Two ants die in a puddle on the kitchen counter.
The puddle is made out of residue that spilled from a sticky ant trap.
If it’s hard to watch them die, says Douglas’ father, you don’t have to look.
Douglas keeps looking. His father laughs.
Think about how they died, says his father. They liked the taste so much they ate poison. Douglas keeps looking.
His father explains how the way they usually work is that one ant will taste it and go alert the colony that he found food. Ants have pheromones to communicate things like that. So one ant becomes a biological weapon against its own colony, he says. It inverts their senses. So then the rest of the colony goes to eat it and dies. They can’t help themselves, he says. It’s like poisoned ice cream.
But this trap was not set out in the usual way, and there is a sticky puddle on the counter, and the two ants did not go back to the colony, but instead are starting to fall apart. The bottom half floats into sticks and circles, forms patterns around them. The upper half is still moving around, trying to escape. And they sort of dance in the heat waves.
His father leaves. The kitchen is too hot.
Douglas runs his fingers around the ridge of the green tiles on the counter. One of them trails through the puddle. He looks behind him and brings his finger to his mouth. It tastes sweet. Like sugar water. Not like ice cream.
He goes outside and watches the cars.
At first they go fine. But the highway was not set up right, the hot sun beats it into liquid, the cars sink into it. Someone looks at him from their sinking car. Douglas does not look away. The person in the car looks away first.
A lizard pauses at the edge of the tar. Douglas runs over to catch it and it runs across the highway. Its feet leave little indents and then tear through the surface, start to pull downwards. It struggles forward. Sinks more. Struggles forward. Disappears into the soft part. The cars go down and down, and oil washes out from the highway bed. And the people in the cars watch with sad eyes.
He goes inside and looks at the ants again.
His father comes back in. Are you still watching them? he says. Douglas says yes and feels very proud.
His father leaves.
Before Douglas dies, he marries a woman named Chloe. They have a son, Winthrop. Their son Winthrop has a happy life and marries a woman named Belle. They have two children, Charles and Forzinia. They have a happy life. And Charles marries a lady named Osha and Forzinia marries a man named Cleo. They have a happy life. Charles and Osha have two kids, Chris and Norman (Norm). Forzinia and Cleo have a boy, Hyland. They live a happy life. Chris marries Gina. Hyland joins the army. Chris and Gina have a girl, Manzy. Winthrop dies of a stroke. Years and years pass. And a happy life. Norman marries Tucker. They adopt two Girls from Estonia, named Ella and Ivanya. Hyland returns from the army. Chris and Gina have a boy, Jacob. They have a happy life. Osha leaves Charles. Hyland does not marry. Years pass. Charles dies. Manzy has a kid and is left by the father, Allen. Allen dies in puddles of his saliva after overdosing on Oxytocin. The kid is named Sal. After a large fight between Chris and Manzy over the child, Manzy moves out, vows never to talk to anyone in her family except Sal. They have a happy life. Years pass. Norman dies, Ella falls into depression. People keep asking her why. Belle dies and is alone in her apartment for only an hour before her friend finds her. Ivanya moves to Palo Alto, where she will live for the rest of her life. She tries many times to have a child but never does. Nonetheless she has a happy life. Years pass. Where did Forzinia go? She is dead. Jacob grows up and starts to resent the rest of his family. Years pass. Chris seems old one day. It’s the way his eyes seem so large underneath his glasses. Then Cleo dies. Kids all out of the house at this point. Except Ella, who only lies in her bed and smokes out of a 5 dollar pipe she bought at Smokes 4 Less and draws. She draws thousands of ants. Years pass. Hyland dies and they find out he had much more money than he let on. Jacob goes hunting, kills a deer. The other deer are not pleased. Manzy tries to reconcile with her parents to learn that they are both dead and have been for two years. She had never given them an address. Jacob decides never to have a kid. Years pass. Manzy dies. Ivanya dies. Ella dies. Sal goes outside and watches the cars like jewels and thinks about how big the world is, and by then it’s the next day.