Cupcake Antics

Celeste Davidson
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“March 2, 3, 4. To the very end we will go. March 2, 3,4. You can’t stop us, oh, no, no…” I ambled along at the end of the ant brigade.

You know what they say: “The best laid plans of ants and men often go awry.” Well, at least they should. The titular character of “Cupcake Ant-ics” has quite the plan to nab a delicious chocolate flake, and it does, indeed, go considerably awry.
In our blog post a few weeks ago, "Show and Tell for Adults,” we asked you to turn this "telling" statement into a paragraph that both shows and tells: “I was scared and confused as, blindfolded, I was led through a vast space and locked into what I discovered was the frosting room of a cupcake factory."
Your first thought is to write a tale from the point of view of an ant, am I right? (It’s so obvious…) That’s exactly where this saccharine story prompt led Kalpana R., one of our elite members and a previous contest winner.
After winning our Dreamcatcher Award for another stellar piece, “An Unexamined Life,” we invited Kalpana to join our elite level. Since then, she’s taken her natural writing talent to new heights. This is evident in her latest short story, which we think is pretty brilli-ant.”

An ant’s-eye view
Instead of a bird eye’s view, where people resemble ants, we take on a tiny perspective, where humans and ordinary objects look like giants. Most of us don’t stop to think about the life of an ant we catch marching along in our house or patio. Even fewer of us venture to see them as more than pests, instead wondering about their inner lives.
Kalpana artfully deploys anthropomorphism to depict a day in the life of one small insect, Tony. In a delightful play on the idea of army ants, we first observe him dragging his feet at the back of the brigade. His annoyed tone immediately humanizes him: “What a lame way to spend an afternoon, I thought. March, march, march, blech. My legs were killing me. Dude, how about we take a break?” We quickly forget that the sore legs he’s referencing are a half inch long!

These guys were interrupting the chillness of my life—Tony-Tone’s life. Now, I had to go and be responsible and busy and what not. Man, what a drag.

This is where we experience our first insight into his deepest desires: he just wants to chill, man, and maybe have a bite or two of chocolate. Nicknamed (by himself) “Tony-Tone,” he has a low-key reputation to uphold, and that doesn’t include falling in line with the rest of the ranks. Kalpana injects a healthy dose of humor into his narrative voice, and we can easily envision his peers, and his mother, rolling their eyes when he tells them he’s too cool for school, in this case ant work.
Tony’s understanding of the world around him is shaded by what he knows. The cupcake “factory” is really a stand mixer. He describes the cup he gets trapped in as a “tent of pitch darkness.” When face to face with a human child, he explains their appearance relative to his own: “It had no antennae on its face and flat eyes that were weirdly set lower in its head. It had mandibles that were pink in color.” All of this reinforces his insectile interpretation of reality.

Sweet character development
Is Tony doomed to be an apathetic recruit forever? Thanks to Kalpana’s surprising plot twist towards the end, we have the opportunity to find out. It’s revealed that the tale we’ve read thus far is actually being narrated by Tony to a group of young ants. Once story time is over and we are dropped off into the present, it’s our chance to see how this conflict affected him, if at all.

“And all this was because I took on the initiative of leaving the platoon, okay? Rules are meant to be broken,” I said, reminiscing, as I chilled out in my familiar spot in the ant nest.

At first, it doesn’t seem like he’s changed much, as he says, “Now c’mon, let’s all take a nap. Time to chill. The concept of being busy ants is overrated.” He appears to be chiller than ever! But this sets us up for yet another unexpected turn. When danger suddenly strikes again, Tony forgoes his lazy lifestyle and jumps into action. He declares, “This was not the time for Cool Tony-Tone. I had to take care of my own.”
Character development is essential in any narrative, and it becomes clear that the cupcake factory fiasco has had a powerful internal effect on Tony. He goes from trailing at the back of the ranks to standing tall and proud at the front, commanding a platoon of his own. While he’s still Cool Tony-Tone, it looks as if he’s found his true purpose, and sense of fulfillment, in the anthill. His transformation is the frosting on the (cup)cake of this fun story.

Try this: Write a few lines inspired by the scene below. Think lemons, lemonade, swimming pools, summer! Let Kalpana be an inspiration. Any prompt can be turned into a great story with a little industriousness! Be sure to send us your paragraph so we can share our favorites next week.
Update, some of the best responses to the prompt:
Ice cold lemonade on a hot, sunny summer day. It hits the spot and clears one's mind. This time of year is beautiful to enjoy this drink. Make some for yourself and let the day pass by with peace and tranquility on the way.
— Keith
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