In a land where the sun sets in the east, where the fish can fly and the birds can swim, where the dogs climb trees and the cats play fetch, there is a pond that is so large, it is bigger than most lakes. In this pond is an island with a hill taller than most mountains.
Who should live in this unlikely place but three unlikely residents. First, there is a cross-eyed cyclops named Hugh Mungus. Next, there is the world’s shortest giant. She’s two meters tall, or about six feet and six inches. Finally, there is the world’s tallest dwarf, and he’s also two meters tall (they’re twins).
An interesting thing happened to them recently. An old man in a boat washed ashore on the island. The first to find him was Hugh.
“Hello there, my name is Hugh,” he said, and he stuck out his hand. The old man just sniffed the air. Hugh stood there awkwardly with his arm out for a second or so before drawing it back, and after the fact he felt he had done so perhaps a bit too quickly. He fidgeted for another moment before asking, “What’s your name?”
“My name is not important. Where I come from, we have no names,” said the old man.
“How do you mail a letter?” asked Hugh.
“How do you mail a letter to someone back where you’re from, if you don’t have names?”
“I don’t do much letter writing, on account of I’m blind.”
Hugh looked at the man. Sure enough, he had no eyes. Hugh wasn’t too polite to have noticed, he just thought the old man had been squinting in the bright sunlight.
“Okay, well…” Hugh thought for a moment. “If you don’t mind me asking–”
“I do mind,” said the old man. “I ain’t got time for questions. Questions are for folks who don’t know, and if you don’t know, you wouldn’t even know what questions to ask in order to find out.”
Hugh thought for a moment. He wasn’t exactly sure–
“Hey, are you going to help me or what?”
Hugh took the man’s hand and helped him out of the boat.
“What do ya got to eat around here?” asked the old man.
“Well, let’s go check with the twins and we’ll get you fed. I was collecting some beefnuts when I saw you, but you probably don’t want them raw.”
The old man’s jaw dropped. “You have what now?”
“Beefnuts. Oh… um, it’s probably not what you’re thinking. They grow on trees, not cows. But you want to boil or roast them before you eat them, otherwise it’s like chewing on a hoof.”
“Give me some,” said the old man, “I like a good challenge.” Hugh paused before putting one in the old man’s hand, which he promptly popped in his mouth. The old man put his hand out again.
“Why don’t we see how you do with that one. You don’t want to say you died choking on two beefnuts.”
“Ah, who cares about dying. I welcome death,” said the old man.
“You welcome death?” asked Hugh.
“Death is only the beginning, my friend,” said the old man. “After I die, I’m going to live in a mansion under the sea forever.”
Hugh was silent, expecting the old man to say more, but he didn’t. His hand was still out, so Hugh handed him another beefnut.
“My place is this way, if you need somewhere to stay,” said Hugh.
“That’d be great, thanks. I live by the kindness of others.”
“That’s a good way to live,” said Hugh. “I imagine that forces you to encourage kindness in others.”
“It’s not about me. I can’t make anyone be better. I work through another.”
“Oh really?” asked Hugh. “Who is that?”
“I work for the invisible Eagle, who sees all, hears all, knows all, and does all.”
“Does all?” asked Hugh.
“The wind does not blow unless the Eagle wills it. The sun will not rise unless the Eagle wills it. Every breath you draw is only because the Eagle wills it,” said the old man.
“So… this morning when I stubbed my toe, that was the Eagle?” asked Hugh.
“Everything happens because the Eagle wills it, everything.”
Hugh pondered this a bit while they walked. He had so many questions in his head, he didn’t even know where to begin. “In all my 50 years of life, I have never heard of this Eagle. How do you know about this Eagle, especially since it’s invisible?”
“The good thing about being invisible is that I cannot see it just as little as you cannot. I am also almost twice your age, and I have traveled the world over. Though I am blind, I have seen more than you will probably ever see.”
“Even without eyes?” asked Hugh.
“I see everything with my mind’s eye, which is more perfect than the flawed physical eyes that give you sight. You can never trust what you have seen. You are better off trusting in what you can know.”
Hugh was perplexed. This old man did not seem to think clearly. The two of them certainly didn’t see things the same way, literally or figuratively.
When they arrived at Hugh’s home, he called out to the twins. They came and heard what the old man said, and the twins decided they wanted to live in mansions under the sea after they died.
Hugh noticed a change in the way the twins acted. They still quarreled, like all siblings do, but now they gave thanks to the Eagle in the morning, before they ate, and before they went to bed at night. It didn’t much bother Hugh, but he found it odd.
A couple weeks after the old man arrived, he went out to pick mushrooms. He picked a bad one and became gravely ill. Hugh heard his pained groans and came to his side.
“The Eagle is calling me to my new home,” said the old man.
“While I hope you’re wrong, I also I hope you’re right,” said Hugh.
The old man held Hugh’s hand. “You still think I have thrown my life away on a fallacy, don’t you?”
“That’s not it, exactly,” said Hugh.
