Suzy bent down to examine an ant crawling along the crack in the cement. She imagined it was on a great quest. It would scurry along the rough edge of the tiny ravine, and then quickly backtrack a centimeter or two, before going forward again. The ant was alone, and she wondered where its home might be.
What was it doing, crawling along the sidewalk all by itself, no food or water in sight? Was it scouting, hoping to find something to take back to its family? Was it lost? Perhaps it got picked up on someone’s shoelace and brushed off and was looking for a way back to its home?
She had made up several stories about it, and had almost settled on a name when she heard the voice of her father calling her from the small patch of garden where he was preparing to plant some spring vegetables. She liked being outside, and she liked working with her papa. He never made her feel silly for asking questions about the simplest things.
“Papa!” she called back. “Where is this ant going? Why is it alone?”
He stood up and brushed the dirt from his jeans, laying the shovel to the side. Walking over to where she was sitting, cross-legged on the sidewalk in front of the house, he peered down at the crack and watched the ant for a brief moment.
“Well Suzy, I think he’s probably just looking for something to take back to his colony. Maybe something to eat.”
“What if he can’t find something, papa?” She asked, genuinely concerned. She glanced up and down the street and didn’t see anything that she thought an ant might want to snack on. “Where will he find food?”
Her father smiled. “Suzy,” he said, “this little guy is stronger than he looks and he has instincts. He’ll find something, don’t you worry.”
She looked up at the kind face of her papa and then back down to the ant. “I hope so,” she said, though she was not entirely convinced.
“Do you want to give him something?” asked papa. “Why don’t you run in to the pantry and bring out a pinch of sugar?”
Suzy immediately leaped up and bolted into the house. She knew where they sugar bowl was in the pantry because she would often sneak a teaspoon as a treat. Pulling open the lid, she stuck her small fingers in, took a pinch of the fine grains, and left the bowl on the counter as she ran back out to the sidewalk.
Her father was standing in the same spot, but he was talking to a neighbor who had walked over to ask him about the garden. The two men seemed oblivious to Suzy’s return, and she dropped to the ground searching the spot where she’d seen the ant before. But it was gone.
“Papa!” She cried, not caring whether she was interrupting the adults, ‘Where did it go?!”
Her father looked down. “I don’t know, Suzy. I was talking to Ray and we weren’t paying attention. Are you sure he’s missing? Look again.” He resumed his conversation.
Suzy still held the sugar in her pinched fingers, and she slowly walked up and down the stretch of sidewalk looking for the ant. It was nowhere to be found.
She let go of the sugar, sprinkling it on the grass patch next to the sidewalk and dusting the residue from her hands.
“He must have just figured out which way was home,” she thought to herself. And that thought made her happy.