Saturday, July 17, 2004

Bullfight in a Thunderstorm

Last night it was the novices turn at the Plazas
de Toros de Las Ventas, rural matadores who are
making their first appearance in Madrid. It´s ten-thirty,
dark, only three euros for general seating. The stadium
ringed with lights and then the black circle of night.
The dirt bullring is wet from a shower, but it promises
to clear up. In comes the first bull, plunging out
of the chute and looking around at us, startled.
Then a crack of thunder and you can see
the rain descend. It´s as if it begins at the stadium
lights, and pours down. A crack of lightning over
the stands, and the crowd begins to climb up over
us, into the canopied cheap seats called gradas.
We move down. We put newspapers over our
heads. Some have pulled out umbrellas, colourful
ones you might find on a beach. We are in the front
row as the rain slams into the dirt. The bull has been
worked over, punctured by picadors and banderillos
and now the matador in his suit of light. But the rain
is the thing. The bull slips, the toreador stumbles, the
bull  passes, turns, and flips onto his side. The bull
is covered in mud.
Will they stop this? The rain eases off, we have great
seats, the royals keep it going (he waves a white
handkerchief). One bull is too weak, so they
call him off. The brass band plays as they bring
in the steers. The steers are the circus clowns
of los toros. They are cavalier, white with patches
of brown, twice as big as the bulls. They cajole the
bull to join them. But he doesnt. He does not
want to leave the ring. His chest heaving, he pisses
on the wet dirt.
Later, after the last bull is killed and dragged
off by the mules in their flags and bells, we
see the bulls hung by a leg, being skinned
and chopped in two with a cleaver the size
of a sheet of paper.
I forgot to mention the best thing we´ve eaten:
half a peeled avocado, with a thin slice of bacalao
covering its round back.


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