Ants, flash fiction by Jim Bates at Spillwords.com
Shihasnalil

Ants

Ants

written by: Jim Bates

 

It was a small town. The cool morning air belied the heat that was sure to come later that day. The sun’s rays were diffused through the tall maples on the tree-lined street. A Mourning Dove was cooing a few houses down on a telephone wire.

The young boy who sat at the curb didn’t care about any of that. He was having the time of his life playing with ants, watching them scurry back and forth in the sand, marveling at their incredible intent. How fun! He found a blade of grass and set it next to them. They ignored it. He looked around and found a dead fly. He carefully placed it in the sand. Success! Two ants discovered the carcass and tugged at it until they were finally able to pull the body away to wherever their home was. He marveled at how well they worked together, moving the large insect. This was great!

Suddenly a voice from the house behind him broke his concentration. It was his grandma.

“Breakfast!” she yelled. “Come quick! Now!”

Oh, oh. She sounded mad. Like usual.

Slowly the boy stood and brushed sand from the seat of his blue jeans. He looked over his shoulder toward the house. It was a small squat structure with sagging wooden steps. His grandma stood at the door with her arms crossed over her bony chest. His mother had dropped him off five days earlier. “You’ll stay for a month,” she’d told him. “It’ll be good for you.”

He’d never been so lonely.

But not so much now. Playing with the ants was the most fun he’d had in those five days, and he was reluctant to leave. However, Grandma was a stern, no-nonsense woman. He knew he had to obey her.

He squatted so he was close to the level of the street. “Goodbye,” he said to his new friends. “See you later.” He waited for a moment listening. Then he smiled a big smile. He was right! He thought so. The ants were telling him to hurry back. “I will,” he told them. “As soon as I can.”

He waved goodbye and walked up the sidewalk. His grandma met him at the door.

“What are you doing out there playing in the gutter like that?” she demanded.

The boy looked at her. She was tall and thin and bony and wore her long grey hair wrapped so tightly around her head he could see her skull. Her faded housedress hung limply. She smelled of camphor from the oil she rubbed on her skin. She scared him to death.

“Nothing,” he mumbled meekly in response to her question. “I was just playing.”

“Humpf. Well, get inside. Breakfast is waiting.”

She stalked through the door, and he followed behind, but not before turning one last time. He looked toward the street and secretly waved to his new friends. He couldn’t wait to get back to them. “I’ll see you soon,” he whispered. “I promise.”

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