Of Bulls and Men (January)

 

Somewhere nuzzled inside Spain’s green breasts, there was a young bull aging into adulthood. This bull had a back as a mountain and a rack of horns like calcified tree branches that stretched out; and he would trot around the grassy knolls as a mountain might slide, and he would swing his horns as boxer might jab. The Spanish sun would be swallowed by his black coat; and with that black coat, black like a squid’s ink, he’d swing his horns because it felt good to him to swing them. For that same reason, he would run directly at the other bulls being raised alongside him. Through a snout as a locomotive’s smokestack, he’d snarl snot and hot air toward anyone’s direction. He’d snarl because he wanted to and it came naturally to him.

He was not mean, but he was a bull; and bulls love to snort out coal smoke, swing their tree trunk crowns and dance their mountain-esque frames over the grass under their hooves. These things felt good for them to do and they didn’t know why. Nonetheless, it felt right so he did these things.

Scars on the bull’s shoulders were as switchbacks up his black mound of flesh. His horns grew strong, sharp, and extraordinarily large. The weight of them would have folded any of the other cattle in the pasture and everyone knew that. His hooves sounded like explosions when he would run at his full speed. He was as a black mass of power, sprinting with the sound of thunder.

Beastly flash of hide and muscle. 

The young bull did not mean to intimidate, nor to scare, nor to hurt, nor to threaten – he was just doing the things that came naturally to him. He did the things he wanted to do.

It wasn’t long until all of the other cattle, heifers and bulls alike, feared him. They knew that his heart was not evil – for it was not. Instead, they feared if he were to ever lose control of himself. The others feared that one day he’d stop his charge too late, or swing his horns too close, or snort too loudly, and end up goring someone to death. They feared the rails too thin to contain his ability. Because of this fear, the other cattle began to hide themselves from the young bull, and they plotted to have him sold away.

The cattle met with their rancher one day and asked that the young bull be sold to a faraway pasture. Knowing only what he was told, and what he had seen from far away, he decided to sell the young bull to another rancher that raised bulls for the ring. While the rancher did not hate the bull, he did not want the rest of his herd to hate him. It was with a conflicted heart that the rancher sold the growing bull. 

It was shortly after that the young bull was shipped away to a farm just outside of Barcelona. He watched the countryside get slowly eaten by the rocky coast from the railcar as it took him to his new home on the country’s shoulder. The young bull wished he didn’t have to leave his home, but more than that he wished he could swing his horns, stamp his feet, and snort his snout freely and outside the railcar he was being pulled in. 

 

His new home sat alongside the rocks of the coast where the skies are gray. It was there, and right along the coast, that he was befriended by his new family of “Toros de Lidia.” He’d find mountainous shoulders and outstretched horns that looked like his own. Scars would be found at shared places on his new tribesmen. He liked them because they liked him and they liked him because he reminded them of their younger selves. Together, they all liked to swing their horns, and stamp their feet, and snort loudly from their snouts.

Underneath the overcast coastal skies, the bulls would spar with each other. They’d practice taking passes at trees painted to resemble matadors. Sometimes they’d pretend to be picadors and circle each other. No one was scared, and they all loved to fight. It felt good to do these things and they all felt that way. 

The young bull grew and sparred everyday, and soon he became the best fighter there. He could run the fastest, swing his horns the hardest, and snort the loudest. All the other bulls started to look up to the young bull, although they knew his fate. 

“You shouldn’t practice so hard young bull,” The older bulls would warn him.

“I can’t help it, it doesn’t feel right to do anything else.” The young bull would always counter. 

“They are going to send you to the ring mijo.” The older bulls knew this to be true, and began to fear the young bull. Because of this fear, the older bulls began to distance themselves from the young bull, and they hoped for him to be taken away. For the things they feared were ghostly matadors who stuck sabers into areas unseen by others. They feared broken hearts more than the ring. For death is final and life feels forever. 

 

It wasn’t long until the people of the town would go to the farm by the coast to watch the young bull spar. They would get very excited when the young bull would make a pass at the painted trees, or dodge the pseudo-picadors, or snort loudly. Soon after, people began to campaign to see him fight in the ring.

The day came, and the young bull was marched into the ring with five other strong bulls. He watched as all the other bulls were killed before him, and the young bull was not afraid. It felt good for the young bull to fight, and he was looking forward to doing so. 

Like electricity, the crowd fluxed with energy when the young bull’s black mass galloped into the ring. He cocked his head back and snarled from his snout. It felt very good for the young bull to do that. Swinging his horns from side to side, he danced around the picadors and their horses evading their spears.

With a loud crack, and ice cold pain, one picador stuck the young bull in his black shoulders. The young bull snarled and spun around. Timing the second pass just right, the young bull plunged his right horn into the horse’s belly. Once the horn exited the horse, it had disemboweled the animal completely. Intestines like banners flapped from the young bull’s head. It felt good to the bull to wear that beast’s innards. It felt good to kill the beast and even better to injure the rider.

