The International Writers Magazine
:New Fiction

Crowd Pleaser
Richard Corwin

It has always been man’s nature to conquer; to have dominion over his environment. Stories of this struggle are as old as the glyphs on rocks, papyrus, sheepskin, paper, and clay. Evidence is found in caves, tombs, libraries, and public places where it can be seen by all.

Today’s gladiators come in different sizes; found in a wide assortment of sports that propel us into a frenzy of excitement that creates pro and con; for and against; divides us into colonies of fanatics where we applaud the winner and often, the loser.

He knew he was hurt pretty badly. Blood spilled from his nose and mouth leaving a red trail behind him. He wondered how this could have happened and walked slowly in a circle, against the wall thinking of why it happened. He had been vigorously trained to be the biggest, fastest and meanest but somehow he wasn’t fast enough or smart enough today. He looked back and saw the red trail behind. The pain was overwhelming. He walked slower. He was getting tired and his legs weakened but he wouldn’t give up. He was going to win. After all, he always won. Crowds cheered for him.

As he walked he remembered how the spectators stood and clapped when he was the victor; he remembered the men rewarding him for fine performances; he remembered how great it was to be famous and popular. What happened? He was hurt and the crowd clapped and roared approval. He didn’t understand why. He was bleeding badly and his blood stained the flowers they threw into the arena. How was it possible? He had become the best; the biggest and meanest but now he was hurt. He wore the ribbon that testified to his greatness; that he was the best and the crowds came alive when he entered the ring. The little man walking next to him was responsible and he couldn’t think of why he hurt him so badly. The crowd yelled louder; stood and clapped longer. The more he bled the louder the onlookers yelled.
He walked until he could walk no more; his legs quivered. He coughed and blood spurted from his nose and mouth and dripped down his neck and chest. He stopped, too tired to go on. He couldn’t understand what was happening. The pain was almost gone but the blood kept flowing.

Now the red trail ended where he stood. He made it around the stadium one time but he was too weak to continue. He stood looking at his own blood then at the standing crowd. The man walking beside him spoke to him softly; almost regretfully. He fell to his knees and the pain was almost gone. He looked at the crowd but could only hear their loud praises for such a good fight as his eyes dimmed and became heavy. How tired he was and how good it would feel to just lay down and rest. His head slumped to the ground as his legs shook and he lay with shallow but rapid breathing. He must get up; he must win but he was tired and the sounds of the crowd faded into the background. Where was the man that defeated him? He would like to have seen him and to have asked how it was he could have hurt him so badly. After all he had been a good student, learning his trade well; well enough to be the best. Something happened he couldn’t quite figure out. He smelled his own blood but couldn’t move his head from it as it pooled around him. It smelled sweet. Maybe this was his prize for being the best. This was his final performance because he was the greatest. Maybe this man was the greatest and this was his reward; to defeat him. He didn’t notice before but the crowds were larger and louder; his opponent was dressed differently; more brilliant. The man glittered in the sunlight. His eyes closed and breathing stopped. His was, indeed, a wonderful performance. The crowd stood up and roared and clapped and threw more flowers.

The matador walked over to the fence, handed his bloody sword to his assistant, and strutted around the stadium holding the bull’s colored ribbon as the crowds cheered and threw in more flowers. This was without a doubt a dangerous, well trained and respected bull. He was a real crowd pleaser. Men raked sand over the bloody trail and the next well trained and dangerous bull was ushered in to a very excited crowd and the matador waved.

© Richard Corwin Feb 2006

Gladys and Bruno
Richard Corwin with circus follies

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