The Missing Ingredient

The ambulance was cruising across the highway. Another restless shift. Why couldn’t he just be a fireman? Just having boring shifts playing cards with the guys and maybe once every few months going to fight some fire which most of the time ended up being a malfunction in the fire alarm. After all that’s what he wanted. A nice job he can have fun and get paid for it. Nothing too much. Well, of course, that’s what most of the human kind wanted. But only few chosen ones actually live to have it. Most just find themselves with a job they can’t stand and a boss they can’t stand even more. It was always a hard choice for him. In any of his jobs he found himself contemplating with the existential question of why can’t he stand his job? Is it because of the actual job or is it because of his boss? Since he couldn’t find the answer he just waited for his boss to be replaced. If it was the job he couldn’t stand, a new boss won’t make it better. If it was the boss to blame, he might start having fun.

 

He always liked cooking. That was probably the first thing he would have done if not being a paramedic. Well, as long as he doesn’t need to wake up every day to drive somewhere to do it. He liked cooking for his friends. He was actually in the process of cooking his favorite dish before jumping on the ambulance. He learned how to make this dish from some one-time guest in a cooking show he watched a few years ago. Just five more minutes in the oven and it was done. Maybe it’s for the best. There was always something missing with this dish. He remembered the guy in the show reading off the ingredient list. A phone call. He missed the last ingredient. Only one. His friends always gave him compliments for every dish he made. Not for that one. Something was missing. They called it the “unfinished dish”. No girlfriend stayed with him more than a week after cooking this dish. Women like guys who cook but only if they cook something to their taste. He knew the one missing ingredient could make the difference. He will win the perfect girl. That one ingredient would have made the dish a masterpiece. Instead of being remembered in the hospital as a paramedic that used to cook he will be remembered as an unforgettable cook that used to be a paramedic. If only he would have received this dreadful phone call one second later. His life would have meant something. He googled all over the internet and found like seventeen different ways to make the dish but none was the one he saw in that cooking show. He even tried calling the TV station but they told him the program is going off air due to low rating and they have better things to do than help someone find some so-called missing ingredient. He never got a hold of the actual show guest who made the dish.

 

The guy lying on the bed near him was definitely fighting for his life. Connected to all those machines it was obvious it’s going to be a miracle if he makes it to the hospital. He asked him to hold his hand. Looks like he was afraid to die. How does it feel like knowing the end is near? You are about to disappear from earth and if there is no heaven, reincarnation or even hell it doesn’t look like you are going to exist in any form or even get another chance. That’s all. You finish your life as “Mr. X”. If you just knew in advance. Maybe you wouldn’t have bought so many groceries that will stay to rot in the refrigerator. And you probably wouldn’t have waited so long to buy that huge TV you always dreamed of having. You could have had six donuts instead of the one you get for breakfast. After all, who cares about obesity in the last day of his life? Maybe people with cancer should consider themselves lucky. After all they have some advance notice. They can at least plan their grocery shopping better.

 

Traffic jam. Cars trying to clear the way but there is still nowhere to go. It’s not a good idea to die in a rush hour. If you can, better do it in early morning. If you woke up too late try to stay alive during the day, make sure the roads are clear and then have your heart attack. Early evening was the time between shifts and usually the “day shift” didn’t have the same patience to deal with a patient who decided to die during rush hour. They might connect him to life sustaining machines before doing everything they can to save him. He wondered if anyone ever checked statistically how many people in a life-threating situation died during the rush hour compared to other times of the day. He just wished the ambulance would make it to the hospital soon. His favorite team is on TV tonight.

 

The dying guy’s grip of his hand got tighter. Desperately trying to hold into life. But, taking all into consideration, the guy should feel lucky. There are much worse ways to die. Like in a plane crash or burning to death in some public building. When you die you want to be alone. Think about your life, your childhood, your first kiss, your first sex and your loved ones. Going back to life intersections where you could have taken a different path. Where you might have been today? For sure not in the ambulance. All those people screaming around you, sharing their death with yours distract this thought process. You might start feeling sorry for everyone else around you. It is hard enough feeling sorry for yourself. Much better dying here in the ambulance holding hands with the paramedic.

 

He stared directly into the dying guy’s sad eyes. He looked somewhat familiar. Dead people looked the same lying there. Same fear. How does it feel to die alone? No one was at the house besides him when they came. While he was still able to talk he didn’t mention anyone else. He looked lonely. Just like him. One lonely dying guy holding hands with one lonely living guy. Maybe that’s one of the main reasons you stick with your spouse, if you have one, after the age of sixty. You don’t like her, she annoys you, it feels like hell on earth to be with her in the same house but – she is going to be there in the ambulance. Sitting near you, holding your hands, maybe even crying. It makes you feel good to see someone crying on you when you are dying. Even if they are faking it so you won’t feel bad. If you are leaving this world while someone is still crying on you, you know that you made a difference. If not you, this someone might have been having fun on the beach right now. Instead he is sitting here crying.

