The directions said to sprinkle the white powder around the edges of the colony, dissolve four tablespoons in a gallon of water, use a stick to poke holes in the mound, pour in the mixture, and watch them die. Did the success of this product really depend on my watching them die? If I didn’t watch, would their lives go marching on? Did this poison function like a quantum particle, fixed in space only when observed? Was there a way I could watch to make the product more effective? Like, say, with malice? Or compassion?
I peered into the toxic crater left by my watering can. The ants scrambled in double speed before halting altogether. Some died with their mandibles tucked into their thoraxes; some with their abdomens cringed upward like middle fingers; some lying sideways like sleeping dogs. As the bodies piled up, I felt both curious about their deaths and culpable for their lives. Perhaps, by requiring this vigil, the company hoped to make me aware of the massacre at my feet so that the killing would not be blind, death not in vain. After half a minute, I had seen enough, and went to water the flowers.