#41: Fuzzy Friends
can't look back now
“Write about an animal who goes on a journey”
Have you ever gotten lost before? Lost in the woods, lost in a store, or lost in a park? The truth is, everyone has trouble figuring out where they are. Even astronauts get lost trying to find which way is up! As your narrator I’ll do my best not to get confused about where I am, because I’m going to guide you on a quiet little story about a quiet little animal. They get confused just as much as us, but they almost always find their way back home.
Herbert is a spunky little guy. He never follows rules, and never walks in a straight line with the rest of his friends. Whenever a shiny gizmo steals his attention, he has to walk towards it. Herbert loves to explore, and he enjoys grass even more since his anthill is always full. He’s climbed the highest trees and even swam in a birdbath! His six legs get tired quickly though, so he’s always eating to keep his energy up. When Herbert isn’t working, he rests under the cool shade of his favorite leaf. Did I mention he’s really small? Herbert is your everyday ant. He’s no problem at all… except for one thing: he wishes he wasn’t!
Usually Herbert disappears for weeks at a time, but only because he wants to do what other animals do. His anthill is in a neighborhood with a lot of pets always running around. In Herbert’s mind, he sees dogs and thinks he’s one of them. One day Herbert saw a dog enter inside this boxy thing that moved! It made a scary sound and smelled like a disaster. It disappeared with the dog a lot, but it always came back at night with beaming yellow lights. Ever since that day, Herbert had one goal: to go inside that box with the dog. He already knows so much about the neighborhood; he’s explored every house, and enjoys sleeping in pantries where all the sweet food is. He’s fought with squirrels over the dangling bird feeder, and even saved his anthill from a lawnmower! The moving box would be the next fun challenge for Herbert.
The day arrived; the burning sun and sticky air increased the heat of the morning, and Herbert got himself ready. He knew every year the box would leave for a day, and would come back with the dog (and his human pets) caked with sand. Did Herbert know what sand was? Nope, only that it isn’t your average dirt. Today, he would find out for sure. Herbert positions himself on the side of the box as it chirped awake; that’s how it opens up. One by one the dog and his human “pets” rush inside the box, and soon the box started to rumble and smell. Herbert, being the ant that he is, sneaks his way into the box door and hides himself with the plastic shovels and buckets the humans carried. The day begins.
The air is soaked with heat, with the sun baking the inside of the box. Hours have passed, and his neighborhood is far gone. Herbert wonders where he is now, and so he takes his 6 legs up the side of the box and against the cool window. “What’s wrong with the outside?” Herbert asks himself, as all his small eyes see is blue and blue and blue. “The box must be broken,” questioned Herbert, “why does the outside have no trees or grass?” This must be what most folks think when they first see the ocean. A person sees the ocean as large, so an ant must see the ocean as an entirely different world. As far as his eyes could see, there was only sand and blue. Everything was completely empty, a painting brought to life. There isn’t even a speck of green grass to be found; his only oasis back home. “An ant like me shouldn’t be able to see thing so large,” he mutters to himself.
Herbert started to shake; he had never been nervous before. He’s the adventurer after all, he’s even climbed the highest tree he knew! All that blue shouldn’t scare him. Suddenly, the box jolts to a stop, the smell of gas halts, and the sides of the box opened up. The dog and the humans run straight towards the blue. What in the world are they doing? Herbert’s heart froze when the dog jumped into the blue and… disappeared. “But he’s so big, he can’t just disappear!” he exclaimed. Soon, the humans dashed into the blue and the blue ate them up too! Herbert had to save them. As an adventurous ant, no task was too big for him. Not even a rescue mission.
The only obstacle between the box and the blue was this hot dirt that Herbert had never seen before. “Is this the sand that stuck to the dog? It can’t be, there’s so much!” wondered Herbert. For miles and miles he only saw sand on the ground and blue in the horizon. There’s no grass, no trees, and no leaves to rest under. Herb began to miss his neighborhood, it was safer there. He nervously placed his body on the sand, one leg at a time, and realized just how far he needed to run. How can this small ant walk all the way to the blue, and save the dog and the humans? Herb ran as fast as he could towards the blue, with only a salty breeze cooling him off. With the sun handcuffing its heat on Herb, and the burning sand below his feet, he got too hot to move. Every step hurt, the blue looked further and further away. (If you or I were in Herbert’s shoes, that sandy beach would feel like the size of a country!) Can Herbert the adventurer reach that blue? He sure didn’t feel like it.
