I heard the bee for some time before I saw it, assuming the sound was a quirk of radio and wishing, like I usually do, for dials that can be more finely tweaked than a button you press which tells you the thing is on 89.7FM, damn it, no matter what you may think.
Static. Bzz. Have you tried turning it off and back on? I like analog better. Let’s not get into fixed volume.
I’ve become an NPR junkie, allasudden — is that correct? “An NPR?” I think it is because you type it as you’d say it, and while I’m sure they say that several times an hour I cannot remember which way they do it — anyhow, I have become a happy NPR junkie, soothed by world news from the calm gentle voices with a “nowhere accent” like I have by default.
I was told, recently, that I have the NPR accent. Best compliment ever. I did not point out that I also have a face for radio, because I didn’t want to ruin the moment.
So I listen to NPR a lot, and I really enjoy the weekend shows: Wait Wait and Radiolab and Snap Judgments, and the news from Lake Wobegon, all the while wondering whether Keillor’s peculiar sibilant whistle will be bad this week or not, because that’s one of those verbal tics that drives me up the damned wall. I was not a fan of Winnie-the-Pooh’s Gopher, for that same reason. And you know, for years, years I spelled it “judgements” and had to retrain myself to kick that spare E out, it’s one of those things where the neuron got baked with incorrect data, and I had to learn it all over again.
Anyway. The bee. I heard her before I saw her, listening to … something or other… on NPR, and since Josie didn’t alert to anything I assumed it was a radio problem.
(this feels like a Riley story, like it should be Riley who found the bee, the way she found possums and hamsters; Josie may be stepping into that empty space as my guardian that Riley left, which is bittersweet)
I don’t know how I noticed her, but I looked up, and distinctly saw the bee, the plump body with stripes, the black legs, the wings, bouncing between a lampshade and the energy-saving Twirly Bulb lighting the lamp.
Then I got a little scared, because I have never been stung and don’t know if I am allergic to bees, and health care is so expensive these days when you can’t even afford Obamacare, and I didn’t know what to do next. Note that I would not mind finding out the hard way if I am allergic to bee stings, if the fix for it was cheap and easily obtained.
So, of course, I turned to the internet. Turn off all the lights, my friends told me, and open a window: the bee will be attracted to light and make her way out the window. I did this thing and waited under the blankets in my bed, because I decided that the more of me that was hidden, the less could get stung by a potentially allergenic bee.
Leaving was not an option, because I wanted to see when the bee left.
A friend of mine keeps bees in England: he has a few hives, he collects honey, he has the smoker and the biohazard suit, and though he has not yet made himself a bee-beard it’s just a matter of time. It’s amusing to see him talking to his bees online (because you know bees are on Facebook) with those English idioms that never made it to America: fill your boots girls! I don’t know if he catches stray swarms. I think so.
My mother had a hive land on her head, a long time ago: she was walking Sadie the Cowardly Mammoth Dog after a few days of heavy rain, and the whole mess slid out of a tree and went whomp on her head. The bees were so startled that they didn’t even sting her, though she (and Sadie) both succumbed to a mighty panic. A nearby neighbor saw this happen and helped my mother get the bees out of her hair and shirt. The woman then helped her corral Sadie who, of course, had lit out of there at the first buzz of trouble and was trying to work the bees out of her own thick coat just down the road.
When your dog is seventy-five pounds of panic, the worst possible thing to do is add bees.
At one point I told the most hilariously unhelpfully smartassy of my friends. It went like this:
She: “I just got flirted with by a drunk guy on Hillsborough.”
Me: “There’s a bee in my bedroom. Trade you.”
Me: “How the hell did it get IN here?”
Me: “Strangely enough I get that part, captain obvious. From where?”
She: “Is from outside obvious too?”
Me: “Yes, you’re missing the how part.”
She: “New toy for Josie?”
Me: “I don’t know why I ask you things.”
The bee never reappeared, and since it was an unseasonable ninety degrees out I closed the window and went about my business. I assumed I could catch one stray bee easily, with a cup and a piece of paper or something, and then let her back outside.
The bee never showed up. I joked about this: maybe Josie ate the bee, maybe little hamster Myshka ate the bee, maybe there’s a hive in the roof. Maybe I’ll find a dead bee behind a bookcase when I move out of here and fall down laughing because at last the mystery is solved. Maybe I should get my English bee-whisperer friend to come over and coax the bee out of hiding.
I didn’t want the bee to die at any point, because I like bees, they are cute and useful, they pollinate things so we won’t starve, and have never plotted to overthrow humanity although we are always stealing their delicious honey. (And I’m back to Pooh-bear.)
That was almost two weeks ago, so you can imagine my surprise when a sluggish bee appeared out of nowhere on the bed next to me. She wasn’t flying, and she was walking slowly, jittery in a way that didn’t seem natural for a bee.
I moved slowly, because one never knows if a seemingly sluggish bee is really a secret revenge bee waiting to leap up and sting an unsuspecting hominid in the eye: do you know how many of us it takes to make all the honey you put in a cup of tea? And you don’t always finish it! I unrolled a good amount of toilet paper, to cushion the bee from my huge crushing megafauna hands, and then I captured the bee in the paper as carefully as I could.
I brought her outside and tipped her out of the paper onto a chair, where she scuttled, dazed but determined, along the plastic seat. She was still moving slowly, dragging a hind leg. Cold maybe, I thought; it’s cold indoors, for a bee used to living outside.
I took a deep breath, held it for a moment to warm all the air, and then blew gently on the bee. She scuttled a little faster, but that was all.