Monday, April 4, 2011

Spanish Civil War Ends. 70th Anniversary: |by Victor Sullivan

A violent death on a bus in Spain
. © 2009

Illustration by Victor Sullivan and Marie Guillot

An early morning BBC news broadcast mentioned that it was the 70th anniversary of the end of the Spanish Civil War. I was in Spain but failed to find any special marking of the occasion. Neither side seemed inclined to celebrate the fact that they ever even had a Civil War. Presumably the side that won weren't happy with whatever it was they got out of it, (Franco), and the side that lost didn't want to be reminded that they had lost.ããIt was therefore a very ordinary warm April day in Spain with the temperature approaching 26 degrees C when I boarded the local bus waiting at its terminus in Torrevieja, paid my 1 Euro 15c and sat in the left hand front seat behind the driver. The rear half of the bus near the exit doors was already full of ladies with trolley baskets and shopping bags, some facing forwards, others backwards, all engaged in loud, agitated conversation in Spanish.ããAs the doors were about to close an attractive young girl came aboard and slid into the front seat across the gangway from where I was sitting. She did not arrive alone however. A wasp sneaked in behind her just as the doors closed. The insect landed on the window beside the girl's bare right shoulder as the bus moved off through the narrow one-way streets of Torrevieja.ããDuring a pause at traffic lights the girl became aware of the wasp and ever so cautiously she began to to back away from her seat and towards mine. The loud chatter continued at the rear of the bus, the woman driver stared straight ahead, the wasp continued to explore the large pane of glass and the girl moved closer and closer to me, her eyes fixed on the insect. ããHer left hand swept searchingly near my face a few times until the slender fingers made contact with the yellow pole outside my seat. She gripped it with white-knuckle intensity and the slow, ballet movements continued. Her right hand gradually moved down behind her back and deftly removed a shoe from her gracefully raised right foot. ããA gentle, sweeping arm movement brought the black shoe onto her left shoulder, close to my face. The flat sole that faced me was of smooth, black, flexible plastic material. The heel was grasped in a firm fist.ããThe wasp, now near the top of the window, began to crawl down towards the centre of the large pane. It paused for several seconds, then continued its downward journey. The bus had now turned into a wider street and was moving more rapidly. The wasp paused once more.ããI saw the muscles of her shoulders tense and I heard the intake of breath above the chatter of the women behind us. Suddenly the shoe wielding arm swung across the bus with the velocity of an Olympic Tai-Quando contestant's coup de grace. The sole of the shoe made violent and perfectly flat contact with the window pane producing a sound like a loud rifle-shot.

Women screamed at the back of the bus. The driver braked hard and brought the vehicle to a rapid standstill. Fortunately the girl had held on grimly to the yellow pole or she would have been catapulted forwards against the windscreen. Shopping bags and trolley-baskets fell over, some contents spilling onto the bus floor. The wasp was now a mess the size of my hand on the glass.ãThere was a brief moment of shocked silence while the driver determined the cause of the explosion, quickly deducing the sequence of events from a shoe dangling from a passenger's hand and the mess on the window. The driver's explanatory announcement in Spanish over the PA initiated a hurricane of abuse from the women at the back. One came forward and demanded that the driver visit all passengers whose nerves had been shattered by what everyone thought was a gun-shot. The spokeswoman then hurled what I assumed was severe x-rated Spanish abuse at the miscreant who now stood sheepishly and silent beside me, with the guilty, wasp-smeared shoe still dangling from one finger.

Having visited and calmed the distraught women passengers at the back of the bus the driver returned, pulled a roll of kitchen paper from behind her driver's seat and thrust it at the culprit. No words were spoken, just a gesture towards the messy window. The journey continued. The window was obediently cleaned. Spilled shopping items were picked up and the chatter in the back seats gradually rose to its former pitch.ãã

That happened on a bus in Spain on the 70th anniversary of the end of the Spanish Civil War, a war that claimed the lives of around 500,000 people.