The Grease Ant

by | Aug 9, 2022 | Fiction, Issue Twenty-Eight

  1. An army of ants swarms a left-out jar of peanut butter. In the fresh sun, they gleam like honey. I toss the jar over the fence into the vacant yard next door and smoosh the rest of them with a paper towel. Their transparent bodies curl into miniature yoga poses as they die.
    Fearing a possible infestation, I drive to the hardware store down the block. I describe the invaders—golden, the length of a breadcrumb—to an employee, and he guesses grease ants. I buy some traps to be placed behind the refrigerator and inside the cabinets and head home.
    Done and done.
  2. Things are disappearing, personal things. Photo albums, gone. Old family home videos, gone. Left in their place: a cluster of grease ants, a calling card. I research the enemy, want to know what I’m up against. Apparently, grease ants are known as thieves. They nest next to other colonies and steal their food, their young.
  3. Art moves in next door. I introduce myself. He doesn’t have any furniture, doesn’t have anything but a jar of peanut butter sitting atop his mantle. Strange. Maybe the moving truck is running late. Maybe he found the jar in his yard and put it up there so he wouldn’t forget to throw it away.
    He’s a few decades younger than me, twentysomething, and has a brown mullet, the same style I’d had in the 1980s. He’s dressed in a black t-shirt and tight jeans, again like what I wore in the ‘80s. When I leave, he says: “We’ll be seeing lots of each other, neighbor.” He stretches out neighbor like there’s something malicious behind the word.
  4. I spy on Art through the blinds. There’s now a vintage Camaro parked in his driveway. He leans against the car’s frame, adjusting his posture like he’s reenacting a memory. His face twitches. His lips wiggle like worms. He fidgets a bit then freezes.
    The scene smells of slippery nostalgia.
    I skitter across the room trying to remember.
    It’s me.
    He’s me.
    The me I used to be.
  5. “I think a grease ant is stealing my past,” I say to the hardware store employee. “I need something stronger.”
    He grips his chin, a gesture I take as not good.
    He squints.
    He walks down an aisle. I stare at an open bag of potato chips on the counter, imagine licking the oil off each chip inside the silver.
    The hardware store employee returns, a can of ant poison in his hand. I reach for it, but he jerks his arm away.
    “Get out of here, grease ant,” he shouts, unleashing the spray.
    My eyes stinging, I drive home, swiping a few lawn ornaments along the way.
  6. I watch my parents hug him.
    My girlfriend kisses his neck.
    My life re-lived.
    No, not mine, his.
    I crawl up the wall.
    I try to forget the old me.
    A me I can never be again.

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