by Johnny Masiulewicz

The zoo’s polar bear gamboled much more than usual at this particular moment. He frontpaw danced up and down the rocky abutments, worked the butt-shuffle, the polar flop, added a slight flourish to the ursine signature begging-for-treats, all to keep a firm hold on the attention of the tiny girl who watched him through the fence.

Four years old and three feet tall, Minnie Mouse sundress, sunhat, yellow plastic sandals, she clutched a naked Barbie doll in one hand, in the other a bag of chocolate and hard candy.

Mesmerized by the bear’s antics, she stood oblivious to all around her. The bear executed a front gainer with half-twist to insure this.

As if on cue, the ants entered through the toe holes of her sandals. In parallel columns they crept up her legs, some stopping to harvest sheaves of faint body hair from the enraptured child’s shins. Others dug at the dark boll of navel lint, gathered the valuable musk from dermal sweat glands.

When the girl suddenly moved to scratch at an itch unrelated to the ants’ work, the bear quickly let out a comically percussive fart to drive the distraction from the child’s mind.

The ants, after momentarily pausing during the itch, continued their work. They excavated ear wax for their honeypots, rich boogers for fertilizer, lopped off soft eyebrow fibers by the bundle.

When they had completed their harvest, the laden ants marched back down the girl’s body, toting their spoils through the toe holes and back to their nest.

A final cadre of ants retraced that path back up the girl and unobtrusively dislodged the bag of candy from her fingers. It dropped silently to the ground where a waiting phalanx carried it underground.

Minutes later the bear lumbered into his private chamber, watched the candy bag being pushed up through a crack in the floor by his six-legged partners.

He upended the contents into his left paw, deftly picked out a sourball and crushed it between his powerful jaws while they all discussed what the best time would be for the next day’s bipartisanship.

Johnny Masiulewicz is author of the poetry collections Keywords: a dada experiment (HT Press) and Professional Cemetery (Puddin’head Press) and creator of the Happy Tapir zine series. His work has appeared in a variety of literary journals, sites and anthologies including Curbside Review, The Main Street Rag, Third Wednesday, A.C. PAPA, Ash & Bones and The Alembic. A native Chicagoan, he now lives and works in St Johns, Florida.