Two Stories by Victor Montejo

BOMB 12 Spring 1985
012 Spring Summer 1985

Advice From A Jackass

A peasant from the warm lands was ploughing his field in the full heat of the day with a tired and sweating ox who did not want to finish the work.

Passing near a jackass who was quietly grazing, the ox stopped and planted his feet with unusual stubbornness. The jackass took advantage of the moment to tell his comrade, “Don’t work any longer. Fall down as if you are sick, or kick this executioner who drives you.”

“Okay,” said the ox and threw himself to the ground.

The peasant had no means to lift him. He twisted his tail and beat him like a barrel but nothing got him up. Tired of working over the insolent animal he straightened up and shouted furiously, “Bring me the jackass. The jackass will finish the work.”

Other peasants untied the jackass from his post and hitched him to the harness and plough. Under the harsh whip he began to plough in place of the ox who now found himself in the jackass’ place, grazing in the delicious shade.

The jackass snorted furiously and began to kick high in the air as was his nature, but each time he was so imprudent, the blows of the whip fell more strongly.

All this happened while the ox peacefully chewed his cud observing from a distance his friend who had given him such magnificent advice.

On the other hand the donkey sweated and sweated under a rain of whip blows and insults, cursing the unfortunate moment in which he had given a jackass’ advice.


Sometimes Right Is Paid For With Wrong

The rabbit had borrowed money and things until he owed half the world. He had paid back nothing and returned nothing. Now he tried to think of how to get out of his jam.

Then he thought up a fantastic idea to escape his worries and their expense by asking the hunter to help him out. But first he went from house to house visiting his benefactors, announcing that they should come on a certain day and get paid back for their loans.

When the day arrived the cockroach was the first to present her demands. The shrewd rabbit appearing very worried told her, “I know you come to collect, friend cockroach, and today I’m going to pay you back. But first you better get beneath the bed because here comes the hen!”

The cockroach hurriedly hid herself beneath the bed so the hen wouldn’t see her.

“I’ve come for my share,” the hen said.

And the rabbit told the hen what he had told the cockroach. “I’ll pay you, but first you better get under the bed because here comes the coyote.”

The hen hid herself and upon seeing the cockroach she snapped it up and swallowed it in a flash.

“I want my share,” the big coyote said.

And the clever rabbit answered, “I will pay you, but quick, hide under the bed because here comes the jaguar.”

The coyote, in fear of the jaguar, hid under the bed. But when he saw the hen, he ate her hungrily.

“I want my share,” growled the jaguar menacingly.

The rabbit told him with great nonchalance, “I will pay you, I will pay you, but hide under the bed because here comes the hunter.”

The jaguar, not wanting the hunter to see him, squeezed under the bed. Upon finding himself next to the coyote, he treated himself to a banquet.

The hunter arrived running and instantly called to the rabbit, “Here I am. Where is the jaguar that has done so much harm?”

The rabbit pointed under the bed and thus put an end to all his brothers who had once helped him in time of need.

Translated from the Spanish by Wallace Kaufman.

Wallace Kaufman is a writer currently living in Pittsboro, North Carolina. His anthology of Mayan literature, The Time of the Maya, spans four centuries of oral and written history and will be published by Signal Books this spring.

Víctor Montejo. Guatemala. Writes in his native Jacalteca and Kanhobal languages as well as in Spanish and English. El Kanil, Man of Lighting in English is available from Signal Books. Teaches and lectures in the United States courses focused on Mayan culture and literature in Guatemala.

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Originally published in

BOMB 12, Spring 1985

Cindy Sherman, Dario Fo, Bruce Weber, Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, and Raymond Voinquel.

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012 Spring Summer 1985