Of the Minotaur

by D. L. Estero

They'd caught a minotaur down by the wharf; people were calling out and rushing down narrow streets. I heard shouts of excitement and tramping feet, and despite my dislike of gawking crowds, I tucked a small pistol in my belt and went out through the back alley. Two blocks from the wharf I heard the booming bellow of its wide throat, the angry and desperate bray met by the cry of fear and blood-thirst from hundreds of human voices. There was shattering glass and the crunching of metal. I came around the corner to find the tight mass of people in the fish-market square just as the great form of the minotaur leapt from the roof of a car into the hollow corner of two buildings where the bodies scattered like minnows. It howled and swung its fists, dashing into the crowd, pushed back by long poles with blunt spear-tips.

Many people in the crowd carried rifles, and when Dora found me I saw that she carried a pistol in her left hand. She took me to the edge of the square and I helped her climb part way up a window sill for a better vantage. It was difficult to hold to the cold stone of the wall, our fingers shrinking back inside of our gloves and sleeves, and a flurry swirled down, leaving momentary snowflakes on the shoulders of the mob.

The minotaur was bleeding from multiple nicks around his shoulders and back, and he fell back into the corner, panting as he held himself against the walls. Hot fog blasted from his snout and the crowd cheered when the torero came into the square. He strode up to confront the beast, fame known only by his face since there had been no time to don his brocade suit, and he brandished his sword without a cape. The people cheered, they backed away. The minotaur broke his sword and then his neck, and the crowd pressed in again in horror with their spears and poles forcing the monster back tightly into the corner.

The pugilist came from the docks, bare-chested and already steaming in the cold air. He lasted longer than the bullfighter had. They exchanged blows, they locked arms, the minotaur flung the boxer into a wall. The boxer rose to his feet and swung again at the beast, then he was dragged into the corner and beaten. The boxer crawled out from under the minotaur, reached his hands out, and was dragged away by the front ranks of the crowd.

They cheered him, and when he could stand again they gave him bottles of wine. He brought the wine back to the corner, offering a bottle to the beast. The first bottle was smashed, but the second was accepted, and from beside me Dora reached over and squeezed my hand, smiling with joy. The police had arrived with their rifles, an ambulance carted away the paralyzed torero, and several crates of wine had begun to circulate in the corner of the square. There was a gunshot, but it was on the other side of the square, where someone chased after a pickpocket. We watched the minotaur drink four bottles of wine with the pugilist and hurl the empty bottles high over the buildings and rooftops.

Dora took me by the hand and led me through the crowd to where a bottle of wine might pass near enough that we could drink from it, where we could see the minotaur up close. He and the boxer were laughing in wordless humor, blood dripping from their jaws, drooling wine, and the face of the boxer seemed newly deformed. Someone poured wine into Dora's mouth and she drank, and it ran in small streams down her neck. She took the bottle from them and nursed me.

A fight was breaking out somewhere in the crowd, then another. The pugilist and the minotaur came into the crowd swinging and Dora and I pushed our way out and ran away to the pier. Heavier snow fell, the birds had folded themselves up tight, and the cries from the fish-market square were terrible. The sea behind us was silent.

D. L. Estero has lived as a vagabond the past 20 years, riding freight trains around the country and sailboats around the world, working odds jobs and carpentry, commercial fishing, and insatiably studying literature and philosophy. His work has appeared in Quiddity International Literary Journal and TwoNoteSolo. In Madrid a reading from his latest novel The Low Road was presented in translation at Maria Pandora. A link to his novels and collection of shorts can be found at dlestero.blogspot.com.