Just when Herb thought he had enough, and was about to turn around back to the box, a familiar sound urged him on. “Over here bro!” cried a small voice. Is Herb going crazy? Maybe the heat is getting to him, but he swiveled his head around to see where that voice came from. “Get inside and out of the heat!” cried that same voice, only louder. Just when Herbert thought he was done for, now voices are bouncing in his head! The brave ant decides to face this voice head on, and scurries over toward it. Out of nowhere, the sand shifts under Herbert’s feet. A large shell opens up, just as a trap door does, and inside is the voice. Another ant hill! With other ants!
“Wassup city dude! You’ll get cooked out there without sunscreen, head inside the shell!” exclaims the ant, decked out with a heavy tan and a small piece of drift wood for shade. Herbert never knew there were other ant colonies besides his neighborhood, but he knows a friendly face when he sees one. Quickly he jumps into the ant hill, and cool air surrounds him as the sun is blocked by the shell. “Thank you so much for calling me! I never knew ants could live in the sand!” as Herbert thanks his sandy brothers.
“I only thought ant hills could be built in dirt.”
“Naw bro, ants can live almost everywhere! We’re the ant hill that welcomes tourists like yourself. My name is Chester, its pretty rad around here,” the tanned ant replies.
“You mean there’s more ants like me? Who leave their hill?”
“Oh but of course city dude! Ants are everywhere; I even met a crazy ant who spoke… Italy-in? He says he came from across the blue.”
“…there are ants from across the blue? What even is the blue?” a pretty good question on Herbert’s part, he supposed.
“Get this city dude, all that blue isn’t extra sky, but water. You can’t drink it because it’s salty, but bro it’s like the world’s largest birdbath! Only it’s not for birds, but for animals like dogs and humans!”
“That means,” Herbert jumps out of the anthill to scan the horizon, and spots none other than his dog and human pets, jumping in and out of the water. “So, they only get to bathe once or twice a year?!” Herbert asks Chester this interesting question.
“Seems like it bro, they can never fit in a bird bath anyway, am I right?” They both laugh off how stinky other animals must always be as they share their stories under that shell.
*a few hours later*
The lowering sun draws long shadows on Herbert and his new friend Chester, and next to them the box begins to chirp; the dog and the humans are finally done with their day-long bath. Chester never found out where Herbert came from or what his name even was, but the tanned ant knew that the next day a new adventurous ant would find itself on his sandy entrance. The important perspective is Herbert’s.
Getting to the sandy shore, Herb never had the chance to look outside the window of the box. He didn’t want to hide in the plastic shovels a second time, because he wanted to understand just how far away the blue is from his neighborhood.
What he saw was incredible.
Ants usually only see things if they look up, because they are so small. Herbert has only been able to look at the horizon of his neighborhood whenever he climbed his favorite tree. But now, Herb discovered that there’s more than one neighborhood. For hours, the box flew past house after house, forests of trees taller than houses, and even drove through a jungle drowning in giant grey rectangles and other boxes. Not even his favorite tree could see past his neighborhood.
For once, Herbert was underwhelmed when the box finally came back to his ant hill. The once large field of grass surrounding his ant hill shrunk so much, and his favorite tree turned into a small shrub. In the box, Herb saw the size of real trees, and he saw the size of the massive blue. He was hungry. He wanted to do it again. He wanted to go somewhere new. Herbert never told his anthill about what he saw: he quit his job and told his friend’s he’d be a full-time explorer, searching for the next new anything. Herbert wasn’t going to fight anymore squirrels or worry about lawnmowers. He won’t be pressed to sleep in his favorite pantry or even go into the same box again. Going forward, Herbert decided that every day he would pick a box, any chirping box, and discover where it would go next. He was tired of looking up to see the world; Herbert wants to take the world to him.