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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
Ian & Mac Travel Stories - Ole

“Ah, Madrid. I’ve always heard it is a beautiful city.” Ian stretched his legs, wiggling his toes back and forth.

Mac jumped off the train steps, landing next to Ian on the vacant platform. “And how would you know that? I was under the impression you’d never heard of Madrid.”

“Yes, well…never mind. It is beautiful, isn’t it?” Ian cleared his throat. “You know what I want to do? I want to see a bullfight. I saw a poster on one of the train windows. I’d love to see two bulls duking it out in a boxing ring.”

“We’ll try to find the arena. So, here we are, Spain.” Mac wasn’t sure what to do, so he sighed. “I’m hungry. Let’s find some Spanish food. We won’t find anything here, at the train station. We need to wander about. Look for someone with a lot of baggage and use it for cover.”

A man carrying three pieces of baggage and pulling a suitcase by the handle walked past them, huffing and puffing. Ian and Mac slipped in between the two largest pieces, keeping pace with the man, who headed straight for a taxi. As the driver lifted the baggage into the boot of the car, Ian and Mac ran underneath, between the front tires. Mac grabbed Ian by the arm and pointed. “Look. It’s a sign about the bullfights.”

“There’s an arrow pointing that direction.” Ian led Mac under a string of cars until they were safely past the train station. Lucky for them the sides of the streets were lined with flowering bushes and trees, offering many hiding places. They soon came upon another sign. “Plaza de Toros; I wonder what that means.” He turned to Mac and they both shrugged their shoulders, neither knowing.

“Don’t look at me, Ian. I can’t speak Spanish, but there’s another arrow, so we must be going the right way.”

After running from bush to bush down several streets, the raccoons came upon another sign. “Las Ventas. Las Ventas? I don’t know what that means either, but there’s a picture of a big bull. Look at the horns on him. They’re almost as big as our Highland cattle.” Ian held his arms out to the side to show size. “They’re huge.”

“And pointed.” Mac gaped at the sign.

Ian’s nose twitched. “Mac, I smell food and there’s a sign that says Las Ventas.” He jumped up and down, sniffing the air. “It’s coming from that Las Ventas place.” Without waiting for his friend, Ian ran off, letting his nose guide him. He stopped when he saw the line of people waiting to go inside the arena.

Mac caught up with him. “Don’t run off and leave me again like that. It would be terrible if we got separated. What do you think they’re all lined up for?”

“They must have come to watch the bulls fighting. Do you think it’s a big boxing ring? This Las Ventas place is huge.”

Mac raised his head and looked around. “It is big. Stay close to me and mingle in with the people’s feet, but whatever you do, don’t let them step on you. Once we’re inside we’ll find a place to hide.”

“Near the food?” Ian licked his lips.

“Yes, Ian, near the food.” Mac led Ian into the bullfighting arena. They darted under the seats until they came to an area where the bulls were caged. “This looks safe.” People were already dropping food on the ground so Ian took advantage of each morsel. His cheeks puffed out, full of tortilla chips and burritos filled with rice and chicken and beans. Ian dropped a load off in front of Mac and ran away to get some more. While Mac sat nibbling on some rice, he heard a deep voice and turned towards it.

“Hola, el bandito.”

A gigantic bull, the size of a large boulder, stood near the metal gate, glaring at Mac. Relieved the bull was behind metal bars, Mac slid on his bottom, across the big wall, moving closer. “Are you talking to me?”

“Hee hee hee. Bandito.” The bull roared with laughter. “Hola. Me llamo George. Cómo se llama usted?”

Mac scratched the top of his head. “Hore-hay? I get it. You’re telling me your name is Hore-hay and you want to know what my name is. I’m Mac.”

The bull snorted, blowing dust on Mac. “Mac? George.”

Mac stared at the bull’s long, sharp horns. He also noticed George had a metal ring going through one nostril and coming out the other. His hide was black and he reminded Mac of ‘Ferdinand, the Bull’, a book he’d seen in the woods one day, except this bull was much angrier. “Why did you call me bandito?”

“Bandito.” The bull lifted his hoof and pointed at Mac’s face. “Bandito.”

“I get it. I look like I’m a bandit with the black circles around my eyes, like a mask. No bandito. I’m a raccoon. See my tail?” Mac held his tail up for George to see. “See the stripes?”

Just then Ian ran back with another load of food. “This should do us.” He dropped it near the other treats of the food. That’s when he noticed the bull. “Mac. Uh, Mac. Why are you standing close to that enormously huge, large, gigantic bull? Are you off your head, Mac?”

“His name is Hore-hay and he’s not too bad. He’s rather nice, actually. Hore-hay, this is my friend, Ian.”

The bull burst out laughing. “Dos banditos. Eee-yan and Mac.”

“What’s he saying, Mac?” Ian nudged the other raccoon.

“He thinks we look like bandits wearing black masks. He’s trying to say your name, Ian.” Mac said the name slowly. “He doesn’t speak English.”

“Oh.” Ian grabbed a cold, greasy burrito. “Would you like something to eat? I’ve got plenty of food, enough for you too.” He handed George the burrito.

George shoved it into his mouth. “Delicioso, Eee-yan.”

Ian handed him some more food. The three of them gobbled up everything. “Are you going to be in the bullfight? You’re very strong looking. I’m sure you could knock the other bull out in the first round.” George had a blank look of his face, so Ian pretended to box. “Bullfight? Comprehend?”

