Wednesday, July 21

smaller things

Around the time my little big sister moved in, a poorly organized gang of ants took up residence on our kitchen counter. I’m not suggesting a relationship between these two events, merely stating the facts.

No matter how rigorous our determination to keep food particles off the counter, one dirty dish left for five minutes brings a new battalion of scavengers from an undisclosed location. They don’t seem to be coming from or going anywhere specifically, just moving about at will. I wonder if they might be an excommunicated band of rebels, having refused to stay in line, tired of working for the man (or woman, in this case), outcasted now in a poorly planned reconnaissance mission.

I’m not bothered
by ants as a species. I actually quite admire their seemingly oblivious determination to succeed in a world where most everything is bigger than themselves. They strike me as possibly the only beings with a greater work ethic than my Germanic relatives.

Washing up dishes, I splash a small wave of sudsy water onto the counter, inadvertently swamping one ant near the sink edge. Watching him struggle through what must seem like an ocean, I find myself quietly cheering him to the dry counter. Though it looks promising, when I check back after finishing the silverware, he’s curled in a ball, still surrounded by water. I feel responsible for his misfortune and wonder what might be done to save him. While shaking my head in disbelief at my own weakness toward the intruders, I grab a paper towel. I lay it over the ocean, which soaks up in a couple of seconds. Removing the towel, I am delighted to see the ant unfurl himself, seemingly unharmed. Later I see him paused by the edge of the sink, passing his minute antennas through his front legs, removing the remnants of his watery ordeal. I hear one Christmas during World War I, German and ally soldiers left their trenches to celebrate together on the field over which, hours before, they’d exchanged bullets.

But before you jump to any conclusions about my altruism, I should confess that I mercilessly pounded a cockroach to death in the sink this morning, then turned toward my sister in a WWF wrestler stance, growling my victory.

All in a day’s work.