“Go to the ant, you sluggard: observe her ways and become wise.” –Proverbs 6:6
I have been going to the ant all day, trying to observe her ways so that I can kill her. I wrote about my ant infestation a few days ago, and now the situation has gotten out of hand. I have removed everything from the pantry; washed each jar, box, and bottle; scrubbed the shelves with soapy bleach. I have squatted at the threshold, at the outer door, in the driveway looking, looking for any sign of organized march leading from a particular location. The ants appear to be aimless. I have laid a bait of honey (and a bit of Borax, I’ll admit) to encourage quick consumption and reportage, to lure the march out in the open, to reveal the source. But the ants mock me. They meander.
My efforts prove I am anything but a sluggard where ant eradication is concerned, but Proverbial wisdom would note my housekeeping skills prior to the ants were sluggardly to the extreme. My formica countertops were never cleared and wiped by bedtime. The sink remained full of dishes pretty much all the time. I was what Charles Dickens would call a slut. But now, I am paying for my slatternly ways. The constant ants are my punishment. My life and the workings of my home are disrupted. Half the kitchen is inaccessible via a hasty barricade (a Little Tikes kitchenette and some diaper boxes) to keep the dog out of the honeyed poison. The kitchen table is completely covered with the contents of the pantry, now wiped clean of scented ant messages (“the molasses is over here!”), leaving no room for eating. Who can eat with this 1950s horror film going on in the corner anyway? We’ll be going out for Shabbes dinner tonight.
It helps a bit to know I am in good company. King Solomon himself was bested by an ant. So was the narrator of Italo Calvino’s “The Argentine Ant,” a short story which truly qualifies as supernatural fiction, if not outright horror (I’m a bit fuzzy on the genre distinctions). And “ant infestation” gets almost 93,000 hits on Google. Even a quick glance at the encyclopedic work on ants by Edmund O. Wilson confirms that nothing less than Darwinian fitness is at stake in my kitchen. I fight to protect my habitat, my species. Just like the ants.
But this is a busy Friday and I really don’t have time to study ants all day. My punishment for slutty housekeeping is resulting in even sluttier housekeeping: two mountains of mixed laundry need to be washed, dried, folded and put away before school hook-up; a mysterious odor must be traced and dealt with (I fear the death of a small mammal in the basement. Or maybe it is the laundry); as well as a hundred dumb little domestic chores that don’t merit inclusion on a written list. Plus, there’s that whole job-search thing.
But still, I need to take a little break from my ant problem. I will do this by allowing myself one more squirt of Borax on a particularly popular corner of the pantry, and a sit down (in another room) with “The Argentine Ant.” At least I’ll get some perverse pleasure from imagining someone with an ant problem far worse than my own.