Off and On

Let me start by saying I’ve been a writer for many years—off and on—and am just coming out of a lengthy period of “off.” I wish it weren’t so, but I tend to let life in general get in the way of writing. And I procrastinate. To my shame, “Don’t do today what you can postpone until tomorrow,” seems to be my rallying cry.

A few years ago when I was “on,” I had quite a few short stories published, but the forward momentum didn’t last when life hit a difficult stretch. The road has since smoothed out, so now, I’m trying again.

Writing is a lonely endeavor. Not everyone is cut out to sit alone in front of a computer for hours on end, pulling words out of wherever they come from and forming them into something they hope someone will find pleasure in reading. And there are so many distractions: job, kids, spouse, family obligations, friends, TV, lovely books, and of course, the computer (with an internet connection) right in front of you. It takes a lot of willpower to push it all aside and focus on your writing. It’s not easy. And don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise.

But when everything comes together, when you read back over what you have written, and it’s good, damn good, in fact, it’s all worth it. You got the story/poem/ article out of your head and onto paper. To me, there’s no better feeling in the world.

Except maybe getting paid for doing it.

Money and recognition are fantastic things, but to be honest, most of us don’t write for those reasons; we write because we have to. The words, plots, and people are there in our heads, and they demand to be heard. We give them a voice and in doing so, find our own unique voice.

And isn’t that what it’s all about?

©️2019 KT Workman



The War

Damned ants! Now they’re in my mailbox of all places.

I’ve been fighting them little buggers for ten years now. Looks like they would have a little mercy, seeing as how I’d turned ninety a few months back—no spring chicken no more, not by a long shot.

I reckon I ought to feel lucky I’d come home from rehab none the worse for wear except for the pins holding my bones together and the cane I used to steady myself. That was what John Lee’d told me a’fore he up and died on me last month. But he weren’t the one that had tripped over the mound of hard dirt those dad-blasted ants has pushed up on the sidewalk and got his hip busted.

But I didn’t feel lucky, not with ants traipsing all over my back porch, (The blonde-haired woman with black roots what had sold us the place called it a “patio.”) and bunches of ‘em weighing down the trumpet vines I’d planted when John Lee and me had moved in.

There hadn’t been no ants—not like the numbers here, leastways—on our little place down by Henshaw Creek. But John Lee and me had been getting too old to keep firewood cut and take care of the cows and garden, and our kids were grown and gone, nowhere around to help out.

“Sell the place and move into town, Mama,” Elizabeth had said on the phone, her voice traveling halfway across the country to reach me.

“You and Daddy get a little place close to town,” Jimmy had said, his voice coming from somewhere in Belgium—can’t remember the name of the town offhand. “That way you’ll be closer to the hospital if one of you gets sick.”

So when John Lee’s heart had gotten so weak he couldn’t help me take care of the cows no more, we finally did what our kids wanted and moved to town. Took a while for us to get used to it, houses jammed together side by side like sardines in a can, cars passing by all hours of the day and night. Why I couldn’t even go out in the yard in just my gown no more. No telling who might get a gander of me. Not that I was anything to look at ‘cause everything had gone south on me more years back than I cared to remember.

But we got used to no privacy. It was the ants I couldn’t abide.

“Just leave ‘em alone, Emmy,” John Lee had told me more times than I had fingers and toes. “Ain’t none coming in the house. They stay outside minding their own business.”

But I couldn’t.

They pushed heaps of dirt up through the cracks in the driveway and around the cement porch. Why I couldn’t even leave a bowl of food out for our old tabby without them nasty critters crawling in it.

When I’d seen the first little mounds of soil a bit after me and John Lee had moved in, I’d stirred it with a stick, and the ants had come swarming out like Satan himself was hot on their heels. So I bought a spray can of ant killer at Walmart and let ‘em have it.

And that was the beginning of the war.

Along with more cans, I bought bug killer by the gallon and poured it in them pump applicators and I wet down all the dirt they’d pushed up. I killed ‘em out—or so I’d thought. Yep, every fall I figured I was done with the lot of ‘em, but every spring, they came back, more than the year before.

#

Earlier in the evening when I’d limped out to the mailbox and opened it, the white envelopes had been peppered with ants. After snatching the mail out and shaking it, I’d peeked inside and seen it was swarming with them little devils. They’d upped the ante.

I went back in the house and rested a bit. Then, just as night was settling in, I got a new can of bug killer from the case in the garage and eased out the side door. Didn’t want ‘em to know I was coming.

It took me a while, but I finally made it around front and out to the street. Leaning my cane against my belly, I slowly opened the mailbox. I was gonna fix their little red wagon but good. They’d never know…what…hit…

Something was tickling my feet. I looked down, and by the glow of the streetlight, saw my feet and ankles covered in black. And more tiny dark bodies raced along the ground toward me from every direction.

I think I might’ve yelled then, might’ve even taken the Lord’s name in vain. For the first time since me and the ants had gone to war, I was skeert. My cane clattered to the concrete and down I went.

#

My eyes opened to pitch-black dark. And quiet, lord was it ever quiet. No…a little noise—faint humming.

Where was I? Not in my bed, that was for sure. Too hard to be on a mattress.

I tried to sit up. My forehead smacked something solid, and bits of what-I-didn’t-know sprinkled my face. I couldn’t move my legs. My arms neither. I could move my hands a tad, so I clawed around with my fingers and felt something mushing up under my nails. Was it..?

Then I felt them. All over me. Thousands of little feet. Thousands of little nips on my skin. And I knew.

The heathen bastards had dragged me underground into their colony. More than likely, right up under the concrete slab of my own house. I laughed, but all that came out was a choking sound. Scratchy feet were marching over my tongue, up my nose, and down my throat. My house? Hell, it was their house.

They had won the war.

©️2019 KT Workman