Eusociality

Posted on July 27, 2009

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“How was your day?” asked Lili.
“I went to see my therapist, Bradbury,” I said.
“And?”
***
“Tonight, the insect population is not happy with me,” I told Bradbury. “To them I am the devil.”
“The devil?” he asked.
“Earlier today I crept outside and knelt before a kingdom of ants on the north-eastern border of my lawn. I put my head close to the ant nest and gazed upon them; a curious conscious predator.

The massive nest was built on a soft cushion of bent grass.   Ants crawled from dozens of small holes, each of them carried this crumb or that leaf-bit. Every ant was working to provide for the nest.  A small row of ants carried large oval eggs into a large hole. I peered into the hole and I saw dozens of these eggs lining it. I decided this was the best place to commit my crime against the land of insects.”

“Stop,” Bradbury said. “I want to you probe into the memory for me. Speak in the first person. Become the memory.”

I loath Bradbury and his foolish mind games but play along none the less. I decided to speak slowly, for I knew my recall was important.

“I am like a hawk and I am shrewd, but unlike the hawk, I know the dichotomy of an ant. I know their morphology, their ecology. I know their behaviors because unlike the hawk, my predatory nature includes that of the National Geographic channel. My species has an entire science and market built around the destruction of the Formicidae. In my hand I hold a canister full of ant killing chemicals. I insert a tube into the egg filled tunnel and watch as the nearby ants erupt into a frenzy. Have they never known fear until now?”

“I press the nozzle on the canister and foam instantly fills the hole. The ants bath in it and some appear ecstatic; others are clearly aware that this stuff is dangerous. I walk away. When I return in an hour, everything is dead. The nest is no more than small ball of dirt and I kick it. The nest breaks open and all that I can see are thousands and thousands of still ants. I decide to zoom in for a closer look. One ant seems different than the others. I stare at this creature for a long time. It is dead, but it is elegantly dead. It is the queen ant. Her abdomen is much larger and shinier. On her back I can see the remnants of what used to be wings.”

“My father once told me that all queen ants are born angels.”

Bradbury nodded. “Continue with the memory.”

“I am distraught,” I continued. “I run back into the house and pull a pair of tweezers from the medicine cabinet. I take one of my sky-blue pills just to keep the anxiety at a moderate high. I return to the ant nest and I bend down and with the tip of my tweezers I gently pick up one of the small eggs. I try my best not to pop it like a milk bubble. I find a leaf and drop the egg onto it and carry it inside. It looks like the smallest spring roll ever.”

“I place it on the table and I google: Taking Care of an Ant Egg. An hour later my ant egg is covered in a pinch of dirt and resting inside the shoebox that once contained my Ralph Lauren Crocodile Loafers.”

“I go into the bedroom and find my girlfriend, Lili. She is sitting on the bed watching a show where psychotherapists go and get therapy from other psychotherapists. She says it is the most intense mind-bath you can take. I just play with my goatee and let out a silent fart. We are still not at the point in our relationship where I can openly fart in front of her. I pretend to scratch my back and wave the fart away. I count to three then jump onto the bed and lay next to her.”

“Tell me of the conversation with Lili,” Bradbury said. His tongue was licking his thumb.

“What do you think of ants?” I ask Lili.
“Ants?…or aunts?”
“Ants like the bug.”
“I don’t know,” she says turning back to her show. “They’re icky. Seeing a bunch of ants makes my skin crawl.”
“Icky. Yeah. What about just one ant?”
“Oh I suppose one ant is fine,” she says.
“One baby ant,” I say.
“One baby ant, what?”
“What do you think?”
She turns to me and looks into my eyes. I peer into her eyes looking for my next story.
“I don’t know, I think it would be cute. Okay? Can I get back to my show, they’re just about to start the Therapy-Showdown segment.”
“Alright,” I say. I kiss her on her freckled little forehead and return to the kitchen.

“And what happens next?” asked Bradbury.

“I sit for a long time trying to think what to do. Should I rescue more eggs? Should I have some kind of mass funeral? Should I announce an apology to the back yard insects? Everything seems too foolish, so instead I sing Pixies songs to the box, hoping to sooth the ant. The ant will never know what fate befell its kingdom. It will never know that I am both its father and harbinger of orphanhood.”

Sing me one of your Pixies songs,” Bradbury said.
“Which one?” I asked.
“The one that you feel was most effective.”

“In a place they say is dead,” I sang. “in a lake that’s like an ocean, I count about a billion head, all the time there’s a motion.  Palace of Brine, Palace of Brine.”

You know that egg will never hatch,” Bradbury told me.

***
So our time together ended and my debit did not get approved as he swiped the cost of my session.
“What did you do?” asked Lili.
“I promised to write him into one of my stories,” I said.
“Do you ever write me into any of your stories?”
“I write you into everything,” I said. “You’re the real queen ant.”

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Posted in: July 2009