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,
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.