From Borneo and Around

This blog is all about Borneo (and sometimes elswere) as I experience it. It's about places, people, fauna, food ... and anything I find pleasantly worth sharing in words and pictures.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


The curse of the red ants

There are days which are like any other ordinary day and there are those that seem to follow an agenda of their own and those have the particularity to signal their difference as soon as the absolutely unaware yet decidedly targeted human gets out of bed. There are those days, for instance, when I seem to hit a corner of every piece of furniture in the house; when door handles are determined to catch my sleeve, or again, when the door of my car turns vicious for no apparent reason and ordinary objects I reach for would rather attempt defying gravity and risk shattering to pieces upon landing on the floor rather than letting me grab them. Go and figure?                                                      Then too, there are days when I seem to be the only driver on the road willing to speed over 60kmh and others yet when all the road loonies pick exactly my time and my route to put their mad skills to the test. Indeed there are days which are simply “theme days” and today I’ve just lived through “Insects Day”.

It all started this morning. As I was walking through our car porch I almost stepped over a huge rhinoceros that had come to end its insect life (what did you imagine?) right in front of my black WV beetle, perhaps struck by despair at the sight of such a dinosauresque beauty straight out of Jurassic Park or even a Transformer, no less. I picked up the little fellow in my hand and placed it on a table top where I knew it would be safe from ants’ attack. 
"I almost stepped over a huge rhinoceros"
Just as I was making my way back towards the door that leads to our laundry room I noticed yet another casualty: a large leaf insect that was lying on the concrete path where a column of red scavenger ants was already forming. I often make a point to save ants, simply by ignoring them until they finish whatever task they came to do in my house and disappear once more, yet I must say that I truly hate their cruelty. I picked up the martyr by its wings which were closed and gathered above its back; it was still alive. There was nothing I could do to change the fate of my unlikely protégé and yet I wanted to make its passing more humane than that of being eaten alive. I thought of throwing it into the river as I had done with a small bat that had broken a wing on a ventilator blade (radar error); the red ants had found it within seconds of its fall, and attacked their terrified pray without mercy. This time however I lacked courage and instead I laid the insect on a large tree leaf well above the ground, a safe enough place it seemed to me for it to surrender its little soul to the great universe.
"I picked up the martyr by its wings"

A few minutes later, back inside the laundry room and as the washing-machine had completed its cycle I walked out again with a bucket load of clean laundry in hand and almost stumbled at the sight of a snake awkwardly rolled up at the bottom of the steps. I ventured to check it out. The reptile appeared bizarrely twisted and inert. It was dead; probably one of the dogs. I’d have to check them for any symptoms of poisoning. I once, at another address, lost a Cocker Spaniel that had prevented a cobra from entering our kitchen. Malaysia does not authorise the use of anti-venom for pets that sacrifice their life for their mistress.                                                                                                           Armed with a long metal clip I turned the 45cm long body around. The scales were a beautiful bluish-black with alternate orange markings along both sides all the way from its tail and up to its eyes. I have no idea whether that snake was venomous or not, however I couldn’t help finding it exquisite and likely to inspire a master jeweler.                                                                                           I decided to dispose of the body by throwing it over the fence and into thick wild bushes. While I passed near the leaf insect, I noticed that at last, it had surrendered its tiny little soul and that it had been able to do so undisturbed. I felt relieved to have been of help.
"The reptile appeared bizarrely twisted and inert."

"I couldn’t help finding it exquisite and likely to inspire a master jeweler"
Once I finished hanging the laundry, I went back inside the house still lost in my thoughts over those serial deaths. As I was crossing the living-room I found yet another victim, its amber color wings spread out on the silky fabric of the white sofa. It was a giant dragonfly as they often happen to be here. I turned to look at Caramel, my toy poodle; I needed advice and he seemed as intrigued as I was.”Want to poke it with your nose?”  He gave me a blank look. As I grabbed the dragonfly by one of its wings it suddenly jumped out of its slumber and darted off and out of the open doors, leaving Caramel and I perplexed yet relieved; end of the curse?
"amber color wings spread out on the silky fabric of the white sofa"

A familiar ring tone finally called me back to the ordinary world and I hurried towards the console by the window and stopped short of picking up the phone when I realised that a few hundreds of those red ants (my nemesis?) had taken over the receptor, the phone book next to it and even a bouquet of artificial roses! What were they after? Was it some kind of curse really? They left me no other choice than use the ultimate weapon on them. With a few well aimed sprayed, I decimated a whole army of those mean carnivorous scavengers, at once avenging the unfortunate bat and the leaf insect. All I had left to do was to clean up before returning the call.

I would have liked to find some clever words to end my account of an unusual morning, even by Borneo standards, yet I have to conclude rather in a hurry if I wish to avoid being hit on the head, or worse in the eye, by an air ported black bomber bent on attacking me; so ciao for now!

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