It all began on a beautiful day in May. I had fed our kitties outside in their “kitty room”, a sort of makeshift shelter consisting mostly of white lattice work wood and a fiberglass roof attached to the side porch of our house. The kitties have a pet door that leads them out there from the kitchen. It’s the way we figured out for them to enjoy the great outdoors and not become coyote chow. Nothing larger than a sparrow could fit through the lattice work walls – and they would have to be very determined to do it. (Not that it’s never happened, but that’s another story).
Anyway, I left the kitties to eat, and when I came back about an hour later, their bowls were covered in black. I thought maybe a piece of the roof had fallen down, but when I put on my glasses and examined, I saw that in fact, the white bowls were covered in tiny, black sugar ants! They had formed an orderly line which seemed to originate at the southwest corner of the kitty room and proceeded due north to the promised land of Fancy Feast. Once there, they congregated and took on the Herculean task of lifting pieces of cat food twenty times their size and carrying it back to the nest. I was horrified at the sight.
Well, the only thing I could think to do was to get out my trusty hose and drown the little beggars. I felt awful, but that’s just what I did. I rained down terror on their community and could not help but imagine a running commentary from a tiny ant newscaster crying, “The humanity! The humanity!” (or something like that). I hosed down the porch thoroughly, brought their bowls in to the kitchen and sterilized them in the dishwasher, and then showered off all the remaining ants which were scattering up and down my arms, inside my bra, under my waistband, and around my scalp. I vowed never to feed the cats out of doors again. I itched for days.
All went well for several weeks. I fed the cats in our kitchen and scrupulously picked up their bowls as soon as the last morsel had passed their lips. I scrubbed the bowls and made sure to pick up any crumbs of food they might have left behind on the floor. Then, one night, I foolishly relaxed my vigilance.
I forgot to pick up their bowls immediately after their supper. An hour or two later, I stumbled in to the kitchen and turned on the light. It was “déjà vu all over again”. The ants were now covering the bowls in my kitchen instead of covering the bowls outside. Of course, they hadn’t bothered with the kitty door – they had simply poured in through some invisible crack in the floor or the walls and were marching up and down my counters, behind the sink, into the cabinets and inside the dishwasher! Scout ants were exploring every nook and cranny and sending for reinforcements.
Now, for the first time, I began to feel the killer instinct rising up inside of me. I grabbed a bottle of white vinegar and mixed some of it with a spray bottle of water. I found that if I aimed the spray bottle just right, I could destroy the enemy in a merciful way – instantly. I began to feel like the Hitler of Hollywood Hills. I began to imagine the wives and babies of these brave fighting ants waiting patiently at home in their nest, and slowly having the sad realization that Albert or Andrew was never coming home. I sprayed with a vengeance until there was not a speck of black on the counters or in the pantry. The house smelled like a pickling vat.
The next morning I arose and followed the whine of our tuxedo kitty, Henry, into the kitchen. There was not a speck of food anywhere. One solitary ant was wandering aimlessly on the counter. I figured he wouldn’t eat much and blithely opened the cupboard to get my cereal. Here I was confronted with an eerie sight: Thousands of ants had invaded our pantry and were crawling around a bottle of honey which, although seemingly clean, must have had a faint trace of honey smell attracting the critters. I screamed.
My husband, Art, charged into the kitchen expecting the worst. When he fully comprehended the situation, he reached below our sink and produced a can of Raid. He swept all the food off of the shelf, wiped down the cupboard, and applied the deadly toxin, then wiped everything clean again. As I was putting the food back on the shelf, I groaned. I told him sadly, “They’ll be back” “How?” he wondered aloud. “I don’t know”, I sighed. “They have ways. They’re very. . .” (I searched for the proper word) “resourceful”. Finally he announced: “This is a job for the Terminator!”.
So my stalwart Art called one of those services that advertise on TV. They came out and sprayed around the house. We had a two-week truce. It was wonderful. No ants. I could feed my cats and pick up their bowls without a single critter crawling in sight. Then last week. . . They were back. It began as a slow trickle in early morning, then gradually built to a deluge by late afternoon.
We called The Terminator again. A jovial kind of a guy, he asked us if we had an irrigation system outside. Of course we do. We have a garden and we live in a desert. “Well”, he patiently explained, “That’s why. You’re just washing the stuff away. You see?” I saw. So, he was coming back. “When?”, I gasped. “Soon”, he promised. “Probably Thursday”. Thursday came and went while I twiddled my thumbs and paced and periodically chanted to no one in particular, “He’s coming today”. But, of course, he never did.
Art called again. He said he would come back to us soon. At least, as soon as his truck is repaired. I began to feel like a jilted bride.
It is Tuesday. I keep hoping to hear the rumble of a small truck lumbering up our narrow street. Meanwhile, I keep the vinegar bottle at the ready. I don’t know what this is doing to my karma. Pray for me and mine.
© Robin Munson