~~~Beneath My Soul
That soldiers might die
alongside that of ants
really did not mean too much.
Death was death.
There was no privileged hierarchy.
I suppose that since the ants
were actually alive to start with,
they should have counted
for a little something extra.
Oh, not that the soldiers were expendable.
No. I imagine I had spent a
good weeks allowance on them.
Yes, it’s true that each little action figure
had its own intrinsic value,
but since they were all made out of plastic
and came a couple hundred to a packet,
I really didn’t care when I
lost a handful now and then.
Indeed, like the beaches of Normandy
or the forests of Ardennes,
my back yard was literally sown with
the lawn-mown remnants of
little plastic army men.
I suppose you are wondering how
so many soldiers came to be lost
in these battles I waged.
Well to be honest,
more than fifty percent of those
which went missing were
due to the use of high explosives.
The remainder can likely be attributed
to my indifference.
I mean hell.
Soldiers were pretty darn cheap.
You just knew there was
a machine out there somewhere
perpetually reproducing them.
It’s almost as if the guy with
his finger on the plastic extrusion button
figured there was going to be some inherent loss,
so he just duct taped the switch
and left the war machine to
run at full tilt.
Fodder for the Fatherland.
The American soldier was almost always green.
This way you knew who the good guys were,
but in reality, they died just as easily as
any other hunk of colored plastic.
The bad guys were generally yellow to brown
or some shade in between.
I’d like to think that this choice of color
was some random selection of ink that
an early technician arbitrarily threw into the vat,
but another part of me understands that
yellow plastic equates to
something else yellow that
we were supposed to be hating at that time.
I can even remember getting
a couple of bags of plastic soldiers
where all the bad guys were red,
and I can only assume
that this was an attempt to
program and indoctrinate
us fine young patriots as to the
need to gun down and eradicate
the evil scourge of the red Chinese
and their heathen Soviet brethren.
Brain wash in full spin cycle?
Reverse Manchurian candidates?
Die! Die! Die! You commie bastards!
Unfortunately, in my full capacity as
backyard supreme being,
there was a minor programming disconnect,
‘cause I mowed everyone down equally.
For what was I if not an
equal opportunity destroyer?
Well to a mere ant, a
fire-cracker is a pretty big bang.
Oh, and a thumb amputating M80?
It’s da ‘F’ Bomb thermo nuclear
mushroom o’ doom boom boom.
But now don’t blame me.
Blame it on the South Pacific.
Blame it on the Japanese.
Blame it on Iwo Jima.
Blame it on John Wayne.
Blame it on the fact that anthills
look a lot like sandy beaches.
And I imagine those ants
looking up to this mighty being
looming there in the sky above
“Why are you doing this?
Why have you chosen we must die?”
“Now I am become death,
the destroyer of worlds.”
Now I am become Vishnu.
Now J. Robert Oppenheimer.
Now one small boy
kneeling over an ant-mound
with a glowing punk in his hand.
I am not proud.
I have regrets.
But now listen: This was war.
And in war there’s this thing called
But I mean really…
How can you expect the minute mind
of a mere insect to comprehend the
intricate cognitive gyrations of a higher life form?
Perhaps you sympathizers out there
somehow attribute a group-mind of
synapse solidarity to these lowly ants.
Perhaps you envision them
looking up in mental-mass to see
nothing but the malicious intent
of a cruel heartless child.
And perhaps you imagine the ants themselves
holding cruel dominion over
all those tiny mindless microbes
existing beneath them.
Indeed, there’s a conceivable chance
that this entire spinning globe is
under the thumb of some vast
cruel and indifferent entity of whose actions
we will never be able to comprehend.
But consider this:
That boy has grown to the
man who stands before you now.
He has matured.
He has learned regret.
Why just the other day as he was
walking down the sidewalk,
he observed an ant crossing the void
into the path of this man’s next footfall.
And though it required a conscious effort
to alter a sole’s trajectory
by a mere few inches,
this he did.
Yes. No matter our original inclination,
it would appear we have some
innate capability for compassion.
One might even say there’s hope.
©2010 Jack Hubbell