Profession: The Tailor
“Come on! Get out of that miserable hole where you’re hiding and fight me like a real man!”
Fighting? Who wanted to fight? Shaking in his boots, knowing full well that the man threatening him looked as menacing as he sounded, the town’s tailor closed his eyes and stopped breathing for a second, praying to God that he would fool his tormentor long enough to believe that he was somewhere else. Anywhere.
Vienna had never known a tailor like Jan Herauldi before. Vienna had never known anyone quite like him, for that matter. Originally from Italy, he had been hired by some of the city’s most prominent people to instill a sense of glamour and fashion to some noble men and women whom, according to the tailor, were in desperate need of it. “Some of them look like they’re sporting rejects from a hobo’s wardrobe, Herauldi complained to a friend. They look absolutely horrible. These are noble people, for God’s sake! Such accoutrements are inexcusable.”
Business quickly boomed for Jan Herauldi after his move to Vienna. All high society members wanted to buy his clothes, made with the most elegant and expensive fabric available. But as the months went by, Herauldi was becoming increasingly frustrated, risking a heart attack each time he walked down the streets in Vienna and saw most people wearing his clothes, still looking as drab as they were when he first got there.
“I am at wit’s end! the tailor wrote a friend in Italy. I don’t know what to do anymore! Today, I saw the mayor’s wife at the market wearing a purple dress and a red hat! Good grief, I hid behind a huge stack of beets for fear that she would recognize me and that people might think that I approved this nonsense! My clothes are beautifully made. The best there is! But around here, no matter who’s wearing them, they all look like rags! I’ve never been so depressed in my entire life! I drink way more than usual.”
Back in Italy, the Herauldi family was not from nobility by any means. But in his mind, Jan was. He prided himself in behaving like a noble man: dressing like one, talking like one, walking like one. It was only a matter of choosing who and what to be. It was only a matter of leading by example and the tailor couldn’t wrap his mind around the fact that the people in this town just didn’t seem to know how to do that. Or care. The tailor was working hard to elevate the ladies’ social status; to make them look like the important people that they were. But to him, they just looked like a bunch of peasants. How could that be? He, the amazingly gifted tailor, how could he not work his magic? To Jan, most women were parading around town looking like madams and most men were sporting his clothes like they would a 50-lbs potato bag.
Refusing to give up, the tailor came up with a plan to finally turn things around. He had tried everything in his power to turn these ugly ducklings into swans but to no avail: gently telling them that they looked like complete fools; extreme close-fitting; running after a gentleman in the street to teach him how not to wear his hat backwards… So, desperate times called for desperate measures. The tailor would have to make them understand, whether they wanted to or not. From the get go, he was told that his job was to make the people from this town the best-dressed around and he wasn’t about to fail.
One day, just to make sure that everyone knew of his intentions, the tailor dressed up as a city guard, walking around town, “arresting” people for the crime of how ridiculous they looked. Noblemen, peasants… Everybody was a target. Some people didn’t seem to care, walking away as if nothing happened. But some were shocked, utterly speechless by the nerve and the arrogance of the tailor.
“Who on Earth do you think you are, telling me I look like a fool? asked some people.
– Only a man trying to do his job, responded the tailor. I’m just trying to help you people look like decent human beings.”
Utterly proud by the shock value of his undertaking, convinced that people were finally understanding what he has been trying to tell them for months (that they looked like complete idiots), Jan was blind to the downside of what he was doing. People were talking. About his clothes, about his shop, about him… But not necessarily for the right reasons. Some women were genuinely shaken by the way the never-before-married tailor talked to them, which left Herauldi completely puzzled.
“Did you just call me ugly?
– Not quite. I said that you could be rather beautiful if you would just take the time to take care of your appearance before you got out of your house, in the morning.
– Oh! My God!”
But when the tailor was puzzled, it wasn’t for really long. In his mind, he was really complimenting the people he “arrested”, helping them in owning their beauty and features.
“Even if, in some cases, he wrote to that same friend back in Italy, I feel more like I’m flat out lying than anything else.”
To the tailor, the very fact that he took the time to tell people how foolish they looked showed that he cared. Without his ideas and suggestions, nothing would ever change and Herauldi just couldn’t allow that.
At the end of the second day of stopping people in the streets, the tailor was confidently walking back to his shop, happy with himself, when some stranger came to him to talk.
“Are you Jan Herauldi? asked the stranger.
– Why, yes I am, answered the tailor, smoothly. What can I do for you?
– If I were you, I would run. Now.
– What are you talking about?
– Some husbands are pretty mad with the way you talked to their wives. One of them promised to beat the crap out of you. He’s looking for you as we speak.
– What?! Why? I was only trying to help, and…
– Just don’t say anything and run if you don’t want to get your nose broken and lose what’s left of your teeth.”
The tailor barely had the time to safely get to his shop. Closing and locking the door behind him, he was suddenly asking himself why he had left his country in the first place when he heard someone banging on the door.
“Open the door, you little piece of shit! I know you’re in there!”
Barely able to breath, the tailor hid under a table, hoping that the man at the door would think that he wasn’t home.
“I saw you running inside, just like the weasel that you are! No one except me talks like that to my wife, you hear me?!”
His eyes closed, Herauldi was trying to think about finding a way out but the man just couldn’t stop talking. “Since she saw you yesterday, my wife doesn’t want to go outside, anymore! She doesn’t want to go to the market, she doesn’t want to do anything! I was supposed to have lamb sausage, last night for dinner, and because of you, you little bastard, I only had some dried up rye bread! My wife was too shattered to cook!”
Silently praying, asking God to make the man go away, the tailor barely had time to move when he heard a foot knocking the door down. In a matter of only a few seconds, the man grabbed Herauldi by the collar, pulled him out from under the table and punched him in the face. All went black for the tailor.
“Where am I?”
When Herauldi woke up, he was lying down on the floor of a jail cell.
“Hello? Can anybody hear me?”
A guard showed up, a huge smile on his face. “So, you’re finally awake…
– My head hurts so bad.
– No surprise there. You were knocked down pretty cold. Consider yourself lucky to be alive. The man who punched you was really mad and he doesn’t have a reputation to go soft on those he beats up.
– So why am-I in a jail cell? I didn’t do anything wrong.
– That’s not up to you to decide. That will be up to the judge.
– The judge?!
– Yes. As a matter of fact, you better get yourself together pretty quickly because your trial is about to start shortly.”
A trial? But for what, exactly? Completely startled, Jan still couldn’t understand what he has done wrong.
“Disruption of public order, answered the guard. By the way, the mayor’s wife was among those you called ugly. The mayor will see to it that the judge renders a guilty verdict.
– But I was only trying to help!
– By saying to people that they look like old cows? What kind of help is that?”
It didn’t take long for the judge to render a verdict: Jan Herauldi was, now and forever, banished from the city of Vienna, effective immediately. The tailor would have to go back to Italy.
Shortly thereafter, some people started a huge fire and burned all of Herauldi’s clothes. His name was never mentioned again.