Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Empire of the Ants

The louring rain and decreasing warmth have send our neighboring sugar ants looking for a cozy place indoors, and their anabasis debouched on the kitchen counter tonight.

"Daddy! Daddy!" shrieked little Miss down the basement stairs "Mommy says bring the ant spray quickly quickly because the ants are in the cabinets!"I fished the can of vilely toxic ant death out of its receptacle and arrived in the kitchen to find a dancing daughter and a disgusted wife staring at the now-empty shelves where the little scuttling bastards tried to hide from their chemical doom. I stood between my womenfolk, respectively antic and revolted, surveying the prospective gas chamber for our latest boxcar of formicidae like a dyspeptic Mengele eyeing the latest trainload of particularly degraded untermenschen.

"How the hell did they get in there?" I protested, producing a volley of frantic questions from the little girl and a sour look from the big one. "How the hell should I know?" she sighed, "Just use the damn spray, please."

So we moved all the fruit and veggies and flour and eggs and butter (Mojo was in the process of making some carrot cake-like object when she discovered the marauders inside the cabinet) off the countertop, I deployed the chemical munition (advertised as a persistent agent that would keep the little bastards out for "up to 4 weeks!") and used a towel to recover the bodies of the footsoldiers unable to evade the chemstrike, and carefully replaced the food in sealed containers back in the contaminated zone.
[It may say something about me that as I did this I had a brief flash of memory of something I did in back in the 1980's; my platoon was detailed to the Airborne Test Board for something called PAPRICCA - pronounced like the spice - which was an acronym for "Parachuting Procedures in a Chemically Contaminated Area".

This beauty started with the idea that the U.S. Army desperately needed to get somewhere that some other inconsiderate sonofabitch had brined with something nasty, like nerve gas, and that the best way to do this was to drop some parachute troops into it. The actual "parachuting procedures" included a series of exercises where the process of military static-line parachuting was performed while in what we called our "MOPP" suits (a silly acronym that stood for "Mission-Oriented Protective Posture" and was used interchangably with the term "CPOGs", "Chemical Protective OverGarments") and culminated with actual parachute jumps while wearing a protective mask - what a civilian would call a "gas mask".

Needless to say this training was disliked to the extreme, since as training it ranged from the exhausting and uncomfortable to the downright dangerous, and my memories of it are not fond ones. The then-new KEVLAR helmets didn't fit over the pro-mask and had to be taped on with hundred-mile-an-hour tape. The 130-knot slipstream of a C-130 had no respect for this jacklegged arrangement, which meant that almost everyone lost their helmets within seconds of exiting the jump doors. And, worse, the opening shock of the T-10 parachute usually jerked the pro-mask down the face of the jumper, who was suddenly blinded by a black plastic shroud just as it was crucially important for him to know whether his canopy had opened correctly and was not at the moment streaming above him, a useless nylon exclamation point identifying him as The Most Totally Fucked Trooper in his platoon. So about half or more of the test platoon troops ripped off their masks, making their notional deaths from the notional nerve agent certain and immediate upon landing. It was, in short, a total goatscrew.

Unsurprisingly, this tactic was never actually incorporated into the 82nd Airborne SOP. But that was PAPRICCA, and gassing the ants reminded me of it.]
Mojo went back to her cooking, but Little Miss was fascinated by the ants. She followed me downstairs to try and find some ant baits."What does these do?" she asked. "Why we need to get the queen ant?"

So I explained to her about ants, and queens, and eggs, and then we had to go to the computer and watch a YouTube video, and then she wanted to know why the queens couldn't walk far, and how they got into our house, and how the eggs got in the queen, and how the eggs got out of the queen.

And then she wanted to know about how eggs got in mommies, and how eggs turned into babies, and how babies grew inside mommies, and how babies got out of mommies. So I showed her pictures of her Mommy when she had the Peeper inside her tummyand we tried to watch a video of babies coming out of mommies except YouTube thought that you had to be over 18 to see that, and I couldn't be bothered to set up a damn YouTube account, and the hell with it but trust Daddy, sweetie, the baby comes out of the mommy's puff-puff. You did, Peeper did, Mommy did, I did, too.
(I should add that both of my kiddos know the proper words for the male and female wedding tackle. And sometimes we use the word "penis" rather than "wiener" or "junk", depending on the formality of the occasion.

But for some reason the word "vagina" just seems too cold and clinical to this family. The Boy first coined the term "puff-puff" for Mommy's girl parts, and for some reason we all like the expression. It just sounds soft, cuddly, and friendly. Girly. So. Puff-puff.)
But cuddly or no, Missy was horrified.

"No! No, no, no!" she pronounced, "I don't want babies coming out my puff-puff!"

"Not now, silly," I assured her, "It's only when you're older, when you're grown up, and only when you want it to."

"I will never want to." stated Little Miss, "No, I will 'dopt two babies, from China, because that doesn't hurt."

I told her that, indeed, sounded like a cunning plan. Then I picked her up and carried her upstairs.

Her mom and brother were watching something warlike on The Military Channel, so we settled into one of the wing chairs.

"How come the ants don't know about the poison?" she said, bouncing on my knees in a way I recognized prestaged a bit of girlish cleverness. "How come they don't talk about it?" I explained that they couldn't talk, that their mouths didn't work that way, that they communicated by smell. That if she were an ant, she would have to fart to say "I love you."

"Eeeew! Stinky! Nobody could love a fart!" she declared. Then she smiled a wide, triumphant smile and announced the conclusion of the evening's discussion.

"We're a LOT smarter than ants, Daddy."

And with that she wriggled off my lap and scampered away.


Anonymous said...

Terrific write up - love that story !

Lisa said...

"We're a LOT smarter than ants, Daddy" -- alas, that it were so. (Mr. E. O. Wilson might disagree.)

So, you were feeling "respectively antic" . . . very clever :)

That parachute mission sounds dreadful.

FDChief said...

Anon: Thanks, ta.

Lisa: I have learned never to dispute Little Miss on matters of intellectual heft.

Actually, the terms were intended to describe the attitudes of the distaff side of the household; Missy antic, Mojo revolted, respectively. My writing appears to have been less than clear, a sadly common feature.

And let's just say that PAPRICCA was one of those ideas, like the atomic mortar round, that should have been scotched in the planning stage.

Lisa said...

No, mea culpa -- I've been reading too hastily. I have been out of rhythm lately, and will welcome its return. (I just liked "ant-ic" as a descriptor.)