Rated PG (Language)
“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Chapter 2—Do Ants Sleep?
It must have been a Saturday…
“…and he says, ‘Play it? As soon as I figure out how to get her pajamas off we’re outta here!’ Aha-ha-ha-ha!”
“Huh? Oh. Ha-ha…” Babe chuckled politely when my joke fell flat.
It was a nice day to lay out by the community pool. The clouds looked like they were from the midwest—a nice change to the typical California whiteness that passes for sky. The pool water was glass a few minutes after we had gotten out to dry off and relax. The place was empty but for us two. Babe lay on her stomach on the lounge chair, to even out her tan. I sat with a towel over my head, musing about nothing after my joke went belly up. The vinyl straps used to make the chair were white and uninteresting. I picked at one like it was a banjo string. Babe lay watching the ants underneath her chair.
“Do ants ever sleep?” she finally asked, casting a ripple into the still pool of our thoughts. “Or do they just run around all day until they poop out?”
Babe is my counterpart. Whatever absurd thoughts I haven’t had myself, she keeps track of for me to use later. After fifteen years together, we’re used to it. I had to think about that for a while, and came up empty about whether or not I’ve ever known an ant to fall asleep. I couldn’t say I’d ever seen one even standing still, unless it was mulling something over—some engineering project about getting a big leaf into a tiny hole, I suspect—and I’ve never seen one curled in an ant fetal position sawing logs. The whole question was rendered moot if they only lived a couple hours. If that were true, they wouldn’t even understand the concept of an ant-nap, presuming they could understand concepts. How long would an ant nap last, a few seconds? The fact was and is, I didn’t know, so I answered, “Shit, I don’t know…”
“Do they have a heart?” Babe tossed into my conundrum salad about ants.
It seemed to me it’d be pretty small if they did, so I said, “Seems like it would be pretty small if they did…” and quickly asked a question of my own, before she could paralyze my mind with more unanswerable queries. “Do they even have any blood to pump?” and followed with, “Could we even see it?” That got her wondering. Secretly, I wondered: Is it red?
“Hmmm,” Babe said, thoughtfully, while I tried to remember how much juice I got out of the last ant I stepped on (quite unintentionally, of course). Was there juice, or just flattened ant-skin? I wanted to ask if ants even had skin, but didn’t want to sound as ant-stupid as I really am. I’m pretty sure ants know more about me than I know about them.
“Of course we can see it,” Babe offered, confident that someone could see ant juice if they really wanted to.
“You sound confid-ant…” I said, which Babe ignored after a short moan so I continued, inspired by the little fellers. “Just to be an ant requires a huge amount of heart. Construction boots alone have got to be, what, ten thousand times bigger than the ant bold enough to venture out underfoot? Does that daunt him? No. Does it slow him down?”
Babe one-eye-balled me suspiciously.
“Yes, maybe, depending on vibrant soles and whether or not you’re a lucky enough ant to be standing between them when they fall around you. I would have to say a resounding Yes! Ants have a heart!
“What do we do when we play cards? We ante up, that’s what! It says you’re a player. And when you w-ant to stay ahead of the game, you anticipate! If you make it to old age, you’re antediluvian, that’s what!” (Pause while my brain went into overdrive.) “Consider, if you must, all the great music written: Gee Baby, Ant I Good to You? and Ant No Mountain High Enough…” I cracked myself up with that last one.
“Don’t forget: Ant no Sunshine When She’s Gone,” Babe added, against her better judgement.
“Exactly! And Ant Misbehavin. But do they sleep?” I asked.
“Shit, I don’t know,” she said. “It ant nobody’s business but their own.” We laughed.
“I agree, it’s an anti-matter. Maybe we should dally on llamas instead.”
Babe narrowed her eyes. “Now you’re starting to bug me.”
I threw the towel over my head and continued playing the vinyl-strap banjo, one pluck at a time… content to never know.
“Fucking ants!” Babe is chasing a line of them around the kitchen, wielding a toothpick with Grants Ant Goop on it, which she is attempting to smear on each, individual ant. “I hate them!” These are the tiny variety, no bigger than a millimeter, and scrawny. I lean on the kitchen door, sipping a cup of coffee and watch her drag a chair around to climb up and paste these nasty little fuckers as they crawl along the ceiling. Ants are okay, so long as they’re running around outside. Katy walks out her bedroom door, sees an ant and screams like a teenager. I’m inured to it; she’s been a teenager since turning thirteen, obviously, which seems like a long time ago.
“Is this what they mean by ‘ant-climactic’?” I asked Babe nonchalantly. She ignored me. “Maybe we should wait until they fall asleep, then—”
She sneers and interrupts, sensing I’m not about to offer anything helpful. “Where the fuck do they come from?” she wants to know, as if it mattered. Anywhere they want. Katy walks toward the kitchen on tip-toes, her arms hugging her chest in a protective, self-defensive posture. If an ant touches her, even accidentally, she’ll explode like a can of nitro that says: Shake Well. I’ve been slaughtering all manner of pestilence since Katy came to live with us when she was eight.
I venture a guess at where ants come from, “Antartica?” Babe stops, clearly exasperated. I back away slowly and disappear around the corner. There must be some yard work I can do…