Once a bull opened a china shop. That certainly was not by choice. The bull had originally envisioned a career in rare porcelain. It had looked forward to a life of elegant connoisseurship, offering the contemplation of exquisite pieces by appointment and sharing arcane insights with like-minded collectors over cognac. There was not a Sung Dynasty celadon or Ming “blue and white” that the bull could not identify by collection and describe from memory, right down to the cracks. But it was not to be, this life as an aesthete and respected arbiter of taste. No mornings in a silk dressing gown or evenings at exclusive clubs. Instead, the bull found itself trapped behind the counter of a small shop stuffed from floor to ceiling with ceramic knickknacks, peddling kitsch to survive. No venerable cognoscenti passed their time here. In their place, groups of tourists and birthday shoppers squeezed past the shelves of mass-produced figurines and keepsakes. While the bull recited to itself a lecture on Ashikaga-era tea bowls that would never be delivered, customers picked up this item or that, turned it over a few times, and then put it back down with a “This one’s cute.” The miniature china bulls on key rings were always a favorite. Customers could be counted on to break into nervous giggles, looking back and forth between the tiny form in their hands and the huge one bent over the cash register as if absorbed in the machine’s enigmas. Out-of-towners were especially prone to buying the key-ring bulls as a memento of their visit. “Who’ll believe it when we tell them?” they might be heard to say as they left the shop with a final glance over their shoulders. After the last customer of the day had departed and the bull had locked the door to the shop and pulled the blinds, it would stand motionless awhile and survey the crowded shelves. For those few moments every afternoon, a distant look would come into its eyes. Then the look would pass. The bull would shrug its broad shoulders and begin walking slowly back down the narrow aisle, flicking its tail and randomly knocking a few pieces to the floor.
Copyright © 2003-2004, modified 2009, by Geoffrey Grosshans