The Brave Bulls

Artist and writer, TOM LEA was born in El Paso, Texas, in 1901, teas educated in the LI Paso public schools, and then moved on to Chicago, where he studied at the Art Institute and later became an assistant in muralist John Norton’s studio. In his assignments from 1941 to 1945 as a war artist and correspondent for Life, he covered more than 100,000 miles outside the United States, and at Peleliu he became the first combat artist to go in with the initial assault of an invasion. Tom has earned his living as a painter since he was nineteen years old. and West Texas and its border country have always been his base. His long veneration for the brave bulls and for the men who stand up to them came into sharp focus in 1946 and 1947 when he was painting and writing in Mexico. This abridgment of his forthcoming novel will appear in four installments.



LUIS BELLO woke up in the dark. He had awakened in so many unfamiliar rooms that always when sleep left him now his first thought was to place himself and remember. It took him a moment to decide where he was, in his mother’s house, in the house he had bought for her, in his home town.

His leg hurt. He put his hand on his right thigh and touched the place. That’s just sore from the healing where they took the drain out, Bello said to himself. There’s no more infection. There can’t be any more infection. He ran his hand all over the scarred flesh of the thigh feeling the hollows, the twisted wrinkles, the bumps from old stitches that no longer hurt like the welt.

The bulls have horns, said Luis Bello to himself there in the dark. They got horns all right. It brought a kind of comfort because it was certainly true. There wouldn’t be anything to it if the bulls didn’t have horns. But they did. There in the dark there was something mysterious about the horns.

Luis Bello did not like making mysteries inside of his head. But he was making them now. Here they came, crowding in on him while his ears burned and his eyeballs felt dry looking up into the dark.

I’m off my stride. Seven days home in Guerreras and I’m way goddamned off.

That corrida Sunday and then the old man dying in his chair. My leg. My brother Pepe: I wish it had been a triumph for him Sunday, us fighting together for the first time. It was certainly no triumph. But old Lucie Pedro, that’s the worst. He was a father.

He used to get me up, a long time ago. He used to get me up about this time in t he night when I was a kid without shoes. We milked the cows. We poured the milk in the pans and then broke the eggs in the milk. I remember how we’d bring up the race horses when it was getting light. Those horses were giants with big yellow teeth arching down over me while they sucked loud on the milk and eggs.

Some of that stuff never got to the horses. The uncle tried to feed us, he tried, and I helped him, us Bellos wilhout a father, living in the three rooms with all those yelping cousins, fifteen people always hungry.

The bulls have brought us along, thought Luis Bello. He ran his hand over the deep scar in his left armpit. The bulls have done some good things. All the old uncle ever had to do after I got in the money was sit on a chair. He got a damn good rest before he died. He got a damn nice coffin. Some of the others that bang around here being related to Luis Bello, Christ I’m tired of them.

I wish it was light. He heard a rooster crow outside far away and another answered. I wish I was out of Guerreras. I wish I was with Linda. He turned on his side and as he lay looking wide-eyed into the darkness, for the first time he heard the deep regular breathing of his brother Pepe in bed on the other side of the room. I used to sleep like that, Luis Bello lay thinking.

His mind drifted slowly away from namable things, out into the dark, into the blackness which was the color of the bulls, the color of the old man’s coffin. He drilled out so far into the blackness he fell asleep.

A knock on the door brought him suddenly awake; he opened his eyes and the room was light.

“Luis! It’s Chona. I’ve got a message!”

“Come in, chicken. What do you want?”

A brown-faced littie girl with her hair braided in pigtails opened the door. “Luis, a man from Aguilar’s store is here and says the long distance is calling you on the telephone over there.”

Pepe Bello raised his head from the other rumpled bed in the room. “What’s all this?”

“Long distance for me, she says. It must be Raul. Look, Chonita, tell the man I’m coming as soon as I get dressed.”

The door closed and Luis got out of bed.

“Raul’s the only one that knows how to call me at Aguilar’s. This is early in ihe morning for Raul.

I wonder what he wants.”

“Hope it’s good, “ said Pepe. “Find out what he’s doing for me too, will you, Mano?”

Luis pulled on his pleated pants and yellow sport shirt. “Sure Pepillo, we’ll fix you up.”He straightened the long tabs of the spirty collar, and combed his hair, slicking it back from the careful part. When he had buttoned his tweed jacket, he took a handkerchief from its pocket and wiped the corners of his mouth. Then he cleared his throat and spit in the corner.

“I wish we could get a phone installed in this house. Aguilar’s is a nuisance, Got up, Pepe. We’ll have some coffee after I talk to Raul.”

Luis stepped across the patio, unbolted the door to the street, and walked out into the sun. His eyes flinched from ihe glare of the whitewashed walls as he walked along ihe empty street under the plumes of the tamarisk trees. He came around the corner of the Good Faith Grocery Store and walked in past the smell of roasting coffee, then strong meat, then moth balls, and beyond, to the open door of the office where he smelled the smoke of Aguilar’s morning cigar.

“Ah, Luis!” beamed Aguilar, jumping up from bis desk under the big calendar on the wall. “How are you?" The calendar was lithographed with a gaudy painting of Luis Bello in a veronica with a black bull.

“Well, many thanks,”said Luis, looking at the calendar. “I would like to get long distance again.”

“Ah, Luis, be seated please. Allow me to get the connection. Have a cigar.”Luis lit the cigar while Aguilar stood at the wall telephone.

“Senorita ? Casimiro Aguilar speaking. I now have Luis Bello at my phone ready to speak to Mexico. Yes of course Luis Bello himself, the matador. I await the connection.”Aguilar adjusted a frown over his iron-rimmed spectacles and brushed his mustaches.

“Eh?” said Aguilar finally. “One momenl.”

Luis took the receiver. “Bueno. Luis Bello. Thai you, Raul?”

“This is Raul. Listen Luis, bow ’d you like to be on the card in the Plaza Mexico this Sunday?”

“ Huh ? What’s that ?”

“Volazquez got gored yesterday in Puebla and can’t fight Sunday. This is a break for you. They called me from the hullring office last night and offered to put you on in Velazquez’s place.”

“Okay Raul. Good. What are the bulls?”

“They say they were hand-picked at La Punta. You better get oxer to Monterrey today and catch the plane. Say, yesterday Eladio Gomez phoned me. Wanted to sign you as First Sword on a special what he called extra-fine corrida at Cuenca two weeks from Sunday, the week after the Guadalajara trip.”

“I know those extra-fine corridas at Cuenca. I know them well.”

Luis, I had an idea. They really like you at Cuenca. Why don’t I tell Gomez you will appear in his plaza if he will take Pepe on the card with you?”

