For the writer Ernest Hemingway, nothing was braver or truer than to fight the black bulls of Spain. Each year during the bullfighting season in Pamplona, people are gored and even killed during the “Running of The Bulls,” a primeval spectacle during which a street is boarded off and bulls released to chase would-be matadors, tourists and other fools through the streets to the corrida, the bullring.

Throngs of spectators perched on the barricades and hung out windows and from rooftops to watch. Runners wore the colors red and white, usually a white shirt with a rakish red sash about the waist. I was jogging along chatting with a dapper Spaniard I had met, working on my Castilian accent, when suddenly spectators went into an urgent roar.

I shot a glance over my shoulder—right into the red eyes of absolutely the meanest piece of animal flesh on the planet. A steer and a couple of bulls with needle-sharp horns had closed in on my friend and me while we were distracted in conversation.

Overdrive comes easily with the right motivation. The Spaniard and I dug in like a couple of rabbits running for their lives—which we were. We burst through the open gates of the corrida into the big ring, with the bulls fanning our rakish sashes, and shimmied up the nearest wall like rabbits converted to squirrels. One of the bulls stopped, looked up at us with his mean little eyes, snorted a string of snot that in bullese meant something like, “I’ll get you next time.”

Donna Sue (my wife who traveled with me to Spain with only a backpack) and I attended the corrida that evening. Bullfighting is a national extravaganza in Spain. Audiences are unrelentingly tough. A 17-year-old novice matador who killed his bull well was showered with wreaths of flowers that almost filled the ring. Another matador who failed to perform to expectations received a different kind of reception. Booing spectators threw seat cushions at him.

I would rather face the bulls than an audience like that.

 

Jack Dempsey Malanga had worked with the CIA before. He was known as a man who got the dirty work done, in war and in between wars. Things began to turn bad when his CIA contact in Central America asked, “Malanga, have you ever killed an American?”

For the first time, Charles W. Sasser’s thriller The War Chaser is available on Kindle.