After twenty minutes, Isaac decided that maybe he wasn’t a very good teacher. Or maybe the ants weren’t very good at playing baseball. He looked around the field at the chaos and sighed.
At first, he’d been disappointed not to be picked for a team. However, seeing the number of ants dragged away by guards or injured, he was happy to fade into the background a bit. Besides, it wasn’t like they were playing real baseball. They weren’t following the rules at all.
The three ants chosen as bases were running back and forth listening to conflicting directions from the ants around them. Initially, the queen ordered anyone at bat for the opposing team to not hit the ball.
One poor ant, when the pitcher managed to throw the ball directly at her bat and get a hit, ran in the opposite direction of the bases. Then, the queen remembered that they could tag her out. She sent her teammates to capture the runner.
The runner disappeared under a pile of determined ants. The queen applauded, and declared that after that, everyone must get a hit on their turn at bat. Several players had to be replaced when they struck out and were dragged away by the guards.
Others were replaced when they staggered around, dizzy, after being at the bottom of an antpile. It seemed like there was a never-ending supply of new players. The crowd around the edges of the game seemed to keep growing. Where were all the ants coming from? Did they live nearby? How many ants lived in an ant colony?
The queen always stole all the bases when it was her turn at bat. Isaac was certain that none of the other ants dared to tag her out. She was much larger than the other ants, so it was only a few steps between the bases for her anyway, even if they hadn’t been scooting closer to make it easier for her. She could hit the ball much further away, too.
For some reason, it was always Isaac’s job to fetch the ball when the queen had knocked it into the grassy hills again. She would hit the ball and walk between the bases, and everyone would stand and cheer until Isaac returned with the ball, and they could start the game again.
The queen seemed to be up at bat more often than her teammates. Isaac decided not to say anything about that. He sighed again as the ball sailed over the hills and far away. He left the cheering crowd behind and trudged over the hill.
It wasn’t always easy to find the little baseball in the tall grass. Sometimes, he could tell that there was a patch of flattened grass where it landed. Other times it landed where the grass was thinner and he could see it. This time, he had no idea where it went. So he walked in little spirals around the general path he thought the ball took.
This time, it seemed impossible to find. Was the cheering growing fainter? He hoped that the queen wouldn’t decide he was taking too long and order the guards to drag him away.
He looked around again. Finding a lost baseball in a field of tall grass seemed hopeless. Isaac considered walking away and continuing his search for the way home. But it wasn’t his baseball. It was Jimmy’s. He’d like to bring it back with him. Looking for it got him into this mess after all.
Besides, the queen might know the way home. He couldn’t leave without asking her. He had no idea which way to go. He could end up wandering around here forever. Wherever here was.
He pushed some more grass out of the way. A giant eye looked back at him. Isaac yelped and jumped back. A familiar voice chuckled. It was the butterfly.
“Did I scare you?” she asked.
“No,” Isaac said. “I was just surprised. That’s all.”
“What are you doing?”
“Looking for my baseball. It’s little and white and round…”
The butterfly held up the baseball. “And nearly hit me on the head.”
“Thank you for finding it,” Isaac said. “I don’t know what the queen would have done if I couldn’t find it.”
“Does the queen scare you?” the butterfly asked.
“Maybe,” Isaac said. A large shadow fell around him and the air seemed colder. Somehow he knew that the queen was standing behind him, listening.