Matador: The Agent of Destiny
Despite the sure knowledge that one
day the fun will stop, you cannot believe it will when it's that good. ‘These
days will go on forever,' you think, or at least for many days in the future.
For periods of time a convergence of people and geography create synergies that
mesh well and make everything easy. These were Noble's thoughts as he walked to
the Corner Pub.
The patio tables full of people he
knew. Reno was in his element but for Noble it was the first genuine emotion of
camaraderie he had ever felt. There were Toné and Crash, William and Richard,
Frank and Milton, and even Martina, who had befriended the actor Crash. Toné
invited him to his fifty-third-and-a-half birthday party near Christmas.
Frank was a mess. He told a story of
his shoulder, a shoulder that had a metal pin to hold the arm in the shoulder
socket, and a metal clamp holding his collarbone in place.
"So last year I'm stepping out of the
tub and slip, dislodging the clamp on my collarbone. What I didn't realize was
that one of the three splintered ends of the collarbone sticking out and
through the skin. Since the original injury splintered the bone into three like
a chicken claw, the tip of one pierced the skin and bled down my side.
So the first doctor at the local hospital tells me to wait a few days, but I
knew the clamp had broken off and that it was dislocated. So finally Toné here
saw the blood dripping down my side and the obvious pain I was in, and insisted
he take me to a good hospital and get an x-ray."
"'Expense is not an issue,' I told
him," said the Dutch lily expert, puffing his rolled cigarette, head shining
"So Toné has the surgeons study the
x-rays. The surgeon shook his head in disbelief that I had been suffering for
three days. They take my into the operating theater within two hours and gave
me full reconstructive surgery to repair my torn up shoulder."
When Frank finished his story, Noble
felt like someone had punched him in the stomach. Reno, extremely tolerant and
open-minded to any non-fiction pieces, shook his head and said:
"Pain really is a relative thing
isn't it? Some have a higher tolerance of pain than others." Frank's expression
changed. He saw the unmistakable look of male pride from a rare feat of
suffering that was not accompanied by the whining of a weak man. Frank's stoic
endurance of agony was a testament to his strength of character. "You've heard
of that expression: ‘the squeaky wheel gets the grease?'" Frank's brief
nod preceded a torrent of laughter, a momentary loss of control that racked his
rake-thin body into a fluttering leaf. A total release of pent-up emotion. Then
the smoker's hack, the lungs brittle and phlegmatic.
Reno was able to sneak into the
washroom and do a line throughout the night at the Corner Pub, and then he
spent most of the night partying with the Dane and Jamul until noon the next
day where he met William at the café in Plaza Foch.
"Was wondering if you were going to
make it," said William, a grain telling him he knew of his quick forays into
the washroom. Noble's nasal drip was the most obvious sign but it was also the
debris that dried around his moustache that was the telltale sign of abuse. He
was sure most of these men had dabbled with the White Lady when they
first arrived in this Coke Utopia.
"Couldn't miss this one," he
replied. "Wouldn't be able to forgive myself if I missed the bullfights. One
never knows where they're going to be a year hence, no?" Voice higher from the
"Beer? We have time." Without
waiting he popped in and bought to cold bottles. Noble threw on his beret and
bandana around his neck. The sun did its best to tear up his skin on his arms
and face, not a cloud in the sky.
"Nice one." They clinked bottles.
"To breaking your cherry." William,
some sort of hidden knowledge that gave him a permanent light step. Centered.
Life was a breeze.
"There are six fights, so we can
miss the first one or two. That's how we can get the good tickets for half
"So how much are we talking about
"The best seats are, say, a hundred
and sixty bucks, so we're looking at maybe fifty each. Depends on how many
beers we have here." William had his leather Panama hat, leather jacket and
custom-made cowboy boots.
"I can do that."
"But let me do the haggling. There's
a certain technique."
They finished a few beers, Noble
snuck up to the washroom and snorted a line to refresh and then they left for
if transplanted from Madrid, the bullfighting arena was classic Spanish
colonial architecture, yellow with the stylistic fascia and ramparts of a
castle, high arched wooden doors and an iron fence surrounding it. Noble stared
at the thirty cops on horses lined up at the entrance. He awkwardly swigged
from the bottle of beer they took from the café in front of the hundreds of
policemen who supervised the streets, William oblivious as he haggled with
"No!" he said, turning his
back to one of the scalpers. "This guy doesn't know his ass from his elbow.
But watch this." They moved away and the scalper grabbed William's shoulder.
Reluctantly the scalper handed over two $160-dollar tickets for $80.
"Now these are good tickets,"
William with even a lighter step as they walked through the entranceway. The
first thing Noble noticed were the extraordinary women who sauntered around
with barely a stitch on.
"Well done on the tickets man. I'll
get the first round." Noble bought a couple beers and gawked at the women.
"Didn't tell you about the chicks
here did I? Well you'll never find more beautiful women in South America than
at a bullfight. Mostly Columbians I think. Look at them!" Each sporting
sunglasses, they sipped their beer and surveyed the flesh landscape.
