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Nuts. Nuts on trees, nuts in piles, nuts growing out of the ground. Nuts as far as the eye could see.
Nuts all around. And springs and streams of pure rushing water.
You may not associate nuts and raccoons, but you know how raccoons love to wash their food. Well there’s something magical about the effect of nuts on raccoons. They love to wash their nuts. Nuts drive them wild. Nuts drive raccoons into a primordial version of themselves. No raccoon can resist washing their nuts. Give a raccoon some nuts and a creek and you can watch them roll them those nuts around in the water, end over end, over and over, for hours and hours. Raccoons are mesmerized by dem nuts.
“Have at it, you raccoons!”
With the door held wide and the ship held low, I watched the raccoons leave the Araceli, and race into the Land of Nuts.
"This is all well and good, Jimmy Three-hands, but I fear we're getting off the subject. Our readers want to hear YOUR story, not the story of some Traveling Ant."
Rocky Blaze, star reporter for the Bakemono Register, set down his pad and pen with his cute little raccoon hands, and looked up at me with his cute little raccoon eyes. But I knew these Raccoon reporters were anything but cute. They were dangerous. And with the Araceli full of Raccoon photographers, Raccoon editors, Raccoon proofreaders, and Raccoon copy raccoons, Jimmy Three-hands was still up to his three arm pits in a heap of trouble.
I needed them off my tail.
"Well I was about gettin' to that," I explained kindly to the little rabid journalist. "The Traveling Ant played a big role in who Jimmy Three-hands came to be. And who he's going to be."
What Rocky Blaze, star reporter for the Bakemono Register, didn't realize is we'd been in the air a long time. So caught up in Jimmy Three-hands' story, none of the little media-minded badger bears noticed just where we'd flown to.
"Oh my!" I said, doing my best to sound honestly surprised. "Well will you look at that. Just you see what we're flying over right now!"
All the Raccoons crowded around the windows and looked out.
Below us, stretched out in all directions as far as the eye could see, it was the Land of Nuts.
"Now as you know," said the Traveling Ant, "Traveling Ants are rare."
"You might find us traveling alone, or in pairs, but you won't find too many.
But let me tell you there are a LOT of ants. Ants in tunnels. Ants in tunnels in mounds. Ants in tunnels underground! Ants in tunnels in trees and rocks and clouds and in the very fabric of the dimensions.
A lot of people might tell you about worm holes, but it's ants who really have the place tunneled out.
Like all ants, Traveling Ants have to come from someplace, and that's the tunnels. I spent a whole lifetime in the tunnels. More than one lifetime, in fact. And let me tell you when you're an ant in the tunnels that's all you need. That's all there is! There's the tunnels, and the thing about tunnels is, when you're in them that's ALL there is.
What's outside the tunnels? Well, by definition: nothing. Ant physics has no way to describe what's outside the tunnel, because it's not tunnel! As soon as they start digging in that stuff, what do they find? More tunnel!
See where I'm going with this? I'm digging my own tunnel trying to explain it.
The point is, it's not in an ant's nature to see outside the tunnels. Sure, you might see ants crawling around outside their tunnels underground, but even then--what do you see? Ants in a line! Ants following the scent of the other ants. If it's not a tunnel dug then it's a tunnel defined by pheromones and other specialized chemical markers, just as real and sturdy as any tunnel ants inhabit.
But some of us ants see a bigger picture.
And some of us leave the tunnels and discover we can make our own way on the outside, in the space that ants don't even have words for.
And that's how a Traveling Ant gets born.
The Traveling Ant came from a different world than you and I.
"I don't come from a different world!" said the Traveling Ant. "There ain't but one world, and like it or not we all come from it."
I looked at the Traveling Ant through my one, two, three eyes, and I could tell he was telling the truth.
"The Kingdom of the Three-eyed God, Three Mile Road, the Murksea, the Dank Web, Poughkeepsie, places you haven't even heard of, places our readers might even find themselves in, it's all just one big place, now isn't it?
I felt this was about the time the Traveling Ant was going to tell his tale.
"Let me tell you my tale, Jimmy-Three hands." said the Traveling Ant.
