Patrick Lawrence >
 

Bees

 

I hadn't touched the stuff in a week but the bottom of the table was crawling with bees. It was a moving tableau under there, Pointillism unbound. I was looking up at it from underneath. The kitchen floor is cool, constant, comforting in a world where anything can happen, the kitchen floor.

They were building something, that much was obvious, I could plainly to see it developing. Bees build their hives, I think, by regurgitating shit into neat patterns. Maybe this is not true at all, but it's the way most bugs build things, and it's the way these bees were doing it. It was a sculpture of me. a bust, but remarkably lifelike, especially for bees, which until this point I considered to be perhaps highly organized, but lacking in creativity.

This was impressive. I vowed to think about it thoroughly.

I got back up from under the table. Jim and Jerry were staring. at Me. I had to make them go home. There was too much to think about, and they were always jabbering about this and that. Jerry owned a lumber yard and thought it was terribly important. Jim didn't work, and thought it unimportant. He was still living with his dad, who bugged him every day to get a job and move out, but who never threw him out bodily. I stepped in where his father had dropped the ball and tossed his ass on my porch and locked the door. Click. Now that the two were outside I could get back to work. I went upstairs to take a bath. The water was hot immediately thanks to a great relationship with the gas company.

I nearly fell asleep, but emerged several hours later in much better shape. In the kitchen the bees were composing music by jumping in unison and rubbing their wings together. They don't make much noise, per se, in a vocal manner, but they had managed to create an interesting chorus with their wings and feet that had a peppy rhythm and a jazzy feel. I went to get a tape recorder, but when they saw it they stopped playing immediately. I tried to trick them by pretending to stop the tape while actually leaving it running, but they were a little too quick for that, smart for bees, I felt, but they were happy enough to start it up again when I turned it off for real. It was quite good. I danced with them for the rest of the afternoon. And they were very pleased.

 

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Two weeks ago I got hit on the head pretty good. I'd never been much good at baseball, but Jim and Jerry were fanatics. I could only put up with it, and them, when I'd had a little something to soften the abrasiveness of their personalities, and since I was on the sauce pretty good, that was no problem. Line drive gave it to me pretty good in the noggin and sent me to sleep for a couple minutes. I never could catch, and it was no secret, so I was comfortable blaming the two cretins who seemed bent by this action on bringing my IQ down to their level. It is very important for a man to have friends who are stupider than him. I now had to find new friends. And the bees were looking a little too bright.

I went to the gas station to find somebody who inhales fumes all day, and while stupid, the attendants weren't terribly interesting, and I discovered a terrible truth. I forget it now precisely, but it involved the fact that nobody likes people like themselves, and nobody likes people who are different than themselves. Friendships aren't based on character. They're not empirical. Unless you’re a bee.

They were busy with transcription when I got home that night from the hospital. They were writing poetry in the dust on top of the fridge. Their themes were a little plebian, and their spelling was bad, but I didn't say anything; everyone needs a hobby.

 

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My girlfriend had moved out as well. Which was fine. There wasn't any reason I could see that she should stay, I was having trouble being in conversations with her. Either I was too dumb and she was too smart, or she was too dumb and I was too smart. The lines were blurred because of my mediaction, but things weren'working. I found it kind of convenient, anyway. My mom owned the property so the rent was no problem, there was none. I was just now free to concentrate on less trivial matters. The bees were happy, too.

 

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Jim and Jerry were over again. Sick bastards. They were mucking up the whole plan. I'd been constructing a catapult in the garage which would fling me over the neighbor's house and into his pool, cushioning my fall, and inserting me in their coveted grove of flowers. Buzz buzz. They wanted to see it. I said no, of course. They had a tendency to break things, like my skull, the idiots. It made me a little nervous, them mucking around. But they were funny. Jim was pissed off at Jerry for something that happened at the store. He had been working for him part-time to appease his dad. He mis-stocked some screws, and those little things are hard to sort out. It took them working in concert an hour to sort out which ones were the 8 by 3/8 and which were the 8 by 1/4, and aside from that which ones were zinc and which were aluminum. I nearly bust a gut. Now he was skippering the big guy.

I shooed them out after giving them a glimpse of my machine. They eyed me suspiciously individually, then exchanged a look between themselves. It was nice to have them out on their asses again a minute later. I finished construction, slept comfortably waiting for the next day to begin the next day the next day.

 

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I woke up and put on a new pair of pajamas. There they were, humming in the kitchen. They had moved the table against the wall, probably because that way only one person could sit at it. I sat at it and ate toast with honey and drank a glass of juice.
I walked into the yard past the stone walk, and to the back of the garage, which was growing with tall grasses along its facing wall. I opened the creaky door and looked in on the contraption. It was hard to see it in the light, but it was revealed slowly and in minute detail as the mechanical door opened across from me. I rolled it out onto the drive. Perhaps the asphalt could use some patching.

Before firing it I sat in the bowl for a minute thinking.

 

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There had been many many bees in the kitchen that morning, and yet, I hadn't noticed them particularly. Looking back I could tell that the refrigerator had been covered with them, and when I opened the door, it had seemed to move automatically, without my help. They were flying, pushing it open for me. the juice was extremely light as hundreds of flapping wings supported it from beneath. Where did they end, I wondered. They were not in the bedroom, I was fairly certain….

 

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I pulled the handle of the release lever and went up. I could have worn goggles but did not, so I closed my eyes. And flew with my hands out front, hoping to block anything I might hit on the way. I hit the pavement in front of my house. I made it 30 yards from the neighbor’s house and even further from the nectar in their back yard. This was a set back. I had gravel in my stubble. I had hit my chin pretty hard. My hands were stinging at the time, and I'd managed to tear my pajamas. A set back. hmm.

I had a new pair in the closet, a third, and I put them on. Then pushed the machine closer to his house, and clambered back into it. This time I flew over the eves on the front and up onto his roof, hitting with less force than I'd hit the street, and making it without a lot of fuss onto the far side before climbing down the gutters. It wasn't the entrance I'd imagined, but my technical skills were somewhat impaired of late, and this would do; I was in.

 

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His garden was at the back of the yard, in full view of his sliding glass door, which I knew from experience opened onto a sunken living room in the 70s style. He was full of kitsch, my neighbor. I took a small rock and threw it clattering against the pane of the door. It bounced off with a thud on the flagstone patio. I scrounged and found a larger rock and sent it at the more likely target of an upstairs bedroom window. It took out the framed square in the lower corner. Satisfied, I turned to the business at hand. I stuffed my pockets and pants full of the buds of their roses, pansies, tulips, antheriums, nasturtiums, chrysanthemums. There might be a dog any time soon, I knew he had one, a labrador, I think.

But I stood still for a minute to take in the smell of my fingers, with the stained tips and veined sinews under the nails. I walked for the gate, lifted the latch, ignored the swish of the back door opening and my neighbor coming out in his bathrobe with a rock in his hand and a look on his face like he didn't want to understand.

 

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With the garage door shut behind me I walked back into my own house from the backyard, into the kitchen. They were re-doing the cabinets. I started emptying the petals and asters I had with me, and which I had trailed across the street. I hurled them at the bees, sending them scattering, I rubbed them into the linoleum, streaking the dull middle-class design with red.

 

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Soon after, the police came round to the back door and opened it, it was unlocked and I must have mumbled something like permission, they have to ask for it. My neighbor had snitched, the lousy bastard. I could have done without the questioning and the cuffs and the day and a half I had to spend taking care of all that shit. In the end I kept their secrets, though I hated them, the bees. They could rot in hell, because they weren't coming around my kitchen any more. When I got home, I flooded it.