juan‘Another cerveza  Juan, por favour!’ Pepe calls. Juan hooks the top off and places the bottle in front of him. Drinking beer out of a glass isn’t ‘macho.’ The bar is full tonight. Small, wiry matadors sit in groups, playing cards or dominoes, reading newspapers, or watching the TV.
‘Ole!’ cheers Miguel. The other toreros grunt approvingly. It’s an old video and they know every swish of the matador’s cape.
Juan gazes round his bar, glowing with contentment. This is his world, his life. He stares at the walls covered with memorabilia; photos, swords, the banderillas, the lance of the picadors. His own suit of lights is laid reverently over a chair; a guitar is propped in a corner. A stuffed bull’s head stares sightlessly down from one wall, a cigarette dangling from its lips.
With a smile, Juan turns his head, fingering the scar on his neck. He points to the framed, signed photo of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia. ‘They sent that to me when I was in hospital,’ he says to no-one in particular.
matador1Pepe and Miguel grunt sympathetically in the right places. They hear the same story every night.
‘Yes, I nearly died, you know,’ Juan continues, ‘It was my eighth goring. It finished my career. But I was good in my day. I was one of the best!’ He shuffles from behind the bar, a tray clamped under his arm, his eyes glazed. One hand arches proudly in the air, saluting the crowd and the Presidente’s box. The years melt away. The trumpets play as the ghostly bull enters the arena. It stares around, confused. Then it spots the scarlet cape. Pawing the ground and snorting, it lowers its head and charges. It has been bred and trained for this moment.
Hundreds of kilos of solid beef with a killer instinct loom over him. At the last moment, Juan lightly performs a perfect ‘paso doble’, then he bravely turns his back on the enormous animal. The crowd goes wild. ‘Ole! Ole!’ they cry, and Juan struts proudly across the arena, his eyes moist with tears of emotion.
matador3‘Two more cervezas, Juan!’ calls Miguel, and the young torero is metamorphosed into an old barman with a bad back and a limp.
Jose reads aloud from his newspaper. ‘Hey, a man’s been arrested in Inglaterra for murdering some young children!’
Pepe bangs the bar angrily with his fist. ‘They kill young children in England?’ he shouts, ‘That’s disgusting! Children can’t fight back!’
Sighing, Juan grabs a cloth and wipes the bar. What’s happening to the world? he wonders. Why, in my day, when I was young…

In memory of Juan the Torero.
Denia,
Alicante,
Spain.