Aphelion Issue 256, Volume 24
November 2020
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The Death of Mad Bull

by Peggy Dustin

Even for an Ogre, he’s big. Not just big, as in tall, big, but big as in muscle-ey big. He looks like one giant deformed muscle. You know that breed of cows that are so muscle-bound that they can’t even walk? Yeah, he looks just like that. He’s a freak.

He acts like one of them bulls too. Always snortin and pawing if you get in his way or if you even look at him wrong. So, you just gotta stay out of his way. At least, that’s what people say. I think they say it cause it sounds like it’s an easy thing to do. I suppose it is if you don’t live in his same building like me, my family or the rest of the tenants.

And although he’s big, and mean and ornery, my dad isn’t really afraid of him like everyone else. But then my dad ain’t really scared of much. Maybe ‘cause most people are kind ‘a scared of my dad. Now don’t misunderstand, my dad’s not mean or a bully like Mad Bull. He’s not even very big. He says I’m a lot like him. I guess that’s true cause every year for class pictures I’m always on the font or middle row—never in the back like the tall kids. Anyway, my dad’s a fighter. I don’t mean, he’s always getting into fights. I mean he’s a professional fighter. And he’s pretty good at it. Says he’s been doing it a long time, so he should be. Most people out on the streets know my dad is a fighter so they don’t really mess with him, and even though, like I said, I’m smaller than most kids my age, and don’t like fighting at all—‘cause of him, they don’t mess with me either.

I think you got to be able to think in order to be afraid. And like most Ogres, he doesn’t seem to do much of that, so he’s not afraid of nothin’. We live up above him so we’ve always been his favorite targets.

Sometimes when me and my brother get to playing rough and loud, he’ll come bounding up those stairs, with his usual huffing and snorting and bang so hard on our door that you can see it shake. My dad though, he seems to be able to calm him down like no one else. One time I asked him how come Mad Bull acts somewhat reasonable with him.

Dad says you got to get to know a person. You gotta study them. Know where they come from and how they came to be. And then when you understand them, you know how to beat them. I was real small the first time Mad Bull came huffing up the stairs. Banging on our door. Mad Bull wasn’t so mad then, nor was he as big. But cause Mad Bull was saying some mean things about us, it wasn’t just Mad Bull that was yelling and threatening. After a few minutes of that, Dad figured if the two of them continued handling things the way they were, someone was going to end up throwing a fist and hurting somebody. Dad knew he might get a bloody nose out of it but he also figured Mad Bull was going to get the worst of it. So instead, he told Mad Bull to hold up. He runs to the back room and grabs his headphones. “Here,” he hands them to Mad Bull. “I got kids and they are gonna’ rough house. Kids got to be kids. So sometimes when things get too much, I use these. Since I ain’t planning on going no where and you ain’t either, here, you take ‘em.” He holds the headphones out to Mad Bull. “When things get too much for you, you put these on and drown out the noise. The kids will probably pipe down in no time and then you can take ‘em off.” But Mad Bull doesn’t take them. “What about when I want to watch my programs? What ya gonna do then, huh?” Mad Bull asks.

“You just turn this knob on the side and it tunes into your station and the viewer turns on. Like this.” Dad showed him how to properly use them.

Mad Bull just stood there like he wanted to fight but knew he couldn’t. He had been beaten by someone who understood him. Finally he took the headphones. He put them on and turned them up so loud Dad could hear and see the program himself. Mad Bull smiled and then walked back downstairs.

But that was when he was not so big and not so mad. Did I say that already? Anyway, the uninterruption lasted for a long time. Dad says the bigger Ogres get, the meaner they get, until they get so mean, they either get kicked out of society or they go find a secluded place on their own.

Anyway, every now and then Mad Bull will forget about the earphones and we’ll hear him stomping up the stairs. Dad does his best to meet him at the door, remind him about the earphones. That usually ends the argument. Until two weeks ago.

That day we heard him coming. So Dad did what he usually did and waited for him at the door. But this time, when Dad opened the door, he was met by a large fist in the face. It knocked him back onto the floor. I ran over to dad and Mad Bull came charging after me. He picked me up and threw me aside. I slid across the floor, and came to a stop underneath the kitchen table. I looked over. My gaze resting on Mad Bull. His face, it was rage. It was hate. It was...crazy mad. He picked up my dad and slammed him against the floor. Yelling at him about the noise that’s been going on above his head and how he better keep it under control. But my dad didn’t hear, cause my dad was out. I picked myself up and ran over trying to push Mad Bull off my dad. But he didn’t budge. Instead, he grabbed me and began yelling in my face about the intolerable noise always going on up here and how he can’t think or watch his programs.

I heard a noise in back of me. I turned. My dad lay there staring at us.

“I can’t take him. I can’t do anything to stop him.” He said to me. “You know what to do.” I nodded.

“Mister.” I said. Trying not to cry out from the pain of his grip around my arms and how scary it was to have that raging face so close to mine. “Mister. Do you remember the headphones my dad gave you? The ones that drown out the noise? Do you remember? Do you remember how they drown out the noise so much that it lets you sleep and watch your programs and so you don’t hear nothing?”

I saw his eyes squint. As if he actually had a thought. His grip loosened. I continued. “Maybe I can help you find them so you don’t hear no more noise.”

He pushes me aside. “I don’t need no help, kid.” He glances at my dad like...like he almost felt bad. “You just better make sure you keep the noise down up here, or next time....” He turns and leaves.

I called the police and an ambulance. Mom and my little brother met us at the hospital. Mom says the doctors said Dad was going to be okay although he had a broken nose and a slight concussion. They wanted to keep him under observation for a few days.

Mad Bull got arrested. I hoped this would be the thing that got him expelled from society.