The Traveling Ant stood upside down on the underside of the road. As I said, he was big, the biggest Traveling Ant I'd ever seen, as big as a timberjack. He had a worn out top hat on his head and a bindle over his shoulder.
"Hullo, Mr. Ant! I see you upside down on the underside of the road there, standing tall as a timberjack in your worn out hat. But I see your bindle bundle swings the same way you do, towards the road. I can understand how a Traveling Ant like you has feet that cling, but why doesn't your bindle bundle swing up, not down, and why doesn't your hat fall off?"
"Hello, Mr. Three-hands! I can see that you see things in one, two, three different ways. But seein' it ain't the same as livin' it, don't they say?"
I could see this Traveling Ant was familiar with the Kingdom of the Three-eyed God, and had likely even visited the Three Great Nations, and may have even set foot in the Tri-cities himself.
"An eye can't see itself!" I answered him in the traditional fashion.
"Well then why don't you climb right down here and join me, Mr. Three-hands?"
So I took the windy way, the spindly ribbon through and around and came face to face with the Traveling Ant, upside down on the underside of the road.
Except we weren't upside down any more.
Somehow, in the spindly twists of the ribbon, the never-ending figure eight, I got off to find everything right-side up with the Traveling Ant, and everything now upside down below.
"How's it hangin'?" asked the Traveling Ant.
Three Mile Road was said to be a lonely road. I will tell you that. It was said to be the straightest road. It was said to be the flatest road. And it was said to be the most boring road there ever was.
But I will tell you what. Growing up in the Tri-cities, where everyone's got one, two, three different ideas about everything, you get used to seeing everything from three different directions. And you could take little Jimmy Three-hands out of the Tri-cities, out of the Three Great Nations, and out of Kingdom of the Three-eyed God, but you couldn't take the Three-ways of Seeing out of Jimmy Three-hands.
And I will tell you this. What might have looked like a simple, flat, Three Mile Road to you, looked a whole lot different to Jimmy Three-hands.
I could see around the road.
I could see through the road.
I could see under the road.
Jimmy Three-hands took a moment to consider just which way to walk this road.
"Well howdy, stranger. You look a bit lost here on Three Mile Road."
And there, walking upside down on the underside of Three Mile Road, was the biggest Traveling Ant I've ever met.
You can see how Jimmy Three-hands was tired of all the three-ways. Tied up and nearly tripped up on them, as you can see. Too many threes for me! Too many threes from Jimmy Three-hands.
Don't get me wrong! I was respectful of our three-pronged culture, and of the Tri-cities, and my three parents, and the Three-eyed God, the Three Great Nations. I just found myself a bit lost in that three-holed world. Every time I turned around I had one of my three hands caught in three different mail slots, or three different mousetraps, or three different cheesecakes.
My three brothers and three sisters found their ways in their three-fold career paths, but I was lost.
"Too many threes for me!" I told my three brothers and three sisters.
"Too many threes for me!" I told my three parents.
"Too many threes for me!" I told the Three-eyed God.
And I did three things.
I took all the many three-way hands and made them one. One in each of my three hands.
I took all the many three-way legs and made them one. One in each of my three legs.
I took all the many three-way eyes and made them one. One in each of my three eyes.
And do you know what Jimmy Three-hands did? That's right. I put all of the Tri-cities, and all my threes of relatives, and the Three-eyed God, and I put them all inside me.
And along with those three things came the three suns in the sky and the three moons in space and the Three Great Nations, all wrapped up in threes on threes inside me, all buckling to get out.
And with that, I walked away, on one and one path only. Jimmy Three-hands wasn't going to go in three directions at once any longer. Jimmy Three-hands was going to walk Three Mile Road alone.
"Well," I said, "It all started when I was just a little tri-pod, tricycling around the Tri-cities. At every three-way intersection, there was the great big face of the Three-way God, with his three great big green eyes, his three enormous ears, his three button noses, and his three forked tongues, slipping out between this three long, white fangs. The Three-way God's face hovered over each intersection, directing the three-wheelers to stop and to go.
"STOP!" he roared and the traffic from one lane stopped.
"GO!" he roared at the next lane, and the three-wheelers went.
