Friday Night Story

Fire Ants

I was very young, visiting my aunt, although I can’t remember anymore if it was an aunt in California or Colorado. She took me to the park, and I remember an overactive sun, and rather than the sandy pits I was used to in playgrounds where I lived, there were chipped would pieces around the swings and slides and merry-go-round.

Sometime during the day, I discovered a group of ants- red ants, crawling all over the curb. And I feel I must clarify: I am not one of those children who pulled the legs off insects for amusement- while I may not place the same value on insect life as on human, I do feel it should be respected. I’m also unnerved by the idea of finding pleasure in crippling something.

It was the 80s and I was wearing a pair of mint green sandals, and proceeded to grind my foot down on the ants. I’d heard all manner of terrible stories even at that age about fire ants and their malicious nature, and imagined them swarming over everyone in the park. Perhaps I had altruistic reasons- maybe I believed I was risking myself to protect my fellow children. It’s difficult, in retrospect, to explain my attempt at genocide.

The ants fought valiantly, climbing into my sandals and up my pant legs. I did not give up easily, but eventually the pain from their bites drove me off. And perhaps it was the sandals or my towering perspective, but for one horrible afternoon I had felt like God- and I tried to stomp out all the ants. I hope, and if I thought it would do any good I’d pray, that if there’s a God he’s better than me- or if not that we fare as well as those ants.

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