 

The crowd was horrified, and they began to fear the bull. Because of this fear, the crowd learned to hate the young bull and hoped for him to be killed quickly.

 

The other picadors began to ruthlessly work the bull and before long the bull looked like a bloody porcupine. His heavy horns fell below his shoulder blades and the matador walked into the ring. With brown eyes, they met each other’s gaze. A snarl left his snout, not because he was angry, but because it felt good for him to snarl from his snout. They stared at each other as the dead horse was pulled out of the ring. 

Waving a red muleta, the matador went to work on the bull. The young bull charged at the cape swinging his horns and stamping his feet. It felt good to attack the matador. Blood mixed with the sand and the young bull’s mouth felt very dry. 

With his head hanging low, the young bull squared up on the matador and charged at him. The matador lost his footing, and the bull plunged his right horn towards the matador’s belly. This time, the matador was quicker than the dead horse had been, and skipped around the horns. The crowd made an excited groan. 

Getting back to his feet, the matador began to fear the young bull. Because of this fear, he prepared to finish off the young bull as quickly as he could. 

 

It felt good to fight in the ring, but the bull was getting tired of doing so. 

 

After another small dance between the matador and the young bull, the matador plunged his silver saber into the bull’s heart through his giant shoulders. The bull walked a few paces before falling – dying into the sand. The sand felt good to the bull as he lay there and bled out. 

 

The crowd cheered very loud because the young bull had killed a horse, and they hated him for it.

 

As the young bull struggled in the sand and bled out, he looked up to the crowd and asked them, “Why do you hate me?” 

No one but the matador heard him, so the matador responded, “They hate you because they fear you.”

“Why do they fear me? All I ever did was act in a way that was natural to me.” He stopped to catch his breath- he did not have many left. “I fought because I am a bull, and that’s what we do. That’s what we were made to do.”

“And you fought well.” The matador said with an accent of compassion. Even though he had stuck the bull, it did not mean the matador hated the bull. Instead, just like everyone else, he feared him.

Then, in the blood soaked sand, it felt good for the young bull to close his eyes. So he did and he died there in the ring under a Spanish sky. 

 

They cut the dead bull’s ears and tail off for the matador to take as a trophy. This is what they do when the fight is honorable, and the untouched people in the stands had deemed this murder to be honorable. 

The matador took the trophy and never thought of that bull again. It was his job to kill the bull and it felt good for him to do his job.

 


 

It was a few years later that certain groups of men began to band together inside Spain’s breasts under ideals that were as black as death. Soon, a melanoma began to metastasize across the country’s tits until the bitch’s chest was bubbling with blood. It feels good for men to gather under ideas, so they do so – even if those ideas kill other men. Other men that look just like them. Other men who share the same mothers, sisters, or tongue. 

A war broke out between brothers and Spain began to kill herself, slowly and cell by cell. Cancer eats like a bull grazes in a field. One bite at a time and steady.

The matador had a new job now and while he still carried a saber, he also carried a rifle. The ring had grown to the size of a country and he, along with the other young men on his side, were marching toward Madrid when they were ambushed by other young men not on their side. 

Madrid had become a strategic position for the older men sitting in the stands and watching the young bulls march from miles away. From places where bullets don’t end stories in their genesis. From places where they eat well and not from cans. From places where they sleep above the ground and under roofs. 

 

The once matador aimed his rifle and shot hot lead at the other bulls that had soft pink horns like himself hidden under metal caps. He plunged bullets into the bulls who walked on two feet while they did the same to him and soon he had been peppered by the Second Spanish Republic’s picadors and his legs could no longer hold his torso up. 

 

The bull walked a few paces before falling, dying, into the sand. The sand felt good to the bull as he lay there and bled out. 

 

As he lay waiting for a bayonet’s send-off, a pool of blood wrapped around him like a holy muletta. He looked up at the Spanish sky as it began to cry slowly above him. It was as if God himself was apologizing for everything. For the civil war raping the matadors’ and bulls’ country. For the devil he shot down to be our neighbor with a crack of lightning. For the great flood that didn’t fix it. For the foreclosed garden. 

The bull, or soldier, didn’t blame God though. God didn’t sign his orders, nor did he make him choose a side. He did, however, make him to work – and it felt good to work. His job now was to die, and so it felt good for him to do so.

His eyes were closed when the other young man, who looked just like him, stuck, the bayonet into his throat. Blood and relief spilled from under his chin and death plunged its proverbial saber into his shoulder blades.

 

They cut ribbon and tin for the matador to take as a trophy into his grave. This is what they do when the fight is honorable, and the untouched older men in the stands had deemed this murder to be honorable. 

The one who did the stabbing never thought of that bull again. It was his job to kill the bull and it felt good for him to do his job and when it was his turn to be stabbed that following month, the one doing his job never thought again of that bull either. 

-TL Schaefer

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