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Now both Big Hard-worker Mother Goddess Field Mouse and I were in a position to see the cat. But that only made two-thirds of a fact.
"Little Good Terms Field Mouse," I called. "Why don't you come over here and take a look in this well?"
"Aw I already spent a good time poking around that well, fishing around for dead cat, and there wasn't nothing. And I was thorough, Jimmy Three-hands."
"Oh I'm sure you were, Little Good Terms Field Mouse, but that was then, and this is now, so why don't you give it a little doublecheck?"
Little Good Terms Field Mouse scampered up to the edge of the well.
"I don't hear any cat," Little Good Terms Field Mouse said.
"You just take a closer look."
"I don't smell any cat," Little Good Terms Field Mouse said, bending his head over the well.
"You just take a closer look."
"I don't see any cat," Little Good Terms Field Mouse said, stretching his little mouse head deeper and deeper into the well.
And that's when Big Hard-worker Mother Goddess Field Mouse gave Little Good Terms Field Mouse a kick in the pants.
"Maybe the cat is both alive and dead," said Little Good Terms Field Mouse.
"He's always saying stupid things like that," said Big Hard-worker Mother Goddess Field Mouse.
"Yes you must use your Power of Discernment with intention," said I. "Here. Let me clean your spectacles."
Big Hard-worker Mother Goddess Field Mouse looked at me sternly through her spectacles again.
"Let me clean your spectacles."
Big Hard-worker Mother Goddess Field Mouse turned away.
"Let me clean your spectacles."
Big Hard-worker Mother Goddess Field Mouse handed me her spectacles.
Big Hard-worker Mother Goddess Field Mouse's spectacles sure were dirty. Years of listening to Little Good Terms Field Mouse and his schemes. Years of listening to the Squeaky Acres Old Time Radio Hour. Years of listening to her own fears.
"Take a look now"
Big Hard-worker Mother Goddess Field Mouse put her spectacles back on.
"The cat is alive," she said.
Big Hard-worker Mother Goddess Field Mouse dusted herself off and walked right up to me.
"Our cat is missing and I need help bringing her back, Jimmy Three-hands," she said.
"The cat is lost in a quantum field, Jimmy Three-hands," she said.
"We don't know if the cat is alive or dead, Jimmy Three-hands," she said.
I knew just what kind of help Big Hard-worker Mother Goddess Field Mouse was looking for.
"The cat is alive," I said.
Little Good Terms Field Mouse led me through the woods.
Little Good Terms is a tiny creature, so much of the trip was following the wake of spurts of leaves and twigs he left along the trail.
After a long while, we came upon a clearing. There was a tiny mouse hole, and a well, and a tiny Field Mouse pulling weeds.
"JImmy Three-hands, this is my wife, Big Hard-worker Mother Goddess Field Mouse."
Big Hard-worker Mother Goddess Field Mouse looked at me sternly through her spectacles.
I could tell this one was going to be a difficult problem.
"Aw heck, Jimmy Three-hands," said Little Good-terms Field Mouse. "We've already started the process of a long-term and highly complicated lease-to-own arrangement with the Moles. I thought you'd be able to help us out right now."
Little Good-terms Field Mouse looked a bit disgruntled. And I was feeling a bit disgruntled. There I was just sitting down with Great Mama Two-hands for a glass of her ice-cold strawberry lemonade when this little Field Mouse asked me for help with three things. The first of these things was no small endeavor, but Jimmy Three-hands saw it through. The second of these things was no small endeavor either, but Jimmy Three-hands knew from experience that a direct approach was not a reasonable option. Now that glass of ice-cold strawberry lemonade was sounding mighty good, and I wondered if Little Good-terms Field Mouse might just call it a day.
"Well I'm not quite ready to call it a day, Jimmy Three-hands. If you don't might, I'd like to talk to you about the third of my three things."
"Lead the way, Little Good-terms Field Mouse."
Little Good-terms Field Mouse and I looked at the big boulder family for a good long time.
I looked at the big mama boulder, bigger than a house, with my first eye.
I looked at the big daughter boulder, bigger than a garage, with my second eye.
I looked at big baby boulder, just about as big as a car, with my third eye.
I spent a good time studying all of them with all of my eyes. And not one of the big boulder family seemed to be moving. Not one little bit.
"Little Good-terms Field Mouse," I said, "Not one of these big boulders seems to me to be moving. Not one little bit. Not one little inch. Not one little millimeter."
