What follows this short description is a prologue that popped into my head this morning, watching the ants scurry about my kitchen counter. There’s no actual story outlined yet, just a vague idea of a love story from a man who was once known as Ant-Head.
If you take the time to read this, please take a little more to leave a comment and let me know your thoughts. Some of this (very little admittedly) is based on real events. The teacher is real at least, though I changed her name.
Note: the image used is not my own. I found it on Google.
Ant-Head; A Love Story
“There’s always someone better off than you and someone worse off than you. So that makes you the unloved middle child of life.”
Prologue: The Origin of Ant-Head
My name is Joe Plume, but when I was thirteen years old, going on fourteen, the seventh grader name Joe Plume assumed a new identity: Ant-Head. I still remember the day it happened, sitting in Mrs Payne’s reading class, reading Where The Red Fern Grows. I don’t remember it being such a great book, but I never did. Don’t get me wrong, I had always loved reading, just not when I was forced to do it. So I only half-assedly paid attention, praying Mrs Payne didn’t call on me to read a paragraph or two, since I had no idea where the last kid would’ve left off.
My hair did a weird thing when it grew: it grew upward, not out. Ever see Beavis and Butt-Head? I hadn’t since my mother had MTV blocked by then. But my classmates had, and I apparently had hair like Beavis, only brown and not yellow. My hair was tall on that day, tall because I was in desperate need of a haircut. But my parents were too lazy to throw me in the car and take me to the barber. That cut into the precious free time they used watching TV in separate rooms of the house.
I was thin too at the time, not the plump thirty-something man I am today. This was another trait exemplified by Beavis, my apparent animated doppelgänger whom I had never seen in action. I was probably thin because I didn’t eat much. This wasn’t because we were poor, but another lazy quirk of my parents. They didn’t shop or cook much, so I was left to my own devices on most nights to eat what I could scavenge from the kitchen. Ever eat a relish sandwich? That’s two pieces of bread with nothing but relish in the middle. I used to like them with the yellow relish, the stuff with mustard already mixed in. They called it “Hotdog Relish”, but we often didn’t have hotdogs I could microwave, so I had to eat it on its own. I was the only one who ate the stuff. At least my mom always made sure she got a jar or two when she did go shopping.
I think you can judge a lot about a person based on what sitcom families they relate to. I always liked Full House. I wanted a father like Danny Tanner and the loving family that he spearheaded. My father was a huge fan of Married With Children, and the comparison of my father to Al Bundy is uncanny, reveling in his own mediocrity. I have no idea what sitcom my mom enjoyed. I think Rosanne, but I never watched that one. I knew she enjoyed masturbation jokes. The one where they caught DJ masturbating was her favorite. Mom was crass like that. If I did have friends, I would’ve been embarrassed to have them over.
But lets get back to the classroom on the fateful day in nineteen ninety-five.
I had a backpack lying next to my desk. In said backpack, was a folder. In said folder, was hundreds of pages of crudely drawn comics I had created. At that time in my life, I wanted to be comic writer slash artist. The stories were flat, the characters were weak, and the only motivation my villains had were that they were villains. As I said earlier: I loved reading. When I was thirteen, going on fourteen, I read mostly comic books. I say mostly, because teachers like Miss Payne would make us read shit like Where The Red Fern Grows.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure Where The Red Fern Grows is a good book, maybe a great one. Every now and then I’ll pick up a book I was forced to read in school, and find it much more enjoyable now that I’m reading it for myself and not for some assignment. Watership Down is among my favorites, but when I read it in my sophomore year of high-school, I hated it. But I guess that happens.
Alright, enough about books and this shit. You wanted to know about how I became known as Ant-Head. That’s the problem with being the narrator of a story about yourself. You tend to get bogged down in details and memories, one linking another in a tapestry of attention deficit.
And I’m doing it again… Sorry.
I forget how many students were in that class with me. At least twenty. Maybe more. Out of that entire class I spent the entire academic year with, I don’t think I ever counted one of them as a friend. Not one. It’s kind of sad, but i don’t feel sad about it. I was in love too. I forget which of the girls in class was the target of my affection at that time. I had a new one every week. If I learned anything from shows like Saved By The Bell, I only had to like a girl long enough for her to like me back. Then we’d kiss and stuff. Kissing seemed like fun. When we weren’t busy kissing, we’d hang out with my popular friends and their girlfriends.
Damn. I used to watch too much TV.
