How Hunter Mayhem Traveled to Uruguay

By Francis Nenik

Translation Bradley Schmidt

Hunter Mayhem was Uruguay.
He stood like the shadow of an arc lamp in his kitchen, looked out of the window and let his words pour from the pane onto the windowsill.
“Good Lord, Hunter,” said Hunter Mayhem to himself, “you can’t travel to Uruguay. You don’t even go out to get the mail from the mailbox.”
The mailbox, twelve feet below the puddle of words at his feet, overflowing. A big pile of paper on the street. People were digging through it or jumping in, children ripped up what they could get their hands on. The mailwoman gave them fodder, day after day.
“Uruguay,” said Hunter Mayhem, “river of painted birds, of snails, of the Uruland, the food-bringers.”
It was 7:12. In the Republic to the East of the Uruguay it was just becoming light. But here the sun above the roof was already at its zenith, paving the street with its beams and papering light paths above the ruffled skulls.
“Well then,” said Hunter Mayhem, taking a deep breath and exhaling a little less deeply, “the river is ready to be waded through.” And took a step forward, and there was the wall.
His shin turned blue under the radiator.
“I remember the splendid fouls during the World Cup ’86 against the kickers from Scotland,” said Hunter Mayhem, “Batista, football god, grim reaper, red card after fifty-six seconds.”
The shin flourished like the turf in the Nezahualcóyotl stadium.
“All of Montevideo must be full of dangerous sliding tackles,” thought Hunter Mayhem and cast a yearning glance down at the street.
The mailwoman brought new letters.
“Hips like a Uruguayan cow,” judged Hunter Mayhem and the statistics hung next to his head.

Uruguay
3.8 cattle per person
59.9 % of land area used for cattle farming
82.4 % including dairy farming

Hunter Mayhem drank coffee.
It was hot and everything sweated and was crooked. The statistics. The clocks. José Batista on the wall. Hunter Mayhem behind the windowpane.
But he had started it. This morning when he awoke in his kitchen. Accordingly it was up to him to put an end to the situation.
But what actually was the situation? And what was it outside his kitchen, outside his mailbox? And where did the door behind him actually lead? Uruguay?
“I could turn around and take a look,” said Hunter Mayhem, “but I’m afraid that it’s not Uruguay behind the door. Perhaps it’s Columbia. Or Panama.”
“Why don’t you just look through the keyhole?” said José Batista. “Gordon Strachan was also a red-head when I fouled him.”
“There’s a key in the keyhole,” said Hunter Mayhem, “I could gouge out an eye. Or two.”
“Take it out!” commanded José Batista.
“I don’t know,” said Hunter Mayhem, “all sorts of things could come sloshing through a keyhole like that. I mean, if it’s not Uruguay.”
“What does that mean?” asked José Batista.
“The key to success is simultaneously the key against the catastrophe,” said Hunter Mayhem, “and by now Gordon Strachan has ash-blond hair.”
José Batista shook his head and his hair fell down into the dirty dishes. Now he was completely bald.
Hunter Mayhem scratched himself. He was still standing crooked in the kitchen and sweating, while beneath him the people scrapped for his bills.
“They don’t know anything about Uruguay,” he said to the windowpane. “For them Uruguay is just a word. If it is one at all.”
“And what is it for you?” asked the windowpane.
“For me it is the be-all and the end-all,” said Hunter Mayhem, “and the in-between even more so.”
“I’m the in-between,” said the windowpane.
“Oh,” said Hunter Mayhem, “then you’re the one who reminds me of my mother.”
“I didn’t know you had a mother,” said the windowpane.
“And what a mother I have,” said Hunter Mayhem, “she always said: why aren’t you like Joseph, who loves his homeland? Or like Eudipius, who worships his mother? Why Uruguay, Hunter, why?”
“And what did you answer?” asked the windowpane.
“I don’t know,” said Hunter Mayhem, “I don’t have any memory.”
“Glass,” said the windowpane, “glass is memory. Why don’t you reflect yourself in me?”
“I don’t know,” said Hunter, “maybe you’re right, maybe I don’t have a mother at all.”
“Reflect!” cried the windowpane.
“I could have said it myself,” said Hunter Mayhem, “then Uruguay would be my homeland. And my mother as well.”
“Mirror, mirror on the wall, Batista’s hair’s not there at all?”
“No, it’s in the sink,” said Hunter Mayhem, “the statistics don’t lie.”
“And why are you wearing papal vestments?” asked the windowpane.
“He was there,” said Hunter Mayhem, “from March 31 to April 1, ’87, no joke.”
“I know,” said the windowpane, “but you’re sweating.”
“Second visit,” said Hunter Mayhem, “all of Montevideo was full of warm words.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” asked the windowpane.
“If Uruguay is my homeland and also my mother, then the question why wasn’t a complaint,” said Hunter Mayhem, “then it was a secret token of love, a great desire of the Uruguayan soul, the call to finally come to her and crawl into the body from which I was to be born.”
“But the statistics…!” cried the windowpane.
But it was already too late.
Hunter Mayhem had put his head through the glass.
The people on the street stopped.
Hunter Mayhem stepped through the window, jangled onto the sill.
The words stuck to the bottoms of his shoes.
He bent forward, and pushed off of the windowsill just before falling.
Women screamed, children laughed, men scratched their bald heads.
Hunter Mayhem made a sliding tackle through the air, down to the mailbox, smashing it with outstretched legs.
No card.
In the west the sun drowned itself in the Uruguay River.

Original © Francis Nenik
Translation © Bradley Schmidt