He’d slayed the beast. It’s a story best understood by scrutinizing the participant’s eyes. Hailed a hero, Philippe’s eyes flashed the pride throbbing in his chest. A roar went up from the crowd of spectators. Beautiful Senioritis tossed bouquets of flowers to their champion.
Red fury was all anyone had noticed from the bovine’s bulging, ocular orbs, contrasted by the rolling whites, as he churned the dirt into clouds of dust with iron-like hooves. Yet, upon more astute observation, one would see the glistening pangs of pain written therein. And the fearful quaking of the bulls limbs.
The bull was first teased, tormented. Tightly tied around the top of its scrotum was the obligatory rawhide thong. Used to provoke pain, hence anger. Diablo was the moniker given to the beast, whose lot in life was to entertain—and die.
But who could know the longing that emanated from the heart of this animal? A yearning for freedom and peace. Nobody saw that. Only what they wanted to see. A devilish and dangerous brute. Further, if memories were perceived in the eyes, one might observe that while in the throes of death, Diablo’s mind went back to his joyous youth, suckling at the warm, welcoming teats of his mother.
As the large, horned bull first joined him in the arena, Philippe’s black eyes widened and moved in quick jerks, betraying his nervous apprehension. The adrenaline coursing his veins sharpened his perceptions, his body’s reaction time and wit. With each pounding heartbeat the matador’s temples pulsated. Close attention on those deep ebon eyes would soon confirm a sudden, calming fortitude. A confidence acquired by eight years of diligent practice.
When the eyes of beast and man first locked upon the other, the challenge had been made. Yellow hues of pain in Diablo’s eyes instantly transformed to fiery red rage, focused directly into the windows of Philippe’s soul. Man. The propagator of his agony.
With each ferocious charge, Diablo’s eyes became more frustrated and bewildered. As the rampaging monster began to slow, his strength diminishing, Philippe, waved his red cape and twirled in a graceful dance, then thrust the first sword into Diablo’s right flank. On the next and more labored pass, another sword deeply pierced the left side, puncturing one of the bull’s massive lungs. Yet determination still blazed in the victims eyes. He desperately wanted to plunge a horn through his antagonist.
In Diablo’s last approach, slow and deliberate, he tried to take the nimble footed matador straight on. But Philippe was too quick and precise, as again that distracting red cape concealed the true position of the bull fighter. The merciless death blow came. A direct thrust into the heart.
A thousand pounds of beef came crashing down, skidding to a stop, while burrowing a trench in the dust, five feet past the killer. With a snort, Diablo’s last gasping breath blasted up a cloud of dirt. The fire in his eyes had been extinguished. And the bull fighter saw the blank stare of death.
Philippe had eagerly anticipated this moment of triumph. He’d won the challenge against monolithic odds and a dozen matadors. The crown was his. Yet, while strutting around receiving laud from the audience, an unexpected realization, born of studying the eyes of his opponent was eking its way through his mind. Those eyes. They held something much deeper than the expected bloodlust. There’d been a helplessness and fear peering through Diablo’s pupils.
The champion’s eyes suddenly drooped from the outside corners in sadness. A tidal-wave of regret coursed over his face. The look he saw in the dying eyes of Diablo seemed to poignantly state the question. Why?
Philippe mentally reviewed the past eight years of his life. All that time and effort. This was the pay-off. But it wasn’t at all what he expected.
Like a bull being coaxed into charging, by a red flag, Philippe had charged ahead in pursuit of glory, without thinking it through. In the greater scheme of life, this was futile, empty of honor.
The death of his grand opponent left a void. He’d lost something of himself. The victor’s head hung low, and shoulders sagged as he plodded out of the arena, never to return. The crimson cape drug in the dirt behind him, his watery eyes filling. He went home a little wiser.
“The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.” (Proverbs 12:10)
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