by Noemi Szadeczky-Kardoss
The little Ant was on her way home from work, and she was pushing a large breadcrumb in front of her.
“Heave-ho, heave-ho,” she kept repeating. At every ‘heave,’ she gathered her strength, and at every ‘ho,’ she thrust the crumb forward. Every day, she crawled along the same path this way. That was why she wasn’t looking left or right, she just went on briskly, so that she would be back at the nest as soon as possible.
“Hi! How are you?” a friend greeted her when she arrived at the nest. The little Ant was about to tell her how she was, but her friend didn’t wait for a reply. She ran along after her business. Then another friend came by.
A Small Life
“Hi! How are you?” asked the little Ant politely, but she realized she didn’t really care about the answer.
“I’m good,” her friend said, and as she rushed along, she threw the question at her, “And you?”
Then the little Ant was alone again. Of course only as much as you can be alone in an ant’s nest. As she looked around, she saw millions of other little ants. All were running nimbly to somewhere, and it seemed they all knew exactly where. At last, the little Ant remembered where she had been heading.
“Oh yeah, my crumb! I already forgot how hungry I was.”
And she kept pushing along the small piece of bread, until she arrived at a broken cherry pit, because that was where she lived. At home, she had dinner, watched the news on the ant-television, where every night the only news was how many ants the humans had stepped on that day, and then she went to bed.
What she didn’t notice was a tiny, green plant behind her cherry pit that had just pushed her head through the earth.
Next day, the little Ant woke up to the sun shining in her eyes.
“Damn, now I can’t sleep any longer! Why does it have to be so bright already?” she fumed, and grumpily crawled outside.
“Morning! How are you?” asked the first friend she met that day. As a reply, the little Ant resignedly shook her antennae, indicating she didn’t want to discuss the topic any further. And then she just fretted and fumed all day. What exactly was her problem, she couldn’t tell. Still, by the time evening came, she was so mad that she felt like beating up a human! But she didn’t grow big enough for that. So, she went to the ant-gym and gave the punching bag a hearty whack.
Meanwhile, the tiny, green plant continued to grow behind her cherry pit. She already opened her first leaf.
Following day, the little Ant had a day off. When she woke up in the morning, her first thought was how much fun she was going to have that day. She didn’t have anything to do, so she wouldn’t do anything. She would just sit in front of her ant-computer, play, and gloat over the other little ants who have to work. As she thought this over, she felt better already. She got up, had breakfast, and crawled over to her ant-computer. She switched it on. She waited. But the ant-computer didn’t feel like waking up yet.
“Oh, cr…!” the little Ant cursed and already started to lose her patience, because she didn’t have much. “Now what I’m gonna do all day, if this piece of junk doesn’t work?”
She was ready to give up in despair. At last, since she didn’t have anything better to do, she reluctantly crawled to her ant-television and turned that on. She watched every program one after the other all day, without realizing how it grew dark outside. When she finally saw night had come already, she felt like there was no reason to live any longer.
“Oh, no! My day off is over! Tomorrow I have to go to work again, and I hate that! It would be best if I reported sick.”
And she did just that. She picked up the ant-phone and left the following message on her boss’s ant-answering machine:
“Morning, boss! I’m afraid I can’t go to work today, because my knee hurts real bad. The doctor said I needed rest. I have a very serious illness; I can’t even pronounce its name correctly! But I’ll do my best to get well soon and be back at work. Have a nice day!”
So next day, the little Ant didn’t work again. But she was running out of food, so she had to crawl to the ant-store to do shopping. And on the way there, she met a lot of friends.
“How are you? How are you? How are you?” they all asked her. And the little Ant dragged her leg painfully and complained how bad she felt and how much her knee hurt. But she thought, “Good thing I have so many friends and they all feel sorry for me! At least the news will surely reach my boss, and she will believe that I’m really suffering.”
And as she kept on limping and yammering, finally she too believed that her knee hurt. What’s more, by the evening, it really did start to ache from all that dragging!
Of course she had bigger worries than to watch what was growing behind her cherry pit. Though the tiny, green plant was not so tiny any more. You could also tell that once it is grown, it would be a wild Flower.
