Many people have probably heard of the phenomenon known as Near Death Experiences, or NDE's. Countless thousands of individuals have experienced the classic white light and the comforting voices of loved ones come to escort their recently seperated soul to whatever lies beyond this world. At 3pm, a few hours after stopping at a ramshackle turnip stand to urinate, Spooner Jenkins awoke on the banks of Goose Lake, roughly 5 miles outside of Coal City, with the rhythmic crashing of water against the side of his bruised and swollen head. And he realized that he had just become one of them.
He had never believed in such occurences until that day, as they are as of yet unexplained by Chiropractic scientists. But he had no doubt now. Only his NDE didn't involve any bright lights or spiritual guides to the afterlife. He sat there, still trembling from the vision that had been visited upon him. His leather riding pants, surely ruined by the hours of lying in the cold water, were beginning to tighten up. He realized that if he didn't get moving soon he would have to cut them off with his whittling knife.
He paused another moment, lost in his memories. Spooner hadn't whittled for what seemed like forever. Which is how long he felt he had been out on the road. How could he have given up on something that had given him so much happiness over the years, he wondered. Whittling is a tradition that has long been a vital part of being a Jenkins. Jenkin's archives going back to the early settlers of Nebraska reveal as much.
(Spooner's Great-Great-Great Grandfather Jebediah Jenkins Jr., a whittler long thought by Jenkins historians to have invented the hobby while recuperating from a bout of Possum Fever. He is also credited as the first person to begin a sentence with the phrase "Well, I reckon....." as well as having invented the term "hootenanny", which although it has evolved to mean an informal social gathering the original defintion, too vulgar to describe, is quite different.)
Like wood shavings tumbling playfully towards the ground, his thoughts tumbled from memory to memory. He was amazed to realize how many happy times in his life had been associated with whittling. Spooner could always count on a few silent hours of whittling to undo the accumulating damage that the stress of running a bustling town like Belvidere had wrought and Agnes even came to enjoy working the wood a few hours a week.
(Agnes, resting against a hand whittled Indian that She and Spooner had worked together on for several years. This picture was taken just hours before Spooner lost her in a poker bet. When he won her back 3 weeks later, and from an entirely different man, she had begun parting her hair differently but was otherwise unchanged. He assumed she wasn't upset with him at the time and would continue to do so for the duration of the marriage. "Who loses with a straight flush???", he was known to exclaim after a few too many visits to the nog barrel on a cold winter night. To this day he claims that the old turnip farmer who beat him had cheated.)
And then a look of realization appeared on Spooners weathered fact. He remembered something, something important. He had met the old turnip farmer, the one that had brained him and left him for dead in the shallows of Goose Lake, before this day. He was the old coot who cheated him out of three weeks with his wife back in the early 1980's, around the time that Webster mania was sweeping the nation on the capable shoulders of that precocious and loveable Emmanuel Lewis. With renewed vigor, Spooner lept to his feet. He had to find him but first he had to find his hog. "Mam and George would have know what to do!", he cried out.
He took a moment to get his bearings, scanning the horizon for anyone who could help but found only birds and assorted insects. Neither would do him much good. A path began just up the bank and Spooner felt certain that the other end would emerge near the turnip stand. Half buried in the mud near where he was left, he found two turnips, neither of which could have been his attackers weapon of choice because no bruising or dried blood was present on them. Underneath was a letter which read "Choose one to find your path."
"How cryptic.", he muttered to myself. "
Do I pick one and take it with me? Do I eat it? What would stop me from just taking or eating both?.", he continued.
Again he looked around for anyone who might be watching, perhaps from afar with the aid of binoculars, but he seemed to be alone. Then Spooner noticed that both vegetables were lighter than would have been expected despite their remarkably large size. He realized that they were hollow just as both tops seperated and slid to the earth revealing hollowed out centers. The turnip on his right contained a key and a ribbon of paper which had an address written on it and its counterpart contained a single piece of coal.
(What you talkin 'bout Spooner?)
He made his choice and followed the path back to the turnip stand to find only an empty patch of grass and gravel. His hog sat right where he left it, the engine still idling. Spooner searched desparately for signs that anyone other than himself had been there but could find nothing. Either he hallucinated the entire event or was somehow the victim of an intricate and well executed conspiracy. The small lump of coal in his pocket and the large goose egg on the side of his throbbing head told Spooner that he wasn't crazy. Someone was behind this. The question was who. And why. Also how.
As he pulled away the shiny surface of the key to a safety deposit box glimmered in the sun as it sat on the shore of Goose Lake. It would eventually be covered by sediment and would remain buried for many thousands of years, its purpose known only to one individual. The contents of the safety deposit box would eventually expire due to lack of food and water, having been unable to fulfill their duty. Months later they would be discovered by an easily startled bank clerk who would faint right there in the vault. They would never be traced to anyone and would become part of the fascinating lore of the world of banking to be told at Christmas parties and corporate meetings until the end of days.