"Never would have guessed." Long
legs, tights, tank tops and cleavage, women looked at them because they were
A roar from the crowd inside.
"Let's check out our seats. We can
come back for another round after the fight's over." Noble followed him inside
There was something undisputedly
Visigoth about the drama, something rustic and Castilian and enduring about
what was valued in a bullfight, even if it took place 9000 feet above the sea
on the equator half a world away from the home of the Visigoths. The Equatorial
sun fueled the flames of the crowd the closer the matador got to defeating the
bull. They demanded the very best from him, insisting on manliness and courage
"Half of the six matadors are from
Spain," William said. "The rest are from Columbia and Ecuador." He knew the
line up already.
The crowd watched every move of the
matador closely, the sounds and shouts a weathervane of the performance. One
matador missed with one of the deathblow swords on one bull that the crowd
didn't like, letting him know with catcalls and whistles, but the next matador
brought them off their feet. Even Noble was standing and shouting in respect
for the matador's bravery and aplomb, who risked his person for the fellowship
of his fans. Only when the matador fully imposes his will on the bull,
dominating and overwhelming it, did he earn the total respect of the crowd. The
bullfighter masterful and exuding chivalry, the crowd threw sombreros and
scarves, Panama hats and roses, flags and bouquets of flowers at his feet. But
he never bent over to pick anything up, instead half-bending until a junior
apprentice picked it up for him, always within a half moment, and throwing
selected items back into the crowd. Strutting and proud like a peacock, posture
firm and grace full-blown, he acknowledged his gift of courage and mastering of
fear and coordination under pressure, waved to his fans and never missed an
opportunity to kiss a senorita demanding his attention.
After getting more beer and taking in the
female sights, they settled in for the final showdown. The bull, pissed off and
obsessed with ramming the human intruders out of his arena, rammed the junior
matadors that taunted it when it came out. Ducking behind little protective
stations around the perimeter, the bull attacked the horse that wore symbolic
armor made of cotton. One of the horns penetrated the fake armor into the
horse's thigh, so it was caught for a moment. The peccadillo took his lance and
speared the bull between the shoulder blades, leaving a two-inch hole into its
lung. Blood throbbed out of the wound after it loosened itself away from the
horse, now really incensed. Confronted by the matador, it tried its best to
kill him but always rammed the red cape moving beside the maestro, gouging only
air. Time and time again it lunged for the kill only to be tricked by the magic
of the bullfighter's skill. The matador stabbed the bull between the shoulder
blades with two spears, both dangling from the gaping holes to its lungs. Blood
dripped down its back, exhaustion and blood loss weakening its strength, the
bull knowing it was going to die in the battle, the smell of death in its
The bull looked at Noble right in
the eye in the moment it knew the end was immanent. He returned the gaze and
nodded the bull to go forth and fight the brave fight, and battle to the death
to an honorable end, an entry fee into the bull version of Valhalla where other
past greats convene for some old fashioned mead and good cheer.
The black beast looked at the
matador who urged it to go for his red cape again but instead of thrusting its
horns for the kill it looked back at Noble, who stood out in the crowd. In that
look the bull revealed the futility of battle, its defeat at the hands of the fleshless
red devil. Noble sympathized. Only they knew when it would come. They felt
death coming in the pain that ground their spirit down. As he looked at the
bull his eyes told it: It is only death that ends it all! There's nothing to do
but fight on, for only the valiant conquer the injustice of untimely death.
That's right. There is no justice. And there never was. It's a myth served out
to lure the gullible, so they hope others honor ones innate understanding of
right and wrong. Smoke screens and window dressing! Illusions used for the
greater good because it's better to hope your fellow citizens know what is just
than not having that hope. But we know there is no justice. But we must fight
on! It's the only noble thing to do!
He finally nodded at the bull, who
promptly rushed at the cape, unleashing all it had, horns thrust swiftly up and
to the side, only hitting cloth and air. It lost its balance and stumbled
forward unable to prevent its front legs from buckling.
The bull fought like a tempest, ill tempered
by its death at the hands of this hairless chimpanzee, and embittered by the
chimp's unscrupulous methods. Noble could see what it was thinking when the
bull eyed its nemesis: Why don't you fight with honor you hairless chimp!
You've taken the breath out of me. But I am stronger than you! Cheater!
Weakling! But it is I who am dying. Where is the justice?
The black beast ended in a blaze of
glory, horns smashing with lethal force splintering wood and cracking bone,
trying to find purchase in the enemy before the final fall, the bitterest of
all pills. The pill-giver Fate's reckless brother Destiny, both disputed and
revered, with the power of a dictator, that can impose its will on anyone at
anytime without rancor, justice its own subjective view on the matter not open
The bull stopped, blood still
dripping in waves, rippling in its black hair stained darker, tongue sticking
out, pointy and small, not moving for fear of suffocation, like asthma grown
worse to its logical conclusion. Eyes passive in resignation, Fate taking one
leg forward to Destiny in the form of a long silver sword, poised horizontally
for the kill. The matador, the agent of Destiny, precise and focused, stabbed
the steel home, the valiant fighter's final moments of life.