 

The dying guy was fully dressed. Probably just came back from work. Somebody should call his office. Let them know he is not going to make it tomorrow. What if there is a major project for which he is supposed to give a presentation tomorrow. Actually, that might have been one of the reasons he had the heart attack in the first place. The room filled with all managers waiting for him to come and give the presentation. Checking their phones. The presentation is about to start. The company is going to lose so much money by having so many managers doing nothing for one hour. Almost as much as it is going to lose having them doing something in this one hour. His boss is frustrated. Thinking, why did I do this? Why did I give him this responsibility? I should have done the presentation myself if only I didn’t delegate my role to everyone around me so I can make it on time to the dates with my mistress. He shouldn’t have counted on anyone else beside himself. He never felt confident putting the project in the hands of this guy. He was always late. This time is one time too many. He better have a good reason or he is out of here. He will probably have some excuse, as usual. Something about the traffic or his mother not feeling good. He is history in this company. Not even one month’s notice. He is out today. If he can only give the presentation himself, the manager kept thinking. But what’s the point of being a manager if you are actually doing something that someone else can do much better than you?

 

He looked at the guy’s phone lying beside him. He was not lonely after all. Still had the ultimate friend, his phone. Did he have enough time to post a Facebook message saying goodbye? What about his account? Who will inherit all his wonderful pictures and funny posts? What about his Facebook friends? Are they going to come to his funeral? Are they actually going to miss him? Are they even going to notice he is dead? Some people die in their cubes while no one notices for few hours. How long does it take your Facebook friends to notice you are not posting anything? A week? Month? Year? How can they even notice when each has more than five hundred friends? Unless he unfriended them just before he was about to die. They might notice a change in the number of friends. But it will take them some time to find who it was.

 

He used to google the names of the people in the ambulance. It was interesting to see who they were, what they did in their lives. Not every time he found the right one. After all he couldn’t search for something like “Mr. X dying in an ambulance”. His phone was dead. He looked at the guy’s phone. No, he can’t do it. He can’t use the phone of a dying man. Well, still not dead but definitely on the fast lane for being one. He looked again at the phone. Maybe only this one time. Nobody is going to notice. He really wanted to google his name. The last respect he can give to someone lonely who has no one to cry on his dying bed. At least he will know who this guy was. And then, holding his hand he will feel something for him. Not like a spouse, a family member or even old friend but still something. Before the guy takes his last breath he will see someone caring for him.

 

He took the phone. The weak battery signal flashed. The battery was dying, just like its owner. They were close to the hospital. Even if the guy lying here is not dead by then, he will definitely be dead by the beginning of his next shift. He holds the phone gently almost trying not to annoy the battery hoping it will give him a few more valuable seconds. Not much time. The last thing he can afford to happen now is someone opening the door and finding him playing with the phone of a dying patient. He will probably need to look for a job as a cook. He checked again the name of the guy on the medical board. With shaking hands he typed the name. The search engine gave few results. He checked images related to the guy. Few faces appeared. One of them resembled the dying man. The phone beeped about to turn off. Last few seconds. He must find who this poor guy is. He pressed on the guy’s face on the screen and was redirected to a website. Some TV channel. He scrolled down looking for his name. There was a link to a cooking show with a list of guests. The guy name was the last one. He checked again the name of the TV channel. The name was familiar. It was the same channel he watched the cooking show with the missing ingredient. He looked at the guy again. The phone. The guy. The phone. The guest. The phone. The cook. The phone. The missing ingredient. It can’t be. It just can’t be. That’s him. That’s the last guest of the cooking show he watched. The phone died.

 

Here in front of him was lying the guy that meant so much to him. Gave a reason to his existence. His hero. He got his last chance to find the missing ingredient. Here he is sitting in front of the treasure. He just needs to find the combination to the lock.

 

He didn’t think twice. He pushed the guy aggressively waking him up. “Wake up, Wake up, please!!! I have a question. One question and then you can die!” The cook opened his eyes, probably for the last time. “Remember the show? The cooking show? What was the last ingredient? Please. Just tell me. The last ingredient. Please!” He yelled not caring if anyone would open the ambulance door. He must find the missing ingredient. The cook looked at him. He understands! He understands what he was saying. “Please”, he cried, “Please help me. What was the last ingredient???” The cook looked suffering. He was making an effort to say something. He start uttering some unrecognized words and crashed shutting his eyes for the last time. The recognized dead monotonous sound came from the machine. He cried like he never cried before. All he wanted was the missing ingredient. The ingredient missing from his dish, from his life, from his happiness. He took the cook like a baby in his arms. Someone cared for him after all.

Tamir Rice: Are you Black or White? (or The American Binary Thinking System)

Generally speaking, Americans prefer the binary thinking system. This is a very efficient way of thinking that might explain why US is the strongest country in the world but also the country with 5% of the world population and 25% of the world prisoners. The binary thinking system definition: Any complicated problem can be decoded into two simple, opposite, distinct, clear options. It’s either black or white and you must take side.

This way of thinking is most noticeable in the main stream American movies which make a clear distinction between the good guys and the bad guys. Good guys can’t have any fault and bad guys are only evil. Once you are out of those movies you have a feeling of immense satisfaction. The good prevailed, the bad guys got punished,  and the world is back in order. After watching most European movies you go to sleep depressed and with a headache.

