Dapper, our three year old, got an ant farm from his granny. Apparently the technology has advanced from the green plastic one you filled with sand when I was a kid. The new model looks like a Virgin Air flight. The ants are in a plastic space filled with jello shots, and the whole world is disco lit with LED lights from below. It’s an ant rave, and I only hope I can find ants with pacifiers, glow sticks, and bumble bee backpacks to fill it.
At first it was great. I put the jello in and added some basil seeds. Then I mail ordered some ants. “Now we play the waiting game,” I told Dapper.
Weeks went by.
“Are the ants here yet?” became his daily question. “Snowstorms in the Midwest buddy” was my reply.
Finally the ants showed up. And they show up packing heat. There’s a little sticker on the test tube that reads “caution, harvester ants can bite. If they escape destroy them.” We peer into the vial. They appear to be working out their over-sized nippers. We open the lid to the ant farm and, as I pull the tape off the top of the vial I hear myself saying, “As soon as I throw them in, you close the lid. Fast.” Dapper looks at me, grim determination on his 3 year old face. I pull the cap off and throw the ants in like a grenade, Dapper slams the top shut and I cover the top with tape, just to be sure.
I don’t know what I’m expecting, but it’s a little anticlimactic when the ants just hide in the tube. It takes them a full day to get over the shock and begin exploring “club shimmer’. In no time, I’m sure an ant bearing a slight resemblance to Lyndsay Lohan will crash a tiny ant luxury car into the wall, stagger to the corner and puke. This ant farm thing is an educational experience for both ants and kids!
Not so much. Two weeks later the ants hate me. Their weird rave kingdom is reduced to fetid black mold, still eerily lit from below. Utopia has fallen. It looks sort of like old Vegas. Only moldier. It’s post-apocolyptic Antopia. Abandon all hope. Etc.
I hate to even look at it. Dapper has written them off and moved on, impervious to any sense of responsibility for these tiny lives. I’m alone with ant guilt. Every time I clean his room or read him a story at bedtime I can feel them watching me, judging me, hating me, and I for one have always been a popular guy with insects (Just ask the mosquitos, those little bastards love me). Dr Wife wants me to get rid of it, and I can’t blame her, but I’m wracked with guilt over subjecting ants to this slow death and then tossing them out. I keep flashing back to the warning on the tube… “if they escape, destroy them.”
Three weeks in, there are corpses of ants mixed in with fallen basil plants and the mold. Now it reminds me of the nest the space marines find in Aliens. Dead ants stuck to the walls are mixed in with the dying whose hoarse ant voices cry out “kill me… killllll meeeeee.”
I can’t take it. While Dapper is at school I “disappear” the ant farm. It’s made of plastic so I toss it into the recycling bin behind our apartment. I even crack the lid so that the survivors can perhaps make a go of it at the recycling center. Based on the movie THEM I should have destroyed them, I am at least giving them their freedom. It’s exactly how a number of sci-fi horror films start, I realize, but anywhere has to be better than the moldy hell they have been living in. The ants will have their revenge on humanity shortly thereafter.
The thing I failed to remember is that no bottle or can in Santa Monica actually reaches the recycling plant. At least, not directly. We have an army of homeless people who go through the bins before they can be collected and harvest everything they can sell. I like to call them freelance recycling techs. Anyway, I feel bad for whoever it was that was going through the recycling at 10:00pm and started shrieking. No one expects to find a colony of pissed off, homeless harvester ants in a recycling bin. I only hope he wasn’t irradiated because then there could be some kind of ant/C.H.U.D. thing brewing. I’m sorry world, if I just created the first C.H.A.U.D.