Animal Dilemmas – Ants Chicken

short stories about common good
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Short Story

In the front of the ship right outside to cookery door, where they stopped cooking for a while after they found the chef’s corpse, there was a small cypress three growing. In a large crack between two supporting beams where earth and fresh water from the kitchen barrel accumulated a cypress seed had found a home and would usually be weeded out but the current captain was superstitious. So instead the crew nurtured it and watched it sway with the wind.

It’s roots were firmly installed in the old beams and deck board and grew even deeper. The crack was widening. The vacant cavities were soon filled by a colony of Ants. The Ants came on board with the sacks of potatoes and numbered less than a hundred at first. They fed from the crumbs in the kitchen but were too often trampled over by the drunk cook and scavenging sailors.

So they had to search for alternative sources of food. By then they numbered into the thousands so they sent exploratory missions in all direction. Naturally they collected the sticky sap from the cypress tree, and licked the sailors’ eating bowls if they were left in the their immediate reach.

A week after the expeditions started the last one of them returned. The only one baring great news of new abundant source of food. They had found the captain’s personal reserves of bread, meat and cheese. The storage was in his quarters in the back of the ship. A day march in a straight line but that route was too dangerous. The Ants started a cargo expedition with the majority of their army. The stride was lead by their most prominent general who had found the storage.

They started from the cypress tree and ran a uninterrupted line through a continues crack. At the end of it emerged in the open for a short stretch until they hid their assault behind a running rope fixed along the right edge of ship. From there they turned left round and under two barrels of gun powder to the main mast where they climbed, to the first arm yard. Continued on the left side of the arm yard and turned right to the back of the ship descending down a regulating rope. Back at the main deck they kept on the edge of the stairs ranching the steering wheel. From there they followed the opening from the wheel down reaching the inner mechanics of the ship – a dark and noisy place. From the mechanics compartment a small opening that opened and closed at regular intervals controlled by the ship’s clock lead into the captain’s private storage.

Once they were inside the work began. The Ants had established an uninterrupted supply chain, a two way highway of thousands of ants one behind the other. They started at nearest pie of cheese, picked up a crumb and took the same route back to the cypress tree.

This enterprise was not a smooth, flowless agenda, it was not an adventure that every single ant survived and smiled upon. Before the route was firmly established the stride was interrupted many times by sailors trumping it over or moving barrels and pulling ropes effectively killing hundreds of Ants. But the Ants didn’t turn back, the survival of the colony was more important that the life of the individual ant to them. They buried their fallen in the ocean and carried on.

It took weeks before the first morsel of food reached back the cypress tree. Three was checkpoints set up every two yards with generals inspiring discipline and flow. For several weeks the enterprise went relatively well. Food arrived to the colony on regular basis and flow interruptions by giants and turbulent seas were dealt with promptly. Route adjustments were made in order to avoid and anticipate future disasters. Large springy young ants that could run the whole route in a day were used to deliver messages that improved response times and synchronized decision making. The colony was well supplied and had a excess of food which made it grow larger, hence stronger. Its leaders kept a constantly updated calendar with the regular events on the ship and worked around them.

After the cypress tree, the second in command was located in the captain’s storage. The storage was not spacious and overcrowded and its keeper was too drunk to keep it well organized. So somehow the chicken has gotten inside and had created a nest behind and under some crates of cheese. When the keeper on day pulled out a long piece of salami from the middle of the pile everything collapsed and the chicken was buried alive. The keeper didn’t mind or care and carried on out to his next swing on the rum bottle. The collapse also killed a few ants but not enough to inspire panic.

The workers regrouped and work resumed with as little interruption as possible. A few days letter the regular scouts in the storage brought news of fresh meat buried in the pile. The chicken was still alive but with broken legs and a wing. Very much in his last breaths. The ants knew an opportunity when they saw one and started establishing a working route to the poor bird.

The fresh source of fat and protein was going to significantly increase the speed of the colony’s growth. And that was all that mattered to the generals. Soon workers were chipping off bits of fat from the still alive chicken and carrying them to the cypress tree to feed the next generation. A few days letter the chicken died but work continued until the protein was too rotten to use. Than the venture was concluded and regular work resumed at a giant boulder of parmesan cheese.



all stories: Animal Dilemmas

photograph by freeimages

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