They come from above and below. They scale walls, walk on water and eat everything. Now Chelsi was watching them haul away the tail of a scorpion. She had found the scorpion, the little critter that it was, skittering in the bag on lime she was using. Though this particular variety was not particularly dangerous, Chelsi had be told its sting was as milder than a bee, she could not help her natural instinct of trying to squash it. Yet, every time she pulled away her tin can squashing device the scorpion resumed its offensive mode. On her fourth attempt, Chelsi pulled the can to find the severed tail of the scorpion stuck to the rim. Evidently the scorpion had not realized, because it continued its creep towards her, puffing itself up. With the animal now rendered harmless, she let it out of her sight to find a receptacle for the tail.
“Daisy, go away, I’m working.” Chelsi’s puppy, nosing her way past the front door, wiggled and whined. Anything Chelsi tried to keep away from her, she inevitably wanted. And now that Daisy’s shoulders stood at Chelsi’s knee the task of ‘keep away’ became harder and harder. In a rash decision Chelsi wiped the rim of the can on the far side of the window sill. “See? There’s nothing there,” now sticking the can in Daisy’s nose. Taking a few sniffs anyway and finding nothing, Daisy sauntered back outside into the sun. Not thinking much more about it, she put the tin can down and went back to the monotonous task of dabbing lime on the walls of her house.
She was told that a few layers on lime on the insides of the house walls would discourages termites from tunneling up to the surface of the walls and starting mounds, but the evidence around her pointed towards the likely hood that the lime did not make much of a difference. Maybe, just now that the brown tunnels were against a white background and easier to spot she’d be more likely to knock them down before they accumulated in vast numbers. But the termites are really another story.
Among the commotion with the scorpion, Chelsi had forgotten she left out her mid-snack; a spoonful of peanut butter and some crackers. Remembering now that her arm was starting to hurt again, she put down the basin of lime and washed her hands. The towel for drying them was hanging out the back window, where it would get a little sun for drying, in between frequent hand washings. That’s when she saw the scorpion tail again. Only now it was being hauled away by ants, the biggest one no more than 3 millimeters in length.
“You’re going to eat even that!” Nothing safe from these insatiable ants. They even cleaned up spilt cooking oil better than she could. She had no idea the mechanism by which they were able to carry back to their nest, but if she spilt a little drop on the counter, when out and came back at the end of the day, there wouldn’t even be a greasy film.
When she first moved in, Chelsi thought of the little ants as nothing but pest. And in some times they still horrified and disgusted her. Chelsi thought of the other day when she opened the spout of her water filter and a huge balled up, clump of ants plopped into her cup. But now she tried to think of them a little more like Rumbas from hell; cleaning things she didn’t want to have cleaned.
“Like my lunch,” she sighed, now looking over are her spoonful of peanut butter. A line of little ants pushed perpendicularly to line of remaining peanut butter. Each individual balled up a little bunch and as soon as it moved away another unburdened ant stepped up in its place. Behind the line was clean shiny spoon. That is how she had to think of it though, to keep from losing her mind. I’m not just ready for my lunch to be cleaned up. Because there were other occasions where their service was nearly a blessing.
On her last trip from town she had carried a 5 liter container of cooking oil. That undenounced to her had a crack in the cap. So, when she threw her backpack, containing the container, in to the back of the taxi it leaked all over the inside of her bag. Having been in Zambia for more than a year now, the knowledge of her best course of action didn’t even disgust her much. She delicately removed the untainted contense. The oily remainders, including the bag, where laid out on the floor. Within an hour a thick rivers of ants were flowing to and from the articles laid out on the floor. Acclimated though she was, Chelsi still spent as little time as possible thinking about the happenings in her house. For days she did not gaze in their direction. Until the river, became a stream and the stream a trickle, and like water in hot season, the flow dried up. Only then did she take the articles out to the porch with water and soap for a proper cleaning. But even before the soap was applied, she couldn’t even find a stain.