By Audrey W.
Roy DeSoto sat on his bed at the station across from his partner John Gage’s. The younger man had skipped dinner and retreated to the dorm as soon as they’d returned from their latest response.
“Stomach still upset?”
The sickened expression on Johnny’s face didn’t change as he glanced over, then looked forward again as he answered, “I don’t think I’ve ever been so disgusted. Man, that was just unbelievable.”
Roy couldn’t help but grin slightly. Gage hadn’t told him all the details yet, and from what he had said, it sounded like it was a small incident blown out of proportion.
“What exactly happened again?”
Johnny eyed him warily. “You sure you wanna know? You may never look at a tub of water or a glass of lemonade the same again.”
“It couldn’t’ve been that bad.”
This time Gage looked at him in shock. “Not that bad? Roy! It was like nothin’ I’ve ever seen!”
“And I’ll never hear more about at this rate.”
“Okay,” he said, sitting up straighter. “You wanna know, I’ll tell ya.”
And as he explained what had made him lose his appetite, the experience replayed in his mind.
It was an unusually hot day and the squad had been dispatched to a ranch outside of the city. The home had a barn on site, along with a large shed between the two and an eleven foot high round water storage tank off in the distance that sat on top of a well. An electric pump placed six hundred feet under ground fed the water into the tank, another electric pump near the house drew the supply through the lines.
The call was for a sixty-two-year-old man whose arm was stuck in a hole in the interior wall of the shed. He’d tried to get a kitten out that’d gotten caught inside. It hadn’t taken too long to free his arm, but while Roy was making sure he was okay, Johnny was asked to please rescue the kitten.
The heat in the small non-air-conditioned building was exhausting as he worked to lure the animal out after cutting a larger hole in the same wall.
After nearly thirty minutes the job was done, Roy also helping with the kitten. They would have been on their way back to the station soon after if the man they’d just freed hadn’t injured his ankle when he stepped in a deep hole that his dog had dug in the ground near the shed.
The paramedics went to work on him again and had his wife go call for an ambulance.
By the time the victim was loaded into the ambulance, complete with an IV in his arm and a splint on his ankle, Johnny and Roy were more than ready for an escape from the sweltering heat; Roy’s time would come sooner as he was riding in with the man. Johnny, however, would have to hope the air blowing in through the open squad window would be enough.
He was just making his way to the truck after the ambulance left when he was stopped by the man’s wife. She would be heading to Rampart herself as soon as their daughter came to pick up the two grandkids, but for the moment she wanted to do her part to help out Johnny.
“You look beat.”
He swiped at the sweat on his forehead with his arm. “I’ll be glad when we get back to more normal temperatures, that’s for sure.”
She held out a glass in her hand and smiled. “Here, have some nice cold refreshing homemade lemonade before you leave. It’s the least I can do for all you did for us.”
Gage gave an apologetic smile. “Oh, well, that’s real nice of you. But I’ve gotta be goin’. I need to meet my partner at the hospital. It’s okay though; we were just doin’ our job.”
But the hurt look on her face had him take the offer and quickly gulp some down. When he pulled the glass away, he licked his lips, then smacked them together. “That’s good lemonade,” he remarked as he handed the partially empty glass back.
“You don’t want the rest?”
He shook his head. “I really need to get going.”
She sighed as he turned away, figuring he knew what was best. But just as he reached the squad, a scream from one of the kids could be heard from within the house. Johnny and the grandmother rushed inside to see what was wrong.
They found the fourteen year old girl standing near a tub full of water, her three-year old sister who she’d been bathing wrapped in a towel and in her arms; the two girls were looking at the bathtub.
“What is it?” Johnny asked, eyeing both kids. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
“In. . .in the tub!” The older girl pointed with her free hand.
The paramedic and grandmother exchanged a puzzled glance, then looked closely at the water.
“All I see are dirt specks in the water,” the woman responded. “We’ve seen that a lot the past week.”
“It’s. . .it’s not . . .just look. . .look closer,” the girl stammered.
Johnny peered closer to the water and couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“It looks like . . .body parts. Insect body parts.”
“My word, you’re right!” the grandmother exclaimed. “Why, there’s a head. . .a coupla legs. . .some wings. . .but how. . .?”
Johnny furrowed his brow. He couldn’t fathom how ant body parts could get into a bathtub of water. Until he heard . . .
“There were some of those pesky flying ants hanging around here just over a week ago. Hundreds of them. But they disappeared as quick as they showed up.”
The grandmother nodded. “We seem to get them out here every year. . .some worse than others. But they’ve never left so soon before. Usually they hang around about three weeks.”
“And you say you’ve been seeing these black specks in the water since around the same time the ants went away?”
“Yes.” Suddenly it clicked what he was saying. “Oh my Lord! You don’t suppose. . .”
“Only one way to find out.”
“Wait,” she said, stopping him from going very far. “I have filters on all my sink faucets. Maybe we can take one off and look. If there’s nothing there, we’re wrong.” And did she ever hope they were very wrong.
Johnny agreed to try it and stepped over to the bathroom sink where he carefully removed the small filter at the end of the faucet. What he saw made him blanch. There was ant body parts stacked up on one another, the filter full.
“They’re really in our water supply?” She still couldn’t believe it.
Gage knew he’d have to climb up to look inside the well storage tank. He wasn’t sure he was ready to see what he was sure was in there, but he didn’t want to make her do it.
“You have a tall ladder handy outside?”
“Yes,” she nodded. “Yes, by the barn.”
Soon he was peering into an access hole at the top, a flashlight in his hand. He’d located the hundreds of ants floating in the storage tank, just as they’d suspected; the other electric pump drawing the water out of the tank most likely chopping them up. They somehow had crawled up under the hatch and in.
And I drank the lemonade. . .
It was all he could do not to get sick at his stomach right then.
“So now you know. . .hundreds of ‘em, Roy! Hundreds. . .” Nearly gagging at the memory, he quickly swung his legs over the side of the bed and got to his feet, not missing a beat as he headed for the bathroom.
“You gonna be okay?”
“Yeah,” came a strained answer. “But it’ll be a long time before I can drink lemonade again!”
Roy stood up and looked toward the latrine, shaking his head. I guess now isn’t the time to remind him about the lemons off our tree Joanne had me bring in for him.
Thanks to Jill Hargan for the reassurance that I hadn't gone totally out in left field with this story. :o) It's been 7 years since our ant experience. We still joke about it, as gross as it was. But bottled water came in handy for quite awhile afterwards. :o)
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