Asleep with Bees

Rick rolls over in the hot sheets onto a half a dozen bees. He tosses, scratching and slapping in his sleep. He wakes to a room with bees crawling over sills, bees in curtains, bees on his pillows. He listens to the hum and thinks it is louder than usual, even for a hot day. He opens his eyes and watches the bees teeming in the room. He knows them. These are the bungling insects that get into his cuffs, the ones he must watch for when he walks in a field of tufted knapweed.

He feels sick lying there among the sheets, and he realizes he has been stung, perhaps more than once. Silently, he crawls from his bed, scattering bees onto the floor, brushing away the frantic, stinging creatures. Before he is even aware of the bees gathering force, he shuffles to the door, opens and closes it behind him. He staggers downstairs. Our mother, the woman who knows there is enough danger and crisis in the world not to invent any—and who therefore has underplayed every catastrophe—drops the basket of wet laundry, scattering clean white sheets onto an unswept floor, and sweeps the boy into her arms. She does not say his face is twice its normal size, that his eyes are already nearly swollen shut, that his heart is racing so fast she can feel it under the damp cotton of his pajamas. She merely runs, calling for the truck, for any means to get him away, to get him where there is an antitoxin for his tight, rasping breath against her neck.

Dr. Verbanic is shaking his head as he returns to the waiting room. "You’ll have to keep antitoxins around. He should wear a metal bracelet that says he’s allergic." He looks at the slim woman, her thick hair prematurely gray, her pale eyes exhausted. He knows this look, common among the farm people he serves. Too much work, too many children in too short a time, and then that Catholic weakness for guilt.

"He’s going to be fine. With a few precautions, he will be in the fields again before you know it."She holds her quiet.
He tries again. "There’s no way you could have anticipated this."
She stares at him. The silence moves across the room until finally he asks, "Ruth, what is it?"
She looks up at him. "The bees live in our house."
"In your house?"
"In the walls of our house."
After a long pause, he says softly, "Then you’ll have to get rid of them." 

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