NO BULL?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic


Ever been to a bull burial? No? Well now you can read about how one went sideways; down; up, and sideways again. The Mad Serb and his day-laborers learn a lot about everything from unique coffee to
bull gas; and another mystery of life.

Submitted: August 11, 2018

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Submitted: August 11, 2018

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NO BULL?

A Short Story

Nicholas Cochran

 

 “Oh, for Christ’s sake, Frank, get the goddamned lead out, will ya? You’ve been dickin’ around with that shovel ever since the bloody sun come up. Do somethin’ with it, man; just do something with it.”

Frank Lamont stifled an “oh, go screw yourself,” and bent over his tool, that being his True Pro Chrome Ceremonial shovel. Although his implement resided atop the lineup of extravagant shovels, this salient fact meant buggerall to its—well, his performance.

Why can’t I get this goddamned thing to spade properly? Every time I get a real good jam into the ground, the goddamned blade slips, damn near slices my foot, and continues on its own path. Jesus;like it has a mind of its own.

Frank stood erect to draw his glen plaid work-shirted arm across his sweating face. Middle height, with reddish hair, Frank had a habit of sticking out his tongue when he concentrated. This made for some awkward moments. Especially upon greeting a new face, or while having sex. Nevertheless, Frank was immediately identifiable as the jolly, who-gives-a-shit type that everyone loves until he or she becomes a royal pain in the ass; a condition that can appear immediately in some.

However, Frank’s default facial expression was one of openness, wreathed in tones of jollity. His brown eyes sat comfortably on either side of a straight nose. The nose, of perfect length, resided inside some seriously high cheekbones. Many referred to him as Palance, in reference to the high-cheeked king of the movies.

Frank’s immediate task, along with the other nineteen members of the crew, was to dig a very large hole. Inez Ciuffreda’s prize bull, Trajan, was in need of a burial.

Before Frank’s early morning arrival at Inez’s farmstead, he had never met a prize bull; or even seen one for that matter; at least, not that he could remember. The size of this monster staggered him. He had no idea that a bull could be this big. Almost seven feet high and over three thousand pounds.

Immediately upon viewing the supine Trajan, the thought of lowering this colossus caused both Frank’s biceps to twitch with dread. Despite the assistance of nineteen other pairs of seasoned biceps and an industrial strength winch, Frank had a premonition that something very unusual was going to occur before the day was out. And he was right.

Thomas Koerber was the foreman of the gang of laborers containing Frank Lamont. This odd duck, Koerber, seventy-three and cast in flesh of steel, was a legend among the members of the day-laboring community throughout the blocks and alleys of the Portrero area. Each morning, men—and occasionally women—shimmered into the dawn, hoping for a good day’s work.

Koerber was a buck-toothed Serbian with a gigantic head and narrow shoulders. This rare combination prompted many an unfortunate utterance or opinion. The speaker was immediately stricken from Koerber’s hiring list; for good. The Mad Serb would often pursue the unfortunate blurter and beat the crap out of him. However, no one ever sued; or even complained.

Koerber didn’t appear to have any muscles, except in his earlobes. Large, globular pendants that hung at the end of gigantic ears. The lobes were punctured with diamond studs. Koerber’s waist was that of a chorus girl’s, his legs those of a ballet dancer. Nevertheless, this miserable son-of-a-bitch held complete sway and command over every worker who hopped into the white van at the corner of Apple and Folsom of a dreary, foggy, morning. He had the voice of the Devil. A low rasping growl that scared the hell out of all he met.

Once on site, Koerber’s unsettling snarl grated on the guts of all. Eventually, someone would request that Koerber shut up and let them work. This daring annunciation was first met with a provocative silence. Slowly, Koerber would bring his oddly hewn body to its full extent, a dazzling six foot six, where he would then ingest a few bushels of breath before expelling same, along with a string of invective not heard anywhere outside boiler rooms on rusting merchant ships.

The object of the Foreman’s tirade would usually wilt within seconds, back up in a foot-scraping retreat, apologize without end, and finish by rushing to another part of the job site where he would puncture the ground or the pile of dirt or the setting concrete with the point of his shovel and pretend that nothing had happened. On most occasions, Koerber would not pursue the miscreant. However, on occasion he would. What ensued in those instances doesn’t bear repeating. Suffice it to say, that if the person hiring the day laboring gang was a woman, she would probably drown in the pool of her own embarrassment, wreathed in grimaces of the first water of disgust.

