Fiction Short

This is War!

“This is war, and you can tell your Queen I sai — , ah…ah, ahh… fff…u.c…k..chuuuu — Sniff”!

The explosion of wind and spittle punctuating my sneeze temporarily scattered the tiny, eight-legged pests across the white tiles.

Spraying pesticides in the kitchen feels counterintuitive to me, so I don’t usually resort to chemical warfare around food. I read Silent Spring in high school. But I’m not above cursing the little devils.

To toast the memory of Rachel Carson, black pepper is one more of my desperate attempts at a bio-friendly-all natural-safe-for pets-but-not-pests- solution to deter the unwelcome insects in their quest for food. Food carried to the secret lair of their insatiable Queen.

Jagged little chips of pizza crust, a sub-crumb of dog kibble, a drop of sweet tea; the Queen loves her carbs and dispatches her minions forth to find them, day and night. They raid the occasional crevice turned food cache where bits of grout has lost its purchase over the years.

Yes, many would die on their mission, but the tiny soldiers had their orders. What else could they do? I wouldn’t mind quite so much, if they were far more industrious cleaners. If they only came in at night. And never until I was well off to sleep. But this is not the case.

I find myself wondering if any of the workers are tempted to purloin for themselves a little snack before delivering their stolen bounty to Queenie.

Oh, how I resent her.

I hope they do cheat her out of a crumb here and there, at least. It’s a dangerous business entering a human’s domain and I don’t begrudge them not wanting to die on an empty stomach.

Now that I’ve pushed the pepper to where the backsplash and counter make a ninety degree seam, the workers have taken to wandering the tile counter in a zig-zag of frustration and confusion.

I watch with irritated indifference.

‘Well, let them be pissed off for awhile,’ I think.

One intruder in particular has done an about face at the black pepper line and comes toward me. It stops and faces me defiantly.

I stoop down and speak directly to the little bugger near the counter’s edge.

“I don’t care for piss ants in my coffee. If I could just have a moment of your precious Queen’s time, I might be able to establish some boundaries, maybe even a cease fire. You’d like that wouldn’t you?”

The ant remains mute, but stands his ground on my counter.

“Perhaps, I’m a little buggy?” I tease myself, then go in search of a magnifying glass, for it would be far too difficult to discern the actual expression of a piss ant without one, and for all I know the little bastard might be flipping me off.

Returning with the magnifier, I find the lone ant just where I’d left him.

“Oh, waiting for me were you?” I ask, sweetly as I lean in and peer through the magnifying glass. Abruptly I straighten up to standing. I can’t believe my eyes, the little pecker was laughing. Laughing!

I lean down again, my nose two inches from the countertop, and peer through the magnifier.

“Listen, you little tool. I’m the one who should be laughing. You mean nothing to her, your Queen is a selfish old crone. And she’s probably fat too! She’s made you a fool and a prisoner. I bet you wouldn’t know what to do with your freedom if you had it!” I fume.

The bugger does a neatly choregraphed tap dance. Or… no… wait — it isn’t a dance at all, his feet are on fire from the pepper.

Surprisingly, my conscience starts whining. I snap my fingers in the air twice to get his attention.

“Listen, how about I help you. I’ll make you a deal. I won’t put anymore pepper on the counter if you’ll tell me where the Queen’s lair is. I get her. You and your army will be free to move on, maybe set up a democracy on nice tropical island.” I waggle the pepper shaker in front of him. “And no more black pepper. Deal?”

The lone ant had to wonder if he wasn't dealing with a giant eyeball instead of a simple human. I back off an inch or too to give him some space and time to consider my offer.

The ant begins to move from left to right in minuscule increments. Is he pacing?

I lean in for his answer to find he’s begun dancing again, but he’s also decided flipping me off would be a good move to add to his snarky routine. It is not.

Black pepper be damned. I mentally cross it off my nontoxic list of pesticides.

My thumb hovers for a half second before I feel the cool of the tile spread across my skin.

*Writer’s note: It’s ant season! Just in case you need it here’s a helpful link!

AmEriCan DoRk. PoEt. SOngWriTer. PiCker. wRiTer. EDitor. CoMmA faiRy. veTeRaN. More creative stuff at https:\\

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