Literati! Help! The towers that are A Word with You Press in downtown Moscow are experiencing digit-shrinking temperatures! Right now it is about eleven degrees out, and not much warmer inside. Certain letters on the keyboard are mutinous, so please bare with me. Though actually, if you bare with me, you too will be freezing!
Jean Rodenbough has submitted her third and final entry into The Peggy Dobbs Write-of-Passage Contest. I am thinking everything ants! antiquity, anti-aircraft, antedeluvial, Anthony Weiner, Anti Em!! There’s no place like…this website to bring out anticipation! Our stories will all be posted by the weekend, and six finalists chosen who will then write to the prompt “…but by then, it was too late.”
Help us build tension, as novelists do, by posting comments on all the stories we put on line, as we reach the conclusion of our contest. We have had six hundred hits each of the last few days. I would love to break our record of 1,187 this weekend. Can you help us do it? Invite your friends to leave comments, and let’s see who will be five Franklins richer by December 15th!
Here is Jean’s attempt to run off with the prize!
by Jean Rodebough
The army advanced from the field near the kitchen door to the pre-arranged opening into the kitchen wall. Waiting for their marching orders, a few stopped to view the terrain, others studied the Queen’s map, while the regular troops stood on alert for orders to enter. “We may encounter unknown obstacles,” their commander announced. “Keep your body close to the surfaces you will be climbing, your eyes on the ones ahead of you. Don’t get distracted in your mission by barking dogs, mewing cats, or human voices. They cannot harm you if you follow orders.”
These ants were crack troops, trained to enter cracks unnoticed by unsuspecting human residents who were often present where food was available. The best hour to reconnoiter such maneuvers was late at night: no human was likely to be around to discover the invasion. By daylight, posts would be secured and several entrances developed. Should the humans detect one entrance, the ant troop would simply shift to another opening. Destination: food, especially crumbs and sweet spots. These energy sources would feed the Queen’s entire community.
The maneuver began: in lines streaming from that one outside crack, the ant army made its way to the counter where humans had a double sink, cabinets, a coffee brewer. This night a fork lay in the sink, with food bits on the tines. Perfect! In moments the fork was covered with a battalion of workers, carrying off bit by bit the food left there. The Queen would be pleased. The small soldiers were continually replenished by reinforcements as their predecessors carried nutrients back to home base, somewhere outside.
By daylight the ants had completed this first home invasion to carry back to their base an abundant amount for the Quartermaster Corps to lay up for the season. The supplies lined the sides of their nest and the Queen gave her minions a royally-pleased response. The task was not complete, however, and the reinforcements passed their weary comrades as they followed the trail back to the food supply in the humans’ kitchen. The process continued for over a week, with trails of ants passing one another with messages of food locations, encouragement, complaints.
The last effort ended abruptly. It was a day for great mourning, as a few stunned and tottering comrades returned to quarters. They gasped the news in shallow breaths: they were the only survivors. Some great mass death had come over the others, through what appeared to be a deadly poison. The struggling messengers, in their final words, pointed to their little feet, noting remnants of the killing potion attached there. They fell over on their backs, and curled into tiny balls of nothing. The Queen was not pleased.
As she surveyed the carnage before her, pacing up and down the rows of little dead workers, she studied ways to overcome this setback to the welfare of the ant community. “I swear,” she thought to herself, “it’s not too late to bring victory from the tragedy of this defeat.”
She was unaccustomed to developing strategies for survival. That was work for the workers, not for royalty. Yet unforeseen events call for inspired ideas. She sat on a speck of red clay soil and tried to do what she was not practiced in doing: thinking. One of the wounded who had survived knelt before her and offered to help, adding, “Your majesty, what we need is more rain to fall upon the earth and our compound here. That will bring reinforcements from other colonies who will add their efforts to ours.”
The Queen felt encouraged by this possibility. “Then let us do our rain dance in preparation for a deluge,” she announced. The little soldiers who were able to move lined up in a conga formation: da-ta-DA da-ta-DA, they moved rhythmically. They stopped long enough to listen for any rain drops, but none were heard. “Keep going, my loyal band,” she said. “It’s not too late to save our colony.”
Just then a heavy downpour rushed into the little compound, nearly drowning all of them, including their Queen. Struggling to remain above the waves of water, the commander blew his little antwhistle, in a call for reinforcements. And they came. Oh, did they come! By the thousands, it seemed. Once the torrents of water subsided, all put their strength into rebuilding barricades to protect their food supplies. The Queen disappeared, settling herself in her royal apartment, confident that all would be well. She felt satisfied that all would be well now, her troops would provide for the colony, and indeed it was never too late after all!