My head itched while I stared blankly at the words on the pages of Where The Red Fern Grows. Everyone in the class turned the page, so I turned mine in tandem to seem like I was reading too, hoping Mrs Payne didn’t catch on to my clever ruse. If the unthinkable happened and she called on me, I would have to pick up at the beginning of a random paragraph and hope it was the right one. If I was wrong, I would get laughed at, insulted by the cruel Mrs Payne, and be forced to sit silently while another picked up from the right spot, the feeling of hot embarrassment being my friend for the next few minutes. She’d be sure I was next to read after that.
I wasn’t dumb. I don’t think I was anyway. I was a C or D average student. My mother would say my low grades were because I was bored in school. I guess she shed that presumption later on. When it was time to start thinking about college, the notion was forbidden. Seemed like it would be a waste of time and money. Besides, they’d have to be bothered with driving me there maybe, and we can’t have that. I wanted to write slash draw comics, but they squashed that notion too. It was trade school for Joe Plume, son of mediocrity in motion. I can’t complain now. It had led me to a pretty fruitful life, if only a bit lonely.
But I’m way ahead of my seventh grade reading class now. Let’s be kind and rewind back to the nineties.
My head itched, so I tried to scratch it covertly. The last thing I needed was to let someone see me do something as lame as scratching an itch. When I pulled my hand away, something black fell onto the page of the book, eliciting a small click only I heard. I didn’t knock it off the page. I stared at it, wondering what it was. Then it moved, scurrying across the page and onto my desk in a panic. it was a big, black ant. Not those small ones that may have gone unnoticed. It was big, black, and noticeable.
I felt more itching in my Beavis-like hair. I scratched some more, pulling my hand out with another ant clutched between my fingers. Horrified yet fascinated by the contents of my hair during Mrs Payne’s reading class, I ran my fingers forward, letting the ants fall from my hair onto the book and my desk, unaware that I was being watched. I didn’t even hear the whispers and snickers at first.
You might be asking how this could have happened. The answer is simple yet stupid. We had our lunches outside that day. We were too old for recess, but we were allowed to have outside lunch on days the weather was nice. As the other kids ate and talked and made long-lasting friendships, I was lying on the ground, staring in the sky, no doubt day dreaming of one of my mediocre comic book creations fighting his one-dimensional villain. I must have done this unaware that ants live in the ground.
“Joe!” Mrs Payne snapped, her ugly face turning toward me. God, she was so ugly. I’ve never seen, or have seen since then, a woman with teeth of that shade of gray. “What on earth is your problem?!”
She was a huge bitch too, by the way.
All eyes were on me, and it was only now that I was fully aware of it. I looked away from that ugly mug of my reading teaching to my desk, where the ants were scattering about, their temporary home in my hair disturbed by my obtrusive fingers. I didn’t answer Mrs Payne, despite her evil glare. The answer should have been obvious. What kind of educational figure couldn’t deduce that I had a head full of ants?
“Ew!” Kelly Jacob, a one-time receiver of my secret desires, exclaimed. “Joe’s got ants in his head!”
“Ant-Head!” Mikey shouted from two rows behind her, eliciting laughter from those around him for his sentence fragment. I heard he became a gas station attendant or something, becoming unemployed when the place where he worked got bought out by Stop N’ Shop. God, I hope that’s true.
Mrs Payne sent me from her classroom to go to the bathroom. I don’t know what she hoped I’d accomplish as I left to the jubilation of my classmates. I went to the bathroom, trying like crazy in front of the bathroom sink to get the ants out of my hair. There were a lot. I didn’t bother killing them as they fell into the sink or the floor. They did nothing wrong to elicit death under my fingers. The bell rang as I was working, and my class moved on to math class on the second floor. Nobody grabbed my stuff for me. When I returned to Mrs Payne’s classroom after getting reamed by my math teacher for being late without any my materials, I found an empty room. Mrs Payne was likely on lunch, and I was grateful for that at least.
My classmates didn’t ignore my stuff completely. They had been sure to smash the ants into the pages of Where The Red Fern Grows before leaving all my stuff behind. I take that back. My math book was missing from my backpack. Someone had made off with it for no reason. My mother had to shell out thirty bucks for a new copy, which would have to be paid back from my birthday money, aging being the only paying job I had at the time. Thankfully, my comics had been untouched. It was still another year until they would be found, eliciting years worth of torment over what was labeled as “pornographic art” by the school in a letter to my parents. Yes, I loved to draw the female form in all its nude glory, and that’s what they fixated on.
Who knows where this forgotten talent would’ve taken me if not forcefully discouraged.
But I’m getting ahead of myself again. I guess the moral of this story, this prologue anyway, is that from that day forward; the rest of middle school, high-school, and even after, I had been known as Ant-Head. The story would be repeated many times, told to those who weren’t there so they could repeat as if they were. A part of Joseph Plume had died that day, giving birth to the boy would would be known as Ant-Head.
This is my story.