“El Estocada” by John David Anderson

For week 2 of The 2015 Deal Me In short story reading challenge, I drew the five of diamonds. (An explanation of the challenge may be found here. You can also check out my complete list of stories I’ll be reading in 2015 if you’re interested.) 2015/01/img_39191.jpg

El Estocada

We see it all the time in sports. The relentless questions posed to aging superstars on ’the wrong side of thirty’ – “Have you lost a step?” “Do you still have enough arm strength to make ’all the throws?’”, etc. Having these reporters nipping at one’s heels must be incredibly exasperating, and if sports superstars fall victim to them surely superHEROES would face the same challenge. Such is the case for The Sentinel, a past his prime superhero guardian of the city where this story is set.

2015/01/img_5336.pngWe meet him in a bookstore, where he is enjoying some quiet moments just “perusing” – an activity in stark contrast to his normal, superheroic duties. Though enjoying some down time, he is troubled by a recent encounter with a reporter who suggests that The Sentinel ‘allowed’ an old couple to die during an attack of an arch-villain. When The Sentinel points out that he had saved a school bus full of children instead of the elder victims, and that he had to make a choice, the reporter suggests that, in his younger days, The Sentinel was fast enough to have saved both of them. This earned the reporter a broken and bloody nose, something The Sentinel regrets. Just a little, though.

The action in this story takes place mainly in the bookstore when The Sentinel spots a young woman sitting in the store reading the newspaper. He is immediately attracted to her: “She wore a magenta dress with gold swirls embroidered into the hem, the straps revealing sharp shoulders and toned arms. Her hair reminded him of tree bark, with its layers and undulations, its palpable topography. He wondered what it smelled like.” Not exactly a conventional description – tree bark(!) – but who am I to guess what a superhero’s thoughts would be like. The Sentinel’s encounter – and its aftermath – with the woman completes the story in a way I found quite satisfying.

I was also curious about the meaning of the title so I had to ’research’ it before reading. I’m no expert on bullfighting (what little I know is from Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” and from following the big annual international chess tournament that used to be held in Linares, Spain) but the term “estocada” refers to the final thrust of the sword of a matador which kills the bull. This title is quite appropriate for the story in multiple ways, including a bit of a surprise ending…

(below: the legendary bullfighter, Manolete)

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I recommend this story and the antholology “Indy Writes Books” that includes it. If you are interested in obtaining a copy, it may be purchased at Indy Reads Books bookstore in downtown Indianapolis or online. Worth noting is that all proceeds from the sale of the anthology go to support adult literacy programs in Central Indiana. (Oh, and “full objectivity disclosure”: Bibliophilopolis is also a “First Edition Sponsor” of this book 🙂 )

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