Reflections on Spring, in the Year 2003

Part I: The Fictionalized Account

Andy awoke with a start. His head was throbbing violently and his limbs were curled awkwardly about his abdomen. What had happened?

It must have been some kind of chemical attack. Andy, disoriented and in pain, struggled to his feet and surveyed the vast, empty landscape surrounding him. The harsh light from above made the entire world look like a blank, white void.

Andy spotted Carl a short distance away. He was lying, motionless, doubled-over. Andy moved as quickly as he could, struggling to coordinate his cloudy mind and malfunctioning legs.

Was Carl dead? There was no time to find out.

One thing was clear to Andy: survival depended on getting out of there, and fast. He tried but found himself too weakened by the chemicals coursing through his body to lift Carl, so as a last resort he fastened Carl to his leg and began to drag the heavy, motionless body behind him.

Andy spotted a large metallic object ahead, and determined it was their best chance for shelter. He made off in the direction of the object as quickly as he could in his present state, but just as he reached it, a huge, unfathomably strange arm reached out from above and lifted the object, moving it away and leaving Andy and Carl, once again, defenseless and exposed.

Part II: Wednesday Morning in the Kitchen

Spring has returned to the Atlanta area, and with it, the other inhabitants of our kitchen… ants.

It is fascinating to watch spring make its first tentative steps in February. Weeks of cold, drizzly days and frosted-over nights break abruptly with a balmy, sunny day. Almost invariably on such a day I will notice an ant or two has come to explore the kitchen countertop, but by nightfall the temperature dips below 32 degrees and the ants disappear again to wherever it is they go (assuming they are still alive at all).

And then, it hits. Suddenly, the nighttime lows are not below freezing anymore. I don’t arrive at my car in the morning to find a thin layer of frost to melt or scrape away. It’s not long before the crocuses, long-disappeared over the fall and winter, sprout once again from amidst the pine bark and bloom.

That’s when the throngs arrive. As abruptly as the crocuses reappear, so do the ants. Scores of them. Long queues of them marching across the countertop single-file. Until I finally just can’t take it anymore and I head to Kroger for some ant baits.

The baits I got this year are a different brand than I’ve used before. I can’t really tell if they’re less or more effective. Maybe they are more cruel and torturous than the old brand. Maybe they just weren’t meant to be placed on the countertops. All I know is, I have never seen the dead and dying, writhing ants under the effect of whatever’s inside those little black deathtraps before.

This morning I went to the kitchen to prepare my coffee, and I noticed a strange, sad, oddly compelling sight. One ant, apparently in some deal of pain itself, but still mobile, had somehow attached one of its deceased (or nearly so) brothers to its hind leg and almost appeared to be attempting to drag it to safety beneath the large metal cup-thing (what would you call that, anyway?) that we keep our cooking utensils in.

Not entirely sure I wanted these poisoned ants to die in close proximity to our cooking implements, I moved the cup a few inches away. The dragging ant stopped for a moment, apparently trying to determine what to do next, and eventually began once again to drag its compatriot toward the cup. Normally my first instinct when I see ants on the counter is to squish them or send in the blitzkrieg of Windex and paper towels, but I felt some remorse for my usual merciless assaults upon the citizens of the ant community. I let the ants be, and went about my business.