Ants in your pants, apparently, make your belly button dance.
I’m sure that, if ants were indeed crawling around in my pants, it wouldn’t just be my belly button dancing. I’d be bouncing around like a bungee jumping Pinocchio if the little blighters were invading my interiors. They’d be like moving grains of sand – getting into all my nooks and crannies no matter how I tried to brush them off.
I don’t mind flies, spiders, moths or man-eating mosquitoes, but ants get to me.
Maybe it’s because I expect them to be able to club together and carry me off to their nest. I’d be their Gulliver and they’d be victorious in their conquest of me. If an ant can carry multiple times its own body weight, I don’t suppose a whole nest’s worth would have a problem carting me off. The food in this place isn’t exactly nourishing. Or appetising. Or, really, anything resembling actual food. Any ants would be better off with the likes of me rather than anything the kitchen might produce.
It’s almost as if the food goes through a filter and all of the goodness is sucked out, leaving us with the pallid, paltry remnants. I suppose that filter would be like the digestive system – all the vitamins and nutrients are removed for the good of the body and all the crap is expelled. The slop they serve us essentially is another four letter word that begins with ‘S.’ Rather than it saying ‘Lo’ to a ‘P’, though, it says ‘Hi’ to a ‘T.’
It appears I’m not the only one who’s not keen on them. It appears that, instead of just not being keen, some are positively fearful. Whether this is an underling, pre-existing fear, a result of the individual’s dementia or a side-effect of the drugs, I’m not entirely sure.
This morning, when we were led from breakfast (slop on toast – at least, I’m assuming the cardboard wedges were meant to be toast and they weren’t just handing out free door stops) to the recreation room, one corner was moving.
In the bottom corner, beneath the TV and to the left of the window, a shadow shifted and shuddered. I did the same. My friend Bender Benny looked, shrugged and parked himself in his favourite chair for his after-slop snooze. A couple threw up – a bit excessive, methinks – and then someone tipped the domino.
Brenda, sweet and low with a saccharin aftertaste, screamed. Carol, a woman whose fastest speed was a shamble and was only so far into the room because she’d been swept up by the throng of residents and orderlies, took the proffered baton of hysteria and ran with it.
Like a forest wildfire, all crackles and sparks and chaos, the madness – appropriate for an asylum, you may think – spread. Butter on toast (cardboard or otherwise) it smothered everyone until the orderlies had no option (they’d tell you) other than to resort to their mini version of cattle prods.
A few good zaps later and a few good cans of ant spray and order was finally restored. It didn’t take much. A mop for the vomit. A hoover for the husks of the once-active ants. A nudge to wake Benny because his favourite programme was on in a minute. Grumbles from the orderlies about not being paid enough for this aggravation – though they didn’t really need to smile as they jabbed their prods.
Hours later I still scratched myself and twitched occasionally as I was sure I felt an ant crawling on my arm or neck or under my scrubs. But I didn’t. It was, most probably, their ghosts.
Ants in your pants make your belly button boogie.
Ants in an asylum make the residents riot.
Why is the number pad on a computer different to the one on a telephone? And why, when I’m calling someone, do I not forget this and end up calling Outer Mongolia instead?
It feels perfectly normal to be entering figures on a keyboard and then upside-down myself to call the local Indian takeaway for a nice Balti or Chicken Tikka. Sweet chilli naans please, and yes, I would like poppadoms. Or poppadums if you have them instead.
Why is that? The human brain is weird in some of the automatic connections it makes. I remember seeing an email in which the internal letters of the words were muxed ip and you were still meant to be able to read it as your brain automatically figures it out as long as the first and last are in place.
If you see waht I maen.
But that’s on a small scale. Even upsidising your mind to adapt to which number order you’re using, though it probably takes millions of snapping synapses to sync, is small fry – and not in the way of crispy bacon and eggs.
Edgar Alan Peterson. Ed to me and a small number of others and Poo to most of the rest. His synapses snapped along at a crazy rate, jumping from subject to subject, leaping tall bananas in a single bound. The Jack of all Juxtapositions and Master of Madness.
Well, not quite. To say he was Master of Madness was to steal Connors’ crown like a thief in the night, sneaking from shadow to doorway to… other hidey thing… until the crown was in your possession. Beware of those thorns though. Not only did Connors think himself as, in here at least, the Almighty, you could be sure there’d be plenty of pricks involved.
