A young girl sits alone on a bench. It is a park bench you likely know well: the sides are of solid concrete, with long oak slats between, seven in total. An inscription was once etched into the wood, but the elements have left only its ghost. This matters not to our protagonist, though, for at a tender seven years she has very little interest in words.
No, she has come to our bench to be away from her mother and brother. They are swinging, mother and son, or rather, to be more precise, the son is swinging, vaulting higher and higher with each gentle push. Higher, higher, cried the son, as the mother cautiously played along. Faster, faster, cried the son, as the mother plied a fine line between adventure and safety. Well, this all became too much for our young girl who, on this particular outing, happened to be feeling especially mature.
It didn’t take her long to spot the bench and wander over, her back turned to her mother calling, Don’t wander too far. She chose to sit on the left, which was in the shade, although it would be impossible for a keen observer to dismiss that the nearness of the right side to the playground might have played some role in the young girl’s decision.
Whatever her reasons, we needn’t focus on them for too long, for she is now climbing down, on her knees and crawling beneath the bench. She looks down at the ants moving purposefully about, bent over so that her pigtails neatly caress the sand. The young girl watches intently for a while, she is caught dreaming about the underground labyrinths these marvelous ants have dug. She wishes that she were as small as an ant, so that she too could explore underground. If enjoying their nest meant that she would have to help in the ant colony, the young girl would be glad to play her role. She isn’t selfish, after all.
Suddenly the girl is startled out of her reverie: someone has sat on the bench, unaware of the young girl beneath. She gives a start but freezes before screaming, caught between the groaning wood above and the coarse sand below, which only now has begun to dig into her knees. Before the young girl can decide what to do, her mother calls out for her to get out from under the bench. Now it is the oblivious man sitting on the bench who is startled, and begins to apologize to the mother.
The young girl stands and brushes the grains of sand from her knees, which fall to the earth as an avalanche to the ants below. All we hear, though, are the admonitions of the mother, which fall on the deaf ears of the young girl like so much noise. Playtime is over for another day, and mother, son and daughter head home to share lunch.