Tabias watched the ants crawling up the corner of the table, ignoring his teacher. He had been scolded and made to stay after school. Everyone else had left, except these ants.
Tabias had a one-half friend at school. By that, I mean a boy that would be his friend only on the days he chose. Tabias was the boy’s back up plan, but that was okay with him.
He had found his friends; they lived in his head. Together, they battled dragons and saved beautiful princesses (that had lots of candy) who were locked high in the tree. While other boys played Call of Duty, Tabias would carve his name into the said tree and climb it for the princess (the candy was a bonus, tbh.)
Those boys hardly caught a tan during the summer while Tabias traded roles in his own game from Cowboy to Indian by the time school was back in.
But today, Tabias was in trouble. His one-half friend hadn’t shown up. He was all alone, which generally wouldn’t bother him had the teacher not instructed them to pair up. So really, it was her fault.
Tabias had found himself still sitting alone after everyone else had partnered up. The teacher began writing the art project instructions on the chalkboard. She didn’t even bother to notice he was alone.
They were to paint the masks they had sculpted last week. Last week, Tabias was alone too. That was okay; he tipped his head back and carved his face. The teacher even gave him extra marks for ingenuity. He should get extra marks again, and he rolled his eyes.
Now, he didn’t turn away from the line of marching ants as he heard his father arrive. The ants climbed to where a small syrup puddle had slopped. The two adults spoke about Tabias’ behind him as if he weren’t even there.
The ants wouldn’t do that; they stayed in line, watching each other back and never questioning status, color, or name. They are following commands just as Tabias had. He had picked a partner!
For these insects, there was no man, or ant left behind. If one got stuck in the syrupy mess, others gathered and feasted on the nectar until he was free and fell back into line.
“Temerarious!” Tabias exclaimed to the ants, his bear ears twitched, and his fox tail flicked.
His father’s words broke his concentration, “Tabias, you were supposed to paint your clay mask.”
“I painted a partner instead,” Tabias replied.
“That would have been okay,” his teacher interjected, “had it not been on the wall!”
She pointed to the painted ‘partner’ stick figure (boy height) that Tabias had painted on the wall. He thought it had been a great addition to the classroom.
The stickman winked in agreement.