gafito cannot see the bull go by, but he smells the heady scent of the animal's anger, a mixture of sweat and blood and primordial fury. The crowd roars. High up in the stands, in the sun seats, a young American exchange student here for the summer sits in wide-eyed wonder. He will never think of a hamburger the same way again. The matador makes another half dozen passes with the bull, observing the way it drives through the cape, favoring it's left horn. With each pass, the crowd erupts with cheers, as El Gafito brings the bull so close to his body he can almost kiss the magnificent animal's head as it goes by. Then the matador stands aside as the picador enters the ring on horseback to jab the long-handled pic between the bull's shoulder blades, to loosen the knot of muscle there so the matador can later drive in his sword. Then it is the turn of the banderilleros, who enter the ring and skillfully plunge their spears into the bull, also at the base of the neck. They hope to land the spears perfectly in that spot, and to have each stick firmly and draw blood. El Gafito watches Manuel, happy for him when he sees that the young man is successful, thereby drawing cheers from the crowd. All has gone well. It is an excellent bull and this is an excellent fight. The crowd is pleased.

It is El Gafito's turn again. He steps towards the bull, luring it towards him with a snap of the muleta, and then orchestrating a perfect veronica. There is approval for the pass, which was close enough to the body to be considered skillful. A cheer rises from the stadium and fills the air. But El Gafito suddenly has a change of heart. He feels like he knows them now, the people who come to see him. He understands them for the very first time.

He readies himself for another pass. This time, El Gafito stands away as the bull passes, letting the horn miss him by more than a foot. The air is suddenly filled with pitos, the cruel whistlings of the aficion, who are angry that the matador did not bring the bull closer to his body. They believe it is cowardice and this is how they punish him, they who do not fight, but only sit in the stands. They boo and taunt him. He realizes at that moment that they are not like lions at all, but like hyenas. Scavengers.

It is time for the sword. The bull watches him approach, but does not move. It is confused, angered beyond its own comprehension. It knows that it must kill this creature, but so far there has been nothing but air in the charges of the moving cape. Clutching the cape with his left hand, El Gafito slowly withdraws the sword with his right. He raises it above his head, pointing it downward and towards the bull. With a quick jerk of his cape, El Gafito gets the bull to charge one last time, but instead of standing to the side as before, he is standing directly behind the cape. As the bull plows into the cape, El Gafito leaps towards him. He plunges the sword into the soft, tender lump of flesh at the base of the bull's neck, deep into the knot of muscle known as the morillo. The sword sinks to the hilt, plunging deep until it pierces the heart. The crowd lets loose a savage, fanatical cheer. A perfect shot.

Normally, as the bull makes this final charge, the matador, who leaps towards the bull, times his jump so that his body drifts slightly to a side, thereby missing the bull's horn. But not today. Now, as the crowd watches in what seems to be slow-motion, El Gafito lunges straight at the bull, and although the sword has gone deep enough, and the bull will soon die, the matador falls upon the bull's horn. A great cry goes up from the audience, which cannot believe its eyes. Their matador, El Gafito, the Little One With Glasses, has been gored.

It is an odd feeling. He looks down and can see the horn enter his abdomen, piercing him, a sudden spreading round ring. Red. Around where the horn goes in. It goes in far, he feels it keep going in, sees the lines of color - a hint of creamy, ivory white with a ring of a darker, almost greenish color. He realizes that he has never quite looked at a horn like this. Noticed its definition, the diffusion of color. His feet lift off the ground. He is carried high, but he is still staring at the horn that is inside him. He feels now like he is flying and he thinks, This is the end. He hears nothing but the heavy breathing of the bull and the wheezing sound of the air leaving his own lungs. He is lying now on the soft, red earth. The bull lies next to him, its massive sides heaving as it listens to the struggling beat of its own heart, a once-powerful bundle of hard, smooth muscle that powered the bull's massive body. A once-powerful parcel of muscle that soon stops.

El Gafito is on his back, staring at the blazing Spanish sun. He heard Elena's voice approaching; he heard her scream. He has seen so many matadors gored, and now he knows too, what it is like. He smiles because although he knows the wound is bad, it is not that bad. His days of bullfighting are over, but he will live. He is thinking of his father now, and he is smiling. I am the last Villanueva. I have fought bulls for my entire life.

He closes his eyes now, and to the sound of cheering, begins to dream.

THE END




Other stories:
The Family Values Trilogy - Part II
Lennon in New York
Up the Amazon
Sunset With Moncho




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