"Well now maybe you're just not thinking at the right speed, Jimmy Three-hands. Maybe their movement is imperceptible to you as they are living on a different time scale. Maybe you don't have great great great great great great great grandpa maps that tell you those three members of the boulder family used to live way up high on that hill till one day the big daughter boulder said 'Hey let's go roll over those little harmless field mice' and so they started their long march to roll us over!"
I conceded that all of those things might be true. But these boulders were mighty slow folk.
"I thought maybe you'd have a talk with them, Jimmy-three Hands, and see if they might take a different notion."
While Jimmy Three-hands does believe in the power of diplomacy and negotiation, having a proper conversation with this boulder family would take more time than I've got, on account of the very slow speed in which they talk. Once upon a time Jimmy Three-hands spoke to mountain top and by the time I was done there was moss growing all over me and a bird had built a nest on my head and I'd outlived everyone I'd ever known. Jimmy Three-hands learned that that hard way.
"Well no, Little Good-terms Field Mouse, I'm afraid having a talk with them won't do at all. Heck, by the time we got our hello's out of the way, your tiny common-interest development might be flattened! No, Little Good-terms Field Mouse, I think we need to make use of the one advantage we have in this situation, and that is our own relative time scale, which in this case means our speed."
Little Good-terms Field Mouse looked up at me hopefully.
"What do you know about real estate investing?" I asked him.
"I see three things," I told Little Good-terms Field Mouse.
Little Good-terms looked up at me expectantly.
"I see one great big mama boulder, bigger than a house."
"Mmm-hmmm" said Little Good-terms.
"And I see one big daughter boulder, bigger than a garage."
"Yes, that's right," said Little Good-terms.
"And I see one big baby boulder, just about as big as a car."
"You see things pretty clearly, Jimmy Three-hands."
"Yes I do, Little Good-terms Field Mouse. Yes I do."
We both looked at those boulders for a good long while in silence.
"But what I don't see, Little Good-terms Field Mouse, is why this big boulder family is one of your problems."
Little Good-terms field mouse looked up at me in a confused way. And then in an anxious way, And then in a frustrated way.
"Well can't you see it's because they're coming to roll us over, Jimmy Three-hands!!!?"
Those three boulders looked mighty still to Jimmy Three-hands.
Little Good-terms Field Mouse was, as you can see, a field mouse. And you might think field mice live in fields, which is sometimes true. And you might think that field mice live in the woods, which is also sometimes true. But you probably don't think that field mice live in condominiums. But this is also true.
Little Good-terms Field Mouse and the rest of the members of his nest owners association (NOA) lived in a very pleasant common-interest development (CID) called Squeaky Acres. It was near the edge of the field near the edge of the woods near the edge of the hills, which afforded them a view of the field, and of the woods, and of Great Mama Two-hands house. And it had beautiful sunrises and beautiful sunsets and a pool and a fitness room and a common room that could be reserved for little field mouse birthday parties and wedding receptions.
"You just watch where you step, Jimmy Three-hands," said Little Good-terms Field Mouse. "Our NOA dues are already expensive."
And indeed Jimmy Three-hands did not want to destroy any of their amenities. Or face a little good terms lawsuit for destruction of property. You could see they took great pride in its upkeep.
The little field mouse residents of Squeaky Acres scrambled away when they heard Jimmy Three-hand's three big feet crunching through the grasses, but Little Good-terms Field Mouse squeaked his squeaks and wiggled his nose and whiskers in little field mouse code and let them know they had nothing to fear from Jimmy Three-hands.
Little Good Terms Field Mouse took me back behind their little condominium units, where their little strip of manicured grass and skinny planted trees ran up against a chain link fence and the field and the woods beyond.
"Here is what we fear, Jimmy Three-hands" said Little Good Terms Field Mouse.
And there is where Little Good Terms Field Mouse pointed out the second of his problems.
I have to admit Jimmy Three-hands was feeling pretty proud of himself, taking care of the first of Little Good-terms Field Mouse's problems as neatly as that, not to mention gaining an Oath of Debitum in the process. I was wondering if maybe I oughtn't be getting back to Great Mama Two-hands' kitchen for some of that pie.
"Pssssst! Hey Mr. Jimmy Three-hands!"
I looked down and there was Little Good-terms Field Mouse, pulling on one of my three pant legs.
"For such a little good-terms field mouse, you sure do have big problems."
"Oh, you don't know the half of it, Mr. Jimmy Three-hands."