We visited my dad a lot for the next few days. Every time I’d see him, lying in that bed with a bandage across his nose, it made me mad and scared.

“What was going to happen when we got home and Mad Bull is there?” I asked my mom.

“Don’t you worry about that.” She said. “He’s probably in jail and will be there for a while. And when he gets out, we’ll tell the building management about his time in jail. Our building code doesn’t allow people with a police record to live there, so he’ll be kicked out.”

But that didn’t seem to satisfy. There was something inside of me buildin’. It made me mad. It made me want to hit somebody, mad. It made me want to hit anybody who looked at me wrong, or startled me or touched me. It made me mad like...Mad Bull mad.

But hittin’ never seemed to help that anger go away. It just got me in trouble. My teacher suggested maybe its cause who I really wanted to hit was Mad Bull.

That night when we all got home from visiting Dad, we walked past Mad Bull’s apartment. I stopped. I could hear his T.V. I glanced at my mom. She wrapped her arm around me, “It probably never got turned off from when...well. Yeah, I’m sure that’s it.”

But then, the door suddenly flew open and out he came carrying a bag of garbage to take to the incinerator. We all froze. He didn’t even seem to see us while he humphed and snorted his way to the basement.

Mom quickly gathered us and rushed us upstairs. She took our balls and toys and hid them. Then made us sit quietly with her until it was time for bed.

That night, as I lay in bed I thought about a lot of things. But mostly I thought about my dad laying in the hospital bed and how I never wanted that to happen again.

The next day, we were supposed to all go to the hospital to pick Dad up and bring him home. Mom was real excited. I told her I wasn’t going. She seemed real sad until I told her I wanted to do something nice for dad and get the house ready for him. That seemed to brighten her up a bit.

I asked for some money so I could go to the store and get dad’s favorite snacks. After they left, I grabbed my brown jacket and instead of going out the front went through Mom and Dad’s room and down the fire escape. It seemed to work all right. I cut through the playground. It was pretty busy. And then ended up at The Lookout. Then turned around and went back to the neighborhood market. Greeted Mr. Riley. Told him my dad was coming home today and wanted to get some nice treats for him. Mr. Riley asked me a few more questions. After I picked out my snacks, Mr. Riley smiled and said I didn’t owe him a thing. How about that? He said everyone looked up to my dad and wished him well. I promised to tell my dad what he said. I knew Mom and Dad would be real happy about that.

I left my front door ajar when I got back. After putting the groceries away I got my soccer ball and began practicing. I thought I would see how hard I had to bounce it before it would hit the ceiling. I was planning on practicing for as long as it took. Soon, I was jumping and bouncing the ball off the walls, the ceiling, the floor, as hard and as fast as I could.

That was until I heard those heavy, angry footsteps coming up the stairs. I heard him yelling and cussing. I dropped my ball by the hallway door, which led down the stairwell, leaving that door also slightly ajar. I was already downstairs. I would let him see a glimpse of me, my jacket the whites of my shoes just before disappearing around the corner into the crowd.

I made sure he saw me as I ran towards the park, ducking behind shrubbery and people as I made my way. The slide, that was just for fun. I really didn’t have time to get in line and slide down, expecting him to follow me. I mean, if he saw me, he’d probably grab me out of the line or just wait at the bottom of the slide for me So I had some kid trade jackets. Told him to wait until I gave him the signal. When I saw Mad Bull coming I told the kid to start climbing the ladder and get to the top of the slide real fast. Mad bull was so intent, he actually climbed up, shoving kids out of his way. It was the least I could do, let him have a little fun. Too bad he didn’t take a minute to just enjoy it. When Mad Bull was sliding down I had the kid give me my jacket back, quick like. My dad gave me that jacket. I was off to the next point.

Once again, I let him see me from a safe distance. I made sure he was still in pursuit and off I went again. As I approached the shrubbery, I let him get close. I had to. I could hear him huffing and snorting behind me. He was slower than I expected. I let him get close enough to keep him distracted, you know, close enough that he was sure just a few more steps and he would have me in his mad bull claws. Keep him thinking just one more step. Close enough that he wouldn’t see anything else around him. I was getting real nervous the closer I got to the shrubbery. Nervous, he’d come to his senses, look up and stop.

But that never happened. I dived into the shrubbery, grabbing onto the base of the bush and swinging myself around and back up. I heard him push through the brush behind me. I heard him jump with me and then I heard him yell as he realized there was nothing underneath him. By this time I had my feet up on the ledge and I was watching Mad Bull. I watched him frantically grab for something, anything. His yelling building into more than yelling but screaming as he realized his frantic reachings were futile. I saw the terror on his face build. I heard the scream that recognized this was death.

It’s kind of a tricky place, the drop off. You wouldn’t know it was there cause all the thick shrubbery blocking the way. My friends, we go there sometimes and drop things to see how long it takes to hit and if it splatters or not. Some of them say it’s almost a mile down. I don’t know if that’s true, ‘cause you can make out the ground below. Dad says he heard of someone actually surviving it. Wasn’t sure if they were human or not though and even then, they couldn’t really do much afterwards. The only thing is, I didn’t watch Mad Bull hit. And, well, Mad Bull being so strong and an Ogre and all—What’s gonna happen if he survives that fall?


2020 Peggy Dustin

Bio: Peggy is a lover of hiking in the beautiful and majestic mountains of Salt Lake City, and a self-titled Hot Chocolate connoisseur. She has been writing for the last 10 years as a member of The King’s English Writing group. She also has experience publishing, (formatted, designed and printed) a small quarterly newsletter for six years. She has multiple short stories of Fantasy and Science Fiction, with two completed novels.

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