A Farewell to 2013: Ernest Hemingway in New Jersey

A man can be destroyed but not defeated.

A man can be destroyed but not defeated.

OTF welcomes guest contributor Nick Fox, who channels the ghost of a man who would be one of the Fire Nation…

In the fall we went back for the final running of the bulls, in New Jersey this time, where I had seen them run before. Harrison is a quiet town before the running. It is a very dirty New Jersey city and we walked through the town and pulled our coats against the chill. Bill took off his coat and handed it to Brett, but she waved him away and laughed in that way she has and turned to me.

“Will there be much blood?” she wanted to know.

“There usually is at these sorts of things, I said.” I was annoyed, and didn’t want her there, as I knew the sight of blood would disgust her and that would make it harder for me to watch young Magee, who I knew from my time at school, and who was young and brave and a marked man once they knew how dangerous a small man could be if you got his blood up.

“Oh, I hope there isn’t much blood,” she said.

“Now Brett, you’re not going to start in with that, are you?” said Bill in his way, and Brett said nothing else and we went in and took our seats and they let the first of the bulls out, and it was Magee they sent forward to fight it. And he struck a clean blow and the crowd was silent as they watched him work, for Harrison is one of those towns where they cheer for the bull and not the matador, and for this reason I have always hated it.

“Who is he?” asked Brett, pointing at the Frenchman, Henry.

“Thierry Henry. He was a great one in his day, but age has slowed him and he can’t get the big fights in Spain and France anymore, so he performs here.”

“How old is he?”

“He’s thirty-six.”

“Really? He only looks thirty-three.”

“Well, that’s the way it is with Frenchmen. Sometimes you see one who looks thirty-three when he is really thirty-six, while at other times a thirty-six year old can easily look thirty-three. The French are funny that way.”

It was good there in the sun, and I felt fine and drank beer. Then I watched that same Frenchman Henry drive one home and salute the crowd and everyone cheered and waved their hats and the whole damn thing turned sour.

“Oh I think he’s just marvelous!” said Brett.

“Come on, Hem. Have another beer,” said Bill.

They all went off for the break before the second corrida and Bill asked me what I made of the whole thing.

“I think they are a fine lot,” I said.

“And what about the bulls, Hem?”

“They are fine bulls, but without qualities, like so many of the bulls of New Jersey. These days you can only get good bulls from Chicago.”

“I thought you only got steers in Chicago,” said Bill, and he laughed and I wanted to punch him in the mouth.

“There hasn’t been much blood, has there?” said Brett.

“We’ll see,” I said, for I knew that if there was going to be blood it would be in the second corrida, and I was right.

When they let the bulls back out you could tell it was different. They had that big Australian bull leading them who does such things with his head and confuses even the best of the bullfighters. Before long the first bull struck, and there was desperation among the fighters. And the crowd cheered the bulls the way they do in New Jersey. Each fighter they sent out against the bulls was gored and the bulls had their way for the rest of the corrida.

“Oh it’s awful!” said Brett. “It’s simply awful!”

“It’s not pretty,” I agreed.

“I had no idea there would be so much blood!”

“Look, Hem. They’re sending out Lindpere.”

Bill was right. They were sending out the ageing picador Lindpere to staunch the blood flow, and he was older but still could wield the lance and was fearless even if the bulls destroyed the horse underneath him.

“We should get her out of here,” said Bill.

Brett had begun to cry. 

“You get her out of here.”

“Come on, Hem. There’s nothing to see here. It’s over. We’ll come back to the fights next year, when things are better and the fighters aren’t so tired.”

I waved him away and they left, though I wanted to go with them, for there is nothing fine about watching a fight that has gone to the bulls, and even though you know the outcome you feel a man has to sit there and take it and that he will be stronger where the bull breaks him later, when all the dust has gone.

I listened to the crowd cheering and left when they took the bulls around the arena in a parade. I tried to cheer myself by thinking of fishing up in Michigan and how there was still time to go up there one more time before the first frost came and froze over the good streams. But I could only feel sick about Magee. They’d broken him in there, and they would take his boot at the end of the night, and I knew that would hurt him.

The rain had started to fall outside the arena. I lit a cigarette and walked back to my hotel in the rain and I thought about the war.

- Nick Fox, http://nickfox.wordpress.com/

One thought on “A Farewell to 2013: Ernest Hemingway in New Jersey

  1. Awesome! One of my favorite pieces of the year. I enjoy the football coverage and analysis and the fluff is fun too. But I did not expect such fine literary samples as well. Well worth the subscription price!

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