The little Ant bought enough food for five whole days. After she had carried everything inside, she locked the door behind her, and decided not to stick out the tip of her antennae for the following five days.
And that was what she did. For five days, from dawn to dusk, she didn’t do else but played cards on her ant-computer and stared at the ant-television.
But time didn’t stop in the ant-world outside. Rainy and sunny days followed one another, and slowly the whole meadow burst into bloom. It was the end of April. When, in the morning of the sixth day, the little Ant left for work again, she barely recognized her own backyard. Tender grass sprang up from the soft earth, and behind her cherry pit, a pink Flower shot up towards the sky.
The little Ant looked around, squinted at the sun, and tried very hard to be happy.
“Too bad that Flower is pink,” she thought. “I don’t like pink.”
That day she worked diligently until evening came, when she was hurrying home with a large breadcrumb again. In the nest, her friends greeted her with the usual ‘how are you’ to which they didn’t want an answer. And she replied with the same ‘how are you’ to which she knew she wouldn’t get an answer. She was about to crawl inside her cherry pit, when somebody said hi again.
“Hi! How are you?”
The little Ant stopped with all her six legs, and looked back. But she didn’t see anybody. She thought whoever had spoken to her must have run along already. But as she wanted to go in, she heard somebody saying again, “How are you, little Ant?”
The little Ant couldn’t figure what was happening.
“Who said that??” she asked irritably.
“Just me,” the pink Flower said, which grew behind the cherry pit. The little Ant looked up, because she heard the voice coming from there.
“Can you see me now?” the Flower asked and waved with her leaves kindly. “Looks like we’ll be neighbors this year.”
“Yeah,” the little Ant said and went inside the cherry pit. But she soon crawled outside again.
“And how are you?” she asked the Flower.
“Very good, thanks,” the Flower said. “How was your day?”
“Boring,” the little Ant said curtly. But the Flower kept inquiring.
“And what did you do?”
“I worked,” the little Ant said, and started to get tired of the conversation. “I’m sorry, but I’m very hungry. I’ll get some food now. I’ll talk to you later.”
“All right,” the Flower said. “Enjoy your dinner.”
The little Ant went inside the cherry pit, had dinner, and watched the news on the ant-television. Before she had gone to bed, she remembered the Flower. She crawled outside.
“Good night,” she said.
“Good night,” the Flower replied.
By the following morning, the little Ant had already forgotten that she had a new neighbor. She was also in a big hurry, because she hadn’t set her ant-alarm by mistake, and she had overslept. She didn’t even have time to eat; she just stormed out of her cherry pit and was already racing for her workplace.
“See you, little Ant! When do you come home?” the Flower shouted after her, but she didn’t hear it. Only much later, when she had been plodding in the ant-office for many hours already, did she remember that somebody was waiting for her to come home.
Waiting? The little Ant wondered. Why would that Flower be waiting for her? They are not friends. They don’t even know each other. No, she certainly can’t be waiting for her! It’s her friends; they are the ones who are really waiting for her. They ask her every day how she is. True, they don’t wait for an answer. But it’s understandable. Everybody is very busy in the nest, and nobody has time to stop for a chitchat.
“That’s not what friendship is about,” the little Ant thought. But what it was about, she couldn’t tell.
For the rest of the day, she tried not to think about the Flower. But after work, when she was on her way home to her cherry pit, she was again thinking about what to tell her. Or whether she should say anything at all.
“Hi, Flower,” she said at last, and already started for the door.
“Hi, little Ant! How was your day?”
“Good,” came the brief answer.
“Good then,” the Flower said. “By the way, I bet I could carry you on my back. Don’t you want to climb up and take a look around from here?”
A Different View
The little Ant was very surprised at this offer. But she also felt it was a pleasant surprise.
“Yes, sure,” she said at last. “I just drop off what I brought, okay?”
She swung around twice quickly, and was out of her cherry pit again.
“Come on, climb up!” the Flower encouraged her. “You’ll see how different the world looks from here!”
So the little Ant went around the cherry pit, and started to clamber up the Flower’s stem. And as she got higher, she realized that the Flower was right. She could never see that far before! The whole nest spread out down below her. She was above the cherry pits, plum pits, and peach pits, in which all the little ants down there were just having dinner or watching their ant-television. Behind them, she saw the ant-office where she worked during the day. And even farther she could see the enormous puddle, which none of her friends had ever crossed.
