Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Flying ants

This is a short story that came from an exercise on a course I'm doing at New College, Swindon, taught by the talented Hilda Sheehan.

The first part of the exercise was to write down ten memories from your childhood. Five of the ten had to be true memories and five had to be completely made up.

I'd really recommend trying to write that list of memories - it sparked several handfuls of story ideas.

Once we had our list of ten memories, we had to pick one of them and expand it into a story. We only had ten minutes to do this, so I was quite pleased when my story managed to come out with a proper beginning, middle and end.

The memory I chose was: Sitting with a friend at school being taught how to catch and eat flying ants as they emerged from their nest hole in the dirt.

Flying ants

They painted the sky with smoke-black clouds. Delighted birds swooped in the billowing swarm, beaks gaping wide.

"It'll be like this for at least a week," my friend told me. His name was Tendai and he was a foot taller than me which made him the leader. Together we found one of the ant nests. There was no anthill -- just a hole in the ground, barely a fingernail in width. Ants surfaced one by one, shaking their new-grown wings in the African sun.

"They're called butter bums," Tendai told me with authority. "They taste like butter."

"You can't eat that," I said, full of uncertainty. And so the lesson began.

"Catch them as they come out," Tendai said, as he seized the next one to emerge. Holding the struggling creature by its wings, he showed me how to tear off the bulbous posterior. Into his mouth it went and was polished off by a speedy double-chew. He opened his mouth as proof, showing me the pinkness of his tongue.

"Tastes like butter," he affirmed, grabbing another. "Try it."

I reached out to pluck up an ant as it took its first view of daylight. I watched it struggle; small, helpless and lost in indecision.

[EDIT: I sent the story off for publication and it was accepted! The story appears in Vol. 8 No. 1 of Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine]

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