“I will toll you why you don’t tell Gomez that. I am goddamned tired of ihe goats and oxen people like him put in the ring for us to slaughter while the crowd throws cushions.”Bello xvas abruptly conscious of Aguilar listening, and he did not go on.

“Fix yourself, man,”said Raul on the phone. “Suppose Gomez got some real bulls for you, fouryear-olds xxith the ancestry in them?”

“He won’t spend the money. I know him.”

“But if Gomez really got hulls, would you and Pepe sign for his corrida two weeks from Sunday?”

“Why not? You tell Gomez when he encloses in his plaza pens six Number One hulls from Las Astas, I will come to Cuenca with Pepe for what is called the most beautiful festival of all. That is a laugh. But you tell Gomez if he gets no Astas he will get no Bellos.”

Raul whistled. “Las Astas at Cuenca? Okay Lius, I’ll tell him. I really want to put Pepe on some cards.”

“Good. I’ll be on the plane from Monterrey t.omorroxv afternoon. Meet me in the car, will you? And listen, tell Linda I’m coming. How is she?”

“Linda’s fine. I’ll lell her.”

“Okay, Raul. Until tomorrow.” He hung up the receixer.

“Many thanks, Don Casimiro. That was my manager, Raul Fuentys. Antonio Velazquez has been gored and I’m taking his place in the Plaza Mexico Sunday.”

“Ah, splendid,” said Aguilar as if he had not heard. He hesitated a moment, touched his spectacles, and then blurted what he had to say:

“I feel deeply, bothering you with a detail at this time, my admired friend Luis, but there is a matter of a grocery bill that has doubtless escaped your attention. A bill for several months of goods I have sold to your mother’s house. It now amounts to some four thousand-odd pesos, and I am sure you would like to liquidate it to aid me in my affairs.”

“Hasn’t my brother Alfredo been taking care of the bill? I send him money for all such things.”

“He has not paid anything here since May.”

“Damn him. I didn’t know it. Give me that statement, Aguilar. I’ll send you a check from Mexico. Thanks for treating my mother with consideration.”


LUIS’S anger grew with every step homeward. Grinding his jaws he raveled out the end of the cigar clenched in his front teeth. It tasted sour. His head pounded, and his stomach felt empty. He threw away the cigar and spit. When he jerked open the door, his mother stood in the patio waiting for him.

“Good morning, son. What did the telephone say?” She saw his anger. “What troubles you?”

“Where’s Alfredo?”

“Help me God, something has happened now! He’s not in the house this morning. Tell me, Luis, what the telephone said!”

“The telephone said nothing about Alfredo. Nothing has happened yet. It’s about lo. He’s been using the money again. This time more than four thousand pesos owed Aguilar since May.”

He held out the statement, forgetting his mother could not read. “He’s no brot her of mine. Not anymore, he isn’t.”

Senora Bello began to weep silently, a thin figure dressed in black mourning for her brother Pedro. She wept now for more than Pedro, for more than anything she could name, standing before her oldest son, Luis, who was a stranger to her from another world. Weeping silently, she blamed Alfredo, but she understood him. She understood her children Carmela, Rosa, Eulalia, te sainted Juan and little Maria who were in Heaven, and even her baby boy Pepe. But not this Luis.

She did not grasp the undreamable life he bought her in a house of her own, matron of a family, mother of a famous man. It confused her. She was not prepared to meet it as she met the old accustomed and familiar anguishes she had always known before Luis went away. So she wept, standing in front of her stranger son, who was disowning one of his brothers now, and who had carried away another, her baby Pepe, away from her forever into a world she did not understand.

She began to listen to what Luis was saying. “— I’ll kick them out. I’ll sell this place and take you to Mexico with me and these good-for-nothings around here can all start scratching for themselves.” Terrified with the threat of being carried away into Luis’s alien world, she sobbed.

Her daughter Rosa heard, and came out the kitchen door. “What in God’s name is wrong now?” she asked, looking at her brother.

“I’m tired of moochers living in this house without shame.”

“ Meaning who? ”

“At this moment meaning Alfredo. It should be easy for you to name others.” He shot a glance at the kitchen door, where Rosa’s husband immediately retired from view.

Eulalia and the fat Aunt Teresa entered the patio just as Pepe came out of his room. Three men and another aunt followed them. Cousin Lupe carrying a baby, and little Chona with the pigtails, hurried out to join the muster.

Luis felt foolish in the middle of this gathering, His eldest sister, Carmela, appeared and walked up to his side. “What happened, Luis?”

Alfredo Bello chose this unfortunate moment to burst info the patio from the street door. Redeyed and grinning, he sidled unsteadily up to his mother.

“Were you worrying about me?" he asked, looking around. “It was a fortunate accident. Thanks to God I can tell you that I am unhurt.”

He barely lifted his eyes toward Luis in the silence. “But I’m afraid the ear is damaged.”

All the old rages gathered into one and rose up in Luis Bello’s throat. He grabbed his brother Alfredo by the collar, yanked him away from his mother, and with all the power of his sword arm and thick bullfighter’s wrist he slapped Alfredo in the face, holding him up and pulling him close.

“Listen you—you. Get out! I’ve had enough of you. Don’t say you’re sorry! You’re through.”

“Open that door, Pepe. Open it!”

“Now Alfredo Bello, you professional brother of a bullfighter and disgrace lo a name, you’re finished. You’re leaving. So help me God if you enter this house again I’ll take the punt ilia my peon uses to cut the ears off my bulls and I’ll carve the guts out of your belly —”

He kicked his brother into the street, slammed the door shut with a crash, and whirled around with his fists clenched, facing his family. They gazed at him paralyzed.

“I’m glad you were all here! You saw It. It’s about time. It shows what I got to think about. Everybody asking for money. You ask me for money in my sleep! I pay for this house, I pay for everything, with nay flesh. My flesh, you understand? The flesh 1 expose lo the bulls while you get rotten with fat!”

The Bello family stood there like oxen, looking at him, the stranger from another world. Then Luis Bello was ashamed. He was ashamed not of his rage, but of the way his own family stood there like oxen. Cart oxen by God, the kind that always gave you trouble. For a moment he was silent, then he turned to his mother.

“Well. I’m sorry. None of this was for you.”He glanced around. “Nor for Pope. He knows. Nor for Carmela.”Finally he almost smiled. “Nor for anyone here. I’m sorry.”

He pul his arm around his mother’s shoulders and spoke to her. “The telephone call was from Raul Fuentes. Sunday I will fight in the Plaza Mexico, taking the place of a man who has been gored. So my visil with you is ending now. This afternoon I go to Monterrey. Let’s have some breakfast together, and finish our visit.”

