Thump. Thump. Thump thump thump thump.
“Damnit Reynolds, could you shut the hell up over there?”
“Yeah Reynolds, cut it out!”
The one called Reynolds stepped back from the glass. His hand was poised to strike again, but slowly it returned to his side.
“They aren’t doing the dance today,” he muttered to no one in particular. “Mine aren’t doing the dance today.” He sat back on his haunches.
“Stop complaining, they did it for you yesterday and the day before that,” Grimey sniped.
He lay on the couch near his glass box, but he didn’t look at the creatures inside. He was watching TV. He watched television most days, and when he wasn’t doing that he was sleeping. Grimey had been strong, when they were younger, immensely strong. He’d had solid, rippling, arms layered in a thick mat of his dense, red hair, and a chest stout as a steel drum. He’d been strong like an ox or a bull or the gorilla Reynolds had seen in a zoo in Cincinnati once. He was still far stronger than either of his brothers, but his strength was much diminished, covered in a layer of fat, chips, and energy drinks.
Reynolds twiddled his thumbs for a moment, then stood up again.
Tall Boy’s face was so close to his container his breath fogged up the glass. As usual, he clutched his little red notebook in one spiny hand. A pencil scored with bite marks was jammed behind one ear. Tall Boy’s glasses were always perched on the edge of his nose, giving the impression that he was perpetually looking down at you when you spoke to him. But he didn’t speak to anyone save his brothers these days, and they were used to it. Tall Boy took notes on the ants in his glass box habitually. He peered into the glass for hours on end, recording even the most minute detail of the tiny insects populating the box. When they ate, what they ate, where they slept, who they mated with, every aspect of their lives. Tall Boy wrote it all down in little red notebooks. The others had lost track long ago of how many of those notebooks he’d filled, the standing bet was around three hundred and ninety-seven at the moment. Tall Boy himself didn’t even know, though he’d never let on as much to his younger brothers.
“Why aren’t they dancing for me?” Reynolds whined.
He tapped on the glass again, sending the little insects scurrying away from the thud of his finger.
Tall Boy turned and looked down his nose at his little brother. “Reynolds, honey, perhaps if you watched them a little more you’d come to understand their habits. They are habitual creatures, just as we are. You can’t expect them to act at your beck and call, but you can expect them to adhere to their animalistic instincts.”
He turned back to his studies, pleased at having asserted himself as the most insightful of the trio.
“But they danced for me yesterday and they danced for me the day before,” Reynolds muttered.
“And the fucking day before that they didn’t, and we were having the same fuckin conversation we are right now, dumbass.” Grimey punched a button on the remote.
The walls of his box were murky, covered in scum. He never cleaned it, and the ants within his box were wild, uncouth creatures. He didn’t feed them often either, so they subsisted on a mixture of cannibalism and whatever Grimey happened to throw to them. He flicked off the television, rolled over onto his side.
“I’m going to sleep,” he grumbled.
His brothers didn’t respond. Tall Boy tracked one of his insects as it carried a small leaf back to its mound. He scrawled some notes down quickly, barely taking his eyes away from the glass.
There was a loud smash, the sound of breaking glass. Reynolds stood above what remained of his box, shattered on the floor.
“You fucking moron!” Grimey shot up from the couch. “What in the hell was that for? Fuckin…ants everywhere…dammit.”
He dodged the ants that swarmed across the tiled floor.
Tall Boy was angry too, and he never was angry. “Reynolds, get out of here!”
“Just get out for a minute you big oaf, and let us clean this shit up.”
The big man shuffled out the door, his head hung low. “I just wanted them to dance…”
As Grimey danced around, trying to brush off the ants crawling up his pant legs, Tall Boy got the aerosol can of insect spray from under the sink and began to spray the floor. The ants scurried around haphazardly, unable to escape. They wondered what they had done to deserve such a fate.