After awhile he hollered "STOP" and the going traffic and "GO" at the next lane of three-wheelers ready to go.
It was an idyllic childhood.
But Jimmy Three-hands' ice cream was starting to melt.
I had one hand on the three-handled handle bars of my trike, and another hand holding one ice cream cone, and another hand holding two ice cream cones, and drips from all three ice cream cones drip drip dripping on my three-legged corduroy slacks. Waiting for the whole cycle of STOPs and GOs was something Little Jimmy Three-hands didn't have time for, as the three suns in the sky were beating down hard.
Just then, Little Jimmy Three-hands had an idea.
"Our Three-eyed God, who art hovering in the intersections, I have an idea for you!"
The Great Three-eyed God turned his three eyes to Little Jimmy Three-hands. There was a lot of down-time for the Three-eyed God between traffic changes.
"I'm sure you've got much better three-minded things to worry about than just directing traffic."
The Three-eyed God raised one of his three eye brows.
"We were thinking... If you just put a big statue of your grand, three-eyed face there in the middle of the intersection, and told all the three-wheelers to take turns, one at a time, driving around it, turning off where they liked, well... these three-way intersections could run themselves! And you could be off doing better things!"
The Three-eyed God's three eyes opened wide.
And that's how Little Jimmy Three-hands invented the roundabout.
And made it home before his ice cream melted."
The Araceli had a funny smell.
Not a ha-ha funny smell, but a wet dog kind of smell.
The sunny shores of the Mermaid Imperium was a great place to let the Araceli air out. Get all that close air of Bakemono Road out of the ship and have a fresh start. The windows and hatches and cargo doors were all left open, while yours truly, Jimmy Three-hands, spent time with the metal detector in the sands, strolling around in my three-legged Bermuda shorts.
So it didn't seem right that the ship would be beset by such a rank odor.
A familiar odor.
An evil odor.
"All right you Raccoons! Jimmy Three-hands may not see you with his three eyes, or hear you with his three ears, or have you by the scruffs of your privacy-invading necks in his three hands, but he's ready to kick you right out the door of this flying airship with his three feet if you don't fess up and come out right now!"
"Well heck, Jimmy Three-hands. No reason to be so sore about it."
It was a Rocky Blaze, star reporter for the Bakemono Register, crawling out from behind the sink.
And a team of Raccoon photographers, Raccoon editors, Raccoon proofreaders, and Raccoon copy raccoons. Crawling out of the cabinets and from behind the storage lockers and up from the secret smuggler holds.
"We just wanted the scoop on the man who tricked old Bakemono Toad, tricked Joe King Crow, crashed Skunk's party, tricked the Demon Lawmen, and lived to tell the tale. The readers of the Bakemono Register want to know! They need to know! You're a hero! A star! Let us tell your story and you won't be sorry, Jimmy Three-hands."
Now Jimmy Three-hands isn't interested in fame. And Jimmy Three-hands isn't interested in creating any more of a reputation than he has to. And Jimmy Three-hands knows better than to trust Raccoon reporters any farther than he can throw them. But this was a lot of Raccoons to throw, and Jimmy Three-hands knows better than to take on a troop of angry Raccoon reporters in close quarters.
"Well... Jimmy Three-hands just might tell you a story, Rocky Blaze, star reporter for the Bakemono Register. You just get yourself comfortable while old Jimmy Three-hands takes the pilot seat and we'll have a little talk."
Jimmy Three-Hands didn't really think through about how The Mermaid Imperium Giant-sized Annual by @SLYR was mostly underwater. Just as it is too much to be too long anywhere on the ground, I also believe it is too much to be too long anywhere beneath the surface of the ocean.
It is true that a turtle can take you to the Dragon Palace at the bottom of an ocean.
And it is true you can be entertained quite a bit in the Dragon Palace at the bottom of the ocean.
And it is true that you can be gone a long, long time.
But never open up that tiny box!
I've got mine right here.
Which is why I was in no hurry to go underneath the surface of the ocean to visit the Mermaid Imperium. Oh I played around in the surf, and I used the shower on the beach. But Jimmy Three-hands was happy to just skim the surface of the ocean, looking for the signs of the Mermaids lurking underneath.