Wednesday, June 10, 2009

We Are Unclean

There are ants in my kitchen--twenty or so of them. No matter how many times I murder them, they will not go away. They seem to send reinforcements, daily, on some late-night express-train from the yard, apparently wearing teeny-tiny haz-mat suits in order to penetrate the Fresh Linen-scented Raid I’ve sprayed along the edges of the doors and windows, like a toxic moat. And, still, they risk their lives, the Raid, the bottom of my flip-flops, me swearing at them, to search out the one thing that ants (and me, for that matter) are powerless to resist--a Cheeto.

When I woke up this morning, that was exactly where they were, crowded on top of a stale orange nub left on the floor overnight, all 20 of them, humping a Cheeto. I knew that the real problem was that there was a Cheeto left on the floor in the first place. And a fingerprint of Nutella. And a splotch of Raspberry Ice Crystal Light (which they loooooove). And various other crumbs and drips, which proved that, as a housekeeper, I was a lazy sow. While I wasn’t exactly okay with that title, I’d not quite evolved to the point where, after the kids went to bed at night, I’d roll my lazy sow butt off of the couch and pull out the Swiffer.

Until this morning. When my four-year-old woke up and, upon dragging her blanket across the kitchen floor—the blanket that she carries everywhere—invented a new game: Ant Spotting.

“There’s one, Mommy!” Blair shouted, proudly.

“There’s another one,” she shouted, even more proudly, as if two ants were better than one.

The time had come. I needed to open up a big can of Whoop Ants.

The trick, I learned by googling “Kill Ants,” was to locate their source, which I knew was a patch of dirt under the kitchen window that contained what I decided was, roughly, 834 million ants. To destroy the hill, I had to destroy the queen. But destroying the queen wasn’t so easy. There were many suggestions online, ranging from dousing the hill with the hose, to pouring undistilled white vinegar all over it, to setting it on fire. I liked the idea of setting them on fire best, but I thought it wouldn’t be wise. And, while there were remedies that involved products like Boric acid, I didn’t have Boric acid on hand, and thought that walking three blocks to the Ace Hardware would take too much time. I wanted them dead. Now.

“What are you doing, mommy?”

“I’m boiling water.”


“To kill the ants.”

“How will boiling water kill the ants?”

I paused. I thought about being honest about the sure-fire method I’d read about online, which included the phrase “scald them to death.” I thought about explaining that I didn’t plan to stop after pouring bubbling, boiling water on them, that I would then sprinkle grits all over the dirt, which the hangers-on would pick up and eat and carry to their queen, if she wasn’t already vaporized, for her to eat. Then, the next time they took a sip of water, the grits would expand in their ant-tummies and they would explode. Pop.

“Oh sweetie,” I said, instead. “The ants will just float away.”

It took me one hour, six pots of boiling water, two splashes onto my right ankle (leading to a 2nd degree burn), one full can of quick-cooking grits, and seventeen F-words, but I did it.

Or I thought I did it.

The next morning, as Blair and I sat on the couch watching Blues Clues, she pointed toward the sliding glass door and screamed: “Ant! Mommy! ANT!” I leapt up as if I was a vampire frenzied for blood, practically levitating over to the door, where I began to stomp. And swear. And stomp. And swear.

“Did you dead it?” Blair asked, after the crazy left my eyes.

“Yes, I dead-ed it.”

“Can I dead the next one?”

I paused. Again. Debating which might be the more valuable lesson. Then, I answered her:

“Only if you put your shoes on.”

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