It had been dark in there for almost a year but I was used to it.
I was almost six years old and my home in the dusty shed was lonely but tolerably comfortable. With a little straw on the floor and a sliver of sun creeping in under the door during the afternoons it wasn’t raining, I had little to complain about. Besides, I sensed my annual moment of triumph was drawing nigh. This year was going be a little different though, I had already decided that. Yeah, I was going to go along with Mauricio as usual, right up until the moment that I decided not to anyway.
He came about midnight that evening. I could hear that old truck he drove throwing a little loose rock as he wheeled it up near my home. He scuffled with the door’s rust burdened hinges that hadn’t squeaked since this past season. Mauricio seemed to be pretty tired as the battered wooden door swung open.
There was no ponytail spilling out from below his cap! I wondered if he had donated his long hair to the child cancer center as he had been considering. A lot sure can change in just a year. His checkered pants were covered in spills from the stove. I really didn’t mind his spattered apron or the smell of the kitchen he carried and was glad for my reprieve from the lonely blackness of the shed. His hands were strong but careful as he lovingly lifted me up for inspection in the beam of his flashlight.
I knew I was a bit tattered and worn from want of affection and care for almost a year. The ratones had been after me a little but I knew I wouldn’t need patching up too much before feeling good as new.
He carried me around to the back of the truck where he had thoughtfully dropped the tailgate and put a little cardboard down for me to rest on. There was a bag sitting in the truck bed and a couple of paintbrush handles poked jauntily skyward seeming to already be celebrating my coming moments of showmanship. Three hours, four beers, a couple of quarts of paint along with a little sisal rope and some fresh cut bamboo and I was revitalized. No, I was resurrected! Well, I’m not sure I should go so far as to describe it too much that way. Suffice it to say that I was, at a minimum, healed.
The next morning, Mauricio left me with the same pyrotechnic outfitters he had in years past. They seemed to know me well. Everybody in the shop remembered I had a hollow butt and horns that could be stuffed with what seemed like dynamite to me but they just called it, “pirotécnica.” What no one ever thought of was the source of some of my building materials, the stuff I was made of. No one remembered they had used some of the wood from the old bull ring to create me.
That’s right, five years I have been suffering the humiliation of being thought a cow. Well, I’m a bull by spirit in a cow’s body but that’s OK, and soon these people are going to get it in a number of ways.
He picked me up late that afternoon. I was bounced and jostled for the miles leading from the outfitters on the edge of the Andean highlands to El Centro. Mauricio parked a block from Parque Caldéron, locked the doors and retrieved me and my two poles from the bed of the truck. He wound his way through the throng of people and yours truly was carried high aloft above Mauricio’s head as we were swept by the crowd into the cool night air.
Within moments we arrived at the small, crowd free, ring in the center of Simon Bolivar adjacent to the parque. As Mauricio held my two wooden pole legs, other men began to light all the fuses attached to my pyrotechnic regalia. I had that strange sensation I had been waiting for, that I had willed to be, my moment was arriving. My paper mache body began to pulse with what seemed to be blood flow as powerful muscles began to form in my legs. I was becoming the essence of my spirit, a bull!
Mauricio had no idea what was happening as I jerked back, roared and snorted loudly. His eyes were as big as the dinner plates at his restaurant! The two wooden poles fell free and I charged that crowd with everything I had. I slammed into the melee with the power of a steam locomotive knocking candy, carts, men, women and children asunder. I leered at them with my mouth hanging open as my hot breath rolled over everyone! I blew fire out my butt and horns spraying it over those I was trampling with glee. Mauricio somehow got me by my tail as the police fell on me with the help of other men in the crowd. I heard loud sounds and felt pain everywhere before darkness came over me and I knew the scene no more.
A few weeks passed and Mauricio was busy at his restaurant as usual. In the past few days, he had picked up some newspaper and paste along with some wood scraps and bamboo sections. It was deep in the evening and most of his clientele had been served. He took a break and moved the materials for the new vaca loca to his truck parked there at the plazoletta. As he returned to his kitchen, Mauricio was stopped again by one of his regular customers who complimented him over the fine flavor of the Charusco he had been served. Earlier, other customers were asking him how he had developed the special flavor in the Lomo Fino de Vino Tinto dish that he had prepared for them. In the last couple of weeks many were complimenting his beef dishes commenting on the unusual and rather spicy taste they had noticed in the beef there of late. Mauricio just smiled, he knew he had done the right thing. Besides, he thought, it had been time for a new vaca anyway.