Catch The Bull By The Horn
by Kersie Khambatta
“Hey you guys…ready?”
I was clinging to the top of the mussel bar which stands ten metres high in the centre of a cobbled square surrounded by bars and restaurants.
I am a quiet, reserved man. Why was I there, looking down at the amused faces and outstretched arms of strangers! If they decided to walk away, I would be dead meat! There were others impatiently waiting for me to vacate. I had to take the plunge.
I closed my eyes, imagined I was jumping into a swimming pool, and dived! I am no lightweight. The impact of my hurtling body caused many of them to fall flat on their backs. But I was alive! No broken bones. No bruises.
They pulled me to my feet, and the old man with the wrinkled face and the enigmatic smile gave me back my camera.
“Good shot!” he announced triumphantly. “You show your wife. She be proud of you.” I didn’t tell him that I had lost my wife two years ago, and it was possibly loneliness that made me do crazy things. I thanked him, and walked away.
Champagne and Sangria rained from the sky. An egg war broke out between two opposing teams on either side of the narrow street. Flour bombs burst everywhere. Tomato sauce and mustard stains were treated by the gallants as medals, the bigger the better.
Someone dug his elbow into my ribs, and I groaned, but was pushed along.
Where were they heading? What was going on? A senorita with dark, long hair and a bright, red, flowing dress caught my hand abruptly, and flashed a brilliant smile.
“You tourist?” she asked in a soft, sweet voice. “Come, I show them”.
We sailed along in the sea of faces, some young, some old, but all smiling and happy. There were red-cheeked, chubby children perched on their shoulders, like parrots on pirates.
One of the brats slyly kicked me as he passed by. I made a rude face at him, and he showed me his tongue.
Then I heard bellowing! So that’s what it was! The running of the bulls!
The El Enciero!
“You no have newspaper!”
She was clearly worried. “They beat you. You touch bulls”.
She dragged me into a small, wayside stall, and bought a newspaper. Of course, I paid for it. She then folded it like a sausage, and thrust it into my hands.
“You run with bulls. You touch them newspaper. You no touch hand on bull. No allowed.”
The street was so narrow, ten men wouldn’t have been able to walk abreast.
Then a huge roar.
“They come! Run!” she screamed in my ear, turning me around the way we had come. A mass of tightly-packed bodies went wild. The children were passed over into arms dangling from low balconies.
The women darted into doorways, which closed behind them.
She blurted “Good luck”, propelled me forward and disappeared. That was the last I saw of her. There was only one way for me to go. Faster and faster we went. Round bends and up slopes. My daily run in Hyde Park paid off.
I kept up with my companions. I couldn’t even look around to see how many of us were there. All I was aware of was deep panting. Then I heard snorts and thundering hooves.
People in the houses were yelling and cheering. They were pointing to me and saying something I couldn’t understand.
The ground was shaking with the charge of the maddened bulls. They were now close.
My heart pounded in my chest. I could see them from the corner of my eyes. They were only metres behind, and catching up fast. I could feel the immense power in their heaving, sweating bodies, and evil horns.
Ahead lay a long straight,……… and no escape!
A nudge from behind; I lurched, staggered, nearly lost balance, but luckily swiftly recovered… to carry on.
Then a sharp horn glanced my right side, and I clutched at it without thinking. I just held on to it, like I did to the mussel bar. It felt as hard.
I was lifted into the air. I hung on tighter. The beast tried to dislodge me. It shook its massive, square head violently, all the while galloping madly.
That bull had only one horn! I couldn’t see another.
The other animals were lagging behind. The leader carried me along like I was an empty sack.
The runners ahead entered a vast arena, with no exit. The crowd had been waiting patiently for the show, and when they saw me carried along by the one-horned bull, there was stunned silence!
No shouting, no cheering.
Riders on horses galloped into the inner circle. They wedged each bull between the horses, and slowed the pace gradually. The bulls were winded! Their heavy bodies are not made for distance running.
“Come” said a thick-set man on a white horse. He extended his arm, and I grasped it like a drowning sailor clutches a floating straw. He lifted me onto his horse and we rode towards the stands.
The crowd was standing now!
The military band played, while I walked up the red carpet. The King smiled at me kindly, and shook my hand warmly,
He pinned a medal on me,…….a medal for bravery!
Ah well, that’s when the doorbell rang sharply, and my sleepy eyes opened slowly to a cold, grey, damp, London morning.