Most involved drugs or orderlies, syringe or (though, of course, it never REALLY happens) succubus.
Anywho. Ed. He spoke at a rate of knots the coastguard would have little chance of keeping up with. He’d be a fast disappearing dot in the eye of the river police I think I saw Bruce Willis playing in a film once. And everything he said, however disjointed and tangential, made some sort of sense.
He played a permanent, tumbling, game of word association that had your head spinning as you tried to keep up but, when you attempted to replay the conversation back in your mind later – in the slow motion of a spit flinging Van Damme movie fight -you could, kind of, see how the path managed to meander from its start to its ultimate end.
Somehow the fact that the sun was shining became a discussion on mountaintop dew levels, moving to the number of times he’s hit his thumb whilst hammering a nail, then being swiftly overtaken on the outside lane by the fact that he preferred KFC to McDonalds except on Fridays because Friday is Fries-day. Then it was a race for the finishing line between why men’s shoe sizes are different to women’s and is a bubble stronger from the inside than it is from the outside?
And, during the whole conversation, he would take, perhaps, three breaths.
That was why he was in here. He was a telephone man in a keyboard world, but, somehow, he managed to fit. You couldn’t quite figure out why, but you accepted it anyway.
I wonder if that explains me. I wonder if I’m upsidised. The buttons are being pressed in the wrong order. Something in my head is the wrong way round and that’s why they all died.
That’s why they all die.
Fair to middling. That’s what people say, isn’t it?
“How’s it going?”
“Fair to middling. You?”
“Not bad, not bad.”
You walk on, not particularly remembering whether the person you just spoke to had actually said “great,” “wonderful,” “fantastic” or “crap.” It’s almost a rhetorical question, in so many cases. You’re so tied up in your own slide from ‘middling’ to ‘fair’ to ‘crap’ that the “How’s it going?” was out of your mouth before you even realised the words had escaped. It’s a reflex, an automatic social custom that you don’t notice you do until you’ve done it.
“How’s it going?”
“Shit, thanks. My cat just died, my wife is having an affair with her step-father and my kids hate me. I’ve lost my winning lottery ticket and a plane landed on my house while I was on the toilet so I had no paper to wipe my arse. Oh, and my dog thinks my leg is next door’s poodle for some reason. I assume that’s why he keeps humping it. You?”
“Not bad, not bad.”
It doesn’t quite go like that, but it could. The response is never really listened to. It’s blah-blah-blah, a white noise that simply elicits a nod and a smile. Even if you were told that their budgie had died and a Panzer tank had accidentally driven over their car on the way to parking in their front room – without using the door and stopping right in front of the TV – you’d nod and smile and not even register.
And if you did? If you did stop and ask and listen to the answer, so attempting to strike up a dialogue? The other person would be taken aback, shocked that the customary question was being mutated into an actual CONVERSATION! How dare you? Don’t you know the rules? Don’t you know that, beneath the ‘fair to middling’ simmers a witches cauldron of sickly popping circumstances that were wearing away at your victim’s psyche until their frazzled husk could do naught but stare into space and wonder how ‘middling’ became ‘murder.’
But you know this, so you don’t. You nod and walk on. They nod, and they walk on. Neither really remembers what the other said. Sometimes neither remembers who the other was, let alone the fact that someone was even there.
It’s like telling the time. You look at your wrist and you see it’s 3:30. It’s afternoon, clearly, as it’s daylight and you’re not tucked up in your bed or propping up the local bar to make sure it doesn’t fall over and spill your tenth pint or fifteenth vodka all over the floor.
You’re nice like that.
You don’t consciously think that it’s half past three, post meridian, it’s more of a feeling. The time grazes your mind, leaving only an impression. If someone sees you look at your watch and thus asks you the time, you have to look again, and it takes a second to work out what you’d seen and knew only a second or two before.
You meet, you ask, you pass, you forget.
Fair to middling. A throwaway phrase that masks the underlying fear of actually opening up and interacting. You need to catch your wife, find the ticket, make friends with your children and spay your dog, all before the local shop closes at 8:30. Otherwise you’ll be too late to buy any toilet paper.
Of course, let’s hope no-one asks you the time.