A relevant example is the latest statement by Donald Trump, the republican candidate for presidency, after the San Bernardino massacre:

“Muslims should not be allowed to enter the US”.

The original problem: Many extreme Muslims are terrorists; they belong to different terror organizations, religious streams, and have themselves conflicting interests. They kills people all over the world including other Muslims. We need to find ways to track those people once they are in the US, or prevent them from entering the country.

The problem after translating to the binary system: Do you think ANY Muslim should be allowed to enter the US?”. Either all Muslims are good or bad. You must take side. You can’t sit on the fence. Once defining the problem in simple terms it makes it approachable to all levels of the population regardless of education level. You don’t need to understand the subject of the terror to it’s depth with the history, root causes and motives of all sides in the equation. Once the problem simplified all you need to decide is are you Pro Muslim or Anti Muslim. Two clear options, black or white. No gray. The debate can now be handled by people with zero knowledge of religion, terror, conflicts and history.

Tamir Rice is a 12 years old African American boy who played with a toy gun and was killed by a policeman within two seconds of arriving on the scene. The binary system comes into effect in the following  911 conversation (word by word) between the guy who called to report about Tamir Rice playing with a gun in the park and the 911 Dispatcher.

911 Dispatcher: “What does he look like?” (spoiler: she wants to know his skin color)

Guy (naive): “He has a camouflage hat on”

911 Dispatcher (making it clear): “Is he black or white?

Guy (did we say naive?): “Gray. He has gray coat with black sleeves and gray pants.”

911 Dispatcher (No skin color, no police): “Is he black or white?

Guy (begin to wake up from his “we are all human beings” dream): “I am sorry???”

911 Dispatcher (punching the knock-out blow):

Is he BLACK or WHITE?

Notice that in all 3 questions she kept the order the same. First black and second white.

Guy (defeated and almost apologizing, whispering): “He is Black…”.

911 Dispatcher (once the skin color is clear, we can move on) : “He has a Camel Jacket and gray pants?” (Wrong. she hasn’t been listening to any clothing details since she was obsessed with the skin color)

Guy (back to square one): “No, he has a camouflage hat on”

So, either the 911 dispatcher assumed that the boy must be black or white, or maybe what she is actually asking is: Is he black or not?”. Meaning, every skin color should be categorized as either black or non-black (white). If that is the case, to which category should we assign brown, dark white, light black and other skin colors? I assume all belong to the “white” bucket. The multi color problem is simplified to white and black options. Either you are [black] or [white = white, olive, brown, yellow].

Maybe It’s about time America will look in the mirror and understand she is not wearing only black or white clothes. It is about time to upgrade from the black-white binary system of the 1950’s to the 2016 rainbow  – White/Brown/Olive/Black/Other. And guess what, they all can be good people or bad people. And they all can be that guy that is playing with his gun in the park. With the popular terror attacks by middle eastern guys, brown is going to become very popular skin color when it gets to a terror scene. Black and white might not be good enough to describe the suspect. Let’s add brown before it’s too late.

So, Tamir Rice, are you black or white?

 

Link to the 911 conversation:

Top10Thoughts: Tornado in America

 

  1. The United States averages about 1000 recorded tornadoes every year. Annually tornadoes cause an average of 1,500 injuries. On average, 80 deaths each year are directly attributed to the 1000 tornadoes reported.

 

  1. The U.S. record for the fastest tornado winds occurred at Wichita Falls in northwest Texas on April, 2, 1958 with a wind speed of 258 mph.

 

  1. Number of Tornado Shelters built in US on average per year: 800. Approximately 10,000 lives are saved each year due to shelters.
  2. Schools standard building requirement: resist 90-mph (145 km/h), straight-line winds.

 

  1. The weakest EF1 tornadoes speed can reach 110 mph (177 km/h). EF5 tornados speed average between 261-318 mph.

 

  1. Chances that your kid school have tornado shelter: 0-1%

 

  1. Chances your kid will survive direct hit of EF-4 tornado: Depends how good he covered his head and if the storm spared the music room.

 

  1. US annual budget: $3.8 trillion. Authorities recommendation for surviving Tornado’s: At home – Hide in your bathroom under a blanket. On the road – lie flat in the nearest ditch, if you are lucky to find one. At a mobile home – run away. In all cases – Pray.

 

  1. Average cost of building your own private storm shelter: $3,000 – $22,000. FEMA might help (or not).

 

  1. Conclusions:

.

  • Does the country think it have general responsibility to protect its citizens from Tornado’s: No. The state: No. The city: No.
  • Do they leave it for the individual financial capabilities? Yes.
  • Do you have more chance of surviving if you are rich: Yes.
  • Does it have anything to do with the capitalistic life philosophy: Yes.
  • Does it have any similarities to the way America sees health care: If you have money you have it, if not you die? Yes.
  • If you know for sure that a tornado EF-4 will hit your kids school will you let him go to school the same day? No. Are you gambling on your kid’s life when letting him go to school: YES!

 

 

Top10Thoughts: Christmas

  1. I am getting close to the time my kids will know the difference between $19.99 gift and $39.99 gift.

 

  1. I wonder when is the time my kids will be embarrassed from getting mind games.

 

  1. I have twins and I failed in my calculations and bought one of them one more gift than the other. I guess counting on him to nurture me when I am old is out of the question.

