Aunt Panorama’s Ant-O-Rama

 

(SFX Peppy concertina music up)

Narrator: One day, way off in the green distance someplace there lived a very purposeful little old lady who stood in her daughter’s basement, and hurled jars of tomatoes at the wall.

(SFX whoosh and glass jar striking wall three times on italicized words in next line. SFX throughout where deemed appropriate)

Aunt Panorama: Where’s all the fun I’m supposed to be having? Where’s life’s rich experiences? Is this what I’ve been working for all these years? Phooey!

Narrator: So saying, she wiped some tomato from her forehead and ran away from home. She didn’t have any money so she decided to take up residence in a storm drain for awhile until things began to pick up. In time she made a little friend there in the rubble; an ant, whom she had saved from being dragged off into slavery by a gang of big red ants. She called the ant Three-Pants because he had six legs. Three-Pants became her faithful insect companion and confidant and actually came to “talk” to her in a way, which sounded a little like bacon frying in the distance.
But, one morning after a particularly severe thunderstorm, the little old lady emerged from her drain and stood for a little while looking down at the grey steaming wreckage at her feet.

Aunt Panorama: Why do I spend these long wet evenings hanging on the concrete by my fingers and toes? There must be more to freedom and adventure than this!

Narrator: So, off she walked in search of freedom and adventure. But just at that moment, Three-Pants was asleep in a crease in the sock on her left foot. He was jolted awake by her purposeful shuffle and quickly looked around for something to hang on to with his powerful jaws. Her ankle . . .
The little old lady began to leap up and down on her right foot, holding her left foot with both hands. She shrieked and hollered and bounced around in a circle for a while . . . long enough for a passing stranger to stop and admire the spectacle.

Passing Stranger: Very nice! Very lively! Here . . .this is for you! Bye!

Narrator: He produced a coin and flipped it onto the roadway. Then he walked away. The little old lady stopped hopping and stared at the coin. She dropped her right foot and took a step closer to the bright little disk.

Aunt Panorama: What’s this? Why, Three-Pants, I do believe that man was paying us for. . . . entertaining him! Here, look at this coin . . . it may be difficult for you to understand, but, apart from this one particular coin, there are millions and millions of others exactly like it, down to the tiniest groove and subtlety of feature! What do you think of that, eh? Isn’t that amazing? That’s called money!

Narrator: Well, the ant didn’t really think it was all that remarkable, being an ant and cunningly and intricately detailed himself, and exactly the same, more or less, as millions and millions of other ants, down to the tiniest groove and subtlety of feature. But he sizzled a little and nodded respectfully.
The little old lady took the coin between her thumb and forefinger and held
it at arms length . . . and as she did, a chance beam of sunlight bounced off it and, reflecting upwards, struck her square in the center of the forehead. And all at once, emblazoned upon her brain were all the capitol cities of all the world’s metropolitan peoples; the teeming jungles of stairwells, the gaspings for breath, the innumerable escalators and exit signs, stadiums and state fairgrounds telescoping into each other.
And there upon a background of industrial battlefields and roadside advertising, a vast map of hundreds of thousands of tiny points of light, each light representing a thousand paying customers, who knows, maybe more!

Aunt Panorama: Of course! Yes! Three-Pants, we must get more of these coins, and I think I just might know how!

Narrator: And the spunky little bug wiggled his antennae and nodded his hard chitinous face-plates up and down.

Aunt Panorama: Three-Pants . . . you say that you personally know millions and millions of other ants! True? Good! Here’s what I want you to do! Call as many of your little ant pals as you can and tell them to come here! Right here, where we can ‘all have a little chat! Quickly, now!

Narrator: A tiny crackle of electricity leapt between the tips of Three-Pants’ antennae and immediately, ants began pouring up out of the ground. They came in a tide and washed right up to her feet. She reacted quickly.

