Tar Baby and the soldier ants

…and soldier ants marched in formation.  Straight ahead they marched, shamelessly single-minded, for soldier ants have no time for dreaming.  Almost all of them are women and there is so much to do–the work is literally endless.  So many to be born and fed, then found and buried.  There is no time for dreaming.  The life of their world requires organization so tight and sacrifice so complete there is little need for males and they are seldom produced.  When they are needed, it is deliberately done by the queen who surmises, by some four-million-year-old magic she is heiress to, that it is time.  So she urges a sperm from the private womb where they were placed when she had her one, first and last copulation.  Once in life, this little Amazon trembled in the air waiting for a male to mount her.  And when he did, when he joined a cloud of others one evening just before a summer storm, joined colonies from all over the world gathered for the marriage flight, he knew at last what his wings were for.  Frenzied, he flies into the humming cloud to fight gravity and time in order to do, just once, the single thing he was born for.  Then he drops dead, having emptied his sperm into his lady-love.  Sperm which she keeps in a special place to use at her own discretion when there is need for another dark and singing cloud of ant folk mating in the air.  Once the lady has collected the sperm, she too falls to the ground, but unless she breaks her back or neck or is eaten by one of a thousand things, she staggers to her legs and looks for a stone to rub on, cracking and shredding the wings she will never need again.  Then she begins her journey searching for a suitable place to build her kingdom.  She crawls into the hollow of a tree, examines its walls and corners.  She seals herself off from all society and eats her own wing muscles until she bears eggs.  When the first larvae appear, there is nothing to feed them so she gives them their unhatched sisters until they are old enough and strong enough to hunt and bring their prey back to the kingdom.  That is all.  Bearing, hunting, eating, fighting, burying.  No time for dreaming, although sometimes, late in life, somewhere between the thirtieth and fortieth generation she might get wind of a summer storm one day.  The scent of it will invade her palace and she will recall the rush of wind on her belly–the stretch of fresh wings, the blinding anticipation and herself, there, airborne, suspended, open, trusting, frightened, determined, vulnerable–girlish, even, for an entire second and then another and another.  She may lift her head then, and point her wands toward the place where the summer storm is entering her palace and in the weariness that ruling queens alone know, she may wonder whether his death was sudden.  Or did he languish?  And if so, if there was a bit of time left, did he think how mean the world was, or did he fill that space of time thinking of her?  But soldier ants do not have time for dreaming.  They are women and have much to do.  Still it would be hard.  So very hard to forget the man who fucked like a star.

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