 

Today, Koerber was in a rather good mood, for him. Frank picked up on this somewhere around ten. At eleven, Inez assembled refreshments for the gang consisting of her homemade doughnuts, some churros, and a form of black coffee never before tasted by most of the men; and certainly, never forgotten. The flavors, odors, and texture of the coffee was rare—and in most men’s experience, unique. They craved this thick, ebony elixir which they insisted on drinking by the gallon before shuffling their way to the jobsite.

*

Frank watched as sixteen of the men guided a winch holding the dead prize bull.

“That’s some damn bull, man,” Jesus Pena opined, nodding toward the crew, and particularly Koerber, “son-of-a-bitch still has big balls.”

Hector Lopez thought Jesus’ comment deserved amplification.

“Big balls, man. That’s like sayin’ the Sierras have big hills. Jesus, this sucker has the balls of Hercules. I mean, hung like a dinosaur, right?”
The others agreed rather solemnly, a fact that Frank found amusing. But was this the time for levity; for lauding the size of the gonads hanging from a dead prize bull about to be deep-sixed?

There would be a ceremony, of course. Perhaps an elaborate one, considering the enviable ranking of Trajan among the world’s largest bulls.

Inez, and husband Juan, surrounded by every farmhand, were to gather by the burial trench with hanging heads and heavy hearts. Several would quietly extract dirty over-used red handkerchiefs which would then be employed to announce the grief of the noise-blower. Others would snort and wheeze all up and down the line of otherwise silent weepers. The collection of sounds of grievance would mix and waft all the way to the stand of maples beyond the stream.

Perhaps one of the wiser and somber hands would recite something approximating a mass. This would consist of pieces from a once-memorized text, performed, no doubt, years before, as penance for diddling a young girl while she visited the crypt in St. Margaret’s Seminary. Dozens of rosaries would materialize, followed by vats of holy water.

Inez and her husband Juan would reveal their private sorrow by way of a few wheezing sobs, followed by a shrieking sadness and angst while Trajan slowly sunk to the bottom of the lime pit for his eternal disintegration.

Right, thought Frank.

“Well, he has some fine horns as well,” commented, Luis, a small, slim Ecuadorian of super sallow skin, withered, and partly cracked by the heat and fog of summer days in the Bay Area.

Frank, was forced to agree, as were the others. Trajan’s horns were of superior length, finely sculpted, and met at a razor-sharp point. Many a boy, after running at full speed toward a barbed wire fence, had barely escaped the pulsing puncture of a horn in the ass from Trajan.

“All right, you scurvy lot,” intoned the basso profundo of Keorber,” enough of this bloody speculating. Let’s just drop the bull, lads,” yelled Thomas Koerber, “the trench is deep enough. It’s about time we sent this big ugly monster into his lime bath. Let’s lower the beast, throw on some more lime, and cover him up.”

These words of cold command brought all the men up short. They fiddled with their hands, shifted their work-booted feet, attempted to summon a wise saying—or even an appropriate remark for the occasion.

However, seeing as none of them had ever attended the funeral of a bull, let alone a mammoth prize bull, they were bereft of suitable comment and just let the whole damn mess slide out of their thoughts. Most thought of women, and who might be up to dropping their drawers that night.Frank had Jessica Turville in mind.

Jessica loved to dance. Sometimes her eyes would roll damn near out the tops of her sockets while she gyrated and screeched out a South American ballad from the eighteenth century. She accompanied this remarkable display of bizarre performance art with suggestive hand gestures and a rapid stamping of her beautiful, size-five feet.

Frank always looked at her feet first thing after she opened the door. If she had on the sparkling slippers with the woven outlines of wild horses on the sides, Frank was assured of a dynamite evening capped by endless rambunctious sex. On those occasions, he could barely force himself to endure the dancing part, such were the visions of naked Jessica in full ecstatic abandon riding his member. He would shake his head with vigor, vainly attempting to dispel each and every invasive erotic thought. He stepped into her parlor full of heated desire and expectation. Dancing followed in the Wayward Voyager Club on Clement.

“All right, Lamont, get your head out of your ass and help these guys get this bastard into the ground. Look lively or I’ll kick you in there with him.” Koerber said.

Frank thought about this. All that lime would definitely take a toll before the guys could haul him out, especially once they poured the extra in; the coup de grace for poor old Trajan. 

“Why is the lady burying this bull like this?” bleated a little man with the face of a sheep, “I bet his balls are worth a fortune on E-bay—and definitely in Gourmet Ghetto in Berkeley. Alice Waterswould pay a handsome price for those two sterling orbs.”