Aunt Panorama: Yagh! Yiiiii! Eeeek! . . .uh, thank you, my friends! I wasn’t expecting . . . so many of you all at once! Ahem . . .I’m offering you a chance to become the heroes of the insect world! Everyone of you! And let me tell you how! By combining our talents and abilities we could accomplish something really great. . . These talents and abilities are magnified many times over by the sheer vastness of the multitude of ants who are able to be here with us today! Which great multitude, with the help of my insect companion, Three-Pants and his devotion, ingenuity and brilliant organizational and managerial skills, will have the opportunity to build the most spectacular, the most wonderful, the most incredible insect variety program the world has ever seen!! What do you say! Heroes every one of you! Let’s put on a show!

Narrator: A great sizzling cheering rose from the carpet of ants that covered the ground for yards and yards in all directions

Aunt Panorama: Good! Excellent! Ah, but what shall we call ourselves? Hmm, we need something catchy . . . “Ant World”? No, that’s no good . . .”Ant Kingdom”? Nah! Wait! I’ve got it!!”

Narrator: Billions of dry little feet stopped their compulsive skittering.

Ant Panorama: We’ll be . . “AUNT PANORAMA’S ANT-O-RAMA!”

Narrator: And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the beginning of the most spectacular, the most wonderful, the most incredible insect variety show the world has ever seen! With the help of the faithful Three-Pants, Aunt Panorama, as she called herself, enlisted the aid of a truly enormous number of ants from all over the countryside!

And, later that evening, a Holiday Inn marquee began to undergo an unscheduled transformation.The words, “Congratulations, Deb and Bucky!” began to slip from their slots letter by letter, and the horizontal guidelines began to fill in with a new message: “AUNT PANORAMA’S ANT-O-RAMA!”

And shortly afterwards, there were screams and shouts and the sounds of pushed over chairs, and fifty-seven people came running out of the Rainbow Lounge, attached to the motel, followed by about a million bewildered looking ants in all different sorts of circus costumes, and Aunt Panorama, who sputtered through her false mustache. . .

Aunt Panorama: No, wait! Really, it’s OK! Come back! Just a show! Oh dear, I should have foreseen this! Not as many people have had the opportunity to become as fond of ants as I have become. Hmm . . . I know! No doubt there are booking agents in some of our larger cities who will know how to manuever us into the public eye!

Narrator: And so it happened, several days later, that Aunt Panorama took a seat across from two worldly-looking gentlemen.

Worldly Gentleman: Yeah, this “ant circus” idea of yours sounds . . .yes, interesting. But, when can we expect to see this . . .heh, heh . . . Ant-O-Rama?

Aunt Panorama: No time like the present, eh, gentlemen?

Narrator: She whistled sharply. Immediately, there was a buzzing, sizzling sound that seemed to come from under the baseboards and, without further ceremony, the room began to fill up with ants, all carrying little bundles. One of the gentlemen gave a yell and tore all the buttons off his suit, climbing on top of his desk. But in five minutes . . they were convinced.

Different Worldly Gentleman: But . . .how is this possible?

Aunt Panorama: Oh, I give them an idea or two and they take it from there!

Narrator: And did they ever! Why, there were thousands of carpenter ants putting up little canvas bigtops! Ant aerialists, ant tumblers, ant clowns with tiny red noses, ant tight-rope walkers! Ant jugglers, juggling ten crumbs at once using two pair of arms! Ferocious Ant Lions! Fat Ants! Rubber Ants! Bright Red Fire Ants swallowing fire!

Worldly Gentleman: That’s amazing! Sign here, here, here, here, and here!!

Narrator: And it wasn’t long before “Aunt Panorama’s Ant-O-Rama” was a household name and, as she had foreseen, their efforts were rewarded with a mountain of gold coins. They were on all the talk shows:

Shrieking Announcer: It’s time for “Morning Overload”! your host, Dick Riculous!

Dick: Folks, say hello to the one and only Aunt Panorama! . . . I can’t tell you what a thrill it is to have you and all your little friends on the show with us today!

Aunt Panorama: Thank you, Dick!

Dick: I couldn’t help noticing there, that you were borne in by a huge swarm of ants! Do they carry you everywhere you go, lying down like that?

Aunt Panorama: Goodness no, Dick . . . certainly not!

