I’ve been listening to Audioslave’s “Like a Stone” song on repeat over the past few weeks. My guess is the melody helps my brain reset and settle into a meditation of sorts. I am enamored by the lyrics of this song and I find myself thinking of the rabbi with dusty sandals I follow.* I also can’t get over the fact how the vocalist is sitting in a chair during the first minute of the music video, belting out those beautiful, passionate lyrics. That is incredible talent and I remain steadfastly in awe.
It was Dewday, the day before the bee’s extended hibernation. All the year’s filings were done, all the t’s crossed and i’s dotted with beetle ink. Susie’s staff and fellow bees were lining up with quilts and scarves, preparing to help warm the queen through the coming winter months. The grand harvest party was beginning and would end with hibernation. The hive was warm and glowing with hundreds of wax candles. The Bee’s Knees Dance would start later after the parade.
“Susie, aren’t you coming?” a fellow worker bee called out. Her name was Petunia. Petunia was only three weeks old and had a grin the size of a rose on her face.
“I need to finish my reports. You go on ahead,” Susie called from her typewriter, waving an antennae in greeting. “Have fun!”
Susie waited until the hive quieted, the workers all gone from their units. The band started down the hall and a pleasant buzzing began, punctuated with congratulatory speeches from their queen. It had been a good harvest.
Susie rested her head on her arms, waving her antennae in time to the music. She felt peace.
Susie walked morosely behind the queen, expecting a lecture or two at any moment. Once in awhile, the queen would make an impatient noise and Susie would fly ahead to catch up. After awhile, Susie could no longer stand the silence.
“Are you going to tell me not to work too hard anymore?” Susie guessed, feeling thirsty. “That bees need to work together? That the life of the colony is worth more than the individual? Or that when life gives you lemons, make honey?”
“Heavens, child, what have you been reading? I hate those frou frou sayings,” the Queen Bee declared, flicking her antennae disdainfully. “They’re anything but helpful. My grandmother had them embroidered on all her pillows. Made me sick. Come along now, you keep dragging behind. We’re nearly there.”
Luckily for Susie, honeybees have sturdy, waxy exoskeletons. The golf ball simply went “ping” against Susie’s forehead and bounced harmlessly away, rolling up to an unlucky ant hole. The ants spilled out of the hill, all chattering in a concerned rumble. They lined up and spelled out phrases like “Go away!” and “Scoot!” with organized fervor. Susie rubbed her forehead, feeling a slight pain but nothing serious. She rolled the white ball away from the ant village and continued home. Hopefully the golfer would find the ball later.
Susie continued her amble home, passing a Pollen Run (similar to the human Color Run), and became coated with a thin layer of yellow dust. After awhile, Susie flew up to her honeycomb window, buzzed in and collapsed next to her sleeping aphid.
“Oh, woe is me. I must have a disease unbeknownst to all bees,” Susie moaned, draping an antennae dramatically across her forehead. She sponged herself down with a clover and some dew. “To bee or not to bee, that is the question…”
Susie Bee sat in the doctor’s office, listening to the sounds of stapling papers, stamps and the general buzzing of office life. It was rhythmic and made her doze off once or twice.
“Ms. Suzanne Bee?”
“Here I buzz,” Susie spoke, setting down her Bee Happy magazine. She had been reading an especially silly article about the Queen redecorating her hive in the newest fashions.
“What seems to be the problem today, Suzanne?” the nurse asked after taking Susie’s vitals in the receiving room.
“I’m not sure. But my buzz is weak, the rhythm in my knees is kaput and my antennas drag behind me when I walk. I’m tired all the time, my appetite has plummeted. I feel sick. It’s hard to even fly.”
“Well, you don’t have a temperature and your blood pressure is fine,” the nurse announced, scratching some numbers onto a clipboard. “But let’s do some blood work to be safe and I can send them over to the lab. It’ll rule out some things. The doctor will review and call you; he’s out today on vacation. In the meantime, here’s a sick note and orders to rest and stay hydrated. If anything changes, let me know. You may just need to rest, Suzanne.”
Susie grumbled to herself on the walk home, mumbling about nurses with their degrees and feeling invalidated by the quick visit. Surely, something was wrong with her to feel so tired. Why didn’t anyone believe she was sick?
“Fore!” a voice shouted in the distance.
Surely, there was a pill waiting for her somewhere. She just needed the right diagnosis. Yes, maybe she should see another nurse, or ask to talk to the doctor directly. Or should she wait until the lab results came back?
“I said FORE, you idiot. Watch out!”