 

  1. I wonder if Chang from China worked double shift before Christmas for $1.36 per hour so I can buy my kid the new $49.99 Star Wars toy which he is going to throw away after 12.5 minutes.

 

  1. I wanted to be patriotic and buy my child “made in USA” gift but the factory closed last month.

 

  1. I suggested to put name sticker on each family member since some of them I see once every 5 years on Christmas. They didn’t like the idea.

 

  1. You are trying desperately to keep on fooling your kids there is Santa. “One gift from me and one from Santa”. They are not going to give up on the Santa’s gifts so easily. There comes a time from which they fool you to think that they think there is Santa. “Daddy, can you leave some carrots for the reindeers? They will probably be tired running so many miles with my Xbox”

 

  1. The average age a child understands there is no Santa went down from 10 years old in 2004 to 5.5 years old in 2015. With that rate by 2025 they will be born knowing there is no Santa. Come up with a backup plan.

 

  1. According to my calculations I spent $325 on gifts and received $280 gifts. I tried to sell them as used items and got $150. That means my Net Loss from this Christmas is $175. I knew I shouldn’t have bought this Artistic Chess case that is hand made especially for me and other 3 million people.

 

  1. 364 days a year I preach to my kids that life is not about money and materialistic possessions. On Christmas, while sitting in front of their gifts mountain, they understand I was a cheap liar.

Top10Thoughts – “Star Wars The Force Awakens”

 

  1. Its enough to have one speaking role for African American actor and one for Chinese to justify the other 538 white actors in the movie. Who knows how many African American/Asian/Hispanic actors wasted gas, money, and energy to audition for this movie. I won’t even be surprised if the audition call mentioned “color blind”. Actually, they might have been behind the masks and under the costumes. You can get $150 a day for that role.

 

  1. You can develop a weapon that can destroy planets by sucking sun energy but it can be destroyed with a few small explosives that you put in 3 random points.

 

  1. You can’t save the world without looking good.

 

  1. You can be an insignificant soldier for the empire of the galaxy but, you can still know exactly what and where is the location to hit their 300 billion dollars’ weapon.

 

  1. They almost had a romance between a white girl and African American guy but they resisted the temptation.

 

  1. Adults can enjoy a movie with a childish plot as long as they see enough explosions and strange creatures.

 

  1. According to the reactions of the audience, not sure why they have a plot at all. All they have to do is to put some pictures of the old spaceship, the old robot and 2-3 old characters from the previous movies to make the audience cheer frantically.

 

  1. You can be captured by evil creatures that can kill you any second but still have a sense of humor – “so who talk first. Do I talk first, do you talk first…”

 

  1. If two men meet on a bridge on top of a scary abyss, one has to fall.

 

  1. They made sure the African American and the old guy will not be in the sequel.

 

Written by Nathan Amir.

 

Sentences you will not hear in the year 2037

 

  1. “I miss you” – you can’t miss someone when you can call/text/skype/WhatsApp/Facebook/twitter/Instagram/Snapchat with him any given moment of your existence. Another option is the time length required to miss someone will be shortened from 2 months to 3 minutes.

 

  1. “I would love to meet you in person” – why?

 

  1. “You can mail us at 123 X Dr.” – letters will be out at around 2024.

 

  1. “How do I get to …?” – GPS is God number 1.

 

  1. “Do you know the meaning of …?” – google is God number 2.

 

  1. “Where can I buy…? – Amazon is God number 3

 

 

  1. “Can I get your number…?” – phone numbers will disappear.  Connections will be done only via social media app.

 

  1. “Stay with us. We will be back after the commercial break” – Nobody will have the patience to wait for 3 minutes without switching a channel. Also since video on demand will replace all existing channels commercial breaks will be redundant.

 

  1. “Can I borrow a pen?” – Any writing material except keyboard will disappear from the world. Of course, keyboard will disappear as well but it will take 20-30 more years.

 

  1. “Your son has an amazing memory. He is such a great student” – In the google era good memory has no advantage. On the contrary, it takes energy from the brain that can be used to solve complicated problems. The sentence will be replaced by “Your son is using his memory for no apparent reason”

 

  1. “My dad is working in a factory” – The sentence will only be used by Chinese kids until the late 2060s. They will stop using it as well once robots will replace all man work. The sentence will be replaced by “My dad is working as a machine backup in a factory”.

 

  1. “Can you take a look under the hood?” – Nobody has any idea how the computerized engines work beside few engineers. The sentence will be replaced by “Do you want to buy this piece of junk?”

 

  1. “I sat with her in the classroom and I just knew she is the one for me” – Online learning will replace all physical classrooms. The only way to meet other students is by Skype. This sentence will be replaced by “She looked so cute on the screen so I just had to ask her out”.

 

  1. “He is so good in spelling” – With autocorrect text all you need to know is maybe 2 consonants and one vowel from each word. The natural ability to spell will not be needed and will be still required only in spelling bee competitions held in schools with 75 years old teachers that still think it is cool.

 

 

  1. “can I borrow your book?” – no papers, no books. The word borrow will not be used with the word book in the same sentence ever again.