“Wow!” she said with honest amazement.
“I’m glad you like it,” said the Flower. The little Ant snug herself in the curve where the Flower’s leaf and stem met, and continued to enjoy the view.
“It’s really nice up here,” she said a little later. The Flower swayed slowly in the warm spring breeze, far below them the green meadow was waving, and the first stars lit up in the sky. The little Ant thought how good it would be to stay nestled there all night. But she didn’t want the Flower think she was an intruder.
“Well, I’m going to bed now,” she said. “Good night.”
“You can sleep here if you want,” the Flower said.
The little Ant thought about that for a while, but at last she climbed down the Flower’s stem anyway. She didn’t understand why was the Flower so kind to her. As much as she was happy about it, she didn’t understand, and she preferred to see the reason behind everything. But before she went inside the cherry pit, she turned back.
“Flower! Weekend starts tomorrow, and I’m staying home. We could do something together if you want.”
“Great idea!” said the Flower. “You can climb up here again, and we can talk some more.”
The little Ant crawled inside and went to bed. She didn’t even think about eating or watching ant-TV. She felt good without them, too. And the following morning, when she got up, the first thing she did was running outside and saying good morning to the Flower.
“Good morning, little Ant!” the Flower said happily. “Did you sleep well?”
“Yeah,” the little Ant replied, because she didn’t want to exaggerate. “Come and have breakfast with me, so I don’t have to eat alone!”
“Okay,” said the Flower. “But I can’t go in your house. Why don’t you come out here instead?”
The little Ant did just that. While she was eating, the Flower was telling her how beautiful the sunrise had been that day. Then the little Ant clambered up her stem again.
“Hehehehehe!!” The Flower giggled so hard her leaves were shaking.
“What?” the little Ant asked.
“You’re tickling me. Hehehehehe!!”
The little Ant started to laugh too, and ran up and down on the Flower’s stem to make her laugh more.
“Help, stop! Hehehehehe!! Stop!”
“Okay, I stopped,” the little Ant laughed and sat down on a leaf. “But you know, laughing is healthy.”
“I know,” said the Flower. “I don’t mind you tickling me.”
“You don’t?” the little Ant asked and started running again.
“Oh, no! Hehehehehe!!”
The little Ant couldn’t remember the last time she had laughed so much! At last she stopped again, and the Flower caught her breath.
“You’re bad, little Ant!” the Flower said, but the little Ant knew she didn’t mean it.
That day the little Ant didn’t turn on her ant-computer or her ant-television. She was talking with the Flower until the evening. For a long time she just listened and wondered how could the Flower know so much about the world. Then she also didn’t understand why was the Flower so interested in what she had to say.
“Why is this Flower talking to me?” she thought. “Millions of other little ants live on this meadow, and none of them has a less interesting life than me.”
The little Ant also felt that she liked the Flower a lot. But she didn’t say anything, because she didn’t have the habit of telling what she felt. She just kept thinking to herself.
“Why me? There’s nothing special about me!”
And that was when she heard the Flower telling this to her:
“Because it’s special friends who make us special, nothing else.”
Finally, the little Ant found the reason why she felt good. She didn’t say anything. But she was happy, because she knew the Flower was her friend.
An Ant Tale
The Flower was silent for a while, too, then she asked:
“Do you want me to tell you a story?”
And the Flower began to speak.
“This story is about a little Ant. One day this little Ant was on her way home from work, and she was pushing a large breadcrumb in front of her. Heave-ho, heave-ho, that was what she kept repeating as she was pushing the crumb. At every heave, she gathered her strength, and at every ho, she thrust the crumb forward. Every day, she crawled along the same path this way…
“Wait a minute!” the little Ant interrupted her. “This story is about me!”
“Yes, it is,” said the Flower. “Do you want to know how it ends?”
“Yes,” said the little Ant.
So the Flower finished the story.
Oh, you want to know how it ends, too?
Well, the little Ant just fell asleep on the Flower’s stem. And the Flower bent down, gave her a goodnight kiss on her head, then continued to marvel at the Big Dipper.