Little doubt that I am under siege. Yes. There can be no doubt about it at all. Several small ants are wandering around on my front step just outside the door. Not dozens. Definitely not hundreds. There is no line back to some dark and miniature cavern. Just a few black, segmented bodies crawling in random directions. Making ostensibly unmotivated turns, like spies when their target catches a glimpse of them on the street. Bursting briefly with just a little too much artificial effort. Trying for a split second to blend back into the world that they set themselves apart from while waiting. But these ants are not spies. They are scouts.
When I am in my kitchen, thirty feet away but behind two walls and the door, these scouts know it and set up their bulbous physiques like homing beacons. In the kitchen, not that far away, I cook. Sometimes I bake, which inevitably calls for sugar. To make zucchini bread, say. Or basil lime cookies. It is possible to make some of these delicacies without sugar, I suppose. But then I would probably let them sit on the counter, waiting for the first signs of mold so that I could discard them in the garbage. So. Sugar.
Working with sugar never goes as well as one hopes it will. That is to say: perfectly. The transfer from the sugar container to the measuring cup – level, mind you, since baking is a more exact science than cooking generally – and into the mixing bowl is fraught with all manner of obstacles. During the mixing, too, it is probable that the electric mixer or the wooden spoon will throw particles away from the bowl. More! Once absorbed into the milk or egg matter or butter, the sugar becomes undetectable as a discreet substance. And when the inescapable happens…when fate takes hold of the pouring or blending process…when gravity and momentum and trajectories all conspire against the well-intentioned amateur chef…at that moment sugar, solid or liquified, lands on a surface which it was never intended to be on. At that moment – and it cannot be doubted – little black scouts thirty or so feet away all recalibrate their bodies so as to line up facing a common endpoint. I’m fairly certain they raise their posterior thirds up to help.
As quickly as I can in those moments, I swipe up the sugar with a wet sponge and thoroughly dry the area (the sponge must be rinsed and the paper towel placed in a lidded receptacle if the contamination is to be contained and the residual sweetness fully removed from the air). So far I have been swift enough. The scouts don’t seem to have made much headway. But I suspect they are learning, and that eventually this siege will become a full-blown attack. Perhaps I would do better to reckon with the mold.