Making a mountain out of an ant hill

June 01, 2000|By Kevin Cowherd

THE DAY WAS going along swimmingly until I spotted a couple of carpenter ants scurrying across the kitchen floor.

This I recognized as a bad sign.

But even as I squashed them dead with a manly stomp of a loafer, my thinking was: I did not see you. You're not there. You don't exist.

See, for me, it has always been so much easier to live in denial.

You're not there. I don't see you. This works with bills, bad report cards, oil stains that suddenly appear under a car in the driveway.

The next day, though, another a half-dozen ants appeared on the kitchen floor.

These ants were huge, too, the size of cocker spaniels. There were too many to pretend they didn't exist. So I had to do the thing I hate to do more than anything else in this world.

I had to act.

So I took a can of ant spray and sprayed. I sprayed and I sprayed, along the floor, below the counters, along the sliding glass door.

"These ants are dead men," I said over and over to myself.

Imagine my surprise, then, the next day, when at least a dozen ants could be seen scurrying across the floor.

If the spray was bothering them, they sure didn't act like it.

In fact, they seemed to be having a swell time, even as I whacked one after the other with the manly stomp of a loafer and sent them to that big anthill in the sky.

"We're doomed," I told my wife that evening. "Appar- ently we're up against a super-race of carpenter ants. They know no fear. Plus they're immune to conventional warfare techniques."

There was no question that we were badly outgunned here.

So I thumbed through the Yellow Pages and called a pest control service, which promised to send someone out the next day.

As I hung up the phone, though, I had a vision.

In this vision, I saw myself standing in the open doorway of a Cessna at 2,000 feet. In my right hand was a satchel filled with money.

As the vision continued, I opened the satchel, turned it upside down, and all the money went fluttering into the wind as I stood there weeping.

What did the vision mean? Who knows? All I know is, it left me badly shaken. I tossed and turned all night.

The next day, a blue van pulled into the driveway and a nice man from the pest control service knocked on the door.

He wore a polo shirt and khaki pants and carried a clipboard. He conducted an exhaustive exami- nation of the kitchen, the back deck, the crawl space under the house, the foundation.

"I see no evidence of massive infestation," he said when he was through.

At this point, I could have kissed him. But you never know how a guy is going to take that, so I suppressed the urge.

"However," he continued, "I'm recommending a one-time application. With any luck, we'll hit the nest."

"You want to get the queen," he added ominously.

"Absolutely," I said. "How much does it cost to whack the queen these days?"

"A hundred and ninety bucks," he said.

I nodded gravely.

"Let's do it," I said.

We shook hands.

The queen, I felt certain, was living on borrowed time.

So the next day, another nice man from the pest service knocked on the door.

He wore a brown uniform and carried a huge sprayer that looked like something we might have used to defoliate the jungles in 'Nam.

I remember asking: "Will the stuff you're spraying hurt the dog?"

He said no and I asked no further questions, such as whether it would make anyone else in the family sick, cause blindness or sterility.

Remember: denial. If you don't want to hear the answer, don't ask the question.

The man took his huge sprayer and sprayed all around the foundation of the house, the crawl space, the kitchen and back deck.

When he was done, I wrote a check for $190, another thing I hate to do in life.

As of this writing, the dog is still alive.

And no else in the family is curled up in a fetal position in the corner, retching his brains out.

God, I hope we got the queen.

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