Reginald walked around with a walnut implanted inside of his head. It had not been surgically inserted, but rather he had been born with it. The walnut gave him an extremely intensified empathy for the problems of others, as well as a high volume of knowledge on the cultivation of walnuts. However, one side effect of the walnut in his head was that it made him want to run out onto his lawn every morning and sing opera for 10 minutes while spinning around on his side, burrowing a shoulder blade into the blades of grass. His neighbors were very disturbed by this behavior, as they felt that this eccentricity was causing him to miss out on their good times and satisfaction. After consultation, it was decided by all parties, except Reginald, that the walnut should be removed. So one night, as he slept, they injected a sedative into his arm and transported him to a discount nocturnal surgeon. He awoke the next morning and noticed that the walnut was gone, but now he didn't really care. Reginald was sent to a therapist who helped him to see that his walnut-influenced thought patterns were abnormal, and were preventing him from enjoying life the way he should be. Reginald would no longer spin around on the lawn, mouthing opera. Instead he found healthy socially-accepted alternatives for the weekend. He started sailing, and fell in with a group of like-minded, fulfilled, satisfied individuals, who garrulously enjoyed Saturdays and Sundays aboard their boats. He no longer had the extremely intensified empathy for the problems of others, which some missed, but most found the new reduced, moderated level easier to be around, and less disturbing. The Walnut Board was unhappy, as Reginald could no longer provide his previously prolific amount of walnut information, and had become useless to them. This left him without a job, but one of his neighbors found him a job in the town's paper mill and he became a fully functional and well-liked part of the production line, providing his share of jokes and one-liners in the lunch room.
Reginald's neighbors enjoyed his new lifestyle for two years, until one night in dreams Reginald had the vision of a dark figure headed towards the sea on a craft, to parts unknown. He had the same dream night after night, and the details became increasingly clear. Inside the craft, he was able to discern, were bags and bags of walnuts, and the features of the dark, cloaked figure resembled his own.
After 17 nights of this dream, and over 2 years of feeling at-sea, Reginald visited another surgeon, who re-attached the walnut to his brain, much to the consternation of those around him. Reginald again began to display the high level of empathy for the problems of others, which many found uncomfortable or disturbing. He quit the paper mill and the weekend sailing group, got reinstated to the Walnut Board, providing useful information, for which he was compensated accordingly. And again felt the desire, which he acted upon, to spin around on the lawn, bellowing opera, much to the despair of his well-meaning neighbors. Reginald knew that he had returned to his pre-destined path, met some like-minded walnut enthusiasts, and even a couple of alto lawn spinners.
* Eric Suhem lives in California and grew up near a walnut orchard. His work has appeared in various places.