Chapter XI, page 95
The crowd at the bull ring throws objects into the ring as they whistle and yell. Below, the wounded bull falls to his knees, and one of the matadors finishes him with a stab. The crowd overflows the barriers, two of them grabbing the main bullfighter and cutting of his pigtail. A child runs off with it. Afterwards, the narrator says, he saw the bullfighter drunk in a café, claiming that he is “not really a good bull fighter.”
The third of the bullfighting stories in this collection, this vignette makes clear that bullfighting is a bloody sport for both the bull and the matadors. As with so many entertainments, matadors are made to seem larger than life, but in reality, as the drunk shows, they are just men, too.
“Out of Season,” pages 97-103
Peduzzi, a hotel garden worker and a drunkard, has agreed to lead a young gentleman from the hotel and his wife on a fishing trip to the river in the town. He is drunk by the time the young man appears, and behind him comes his wife, carrying two unassembled fishing rods. She sulks as she follows Peduzzi and her husband through the town, and Peduzzi keeps urging her to catch up with them as if they were a jolly threesome. He stops before a wine shop and convinces the young man to give him money to go in for marsala wine for the three of them. The man gives him money, but the shop is closed. They must go to the Concordia, where the young man and his wife must buy the wine. They go inside and order three marsalas. As the woman, called Tiny, drinks hers, her husband apologizes for having spoken rudely to her at lunch. “‘We were both getting at the same thing from different angles,’” he tells her. She replies that none of it matters, that “‘It doesn’t make any difference.’”
The husband carries the bottle of wine outside and finds Peduzzi, who eagerly eyes the wine and carries the fishing rods. He chatters that no one will bother the couple because they are with him, even if fishing is against the law. He is quite jolly as he takes the couple to the river. He switches from speaking in Italian to German, unsure which nationality the couple is. Neither of them really understands him. The husband feels uneasy for breaking the law and urges his wife to return to the hotel. She tells him he does not have the guts to tell Peduzzi they are cancelling and return to the hotel himself.
Finally, because it is a cold day, Tiny finally agrees to return to the hotel. Peduzzi is upset that she leaves. He and the gentleman sit down to assemble the rods, but Peduzzi discovers that the man has no lead for his line. The gentleman decides to fish tomorrow instead. They share the wine bottle, and Peduzzi says that, if the man will give him some more money, he will see that tomorrow they have wine and food for a picnic as they fish. He feels excited and considers quitting his job at the hotel, for life is looking up; he will have wine for another day. He might do this every day.
They agree to meet at seven in the morning. But as the gentleman takes leave, he says he might change his mind. He will leave Peduzzi a message at the hotel desk if he does.
This short story is one of three in the book that deal with marriage. Clearly, the gentleman and his wife, Tiny, have marital problems. Communication between them seems to be difficult; each of them seems to want different things from their relationship, but just as Peduzzi cannot find the right language with which to speak to the couple, the man and his wife cannot find the right language with which to communicate their feelings.
Chapter XII, page 105
If one is close enough, says the narrator, one can see the details of the fight. The bullfighter Villalta sweeps his muleta or red cape in front of a bull, snarling and cursing at the bull. He finally calls out “Toro! Toro!” and as the bull charges he plunges the sword between the bull’s shoulders. For a moment, matador and bull seem to be one. Then they separate, and while Villalta throws a triumphant hand up, the bull staggers, bleeding, until it falls to its knees.
This vignette portrays the classic bullfight, with the brave, flamboyant matador conquering the angry bull. Unlike the previous vignettes, in which the bullfighters seem less than regal, this vignette paints bullfighting as a blend of beauty—the sweeping flourishes of the red cape, the bullfighter’s straight back—and brutality.
“Cross-Country Snow,” pages 107-112
Nick hops off the funicular or cable car in his skis and begins to rush down the ski slope. Ahead of him, George also skis. Nick loves the sweeping, swooping feeling of going over the ski run, but when he gets to going too fast, he is determined to stay upright. However, he hits a soft patch and down he goes. George calls up to him to come down, advising him to keep to the left. Nick heads past George, down the slope, over the billowing khuds, until he stops parallel to the fence. George follows, but he does not Christy.
The two go over the wire fence and ski down the logging road. When the road becomes steep uphill, they take off their skis and walk to the lodge. Inside, Nick orders a bottle of wine for them from the serving girl, and he comments how nothing can beat skiing. They drink their wine, and listen to the serving girl singing in German in the next room. George wonders if the lodge has cake, so Nick calls to the girl. He sees that she is pregnant under her apron. He asks what she was singing. She says it is German opera, but she does not want to tell them which opera. She goes to fetch them some apple strudel. George thinks she is unfriendly. Nick makes excuses for her: she is not from the area and she is touchy about being an unmarried mother-to-be. She does not have a ring, anyway.
A group of Swiss woodcutters comes in and settles to drink wine and smoke quietly. Nick and George are content in each other’s company. Nick asks when George must go back to school, and George replies he must return that evening. He says he wishes that he and Nick, whom he calls Mike, could just ski away, visit pubs, not care about anything like school or jobs. Nick mentions that they could go to Schwarzwald, where they fished together last summer.
George relaxes with the wine and asks Nick if Helen is expecting a baby. Nick says yes, in the summer, and that he will have to go back to the United States with her, even though neither he nor Helen wants to. George remarks that “‘It’s hell, isn’t it?’” but Nick replies that it is not, really. They talk about how the skiing is not as good in the States, and Nick comments that the mountains there are “‘too rocky. There’s too much timber and they’re too far away.’” He and George agree that it is like that everywhere.
The Swiss woodcutters get up and leave. George wonders if he and Nick will ever go skiing together again. Nick cannot promise that. He picks up his ski poles and heads outside. In the cold dark, they hike up the road. “Now they would have the home run together.”
This story appears to be set after the war, before Nick has returned home to the States. Just as with the story about his breakup with Marjorie, Nick is once again caught between a relationship with a woman and a relationship with a man. The bond between men is simple, it seems, composed of free moments like skiing and talks over wine. Life is not so simple however. Women—Helen, in this case—complicate things. Unlike with Marjorie, however, when Nick chose his friendship with Bill over one with her, Nick is now mature enough to realize that one cannot be a boy forever; one must grow up and take responsibility for one’s actions.