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February 12, 2001: Tat killed one, tony kills thousands
It's not like me to go on a murderous rampage without some provocation, but when thousands of hungry refugees take up residence in, well, my residence, I have to take some measures to defend my territory.

When they first started showing up, I was just annoyed. Then they got into my food. I just pushed them away at first, but then they started inviting all their friends and family over. When it gets to that point, you have to start killing. I thought that maybe some public executions would serve as a warning to the others, but no. They just haul off the bodies of their dead pals and go on with more of the same. At that point, I realized this battle would require some heavy duty firepower.

The island has some policies about not using bait to kill ants, which is ironic given the prevailing condition of the island soil, the paint on the walls, and the bay water that surrounds us. It seems unlikely that ant bait could significantly add to the defilement here already. In fact, there are signs up in fisherman's wharf that warn people not to eat more than one fish per month from the bay.

In the earth friendly spirit of things, I went to fox hardware downtown and bought the least offensive looking ant bait I could find. It came in this sticky green liquid form that you drop into traps. Ants are supposed suck it up and bring home death for dinner. In reality, it appears they drink it up, go home and die, and then the queen blows out ten trillion clones to forage for more dirty dishes.

When we asked the leasing company if they could suggest anything, they told us they'd bait for the ants outside. They later told us they didn't bait because it's toxic, then changed their minds again later on. I don't know what the latest official policy is, but it seemed for a while that the ants were gone. Then I watered the ficus plant for the first time in several weeks, and suddenly this demon hoard of tiny ants started flowing out of the bottom like a gadzillion miniature titanic passengers on crack going after lifeboats in every direction.

I thought vacuuming them up would just move them into the vacuum cleaner's closet, where they might creep out at night and find me for some sort of horrific revenge that could best be reenacted only with digital special effects.

I didn't have anything that I could think of that might kill them chemically; shooting and strangling were, of course, not even options and drowning was clearly not working, so death by fire was the last recourse I could fathom. Out came the hairspray and a match, and suddenly the living room lit up like apocalypse now. It doesn't take too much heat to kill an ant, of course, and I was trying to save the plant. Unfortunately, the standard aquanet can doesn't come with an adjustment for flame size.

The thing about fire is that it's easy to get out of control. I managed to catch the dead leaves on fire, causing the lower part of the plant some unnecessary trauma. But all in all, it seemed to be pretty effective as a weapon, and didn't light the carpet or walls on fire. It looks like the lead paint on the walls had enough asbestos around it to insulate it from the volatizing heat of my makeshift flamethrower. Two wrongs can make a right, after all. The flames did melt the plastic saucer under the pot, but that just adds character to the plant.

After I'd done as much killing as I could handle in a good conscience, I vacuumed up the literal pile of dead bodies. I can't imagine how these ants are breeding in this kind of quantity. They sure are tenacious about finding new sources of food. Something tells me their media is still reporting that y2k is imminent, and that all workers must strive to feed the supreme soviet machine, or die trying.

Ants: if you're listening out there, I've got a few things to tell you. First, y2k hysteria is over, so stop hoarding food supplies and resume worrying about the ozone layer and global warming, especially in my house, with my trusty can of hairspray. Second, eat all you want, but take only what you can eat. Just make sure you do your eating next door, or maybe two doors down. Third, communism is only for hippies that want grow their own food. It does not work on a national scale, nor does it feed the hungry. Fourth, americans with flamethrowers have done really terrible things to communists, as you've seen. Fifth, I can't get the five million or so dead ants still along the baseboard with my vacuum, so please haul those remaining bodies off for me. And lastly, if you're going to stay, you'll need to start paying some rent.

More information about ants, warfare and fire and communism:

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A bug's life
Sim ant
Antz
Rambo trilogy
The killing fields
The sorrow of war: a novel of north vietnam
Firehouse
The communist manifesto
Little red book of firehouse pranks
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