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Mr Taylor by Augusto Monterroso

Mr Taylor by Augusto Monterroso

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Published by: Jean_Jacques_Vandale on Jun 26, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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by Augusto Monterroso
“Surely not as strange, altho
ugh without a doubt more exemplary," theother man said, "is the case of Mr. Percy Taylor, a head-hunter in the Amazon jungle."It is known that in 1937 he left Boston, Massachusetts, where he hadrefined his spirit to the point of not having a penny. In 1944 he turned up for thefirst time in South America, in the region of the Amazon, living with a tribe of Indians whose name there is no need to mention here.With his sagging eyes and his ravenous appearance, he quickly becameknown as the "poor gringo," and the schoolchildren even pointed and threwstones at him whenever he walked by with his beard shining in the brighttropical sun. But Mr. Taylor refused to be discouraged by his humblecircumstances for he had read in the first volume of the
Complete Works
of William G. Knight that poverty was no disgrace, so long as one did not envy thewealthy.It was only a matter of weeks before the natives grew accustomed to himand his eccentric attire. Besides, since he had blue eyes and a vague foreignaccent, the President and Foreign Minister treated him with singular respect,fearful of provoking international incidents.Still, he was so wretchedly poor that one day he went off into the jungleto search for plants to eat. He had only gone a few yards without daring to turnhis head when he happened to notice through the dense tangle of vegetation twonative eyes decidedly observing him. A long shiver ran down his tender spine.But Mr. Taylor, intrepid, defied all danger and continued on his way,, whistlingas though he had seen nothing.With a leap (that need not be described as cat-like) the Indian was beforehim, exclaiming:
 Buy head 
 Money, money
!Although the Indian
s English could not have been worse, Mr. Taylor,caught a little off guard, gathered that the Indian was offering to sell him anoddly shrunken human head of a man, which he held out in his hand.It is hardly necessary to say that Mr. Taylor was in no position to buy it,but because he gave the impression of not having understood, the Indian feltterribly small for not speaking good English and, begging the gringo's pardon,made him a gift of the head.
It was with great delight that Mr. Taylor returned to his hut. For a longtime that night, lying face up on the precarious palm mat which served as hisbed, interrupted only by the buzzing and obscene lovemaking of the hot fliesthat circled above him. Mr. Taylor gazed with pleasure upon his curiousacquisition. He derived the greatest aesthetic satisfaction from counting, one byone, the hairs on its face and chin, and from having before him that pair of eyes,almost ironic, which seemed to smile at him as though grateful for hisattentions.A man of immense culture, Mr. Taylor was frequently given tocontemplation, but on this occasion he soon became bored with his philosophicreflections and decided to send the head to his uncle, Mr. Rolston of New York,who since earliest childhood had shown a keen interest in the culturalmanifestations of Latin America.A few days later Mr. Taylor's uncle wrote to ask him, after inquiringabout his precious health, if he would be so kind as to send him five more. Mr.Taylor agreed with pleasure to this odd request and - it was not quite knownhow - by return mail "was happy to carry out your wishes." Deeply grateful, Mr.Rolston requested ten more. Mr. Taylor, in turn, was "delighted to be of 
service.” But when, a month later, he urged that twenty more be sent, Mr.
Taylor, a simple bearded man but one possessing a refined artistic sensibility,began to suspect that his mother's brother was making a business out of them.Well, if you want to know the truth, he was. With perfect frankness, Mr.Rolston explained everything to him in an inspired letter whose strictlybusinesslike terms made the chords of Mr. Taylor's sensitive spirit vibrate asnever before.They immediately formed a partnership in which Mr. Taylor undertook toobtain and ship the shrunken heads on a commercial scale, while Mr. Rolstonwould sell them as best he could in his own country.Right away there were bothersome difficulties with some of the locals.But Mr. Taylor, who back in Boston had earned top honours for his essay onJoseph Henry Silliman, proved to be somewhat of a politician and managed tosecure from the authorities not only the permits necessary to export the heads,but a ninety-nine year exclusive concession as well. It was not difficult for himto convince the chief executive warrior and the legislative witch doctors thatsuch a patriotic move would, in a very short time, enrich the community, andthat it would not be long before every thirsty native was able to enjoy(whenever there was a lull in the collecting of heads) a nice cold soft drink whose magic formula he himself would supply.
When members of the Council, after a brief but enlightening intellectualeffort, took into account these advantages, their patriotic fervour became soinflamed that within three days they issued a decree ordering the people tospeed up the production of shrunken heads.A home without a head was a broken home. Soon came the collectors,and with them certain contradictions: to own seventeen heads came to beconsidered bad taste; but it was distinguished to own eleven. They werebecoming so commercialized that the truly elegant people were losing interestand would now consider buying one only if there was some unusual peculiaritydistinguished it from the common run of heads. One, particularly strange, with aPrussian moustache, which in life might have belonged to a highly decoratedgeneral, was donated to the Danfeller Foundation, whose directors turned rightaround and contributed three and a half million dollars toward the developmentof this fascinating manifestation of the Latin American people.Meanwhile, the tribe had made so much progress that they now had alittle promenade around the Legislative Palace. Along this charming path themembers of Congress spent Sundays and Independence Day, clearing theirthroats, displaying their feathers, or laughing seriously among themselves, onbicycles given to them by the Company.But -- well, what would you expect? Good times don't last forever. Whenthey least expected it, the first shortage of heads presented itself.That's when the fun really began.Natural deaths were no longer sufficient. The Minister of Public Healthwas deeply saddened by this unfortunate turn of events, and one night after hehad turned out the lights and had fumbled with her breasts awhile, admitted tohis wife that he considered himself incapable of raising the mortality rate to alevel acceptable to the interests of the Company, to which she replied that heneedn
t worry, that it would all work out in the end, and that they'd all be betteroff if he just went to sleep.To compensate for the administrative deficiency, it was necessary to takestrong measures and establish the death penalty in a rigorous fashion.The jurists consulted with one another and rose to the category of a crimepunishable by hanging or firing squad, depending upon the gravity of the case,even the most trivial of offences.Even simple mistakes came to be regarded as criminal acts. For example:If during the course of an ordinary conversation someone, out of pure

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Brilliant satire on the pitfalls of capitalism and neo-colonialism. On par with the greatest of Swift.
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