Most days I work in a somewhat well-lit room that triples as a guest bedroom, office, and place to put things that don’t yet have a place of their own. Recently, I’ve been working elsewhere. Where the space is less-cluttered and better-lit. And free of ants.
Subterranean, the tri-purpose room is naturally subject to become host to an ant or two, particularly when the weather changes rather abruptly, say, from mild to wet and back to mild. Over the years, “our” ants been small-to-middling, always a nuisance, often a curiosity for the pets (particularly the cats who, while entirely domesticated and indoors-only, still like to remind their jailers [read: we humans] that they can hunt, pounce, and kill like their lion-cousins do).
Recently, the downstairs ant population has appeared to be on the rise. And the size of the individual ants has been increasing, too. They’ve become bolder, as well: They’ve been spotted not just along the baseboards and electrical plates, but scaling the walls. While the humans gawked at their profusion and upward mobility, the cats at last lost interest [read: so well domesticated are they, they actually can’t pounce any more. They just like us to think they can. The multitudinous ants prove otherwise].
I called -- for the fourth time in as many weeks -- our friendly insect-control professionals. Always clean cut, these young-to-middle-aged men are diligent about their work at hand (executing pests!) and customer education. Upon their most recent visit, in fact, I learned a lovely tidbit: The ants our pest-control fellas had in their proverbial crosshairs aren’t just your run-of-the-mill sugar ants or some such related type of slick, black, creepy-crawly. Nope. These are carpenter ants, so named for their favorite source of food: Wood. Like that of which our house is constructed. And they particularly like the wall innards, which likely are wet, to boot, making our very home a savory meal indeed for our guest room’s most unwelcome guests.
The kind, fourth-call exterminator told me in no uncertain terms that I’ve been doing the right thing, calling out his company week after week, to slowly, methodically, eventually poison and smoke out every last nasty ant. On their next call, he promised (because my homework is to call every week till our ants return to their own damn hill) his company would even scout out our internal walls to ensure they’re dry. If, however, they’re hopelessly damp and thus an eternal source of carpenter-ant food, well, … Then, ma’am, you’ll find someone else to help with that bit of trouble.
I’ve been trying to maintain a sanguine attitude about our hard-working, tough-to-shake-off ants. I’ve drawn a metaphor between them and 2Bs’ work: We’re indefatigable, reaching ever higher for that great piece of writing or key relationship that guarantees our clients’ satisfaction. Editing and re-editing is much like the work of ants, too. To get a piece “just right” really is a relentless pursuit. (Pause for existential question: Is the ants’ pursuit of our wood relentless, or are we humans relentless in their extermination?)
And maybe our piece -- or, for all you writers out there, your own piece -- never will seem, at long last, “just right.” But as long as you keep honing your skills and working it, it is bound to get stronger and stronger. And that is our ongoing promise to our clients: We’re never done with a piece, project, assignment, until you say it’s just right.