Who the hell is this guy? wondered all the other men.

Koerber looked at him with deep suspicion. Guys who talked fancy like this dude were usually students or investigative reporters—sometimes Matt Cvetics for the FBI, wanting to unmask cruelty to animals; or the bizarre practices of burying a prize bull, complete with boss balls that didn’t meet FDA regulations.

Yes, thought Keorber, who the hell is this guy?

“Who the hell are you?” beyond demanding, querulous, “why are you on my crew?”

Eighteen year-old, Norman Fallen looked around at the inquiring eyes lighting up the deeply-tanned faces of today’s’ 17th. Street mob. He then turned to focus his brooding grey eyes upon the foreman.

“I’m just a guy who needs money. Like all of you. Nothing particular about me. I run a lot, play poker at night, and write ditties on the weekends.”

No one had either an answer or a question to fill the now-deepening silence. Every man was pulling in his chin, thrusting out his tight lips. Each struggled to find an appropriate physical and mental stance to assume with this character.

“Yeah?” was the most that Koerber could initially muster. After a second or two. “Are you sure you’re not one of those fancy-assed reporters?”

“I have never been fancy-assed in any way, Mr. Koerber, I assure you. And as for reporters, they make me puke. Always blowing up some minor story or taking a scare story and riding it until everyone is shitting their pants, all the while knowing that what they’re writing is bogus; half-true at best, and usually completely fabricated horseshit.”

Norman ran his right hand through his mess of black hair, stroked his clean-shaven chin in passing, before rolling his shoulders while he tweaked his nose, “Yeah? is right. I’m not any of those things. Just a guy who needs a job and some money.”

“Owe money on your gambling?” prompted Primo Suarez, a displaced Spanish Italian, sporting a tricolor Tee and a Roman nose.

Without warning, an immense breakage of foul wind escaped the junction between the giant cheeks of the gigantic bull.

“Cheee-rist ! “ gagged Pedro, the lead man on the lowering rope, “ Dat bull, he has some killer fart, non?”
Frank and the others wrinkled their collective noses while they struggled to maintain their hold on the ropes supporting the gassing creature.

Koerber rushed up, and immediately rushed back, while turning his head and snorting with disgust.

“Christ almightySacre bleu; and a shitload of ‘what the fucks, and ‘what the fuck just happened?’ weaved throughout the assembled mourners.

Helio, a short ill-tempered Greek, appeared to swallow his lower lip as he attempted a reply. Nothing came out.

Rusty, a tall skinny Irishman from Cobh, who was helping Luis, the Ecuadorian, shouted through the clouds of sickening stench, “Well, lads; me thinks the old guy is both very dead and bidding us a nasty farewell, or; he’s alive and ready to fart again. I say we pull him up before we let him lime.”

 Koerber heard this wise analysis and instantly agreed.
“Good thinking, O’Donnell. Haul ‘er up.”

If only to rid themselves of the surrounding piercing pong—but more as a defensive measure against another massive foul fart—thirty-six arms commanded their muscles to flex; to flourish; to fill with blood; to bulge; to become rock-hard; to pull.

Within seconds the glorious beast renowned as Trajan, approached the side lips of his death canyon. A moment later he crested the edges of the slit of doom.

Once above ground level, the men maneuvered his carcass slightly west, before allowing this fidgeting behemoth to plop onto the wet ground beside his death trench.

Both Inez and Juan, along with the band of farmhands, mounted an irregular rush to Trajan’s colossal side where they fell upon the bull and wept.

After no more than a tear or two, a deafening snort blew out the nostrils of the beast. His body quivered in such an earthshaking manner that Inez was catapulted into the death ditch. Juan looked on in horror as two of the farmhands who had been among the first to arrive at Inez’s side, were also launched into the trough on top of her.

Screams immediately issued from the bottom of the gorge. Lime burns were taking hold; flesh was being attacked; skin was being taken prisoner.

Every Koerber crew member, as well as the remaining farmhands, gaped and gasped; choked and gagged; threw in ropes and threw up vomit. The air was charged with the intestinal stench from both man and beast. Trajan rolled toward the ditch. Koerber gasped. Half the men decided to run away.

Now, only the hardy stood beside the reanimating colossus. They skipped about to avoid being crushed. At the same time, these few men tried to throw ropes to those struggling in the ditch.

Without warning, Christian Karrecker dove into the ditch where he immediately began attaching the ropes to anything that moved. His Red Wing High Tops danced around on the threatening surface, while those on the surface prayed that the lime wouldn’t work too quickly, blister, and then corrode Christian’s feet.

