How I Ruined a Life Today

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4487685929_6c665af140_zWe went into town to do some shopping today. I bought myself a bag of chocolate Minstrels. They used to be my favorite chocolate candy, but my tastes changed and I haven’t had any in about a year, so I wanted to try them again. They weren’t that great. When I was down to the last one in the bag, I didn’t really want it. I decided to toss it into some bushes. An ant would find it, I thought. It would be incredible to him, for us it would be like coming across the Fountain of Youth or winning one of Willy Wonka’s Golden Tickets.
   As I walked away, though, I began to think more deeply about it. What would really happen? Seconds after I left, the ant would find the Minstrel, a chocolate 50 times bigger than his own body. He wouldn’t be able to carry it himself, so he’d have to go back for more ants. He’d race back to the anthill, bursting with excitement, pressing his abdomen to the ground to leave a pheromone trail, as you do.

   Ants don’t speak, and they certainly don’t speak English, but you don’t speak ant, so this will have to do. The exchange would go something like this: “Guys, you’ll never believe what I found,” he’d say to the other ants, doing their ant work. They wouldn’t even turn around at first. “Guys, didn’t you hear me? I found something great!” A couple of ants would look at each other, and turn around. Even though ants don’t have pupils, and in fact have no muscles to control their eyes, you can still tell that they’re rolling their eyes.
   “What did you find this time, George?” one of them asks.
   “I found an incredible mountain of chocolate, enough to feed us all for a month!”
   The first ant looks at the second and rolls his eyes. Then he looks back. “Sure, George. Sure you did.”
   “It’s not like the other times, I promise.” George begins to sweat. Can ants sweat? You tell me; George was sweating. “Just come with me. You’ll see.”
11500322673_e504582cb9_z   The two other ants gather a few of their friends and follow George. They know he hasn’t found anything, but they’re not too busy, and why miss a chance to laugh at George?
   “Slow down, George,” one of them calls to him, as George races back along his pheromone trail.
   George doesn’t slow down, though. “Come and see, come and see!”
   George gets ahead of the other ants. He wants to get on top of the Minstrel, to be there as the master of it when the other ants arrive. Now they’ll see. Now they’ll like him. They’ll include him in all their ant games.
   But the Minstrel isn’t there. He runs from side to side. He can smell where it used to be, or at least he thinks he can. He can hear the other ants coming up behind him. What is he going to do? What can he say? Maybe he’s in the wrong place. He’ll say that. I must have misplaced it, he’ll say. Come back tomorrow, and then I’ll show it to you.
   “Where’s it at, George?” a voice comes from behind him. He jumps when he hears it; he didn’t realize they were that close.
   “It was… it’s… it was right here.” George’s ant eyes search the eyes of the larger, stronger ant. Ants have external skeletons and internal muscles, so you wouldn’t be able to see that the other one is stronger, but George knows.
   “Sure it was, George,” the strong ant says. “Hey guys, look at the mountain of chocolate that George found.”
   “Oh yeah,” another of them said. “That looks real good. Let’s go tell the queen. She’ll promote you for sure, George. No more worker ant, no sir. Maybe you’ll be the queen yourself someday after a find like this.”
   Ants don’t laugh, but the way they moved their antennae as they went back to the anthill was just as hurtful to George.
   He stood near where the Minstrel had been. Had it been there? It was hard for him to know for sure, now. The smell was gone. It had certainly seemed like it was, but there was nothing there now. He looked back in the direction of the anthill. There was nothing there for him either.
   George knew where there was a store of tetramethrin. He didn’t know it by that name, of course, and he didn’t know that the anthill was near a large industrial warehouse. He didn’t know what industry was, or what a warehouse was. He knew that the tetramethrin was something the ants avoided though, and he knew why.
   Maybe in the tetramethrin, there was something for him.
   I rushed back to where I had left the Minstrel, to save George from his fate. It had been less than a minute, but already the Minstrel was gone. That was long enough for George to find the Minstrel and go to tell the other ants, and long enough for some small mammal to come and take it for itself while he was away.
   “I’m sorry, George,” I whispered, even though ants can’t understand English.

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