"It's true, it's true!" I nodded emphatically. "I do not know the half of it. Or even the third of it. In fact, Little Good-terms Field Mouse, I don't know any of it at all, and why you've got these problems, and why I am helping you out with them."
"True, true," said Little Good-terms Field Mouse, a little embarrassed. He was looking down at the ground, drawing little circles in the dirt with his little foot.
We both stood in silence a moment in Great Mama Two-hands' pasture.
Little Good-terms Field Mouse looked back up at me and straight into my third eye and said "Well, we better be getting along to the next of the three things now, Mr. Jimmy Three-hands."
"That's TumbleBEETLE!" Mr. Tumblebug roared, knocking down a few more trees.
Mr. Tumblebug is mighty particular about his classification.
"Yes sir, yes sir, right you are. My apologies," I told Mr. Tumblebug. "Now what brings you to these parts, sir?"
Mr. Tumblebug can't see too well, but he smells great. If you know what I mean. He got up on his spindly hind legs and waved those big old antlers of his around in the air a bit and said "I smell a great treasure."
Then he came crashing down and pushed his big black face right in front of my face, and looked at me with his big black eyes.
"Do you stand between me and my treasure?" Mr. Tumblebug asked.
Now, normally, you don't want to get between Mr. Tumblebug and his treasure. Mr. Tumblebug is plenty big, and doesn't care too much about what gets between him and anything. But this wasn't a normally time.
"Oh, perhaps you are referring to Great Mama Two-hands' dung piles?" I asked. "You know she's a great dung collector. She's saving it up for the Idofrod County Fair, where she's sure to take first place again this year."
Mr. Tumblebug was taken aback. Though he is of prodigious size, Great Mamma Two-hands' reputation is bigger.
"Aw, nuts." Mr. Tumblebug said.
I had Mr. Tumblebug right where I wanted.
"Well..." I started. "While Great Mamma Two-hands does love her blue ribbons, she's not so prideful she wouldn't help another creature in need. Are you in need, Mr. Tumblebu--eetle?"
Mr. Tumblebug sat back on his haunches, crushing some saplings. He looked embarrassed.
"Er, uh, you see," he looked around, like he was telling secrets. Great Mama Two-hands' cows, Andy and Betsy; and Great Mama Two-hands' goats, Baphomet and Azazel; and Great Mama Two-hands' sheep, Sleepy and Drowsy, weren't paying him no mind. And Little Good-terms Field Mouse must have just blended into the scenery.
"You know," he continued, "I'm a pretty big fella. But Mrs. Tumblebeetle is BIGGER. And now she's got eggs to lay and says that my dung balls just aren't big enough, and if I want to make her happy and give our little tumbelbeetles-to-be a proper upbringing, I've got to bring home bigger balls than I ever have, and I've looked everywhere, and nobody's got that much dung, and I just don't know what I'm a gonna do..."
Mr. Tumblebug started to sob. I'll admit it wasn't pleasant to see such a grown beetle cry, and I couldn't help but feel partly responsible. Still, it was a necessary part of Jimmy Three-hands' plan.
"Well you just hold on a minute, sir. Now you're putting me in a pretty tight position, me being in charge of security for Great Mama-two hands' dung piles. And while she might not be here right now to consult with, I may be willing to make an exception in your special case. But on one condition."
Mr. Tumblebug looked up, hope gleaming in his shiny black, but somewhat teary, eyes.
"I would be willing to allow you to take these three great piles of dung, if you will afford me the Oath of Debitum!"
Mr. Tumblebug looked shocked. Even though his faceplates aren't so expressive, you could see it there.
"Yes, yes I would. Even that I would give."
"Well I can see you know a fair deal when you see it, sir. In that case, the usual procedures and rituals will apply?"
"I agree to it," said Mr. Tumblebug. "In time of need, you will give three strong stomps on the ground -- ONE, TWO, THREE! -- one with each of your three legs, and I will come to your aid, wherever you may be. You just make sure they are three strong stomps, which I will be able to hear, anywhere in the world."
"Done," I said, and I spat on my right hand and and Mr. Tumblebug spat on his right front forepaw and we shook on it.
Then it was only a matter of giving Mr. Tumblebug time to roll all three piles of dung into one big ball, and start rolling it out through the forest, leaving a wide, wide path of smashed trees and bushes and logs behind him. But the day was still hot, and I wished I'd had some of Great Mama Two-hands' ice-cold strawberry lemonade to sip on while I watched him work.