 

  1. “Today is my grandparent’s golden anniversary” – five years long marriage will be rare let alone fifty. The sentence will be replaced by “My parents just celebrated their 3rd year of marriage!!!”

 

 

  1. “All please stand for a minute of silence” – Nobody will be able to stand still for one minute without talking/moving/texting. The only term which will be used will be a moment of silence and it will average between 5 and 15 seconds.

 

  1. “I had to stay long in the office” – remote connection will make offices useless. Even if you will work in an office there will be no reason to actually stay late since you can do the same work remotely. One less excuse for cheaters.

 

  1. “He was such a curious child. He broke everything to see how it works” – kind of tricky to put back together circuit boards.

 

  1. “Did you know his parents are divorced?!” – Divorce rate will be around 85% so the exception will be the kids to married couples. The sentence will be replaced by “Did you know his parents are married?!”

 

  1. “she has a fake boobs” – Most body parts will be replaced to last longer and look better. The sentence will be replaced by “I can’t understand why she s sticking to the same old boobs”

 

 

 

 

NapNap

We surrounded the pit with our backs to it and held hands. It looked odd. As if we were making a circle but backwards. Ethan came closer. We wanted him to stay away but the strange circle just made him more curious. Mom always told me that if I don’t want to be noticed, I should act normal. I guess she forgot to tell me that sometimes, when you’re afraid, you don’t think right. We should have stayed away from the pit and then Ethan probably wouldn’t have even noticed it. OK, maybe he would have picked on one of us, but we were used to that. He was in our class but looked a lot older. Danny always said that he was probably held back like eight times but I said that if that’s right, then he should be in the army by now. Simon, who was really smart, said that kids were afraid of making him mad because he is always irritated, because he didn’t have any parents and he was living with his older sister and that there were stories about her screaming at him all the time and even hitting him. Danny and Simon held my hands really tight. Out of fear, not love. Maybe fear is a kind of love? Ethan stopped next to us. “So, what do we have here, my darling little children?” he rubbed his hands together, like some witch. I never understood the enjoyment in playing the bad guy. Once, when he was passing near our house, I came out to the balcony, yelled “good” three times and hid behind the blinds. I thought maybe I could remove the evil spell off him with a counter spell. He stopped, looked up and called “Asshole, I’ll get you at school tomorrow” and kept going. The next day he hit me on the head and I realized my spell failed. Maybe he needs to kiss a frog.

“Go away” I said, holding Danny and Simon’s hands even tighter, “there’s nothing here.” He became serious and came closer to me. It was always like that. Even in the movies, after the bad guy would laugh, he would become serious all of a sudden. He put his face right up to mine and whispered “did you say something, worm?” I wanted to say something back but the words were stuck in my mouth. I felt Danny trying to pull his hand out of mine. I was probably hurting him. Ethan took a couple of steps back. “I’m gonna count to three. If you don’t back away and let me see what’s there, I’ll…” -he thought for a moment what to do. We stood and waited for Ethan to decide what he wanted to do to us. He thought of it and clapped- “then I’m gonna punch you, one by one. And I’m not telling you who’s first.” He said while looking at me. We didn’t look at each other, but just by feeling both Danny and Simon squeezing my hands I knew they were not going to move. Ethan walked away a little, grabbed a stick and sat on a large rock. “One” he yelled. No one moved. We stopped breathing. Mothers with strollers were walking by, but must have thought we were playing. “Two” he said. I think he wanted us not to move. It’ll be more interesting this way. “Let’s run, he’s going to beat you up” Danny whispered in my ear. “He’s just a coward, and besides, don’t worry because my brother is going to kick his ass” I whispered back loudly, so Simon could hear it too. Truth is, my brother, who was two years older than I was, was also afraid of him. He didn’t know I was using his name to build up confident. Maybe Simon had an idea? He always had ideas about how to save our asses. But maybe now Ethan made him freeze. “Th-“Ethan dragged out the word, trying to torture us- “rrr”- “we’ll let you see what’s in here but you can’t touch it.” It was Simon. It was a pretty simple idea actually. I didn’t believe he would go for it, but at least Simon bought us some time to breathe. “You’re gonna let me see what’s there”-Ethan answered with a scary look on his face-“and if I feel like touching it I will and if I don’t, I don’t. How’s that?” Well, this wasn’t exactly what Simon had in mind. But Simon jumped in front of me and said OK. I looked at him, annoyed, but from his look I realized I had no choice. Danny calmed down a little and let go of my hand. Danny and Simon stepped aside. I was left standing alone. I was going to move but wanted to make it clear that he can’t touch it. Ethan came closer, slowly, and stood in front me. I looked up. He was much taller than I was. I was thinking to myself that, with a built like that, he was probably sorry he couldn’t beat someone up every day. “So, worm, did you not get it? Or would you prefer that I beat you up first and then see what’s there?” I moved aside slowly. “Don’t touch it” I mumbled. I was actually hoping he wouldn’t hear it. But he did. He grabbed my ear and pinched it. “What are you up to? Don’t touch what?” But then he saw it and let go of my ear.

