A Biomythography - Note 4
by Secret Hippie
Eating a Bowl of Ants
People say that they're a delicacy.
That's what I was told when I was growing up. I didn't know enough to ask questions like, "Who says that?" or "How do you know?" Apparently, someone my parents met when I was seven in College Park had eaten chocolate-covered ants once or said he had. They tasted mostly like chocolate. I can believe that.
It's easy to accept because I, too, have eaten ants. It wasn't because someone offered them to me. They weren't chocolate covered or anything nice like that.
The reason I ate ants is that I got up really early in the morning.
It was four o'clock. I was thirteen, so I was hungry. That's pretty much how I would have to describe the whole year. If I had to recap the age of thirteen, I would say 'hungry.' Now, if you asked me about age twelve, I'd have a hard time deciding between the words, 'horny,' 'surprised,' and 'embarrassed.' But by the time I was thirteen, 'hungry' was the constantly-relevant word.
This was the kind of hunger that could get me up without really opening my eyes. As a sort of zombie, I rose before thinking. My limbs went into action. My feet carried my stomach upstairs to the fridge. The rest of me went along because my stomach had taken over when all the other organs were asleep.
This wasn't a one-time occurrence. This wasn't even a once-per-week occurrence. This was a routine and the rest of me watched my arms and knew what we were going to do. We, the stuff that made up my loosely organized self, were going to grab the first thing that seemed the right color. Orange was usually good, the color of cheese slices, of carrots, of cold pizza, of well, sometimes, an orange or a tangerine but those were fine. When reflexes drive you to food, orange is a good color. Late at night, you might eat a strip of an orange peel in your sleepy-eyed haste. You might not care.
There were no ants in the fridge. They weren't wearing bright orange life jackets or swimming in the orange juice, either. No, I ate ants because we were out of cheese slices.
No cheese. I grunted and searched the sliding drawer.
No cheese. I flapped my hands through the shelves.
Milk. My left hand found the jug handle.
"Uh." My arm, or maybe my stomach, pulled out the cold, slick plastic container. I dropped it on the counter, spun around and reached for the cereal boxes. Grape nuts, no. Corn flakes, ugh. Honey-Nut Cheerios, fine.
Fine. I threw some cereal into a bowl, poured the milk, and started eating. After a while, I sat down. Because I was tired.
At the bottom of the bowl, there were some burnt bits. They tasted funny. I rose, poured more cereal, poured more milk, and faced the pantry door. The pantry was a closet shelf, really. The door was brown. Brown with wood grain.
The new cheerios started out tasting okay. But after a while, there were a lot of little black bits and they spoiled the sweetness. I thought about putting sugar on my cereal but I was too tired. I just wanted to get to the bottom of the bowl.
Spoonful after spoonful. The crunchy bits weren't great.
After a little while, I noticed the black specks in my bowl were wiggling. I woke up enough to actually look at them. Then I remembered that some of my bites of cereal had been wiggling, too.
I had another few bites. More wiggling. I put my face closer to the bowl and stared at the black lumps. They were ants. Big ones, too, not the little teeny ants that are hard to see. These were the kind big enough for you to see the fangs on their faces. Most of them were dead. I don't know why. Maybe cheerios aren't good for ants. Maybe they had drowned in milk. Anyway, they weren't putting up much of a fight.
I'd already eaten a bunch. So now I had to decide: should I continue eating them?
While I decided, my hand and my mouth kept shoveling cereal. I mean, they were under orders from my stomach and all. With a sigh, I considered putting raisins in the cereal. That way I wouldn't notice the ants so much. As an alternative, I could find the sugar. But I had looked into the sugar jar the other day and found ants in it. Anyway, I was tired. While I was thinking, I got to the bottom of the bowl.
The bottom was just black with ants. There was nothing else, especially after my last two spoonfuls. And I thought: that's a lot of ants. And then: am I wasting food? If I don't finish my ants, am I a bad person?
It took me a few sighing breaths to decide. No, I'd pretty much eaten enough for my mom. We hadn't paid for the ants.
A couple of hours later, when I marched up the stairs to have a third bowl of cereal for breakfast, I sifted out the ants at the start. The bottom of the box was mostly a pile of large, black insects but they didn't have it all to themselves. There were still a few cheerios for me.
Every ant looked fat and full. None of them tried to hang onto an O as I pushed them off my dry cereal.
The third bowl tasted great.