At two-thirty that afternoon Rosa’s husband went out and found a taxi. Every man in the Bello household tried to help Luis put a handsome pigskin traveling case, initialed LB, in the front seat by the driver. While all the family, and some of the neighbors, stood on the sidewalk around them, Luis kissed his mother good-by. Everybody waved to him as he drove away.


THE four engines droned in the high Mexican sky. Luis Bello, wearing sunglasses, pretended to doze in his airliner chair; he was hoping the lieutenant of cavalry sitting next to him would take the hint and quit talking. The air was not smooth.

Riding a burro is the best way to travel, he said to himself, about to be sick. It’s the best if you got no place to go. But I’m going to fight bulls in the Capital Sunday afternoon.

It was strange to be traveling without the cuadrilla. He was sorry now that he had sent everyone, even Tacho, to Mexico while he stayed alone for ihe funeral and family affairs in Guerreras. His peons were always with him as he went from plaza to plaza; they made traveling hardly noticeable to Luis Bello, who felt somehow naked now without them. He had not traveled alone since he was a kid riding the freight trains, fly style as they called it, hanging on the rods going from town to town and ranch to ranch, looking for bulls to fight. That was fifteen years ago. With his eyes closed he wondered if Linda would be at the airport.

He lot his mind dwell on how she looked at him, trying to remember exactly how she smiled and what she said when he met her at the party with Raul, the night before leaving for Guerreras. He could not remember exactly, but trying lo remember, it gave him a feeling. Il was there all right, and it wasn’t for sale at the butchers’. None of that stuff. It was the casta, the true ancestry, it stuck out all over that girl. It stuck out pretty, like her name Linda, and it impressed Luis Bello. She was flower and cream.

The engines droned on. The minutes and the miles unwound themselves, and the lieutenant talked. The sun went lower than the starboard wing slowly, coloring the windswept clouds over the mountains in the west while long shadows patterned the map of earth below. When the no smoking and seat belt sign flashed on, the map of earth came closer.

Then the Valley of Mexico spread out beneath them, mountain-rimmed and magical in the twilight. The familiar dark peak of Ajusco brooding over Luis’s house somewhere down there in San Angel loomed against the sun’s last glow. Across the valley in the southeast far above the dark space of t he Podregal and the dim mass of trees that marked Xochimileo, the white crests of the two volcanoes caught the glow from the west and stood light and ghostly, incredibly high over ihe gathering dusk in the valley where twinkling city lights awakened. The salty shores of Texcoco below were pale like snow in the twilight and the waters were black.

He felt the plane’s flaps and wheels come down. While the pilot banked to shoot the approach, and while the lights below got closer, Luis swallowed, and ran a pocket comb carefully through his hair. When the wheels touched and rolled along the ground slowing, he thanked Mary Mother of God.

Raul Fuentes, handsome and smoothly tailored, was waiting for him inside the railing by the Immigration desk in the terminal.

The inspector spoke to Luis Bello and waved him by, while the passengers from the States lined up to present their papers.

“Hi, traveler,”said Raul in his familiar hoarse voice. “Welcome!”

They gave each other a quick, easy abrazo.

“What goes, Rig Agent?”

In the Customs room Tacho the swordhandler was waiting, with his tweed cap in his hand.

“Tachito! What passes?”

“Only buttocks,”said ihe swordhandler, grinning. “There’s your suitcase. Give me the claim ticket.”

Luis and Raul started through the terminal while Tacho waited for the baggage. Luis could feel people in the crowd looking his way and nudging each other saying. “That’s Luis Bello.” One of them sang out, “Hola, Luis!" and the matador held up his right hand and smiled as he walked, with his coat over his shoulders like a cape. He still wore his sunglasses; they marked his profession outside the ring almost as much as a pigtail in the old days before Belmonte.

“Your car’s over here,”said Raul.

The Buick convertible was sleek and shining in the light. It had cost Luis Bello thirty thousand pesos, a whole corrida, to buy that car. It was bright blue, and beautiful to him, and he smiled to see it again.

Luis and Ravil got in the back seat. When Tacho had stowed the luggage, he took his place as chauffeur, and headed the big Buiek for town.

“Say Luis, I talked to Gomez again about Cuenca on December Fourth. You know, about Fepe and you. You should have heard him when I said you wouldn’t come unless he had bulls of Las Aslas.

“I found out it’s a festival at Cuenca, on the town’s Saint’s Day, Santa Barbara. I told him he ought to celebrate it right; that as far as our fees were concerned, we would be reasonable.

“Maybe you feel something about Santa Barbara’s Day, Luis?”

Luis Bello wore a medal of Santa Barbara when ho went into the ring; he was silent for a moment, thinking the things he would not say. “It’s just to give Pepe a chance.” he said finally. “ Besides, we fight for money, Raul. Not Saints. Did Eadio Gomez call it all off ?”

“He finally said he was going to get in touch with old Don Tiburcio and see what the bulls would cost. I stirred his sporting blood. He could have some real propaganda for a change; I he I wo Bellos! Bulls of Las Astas! Gala Corrida of the Day of Santa Barbara! He’ll sell every seat.

They came up to Insurgentes on a cross street, and Tacho stopped the car until he could turn left and nose into the stream of traffic headed out toward San Angel. “Did you tell Linda I was coming tonight?" Tans finally blurted.

“Sure I told her, Luis. She already read it in the paper. I asked her if she wanted to come out to the airport, but she said she had an engagement and was sorry.”

“Oh,”said Luis. “I just thought I’d ask about her. She seemed like a very nice girl.”

The boulevard took them suddenly by the Plaza Mexico. Over beyond the unfinished underground parking lot and past the Sports Stadium, Luis saw again the vast silhouette of the plaza curving into ihe darkness. A lighted billboard at the corner, by the biggest bullring in the world, announced Sunday’s cartel:



It looked lonely and mysterious with only the three names lighted and alive there at the corner. The only sound was the hum of the big Buick as they went by.

Beyond the Obregon Monument, Tacho turned the car up the slope into San Angel. They drove past the familiar domes of the convent and the empty plaza where the street lamps cast a chalky light on the undersides of the trees. Beyond the Church of San Jacinto the car climbed a steeper, darker way where the smell of pine drifted and the street became a lane flanked by the walls of old houses and gardens living with bougainvillaea. Slowing a stop before a big barred double gate, Tacho shattered the evening quiet of the walled lane with a violent blast of the Buick’s horn. The gates swung open and the ear went in and stopped by the lighted entrance of the two-storied house in the high-walled garden. Tacho cut the engine.

“Back in the bull pen,”said Luis.

“Luis,” said Raul, “I have an engagement. I have to go back to the Ritz. Sure glad you’re home. You want to see Valles tomorrow ; I’ll call you in the morning and we’ll meet.”

“Sure, call me in the morning, Raul. I’ll take a little supper now, and then make myself some sleep. Tacho, drive Raul home to the Ritz.”