“Me toro. No comprendo. George. Eee-yan. Mac.” The bull pointed at each as he said their names.

“There’s that word again, toro.” Mac turned to Ian.

George’s eyes widened and he grinned. “Toro. George, toro.” The bull pointed at his chest.

“He’s saying he’s a toro. Toro must mean bull.” When Mac said that, George clapped his hooves together. “Oh. Hore-hay is a toro, which means he’s a bull. I’m beginning to understand Spanish.

George thought carefully. “Me, George, speak English un paketo. You no habla Espanol? Me, el toro.”

“He’s trying to speak English. Very good, Hore-hay. You can speak a little bit of English and yes, you’re a bull.” Ian turned and made a face at Mac, ridiculing the bull.

“I think Hore-hay is going to be fighting today. He’s a tough one. I wonder where his boxing gloves are.” Mac stood and leaned over the metal gate. Off in the distance he saw a man dressed in a black costume and wearing a funny looking cap. He carried a red cape in his hand. George started scratching the dirt and snorting angry breaths. “What’s the matter, Hore-hay? Don’t you like that man? Is he the referee?”

George’s lips curled down in an angry snarl. “El matador.”

“Matador? What’s a matador?” Ian gazed at the man in the arena. “He’s carrying swords. What is he going to do with those? Is he going to have a sword fight with someone before the boxing match?”

George blew a huge windy breath out. “El matador.” He took his front leg and pretended to stab himself with a sword. He did it over and over again and then fell to the ground, like he was dead.

“What’s he doing? What’s he trying to tell us, Mac?”

Ian’s gaze wandered to the other bulls and then to the matador. “I don’t think we’re here to watch two bulls fighting each other. I think that man in the strange costume is going to stab Hore-hay with those swords and kill him.” Mac gulped. “Hore-hay, is that what he is going to do?”

The bull jumped up and nodded. He shoved the make believe sword into his heart. “Kill me.”

“Yikes! I don’t want to see that. We’ve got to help Hore-hay and the other bulls escape before the matador kills them.” Ian ran around in circles, waving his arms, frantic and over excited.

“Calm down, Ian.” Mac slipped through the bars into the cage holding the bulls inside. He tugged Ian through. George allowed them to climb on his back as they headed towards the others. “Do any of you speak English?”

A bull, as much the same size as George, gathered around. “El Bandito!” The bulls laughed.

“Yes, I know, it’s very funny. Har har har. Do any of you speak English?” Mac frowned.

“I speak English,” a scrawnier bull said. “Not good, but little bit.”

“Tell the others that the matador is planning to kill them with swords. Ian and I are here to help you escape.”

The bull turned to the others and rambled off something in Spanish. A few of them answered, but Mac and Ian couldn’t understand. “What’s he saying? What’s that one saying?”

“They say there’s nothing you can do to help us. It is our destiny to die in the bullfighting ring. We have been trained for it since we were born.”

“No, that’s not right. We’ll help you. Do you want to die being stabbed by a thousand swords, or do you want to escape and live in the country. It’s nice there. You can eat grass all day long and chase each other up and down the hills and have a grand time and,” he winked, “there are lots of cows.” Nobody will ever stab you again.” Mac heard cheers coming from the arena. “You need to make up your minds right now. Are you coming or not?”

“I come,” George said. The others decided it might be a good idea too.

Mac led the way while Ian stayed at the back to make sure nobody lagged behind. Mac opened the gate at the back of the cage, with the aid of George, who used his horn to pry a piece of wood out of a slot. “Come on. Stay close to me.” The bulls ran out of the cage. Ian closed it behind them. They moved down an alley and stayed out of sight as much as possible until they came to the nearby train tracks. As they walked north, Mac told them what he knew about Spain. “I know there was a famous painter named Pablo Picasso, who lived here.” The bulls all shouted ole at the recognized name. “Shh. Don’t make any noise.” They put their heads down after being scolded and kept quiet. “All right. This train track heads north. I checked the train schedule. Luckily someone dropped theirs in the dirt. No trains are heading north for another two hours. Keep going until you are out of Madrid and then get off the tracks when you see the first grassy field. Don’t go into any china shops.” Mac snickered, but nobody else understood his joke except Ian. “Good luck, Hore-hay. Tell your amigos good luck.”

George spoke to the others. They all waved at Ian and Mac and then trotted down the tracks.

“That matador is going to be really angry when he sees there are no bulls in the cage.” Ian laughed. “I wish I could see his face, but right now, I think we’d better go to the train station and get out of here. If anyone finds out we are the ones that let the bulls go, we’re in big trouble.”

“We barely got here, Ian, but I suppose you’re right.” After looking at the schedule for the trains, Mac spotted the word Barcelona. “I’ve heard of that place. Mr. Andrew’s was reading a National Geographic about Barcelona. I picked it out of the rubbish after he tossed it away. The pictures are pretty. How does that sound?”

“Is it still in Spain?” Ian had no idea where Barcelona was.

“I think so. Did I mention there were warm beaches?” Mac winked. They snuck onto the train soon to be heading southbound, climbed into a luggage bin and lay quietly as the train chugged out of the station.

“You smell like bulls,” Ian whispered before closing his eyes and drifting off to sleep.

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