Biting Red Ants

December 12, 2008
By Travis Mann, Pittsboro, NC

I hopped off the dusty yellow bus, waited for it to bump along the road to its next stop, and walked back across the asphalt to collect the mail. A small stack waited in the box, and I furiously flipped through it, searching for any sign of the letter I had anticipated for weeks. Nothing.
I started, slightly crestfallen, to cross back when the neighbor, a short but built man, yelled my name and waved from his front porch. We live in the country, so our houses aren’t very close together and they sit on rather large plots of land, so we only happen to meet each other on rare occasions, mostly while on our lawnmowers.
I waved back, unaware that I had stopped in the middle of the road. I saw the man’s head flick up the road beside me, up the hill only a short distance away. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a small red pickup truck speeding in my direction. I sprung across the road but barely made it- I almost didn’t land on my feet. The little red truck whooshed by seconds after and turned without slowing onto the road that Y-ed off of ours. I felt the wind blow at my hair; it was that close. My neighbor let out a sigh, audible across the wide yard, and said something else I couldn’t understand before slamming the screen door and making his way into the house. When I was finally able to catch my breath, I began the walk up my long driveway. There was a definite buzzing in my ears, the sight of the blurred red etched in my mind. It wasn’t just any truck; I had seen that same one speed through this road several times this month. On many occasions, Dad tried to stop the driver on his evening walks around the yard, but never did he stop, or even tap his brakes. Once, the driver honked and rolled down a window to throw his bottle out. It crashed on the hard asphalt and glass went everywhere. It was a beer bottle. Dad collected it from the road and called the police. They said they would get someone to find out about the driver of the truck, but no one from the station ever showed up.
When my heart eventually slowed its pace, I was able to notice what a beautiful day it actually was.. The air smelled pleasantly fresh, and the sun was happily suspended in the peaceful sky. A few clouds were sparsely scattered here and there, fluffy and ever-changing, just like I like them. On a day like this, I wouldn’t hesitate to throw my backpack down in the living room and head right back out, fishing pole in hand, to lazily sit on the banks of the pond at the back of our field until supper time. But when I finally reached the house, it was clear that Mom had something else in mind for this afternoon.

She sent me straight to the shed, before I could even tell her of the near-death collision I was almost the victim of, to fill the seed spreader with ant poison to scatter over the yard. This year, yards everywhere are particularly full of the same painful biting fire ants that in habited ours. Great orange mounds sat scattered across our lawn, a web of interconnected arsenals full of stinging, biting, red ants. Apparently Mom had told me to complete the task sometime last week, but that was also a rather beautiful day, and the message probably got lost in the breeze I left behind as I hurried off to the pond. The look on her face told me I better not forget it this time, so I trudged off to the shed in the back yard where we kept the yard equipment. I opened one of the many bags of poison, emptied it into the spreader, and pushed it to the front yard. I surveyed my targets. They sat in great numbers, more than I remembered seeing before. I can do this, I thought, just take it slow; at least it’s a pretty day.

At first, it was a breeze. I neatly went back and forth across the expanse of the lawn, making sure I evenly covered the grass so even the stray ants wouldn’t stand a chance. But after about four laps of traversing up and down in long rows, the sun seemed to beat down harsher; there wasn’t a cloud in sight. The heat pushed me to abandon my thorough strategy, so I switched tracks and began to recklessly run from hill to hill, scooping handfuls of the poison out of the spreader and dumping it onto the mounds. The moment the toxic grains landed, the enraged ants sprang out of the dirt and scuttled back and forth over its surface in a wild panic, wondering what was attacking their hard-built fortresses.
I had just about tended to half of the anthills when I heard the neighbor’s screen door slam. Out ran Chandler , the man’s wild little son, who made a bee-line for the garage. Not long after he disappeared into the white metal building, he emerged seated atop a battery-powered play four-wheeler and scooted briskly across the grass. His bulky, bouncing Husky, Roscoe, was quick to follow, with tongue hanging out of mouth and swinging from side to side as the two made their way over to our yard. Great, I thought, just what I need to help make this a lot worse.
Chandler was a good kid, he was just little and tended to be invasive and wild like little kids tend to be. Immediately, he noticed the great orange anthills and without a moment’s thought, started to crash his little four-wheeler into them, sending dirt flying everywhere. Even though I couldn’t see them from here, I’m sure the fiery, angered ants were sent in all directions. At best, he may have helped diminish the population. However, I couldn’t shake the image in my head of Chandler ’s squeals if a few managed to land on him and chomp down as he zoomed around. I was about to cease my operation and get him to stop, but my attention had shifted to Roscoe for the moment. Roscoe had managed to do just what I feared Chandler would have. He had followed his owner’s suit and had pounced on one of the soft mounds in puppy-like delight. But it wasn’t long before I could hear his pain as he swatted with over-sized paws at his nose, the place where the ants seemingly had taken root. Chandler didn’t seem to care, but continued smashing into hill after hill, loud rumbling sounds flying from his mouth as he imagined himself driving some hulking piece of machinery. I yelled for him to check on the poor creature, but his only response was, “He’ll be okay!”
The poor thing was now almost rolling on the grass, and was getting closer and closer to the road as he ran lopsidedly, stumbling on the paws that weren’t busy trying to free himself from his stinging attackers.

And there again was the red truck, this time coming from the opposite direction as before. The driver didn’t even bother to tap his brakes as he skipped the stop sign and turned at a dangerous speed onto our road.

“Roscoe’s getting mighty close to the road, Chandler !” I yelled in fearful desperation..

The boy looked up barely for a second, but immediately went back to making zooming noises on the little four-wheeler.

“ Chandler - Roscoe’s-“

The truck zoomed by and the squealing noise of the tires met the yelping of the dog.

The mechanical drone of the boy’s four wheeler ceased.


Similar Articles


This article has 0 comments.


MacMillan Books

Aspiring Writer? Take Our Online Course!