So now Ethan too knew about our secret. An anthill. For about a month now, since Danny found it, we’ve been coming every day to see the ants building their home. It was huge, not like the little ones you can step on accidentally. They were taking grains of sand from the woods by the garden and bringing them here. It was a line of ants, carrying grains. They were building this high mount that was in the shape of an almost perfect sphere, going up and then lower in the center. It looked like in the old cities when they barricaded before a war. Danny, who used to collect apricot pips, would come to class with like ten apricots every day. His mom used to think he ate them. He would hand them out in class and then collect the pips. He would always keep one though, and we would cut it up into little pieces and put it by the line of ants so they would have something to eat on their long journey. They were regular ants, not at all special. The kind of ants you could step on, like five at a time, and not even notice. In the last few days the ants’ home was nearly ready and only a few ants were still bringing last grains of sand. The rest was busy searching for food. Danny kept following this one large ant with wings. We called it “the flying ant”. But Simon looked it up in the encyclopaedia and told us it was their queen and that it laid eggs and that the other ants, who were called “workers”, took care of them. Danny was a little sad after it disappeared for a few days and decided to call it “NapNap” because it was always napping. Simon calmed him by saying that ant queens didn’t leave the nest much. They were busy giving birth to “workers” for the nest and a few new “queens” as well. The new queens would leave the nest to mate with male ants and form new nests. I asked if “NapNap” was the queen that formed this nest but he said that after forming a nest, the queen will chop off its own wings because she doesn’t need them anymore. “So how come “NapNap” has wings?” I asked. “She is the queen of the next nest” Simon said and left, because he was tired of explaining things to me.

At recess he asked the teacher if after the feminist revolution people will have queens too, that will control everyone and fly off to form new kingdoms. But the teacher just laughed and said it was a bit early for that. Simon suggested we play by the pit every day and this way we can guard it from people stepping in it accidentally. Every day we used to put our bags at home and go down to play near the pit, until the evening. During the day, at recess, we’d sneak out through a hole in the fence and go to check on it. We were at recess now. Ethan wasn’t at recess because he didn’t even come to school. Truth is he only came to school when he felt like it and that wasn’t often.

“An ants’ nest?” -Ethan didn’t believe it-“you idiots. This is what you were making such a big deal about? Stupid kids. I thought you were protecting some treasure.” Ok, so he didn’t care about the ants, maybe he’ll go then. Or he’ll do it out of spite. “And you were worried I’ll ruin it for you? I have better things to do. But I will tell your entire class that you three are a bunch of geeks who play with ants at recess.” Fine, let him tell. It’s not as if we had a lot of friends in class anyway. Just don’t ruin the pit. But you could never tell with him. He could still wreck it, just out of boredom. The bell rang. We went back to class. Ethan went in and wrote on the board in big writing: the three geeks play with ants. The teacher came in and asked me to erase the board. It was calculus and Ethan got bored pretty quickly. He was like a small child. All he’s going to think about now are the ants, until something else will enter his head and then he’s going to forget about them altogether. Simon, who was sitting next to me, said we should find something else to occupy him with. In the middle of class, Ethan said he had to use the bathroom and disappeared. When he didn’t return I said to Simon that he might have changed his mind and went to wreck the pit. I told Danny quietly that we should take turns in going out to check the pit every couple of minutes. I didn’t want Simon to go out because he was good at maths and we could copy off of him later. Danny went out first. He came back with a big smile on his face and told us Ethan was playing soccer with the big kids. “Great” Simon whispered, “He’s already thinking about other things.” I relaxed and finally started listening to the teacher. I waited a few minutes, so the teacher doesn’t suspect anything, and went out. It was getting chilly outside and the sun was being hidden by clouds. Winter was coming. Simon explained to us that the ants were working really hard now to build all kinds of underground tunnels and gather plenty of food for the winter. Ethan really was playing soccer and when he saw me walking past the fence he said: “What’s the matter worm, you skipping maths too?” I smiled and kept going. I got out through the hole in the fence to go check on the ants. I got to the pit but something seemed odd. The ants were rushing and running around in every direction. Even “NapNap” came in and out several times, probably to give orders to the worker ants. Maybe Ethan came past, maybe the ants felt that he wanted to do something bad to them. I didn’t know what to do. I’ll go back and talk to Simon. It started raining all of a sudden. That was not good for the ants. They were busy building their nest and I wasn’t sure they managed to build enough tunnels or gather enough food. On the way back, near the hole in the fence, a big puddle was forming. Water was coming from the school drains. The puddle was so big that water started to flow from it towards the garden, like a stream. The water was pouring into a tunnel in the sand. I started walking along the tunnel. It led me to the ants’ nest. It was in its path. The queen that set this nest up made a mistake. But it couldn’t have known. Even Simon wouldn’t have noticed it. The distance between the puddle and the pit was about the same as the distance we ran today in gym class, when we did the sprint. I had to go get Simon.

