Friday, April 26, 2013

What's Out There

Even though it was nearly 5:30 when I left school today, the sun was still high in the breezy sky. It wasn't as warm as it had looked from my classroom window, and I shivered a bit and picked up my pace as I headed for my station wagon across the lot.

You never know what you might see on the ground outside a school: the random exotic item is often crushed by bus tires right alongside the quotidian pens and yellow pencils so casually left behind by students in their rush to get home. Over the years I've found money, books, keys, eye glasses, prescription medication, and more than one phone on my way out the door.

Because it's a huge parking lot in a mixed-use facility, there is often a lot of activity. Parents pick up their children from the after-school program; motorcyclists practice in the far corner; Bolivian dance troupes clap and spin and march in the big empty space where late the teachers parked.

Depending on the season, leaves bud, rustle, or fall. Some nights, flocks of starlings pick over the sparse grass on the narrow medians; other times murders of crows mob all the surrounding trees.

Tonight, though, I saw something new. An 6-inch blot rippled dark brown on the sidewalk. As I grew closer, I saw that it was made of ants, more ants than I have ever seen together. They were swarming over each other in a pile 5 or 6 ants deep, and for what? I have no idea; I couldn't see anything.

I left them there, stepped over them carefully and continued on to my car, but I'll tell you what: I scratched a million invisible itches all the way home.

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