Dick: Well, they must by very devoted to you! Let’s talk about some of your more recent extravaganzas . . . casts of hundreds of thousands of players! How about your reconstructions of historical events . . .coronations . . .sieges . . . the . . the Siege of Stalingrad in a frozen food locker! Remarkable!”

Aunt Panorama: Thank you!”

Dick: And the naval battles! And floods! And what about your Metropolitan Earthquake Series?! Incredible! All those little ants, fleeing for their little lives, clutching tiny bundles, wearing little life preservers! And that remarkably expressive make-up! Why, it must take a very steady hand and an eentsy-beentsy brush! And how long did it take them to learn to walk on their hind legs like that?”

Aunt Panorama: Well, Gordon . . . making up a million ants for one of those wartime romance and aerial bombing of the kind that are so popular these days, you know, well, let’s see . . the whole city is constructed out of leaf-mould, twigs, cellophane, scraps of aluminum foil . . . Whole thing takes about a day.

Dick: Whuh! One day!? You mean . . . one day? You can’t be serious!

Aunt Panorama: Yes, of course! I know my ant friends to be enormously resourceful little devils and dear pals, as well as being a fine means of locomotion. They quickly learned to apply their own make-up and build their own sets!

Dick: What? You mean everything? The Taj Mahal?

Aunt Panorama: Yes, certainly!

Dick: Yankee Stadium in your version of “Pride of the Yankees: The Lou Gehrig Story”

Aunt Panorama: Of course! And today we’re working on a reconstruction of VE Day on Manhattan Island at the end of World War Two! Real happy stuff! Not so much like some of these catastrophes my sponsors and producers keep insisting! on! They say that nowadays nobody will settle for anything less that the Irish Potato Famine or the Titanic going down or something!

Dick: Well, be that as it may, Aunt P., most people think of ants as just a lot of little troublemakers; I’m like most people, I guess . . . I hate ants! I don’t mind at all seeing ’em get blown up, or machine-gunned down, or buried under molten lava! So . . . keep up the good work!

Narrator: Later, Aunt Panorama mulled over the interviewer’s remarks.

Aunt Panorama: Hmmm . . . my contract does bind us to accept subjects and themes which have been shown to appeal to the viewing public. I think it is time for a little talk. Come, Three-Pants!

Narrator: But at the studio . . .

Worldly Gentleman: Look, lady . . . you have no choice anymore! Too much money involved now! You have a responsibility to your stockholders!

Aunt Panorama: You’ll tear up that contract and write out a new one or . . . or I’ll sic my ants on you!

Worldly Gentleman: Haw, haw, haw! Yer bluffing! There are no ants in this building!

Aunt Panorama: Are you . . .sure? And even as she spoke, there came a buzzing, sizzling sound from under the baseboards!

Worldly Gentleman: OK, OK! Alright! But we’ve got other plans for you! We thought you might pull a stunt like this one. So we’ve prepared a little surprise for you! You play along . . . or we sell your contract to the government!”

Aunt Panorama: Oh, no!

Worldly Gentleman: Yeah!! Heh, heh, heh . . . You don’t think much of that do you? Hah! Your ants will be subjected to a thousand pointless experiments! You’ll be forced to bug rooms! Any resistance at all and you’ll be hunted down mercilessly! Heh, heh . . .

Narrator: Aunt Panorama sighed heavily and looked around the room . . .

Aunt Panorama: Ahh! Well, Three-Pants . . . it seems that show biz is not for us after all, little pal! Gentlemen, I am announcing my retirement from the entertainment industry as of right now!

Worldly Gentleman: Quick, Harry . . .sign that government contract!

Aunt Panorama: Too late, gentlemen!

Narrator: And immediately their trouser cuffs swelled over with angry, biting ants, which ran up their legs. Aunt Panorama and Three-Pants left them there, dancing and shrieking, and immediately boarded a steamer bound for South America . . . and were never seen or heard of again. Except that the natives now tell stories of a very purposeful little old lady, who lives deep in the rain forest and talks to the insects and other animals. They call her . . . Gramma of the Jungle!”

© Ken Raabe

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