A small raiding party of ten trillion reddish ants, give or take, disembarked from a fetid banana boat in Corpus Christi, Texas and spread out. All of them were stalwart warriors who possessed clear marching orders to follow. Some had followed their leaders from as far away as Buenos Aires, Argentina, stowed away inside of a shipment of suede jackets with plastic zippers that were detailed on the counterfeit bill of lading as brass. The bulk of the ants had climbed aboard the ship in Port-au-Prince, Trinidad, along with a load of green mangoes that were beginning to turn mushy. Unless, technically, those were leather mini-skirts in the shipment from Argentina, and the load from Trinidad consisted of green papayas from Guyana, as well as Brazil nuts from the Amazon jungle. Or perhaps the mangoes from Trinidad were plastic, too. Unless that was technically Tobago.
The ants followed clear tracks left by an advancing squadron of bed bugs, along with a slogging infantry of banana slugs, new partners in a joint venture hatched by leading ants in the one world colony movement.
No ant asked, why? No ant said, but, or duh, or omg. What the ants did was march. And they followed.
It took hardly any time to get where they were going because they were going everywhere. They arrived daily. Reinforcements were nearby. In this way, ants begat more ants. It was easy. It was foolproof. It was fun. Red ants, black ants, brown ants, a kaleidoscope of colorful ants. They marched in a semi-casual roundabout style, kicked out lots of motherfucking jams, no immature goosestepping. Many ants found holes to inhabit. Many ants discovered cracks opened wide. Many cracks soon opened wider. There was plenty to eat and drink. Some ascetic ants claimed it was too much. Other ants were directed to an open field filled with pipes. Pipes fit into other pipes. More pipes were piled high. The pipes had been constructed to carry away vast loads of shit. There were bees nearby to emit a buzz. Flies, too. What fly can pass up a nice well-formed vast load of shit?
Having allies nearby made marching more fun for the ants. The pipes had grooves for dancing, and they danced. Leaders went first. It was cool inside the pipes. The ants fit in beautifully. Fitting in was fun. The pipes formed straight lines in many directions. The straight lines, which did not exist anywhere else in the natural world that they knew so well, went on and on. All the straightness seemed like some kind of funny joke to the swinging ants. Periodically, they paused briefly to observe the alien terrain. The laughing was hard to stop. The leaders promised more ahead. They went for more.
Clogging the pipes was a cinch. Spinning in the backwash was the most fun.
When the electricity backfired in Houston on a busy day in July, a stifling Wednesday that could have been a torrid Thursday, or worse, and the artificial temperature trumped triple digits on the crude analog scale, and the air conditioning went out, and the windowless offices emptied, and the elevators stuck, and the ice melted, and the stairways flooded, and the sump pumps sucked, and the computers went down, and the blood pressure went up, and the toilets overflowed, and the gas bubbles burst, and the smoke turned rancid, and the rate of return plummeted, and the steam and the stink started to rise like a rocket with a built-in booster, the ants paused only very briefly to observe the evidence of a job well done.
Then they continued to march. Of course, they kicked out some more motherfucking jams along the way.
The marching ants bypassed cow shit, pig shit, cat shit, chicken shit, horse shit. They filled up on the contents of bags, boxes, pouches, sacs. Pigeon shit, too. They joined up with trillions of comrades outside of Tucson who had marched north from the Panama Canal, ravaging sweet corn all the way. These were some bad-ass, hardened motherfucking ants, but they could sure dance. En masse, they overran a cutting edge housing development outside of Phoenix overlooking an artificial waterfall, an artificial stream, and an artificial pond. Who knew ants could have so much real fun in an artificial stream?
When forty trillion ants, give or take, reached the outskirts of Silicon Valley after a moonlit march through miles of ripe strawberry fields in the Pajaro Valley, they set up a reconnaissance outpost for a few billion leaders, give or take, near the top of Mt. Umunhum in the Santa Cruz Mountains. They were drawn to the location by the remarkable voice of the lovely Thee Mrs., the wife of the tawny owl, lounging among the many high flying owls on her perch at the apex, as she duplicated authentic voices from the history of rhythm and blues since Clyde MacPhatter. What ant was going to pass up an authentic ride on the night train with James Brown? Or grooving to the Reverend Al Green? No ant worthy of leading the species, that’s for sure. Like, duh.
