Isaac’s Adventures Underground: Chapter Nineteen

An enormous ant marched over the top of the hill, surrounded by smaller ants the size of the ants holding down the picnic blanket. The procession walked up to the edge of the blanket and paused.

Isaac recognized the guard ants by the sticks they carried. The others all seemed to be workers of some kind. Or maybe they were the royal court. Did ants have a royal court? Some of the ants were carrying leaves and seeds.

The enormous ant stepped forward and tapped her foot impatiently.   “Well?” she said. “Are you going to greet your queen?”

The ants on the blanket bowed. “We can’t,” one of the ants said with a quavering voice. “We can’t move.”

“And why not?” the queen asked.

“If we move, the blanket will fly away.”

At that moment, the wind blew through, and the free corner of the blanket slapped forwards and hit the queen right in the middle of her belly. The queen swayed backwards. The entire procession gasped. Several ants darted forward to steady the queen. The ants on the blanket dived at the corner to secure it, leaving their corners free to bat at the queen as the wind continued to blow.

Guard ants stepped forward and used the sticks they were carrying to knock away the flapping blanket corners. Finally the wind died down again. Isaac stepped off his corner of the blanket and stepped back, hoping no one would notice him. The two ants left in the middle of the blanket pushed away the corners of the blanket and stood up.

They looked around for a second, and then fell flat on their faces.   Both of them began to talk at once.

“I’m so sorry.”

“I didn’t mean it.”

“There just weren’t enough of us.”

“We didn’t expect the wind to be so strong.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“Silence,” the queen said sharply. She turned to the guards. “Take them away. And take the blanket too.   It’s obviously not the right weather for a picnic.”

The guards dragged away the sobbing ants and the blanket. A worker ant approached the queen and bowed. “My queen, the food we’ve prepared…”

“Take it all back inside. We can eat later.”

The ant bowed again. “Of course.   It will be done. Miss Muffet will be coming soon with the honeydew barrels.”

The queen sighed. “She can leave them here. They won’t blow away in the wind anyway.” She looked around at the meadow. “What is there to do out here besides picnic?”

Some of the ants left, carrying away the leaves and seeds. “We could play hide and seek?” A worker ant suggested.

“This isn’t the forest. There’s nowhere to hide,” another said. “We should play tag.”

“That didn’t go so well last time,” someone said. There was a long silence.

The queen turned and looked at Isaac. She was so much bigger than the other ants. He hoped she was a vegetarian ant. There was no way he could outrun her, he had no idea where he was, and the door was gone.

His mother once told him that the trick to safely meeting a new dog was to appear confident, because if you seemed afraid, they’d decide it was okay to chase you. It might be the same with enormous ants. He straightened his shoulders and held up his head. Then he bowed, just in case.

“Who are you?” the queen asked. “What are you doing here?”

“My name is Isaac, and I’m lost. The door said Come In, so I did, but now the door is gone.”

“Hmmmm.” The queen leaned a little closer and pointed at him. “Do you know any games we could play out here?”

Isaac’s mind went blank. In desperation, he patted his pockets. He felt the baseball. “I have an idea,” he said. “Have you ever played baseball?”

“No,” the queen said.

“Then I’d be happy to teach you all how to play.”   He took the baseball out of his pocket.   “This is a baseball. It’s not edible so don’t eat it. Mostly you throw it and catch it and use sticks to hit it. Let me explain the rules,” he said.