The moment her head broke the surface of the blissful water of consciousness, Mandy knew there would be no bullfights today. Her aching bones are crushed under her faded quilt and her head sizzles like a hot air balloon impaled in a blazing Spanish sky.
“Get up, Mandy. I’m not phoning in again,” her husband, Bruce, says.
Again? For him, she phones, and pleads, kisses ass, and irons shirts but when, once a year, she pleads from her deathbed for a favor, all she gets is a whine.
“What if I were unconscious or impaled by a bull?”
“You’re not unconscious; you have a cold.”
“If I rise from this bed, I might cause bodily harm.”
“For God’s sakes, Mandy, get up.”
“Do it,” she shrieks, “Now.”
“What’ll I say?”
“Tell them I’m sick: sick, barf-in-the-bag sick.”
She marches in there every day, smile plastered on the front end, knees ready to fold, “Yes, sir, no sir, three bags full, sir.” Puts up with their bullshit, writes the reports boss Trevor gets credit for, corrects the estimates, fudges data when things go wrong, and wheedles on call. They don’t deserve medical details.
Mandy closes her eyes, oozing back into the thick mire of musty bedroom smells, her spinning head slowing like a fading top. Here she is safely cocooned from the clicking noises, the nattering, and the prodding.
“Your secretary didn’t sound happy.”
Happy? She wasn’t happy, either; she was sick.
Bruce winds his way down the stairs: pots clang, the refrigerator slams shut, then “Get out of the way,” to the persistent cat. Back in the bedroom, her husband roots around like a pig after truffles. Finally, the door closes; a whispered “Buck up, sweetie,” a clattering down the stairs; the front door slams; the car starts up and he’s gone.
Deep under the perspiration of two lumpy pillows and a ragged quilt, Mandy listens: animal ears alert for enemy noises. The silence of the empty house oozes up the stairs, the abandoned furniture settles to a secret day, the air hesitates. Inside her body, nerves howl; her head is swollen with infection, her throat raw.
Suddenly, the shriek of the telephone pierces the warm, moist womb of her bed. Behind the wail, she knew an insistent sales voice lurked. Images explode in her head. “Where is my spear? I’ll rend the beast asunder.”
Again and again the incessant ring. Just when she dares hope it’s stopped, it strikes again. Enraged, Mandy cannonballs from her bed and marches toward the villain. Dedicated to nothing but her powerful advance, lost to the whine of the sheets ripping behind her, the crack of the door, the crash of the table, she snatches the black beast from its hiding place and snarls. “What do you want?”
Again, violently, “What do you want?” Luckily, they aren’t there in person. It could be their death, death with one thrust of the spear. The little tailor did seven at a blow. She would do seventy. She was a toreador: slim hips, curved back, one sharp swish and silence.
“Mandy?” a thin garter snake hisses from the black beast. “He says to come in.”
“What?” the toreador roars, her hoarse voice cracking through the sounds of the crowd.
“Trevor says it’s crucial. Take some decongestant. Take a cab. Do whatever, but come in.”
Following the command is discussion, threats, and recriminations, portents of evil, curses, and incantations.
The mummy stumbles to the bathroom, examines the mauve masque looming at her. Everything is tried — the mouthwash, the toothpaste, the hair spray, the “covers all lines miracle foundation” — and still the hollow-eyed Medusa stares back.
“He’ll be sorry,” she curses, barking the address at the cab driver and shouting it again when he doesn’t move it.
Sorry is too short a word. Trevor doesn’t know what sorry is. They’ve disturbed a wounded lioness, a lioness with claws. When Mandy bursts through the office door, the receptionist pinned to the phone squeezes a smile and a shrug.
No prisoners, Mandy determines, glaring back, her glances like darts.
Collapsing onto a chair, her body pummeled with bullet-sized aches, Mandy’s mind moves off to other worlds. Why does she take it? The pint-sized despot is spouting on about what they have to do, for that read, “what she has to do.” He talks, has ideas. She scrubs the deck, paints the stern. He couldn’t wipe his ass, if she weren’t there. She likes that image; hold it there, the first glimmer of relief for the day.
Then just as he lifts the chart to show how the figures are rising too slowly, the staff component has to be reorganized, the research has to be analyzed, Mandy sees a red flag drop. Is it the revolution? No, it’s a bullring and she’s the bull? Mandy lurches toward the small matador.
“Shut up about the budget,” she shouts. The crowd rises as one: Spanish ladies in sweeping black taffeta dresses, waists like wasps, and men thin as spikes, stomachs flat as plates.
“What do you mean?” the matador rages, his tricolor hat quivering, his nostrils trembling. No, he’s not the matador; he’s the bull. Pierce him.
“You’re full of it,” Mandy cries. In the arena, the multitude, frying like eggs under the hot sun, sway in adoration. They call her name.
“I’ve had it,” she lunges, swoop, and stab.
The victim lurches, struck, his mouth burbles, air juts from the wound.
“I’m off,” she cries, victoriously plunging her pencil in his direction. He leaps away, struck.
“You’ve marked my new shirt,” the shape wails, but she’s already swept out of the arena past the crowd, their arms flailing. Staggering but victorious, Mandy hurtles teeth smiles like roses at astonished faces along the way. Their loud Olés ring in her ears as she bursts triumphantly unto the hot belching August street.
“Taxi,” she cries jubilantly, a conquering heroine, heading home.
~ Melodie Corrigall
Originally posted at: http://www.wildviolet.net/2013/09/01/ole/#.UjdxOLwdXIt