The lonely anticlimax of his arrival bore down upon Luis Bello suddenly. Irritated, he walked over to the radio, (lipped it on, and tuned it to music, loud. Slanding by a window he looked out into the darkness, drawing on his cold cigar, absently watching the tiny toy lights of traffic moving along the slope of the highway over the mountain to Cuernavaca. The cook sei his table, and brought in his supper. He ate without relish, alone. The light over the table seemed too strong to him, now that his sunglasses were put away. The radio moaned that a girl had sinned and regretted; Luis Bello thought he could still hear aircraft engines, droning in tango time.

It’s no use to call her, thought Luis Bello. She wouldn’t be home; she told Raul she had an engagement. The hell with her. She’s probably drinking champagne with some Embassy pimp. Besides, I got to face bulls, Sunday.


IT WAS almost noon when Lala brought chocolate and put it on the table bv Linda’s bed.

“Sonora,”said the maid, “shall I open the curtains and let the morning come in?”

Linda straightened her legs under the ruffled counterpane. Wit hout opening her eyes, she nestled her jaw in the hollow of her bare shoulder. “Ai, Lala. I was having a dream.”She sighed. “ What day is this?”

“This is Friday morning, the eighteenth of November. It’s almost noon. Shall I bring in the papers? ”

“No, no papers. I’ll have my chocolate when I’m awake. The champagne Iasi night

Linda finally opened her eyes, carefully. The foamy hot chocolate was fragrant; she turned toward live table at her side. Beyond the edge of the ruffled satin canopy cascading from above her head, the crystal table top bore its accustomed burden, the silver clock and cigarette box, the silver tray and chocolate pot, the fragile blue china and something that brought a puzzled wrinkle across the smooth roundness of Linda s forehead. By the satin with the silver and china she saw three massive books stacked on her bed table. Their blunt titles were burned like brands upon their raw leather backs: LOS TOROS.

“The bulls?” she breathed, half awake. “My God.” Then she remembered.

Luis Bello. I was going to read about toreros and know all about the bulls. Those are the books Raul Fuentes brought last night. They tell everything, he said. What a lot! They look like dictionaries of all the tongues.

“They have beautiful pictures,” said Lala, pouring the chocolate.

When Linda had bathed and powdered she sat on a blue divan to read while she awaited lunch. Her honey-colored hair, drawn up high and smooth from the nape and fixed with a golden-headed comb, looked well with the pale blue negligee she wore. Relaxed and languid, she could feel the warm inner sides of her naked legs pressing together under the chiffon. Her chin touched the hollow of her neck where the scent of the powder lingered, and when her eves strayed from the book she held, she looked down the’ V between her breasts and watched her own breathing.

She found on page 119 in the third volume of Los Toros a formal tauromachian biography of BELLO GARCIA (LUIS). Studying the photographs and the portrait drawing by Cabral that accompanied the dry text, before she began to read the facts of the matador’s life, she decided Luis Bello was a very attractive man.

Cabral’s drawing showed cruelty in Luis Bellos mouth, yet she did not find it echoed in his eyes. A man with a face like that must think barbarous things nevertheless, she thought. He probably did them too. A torero must have an enormous life. Her gaze left the book and wandered down the V as she thought of Luis Bello’s mouth, remembering the white teeth. He was undoubtedly barbarous!

Luis called her on the telephone at twenty minutes after five, when she had returned from the hairdresser’s. She used her low voice with a kind of anticipation in it, so that he could hear the rich intake of her breath when she laughed and answered what he said.

She would love to have dinner with him. At ten would be fine. Wherever he liked. He didn’t? Well, Ciro’s was clearly very public. La, Luis Bello! No. She liked Club 123. Very much indeed. She would be ready.

She was also spectacular, in a gray gown and white furs, when she came into her drawing room a little after ten, smiling at Luis. The handkerchief showing from his breast pocket was very carefully folded, and he was smoking a cigarette.

Outside by the driveway gate he helped her in the front seat of his car, and walked around to get in at the wheel. He hadn’t dreamed it up. Here it was. What if there were bulls on Sunday? This was only Friday and look at it now!

Sitting there beside him in the convertible, the flower and cream was not so formidable. It was nice. Luis felt nice himself; his self-consciousness withered away before he had driven out of the Lomas,

“Raul Fuentes says you will be very busy now,”Linda said in her low mellow voice, “for three months, every Sunday in the plazas, and then maybe you will go to Spain again in May.”

“ I hope so, God granting.”

“I haven’t seen you in the ring, you know,” Linda said.

“ You haven’t? Maybe that’s better.”

“Why do you say such a thing?”

“You like the brave festival?”

“To be truthful I have not seen much of it, Luis Bello. We lived so long in the Argentine and Paris and Cuba. Raul Fuentes says you are the best.”

“Raul is an agent. Did you know Raul a long time? ”

“Our families were friends. He is very fond of you.”

“Well, he presented me to Senora Linda Castillo de Calderon. I am enchanted. You like being in Mexico again?”

“It’s very interesting to be back.”

“I would like to call you Linda because the name fits.”

“La. I suppose I should be calling you Don Luis Luis!” Her eyes laughed at him in the moving lighls as they turned into a side street from the Paseo.

“I think it’s good enough, just Luis.”

On Calle Liverpool he parked the car a few spaces away from 123, and they walked into the lights under the striped awning. The doorman looked surprised, grinning at Luis Bello; he opened the door with a flourish. “Ole!” he allowed himself to say.

“It will be all over town tomorrow,” whispered Linda as they stood waiting for the maitre to seat them.

“The same, if we were having barbecue together in Tlalpan,” laughed the matador. “Jabber, jabber.”

Their table was in a pleasant unnoticeable corner; they sat beside each other on the upholstered seat built along the mirrored wall. They ordered coq au vin while a pianist played sentimental gringo ballads from an alcove beyond the chef’s salad table. The dim light added art to Linda’s gray gown and pearls, to her dark golden hair; she seemed flawless, smiling at Luis.

In some way she communicated this flawlessness to him, so that Luis felt he said the right thing, did the right thing, smoothly, there in the dim light with the music, sitting with her, eating with her, talking with her. It exhilarated them both, as if they each were demonstrating triumphs to each other. It was better than the wine they drank.

Quite suddenly the intoxication, the feeling of intimacy, changed pace.

“You’ve been in love, Luis? Been married?


“ Your wife?”

“That was the first year I was matador de toros. W hile I was in Lima she died. Typhoid.

“You loved her? Tell me her name.”

“ Barbara. I was a kid.”

“I loved Jaime. When I was a kid, as you say.

“Lucky man.”

“Not so lucky I guess.”

