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Honey of the Gods

by Mari Mitchell

Hannah took another sip of mead and allowed it to linger. The golden drink had a wonderful aftertaste of honey and some other flavor she couldn’t place. The bottle of locally made wine had been given to her as part of a welcoming basket when she moved into her new home. The kiss of the night air counteracted the warmth of drink, making her feel just right.

Serendipity was taking her by the hand and she was willing to follow. After six years of going to school part time, she’d just finished her degree. Her Aunt Sophie had died and left her a cottage in Mariposa, a small historical town near Yosemite. She had plans to convert the cottage into a bed and breakfast inn and hire someone, but for now, she was enjoying living on her own.

Hannah took another sip of the mead. Until that night she’d never even heard of mead and had no idea you could make wine from honey. She thought,’I’ll have to serve this to my guests.’

Her jelly glass, only half full of the golden liquid, captured a shooting star. She closed her eyes tight. I wish to be open to new experiences. Hannah took one last deep drink before she and her small dog Bella went inside.

As she rinsed the glass, she looked at the beagle and said, “We’re going to order some glasses and take a trip to the honey wine place. Hopefully the bees will be far away.”

Bella lifted her head, tipped to one side and considered the words. Her white tail expressed happiness and her eyes held love.

* * *

As Hannah filled the carafe with water, she looked out the window. A sea of saffron lilies with black cores dotted not only her back yard but beyond as well.

Bella whimpered to go out. She opened the door and the dog shot out like the devil was after her skin. Bella bounded about, jumping on the flowers, barking and snapping.

“Bella! Stop that! Come here.” She knew it was no good. Beagles have a will of their own. She’d come when the flower game was over.

As Hannah was getting out her second batch of blackberry muffins, Bella howled and bayed at the door, announcing her return to the civilized world.

“I’m coming. Hold your paws.” Hannah opened the door and Bella sauntered in pleased with herself. She was covered in yellow dust. “What the...” She scooped up the sticky dog and locked her in the bathroom.

Bella scratched at the door trying to pry it open even before Hannah turned the water on. Before Bella was done, the floor mat was soaked along with Hannah. An all too familiar hound smell filled the room. She put down an old blanket for Bella to sleep on until she was dry.

Hannah sat on the toilet, drying her freshly washed hair and looking at the miserable dog. “I should have gotten a cat.” Bella’s big brown eyes made Hannah’s heart melt again. “But then, who would I go on walks with?” The beagle wagged her tail.

Hannah and Bella went back into the kitchen. She poured a cup of coffee and pulled the muffin apart. Bella watched the muffin bits like a tennis game.

“You’re lucky I’m a soft touch.” She gave a morsel to the eager beagle who gulped it down. She finished her meal and packed up a muffin sampler with a thank-you note to give to Behr’s Beeswax Wares.

Large plastic bees bounced along the walkway. Much to her relief, no real bees appeared to be buzzing about. Bees were never Hannah’s favorite creatures. She thought of them as ’little needles with wings.”

Behr was an aged hippy but spoke like a college professor. He was more than at ease. She did her best to display a calm appearance but on the inside she was an muffled alarm ringing, Bees, bees, bees! Sting, sting, sting! Pain, pain, pain!

“The mead was wonderful. There was undercurrent of something I could not place.”

Behr nodded his fuzzy head. “That’s the sungazers. Honey will have the soupçon of whatever the bees partake of. Around here, that’s sungazers.”

“Sungazers? I never heard of them.”

“Well, you saw them. The corpulent auriferous efflorescence with the piceous propagate throughout the area. Their pollen is really sticky and for some, an irritant.”

“You can say that again.” Hannah lost most of what he had just said. “Bella declared war on the ones in our backyard. She was covered in that stuff.”

“I bet. The bees love it. It makes a great dye.” He held out his oh-so-bright T shirt.

“Don’t you get stung all the time?”

“Bees don’t go round looking for people to sting. The one you’ll see around your home is mostly looking for nectar to take home and make into honey. Bees are becoming scarce, too. There are fewer of them each year. As the bee changes, so does the world.”

“I’d no idea. How would a bee change?”

“Evolution! A change in environment, a change in diet would be an enormous factor.”

A pregnant pause lingered in the air. Hannah filled in with, “So then, you’ll come to dinner and we’ll make a deal. Mead, honey and candles. Okay?”

“I’ll work out the numbers for you and bring over a box of brochures.”

“Tomorrow, then.”

“It sounds splendid. I’ll bring the honey and mead.”

* * *

After they returned home, Hannah and Bella went for a walk of pull, sniff, wait, sniff, pull. This tried-and-true tempo had new intervals: every patch of sungazers the beagle saw she wanted to pounce.

“Stop it! You’ah big weird dog. They’re just flowers. I’m not doing another bath today.”

