I'm a big clumsy animal, also known as a human being. Human. Being. Even the words sound awkward and lumpy. A human being is not an ant. An ant is graceful and can run up trees easily. Trees are as high as mountains in the ant world. But it does not need ropes and climbing shoes. Does not need the word 'hero' when it reaches the top of the tree. Does not need anyone to clap and say it is the winner. It just does what it does. And it can run down a tree trunk smoothly too. Ant is a clean smooth name. Ant. A human being is not ant-like.
When people say 'ants in your pants' is it just because it rhymes? My mother says this sometimes when I don't know what I want to do next and keep trying lots of things; when maybe I keep hopping from one foot to the other and asking questions. Does she mean ants are like that too or does she mean ants are running round and round inside my knickers and biting me so I can't keep still? Once, when I went to the zoo with my grandparents I wanted to take home the anteeter. My grandmother gave her loud laugh that carries everywhere and makes people stop talking; makes them breathe in sharply. She said it was the ugliest animal on the planet. My grandfather has tears in his eyes when he tells the story to others. How I said I wasn't leaving the zoo without it because it wasn't happy there. It would be happy with me. I did not think it was ugly. Both my grandparents always like to talk about that.
Later, when I learned how to spell anteater I felt a little bit strange, because of that time when I had eaten an ant at the botanical gardens. And eating ants is what anteaters always do. That's how they got the name. The anteater has a long snout and could stick this inside an ants' nest no problem. Ants would most likely be running round and round the anteater's nose and hundreds of them would be caught on its sucky pointy tongue and eaten alive.
The botanical gardens is not a zoo but still it does have birds and fish and rabbits. And wildlife. Ants are wildlife. I am glad there is no anteater. I only ate a single ant and I spat out most of it. Also, I’ll never be eating another one, it was just an experiment. The anteater would eat hundreds and hundreds all in one go and they’d all churn round and round and a large part of them would end up as poo in the botanical gardens. Or somewhere. Ants, most likely go to the toilet too but they're so small you can't see anything nasty.
Jay Merill is published or has work forthcoming in 3 AM Magazine, Berfrois, The Bohemyth, Epiphany, Hobart, Per Contra, Prairie Schooner, Toasted Cheese, Thrice Fiction and Trafika Europe. She is a 2017 Pushcart Prize nominee and the winner of the Salt Short Story Prize. Further work has appeared recently in Anomalous, Corium, Crack the Spine, Foliate Oak, Ginosko, Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, The Legendary, Literary Orphans, SmokeLong Quarterly, Spork, tNY, Wigleaf and other great publications. Jay lives in London UK and is Writer in Residence at Women in Publishing. She is the author of two short story collections published by Salt—God of the Pigeons and Astral Bodies—which were nominated for the Frank O’Connor Award and Edge Hill Prize.