I had the pleasure of sitting down with an anteater a few weeks ago and boy did he want to get some things off his chest. He was in the midst of a hunger strike, day 44. His demands:
1. He wants more stuffed animals, if any, created in his likeness.
2. He wants more college teams, other than UC Irvine, to use anteaters as their mascot.
3. He wants chocolate covered ants FedExd to him every day for the rest of his life.
4. He wants everyone to stop staring at his nose for crying out loud.
5. He wants a name change. By doing so, he believes he will elevate his status in society.
This was one angry anteater who resented puppies, teddy bears and kitty cats because they hold a monopoly in the stuffed animal business. “Children cuddle with these soft furry toys and associate the warm feelings they derive from them to be genuine, the real deal. Truth is, puppies, teddy bears and kitty cats are filthy mongrels. And they can bite you. We anteaters are a peaceful bunch. Throw a couple of ants our way and we’ll stuff ourselves with pillows and little beans and be your buddies for as long as you want.”
As for becoming a mascot, it’s true, the University of California at Irvine calls its athletic teams Anteaters. In fact, the school’s mascot is Peter the Anteater. When I told the anteater this, he said, “Peter the Anteater is a sell-out, and he is only named Peter because it rhymes with anteater. If the university and its athletic department had any true feelings for anteaters, they would name their mascot Mr. Anteater, or perhaps Dr. Anteater, MD. You know, out of respect.”
I had no idea where this anteater was going with this, but we moved on to his third demand. And this is where it gets sick. Or at least where I get sick. Eating ants in the human world is often referred to as enjoying a delicacy. In the anteater world it is survival. By coating them with expensive chocolate and delivering them to him personally, he would be reaping reparations that should have been addressed centuries ago, enabling him to live a quality of life equal to any middle class being on the face of this earth. And all the while I’m thinking please get off your soap box already and take your grievances to the ant hill on the other side of this world.
He went on and on. I sat and listened. He touched upon the nose issue and he mentioned that he is not ashamed of his nose. He just feels that everyone focuses too much attention on it. “I have a prominent nose, some may say intellectual looking,” he said.
He was talking so much about so little and I was wondering if I was going to have enough information to write a story. Certainly he would get to the point sooner or later and I’m not just talking about the tip of his nose. Suddenly he blurted out, “I like eating ants, so what! Call me something else, something like…”
I guess we glossed over the demand about noses and dove right into the name change thing. “How about being called ant bear?” I asked.
“Ant bear, ant schmear,” he shot back. “I was thinking about changing my name to The South American Distinguished Beak Mammal, or something along those lines. It sounds more prestigious.”
To which I replied, “But you’re not indigenous to South America. Your kind hails from Central America, too.”
“Semantics, mere semantics which can be tweaked as situations call for it,” he argued.
I could see I was getting nowhere with this stubborn anteater, er, South American Distinguished Beak Mammal. So I took him to a park bench and had lunch with him. Well, I ate and he just sat there and starved, you know because of the strike. I had my salami on rye sandwich. He had his thoughts of ants and termites simmering on a stove.
He told me a joke. “Why don’t anteaters get sick?”
“I don’t know, tell me, why don’t anteaters get sick?”
“Because they are loaded with anty-bodies!”
I laughed. He made uncontrollable grunting sounds with his nose. And then he stopped short. His eyes moistened. It was at this time that I noticed a sadness deep within his soul. A state of melancholy so profound that I switched gears and wanted to empathize with him. Perhaps join him in his hunger strike and become united in solidarity with South American Distinguished Beak Mammals everywhere.
But I was enjoying my sandwich too much. And he was being ridiculous. I mean, he’s an anteater for crying out loud! Nobody cares if he eats or not. What would happen? Will the planet be overrun with zillions of ants? We’ll just make more Raid. And who knows, maybe ant farms will make a comeback in time for Christmas. Kids can throw away their PlayStations and become acquainted with this delightful toy from the past.
In the end I told him that I’ll write his story but he needs to snap out of it. I told him to go home and eat a good meal, then think long and hard about how unique he is. He devours ants, dammit! Most people are terrified of ants because they walk in dirt and eat food dropped by humans. But not anteaters! I didn’t tell him that some humans set ants on fire with magnifying glasses because I was trying to build his spirit up. I told him to get back out there, eat those ants, and be grateful that he’s not an anchovy, or something like that. He told me I’m right. He is unique. And most of all, he is very hungry. He shook my hand and was off in a heartbeat. For a colony of delicious ants awaited him back home!
Sad thing is, he must have told an anchovy, who in turn told another anchovy, who went ahead and told another anchovy what I said about anchovies. And now they’re on a full-blown hunger strike of their own.
Crazy anteater. I hope he chokes on his 2-foot tongue.
Anteater illustration by Keely Sajovie