I recall black strings across the ground, vulture-eyes-overhead-reconnoitring. Finding out the stream of life and invent the way to rend it by reiterate assaults from the shining morning to the bleeding dusk. My cousin and I, both ten, soldiers of a useless war, waged in response of the challenge by the most numerous beings that proliferated just where we demanded to be the only regulators over the creation. Once we attacked native villages in the weeds and, scouts of a colonial army, swept out their circular camps. We slaughtered either red ants or redskins. We looked at either red antennas or squashed and black abdomens drying up under the young sun of a Texan spring or that unremitting one of an African summer. We beat the ground with our indexes, and reckoned our daily deceases by the pain of pattering on the gravels. In the evening, we shook hands with a turgid finger, both agreed on postponing the today’s last assault to tomorrow’s first.
Then, chasing each other in the grass one day, we strike a writhed almond tree’s trunk. Brilliant black ants go out of the arteries of a dry and mutilated branch. We are temporary compelled to recoil, bemused by the overwhelming number of enemies. After having arranged a battle plan, we slowly approach and begin to eliminate the sentries on the fort’s towers by precise rifle’s shots, like snipers who have so long a skill in their service, and therefore do not count their victims anymore but the time they need to fall. Only one shot does not suffice to obstruct the flood of the insects that break out from as many wooden channels as trenches. So weapons or fingers are multiplied: double guns rifle by index and middle finger, machine gun from the index to the little finger; when the palm snaps on the rough wood, the wrist startles, the throat utters an echo and a gulp: the bomb has fallen. Almond-tree’s-essence-flavoured blood refreshes aching hands after hours of bayonet assaults, after long days elapsed by pondering over the strategies to be overtaken, over the best solution for winning the battle and war because the hot rises and the two boys are more and more weary. Optimistic previsions fade in the blood season. Autumnal scuffles in the school time, cold and empty winter spent by wondering about the rival forces, about the everlasting conflict’s end. To discover themselves under a sudden attack in the warmth of one’s home, be rubbed of the Christmas dinner’s crumbs under the table; pursuing and kill the intruders, beating accidentally the radiator’s corner with the fingertip, and dying for offence and pain both.
Birds’ trilling, blossom trees: spring has gracefully come back, but that means only implementing the long meditated promise of death, for my cousin and I. Once again we agitate the trunk by kicks and bent down in our trenches, wearing out ourselves in everlasting series of charges and withdrawals. The cunning ants have learned how to recognise the strokes whereby we are used to call for them out of the trunk, and therefore they go out more seldom. Sometimes they deliver some flying units to reconnoitre whom we readily down by our hands’ anti-aircraft, or by spraying the insecticide grabbed from my aunt. Then we cough away the poison and swear up not to use that sly chemical weapon that makes victims also amongst our arrays.
The provisions of the anthill come from the surrounding fields. Often the besieged animals attack us in forces in order to distract us, while the workers are coming out by the secondary exits, at the price of hundreds of ragged corpuscles which explode of the lymph whose are plenty in intoxicating flavours, piled one on another in the wrinkles of the moss-stained-trunk. We youngsters impress the smash-up in eyes reddened by the sun, and get proud, although the suspect broadens in our minds around the number of the ants that come to contrast us, while a even more numerous army is gathering in the wooden core. Likely another year will not be sufficient to conquer the fort.
Autumn: the timber crackles in the fireplace, the milk curdles, the peppers are roasted, the pork-grease frizzes, the wine is put in casks. The almond tree is old and wry. Up to my father the so longed command arrives. My cousin and I take the saw and sever the trunk amid the reiterate raids of the foes which perceive their power come to an end. Cruel fellows, we light up a dry-leaves-fire without fearing any flame will extend to the summer stubs. We direct the blaze to singe the rival arrays with instantaneous death. A few half burnt insects writhe in the bark channels that is roused by the blade’s roaring, and they are nailed on there by the bursts of our machine guns. The almond tree’s basis splits, uprooted at last. A river of invertebrates submerges us with a desperate charge. The fire consolidates its dominion. Here is the queen-ant! The privilege to my cousin, on condition that he dispatches her by only one rifle’s shot whom he does not fail. The flame glows, the bark blackens. The antennas and the crackling little legs burn away. We discover the roe amidst the wooden chips. We soon decide to destroy them all in order that we shall not fight a new generation of hymenoptera. By the evening the tree has been dissected, whatever being had lived in it has been murdered and burnt. The ants are cinder. The castle has been conquered. White and light blue wreaths of haze flow in a soft-clouds-veiled-October-dusk to sign the remnants of the battle field. Exhausted, the two cousins glance one another, and exchange a satisfied smile, their bond strengthened by a common and prolonged toil, by a shared pain, and the passed peril. Nevertheless a question appears from their bulging looks to the placid memory, dims trumpet’s blares and hymns of glory: on one hand, is it worth annihilating the enormous creative power of the tiny enemy and acquiring conscience of the pursued sin, having wantonly injured the creation’s magnificence? And, on the other hand, is it worth comprehending man’s essence by crude and silent reflection on commeasuring its grandeur onto the human capacity to destroy?