Bella pulled with all of her stout strength, snapping at the flowers.

Hannah was exhausted after the walk. She’d made up her mind to not put in a dog door; otherwise she’d have to hire someone to give that dog a bath several times a day when the sungazers were in bloom.

Hannah watched TV and perused recipes that would work with honey. The beagle busied itself with rawhide bone and sleepily gazed when her mistress spoke or moved.

* * *

Hannah slept in her aunt’s bed. It still felt lumpy in the wrong places. Her dreams were more vivid than they had been when she was a child. She woke with a jolt and flung her pillow across the room. In her dream, the pillow had been stuffed full of bees. She brushed the sticky dream-pollen from her body. The creepy-crawly feeling clung to her all day. Out of the corner of her eye, phantom yellow black dots darted about, haunting her.

She and Bella spent the next morning shopping for fresh ingredients and trying to make the acquaintance of vendors.

That afternoon she prepared the meal. On the dot, Behr was at her door, with canvas sacks filled with goods. The only thing brighter than his tie dye shirt was his smile. As she opened the door, a huge bouquet of sungazers was thrust in her direction.

“Thanks, Behr. They’re lovely.” She looked at the flowers with surprise. A quick thought ran through her mind. ’What does this mean?’

Bella took one look at them and snapped.

“Bad dog!” Hannah lifted the flowers high. “Come in and make yourself at home. I’m going to run these upstairs away from weird dogs.”

She placed them on top of the bureau. In the morning they’d be the first thing she saw. Regardless of Bella’s opinion, they were happy flowers that smelled of cinnamon, almonds and rain.

Hannah placed a plate of salad in front each of them. “If you put a crushed aspirin in the water, the flowers will last longer,” Behr said.

“That’s strange.”

“It must hurt to be cut.”

“I’d imagine so. I hope you’re hungry.”

“Most decidedly so.” Behr sprinkled pollen on the salad.

The dinner went well and Behr ate like his name. On his sixth biscuit, fifth piece of chicken, Behr opened a second jar of honey and poured some over his plate. “It’s like eating gold.” Both watched as sticky ribbon zigzagged across his plate.

As he licked his gooey fingers, he said, “Unlike most other sweeteners, honey contains traces of several vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants. It’s a rich source of carbohydrates. Even the ancient Egyptians kept bees.”

Hannah nodded at the end of each sentence as she watched Behr’s gusto in amazement. The urge to scratch flitted about her skin as the word bee was bantered about. Before he went home, she’d learned a great deal about bees, pollen, and wax. They’d struck a deal on promoting his bees and an excellent price on the goods.

Bella had several nibbles of table delights. Her stomach pouched out. She gave whimpers of discomfort and waddled to her pillow, not even attempting the forbidden couch. It was an evening that neither of them would forget.

* * *

Hannah woke to a metallic buzzing. Feeling heavy and congested, she thought, I don’t want a cold now. Maybe it’s a reaction to the new pollen? She reached for a tissue. Her nose felt strange as she blew the blockage free. Inside the tissue was a live glistening bee. In disgust she smashed it hard on the side table.

A shudder shivered through her as she shut and locked the windows to her room. She retched and small contents of her stomach came forth. “I’m going to install screens in all the windows today.”

She hurried downstairs knowing Bella would be ready to burst. It was too late, Bella had, but from the other end. “I knew you were overdoing it.”

The dog was dragged into its traveling crate. “At least now, if you’re sick it won’t be all over. This has got to be the worst morning.” She threw the dog a dirty look and Bella hung her head low.

After a shower, she let the dog out. “You’re lucky I love you.”

The two drove to the hardware store. Hannah spent most of the day putting up screens and Bella spent most of the day tied to a screw in the yard. The beagle made orbits trying to escape the gravity of her confinement.

At the end of the day, the two found comfort of the couch and the company of TV. The dog snuggled as Hannah dreamt of knitting a full body suit for Bella. That way she could run the backyard and not need a bath because of the sticky pollen. Now if she only knew how to knit. The idea was silly: she’d never be able to get Bella in it.

Hannah was sore from the chore but at least she knew there would be no little flying needles invading. She fell into a thick warm sleep. A lullaby hummed in her ears.

The morning light warmed the room. Hannah lay in the bed hot and tight as if she were an Egyptian mummy. A curious ticklish feeling coursed inside her. Her mouth felt as if she’d gone to the dentist. Drool dripped. The metallic buzzing was now a full symphony. She tried to sit and found she couldn’t move. Wilted sungazers sat on the bureau. How long had she slept?

Yellow black dots buzzed about. Their stingers glistening sharp. An alarm went off again in her head jabbing, ’Bees, bees, bees! Sting, sting, sting! Pain, pain, pain!

