Wordcarpenter Books

Chapter Twenty-four

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 and clean.

            "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 freebasing.

            "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 price."

            "So how much are we talking about here?

            "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 the stadium.

            As 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 scalpers.

            "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 tall gringos.

            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 the stadium.

            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 and poise.

            "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 nostrils.

            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 to debate.

            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.



Chapter Twenty-five



             I have conquered them all, but I am standing amongst graves. Sitting at the table in the Dane's room, Reno remembered the Old Danish saying that the he had told him, the scar shining in the face of the light.

            "One must experience a bullfight to know really what is it. Extreme poise, theatrics and tradition all come into play, salted heavily with Espanol machismo." The Dane raised his hand.

            "No interest. Could spend that money on tech and women. And hang in Canoa on the beach." Woman in the garter-belt tattoo dominant, short-sleeved plaid shirt open at the front, thick reading glasses on to focus on the spoon with bubbling contents.

            "Your choice but fair enough," said Reno, leaning back and smoking and thinking of the beach.

            "Did I ever tell you the first time I got stoned on coke?" The Dane had a way of bobbing his head up and down to emphasize a point or hammer home something notable.

            "Nein," said Reno, full of mischief.

            "One night I'm at this party and some of my friends I hadn't seen in a while are there in the kitchen with a big bag of coke. So I ask them what they're doing and this friend of mine asks if I want some. So I sure, fix me up. He fills a syringe with coke and says: ‘where do you want it?' So I say: ‘wherever you take it.' So he sticks the needle in my neck, in a vein here." His finger stabs his neck, tendons defined and skin tight. Reno starts to laugh. "So suddenly I start to sweat, I mean I'm drenched within ten seconds, so I'm about to rip off my shirt when I can move. I'm sitting there sweating and on the edge until I suddenly sat up and said: ‘Man! Fix me up another!'"

            "Sounds like you."

            "But my point is that everything after that is an effort to reach that same high, that first one, that one you always remember."

            "Is that what you're doing?" Reno couldn't be serious.

            "You don't know what it's like to be addicted. Not like me. Like my mother is an alcoholic, I chose smack. Just because I was sober for six years after I got busted, I knew eventually I would swing back, but this time it's not schnocta but crack. Freebased crack. The best there is. And this is export quality, lactose-and-ether-free. My Inner Policeman has no control." He balanced the spoon with the bubbles waning, leaving an oil patch on top of the water that he scooped up with the end of the lighter, turning into a jagged solid, like a molar freshly extracted.

            "That's a chunk. Look at that!" The Dane held it in his open palm, the pure white medicine distilled pure in its most benevolent form.

            "That's a nice piece. Groovy schnocta."

            "There's a word in Danish that I don't think you have in English that describes this," motioned to the rock. "It translates to ‘over-filling.' You don't say that in English do you?" Never any guile with the Dane. Direct as though it was a law. Coming from a neighborhood where the wrong word or a sarcastic joke falling flat could be the difference between injury or not, he had been bred on direct communication at all costs.

            "Overfilling? Yeah, but it's not used that much. But I hear you. Good word to describe this medicine. Helps my hands." The Dane's eyes narrowed.

            "Looks worse. The color. Your knuckles are green." Reno studied his hands, not self-conscious of his hands in front of the Dane.

            "Yeah, I need to see a doctor here about that. Man, I've been putting it off."

            "No, go see a doctor. You need something for that." The Dane removed his reading glasses briskly as he turned to his homemade pipe. Every time Reno came over he would be using a different pipe because he destroyed anything he made before leaving his room. He took zero chances when it came to the maid finding a pipe or residue of any kind after partying. Very meticulous except for folding his clothes.

            The Dane handed him a fully packed pipe, white rocks broken into thick pieces on a fluffy bed of ashes.

            "Here, just cover this hole on the side. I'll light it." Total teamwork. The pipe was made out of a half-liter plastic bottle but the pipe had been inserted near the bottom. Reno only had to inhale from the mouth of the bottle. ‘Most effective pipe there is,' the Dane had said.

            The smoke was billowy, swirling into pillows, thick and soft.

            "Okay, inhale!" Dramatic and precise, the Dane always sought maximization from freebased rocks. All of the pillows found their way into his lungs. "Keep it in! Don't talk!" Hand in his face. "If you keep it in long enough nothing comes out." Reno put a special foot forward. Finally exhaling, nothing came out. The Dane watched and smiled.