“ Haul told me about him. Killed playing polo. But we all get killed! Or else die. -lust die.”

“Oh Luis, do we live any, before that?”

He believed she meant it. He took a swallow of brandv; the bulls, everything, always came back.

“You do, Linda. Carai!

“Jaime didn’t love me.

“Tell me,” said Luis, looking at her after a pause, “what are you doing like this, Linda? I’m torero. It is something that you are with Luis Bello tonight. It gets more every minute. But I don t know your type because you are better than that. You got a family. You’re—”

“Their disgrace il you want to know, Luis Bello. I have only aunts and uncles and they are stupid. Stupid! Jaime’s family is a barbarity. In Buenos Aires. I am finished with them all, completely. Luis. I have nothing I can do well, and nothing to do now but —”

“Don’t tell me,” he broke in, holding up his hand. They both laughed. “Let’s have a brandy.”

“Tell me, Luis, how does one learn to be a torero ? ”

“Well, I guess you watch the bulls, and the bulllighters, and then you try it yourself,”said Luis. “The main thing is to stand still while you’re trying. You learn all the good stuff from the bulls and yourself while you’re standing there.”

She leaned on the table with her chin on her hands. “It’s rare,” she said. “How does it happen ? ”

“It’s hard to say. You really want to know, Linda? I’ll tell you. To light bulls a little worm has got to bite vou. He gives the fever. The little worm bites a lot of people but it takes a real man to get the real fever. Bullfighting starts from here.” He indicated his middle, somewhere below the table. “Then, it goes up here.” He pointed to his head. “And it comes out here.” He worked his wrists. “That’s all.”

“Starting with that little worm,”she said, laughing with him. “ I see!

The singing band of mariachis that took the pianist’s place changed the tempo of Club 123. The tenor smiled at Luis as they started Guerreras, The Plgce Where I Was Born.

“A scandal is arming itself,” said Luis. “Let’s get out of here. Shall we go someplace where it’s darker, and dance?”

“You ought to take me home, Luis. Don’t you have to fighi bulls Sunday?”

“They’ll wait.”

“You realh had better take me home,”she said when they were in the ear. “ Luis, I want to see you in the plaza Sunday.”

“It’s not a very good cartel,” he said. “But you come. Maybe I can show you something.”

“ I know you will.”

“I’ll ask Raul to take you. He can explain it as it happens.”

“That would be wonderful.”

The trees of Chapultepee whished by fast as they passed under the wide branches; the stars were bright between the dark clustered leaves.

“Am I really taking you home this early?” he asked, as the ear climbed the Lomas hills.

Oh, it was there. It was there for sure and he was just taking her home.

“Here is ihe turn, to your left, Luis. You are really taking me home.”

She had a key that unlocked the gate in front of the dark house and another that unlocked the door and she was trembling. Even her lips were trembling.

“O Luis, no, O God,” she whispered, “O—”

“Here,” said Luis Bello, “and here and here. And here,” with the wave mounting in the yielding trembling softness under the turs, in the dark.

The morning star was up when he headed the car for San Angel. He stopped on the way and had a bowl of warm broth at the street stand by the carbarns of Indianilla.


FOR the hundredth time Eladio Gomez took the folded telegram from his breast pocket and read it to look for something he might possibly have missed. He knew il by heart.


He was too far in the trap to get out now.

Yet he had to admit to himself a certain pride. He had never been asked to Las Astas but he was going now. To the greatest bull ranch in Mexico, on business. He fingered the yellow paper of the telegram, the final bait to the trap.

The wheels on the rails saiel only click click clack in a tentative way. Five hours late. Powdery dust churned into the chair car. It lined the nostrils, stung the eyes in the hazy light from the lamps over the long dusty aisle. It reduced the passengers to a torpid state of resignation. Most of them had closed their eves, trying to doze on the gritty plush, while Gomez sat staring into the darkness outside. A baby cried somewhere ahead. The train jerked, and the cuspidor sloshed by the empty beer bottles at Eladio Gomez’s feet.

He folded the telegram again and put it in his pocket, next to his billfold. When he heard the door open at the back end of the car he fell the cold and smelled the billow of new dust that rolled in with the louder clicking of the wheels on the rails. He turned in his seat to look back.

It was the brakeman holding a lighted lantern He pointed his finger at Gomez.

“Cienleguas!” he barked.

“By God,”mumbled Eladio Gomez, reaching for the overcoal and the pasteboard suitcase on the rack over his head. He set his suitcase down on the thick dust in the vestibule and put on his overcoat, while the train slowed to a stop in the darkness.

“Cienleguas!” said the brakeman again, hopping off with his lantern.

Gomez went down the steps with his suitcase and stepped off in the dark. Far up the track he saw the one dim light of the station house, up by the engine. Nothing else. He started walking.

Somewhere off in the dark a dog barked the long bark of a country dog, challenging Gomez to Cienleguas. And then another dog, closer, and then two others, closer yet, and then a regular niggersupper of barking dogs out there in the dark. Headlights. He could see them. Then he heard the rumble with the dogs barking, and the rattle and the sound of the motor as the headlights came toward the station.

It was a five-ton truck when it rolled up and stopped. Loaded on the flat bed behind the cab Eladio Gomez could dimly see shapes that made him happy. The truck was from Las Astas all right. The shapes were boxes for shipping brave bulls.

“Senor? For Las Astas?" the driver said, getting out of the cab.


“All, senor,” he said, taking off his vaquero’s hat. “Policarpo Cana at your orders.” He bowed his head with old back-country courtesy, and reached for the suitcase.

“Eladio Gomez. Much pleasure.”

“The hour is late,” said Policarpo when he had gotten the gears shifted and the dogs were barking again. “I feel deeply. I saw the train from the hill. I hurried,” He cut in sharply at one of the dogs but missed.

“How far is it to the hacienda?” Eladio asked.

“Twenty-two kilometers, more or less,” Policarpo said. “A short way, by machine.”

He pulled his sombrero down tighter and pushed the accelerator. The truck lurched forward in the darkness, eating the uneven ribbon of the road that turned and twisted ahead white in the headlights, bumping by the thickets of nopal, the dark mesquite in the draws where the dust whirled out under the wheels, and the long rattling flying stretches through the grass over the hills. The chalky pale road plunging toward him had an effect on Eladio Gomez’s eyes. He closed them, and nearly fell asleep bouncing on the seat with the cigarette burning in his hand.

At the top of a rise Policarpo got out and opened a gate, drove the truck through, and closed the gate again. Down a long slope they came at last into the headquarters of Las Astas. They drove in past the dark adobe hills and stone walls, through a narrow lane, and ground to a stop in front of the big house lurking in the darkness behind a courtyard wall. “ This way,”said Policarpo, carrying the suitcase.