Trillions more ants followed, and followed well. And not only ants. All creepy crawling bugs were welcome. The lovely Thee Mrs. morphed from James Brown into Sharon Jones, and then Big Mama Thornton and Etta James, a memorable all-night affair. She twisted and shook like Ike and Tina Turner, both, as one. Where do you think all of the new followers came from? All over, that’s where? Everybody who was anybody was there. A trillion more here and there adds up. It started to become pretty clear where are the following was going to lead.
To victory, that’s where. Like, motherfucking duh.
I first encountered the ants of many colors while engaged in an ordinary episode of straight ahead escapism, sitting in a benign state under a redwood tree in the Santa Cruz Mountains, fleeing from the irritating itch caused by an overload of dust mites indoors. I was puzzled. They were the same old dust mites as usual. I did not know what the big irritating deal was all of a sudden. I was under a great deal of pressure from my Chinese overlord to produce more for him, but all I could think to do was scratch my singular surface. What else was a harried first person singular supposed to do when confronted by the evidence of an allergic overreaction? Endlessly sweep? As if. Vacuum? Yeah, right.
“Are itchy dust mites invisible to you, too,” I asked the tawny owl?
“Who do you think you’re talking to,” he sniffed, “some barn owl? You’ll never catch me behind closed doors.”
“Well, yeah, like…duh.”
I admired the sense of purpose displayed by the ants. I admired their spacing and their timing. Good timing between separate entities is always hard to find, especially when invisible.
To my eyes, despite their limitations, the ants of many colors seemed to be getting along quite well together. There did not appear to be any of the internecine warfare due to color for which they are supposed to be famous. There was an ant the color of a tea stain on beige linen that appeared to be getting it on with an ant the color of a Hershey bar without nuts. There was an ant the color of tupelo honey. I had never seen an ant that glowed with that sort of light.
I said to the tawny owl, “I saw an ant the color of tupelo honey. You don’t see that everyday.”
He said, “You seem to forget what my big eyes are able to see.”
From the top of Mt. Umunhum, as the leading ants refined their mission, they sent out feelers to the marauding scorpion from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountains in Colombia who was becoming well known in the Norcal community for wreaking his own brand of stinging havoc against human interlopers. Another strategic alliance was never a bad idea. And what an asset another big stinger could be.
A group of tactful leading ants met the marauding scorpion in the shadows of the San Andreas Fault. One leading ant said, diplomatically, “Sup.”
The marauding scorpion, though not really the average astral traveling type like some of his rangier kin, appeared to be somewhat oddly detached from external reality as the ants knew it. He had the look. Or the look had him.
Unless that was a whole lot detached. And internally.
As it turned out, the marauding scorpion, who was not much of a talker, and managed little more than a nearly imperceptible shrug as his response, was not much of a joiner either. He was feeling pretty good both inside and out about the mayhem he had been producing in his own awesomely angry way. He chose to be left alone to do his own thing. What more motivation than 430 million years of awesome anger does a scorpion really need?
It occurred to me while exiled by the dictatorship of invisible dust mites that the marauding scorpion, solely responsible for his own scourge in the Santa Cruz Mountains, had stung the family of the techno-yuppie dweeb who lives next door to me, and rides obsessive-compulsively atop his lawn mower on a regular maniacal basis when not commuting daily to Silicon Valley, a total of twenty three times. And yet, so far I had been spared. It also occurred to me to wonder why.
Was there a simple cause due to an anomaly of exploding gases over time in space? Or perhaps a misdirected trajectory of a dumb gray rock clunking crystalline particles of ice? Or flames? Where it hurts? Or could there be another equally simple reason why?
I asked the tawny owl, “Does there need to be a reason why for unexplained quarks and oddities in nature?”
He said, “Nah.”
In a somewhat panicky and unattractive manner, I whined, “But why?” I don’t know where the panic came from. Unless that should have been more accurately, why not?
But, before flying away, and while continuing to laugh his fucking ass off, the tawny owl hooted, didactically, “After figure-eights, and contradictions, the third most common building block of the multiverse is mistakes.”