I Behold their Industry and they are Giants |by Philip Mittereder

At first, the ants would just hang out in the bathroom sink. There would be two or three, or sometimes as many as thirty, milling around aimlessly or just standing still twitching their antennae. I liked to think maybe they transcended the group mindset of their species, abandoned the mission, climbed up the mesa and found God, discovered individuality, lost themselves, let go ultimately even of survival, rose to the infinite and embraced death as an inevitable feature of reality, and there was something beautiful in that. Or maybe they were just digging the grime, lost and confused that the scent of water had brought them to this synthetic and empty place, exhausted. Maybe chemicals in our cleaning agents just contaminated them beyond all recovery.

Regardless, I needed the sink. Sometimes I would run the water gently to see if they’d scatter, and sometimes they did, but usually they just stood there, let the water rush over them, and down the drain, drain, drain they went.

Well, what was I going to do, pick them up? I would have crushed them—a faster death maybe, but they were still ants after all, even if they weren’t into the typical invasive acts that designate vermin. Who’s to say they weren’t headed for the garbage can next? Watching them wash away, I wondered how many ant drownings it takes to shift the karmic weight of a human life. What are the consequences? Who balances us?

They were gone for a while.

About a month later, they appeared in the kitchen (sink, again), this time forming trails, reaching toward the stove and the pantry. This I could not abide—crawling on my cutting boards, up my shirt while washing the dishes, turning up dead in the rice. Sometimes I could get to work and find one climbing up my arm or leg, having stupidly survived a journey of incomprehensible distance. I hated them for it, and flattened them whenever I had the chance, no longer cognizant or concerned with their little ant lives, because now they were my enemies, even though they weren’t trying to hurt me.

I held off on poison for a while. Poison just didn’t seem good for the kitchen. But the problem essentially wasn’t letting up so when someone suggested it while I was at the store, I bought a canister and sprayed up the place and swept the crumb-size corpses and I thought the problem essentially would be elsewhere for a while. Maybe it was.

Earlier I came down to find them in massive ranks, spilling through all corners of the house. In one night they’d cleared all food from the cabinets. I opened the refrigerator to find they’d been in there, too. In fact, the whole refrigerator was gone. I should have been scared, or confused, or impressed, but there was no time, because they started in on the countertops next, and then the furniture. As the walls went down around me, I sank into deteriorating concrete foundations, stamping my foot until my shoes were gone and they devoured my pants and shirt and my hair and my underwear and all I could see was the stars overhead.

These days I’m laying here, bald, naked, aging in the dirt, slowly putting down roots, taking it one day at a time, wondering what it is they saw in that sink. Wonder if God is like that.



Philip Mittereder is executive editor of Mad House Publications based out of Philadelphia, PA and the other day and the rest of the day and I have to be a good day to be a good time to get a new one is a great day to be a good day to be a great day after the game is a very happy birthday to my house in the world.

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