‘Oh, geez, there must be a million of them.’
Frank stood at the door of the kitchen, his shoulders hunched and his face squinting with disgust. Maureen came up behind him and put her head under his arm. She whimpered at the sight of the black columns of ants pouring in and out again from the window.
‘What do we do?’ In her mind, she was fighting back the need to blame him. This time of year, the ants always came out. She stood the jam and honey in dishes of water, and kept all the condiments in the fridge. After his Christmas party last night, Frank came home and had jam on toast in an attempt to soak up some of the copious amount of alcohol he’d consumed. He left the butter, the jam jar and the lid on the bench, and now they were barely visible beneath the ants.
‘Hot water, I suppose. It’ll kill them.’
‘The bucket’s in the laundry.’
‘Are you going to walk over that lot to get it?’ Maureen pointed to the ground, where three thick lines of ants lead to a half slice of toast on the floor. The kitchen was tiny. There was no way either would get across without stepping on some ants and having them run up their legs. ‘I’m not getting bitten on my patooti again, Frank.’
‘Hey!’ Frank grabbed her and held her tight. ‘Anyone bites you on your patooti and they’ll have to answer to me.’
She knew he was trying to make light of the situation, but his morning-after breath made her cringe away, her eyes watering slightly. Letting her go, he grunted his disapproval and strode across the kitchen.
‘I’ll take care of this. Go curl your hair or pluck your legs or whatever you women do.’
First she felt a wave of guilt, but she repressed this and ran to the bedroom to dress. Whatever she did now would incur his sulking later – she might as well do something she wanted, and what she wanted was a cup of tea with her sister. She’d come back for lunch and clean up the mess he’d leave when he gave up halfway, as per usual.