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QUEEN OF THE BEES by Alex Tubbs

Today, naturally, I saved the bees.

Let me be clear – today I read that the bees are going extinct. I also read on the internet that if you put a bee in your freezer, it won’t die, it’ll just become very, very tired and then go to sleep. Then, if you warm it up a little bit, it’ll fly off without a care in the world. I hope you can see where I’m going with this.

I gathered the most beautiful lilacs and freesias, the most gorgeous orchids and begonias and zinnias; and threw them all in a pile in the back yard. Flowers of colors and hues that I couldn’t even understand, but I knew the bees could. A billion, buzzing fuzzy little bodies, whizzing through the wind, sniffing out my flowers. I took my biggest butterfly net and caught them all, waving it through the air like a flag, a flag that says yes, I am saving the bees, and I am proud. One by one I set them soundly in my kitchen freezer. I always thought that when a bee snoozed, they gave little shudders. They don’t, and I’m disappointed.

I imagine that when someone asks what happened to the bees, I’ll tell them the facts. That the bees aren’t going extinct, in fact, I have them all, and they’re safe and sound, dozing softly in my home. That, in fact, I saved them, and that they can’t die in my freezer because there’s no pollution in my freezer. Only bees. And they’ll say, wow, Cassia, you must be the queen of the bees. And I’ll reply with confidence, that yes, in fact, I am.

I want to knit them tiny blankets, but the bees are too small, so I settle for building them little mahogany beds, with snipped satin sheets and down feather pillows. As I pick up the bees and tuck them in, I say to them wow, bees, you’re living better than me. But I swallow my envy, because bees are hard workers, and I am not. I’m only a temp worker with a job to do.

I wonder what to feed the bees when I wake them up from their slumber. Do bees drink honey matcha tea? Or is grapefruit and açai berry yogurt a better breakfast for them? I realize, horridly, that I do not know how to care for bees. I am queen of the bees, but I am not mom of the bees. I wonder if their bee-mom ever fed them peanut butter sandwiches with agave nectar before going to bee-school because their bee-dad was away at bee-war, like my human-mom did. I decide, probably not, because I don’t think bees like peanut butter.

I look up how to care for bees, and I realize I’ve made a grave mistake. Bees, when nestled in tiny mahogany beds and satin sheets in the freezer will only snooze soundly and happily for so long. Then, they will die. I’m coming for you, bees! I cry out. I take them out of my freezer, one by one as fast I can, and set them on my kitchen table in the sun. I worry that the bees will hate me now. I worry that I was not democratically elected as the bee-queen, and that the bees will have a mutiny, and use their little bee-guillotine to chop off my human head. I think I am in the clear, because a bee-guillotine isn’t big enough to chop off a human head. I tie them all on strings, just to be safe.

I decide to bake the bees apology cookies for when they awaken. I use honey, oats, and a good helping of vanilla, because I only want the best for the bees. I am not good at baking, but I hope they understand the thoughtfulness of the actions and do not chop off my head.

When the bees begin to wake up, I grab the ends of all the strings. I ask them to calm down; tell them that I made cookies and I can make hot chocolate for them too if that sounds nice. But they buzz and buzz, and they start to fly at the windows. I am reluctant, because I do not think the bees understand or appreciate the kindness of my gesture, but after some persistence and well thought out rhetorical buzzing from the bees, I relent. Fine, bees, we can go outside. But I’ll have you know that I worked really hard on those cookies.

When I take the billion bees outside, they fly all around, buzzing like an orchestra that’s mainly composed of clarinets, and maybe an oboe or two. They sound happy, I think, and I consider that maybe I am a good bee-mom after all, that maybe after their bee-moms died from cancer, like my human-mom did, they needed a kind but stern maternal figure in their life. They start to fly towards the sky, and I feel lighter and lighter.

When I feel my feet lift off the ground, I start to cry. Is this the democratic process? I ask. Have you voted me in as your new bee-queen? The bees buzz and zooz, which I do not think is a word, but sounds correct. As we soar through the air towards their bee kingdom, I give my acceptance speech. Yes, I will be your queen, I say. Yes, I will serve the common bee-good for years to come. And never, I say, will I leave.

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