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Excerpt from The Perfect Stranger, Chapter 23.

By Gregory SETH Harris

After Weed had been ejected from the Gradfest, the dejected Dreg hobbled home in such a despondent manner, jj felt compelled to offer the use of his crutches. Weed shook his head, hiding his tears & handing back the cash. As the two trudged home, Weed insisted on kicking every can, throwing every stone & snapping in two every stick stupid enuff to cross his path. Arriving home, he skulked up to his room, jj opting to join his siblings lounging in the living room, mostly sprawled about the floor. For several weeks the Farrago children had been enjoying front row seats to a live action drama.

An anthill had sprung up bwtn the floorboards, providing several evenings of free entertainment. Joseph had been first to notice the budding new metropolis. He spotted the early scouts, two tiny black explorers intently searching for a new promised land. Soon thereafter, troops arrived—worker ants & army ants—united in a common mission to build a sand temple for their Missus. Barely a week after the crude temple’s completion, Margaret remarked the worker ants seemed agitated, as if refusing to lug another sand boulder. The army ants then attacked the workers but were soon fighting amongst themselves. Too busy killing each other off, they proved totally unprepared when a platoon of red ants, followed swiftly by reinforcements, toppled the anthill, enslaving the black ants & erecting another temple—one which by ant standards might have been comparable to a Taj Mahal.

Then, only a couple days ago, Orson observed a red ant & a black ant scurrying from the premises, the boy swearing up & down the two seemed pretty fond of each other. Together they built a more modest anthill while the Taj Mahal seemed to disintegrate of its own volition. Excited by recent developments, Joseph & Orson pointed out to jj how there were now ants w/ red heads & black bottoms & ants w/ black heads & red bottoms working in lockstep to build yet another pyramid from the shifting sands.

The Farrago family, gathered in the living room, watched intently as the continuing saga unfolded. Mrs Farrago sat @ the table knitting another sweater, this one apparently for a two-headed octopus. Periodically, btwn knit ones & purl twos, she would order young Josh to moove.

“How was the Gradfest?” his mother inquired of jj. “Moove,” she ordered Josh, the infant halfway up her leg. When jj failed to answer, she repeated the question; jj shrugged, reluctantly offering a tepid “Alright, i guess.” He pulled out his pocketknife & began tossing it @ the ruins of the Taj Mahal.

“Moove,” Mrs Farrago again ordered Josh. “This could have been Margaret’s Gradfest if she hadn’t...” The matron’s mind traveled, her eyes going blank till the persistent Josh brought her back to reality. “Go watch the ants,” she urged, setting him on the floor. “Watch real close. See if you can tell which ant is planning the next coup d’état.”

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