            "Now that was a nice one." Nodded, proud. "Brings out the Upper Man." A guttural bellowing from the dungeons of his person. Enjoyed the use of his term.

            Reno, who had never had a drug habit yet always wanted one, now had a drug habit, not out of addiction but because he believed he would gain more insights into the darker corners of his soul with the use of the pipe. Almost daily he launched into his training program, fully enjoying his intake of the cocoa-leaf powder, until his pipe became the most important thing he carried with him. However it wasn't until he went to the hospital after freebasing with the Dane all night that he might have an issue with the drug.

            Choosing to issue that he was high, or that his elevated state was a separate issue, Reno walked into the hospital and was immediately taken into the emergency ward. He showed the doctor the swelling and bruising and rubbed his dry skin and told them he was short of breath.

            "I need some medication or cream for my skin," he said, knowing there wasn't any treatment for his illness. "I have Schleroderma. It's a type of rheumatoid arthritis. I can't breathe." The intern was intrigued, soon calling for the senior doctor who, after examination, said the word "allergies" in English. In fact it was an allergic reaction to an antibody his body was producing, a type of antibody called a "nuclear antibody," meaning it was like a nuclear bomb to every muscle cell it came in contact with.

             But the doctor was more concerned with Reno's heart rate.

            "Did you have breakfast just now?" asked the doctor. Reno explained he had just eaten and had a few cups of coffee, which was true.

            "Drooga?" The doctor more concerned than accusing.


            "Drinking?" he said.

            "Ah, yes. I was with my amigo last night and we had a fiesta. No sleep. But I'm affected by this shortness of breath." The doctor nodded, knowing what it was. The entire time the heart monitor beeped loudly and rapidly because a clamp was on his finger. Every ten or so beats an alarm went off. The two doctors and now three nurses spoke amongst themselves, pointing at his swollen hands and looking at him as if he had done all this to himself.

            They put a long intravenous needle into his wrist that went far too deep into the vein, Ten minutes later the nurse re-pointed the needle, Reno with his eyes closed trying to get his mind off the pain and internal damager she was doing to his wrist. And he tried to calm his heart rate. Very high on very strong crack, Reno had chosen to seek medical attention for a lingering pain that he had had for ten months. It took Reno to go when Noble hadn't budged.

            He looked at his watch and laid back. The next thing he knew it was six hours later and he was being pushed by his legs. Two nurses told him to pull himself up because he was dangling off the end of the bed. It was four o'clock. He took a deep breath. Better but still some infliction. He took his prescription and left for the pharmacy to pick up his magic pills that would completely erase the arthritis from his muscles, stopping the attack of the nuclear antibodies. Five days of two-a-day magic pills to prove effective, back to the old robust self. Toyed with the notion of going to McDonald's but decided against it concluding Big Macs were more detrimental to his long-term health. So he navigated down Reina Victoria to where he met Roberto in Mariscal for what he craved.


Table of Contents

  1. The Divine Elbow
  2. Just Surviving As Noble Intent
  3. Surpassing Neophobia
  4. The Middle of the World
  5. The Dane
  6. The Religion of Sfauism
  7. Celebrating Chemistry
  8. Connected Columbians
  9. Stuntmen and Dakar Motorcycle Groupies
  10. Into Amazon Waters
  11. A Beautiful Repressive Niche
  12. Canalazo de Naranilla
  13. Cajunes el grande
  14. A Noble Doppelgänger
  15. Reno Finds His Footing
  16. How to Make a Bomb Out of a Light Bulb
  17. The Impossible Black Lily
  18. The Boy Fascist
  19. Artistas
  20. The Art of Death
  21. The Earthquake Virgin
  22. Lambaster of Laughter
  23. The Sweet Cadence of Scheudenfreunden
  24. Matador: the Agent of Destiny
  25. Overfilling
  26. Mobile Piping
  27. Aristotle’s Character Years
  28. The Great Pilgrimage
  29. A Purpose for Your Sins
  30. Errol Flynn
  31. The Better Man
  32. The Addict’s Ladder
  33. The African Club
  34. The Dutch Hair Piece
  35. The Swiss Army Knife
  36. The Scent of Ammonia
  37. At the Mouth of the Amazon
  38. Broken and Renewed
  39. Seizing the Moment
  40. A Recent Past Discovered
  41. Pinned and Threatened by Fate
  42. Twice as Much in Half the Time
  43. The Assassination
  44. The Pledge
  45. Slandering Hamlet
  46. Stealing Time
  47. Hannibal at the Gates
  48. On the Old Contraband Trail





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