Mummified thumb

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Located in the North exhibit room of the River's Rest Museum, this mummified thumb holds the secret of life.


This small scrap of flesh and bone is clearly a human thumb.  The severed edge is neat and tidy, indicating it was cut with a very sharp blade.  The color of the thumb...a dark grey...suggests it was mummified through some natural process.


As you begin your song you feel the heat of the summer sun beating down.  You see a young monk, dressed in a bright, saffron-colored robe, confidently approaching a small beehive-shaped stone hut.  Beside the hut, under the scant shade of a small tree, sits a small, wizened old man.  The young monk kneels and says, "Master, I am told you are wise.  I pray you will share your wisdom with this unworthy monk.  Tell me, Master, what is the secret of Life?"  The monk bows respectfully.

The old man fixes the young monk with a long stare.  He stretches out his arm and slowly raises his thumb.  As the young monk stares, astonished, the old man waggles his thumb.

The cool breezes of autumn seem to caress your brow as you sing.  The old man sits beneath the small tree, eating pickles from a stone crock.  Fallen leaves surround him.  The young monk, his head bowed in weariness, approaches the old man.  The old man ignores him, concentrating on his pickle.  "Master, every day for months I have come to you, asking the same question.  You have yet to speak a word to me.  Please, I beg of you, tell this unworthy monk the meaning of Life."  He bows deeply.

The old man sucks the pickle juice off his fingers.  He stretches out his hand...and waggles his thumb.

You shiver as you continue your song, feeling the chill wind of winter tickling the back of your neck.  The young monk, his saffron gown faded and patched, approaches the beehive-shaped hut.  He calls out, saying "Master, I've come again."  The old man crawls out the low doorway of the hut and takes his place beneath the tree, now barren of leaves.  The young monk kneels.  His face is haggard, his chin unshaven, his hair wild and knotted.

The old man sits quietly, as if unaware of the presence of the young monk.  After a long moment the young monk opens his mouth as if to wearily ask the same question one more time.  Suddenly, his weary eyes brighten.  His mouth forms an OH of sudden enlightenment.  He slowly extends his hand and, without a word, waggles his thumb.

The old man raises one eyebrow, then without a word he returns to his hut.

As you inhale a breath to resume your song, you can almost smell the resurgence of new life that comes in the spring.  You see the stone hut beside the small tree, its branches bedecked with new blossoms.  The young monk, his saffron robe patched but freshly laundered, strides up the path to the hut.  The old man sits beneath his tree, using a sharp knife to carve a willow whistle.  The young monk bows, kneels before the old man, and promptly stretches out his hand, waggling his thumb.

Quick as a frog, the old man whips out his knife and slices off the young monk's thumb!  The young monk leaps to his feet, clutching his bleeding hand.  He stares at the old man in horror, then turns and begins to run down the path.

The old man calls out "Wait...."  The young monk, shocked at hearing the old man speak for the first time in a year, stops and turns.  The old man puts down his knife.  He extends his hand toward the young monk...and waggles his thumb.