Wild Card Wednesday is a challenge between us. Each will provide a prompt to the other. That prompt will allow us 1000 words or so to complete the challenge. Today Steve Beaulieu prompted me with: these contemptible ants!
These Contemptible Ants
It was a memory. Despite how most people might feel about it, it was one of Neil’s favorite memories. Now as he stood there he found himself lost in it, reliving it as if it’d just occurred.
* * * * * * * * * *
“They’re everywhere!” Mary squealed, leaping high into the air.
Neil laughed, earning him a stern look from his new bride. She was right, of course, the ants were everywhere. But still he laughed. Nine days together in paradise had just deepened his love for his wife, and now that the honeymoon was over he was excited to settle into real life together. And if anything screamed real life, it was an ant infestation of historic proportions.
“Do something, Neil! I think they’re trying to get inside the fridge!”
More ants swarmed around her feet on the kitchen floor, so she jumped again, this time landing on the counter. Her peace was short lived as she realized the counter was covered in ants too. She yelped and rolled off the counter, landing with a thud on the carpet. Neil rushed over, but when he saw that she was okay he started to laugh again. He tried to hold it in, but that just made things worse.
He could see ants down in the carpet. They were getting closer to her.
“Uh, honey…” he said, pointing.
Her eyes went wide as she saw them. She scrambled to her feet and ran across the room. She continually brushed herself, overcome with the feeling that things were constantly crawling on her.
“That’s it! I can’t handle this!”
He turned toward her, and raised his hands slowly, trying to get her to calm down.
“I’m about to lose my mind, Neil! I’ve never seen so many ants in my life.”
Even in their years as friends, and the years spent in a romantic relationship, he’d never seen her this worked up. Maybe it was crazy, but it just made him love her more. This was the stuff he’d always longed for. This wasn’t roses and magical moonlit walks after a perfect date. This was real.
“Mary, just listen to me, I’ve already…”
Neil stopped talking as an ant crawled across his cheek and dropped into his mouth. As soon as it landed on his tongue it started biting him.
He cried out and started spitting wildly. He ran forward, knocking into a stack of boxes and sending it toppling over. It was all he could do to keep his balance as he stumbled and continued to spit everywhere.
“Stop spitting!” Mary yelled.
But he couldn’t stop, not until he was certain the ant was gone. Finally, satisfied the tiny invader was gone from his body, Neil stopped spitting and looked at his bride.
“I already called the exterminator. They’ll be here in about an hour.”
Finally, Mary seemed to relax a bit.
“Thank goodness. Let’s leave now, though. I’m not spending another moment around these contemptible ants!”
Feeling the painful, itchy bump on his tongue, Neil couldn’t agree more. Mary grabbed her purse and the two of them fled the apartment, doing their best to avoid the ants on their way out. Even once they were outside they kept running. Their vehicle in the distance seemed to be the only safe place and they raced toward it, both of them laughing now. When they reached the car they both fell in, still caught up in a fit of laughter. Neil leaned over and grabbed her face.
“We survived,” he said. “We…”
He stopped talking and his eyes went wide. Mary looked confused for a moment, then she felt it. Something crawling across her legs. She pulled away from Neil and looked down. Ants were swarming out of her purse onto her legs.
“Noooo!” she yelled, flinging the car door open and rolling out onto the pavement.
* * * * * * * * * *
Neil laughed quietly as the memory finished playing out in his mind. The apartment looked completely different now. They’d worked hard to make it nice, to make it a place they were proud to call home. But a part of him missed that day four years ago. He glanced over his shoulder at Mary. She was sitting on the couch, staring straight ahead at the television. It wasn’t turned on.
“Do you remember the day we moved into this place?” Neil asked.
She didn’t respond at first, so he spoke again.
“After the honeymoon, when we first got to the apartment. You gotta remember the ants.”
She sighed heavily and answered without looking at him.
“It was a crappy apartment back then,” she said. “Still is, in a lot of ways.”
Her answer was deeply disappointing to him.
“That’s all you remember about that day?” Neil asked.
Finally, she looked at him.
“What do you want, Neil? We got bit by a bunch of ants.”
And he could tell, that’s all that day was to her now. Whatever it might’ve been in the moment, that was gone now. Maybe he was the only one who treasured that day, the only one who treasured the real times they’d experienced together.
He was growing uncomfortable holding the heavy box, and he shifted his grip on it. Looking down at it he realized it didn’t get any more real than this. Written in black marker on top of the box was Neil’s Stuff. Even her handwriting was angry.
Neil wasn’t such a big fan of the real anymore. But he did smile one more time as he left the apartment for good, remembering the way her voice had cracked as she yelled about those contemptible ants.