I had a late-night vision recently. No, not the Jesus-in-a-grilled-cheese kind of vision, but a vivid one nonetheless.
There were marauding hoards of rhinoceros-sized ants, chewing up the landscape and mugging for the cameras. Their features were freakishly human. One resembled a maniacal Tim Conway while another looked like a bemused Wally Cox.
Maybe I’d conjured up a scene from one of my favorite “Outer Limits” episodes. Or it could have been just a hazy replay of a 1960s horror flick with a creative title like “Ants!”
Then I established the source of this nocturnal reverie. It was my wife, Betty, in our kitchen, armed with a paper towel, holding an army of black ants at bay.
For several evenings now, before I go to bed, I spray along the baseboards in the kitchen and dining room, providing a “shield” of protection against these foreign aggressors. President Reagan had “Star Wars.” I have THE insecticide that provides the “home defense” necessary to take back my kitchen and pursue my happiness, which includes my ongoing search for the perfect bag of jalapeno microwave popcorn.
Except the little buggers aren’t cooperating. Sure, I’ve killed scores of them. Betty begins her day collecting the dead from the battlefield and gives me the up-to-date body count — “15, 16, 17, 18 … John, come quickly, we’ve got a live one!”
And that’s the problem. After I’ve detonated the equivalent of several weapons of mass destruction, the ants keep coming back for more.
I feel like Aragorn in “The Lord of the Rings,” as another wave of Orcs march across the horizon. Or Rick, in “The Walking Dead,” tending his tomato plants outside the abandoned prison he and his fellow survivors now call home, when suddenly, cue the zombies.
Where are these things coming from?
But upon closer inspection, the live ones could be more accurately described as the almost dead ones. They’ve lost the bounce in their step. I watched as a big one stumbled out from under the refrigerator. It walked around in circles for a while, twitched a little, rolled itself up into a ball, then glommed onto that big, discarded Hershey bar in the sky.
Unlike her husband, Betty is not a repressed 12-year-old boy. There’s no joy for her watching an ant perform its death dance. Betty has no interest in putting some out of their misery by stomping them to death. And she thinks I need some counseling when I say, “Hey, honey, listen to this” as I crunch a drowsy one between my thumb and forefinger.
I’m convinced Betty and I have the upper hand in our version of the “War of the Worlds.” It’s our kitchen, not theirs. It’s time for the ants to go back to wherever they came from in a Southern New Hampshire winter that’s beginning to rival those in northern Siberia.
But if I dream I see an ant-like Orson Bean enveloped in a parka, I know we’re in trouble.
John Edmondson is a teacher in Hampstead.