The Aardvark is used to being either first or last, depending on which way the teacher has them stand in line. First, usually: in the middle only when the rarest iconoclast of a substitute instructor has the 'M's line up first. I am one such substitute, and would be accorded no such respect whatsoever by neither aardvark nor zebra, except that I am an ex-convict with one gold tooth and an acoustic guitar. I promise the young ant-eating beast that it will have a turn to play as I deftly restring my instrument with fine copper wire, warp and weft, nails scratching the fret. "I know what I'll play!" the Aardvark exclaims, clapping its claws. "I will sing the jungle anthem, the roll call of animals, every species and phylum, every genus and niche, phrenological and phenomenological, ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, and you, teacher, are, it is well documented, prone to ontological improprieties. Everybody knows." The creature stood on its hind legs and executed a pirouette, then a plié. "Bravo!" I exclaimed. "You certainly know many large, fine words for a furry thing that eats ants." It blushed, demurely. The other creatures agitated. A phone rang and so frantically I glanced about the room to see the origin of the tintinnabulation of the bells. There was a large blue box labeled 'FÔN.' I beat it with my guitar until the lock busted. Splinters flew. The lid flipped open. Inside, there was an antique standing apparatus, column and tube, two twin bronze hemispheres. The Aardvark trotted over and answered it. "Yes?" he intoned. "No. Of course. Not today. Maybe later. The lady of the house is not in. I will relay your message. Good day." I recalled the lady of the house, her dentures out on the kitchen table, the dearfoam slippers, pink foam curlers, floral duster. Pink and orange daisies scattered on white. White seared my memory, an echo of the infinite, the unbroken spectrum, the ultimate in heat and light. White was simplicity, then purity, on the island England, but means mourning and death in other lands. I imagined a grand bleaching, the entire planet plaster-basted, of Paris, glazed with quiet pale. I bent down on one knee and removed a brown glass vial from my back pocket. It contained special Amazonian ants.
- Erika Mikkalo