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Mentally Undress Yourself

by Philip H. Farber

A hermit came into town from the forest, where he had been wandering naked for a long time. In the forest there had always been enough to eat, and enough places to hide when the storms came, if you didn't mind squatting in a hollow tree, eating small rodents. But the hermit grew tired of his solitude and longed for what he remembered of the stimulating quality of human interaction.       

The gravelly road on the outskirts of town was too much for even the calloused feet of the hermit. Fortunately the hermit could see a fine pair of shoes lying in the rocks beside the road. He immediately put them on. They were a bit tight, but the leather was beautifully worked and, most importantly, the hermit could now walk upon the road with greater comfort.

As he came into the center of the village, the hermit began to grow hungry. With no game in sight, the hermit sought out a soup kitchen. Just as he was about to push open the weathered wooden door, he realized that couldn't enter the soup kitchen without a pair of pants. Fortunately, just outside, the hermit found a fine pair of pants. They were a bit short, and not quite his style, but they were a much finer pair than anything he had owned before becoming a hermit. With that, he went inside and enjoyed the soup, which of tasted of beef, not rodent.

Back out on the street, the hermit thought to visit a bank and ask for a loan to set up a small shop, so that he could provide for himself. He realized, though, that he couldn't go into the bank without a shirt. Fortunately, lying in the street was a fine shirt. It was a bit loose on the hermit, and not quite his favorite color, but it got him into the bank, where he easily talked the manager into giving him a loan.

He began to shop in the marketplace for the things he would need for his shop, but realized that the merchants would give him no respect without the vest of a guildmember . Fortunately, in an alley, he spotted a fine vest. True, it bore the markings of the blacksmith guild, and the hermit had hoped to open a bookstore, but it got him the respect he needed and he was soon operating a respectable blacksmith shop.

The shop did well, but the hermit soon realized that unless he allied himself with one of the town's religions and was known as a pious man, he would never draw larger numbers of customers. Fortunately, he found the turban of a Mulla on the street outside his shop. He put it on, and while it wasn't the color of the sect he had belonged to before becoming a hermit, it was a fine Mulla's turban, and he was immediately given great honor by the other villagers.

The villagers plied him with tasty food, paraded their daughters before him in hopes he would take a bride, and attended his every word. At one gathering in his honor, a naked man was hanging back with the beggars and low- lifes . This naked man was none other than the esteemed Mulla Nasrudin, who had recently been seen to dash out of the blacksmith shop where he had earned his living, shouting, "And these damn shoes are too tight!"

One of the low- lifes recognized the Mulla. "Say, Mulla, isn't that your turban that the new Mulla is wearing?"

"It's no matter," Nasrudin said. "I just came back into town to tell my wife that she can have the donkey... I was in the wrong sect, I hated blacksmithing , I owed money to the bank, and everything costs too much money. I'm going to live in the forest! Maybe when I come back in a few years I'll find some better clothing."

© copyright 2000 Philip H. Farber. All rights reserved.