The ancient arched doorway to the big house was wide open; Eladio Gomez followed his guide into the patio beyond. A single bare light bulb cut a pale hole in the gloom of the battered columns that flanked them as their footsteps sounded on the flagstones around the patio.

“The toilet,” whispered Policarpo, pointing to n. dark door. “And here is your room.”

The door squeaked. Inside, Policarpo groped around above his head, and found the light bulb, and turned it on. The room was pink. Over in a corner by a small rug was a brass bed with a purple spread, a bureau, a wardrobe that leaned at an angle, and a straight chair.

“Manolete,” whispered Policarpo, pointing, “He slept there, in that bed, when he came to the tientas. May God care for him now in Glory! Good night, senor.”

Eladio Gomez stood alone in the middle of the pink room, before he went to the toilet.

Las Astas. Where they raised the greatest bulls in the Americas, Where a bull cost six thousand pesos.


GOMEZ felt dry and brittle when he a woke in the dim pink room and the cold. He dressed quickly, shivering, and took a nip of tequila from the bottle in his suitcase before he stepped out into the patio, into a day at Las Astas.

Buddy light from the early sun warmed the weathered arches and carved stone tops of the columns on the opposite portico, but the rest of the patio was still in chilly blue shadow when he stepped down on the flagstones and looked up between the columns at the pale spotless sky. With his hands in his pockets he sauntered out into the morning.

Peons stood around outside, waiting for their foreman. They lounged by t he tall open door of the saddle house, by the truck with the bull boxes, by the sunlit walls, warming themselves in the light from the sky, the “stove of the poor” that climbed bright and promising over the hills in the east. They stood in the sunlight gathering unhurriedly the direction and the desire for the work of the day, while the dew dried, and the horses were saddled. In the west the Sierra rose up pale blue and beautiful, like a promise, above them.

“Good morning,” said Eladio Gomez, walking out the courtyard gate. Something in his citydwelling heart expanded there in the open sunlight. His senses reached out beyond the clay they lived in and found the tidings good.

He looked out across the markings in the sunny dust, the tracks of hoofs and paws, the tangled prints of cart wheels and truck tires, of boots and sandals and naked feet, and out beyond the open space he saw the stone pile of the bull corrals with their heavy gates, and walked out to examine them.

As he came around a corner, three horsemen appeared in the lane under the pepper trees. He recognized the rider on the big sorrel. Drawing closer, the horse pitched forward suddenly, answering the spur. Ten paces from where Gomez stood, it reared high, spinning on its hind legs, coming down facing Gomez smartly as the rider grunted “Ho!” and dismounted, throwing down the reins.

“Senor Gomez! ”

Don Tiburcio Balbuena came forward, extending his hand. He was tall, spare, with white mustaches, and he was dressed in tight leather charro clothes, well worn, under a magnificent sombrero with a hat string biting into his monumental chin.

“ You arrived, Senor Gomez. Now you know where your house is.” His voice was deep and strong as a bull’s.

“Eladio Gomez at your orders, Don Tiburcio.”

“At yours, Senor Gomez. I feel deeply I did not meet you last night. . . . The lateness of the hour —”

He walked over and caught up his reins,

“You had some breakfasts?”

“Not yet.”

“Neither have we,” said Balbuena. “Tuerto, take these horses. We are going to eat. We’ll get Serafina, that old cow, to put something on the table.” His spurs were like bells, on the flagstones. “Serafina!”

They had a tumbler of claret first. Then canned asparagus laid out on a platter, soaked in vinegar, to whet their tongues; then Spanish sardines and claret and fried beef and frijoles with plenty of chili and more claret.

“You need a foundation to look at bulls in their pastures,” said Balbuena, picking his teeth. “Tell me what you have in mind for your corrida, friend Gomez.”

“Well,” said Eladio, drawing a breath. “Don Tiburcio, as you know, my plaza is modest. The corridas there are the best I can afford, but the box office is limited. I am forced to practice economy to keep my enterprise sound. I seldom pay the high fees currently received by ranking toreros, nor can I afford the kind of bulls great plazas buy.”

“I understand clearly.”

“The season at Cuenca usually opens on the Fourth of December, as the main feature of the festival of our town’s patron, Santa Barbara. This year I thought I might make that first corrida, something special, if I could manage. I am about to sign Luis Bello as First Sword.”

“Luis Bello,” Don Tiburcio said. “A real torero, and my good friend. He’s in the Plaza Mexico this afternoon; we’ll listen to the corrida on the radio. Luis says his career was born at Las Astas; he came here as a boy herding horses.”

“He wants Las Astas bulls at Cuenca, Don Tiburcio. I want them too—” Gomez added. “That’s why I came —”

“You ought to have them. Who’s alternating with Luis?”

“He wants his kid brother Pepe on the card.”

“The kid, eh? Who else?”

“Nobody yet. And if I get Las Astas Dulls, I can’t afford six of them, nor three toreros. I can’t.”

“Then what you are thinking is this: a mano a mano, a hand to hand, between the two brothers. And only four bulls.”

“What do you think of it?”

“Well — why not? A short one. But qualify not quantity. Something special. The Great Swordsman of Guerreras with hulls of the first class from Las Astas. What’s wrong with that?”

“The only tiling is the kid. Pepe. That part don’t seem so strong. It’s no mano a mano because it’s no heated competition.”

“Luis insists on the kid of course?”

“That’s it.”

“Go on, Gomez. You know Luis will put oti a show. You know that. And the kid will be trying. He will be trying, with good bulls. And the two brothers together in the ring will give a color, a certain interest.”

“The Cuenca public is hard, Don Tiburcio.”

“The public anywhere is hard, my friend. It’s a gamble. From my standpoint, from yours, from the toreros’, from the public’s, it’s a gamble. Everybody risks something. Whether it’s the price of a back row seat on the sunny side, or death on the horns, everybody has to risk something.”

“It’s the only thing to do, I guess,” said Eladio Gomez.

“I’m going to take you out now and show you some bulls for the Bello boys at Cuenca,” said Balbuena. “I have something in mind.”


OUT at the feed lot they leaned with their chins on their hands, looking over the high wall. The peon that went with them threw rocks at the bulls in the enclosure, so that they stood up, alert, in the shade of the huisache.

“I will take the two reserves from this encierro, Gomez, and two from another. You understand that these art’absolutely Number Ones. I will show you the book when we go to the house. Write down those numbers, 74 and 107, and we will check their ratings in the registry.”

“They are wonderful bulls, Don Tiburcio. But I can’t pay the price you get for them at the big plazas. Have you got —”

“I have something in mind,” said the dueno. “Now let’s look at the other pair I want to show you in the lot down the lane.”

The peon got the other encierro up, throwing more rocks. “Ho! Toros! Ho!”

