Sunday, March 9, 2008

gertrude the ant (i had too much time on my hands apparently)

in her small life span of about 90 days, gertrude set forth as she did everyday. she awakened, and i use this term lightly because her sleep cycle is not one like humans. she, like all 700 hundred thousand of her fellow workers were sluggish for the first couple of minutes, then started out on her straight path to find food. she tunneled up through the dirt smelling along the way, for she cannot see very well. would she have to travel far in order to find a bit of fruit to take back to the colony, or would she find something in the dirt that could be stored for futures ant populations in a few months? she was a lucky one, for it was august and she would spend the remainder of her life outside searching for food instead of hibernating as those in january would spend their time; only awakening to make sure the queen and the others had enough fat to keep the colony alive. she didn't know any of this of course, for she was just an ant. this would be a longer day, no food in the dirt so far. her small black head poked out of the moist brown earth, it was just barely light. the grass was getting long, she would have to watch out for the lawn mower today. she didn't know this either of course. she had spent the previous two and half months first taking care of other small ants and the queen, then moved up the ant work ladder and did the basic housekeeping tasks for the colony. now that she was in her elder age she was to find food, for this had the highest rate of death and only the wise old ladies could handle the task, either that or the young ones were setting the old biddies out to pasture all the while getting something in return.

there were few other ants belonging to her colony out at this hour so her lines would have to be straight, no meandering around in search of the perfect morsel, just complete focus on the task at hand. she was to find a piece of food small enough to take home by herself but one that had the most caloric intake. this food was needed for future generations you see. as it was not yet prime picnic time gertrude kept walking, she came to where the grass stopped. she was going to have to cross the extremely large drive way. hopefully no cars backed out over her, it was still early and maybe it was saturday, there was hope. she made it across back into the grass. fortunately for her it was saturday and the boy and his magnifying glass were inside watching saturday morning cartoons, jumping off of the couch with a cape on pretending to be a superhero named "fred, the ant killer."

once back in the grass she felt relatively safe, but she did have to keep her antennae on the lookout for other ant pheromones. she was unaware of a nearby red ant colony plotting an attack. she was a simple black ant and her only defense was her strong mandibles, but she had little in the way of poison to ward off any larger ants, especially those of the red variety. today however, was not the red ants d-day and she would remain safe from harm.

it had been unusually hot lately, even for august, and the usual crumb source had only been removed from the air conditioned home straight to the air conditioned car without dawddling around in the front yard. because of this there was a food shortage occurring. still continuing in her straight line she came to a small puddle, this was here not because of any recent rain but because the sprinklers had been on far past the recommended ten minute increment and so water had begun to pool in the dirt. the sprinklers were no longer on, but the sun was not high enough to evaporate the water within the three seconds it would take later in the day. somehow she would have to go around the water. this would take incredible brain power for gertrude, for she would have to leave the comforts of her straight line and use the little ganglia in her head in order to decide the best direction she should take to circumvent the puddle.

she chose right, most creatures choose right. she proceeded cautiously at first and then not detecting danger moved a faster pace, she did not want this obstacle to take all day. once around the puddle, which had a circumference of eleven inches, Gertrude returned to her straight line. It was now almost mid-day, she had never ventured so far before. suddenly the grass ended and once again she came to cement, this time it was not a driveway, but instead part of the foundation of a home, her smell receptor detected the crumb source. she would have to venture in, it was her destiny to enter this dwelling, find a crumb and then follow the same line back to the colony.

she squeezed through a crack in between the door and the siding of the house. she smelled crumbs everywhere. after crossing the vast hardwood flooring, she made it. she had found the mother load, for she was standing underneath a highchair. crumbs where everywhere. Gertrude could hardly contain herself. she picked up what appeared to be the perfect crumb, that of a brownie. she raced out of the house as fast as she could. she had heard horror stories of chemical warfare in such places. she did leave as many pheromones as she could so maybe more of her colony could come in here and retrieve this perfect morsel of food.

eventually she made it back to the colony, it was late in the afternoon. after presenting the food she excitedly explained about her source, more food than one ant could every hope to find. she was unaware that the raining of crumbs that fall almost like a blizzard at times occurs at least three times a day and that the dog in her elder years rarely cleans them all up. the colony decided it would set out earlier the next morning and send hundreds of workers in to complete the task, they would not starve this winter.

early the next morning while the woman was starting her coffee the household was awoken by a horrible shriek. hundreds of ants in a perfect line streaming through the house having a party underneath the highchair. gertrude had led them to the highchair of all highchairs, one that belonged to the messiest baby on earth. gertrude had fulfilled her destiny.

1 comment:

love2cook said...

I LOVE it! Great writing and I think you need to start a children's book series starring Gertrude. Kids would love it. :)