“I was a wretched man who did wretched things. I hurt people, many people, more people than I could ever help. I was a man of great power, but I abused that power. I have done things no man can forgive, but the Eagle can forgive me. The Eagle knows what is in my heart. The Eagle turned my life around. The Eagle compelled me to wander the Earth telling others of the Eagle’s greatness, no longer causing great pains to those I meet. You will see that I am right if you only give thanks to the Eagle.”
“Please,” said Hugh, “You should know that I do not look at this as right or wrong. I am not concerned with such things. While you may have lived almost twice as long as I have, I am cross-eyed, so I see double. I have seen more than you, my friend, and I must tell you: if your Eagle brings you happiness and makes you a better person, then it was not a waste of your time and I am glad you found the invisible Eagle.”
The old man smiled as Hugh lifted him up and carried him back to his bed. The twins were summoned and all three stood by his bed as he died, so he wouldn’t be alone.
When the old man ceased breathing, the twins wiped tears from their eyes and looked at each other.
“Well, you dolt, now someone has to take him to the sea. I call not it,” said the dwarf to the giant.
“Not it,” said the giant. They both slowly turned to Hugh.
“What?” asked Hugh.
“You need to take his body to the sea so he can get his mansion,” said the giant.
“I didn’t sign up for that,” said Hugh.
“We called not it,” said the dwarf.
Hugh scratched his head. “Well… I can’t do it by myself. And since you guys love the Eagle so much, maybe you should come with me and live near the sea, that way when you die, it will be easier. I’m not schlepping you both all the way to the ocean when you keel over one day.”
“But we have lives here!” said the giant.
“We have homes and plates and beds here!” said the dwarf.
“I’m pretty sure people live in homes, eat on plates, and sleep on beds by the sea as well. Come on, guys. Let’s take this old man’s corpse to his mansion in the sea,” said Hugh.
They lifted him up and carried the old man’s body to the shore of the pond, to the very boat the old man had arrived in. On the way, Hugh asked questions about what the old man had told them about the Eagle.
“So let me get this straight,” said Hugh. “You spend five minutes thanking the Eagle in the morning when you wake up, five minutes thanking the Eagle before breakfast, and lunch, and dinner, and five minutes once again before you go to bed?”
“Yep,” said the dwarf.
“Every single day, except a few times when we forgot early on,” said the giant.
“Five minutes five times a day, that’s twenty-five minutes a day, 175 minutes a week… 9125 minutes per year. Wow. That’s…” Hugh looks at his fingers for a bit, “152 hours and 5 minutes, or six days, eight hours and five minutes… per year.”
“Whoa, that’s a lot of time,” said the dwarf.
“What about a leap year?” asked the giant.
“Well, you just add twenty-five minutes…” said Hugh.
“That’s too much,” said the giant.
“You’re quitting already, stones-for-brains?” asked the dwarf.
“Look here you possum pouch, I didn’t waste twenty five minutes a day every day for this long, except for a few at the beginning of last week, so that I would give up now,” said the giant. “Maybe we can just thank the Eagle less often.”
“Then why bother? It’s all or nothing with the Eagle,” said the dwarf. “Don’t you remember? If you quit now, the Eagle will surely kill you and then you won’t have a mansion.”
“But… the Eagle killed the old man,” said Hugh. “It’s not like the Eagle will make you live any longer. We’ve gotten along fine without this Eagle before, so I don’t think thanking it for a while and then stopping will anger it. Won’t the Eagle just be glad you thanked it as often as you have so far?”
“Maybe you’re right,” said the giant.
“But if we keep it up, we can have mansions under the sea forever!” said the dwarf. “What do we have to lose if we keep thanking the Eagle?”
“Well, over six days per year,” said Hugh.
“Oh right,” said the dwarf, dropping the old man’s leg he was holding. “Well, then we don’t have to bother with this anymore.”
“No,” said Hugh. “It doesn’t matter what you believe. He was counting on us to take his body to the sea, and there’s no way I’m going to ignore someone’s last request.”
“I don’t know, Hugh,” said the giant. “Maybe the Eagle will come get him.”
Hugh sighed. “There’s no Eagle.”
“What?” the dwarf and giant asked in chorus.
“I’m not saying the old man made that story up, but it’s not true. The wind doesn’t blow because of some Eagle. The sun doesn’t rise because of an Eagle. It’s not an Eagle that–”
“Yeah yeah, breath, we get it. Yeesh, you’re so boring, Hugh,” said the dwarf.
The giant looked out at the boat, then back to her home. “I think we need to do this, brother.”
The dwarf sighed. “This is ridiculous. I’m not even sure his body needs to be in the sea.”
“What?” said Hugh.
“Well, we just assumed that since that’s where the mansion is, that’s where the body should go,” said the giant. “I mean, he’ll probably want his body, right?”
Hugh scratched his head and looked back and forth at the twins, waiting for them to say something. Finally, he asked, “So, he didn’t want to be dumped into the sea?”
“He could have,” said the dwarf.
“There’s nothing to suggest he would have hated the idea,” said the giant.
“Okay,” said Hugh, thinking for a moment. “We’ll take him to the sea. Maybe along the way we can find someone else who knows more about this Eagle.”
To be continued…