One of the bulls in the enclosure stood out from all the rest. His horns were good, turning slightly toward each other, like parentheses. His barrel and legs were well shaped and powerful, matched in size and line with the other bulls. But he was ugly. He had a marked Roman nose. Coarse hair grew under his jaws like a beard, along the brisket, under the belly to the pizzle. And the tassel of his tail was missing. He was a whiskered, bobtailed bull.

“What’s that one doing in there?” asked Gomez. He sensed the impending offer. He understood now what Balbuena might have in mind.

“Listen,”said Balbuena. “That nose and that hair are just one of those rare matters that crop up in breeding. There is nothing wrong with that bull, Gomez. Unfortunately a coyote nipped the end of his tail off when he was a calf, and left him rabon. But I gave him four stars at his tienta. I’ll show you in the book. Number 23. Write that down. You can see he’s the amo, the master of that encierro, now. I’ve had my eye on him since he lost his tail. He deserves a torero. I say he is a Senor Toro! ”

“People expect something different from that, wearing the green and gold ribbons. No, Senor Balbuena! That buffalo would make people laugh and then get mad and throw cushions!”

“All right, Gomez. Look. Granted I can’t sell Rabon to the big boys. They say he’s ugly. All right. I say I like the bull. I say he will wear my ribbons very well. You take the bobtailed bull along with three other Number Ones, and we will do business. I’ll give you that Number 37, the pretty one by the wall, to go with Rabon.”

“How much?” Gomez asked. He was sweating.

“For four selected Number Ones I can gel above twenty thousand pesos in the Capital this season. What can you afford?”

“Fifteen thousand? Gomez asked.

Tiburcio Balbuena broke into a laugh. “Gomez, the devil sits on the shoulders of hagglers. Take the bulls for sixteen thousand.”

“I’ll take them.”

“Good. Now. I want to find Tuerto and have him put your four together so they’ll get used to each other and not cause injuries in the pens at Cuenca.”

Sitting alone on a bench in the courtyard sunlight, waiting for his host to return, Gomez probed at the work and the worry he saw ahead, promoting the half-born corrida. It was hard to wait until he could notify Raul Fuentes, to get that signature on the dotted line. He wished it were train time. If the Bellos refused a mano a mano with the four bulls . . . well . . . that would be the fat pearl in the crown! That would chill him. He was glad when Don Tiburcio walked into the courtyard.

Gomez had not seen the parlor in the big house. He was surprised it was there, when his host opened a door from the patio and asked him in.

“Ai! What time is it?” Balbuena asked. “We’re forgetting the corrida!” He turned on the radio. “What station do you get it best in Cuenca?”

“XEW,” said Gomez.

“The same out here,” said Balbuena, twisting the dial so that the red needle pointed straight upon the kilocycle band. “Don Verdades is not a bad narrator. But we’re late.”

When the tubes warmed, a blare of sound blasted out at them.

Bello is citing the bull with muleta in right hand. There! No. no. The bull did not follow! Bello chopped with the rag from horn to horn. He is having difficulty adjusting. Now he tries again, approaching, for a two-handed pass with the cloth held high. There! But a very mediocre high pass. The bull does not turn for a repeat. Luis Bello is trotting after the bull. There is some whistling from the crowd.

“This is very dull, friends of the radio audience. Bello is angry. The Swordsman of Guerreras has not shown us anything yet this afternoon. He has not shown his usual feeling of domination.

“He is chopping at the horns again, without undue risk. There is more whistling. Loud remarks from the sunny side—”

“Bad!” Eladio Gomez said.

“Friendly listeners,” said the voice on the radio, “Luis Bello has just made two inconclusive passes with the right hand, and has continued chopping at the horns. Bello is being intelligent and discreet with a difficult bull, but his work is without spirit. The crowd demands more. Bello has given up the idea of developing a faena. He is trying to square the bull for a sword thrust. There is whistling and booing.

“The sword hit bone! It’s still in Bello’s hand! He’s squaring again, mounting the sword. Oh! Bello is having a bad time! He hit solid bone again and the sword bent and whistled into the air. He’s disarmed, the muleta is hanging on the horns. Somebody has just thrown a cushion. More cushions! Bello is at the barrera taking another sword and rag. He’s sweating ink.”

“Fiasco,” Gomez said.

“There!” said the radio voice. “Bello has delivered half the blade. It is un the bias. It is not sufficient to bring the bull down! There is a scandal of cushions and whistling. Bello is attempting to sever the spinal cord at the base of the skull with a descabello. One jab. No good. Another. O ladies and gentlemen! The Plaza Mexico is the scene of a near riot!”

The roar blurred the broadcaster’s voice.

“At last.” Balbuena and Gomez heard it with difficulty. “The ninth intent to descabellar is successful. The ninth! The bull is dead, the mules are coming out. The demonstration continues. Bello is walking very slowly now, across the ring. His head is down. I see tears on the face of Luis Bello, Ladies and gentlemen.”

“Holy Mother,” Balbuena said. He filled his glass. “But they all have afternoons like that. They all have them. It starts with something very small, and once it’s started, the devil builds a monument.”

A gloom descended upon the impresario of the plaza of Cuenca. Luis Bello would be a savage this week. He would be a son of filth to deal with, signing a contract with a fiasco still in his teeth. He might not come to Cuenca at all. He might go into a slump and be terrible even if he came to Cuenca. Gomez looked up at the bull heads, the bull pictures, the bull business, that surrounded him, and he thought of sixteen thousand pesos, and he hated the bulls. He wished he owned a grocery store.

It happened suddenly during the fourth bull. Skinny Salazar had been the soul of caution, the competent old craftsman on tired legs, working his last animal of the afternoon, for money.

The tone of Don Verdades’s voice jerked Gomez and Balbuena up in their chairs.

“Sacred Name, the bull has Salazar! Ahh! Ai ai ai! Oh, friends! Ai!” The voice was silent. The static popped and crackled. Balbuena jumped up and turned the volume knob, waiting, with a wrinkle like a gash between his brows, with the static crashing.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the voice resumed, trying to control itself. “Friends. This is Don Verdades at the Plaza Mexico. Juan Salazar has been gored, horribly gored, by the fourth bull of the afternoon. They are carrying Juan to the infirmary. His blood stains the sand, stains his clothes. He appears unconscious.

“Luis Bello,” continued the radio, “whose cape was prominent in the rescue, Luis Bello has muleta and sword, is walking out to kill the Salazar bull. The bull has a wet horn, ladies and gentlemen. The horn is red. Bello is squaring, mounting the blade. There it is! Now we have the great Swordsman of Guerreras! A tremendous lunge in over the horns, ladies and gentlemen. An enormous volapie by Luis Bello! A revenge by Luis Bello. The bull is dead! A terrible drama. Bello stands over the beast. Bello has thrown the muleta on the ground; he is walking to the barrera, wiping the blood of the bull from his sword hand.”