By this time, everyone had noticed the din of helpless anger. The racketing cacophony of cries and angst created a rolling roar while men rushed and remonstrated.

Without warning, Trajan discharged such a titanic fart that some of the more educated laborers thought it must have been like this in the First War; battling through the mustard gas. Not one of them, however, believed that even the fog of war disbursed such a gagging, shoulder-sagging, demoralizing, stench; a smell that even Beelzebub would have trouble duplicating from out his devilish arse. All staggered and shouted. Sounds of uncertainty shot through with concern and naked fear filled the ever-increasing pandemonium.

The reviving hulk began to struggle up onto his massive hooves.

Watch out, ” warned Frank, as Trajan swung his protruding red bull eyes toward the assembled gaggle, “if he falls in again, he’ll sure as hell kill the hands—and Inez.”
He could feel the earth rumble as the leviathan continued to struggle to gain his footing. Over one and a half tons of raging bull was about to be on the loose, running amok.

Most of the last few hands from the wreck of the Trajan, were now above ground where other members of the crew attended to their stinging eyes and burning flesh. The horrible shrieks from those with lime burns, diminished.

Inez’s head lifted above the ground level while others rushed to help the dauntless remaining crewmen heave up the hefty proprietress of the Trajan carcass.

Juan sat hunched beside the trench, silently praying for guidance. A curious calm hung over the area of the ditch; almost as if time was waiting for someone to make some sense; to go on to the next question: what the hell to do with Trajan?

“Do you want this thing dead or alive, Inez?” asked Koerber with his accustomed directness.

Poor fat Inez, sat on her fat legs, chewing a piece of pemmican that one of the laborers had given her, a gift from his relative in Moose Jaw. Her grey-streaked dusky hair had fallen from its clasps when she had been catapulted into the trench. Bits sprang from every point around her shoulders. What makeup she had applied for the bull-lowering ceremony—Trajan’s interment—had taken flight along with both her composure and her dignity.

As though to underscore Koerber’s question, Trajan, now standing, albeit it wobbly, once again broke wind with such gusto that all of the remaining crew threw themselves on the ground to escape the trail of emission. Others were not so lucky. They fell over like bowling pins, rasping and grasping for any means to pull themselves out of the path of the stink storm.

Inez’s foreman, Enrique, a dour Cuban refugee of the sixties, rushed to Inez’s side and waited for any questions she might direct at himbefore deciding whether or not to re-commit poor Trajan to his limey graveyard.
“Oh, I don’t know,” wailed Inez, biting off another hunk of the primo pemmican, “he had become so ornery these last weeks. Maybe he just wanted to die.” She stopped to think and chew.
“That’s right, Mr. Keorber,” meeched Enrique, seeking to find toadyism wherever he could, “he had been a very bad boy. He would charge and try to gore everyone—even dear Mrs. Ciuffreda.”

“Hell, ever seen anything like this?” asked Koerber of the last remaining farm hand.

“Never. Thought the poor bastard was stone dead. You know, I’ve heard of people not being dead; that sort of thing, but never an animal and definitely not a goddamned mammoth bull. Jesus, what a biggie.”

By now there was such a total confusion permeating every area and every mind surrounding the death trench that it was a relief to most that shortly after admitting a final colossal fart, Trajan began to run. He was heading back to his favorite spots in the open air; to his favorite pasture and the spot in the fence where he loved to rub his back. Free at last, oh God, he was free at last.

Inez and two hands watched him go with a mixture of sadness and relief. Juan was just happy to have his wife back and quit chewing that damn pemmican. The crewmembers looked to Koerber for some sort of direction.

The Mad Serb had no answer other than: “Well, let’s tidy up and leave.” With that, the crew assembled, but not before filling in the trench and carefully carrying the extra lime back to the farmhouse. Most of the men insisted on staying to have at least one more cup of Inez’s amazing coffee.

By the time everyone was prepared to leave, the sun was about to set. Frank’s thoughts turned to his upcoming frolic with Jessica, hoping she would be wearing her sparkling shoes with the outline of wild horses.

When Frank and the others looked out the rear window of the van, they saw a huge shadow prancing about in a darkening field. At that moment, it seemed as though Frank and the guys— even Koerber—had a connection to that shadow. Each man felt in his own way what a mysterious, magical idea it was that Trajan had decided to live.

 

THE END 


© Copyright 2018 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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