'I don't want to be a soldier!'
Young Alfie was born to be a soldier but he wanted nothing more than to be a honey farmer and milk the aphids that lived on the stems of plants beneath the sun. Until now, his days were spent underground dreaming of his herds of whiteflies, blackflies and greenflies. But he knew that they would soon take him to join the army.
‘Don’t you want to be a soldier or marry a princess like all the other ants?’ said the old worker.
Alfie shook his head. ‘Not at all,’ he said, ‘I wouldn’t want slaves to work for me and I would never make a soldier. No, I’m going to be a farmer.’
‘In that case,’ said the old worker, ‘You’ll need to find the best rose bushes and nurture your stock and milk them regularly!’
‘Is the honeydew as good as they say it is?’ asked Alfie softly.
The old worker laughed and nodded his head. ‘It’s better than anything you have ever tasted. It’s the sweetest thing!’
‘But how will I get the honeydew?’ asked Alfie.
‘You have to stroke the aphids back gently, with your antenna and then open your mouth to let the drips fall in. It’s as simple as that!’
Alfie closed his eyes and listened to the beat of his heart that ran all the way from his brain to his abdomen. He imagined the sun shining on his roses and his herd of aphids feeding off the sap. He could taste the sweet liquid in his mouth. He would nurture his herd and let them take shelter in his nest when times are hard.
The old worker looked worried. He knew that poor Alfie was destined for the army and looking at Alfie’s face, as he dreamed of being a farmer, saddened him.
‘I’ve heard stories,’ said Alfie to the old worker, ‘ of our relatives in faraway places called Africa and Asia, marching in their thousands, killing almost anything that gets in their way, including horses, and human babies, so they tell me!’ He clenched his little fists and said, ‘that’s not for me, I would rather die first!’
And so the day dawned and they came for poor Alfie. He stood in the back row nervously. The sergeant picked out the strongest looking ants then turned to face him.
‘I’ve been watching you, young fellow,’ he said, ‘and I have decided that you will tend to my farm instead. That is, if you don’t mind not being in the army! However, the job in hand is very similar to being a soldier. You have to protect the herd from predators! ’
Alfie opened his mouth to say something but nothing came out. So he nodded his head instead, and smiled. He saw the old worker winking at him on the other side of the nest.
‘You must keep up the good work,’ said the sergeant, ‘we’ve been farmer millions of years longer than humans. So don’t let the side down, will you?’
Young Alfie straightened his back and held his head high. He was the proudest ant in the entire nest. He shook the old worker ants hand as he passed him. Then he marched to his honey farm and to the roses above ground. He would protect the aphids from the ladybirds that try to feed off them and become the best soldier farmer they had ever seen.