Two beetles came upon a puddle of antifreeze on the shoulder of the interstate in the early morning darkness. The first beetle admired the electric green pool of liquid. It hissed and rubbed its pincers together in satisfaction, preparing for both a meal and bath.

The second beetle quivered his antennae in the air, spreading pheromones toward the first beetle in warning: to lunch on the liquid would surely cause one’s being to pass into the unknown, and turn one’s shell into an empty husk.

The first beetle hissed at the warning and began ladling the green slick into his mandible.

The second beetle waited, sure that the first beetle’s death would come at any moment. A sedan roared by. Then another. And another. Soon, the first morning commuters began passing by in clumps, yet nothing happened.

The first beetle, having eaten his fill, burped, clacked his mandibles together, and proceeded to wet his entire body with the liquid, coating himself nearly to the brim of his shell. When satisfied, he chortled at the second beetle for his caution, and then retreated beneath a nearby crack in the median, where he soon fell into a deep, hissing slumber.

Now convinced, the second beetle hunched at the edge of the puddle and began shoveling the antifreeze into his own beak. It tasted sweet. But just as he was beginning to warm, all eight right wheels of a wandering juggernaut hauling car parts crushed the second beetle’s shell, sending his being into the unknown.


About the Author: Ross McMeekin’s fiction has appeared online or is forthcoming in publications such as Tin House, Shenandoah, PANK, Hobart, and Green Mountains Review. His essays have appeared in The Rumpus and Hunger Mountain. He received a MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and edits the literary journal Spartan.

Story Song: "Underground" by Tom Waits