Fiction | September 01, 2000

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Hearing the Honda in the valley, he pushed himself to his feet, paused to let his belly receive the pain, then moved stiffly across the dirt yard to the wrought-iron gate. From there he watched the young white man drive the Honda through the stand of tamarind trees on the brow of the hill and bounce along the dusty trail toward him.

“Mister Henry’s Trousers” by William McCauley

Featured as an Editor’s Pick, Nov. 14, 2008:

Various philosophies of mind frequently claim that the mental supervenes on the physical; or, in other words, that there is no change in our mental state without a corresponding change in biology. Sheku, the protagonist of William McCauley’s story “Mister Henry’s Trousers,” illustrates this principle in extremis. In fact, Sheku’s elephantiasis-infected testicles could be posited as the real protagonists of the story, for they are among only a small handful of explanations for the tragic overreaching with which Sheku conducts himself. As McCauley interlaces the self-destructive actions of this unflappably submissive house servant with intimate and painful scenes of self-readjustment, a connection is forged between the two. Sheku begins to confuse his with other medical conditions as he senses at one point in the narrative some heavy-lidded mental fog akin to malarial fever. It’s clear from his startling behavior, though, that Sheku’s fog is purely psychological, a phenomenological mutation to correlate with his unspeakable biology.

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