Let’s get this straight: I am not afraid of ants. I just hate them.
I am about 54,081,290 times bigger than a household sugar ant by volume. This is roughly the number of times that NASA’s largest rocket-building facility is bigger than me, or that Princess Leia is better than Queen Amidala. It’s pointless to fear a creature that can fit under my fingernail.
But ants and I hate each other with a murderous rage that will lock us in mortal combat for eternity. They started it.
One night when I was a few months old, my parents put me to bed and could not figure out why I kept crying. They fed me, they rocked me, they changed me, they sang to me, but every time they put me back in the crib, I would start to scream within minutes.
Finally, through the haze of 3 a.m., someone turned on a light to investigate the bed. That’s when they discovered the ants—evil mutant demon ants with a taste for baby flesh who had crawled up a two-story building, through the tiny window gap, down the wall, across the floor, and up the legs of my bed to EAT ME ALIVE IN MY SLEEP.
My parents managed to drown the minions of Satan, but I still have a scar on my temple from their tiny jaws of doom.
Thanks to the short memory of infants, though, the ants enjoyed a truce with me for nearly 15 years after their unprovoked attack. I tended ant farms. I protected anthills on the playground. I even tenderly moved the creatures outside when others threatened to smash them on tabletops. But all the time they were plotting.
First it was the nest of inch-long, winged carpenter ants that moved into my wall and all of my possessions. For days I shooed them out the window one by one, but when they reached the bed I abandoned my peaceful ways and littered the room with their brittle corpses in an all-night crusade.
Two years later, they surfaced again. My friend Madelyn and I were minding the house for another friend while her family took a vacation, and one night I opened the pantry to discover a battalion of Beelzebub’s beasts advancing toward the chocolate.
After stripping the pantry, obliterating the insect troops, and planting roughly six poison baits per square foot, I sat down to rest with a half-empty bag of potato chips.
Every chip was crawling with ants.
Instead of throwing the bag away, I became a thundering inferno of destruction. Armed with a serving spoon, I shook each ant onto the counter and crushed it into oblivion. The bodies collected. I may have cackled. Madelyn wondered whether to call the authorities or simply run and save herself.
But even this display of my ruthlessness in battle did not deter the enemy for long.
One fall in college, I agreed to feed an acquaintance’s cats while she was out of town. On the third day of feeding, my roommate and I opened the kitchen door to find an uneven brown river flowing from the doorstep to the cats’ food dishes.
The fifteen-foot stream of ants reached more than six inches at its widest point. The good news is, when they’re so concentrated, you can mow down thousands with a single blast of poison spray. Take that, turkeys.
We wiped up about a pound of ant carcasses in all. By the time the bloodbath ended, the insect army was out of troops, the homeowner was out of Raid, and my roommate had concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that I was out of my mind.
It’s been a few years now, so I’m probably about due for another exoskeletal onslaught.
Go ahead, ants. Make my day.