I walked into class soaking wet. The teacher turned towards me and asked me where I was. I didn’t answer and walked over to Simon. I whispered “the ants are about to drown in the rain.” We took our bags and signaled to Danny to join us. The teacher yelled: “Where do you think you’re going?” we stopped. I looked at Simon but he didn’t have anything to say. I didn’t know who was worse, the teacher or Ethan. “If you leave class now, you’re not allowed back in until the end of the year and your parents are going to be invited to school to hear about this.” OK, so the teacher was worse. Simon pointed to his watch, showing me there were only ten minutes left before class was over. We sat back down. “And I want the three of you to come to me after class” the teacher said and kept solving the equation on the board. I prayed for the remaining ten minutes till the end of class. I asked god to stop the rain and give the ants enough time to hide deep inside the pit. I drew a little map of the puddle, the tunnel and the pit. Simon said we had to block the tunnel in the sand. Bell. We ran outside without talking to the teacher. Never mind, Simon will come up with a good excuse before next class. On the way I explained to Danny what had happened. He asked if I saw “NapNap” and if she got wet or drowned in the puddle. I told him she went out for a bit but went straight back in and was probably hiding in one of the tunnels that the workers have dug out for her. It calmed him down, even though I didn’t know if that was true or not. The rain kept pouring. God didn’t listen to me. He was probably busy planning something bad to do to Ethan for what he had done to us today. We threw our bags near the hole in the fence. Danny rushed over to the pit, to see if “NapNap” was ok. I showed Simon the puddle. Water was already running in the tunnel. We shouldn’t have stayed in class. But it wasn’t too late. Simon said we should build a barrier out of sand. This way we’ll stop the water and if the water passes the barrier, we’ll build another one closer to the pit. But where we are going to bring dry sand from? “The ants were bringing grains from the woods” Simon said, “there must be some there.” We ran to the woods and between the trees we discovered a pile of sand left from the construction works they did in the garden. We each grabbed as much sand as we could hold in our hands. But by the time we got back the sand was wet from the rain and was useless. Danny found a few plastic bags and we started filling them with sand from the woods and pouring it into the tunnel. We also gathered bits of wood and large stones to build a wall. Danny, who used to help his dad fix things around the house, told us where to pour the sand and how to build the wall. We were almost finished when it started getting dark. But the rain was getting stronger still. The tunnel had already filled with water and became a small stream. We were wet and muddy. We could barely hear ourselves over the rain. Simon was shouting at Danny to go home and bring a flashlight. Danny was worried that once his parents saw him like this they wouldn’t let him come back out. But Simon said we had no choice. Danny asked that if we see “NapNap” that we would pick her up and put her in a bag so that we could later let her out and she would build a new nest. I told him that without a flashlight I’m not sure we’d be able to recognize her, so he ran home.

The water reached the wall and stopped. Simon and I jumped with joy, not paying attention to how soaking wet we actually were. Someone came running. “Danny” I called. He stopped. It wasn’t Danny. He came closer. “What Danny, worm?” Ethan looked at the wall and asked “what’s this?” if we tell him he’s going to ruin it. Actually if we don’t tell him he’s going to ruin it anyway. What should we do? “It’s a wall that’s stopping the water from reaching the ants’ nest” Simon said. Ethan looked at the wall and then back at us. “Smart, huh? You call this crappy pile of sand a wall?” a trickle of water was already starting to break through it. Simon and I quickly grabbed some sand and rocks to try and stop it, but it didn’t work. The sand was soaked and could no longer hold the water back. Ethan stood there and stared. He seemed serious all of a sudden. “I think it’s going to collapse soon” he said. “We need to build another one out of dry sand, want to help us?” Simon asked. I couldn’t believe it. Asking Ethan for help? And with trying to save an ants’ nest, no less. He’s probably going to punch Simon now. Ethan looked at me. I’ve never seen him this serious. He said “I’ll build the wall but I want you to dig tunnels so the water could go in different directions.” I stood there, staring at him. “Hey worm, what are you doing just standing there? Start digging.” I looked at Simon. It was dark but I think he was smiling. There was no time to be surprised. Maybe my spell, from the balcony, was finally working. We gave Ethan a bag and started digging tunnels. Ethan was strong and filled the bags with huge amounts of sand. Every time he emptied a bag of sand into the tunnel, he would stop, look at us, and call “oh-oh-oh” like a monkey, while thumping on his chest. Simon and I laughed. I told Simon that maybe he should help Ethan with his math tomorrow. Danny hasn’t returned yet. His mother probably stopped him from coming back out. It was really hard to see anything. When will this rain stop? We were getting tired. We could barely move, our shoes were wet and muddy and our hands were hurting from digging tunnels. But Ethan was energizing us. He became sort of a commander and kept yelling at us so we won’t stop. The wall was getting bigger and bigger. It became a small structure, with pieces of wood and rocks sticking out of it. Our tunnels were also helping in diverting some of the water in different directions. Meanwhile the first wall we built collapsed and water was slowly reaching Ethan’s wall. I looked at my watch. It was almost nine o’clock. Our parents probably rang the police by now. Maybe the cops will find us and give us a hand with the wall. Although, grownups don’t usually like ants. They think ants are yucky and tiny and that if you can accidentally step on them then they’re worthless.

Once I said to Simon that maybe we are also like little ants in a world of giants, constantly busy with trying to build our nest. Simon said that in that case, where are the giants? I told him that maybe we are so small and they are so huge that it’s just by chance that one hasn’t walked past our nest yet. He laughed.