“What?” Susie muttered, breaking from her thoughts. She squinted about in the bright sunshine. “Four of what?”
And that’s when it hit her. A bright white golf ball, sailed through the air and landed– directly on Susie’s forehead.
Susie Bee lay in bed, tapping on her laptop. Susie was looking up articles on HoneyCombMD, fitting on self-diagnosis like new shoes, seeing how each fit and looked on her dainty legs.
“Maybe I have American Foolbroud bacteria,” she announced squarely, squinting at the screen. “No, that’s not it. How about Colony Collapse Disorder? That can’t be it either; I’m just one bee, aren’t I? A bent stinger? No, it’s as straight as ever and I sharpened it only yesterday. Hmm…”
Susie hummed in thought, buzzing up and down in volume. She heard a Messenger Bee tap on her door.
“Susie Bee. How DO you be?” a voice sung out merrily. “Heard you hummin’ all the way down the hall. Here’s your mail!”
Susie looked up as a stack of envelopes fluttered down from her mail slot. Her pet aphid scurried forth and brought the mail dutifully to Susie in bed.
“Honey bill…Nurse Bee Bill from the BuzzBub Hospital. Undertaker Bees are taking up another collection, I see…Oh, here’s my bill from the Cleaners…”
Susie’s head swarmed as she added up the figures quickly in her head, using her antennae to carry over the ones.
“Oh, Alfred,” Susie moaned to her pet aphid. “I’ll have to work double shifts all next month to pay these bills! How is this even possible? I just caught up on my finances and now this!”
The bee shut her laptop and sighed, sipping on some clover juice. She scratched Alfred under the chin, humming again.
“Maybe I need to buzz up the doctor after all,” Susie concluded after awhile. “My research is becoming a drone and I’m getting nowhere. Perhaps the doc can get the pep back into my step.”
Susie Bee was a busy bee. Up and down the stairs in the honeycomb castle she flew, serving the queen’s whims and wishes. As Susie Bee was responsible and hardworking, she worked diligently, ensuring the day’s work was done before sundown.
One day, Susie called into work using her buzzline phone. She pulled out a thermometer from her medicine cabinet. She used her antennae to hold the thermometer to her mouth while dialing with her free hand.
“Hello, this is Susie. I work on the 10th floor in administration and paper filing. Yes, yes I am Harold’s boss. Yes, he is a dear bee… I’m calling in sick today, I’m afraid. I think I have a fever and my knees have lost their rhythm. Yes, I’ll be sure to call the doctor. Thank you.”
Susie collapsed on her honey filled pillow. The thermometer let out a buzz, letting her know it had a reading. She pulled it out, dangling it it front of her face.
“Normal. Now isn’t that the bee’s knees…”
As a human, it’s important to know what recharges our spirits. As writers, it’s imperative to our craft. Write too long on empty and gobbledygook splats out, pouring black ooze from our fingers and drips onto our feet. The gook sticks to our legs, trapping us suddenly in our chairs. Our brains soon crawl out afterwards and slink away to find a new oasis. Our noses follow quickly, searching for roses and rain showers of bygone, blissful days. If truly dire, legs may start a feverish tap dancing number underneath your desk, greatly upsetting the carefully arranged pencils and tawdry knickknacks. Away, they demand! Away, away, away!
We’re not meant to work forever; we’re meant to live in Oz. Truly.
Don’t argue with me. Take a munchkin and move over.
There are gulpers and there are chippers in this world. I am a gulper. There are no stages, no stepping stones of graduated achievements with how I proceed. There is simply the goal and myself, whatever it may be. Everything between me and the goal must be overcome. And now, today, this very instant in fact! Definitely not tomorrow or a wishy-washy “sometime later, honey.” I will stay the course, finish strong, even if doctors and nurses hurry behind me with a crash cart and tranquilizer darts. Reality be darned!
All this I thought today during my first 10k, walking at a steady pace with my saintly husband* and tolerant Labrador. And then my Lab, during mile six, laid down in the middle of the road during a water break. She peered up at me and my so-called goals.
“Go ahead–try to move me, human,” my Labrador taunted me from the ground. “But you’re going to carry my 55lb butt back to the air conditioned car. And then I’m gonna pee all over your azaleas you just planted so lovingly…”
As an introvert and a writer, I need rest and creative refueling like I require water. Rest for introverts (at least for me) includes digging a hole in my backyard like the Russian saints of yore and camping out with some PB & J sandwiches and Gatorade. Have books, food and video games, will travel (or hunker down in this case). My formula: for every one hour of human interaction, one year of solitude will do. As you can imagine, I’m in the red but hopeful.