14 October 2005

Go to the Ant, You Sluggard!

I've been having problems with ants. I don't know what they want in my room. I sweep. I keep clean. I know they're all over inside the walls and out my window I can see their trails on the bricks. Now, I like ants. I just wish they would play out of my sight.

I've tried to get the message across. They start up a trail, I start up a massacre. It had been my habit to smash them against the wall using a small, hardbound book, the effect being that many of their flattened bodies stuck to the wall as a message to the others. After compiling a mural in a concentrated part of the wall composed of well over one hundred flat ant carcasses, I sat back to observe how the ant community would respond.

This is when I began to discover a few different kinds of ants. First came the regular trail ants, just following the scent of those who had gone before. But then, encountering a slaughtered kinsman, they turn into panic ants, running wildly in any direction, not unlike a man traveling through a myseterious cave and seeing a skull or a pile of bones. In his efforts to make a quick retreat, he more than likely stumbles upon several more skeletions, possibly falling into a pile and augmenting his hysteria. Exactly so with the ants. At this point, observing, I'd usually smash the panic ant too.

After awhile, I observed a different reaction. I'm almost certain that the next kind of ant I began to see was slightly bigger and had longer legs. They approached the dead, investigated briefly, and went right to work prying the smooshed bodies off of the wall. Some of the remains must have dropped to the floor in the process, because I watched several ants travel down to retrieve them. In two days' time, most of my wall of death had been collected and carried to the secret ant burial gounds. This section of the wall was then avoided for awhile.

Meanwhile, a much smaller and feebler variety of ants started poking about my vanity. They gathered mysteriously around a colorless spot whose value to the ants I couldn't ascertain. I also couldn't find where they'd been coming from, so I glued up all visible gaps in the vicinity. Pokey and tiny as they were, I smashed them anyway, though I kind of felt bad about it. In the ant world, they've got to be like kindergartners, and there's nothing funny about smashing kindergartners flat.

The bigger ants collected them too! As though there was a tax deduction involved in the work! And I wondered, then, what kind of punishment ants would ever be given, if there were an ant judicial system: their whole lives are already community service anyways!

I eventually figured out their gathering place had been the site of a drop of jam several weeks hence.

The jelly ants can detect jams, jelies, and preserves from 100 kilometers away, give or take a few meters, depending on flavor. On a good day, they can stake out dried fruit: apricots and the like. I cleaned out some jelly jars for decorative use in my room. I put water in them and floated candles. Apparently soap wasn't enough. The next day I found a gathering of jelly ants, half of whom had already drowned in the water. There couldn't be but .5 ppm jelly, if that. And despite the drowned ants, new ones just kept coming.

At this point, I walked down the stairs to the kitchen, got the Raid out from under the sink, and dispatched everything smaller than a breadbox living in my room. Then I washed the walls with bleach and water. I have seen one ant in my room since. I let him live, since I figure hes like the servant who escaped the catastrophes that struck Job's possessions. It amuses me to think of a little Job ant scraping his boils with a piece of broken pottery.