Our tunnels helped a little bit. Water was really going in different directions, but the main tunnel was so big, that most of the water kept going straight in it. The second wall was ready. It was almost as tall as we were. Ethan found a stick, stuck a piece of paper on it and jammed it on top of the wall, like a flag. He called to the ants “that’s it, you can sleep in peace now” and came over to check our tunnels. I said to him “your wall is like the great wall of China” and he laughed even though he didn’t understand. But the water current got stronger again. We didn’t have the energy to even stand anymore. We stood quietly in the pouring rain and watched. Ethan was so quiet, I wanted to hug him. Simon looked sad. I asked him what was wrong and he said that unless the rain stopped, even Ethan’s wall will fall. We didn’t have the energy to bring more sand and even then, it probably wouldn’t have done any good. The water filled the canal. Hitting the wall and going back with more power. Like those soldiers trying to bring down the city walls with big logs. Ethan, who realized he was too quick to celebrate, started screaming at us to bring more sand but we couldn’t move. He managed to run on his own a few more times but then got tired and went to stand at the other side of the wall, to see that water wasn’t going through. I kept thinking about mom and dad who were probably worried, but I wasn’t sure what I should do anymore. “No! Shit” Ethan called. Simon and I ran to him. A trickle of water has managed to penetrate Ethan’s wall. This is the end. There were only a couple of feet separating between the wall and the nest. “We have to save NapNap” Simon yelled. “But we can’t see a thing” I told him. The water won. Ethan’s wall was now leaking. A small stream was heading straight for the nest. Ethan screamed “stinking water!” jumped into the tunnel and started kicking and splashing water everywhere. Simon and I stood next to the nest. We put our hands over the opening to try to stop the water. I held my fingers tight so the water wouldn’t go through. Water came. Our hands didn’t really help. They were too little. A stream of water got into the nest. I could imagine all the little ants running around like crazy inside their tunnels, trying to escape. Maybe a few of them stayed with “NapNap”, trying to protect her.

I saw a light in the distance. It was Danny with a torch. He was wearing dry cloths. His mom must have dressed him and then he escaped. He saw Ethan screaming and didn’t understand what was happening. He flashed the torch into the pit. Water has already gotten in. “NapNap” Danny was calling into the nest. Ethan didn’t even look at him. He was too pissed off at the water and was busy jumping in the tunnel. Danny jumped into the water-filled tunnel, searching for “NapNap”. Simon and I came closer too. Now, with Danny’s torch, we could see everything. The pit has already filled with water. I looked back at the fallen walls and the tunnels, they seemed ridiculous now. What made us think we could beat this thing? Hundreds of dead ants were floating out of the nest. Just like a real battlefield in those history programs I saw on TV. But they didn’t have a hospital to take care of the wounded. It seemed like a few of them were still alive, struggling to get away, but there was no way for us to help them. Simon pulled Danny back, away from the rising water flow. “Let’s go” he yelled “she’s dead. Come on, nothing we can do” but Danny got back in and started digging inside the pit, pulling nothing but mud and dead ants out. All those cute worker ants we’ve been following for days had turned into corpses flowing in the river that covered their pit. They were so smart and productive but they couldn’t do anything about the water. It was like an earthquake is for us. Even though we’re smart and Simon is really good in math, I’m not sure we could escape the earth breaking in two and swallowing people in. Danny started to cry. He was soaking wet again and was now going to be in trouble with his parents. I also wanted to cry. Simon sat down, holding his head between his hands. Ethan went quiet and was staring at the water, hypnotized. It was sad how someone as smart as Simon or as strong as Ethan couldn’t beat something as stupid as a stream of water. I helped Simon up and we went to get our bags.

Half way there we heard Danny “NapNap, NapNap. She’s here. I found her.” We turned around and ran back. Danny grabbed a small ant, gently, by its wings. It wasn’t necessarily “NapNap” because there could be more than one queen to a nest. But for Danny’s sake I hoped it was. Even if it wasn’t, there was no way for us to know. Simon gave him a small bag and he put the ant inside it. We all got closer to the bag. Danny shined the torch on it. “She’s moving” he called with ecstasy. It must have managed to fly a little bit, enough to save itself from drowning. Need to let it rest. Maybe it was sad because all of the little workers were now lying dead in the tunnel. “Great” Simon said “close the bag and take it home and tomorrow we’ll let it out in the sun.” “Ethan, we’re going home” Simon said “our parents must be worried.” Ethan didn’t have parents to worry about him. He could only go back to his big sister’s yelling. He was in no hurry to go home. Danny shined the flashlight on him. I thought I saw a tear running down his cheek but I’m not sure because it was raining and it could have been just a drop of rain. He walked towards Danny, looking kind of odd. He grabbed the bag out of Danny’s hand, threw it on the ground and stomped it. “NapNap” was squashed and its wings broke into pieces. “No NapNap. They’re all dead” Ethan said, as if to himself, turned around and walked off. Danny picked little NapNap body up. Took it to the pit and laid it on the flowing water. Its body was now with the rest of the ants. Now, dead and without wings, it looked just like all the others.