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  • Writer's pictureRosie Forster

Magnifying Glass

Updated: Nov 30, 2021

Darryl’s stepmother liked to cheer him on when he killed ants. She thought it made him like her more, but all it made him do was turn to her, say, “A step-mom is not a real mom, Jennifer,” and continue killing ants.

He did it with a magnifying glass. He made it catch the light, and turn it into heat, and he used that heat to kill ants. Jennifer didn’t really know how it worked, so she was impressed that Darryl had worked it out.

“Do you think ants have personalities?” asked Darryl. It was a still spring day. They were sitting on the sandstone steps outside Paul and Darryl’s house – our house, thought Jennifer, I am in this family now – and Darryl was cleaning the dirty magnifying glass with the corner of his Def Leppard T-shirt. The air was scented lightly with jasmine, and a neighbor’s barbeque being lit. There was a row of ants passing steadily by their feet.

“No,” said Jennifer, wondering if that was the right answer.

“No. I think they do.”

“Ok. What kinds of personalities can ants have?”

“This one,” said Darryl, focusing the glass on a single ant trotting in the cracks of the pavement, “is a thief in his ant colony.” He followed the ant with the now relatively clean magnifying glass until the heat fried him alive.

“Oh, so this is crime and punishment?” At least he was contributing to some sort of society.

Darryl ignored Jennifer, and pointed down at an ant with a broken leg, who was trying to keep up with the stream of ants strutting on the pavement. “This one,” he said, “is a lazy bum, probably on welfare.” He turned the glass on it until it stopped twitching.

“And this one,” he said, “is the worst one of all.” He pointed at a cluster of three ants walking side by side. He scraped at one of them with his fingernail, crusted with dirt (and now presumably ant abdomen). He didn’t bother using the magnifying glass.

“What did that one do?” asked Jennifer. Her heart was beating fast.

“That’s the gold digger ant. The one who latches onto other ants to take their food. And their families.”

“Darryl.”

“You’re not my mom, Jennifer.”

“Well, where’s your dad?”

“Fuck if I know.” Darryl looked at the ants as he said this.

“He didn’t tell me where he was going.”

“Me neither.”

Jennifer put her arm around Darryl. She feared for a moment that he would brush it off, but he grabbed her hand. She smiled.

Darryl then yanked on her arm with enough force to dislocate it, and because of the awkward angle of her arm around his shoulders it did dislocate, and he howled with laughter and Jennifer screamed and the ants kept streaming down the path.

“You little fucker,” she hissed, through tears. Darryl gave her the most genuine smile she had ever seen.

“I don’t know why you’re so upset,” he said, “I’ve done that to my real mom before.”

Jennifer stood up, clutching her shoulder with her other hand, and said, “No wonder she abandoned you, you snide little shit.” She smashed a few ants under her shoe, and the ants that were still alive began making a path over her foot to continue straight.

Yes, she knew the words were harsh, she knew that, but if he couldn’t take a light verbal battering, he shouldn’t be giving it out to ants and step-mothers who didn’t have the option to fight him.

“I never signed up for you,” she continued. “I signed up for Paul.”

“And where is he?” asked Darryl, not even looking at her. He had his magnifying glass back out, and was trying to pick out a new ant victim. “He doesn’t give a shit, Jennifer, I’m telling you.”

Jennifer, heaving with steadying breaths, reached out and grabbed Darryl’s magnifying glass, before smashing it against the pavement. A few shards stabbed her in the foot, but her shoe protected her. A stray shard cut Darryl’s cheek neatly.

He screamed, running his fingers over the cut, smearing what small amount of blood had appeared.

“I’m going to fucking murder you,” he managed to say, between the cries of anguish he was managing.

Jennifer understood this was bad, but there was no more magnifying glass to torture the ants with, and that was enough for now. “Clean this up,” she said to Darryl, “and do it quickly. I know you have homework you haven’t finished. And if you don’t, I will destroy your PlayMaker.”

“PlayStation,” he said, but he said it under his breath.

Jennifer called the hospital to get someone to help her with her dislocated shoulder, and while she was waiting, she scraped the dead ants off of the bottom of her shoe.

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