En travalle bene.pngMom got me the ant farm for my birthday last fall. She thought watching bugs build tiny tunnels in an inch of dirt packed between two plastic plates would teach me about responsibility. How coming together to get something done not only made it easier, but better. About teamwork.

For the good of all.

She should have kept the ant farm herself. Maybe then our family wouldn’t be falling apart.

I used to watch them outside, their little ant-domes poking up through the cracks in the sidewalk, right in the way of every bike, foot and skateboard going by. Now I know how they feel. Little bugs running around trying to save their homes, when some giant shoe comes down and smashes them all to smithereens. Who cares, right? They’re just a bunch of insects.

I pick up the stupid farm and give it a little shake.

The ants scurry, rushing to grab pieces of displaced soil, dragging them away. Reopening pathways. Repositioning each grain. Using every ounce of energy, they have to put things right. They don’t just hold onto the idea, they attack it, shaping the only world they know. Rebuilding, as if they can hold back the forces of the universe by sheer will.

I shake harder.

All they know begins to tear apart. Come undone. Months of effort wiped away in seconds. But they don’t abandon each other. Does that make them better than us? I think maybe it does.

How sad.

They care more about their home than we do.

Mom was right. We should be more like them.

They don’t find ants they like better. They don’t decide to leave and let someone else pick up the pieces. They don’t pick new families.

I swipe at my face.

I hate Mom for what she did. To dad. To me. To all of us.

Where was the teamwork, huh? She could have learned a lot from my idiotic toy. The ants are shaken, but they’ve already managed to clear one of the paths. They come together, legs waving so they can touch each other. Reassure one another things are okay. That they’re all still whole and accounted for.

No little ant kid stuck at the bottom, forgotten by the others.

I grit my teeth and give the farm a thorough thrashing. I want to throw it against the wall as hard as I can. Don’t they know their hard work is all for nothing? They’re not even in the ground. Stupid ants.

“Your whole world is fake!” My nose runs as I shout.

I sniff and scrub drips from my chin, wanting nothing more than to take a hammer and shatter their illusion. I can’t bring myself to do more than toss the thing into my closet, but I slam the door good and hard.

“Hey!” Footsteps thunder up the stairs.

I drop onto the bed and bury my head under a pillow.

“What’s with all the noise?” Dad’s voice has an edge.

I’m not surprised. He always has an edge these days. I don’t blame him. It’s her fault. Mom’s the one who wrecked everything. She held the magnifying glass over our lives and let the light burn us all to death.

Dad scurried around like a good little worker trying to keep his home intact.

He should have fought harder.

For him.

For me.


“Sorry,” I mumble.

He just stands there in the doorway. I can see his shoes. For a second, I wonder if he’s actually going to come over. Part of me wants him to leave me alone. The other part wishes he’d sit on the edge of the bed like he did when I was little. Read me a book. Pick up my ratty stuffed lemur and walk him up my bed.

“Hello there, Ky. I’m Lee… Lee Murr.” He’d try to do a high voice, but it came out sounding like an old lady who smoked for too many years.

I don’t know if I laughed more at what he said, or just how he sounded saying it.

Lemur sits on the stand next to my bed. I’m too old for stuffies now, but maybe one more time would be okay. Just for fun. Or we can talk, maybe. I mean, he’s still my dad. I wouldn’t—

He turns and walks away.

I want to scream for him to come back. Run after him and spin him around and make him look at me.

Instead, I lay there, wishing I was an ant.

After a while, I pull my phone out of my pocket and scroll through pictures. Friends. Fall. Holidays. Me and dad. I piece the images together like grains of sand, building a path. To where, I don’t know. Doesn’t matter, really. The repetitive motion is soothing. Numbing. Calms me down enough to ignore the ache in my chest. Any wet left on my face soaks into the mattress and the pillow.

It’s better this way.

If I started yelling, I might not be able to stop. I might say things I don’t mean. Or worse, things I do mean. Things I can’t take back.

Those are the worst things. Not the shouts or the arguments. It’s the things we say in the quiet moments that leave all the real scars. No one can see them, but they’re there. And no amount of pushing dirt around can ever quite erase them. I should know.

Better to be quiet.

For the good of all.
This is such a wonderful story! Congratulations on your second win! Truly deserved.
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