Yet Harold's father tried desperately to be freed from the animal until he was dangling on its side, arm hyperextended like that of a rag doll. Cowboys on horses quickened their pace. Arthur Duncan jumped into the arena on foot to save his fraternity brother, but it was no use.
The bull tossed Harold's father into the air about eight feet, sending the man crashing onto his back. The crowd, boisterous only seconds ago, now hushed. And rather than embrace the distractions of the sidemen and clowns who fought for its attention to get Harold's father out of harm's way, the bull stopped and looked at Harold, who was basically in a state of shock. For one, maybe two seconds, the bull and Harold made eye contact, a knowing contact. I quickly turned to Harold, whose eyes were locked on the animal, and heard him whisper, "Kill him."
The bull was obedient to a wounded child's plea and sent its horns into the man's guts at a vengeful speed, opening him up like a watermelon, entrails and blood flying to and fro. What horror.
A careful ear could hear the punctures and churning by the horns. The bull huffed and snarled like it was blowing its nose. The crowd gasped. Some cried, mostly women. Others screamed and yelled. Get him outta there! Somebody save him! Call the police! Yet none of them were willing to step one foot into that arena besides the cowboys and clowns.
The catfish woman grabbed Harold and pushed his face into her supple breast. He wasn't crying.
"Lil' Frenchy, turn yer head," she instructed me, but I didn't. I couldn't. My eyes were fixated on the brilliant, fresh red fount from the man's belly. It didn't look real. It looked like cherry Kool-Aidthe flavor used to make red cool cups.
Then two cutting rifle reports cracked the air. The bull stopped abruptly and fell on its side. All heads turned to Father, who was sitting on the fence, chambering another round into a rifle to kill the vengeful beast.
Now there was silence but for the click of Father's bolt action. He jumped into the arena with the rifle aimed at the snarling beast, which remained on its side, breathing heavy, white froth dangling from its nose, eyes half openedbig eyes, big brown eyes. Cowboys and clowns alike moved back as Father cautiously approached with the rifle trained on the animal's head.
"He dead, John," Arthur Duncan assured Father as the men rushed to the dying man's aid. Arthur Duncan was correct, both man and beast were dead. Harold finally started to cry as someone quickly swept him away so that he wouldn't have to witness the mess. Kill him.
Suddenly my feet started to itch, both of them, on the soles. I had on clean socks, Mother had made sure of that. Then I smelled something burning.
"You smell something burning?" I asked the catfish woman as I took off my boots and scratched, but she was too busy praying to Jesus.
Dr. Poindexter rushed into the arena and took a knee at the body, yelling for hot water and clean rags. He felt for a pulse at the neck and wrist even though there was a huge, gaping hole in the man's stomach that no longer spouted blood. Harold's father was dead and there wasn't a damn thing the good doctor could do about it but cover the body.
You could hear a mouse piss on cotton as everyone reverently took off their hats and placed them over their hearts while the announcer led them in the Lord's Prayer.
And while Father argued with other men about who'd get pieces of the bull's butchered parts, I put my boots back on and joined him in the arena.
I tugged at Father's shirt and told him, "I don't wanna eat none of that bull."
He laughed and picked me up, then turned to the testy men with "Well, I don't want none of that cursed bull either. Yawl niggas eat up. But you step in one of them arenas with that bull in your belly and you can bet that this here bull's kinfolk gonna tear your ass up."
Excerpted from Red Now and Laters by Marcus J Guillory. Copyright © 2014 by Marcus J Guillory. Excerpted by permission of Atria/Emily Bestler Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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