His first was not
that way, however. He was not a great bull or even a good one, but he appeared,
when he came skidding into the ring, to be a bull a man could put on a show
with. Armillita went out with the cape, walking with an awkward long-legged
stride, while his pe�nes worked the bull toward him. He took the animal through
a series of simple passes, nothing extravagant or showy, and then chopped him
off short while the crowd settled back. The bull was working straight and
honest and so was Armillita. A fan in the first barrier seats said, "At
least Armillita won't cheat you. He'll give you his best."
The trumpets blew
and the picadors came into the ring and Armillita picked up the bull and
presented him to the first horse. It was going well. The bull charged readily,
thudding its horns futilely but determinedly into the mattress padding
protecting the horse's belly. The bull kept boring in, stronger and stronger,
as the picador shot his lance into the big hump of muscle just behind the neck.
Armillita went in, made the quite, and then decided, since the bull still
seemed too strong, to take it to the second picador for more trimming. But that
was a mistake. The second picador was too zealous and the spectators were
starting to boo even as he leaned into his lance. They could see he was bearing
down too hard, giving the bull too much steel, hurting it too badly, and
fearing the bull would be ruined, they were reacting violently. Armillita went
in and tried valiantly to perform the quite, but the bull would not move away
from the horse and the picador could not remove his lance or else the bull
would have thrown him. By the time Armillita could distract the bull the damage
was done and the crowd had turned permanently ill-humored.
He killed the
bull moderately well, but it made no difference to the spectators. They
believed the animal had been rendered harmless by the picador and that any of
them could have done as well as the matador. Armillita walked back to the
barrier, head down, not bothering to ask for an ear or even a circuit of the
ring as he might well have done.
Manola was no
better with his second bull than his first and it was necessary, before
Armillita's last bull was released, for two attendants to parade around with a
sign saying anyone throwing anything into the ring would be fined 500 pesos.
But it did no good. Manola, because of his exalted position, had been received
with sullen silence. But Armillita was none too good even for such a bullring,
and as soon as his picadors entered the ring the cushions and bottles came
flying. Though these were not intended for Armillita, a bottle nearly hit him
as he went to take the bull away from the first picador. This time he did not
present the bull to the second picador, but instead asked for their retirement.
The crowd cheered that cynically, and he faced the spectators and smiled and
lifted his arms as if to say, "My friends, what else can I do?"
The gray bull was
all he'd expected, stodgy and slow and reluctant to make more than a
head-chopping charge of a few steps. And then, midway through the planting of
the banderillas, it took up a querencia only a few feet from the barrier. This
made the planting of the last set a difficult proposition and gave the crowd a
chance to attack Armillita's second banderillero who, because the bull would
not move, ended up planting them a third of the way down the animal's side.
Again bottles and cushions cascaded into the ring.
to move the bull with the muleta, but it was reluctant. The animal would charge
a few steps when the matador incited it with his knee, but then quickly retreat
before any semblance of a linked pass could be put together.
gave up. He asked and received permission to kill the bull and then walked to
the center of the ring and, in a gesture either sardonic or placating, offered
to dedicate the bull to the crowd. Smiling all the while, he held up his
montera and spun slowly on his heel through a full circle offering the
spectators the bull. But they wouldn't have it. They yelled and jeered and
waved handkerchiefs and some began to leave. Finally he shrugged and walked
back to the barrier for a drink of water. His mouth was very dry, as it always
was in the ring.
sympathetic. "What can you do with such people?" he said. "Don't
let them bother you. Slaughter that ox and let's get the hell out of
to say, "These are the people whom I usually fight for." But he
The bull was
difficult to kill. This was partly because of the kind of animal it was, but
mainly because it had taken a very determined querencia. Armillita could not
move the bull to get its feet lined up so that the spot between the shoulder
blades would be open. Each time Armillita would go in with the sword, the bull
would chop upward with its head, paying little attention to the muleta in the
matador's left hand. Armillita tried twice, taking considerable risks each
time. Each time the sword only penetrated a few inches, to be flipped out by
the bull's muscles. Finally he went to the barrier and took the descabellar
from his volunteer sword handler. "You should have used this in the first
place," his friend said. "No one can blame you for this bull. Kill it
any way you can."