On the tip of her nose sat a fat bee. It signed with its antennae, alien multifaceted eyes stared. Every sinew wanted to run, but she couldn’t move. Her heart felt as if it grew in size pounding in the confines of her chest. From the small amount Hannah could see, her body was encased in an opaque hard substance. Wax. It was as if she’d been dipped and her body was the wick.

Bees flew about, walking on the sarcophagus of wax. One after the other landed on her chin. She tried to shut her mouth, then move her tongue, both in vain. The bees coming in had globs of sticky yellow pollen, and the ones coming out did not.

With each short breath, her fear turned to anger. ’How dare these little bastards do this to me. I did nothing to them, nothing!’ Again she tried to move. The more she tried the more she knew she was trapped. ’Come on! STING ME! I don’t care. At least then you’ll pull your insides out and you’ll DIE! Die a slow, painful death.’ She screamed inside, making no more sound than she would at the dentist’s office.

The little flying needles zigzagged about the room.

She watched other bees gather, making a living yellow-black muff. She took a breath, trying to inhale deep but her expansion was limited. A tickling feeling deep inside began as the bees, as if directed by the Kama Sutra, came in and out of the intimate orifice, dancing and buzzing in key places until the tickle grew into a warm wet glow awash with passion.

It was all too surreal. None of it could be true, but it looked real. It smelled real. It felt real. Buzz, buzz, BUZZ!

She prayed Bella would break through and get help, run to Behr just like Lassie. She prayed for gallons of boiling water to free her from her wax prison, wash away the bees, drowning the bastards. If something did not break her free, her mind would surely break free of this torture.

The large bee watched as if it knew she was now conscious of what was happening, then turned and crawled into her nose. Now Hannah understood the curious ticklish feeling and the never-ending humming. This was worse than death. Her body was not her own. Her eyes filled with glassy amber tears as she envisioned her mind a honeycomb.

In the sticky hum was a whisper, “Home.”

* * *

The downstairs was more than a shambles. Everything that could have been was investigated. Things were pushed, pulled, drooled and chewed on. Some parts of the house would never really be cleaned from the doggie leftovers. Bella did not like it, but with no way out and no one to let her out, what was she to do?

Bella went nuts while Hannah was in bed upstairs, infected by the bees. Desperately, the dog wanted to investigate all the strange sounds and peculiar scents and did her best to get past the barrier. Even more, she wanted to get out and be fed. Hannah had never stayed so long in that room.

Just as Bella had emptied the fridge, the door to the room opened and Hannah made her way down the stairs.

Bella was excited to see her, but worried too; her accomplishments of Bad Things was large, even in a dog’s mind. Her fur prickled with anticipation. All would soon be right; she would let her outside, and there’d be kibble again and...

As Hannah became closer, Bella became aware that something wasn’t right. She didn’t move right; she was stiff and deliberate. She didn’t sound right: a metallic hum deep inside. She didn’t smell right: thickly sweet, like sungazers.

Hannah was gone and Bella knew it.

* * *

Behr leaned on the counter; a well-worn hand-painted sweatshirt covered his round form. Large fall colored paper leaves adorned his store.

“We haven’t seen you in so long Hannah. You look stupendous. Just stupendous. You are, without question, luminous.”

“Thank you, Behr. How’s Bella doing?”

“Flourishing. Still... it was heteroclite behavior, her moving out.”

“As long as she’s happy. I imagine she felt betrayed. Now that I’m moving, it really is for the best.” Hannah rubbed her round beach ball belly.

“What is that lovely melody you keep humming?”

“I’m sorry I wasn’t aware I was. I don’t know, it’s just something I heard somewhere that got stuck in my head.”

“Well it’s stupendous. When’s the bundle of joy due?”

“Sometimes I think I’ll always stay this way forever. It really is wonderful, buzzing with life. I’ll take two cases of mead, three bottles of pollen and four cases of honey.”

“Are you sure you’ll have room in your car? It appears full of sungazers.”

“Silly ol’ Behr. There’s room. But how could I move anywhere without my supply of honey of the gods. And we’d miss the sungazers. I hope they make the trip all right.”

“They’re a hardy lot. I’m sure they will transfer fine. I am surprised to see yours still blooming.”

“I feed them my own special recipe. If you like, I could leave you some.”

“That would wonderful!”

“I have some in the car. If you like it, I will send you more. And I must tell you Behr, you were so right about everything. After I started eating pollen and honey, I just felt like a new person.” She corseted her bloated womb and felt it shift, “We have to be on our way.”

“Well, we miss you around here.”

“I know no matter where I go, I will always take a part of Mariposa with me.” She inhaled the scent of the sungazers as she made her way the car full to bursting with flowers. They were moving cross country with a lot of stops along the way, just like Johnny Appleseed.

Copyright © 2007 by Mari Mitchell

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