Another day, another fight

WHAT'S SO FUNNY

Laguna, to those who find their way here after years of living

elsewhere, is a kind of heaven. And one of its heavenly

characteristics is its near-total freedom from flies and mosquitoes.

I spent my boyhood summers in an old house by the Mississippi River,

where I once swatted 114 flies in a day and then gave up. No

question, Laguna is heaven by comparison.

And yet, it can't really be heaven. Not with all these ants.

The encyclopedia says ants eat leaves, honeydew and other

invertebrates. This makes them sound picky. As if they don't swarm

over dog food, butter, Life Savers, isolated crumbs or a single sugar

granule on the rug. Their attitude is guest-like: Anything is fine,

really.

They used to be seasonal; now they're year-round. They've got the

whole yard to eat their leaves and invertebrates in, but the least

change in climate and they're inside. It rains, they come in. It gets

hot, they come in. Every other month an exterminator sprays the

perimeter of our home -- sealing them in.

Now, ants get a lot of good press for their teamwork and industry.

Well, they are good team players and they are industrious; they're

storm troopers. It's all about lebensraum to them. They've got the

yard, now they want the house.

They're smart, in their blinkered way. They can locate a kernel of

Trix between two couch cushions upstairs. The scouts arrive from

nowhere, as if they parachuted in, and the main body follows. Their

one weakness is that when they mount a full blitzkrieg, there's a

column you can back spray to its source.

The spray smells up the house, so I often kill them by hand. And I

sometimes hesitate, imagining some power looking down on me, even as

I do on them. Perhaps we are but ants in cosmic eyes. (I'm capable of

up to 20 thoughts of this caliber per day.) And I wonder how I'd like

some giant thumb brought down on me. I empathize.

Then I squash them. Hey, it's live and let live if we meet

outside, but when they're biting me on the arm and marching around

the kitchen like the halftime show, that's it.

I know what they're thinking. I'm just another decadent bourgeois

giant. My kind is on the way out. They've got 8,000 species and

plenty of time. Ultimately, they're gonna win.

But I won't go easy. I've got my spray and I've got my thumbs. In

heaven, there are no ants.

* SHERWOOD KIRALY will never surrender.

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