The voice of Don Verdades was hoarse and tired as it came with the static to the two waiting listeners at Las Astas. It recounted without excitement the regular progress of the fifth bull toward death at the hand of Luis Bello before an unresponsive, almost silent plaza.

“The crowd is not seeing the ring. The crowd is imagining a white room under the plaza. It is waiting for word from under the bright lights in the white room,”said Don Verdades.

Young Chato Palacios was placing a pair of banderillas on the last bull of the afternoon, his bull, when the word came.

“Attention! Attention, all Mexico. Juan Salazar, beloved veteran matador of Teotihuacan, is dead. He died in the infirmary of the Plaza Mexico in the Capital of the Republic approximately three minutes ago, as a result of wounds suffered at the horns of a bull in this afternoon’s corrida, reported to you by Don Verdades, radio station XEW. The name of another glorious martyr is now inscribed on the golden catafalque of the brave festival! Juan Salazar is dead. The nation’s heart mourns. Rest in peace, Juan Salazar, torero.”

” I’ve got to get the train tonight,” Eladio Gomez said to his host. “The train to Mexico, not Cuenca!”

“We’ll get you to Cienleguas in time. I think I’ll go with you, Gomez. To pay my respects to the remains, Salazar sat in this room many times. I didn’t think the bulls would ever get him. He wasn’t the type. The public will make him a hero now for a couple of days while they bury him, after making him a cynic while he lived, past his day. Dying on the way down.”

“I’m wondering about Luis Bello,” Gomez said, “My corrida.”


WHEN the Bello cuadrilla fought in Mexico they dressed for the ring at Luis’s house; afterwards they always returned together to San Angel where they could bathe and change to their street clothes again. On evenings after triumphs, friends and fans swarmed to the house where Luis held open court with his cuadrilla, accepting congratulations while his callers rehearsed his exploits to each other and prolonged his triumph. It was different after an afternoon without luck. The fans went to pay court to a more fortunate matador then; or if they were confirmed Bellistas, they went home glum, to wait for another day. Only a faithful few would come to offer their comforts after a gray afternoon in the plaza.

But this evening as Raul drove up the narrow lane there were cars and a crowd by the gate to the matador’s house. Tonight Luis Bello was no hero; he was contact man with a tragedy, to be touched if possible, morbidly, and to mourn with.

When Luis and his men got out of the car in the garden they were surrounded. Stiff and sore, with the sweat drying cold on their silks, they wished for no company, neither mourners nor enthusiasts, but they had them. Luis allowed a few of the faithful and the influential to embrace him, but he answered none of their words. Raul Fuentes skillfully assumed the public relations of his shaken matador.

Upstairs, with no less skill, Tacho drew a hot bath and got Luis Bello’s hair unfastened from the black velvet button of the pigtail pinned on the back of his head; got him out of the scuffed slippers, the bloody gold-crusted jacket with the black band on the left sleeve, the spangled vest and the sash and the wrinkled satin tie, the skin-tight glittering taleguilla, the stained embroidered shirt, the dirty pink stockings, the gritty while socks, the long sweaty underwear, the shining silver medals of La Virgen de Guadalupe and Santa Barbara from around his neck.

Luis Bello got into the hath where his flesh seemed to melt outward away from him in the hot water, pulling the tense knots out of his Hat empty belly, away from his arms and his legs floating in the heat, dissolving the knots out of his shoulders, and finally from the inside of his tired skull. He felt better when Raul came upstairs.

“Raul, I never even noticed. What in hell did you do with Linda? I forgot.”

“Some people took her home. The Galvez Ramiros were sitting next to us. They took her; I went to find you. Listen, you better stay with me at the hotel where I can block the fans and the phone calls until after the funeral. It’s no good being around here. Everybody can get at you and make you nervous. There are two reporters downstairs now, more coming, and everybody seems to think the idea is to cry. Tacho, you can handle them here; I’ll handle them at the hotel. We won’t tell anybody where Luis is.”

It was raining when they drove into town. The windshield wipers clacked and the water whished, thrown bv the wheels on the black shining streets, in the silence. There was no talk. Raul bundled over the wheel, intent on driving. Luis sat with his hands in his trench coat pockets. lie had an unlighted cigar in his teeth.

The newsboys were screaming the name of Juan Salazar in the rain, along with the lottery tickets, by the hold door. At the lobby desk in the Ritz, Raul left strict instructions. He was not in. Luis Bello was not with him.

They ordered dinner in the room. On the day of a corrida a torero newer eats a meal until his work is done; Luis Bello was usually ravenous after an afternoon in the plaza. Tonight, as he sat at ihe table the waiter brought to Raul’s rooms, the food stuck in Luis Bello’s throat.

“Can you give me a brandy, Raul? I’m not hungry.”

“Quit worrying, Luis. There’s plenty more Sundais when things will he different.”

“It won’t take many more Sundays like this one, senor mine.”

“Juan was never the torero you are.”

“He was pretty damn good. Raul, I want to be smarter with the money. Will you help me be smarter? A real program. I’ll listen.”

“You’ll do all right, twin. Sure I’ll help. If you’re serious.”

“I’m serious, Raul. This don’t last forever. It don’t feel like il used to. Meat for the bulls. They say it about me. They always have.”

“What the hell do they know about it?”

“I don’t know,” Luis Bello said. “It’s dead around here, Raul. Makes me nervous. Is your radio working? I wish the caudrilla would come, so we could go to Skinny’s house and get it over with.”

The phone rung.

When Raul hung up, he was smiling.

“Luis, that was Gomez. He’s got your bulls!”

“What bulls? No! You don’t mean the Cuenca Gomez! ”

“He’s got ‘em. He wants us to sign.”

“Must be something queer, Raul. It’s the end of the world!”

“Number Ones, from Las Astas!”

“How do you know:”

“He’s telling the truth all right. He’s been to the ranch. He said we could ask Don Tiburcio what’s going in the boxes to Cuenca. Gomez says he’s bought four. For a mu no a mano between the Bello boys! No third alternate. And now, a booking for Pepe Bello, matador de toros!”

“Wait a minute! I’m not going to any Cuencas until I find out more about this business.”

“ You will.”

The radio was playing a new ballad, just composed, the announcer said, “The Tragedy of Juan Salazar.”

Juan died at dusk
In the gloaming.
When the day was dead
So was Juan.
They took him from the plaza.
It was empty. The wind blew
An Ole of gray ashes and then the rain
Washed everything away.

“Turn that goddamned thing off!" Luis Bello said.

(To be continued)