It’s spring! You can tell. The cable company has popped up with their springtime for-no-particular-reason five-dollar rate hike. It seemed to come so soon after the Ides of March why-the-hell-not five-dollar rate hike, and the Presidents’ Day because-we-can five-dollar rate hike, but that’s spring for you: bam, suddenly there it is. Also, the ants are back. The ants come back every spring.
For most of the year we don’t pay ants any mind, but that doesn’t mean we’re not important to them. For the ants, the inside of our house is Capistrano. One day, right around the same time every year, they just show up, all of them. You never see all of them at once, but they’re there. What you see is just some little movement out of the periphery of your vision, like some random little astigmatism, and then it resolves itself into a batch of ants. This year they were all over the kitchen sink and cutting board. I’m pretty low-tech about ants. I mash-and-wipe with a hot sponge, repeating as necessary. I try to get to them before Dave does, because he loses his mind around insects. It’s a good thing we live in Oregon, where we fling open our windows all summer without putting in screens. If he lived in Africa, or Florida, or really anywhere on the east coast, he’d flat perish from the willies.
If Dave sees the ants first, he will apply some sort of spray insecticide to the thickness of a paste all over. The ants will drown long before they have an opportunity to succumb to malathion poisoning. I hate this, but I’ve learned to accept that he cannot help himself. Since, every spring, he also gets a notion to clean all the windows in the house inside and out, I’m willing to overlook some of his other issues.
The thing is, I may be onto the ants before he is, but I never seem to get the big picture right away. I’ll be mashing and wiping ants in about the same location for two, three days, and then on the fourth day I’ll notice that they seem to be coming in from a little distance away, and I’ll follow them backwards with the sponge, and eventually I’ll look up and there will be a major vertical column of ants going up the wall, enough to make the walls look slimmer. The ant stripe is visible from the next room if you happen to be looking at the right spot, so it’s hard to imagine how I had missed them before. It’s as though you see something shiny, and you think, hmm: that almost looks like a claw, only way larger, and then you look up and discover you’re crouching at the foot of a tyrannosaur. The ants have obviously been there all along, and you can trace them to a little bloop of raspberry jam on the second shelf of the cabinet. You can tidy that up and wipe down the ants and in any case they’d have been gone in another week, but it’s still a heck of an operation they’re running. No doubt one scout ant located the stash and alerted the whole platoon.
It’s impressive. You can’t even get ten humans in a sushi bar to figure out how to split the check.