These Small Buildings
“These small buildings shaped like different foods - I didn’t mean to, but I stepped on at least three, that’s what I’m trying to tell you!” The insect continues staring up at you as you hold it near your face. “The building shaped like a pizza, which is low to the ground there,” you point at a sand pile near your foot, “I’d say I’ve demolished a slice-sized piece of it, with the tip of my shoe. Completely by accident.”
The ladybug on your palm looks at you and blinks.
“Listen, maybe this isn’t the best time, but I wanted to know, if you don’t mind, are there small glassless windows? You ask. “And does the grass look like trees?”
“How would I know what the world looks like from the inside of one of those ridiculous buildings? it asks. Its teeny voice is hilarious to you, but you hold back your delight. You also decide not to confuse things by asking how this ladybug acquired such an adorable British accent.
You stumbled upon this tiny village after taking the jog that you’ve just finished. Your dreams last night were full of blasts of color from peculiar places, paint splattered houses, and there were more balloons than usual.
“Well, I just assumed-“
“You just assumed that all bugs go into all buildings that are bug-sized is that it?”
“Yes,” you say letting out a hiccup of a laugh, “I guess I -”
“And you probably think we whistle while we work or something as well?” asks the Ladybug, with a humph, now sitting upright and crossing its ladybug arms across its black belly.
“Listen, I was just trying to apologize.”
“Apologize to the ants. I haven’t any time for it.” You don’t like the ladybug’s attitude very much, and you, having decided to do what you can for its world through what may be a ridiculous apology, are quite frustrated that this little speck has been so rude to you. How could you have known that stumbling atop a pretzel shaped mound of dirt would end in the audible screams of tens of six-legged little critters. At least you now know it was ants; the Ladybug has served its purpose.
“Does it hurt when you are flicked?” you ask.
“When I’m flicked?” asks the Ladybug, its body tilted, its brow furrowed.
“Yes,” you say, “like this,” and you flick the little fucker away. You rest your hands on your hips and take in a deep breath, still a bit winded from your run. A grasshopper lands in the crux of your forearm, light as air. You raise the creature close to your face. The grasshopper is wearing a monocle over its left eye and in one of its front most appendages it holds a very small cookie. The Grasshopper takes an impossible nibble and asks you with a mouthful of emptiness, “You need help?”
You are delighted that this V-legged thing too has a British accent.
“These buildings, which I believe belong to the ants-
“Go on,” it urges.
“I believe I destroyed about three of them.” The grasshopper slaps a free appendage to the cloth of your t-shirt as it exclaims, “They’ll never miss it!” The bug laughs out hysterically at this, which makes you laugh. The sudden movement of your body startles the grasshopper to hop away. You yell out for him to please come back. Within moments he does.
“I saw what you did to the ladybug, you understand.” You smile wide, taking in the insect’s wondrously small voice.
“What will you wash your cookie down with?” you ask. The grasshopper shrugs and says, “I’ll think of something. What’d that Ladybug do to get you to give him the old finger,” the grasshopper prods with a curious smile.
“The Ladybug was rude.”
“Oh the lads will have a laugh at this,” it squeals. You laugh again too, delighted that the Grasshopper is in such high spirits. You are about to ask if the Grasshopper has a name when he interrupts, “Listen Mate, better be off, look who’s on his way back!” The Grasshopper digs its tiny feet into your skin and bounces away, sending a trickle up your arm from the sensation. The Ladybug approaches with a Worker Bee who is at best disinterested to be a part of the escalating situation.
As they draw nearer they stop and hover in the air. You overhear the Worker Bee describe that in using its stinger, it then wastes its ability to guard the Queen, which, it assures the Ladybug, is a Worker Bee’s first priority. You hear the Ladybug protest, reminding the Bee of the use of your finger.
“We insects have to look out for one another!” it pleads. The Bee ponders this for sometime, twisting its small head back and forth between the Ladybug and you. It utters some sort of apology to the Ladybug and flies away, leaving the red and black-shelled insect disgraced and alone. You blurt out that you are sorry as the Ladybug slowly flies away, this time of its own volition, but you are too late and now you both feel ashamed.
You bend down to look closely at the village that the ants have constructed, you think about the peculiar choices made in choosing their shapes, of the tiny ant architect who drew up the plans. You wonder what the ants do in the popsicle-stick shaped building. You imagine an ant-training course in the building that is shaped like a coffee bean. How long will it take them to fully excavate what is left of the half eaten cupcake they are currently hauling from over the varios ridges to the pleated paper holder. You think of the industriousness of these ants, of all that you could do with those extra two arms.
The only housing you can remember for ants are crude hills and the plastic man-made farms. They were light as air when you lifted them, like a piece of paper in your small hands. You want to be told that this place is a sacred one, that these foods that they've replicated here with the dirt are their gods, that this is a place of worship.
The building at the center of this village shaped like a chocolate bar is the government, you’re sure, with its perfectly cut squares, divided by public walkways: paths to the forest of grass outside the city-center. This is where they would convict you for crushing buildings mindlessly and where you would offer to rebuild to no avail.
A black fly in the distance buzzes in circular patterns like a miniature lawn mower cutting the air. You try to remember how many eyes they have, that looking through a fly eye is like looking through a kaleidoscope. Kaleidoscope. You picture the object: looking inside it to find a collision of color. You think of erosion. You picture the slow movement of dirt and the indestructible bodies of these small creatures in a cyclical tumble just like the colored stones in the ocular lens. Crushing them is effortless. But they craftily dodge the movement of earth in waves. The ants, like foxes, constantly outwit the moving dirt.
You begin to think that you probably didn't kill anything. And then you remember the piercing tin-screams, all treble. You imagine the ladybug huge, and how terrifying its underbelly is as it approaches you. You imagine being dismembered, pulled apart, by legs in groups of six. You remember feeding crickets to lizards in glass cages in your parent's giant wood house.
You approach a line of ants doing some heavy lifting. You bend down and get very close. But before you can bring up the pretzel shaped building, or the pizza shaped building or find out if ants too speak with British accents, a deafening thunder erupts above you. A single giant cloud hangs over your house about one hundred yards away. The cloud has no top, it continues skyward as far as you can see and it constantly spreads. There is movement from within the cloud, and another horrible rumble shakes the ground.
The ants are scrambling in a fury away from you. Even in a panic their movements are controlled - they move in tight formations, in orderly rows. In your shadow their perfect black bodies bounce the reflection of what light remains in the sky at your face.
The idea of the approaching rain makes you feel stupid for even considering an apology. The ants will be swallowed whole by single raindrops. The last thing on their tiny minds will be the tennis shoe that clumsily crushed their primary school, which, of course, is what the pizza shaped building is.
You feel a hard sting on your leg and you quickly slap your hand hard against your calf muscle. It is the Worker Bee. You watch it helplessly flutter its wings and kick its still functioning appendages. The rain falls hard. As the dirt polka-dots with wet spots you look up towards your house. You lay your entire shoe-length in to the pizza shaped building distracted in the moment. You remember two things as you quicken your pace to your farmhouse so many more yards ahead. The windows are open. You are allergic to bees.