Manuel Garcia climbed the stairs to Don Miguel Retana’s office. He set down his suitcase and knocked on the door. There was no answer. Manuel, standing in the hallway, felt there was some one in the room. He felt it through the door.
“Retana,” he said, listening.
There was no answer.
He’s there, all right, Manuel thought.
“Retana,” he said and banged the door.
“Who’s there?” said some one in the office.
“Me, Manolo,” Manuel said.
“What do you want?” asked the voice.
“I want to work,” Manuel said.
Something in the door clicked several times and it swung open. Manuel went in, carrying his suitcase.
A little man sat behind a desk at the far side of the room. Over his head was a bull’s head, stuffed by a Madrid taxidermist; on the walls were framed photographs and bull-fight posters.
The little man sat looking at Manuel.
“I thought they’d killed you,” he said.
Manuel knocked with his knuckles on the desk. The little man sat looking at him across the desk.
“How many corridas you had this year?” Retana asked.
“One,” he answered.
“Just that one?” the little man asked.
“I read about it in the papers,” Retana said. He leaned back in the chair and looked at Manuel.
Manuel looked up at the stuffed bull. He had seen it often before. He felt a certain family interest in it. It had killed his brother, the promising one, about nine years ago. Manuel remembered the day. There was a brass plate on the oak shield the bull’s head was mounted on. Manuel could not read it, but he imagined it was in memory of his brother. Well, he had been a good kid.
The plate said: “The Bull ‘Mariposa’ of the Duke of Veragua, which accepted 9 varas for 7 caballos, and caused the death of Antonio Garcia, Novillero, April 27, 1909.”
Retana saw him looking at the stuffed bull’s head.
“The lot the Duke sent me for Sunday will make a scandal,” he said. “They’re all bad in the legs. What do they say about them at the Café?”
“I don’t know,” Manuel said. “I just got in.”
“Yes,” Retana said. “You still have your bag.”
He looked at Manuel, leaning back behind the big desk.
“Sit down,” he said. “Take off your cap.”
Manuel sat down; his cap off, his face was changed. He looked pale, and his coleta pinned forward on his head, so that it would not show under the cap, gave him a strange look.
“You don’t look well,” Retana said.
“I just got out of the hospital,” Manuel said.
“I heard they’d cut your leg off,” Retana said.
“No,” said Manuel. “It got all right.”
Retana leaned forward across the desk and pushed a wooden box of cigarettes toward Manuel.
“Have a cigarette,” he said.
Manuel lit it.
“Smoke?” he said, offering the match to Retana.
“No,” Retana waved his hand, “I never smoke.”
Retana watched him smoking.
“Why don’t you get a job and go to work?” he said.
“I don’t want to work,” Manuel said. “I am a bull-fighter.”
“There aren’t any bull-fighters any more,” Retana said.
“I’m a bull-fighter,” Manuel said.
“Yes, while you’re in there,” Retana said.
Retana sat, saying nothing and looking at Manuel.
“I’ll put you in a nocturnal if you want,” Retana offered.
“When?” Manuel asked.
“I don’t like to substitute for anybody,” Manuel said. That was the way they all got killed. That was the way Salvador got killed. He tapped with his knuckles on the table.
“It’s all I’ve got,” Retana said.
“Why don’t you put me on next week?” Manuel suggested.
“You wouldn’t draw,” Retana said. “All they want is Litri and Rubito and La Torre. Those kids are good.”
“They’d come to see me get it,” Manuel said, hopefully.
“No, they wouldn’t. They don’t know who you are any more.”