M. walks the hall, head down. He’s not upset. He’s hunting. Earlier in the morning he had spied not one, not two, but three pill bugs on the tile floor near the art room. Very concerned about their chances for survival, what with all the foot traffic, he had insisted that we transport them to safety. Once outside, he attempted to place them on the leaves of a bush by the doorway. Ignoring my mention that pill bugs tend to live at ground level, he made three attempts to convince them of the wonders of high-rise living. After their third plunge, M. had decided that perhaps pill bugs weren’t canopy-dwellers after all..
Moments later, spying yet another pill bug, M. proceeded to stomp this one beyond recognition. It was a contradiction that took me by surprise. M. shrugged and continued to his kindergarten classroom.
Now, it’s mid-morning, and after blurting some “red words,” an indication that math is over for M., we’ve decided to take another walk. M. scans the floor for more pill bugs. I wonder if I should be pointing them out or warning them to flee. Suddenly he’s on his knees again. He’s spotted something interesting (and he didn’t stomp it). I peer over his shoulder to see what he’s discovered.
“Look! It’s a giant ant,” he exclaims. He picks it up off the tiles and gently places it in his other palm. “I think it’s dead,” he adds.
In his hand is a very large creature. At first it looks like a wasp to me. “Are you sure it’s dead?” I ask.
“I think so. It hasn’t moved since I picked it up.” I take a closer look. Sure enough, it is a very large ant, and it does seem very lifeless. M. is fascinated. He puts his palm up to his eye for a closer look. “I want to keep him. I love him,” he proclaims. He’s back on the move again, no longer looking at the floor. Now he can’t take his eyes off of his ant. As we get close to the office I start thinking of the other people who might appreciate a cute, dead insect. We visit the secretary and the assistant principal. I don’t really think they’ll appreciate the ant, but something about being with M. brings out the mischievous. I’m curious to see their reactions. They express interest, but we notice that they don’t really get close enough to take in the details.
Next is the workshop teacher. She seems genuinely enthralled. She takes a picture on her phone, asks lots of questions and suggests that maybe M. will be an insect scientist some day. M. asks if he could just be an ant scientist. We look up “ant scientist” on my phone and discover that indeed, M. could become a myrmecologist. This pleases M., though as a kindergartener, he still has a bit of trouble with the pronunciation. It comes out more like “mermaid,” which I inform him is not as realistic an ambition.
We continue down the hall, beyond the office. Our next stop is the science lab. The science teacher looks a bit distracted. I sense that she has a class coming any minute, but she sets down her supplies when M. rushes in. “Look! I found something!”
“Hi, M., what did you find this time?” M. is a proficient finder, and loves to share his discoveries. He hustles over and shows her his dead ant. She leans in to get a closer look, and they have a brief conversation. She suggests that we try to find a book in the library. We’re about to head that way, but M. has another idea. He looks further down the long corridor.
Nervously, I suggest that we skip the cafeteria, as some might not find his new friend so appetizing. I’m relieved when M. agrees. However, he realizes that we are close to the nurse’s office, and his eyes light up. “Can we show it to Ms. Sandri?” His eyes open wider.
“Sure,” I say, thinking that a medical background might make her another interested staff member. M. has other thoughts.
He walks through the door, holding out his precious cargo. “What do we have today, M.?”
“IT’S A BUG!” he shouts.
“Oh, no thank you,” she replies. “We don’t need any bugs in here.”
“It’s okay, it’s dead,” M. says, “But I was thinking maybe you could fix him.” M. has great confidence in our nurse. She has fixed many of M.’s scrapes and bruises this year. The nurse gives a little snort. I’m picturing her with the insect version of the defibrillator. You know, mini paddles, AA batteries. “Clear!” “Zap.” “Phew! That was close. We almost lost him.”
“I’m sorry, M. I don’t think I can help your ant at this point, but I can give you a little plastic bag to keep him in.” M. settles for the bag. He handles the disappointment stoically, and we head for the library.
On our way, we run into one of our reading specialists. (She also happens to post slices on a certain web site). She greets M., who truly has celebrity status in the halls of our building. He proudly shows her his find. Since Dawn is interested in everything, she leans in for a closer look. “Wow! That’s a really big ant, M. Where did you find him?” M. relates the tale of his discovery. Dawn peers in again. She’s a big one for observing. “Do you know the different parts of an ant?” she asks.
“Yeah, yeah,” M. says, pointing toward his silent friend. “That’s the head,” he says.
“And do you know that part?” Dawn asks, pointing toward his midsection (the ant’s, that is). M. is not sure, so Dawn helps out. “That’s called the thorax.”
“Oh, oh, I know what that part is,” M. exclaims, pointing toward the hind section. I’m about to be so impressed that M. knows the word abdomen, but I don’t have it quite right.
“What’s that called?” Dawn asks.
“That’s his booty!” M. shouts.
Dawn walks away quickly, probably trying to stifle her laugh. M. and I head into the library to look for an ant book. It might add to our anatomical vocabulary, but will undoubtedly subtracts from the comedy.