Taylor the Carpenter

Guy Bar Yosef

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, there was a group of citizens concerned about the competitive and aggressive world they lived in. Prioritizing health and happiness over money and fame, they built a town that emphasized a sense of community, where excessive work was discouraged, and civility and compassion were prized above all.

Among these citizens was a skilled carpenter named Barbery who created for herself a reputation as honest and skilled. Finding success in her work, she one day accepted a young and eager apprentice called Taylor who dreamt of becoming a carpenter. Taylor quickly became Barbery's favorite apprentice, reading every book he could find on the subject and practicing techniques over and over until he mastered them. After many years of apprenticeship, Barbery gave Taylor her blessing to open up his own shop. Although business was slow, whenever an order came in, Taylor would oversee every aspect of its completion, ensuring the highest quality possible. He began earning a reputation similar to Barbery's, and she was proud of the values that she had instilled in him.

Both of their lives changed when, out of nowhere, the town was featured in a Top 10 Places to Get-Away piece in an influential magazine. Overnight, the town's population sky-rocketed. A large market opened up for residential and commercial renovations, and carpentry quickly became a lucrative profession. Taylor the Carpenter was suddenly bombarded with work opportunities and was having difficulty juggling them all.


On a day not unlike others, while already attending to several orders, a couple walked through the shop. "Hello there Mr. Carpenter, we have promised our child a wooden horse for her birthday. Could you help us?" they pleaded. Although his schedule was already full, Taylor felt this was a good cause and found himself promising a horse to carry the child wherever she should choose.

Soon after, another couple entered the shop— this time an old married couple. "Ahoy there my gifted carpenter! We have worked tirelessly over the past 50 years so that we could retire lavishly. When we saw this town, we knew this was the place we had been waiting for! We have dreamt of spending our remaining days on a beautiful porch. Could you help us?" they asked. Over-scheduled as he was, Taylor could not help but admire the hard work and resilience that had led the couple into their retirement years. Against his better judgment, he found himself agreeing to help.

Not a moment after the second couple left, a third couple arrived— newlyweds starting a new life in an exotic town far away from their pasts. "Good carpenter, we wish to begin our lives anew here and were hoping you could construct our kitchen," they said. This proposition put Taylor in a difficult position. He imagined that helping a couple so early in their lives would lead to recurring business in the years ahead. Pushing aside thoughts of the enormous backlog he already had, he found himself accepting the third couple's offer.

As the next several days wore on though, Taylor realized that it would be nigh impossible to complete all three of the new contracts on time. Refusing to cancel an order as a matter of principle, he had no choice but to work harder than ever before. Quietly, so as not to alert the town to the fact, Taylor began crafting and constructing through the night, sleeping only a few hours a day. He tried to overcome his exhaustion with extra coffee, which led to measurement mistakes due to the jitteriness of his hands. At the end he managed to complete all the orders on time. Unsatisfied with the quality but relieved to have met the deadlines, Taylor began learning the value of trading quality for quantity.

Lowering the caliber of his work provided time to take on ever more clients. Gradually, the excellence that Taylor's Carpentry was so renowned for disappeared, and the town businesses deemed him unfit for their patronage. Taylor did not foresee this trend and was suddenly scavenging for clients. Revenues continually diminished and it was not long before Taylor had to close shop. Although Barbery provided shelter and food at first, Taylor did not want to burden her permanently. He left her care and turned to the streets.

Begging turned out to be a very difficult skill for poor Taylor, and in the beginning he cried himself to sleep most nights. The carpentry profession did not lend itself to begging, so there were many hungry nights. Soon enough, Taylor befriended the more savvy of the street solicitors. He found out that his fellows shared a dwelling where all honest hustlers were welcome--for a minor fee. They presented to Taylor the den they had built for themselves over the decades: a kitchen with cookware and a communal quarter with mattresses. They emphasized the benefits of asking for cookware over food, showing him how they preserve food and salvage what had spoiled. They invited Taylor to join them, so long as he shared the stipulated portion of his begging receipts. Accepting the offer, he began learning techniques for beseeching and imploring, at first shadowing an experienced beggar and eventually going off on his own. Nevertheless, Taylor never found much success. After many months, he could cover his lodging fee, but still always had less booty than the others.

Failing to recognize why begging was so difficult, Taylor chalked it up to his misfortune. With food and shelter covered, he reflected deeply upon the mistakes he made as a carpenter and how he could redeem himself. Pinpointing his downfall to the compromise between quality and quantity, Taylor swore to return to the distinguished quality-driven routines of the past. With this vow, Taylor approached Barbery and pleaded for a second chance.

Barbery knew Taylor's skills and accepted, giving him a small job. Motivated to show his professional redemption, Taylor used all the finesse from his heyday to quickly climb the ranks. The lowly helper was soon Barbery's second-in-command and had a partnership in mind, along with a 50% profit share. Yet, whenever Taylor brought up his idea, she declined. Taylor continued to produce exquisite work undaunted, impressing customers and peers alike. Yet no matter the accomplishment, Barbery refused to promote him.

These rejections infuriated Taylor. He believed that Barbery was taking advantage of his talents and not giving him the compensation he deserved. Tension grew until one fell day when the two were working on a client's bedroom balcony. Taylor, in a particularly dark mood, again approached Barbery about the partnership. She whisked him away, scolding him to focus on the job at hand. Suffering from a sudden fit of rage, Taylor pushed her over the balcony edge to her death, then staged the murder to look like a tragic accident.

As the only second-in-command, Taylor promoted himself to head carpenter and regained ownership of a carpentry outfit. Full of happiness, he began charting goals to become the town's pre-eminent carpenter.

Unforeseen by Taylor, alas, was the superstition that formed quickly among the town's close-knit citizens. Barbery's tragic demise drove away all business, and Taylor's newly regained shop lost its sheen: no citizen wanted to be associated with a workplace fatality. Taylor once more found himself begging professionally on the streets. This time, however, potential good Samaritans were scared by the permanent taboo pegged to his name. He stayed a beggar for the rest of his life.

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