The Ant Who Loved to Paint

Art moved slowly beneath the weight of the earth; the literal mound of dirt five-times his size he was carrying felt especially burdensome. Sighing bleakly, he turned to his comrade, who he thought might be Ron, but realized was only an acquaintance whose name he’d never asked.

Still, he wondered aloud, “Do you think they’ll give us a break today?”

The acquaintance didn’t seem to register the question, let alone the sarcasm.

“I mean, there are plenty of other things we could be doing.”

Unsurprisingly, the acquaintance remained mum and the pair continued their haul through the dank tunnels. A waft of misty, mildewy odor caught their attention.

“Water,” they exclaimed. The acquaintance began to pace. Art looked calmly over in his direction.

“I love water,” he said antagonizingly.

Astonished, the acquaintance finally acknowledged him. “What a stupid thing to love.”

Art frowned, “You don’t know what you’re missing.” He picked up his pace, the burden lightened by the prospect ahead.

Though he expected the acquaintance to turn back or continue pacing or otherwise lose his wits, he heard the scurry of following behind him, curiosity hanging in the air.

Drip, drip, drip.

The two ants stopped in the middle of the hallway, which had since widened into a cavern. Old and caked solid, the walls reflected an ashen glow, bathed in the light from the distance ceiling entrance.

Art could barely contain himself. He dropped his load, the carefully formed ball cracking into smaller clumps. His acquaintance gasped, “What are you doing? We can’t stop! We’ll disrupt the workflow! Everything will...!” But Art cut him off.

The acquaintance, who surely had a name but is no more than a passing witness to the oddity occurring before his eyes, choked on his words and furrowed his brow. He watched quizzically as Art began rolling small chunks of his rich soil cake toward the water, smearing bits in the small puddle and forming small piles that varied in wetness.

Before his very eyes, the ashen walls caked with eons is dry dirt became hosts to a most curious design. Art carefully dipped each toe into varying shades of mud, collecting gouache-y clumps and pressing each of his limbs nimbly into the wall.

Shapes, swoops, and shades appeared in a manner most curious, and as Art stood back to appraise his progress, he heard a thunder of scurries upon him. And then, a maelstrom of eyes, of fear, of judgements.

As the wave of an audience and the terror of being caught washed over him, Art calmed his mind with a single thought.

“Yes, there are plenty of other things I could be doing.”

Covered in mud and smeared with pride, he turned around to face the confused crowd whose entire day, whose lifelong routine, had been upended in an instant by one single ant.

“I quit.”