Flight of the Bumblebee

By Sue Simpson

Chain Border

She sat watching the dappled light of the day disperse through the leaves of the shady oak tree. That tree had stood sentinel over her from the time when eating earthworms and dog poo seemed a perfectly reasonable thing to do. It had stood guard through her years of spotty attitudinal adolescence and mutely watched her become a woman. The garden with its spreading oak had been her sanctuary when the world became scary for as long as she could remember. And still she came to sit on the cold stone bench feeling the gnawing chill rise through her bum. This was a place to ponder and ruminate on the good and bad in the world.

There had been one of those high summer storms. The skies had released a rapid torrent of rain aggressively on the world below and then like a child in a tantrum had worn itself out and the sun shone through again. That's when she had come out to sit and smell the freshly washed garden after its recent ablution. In just those few minutes of hard rain a puddle had formed on the patio in front of her and a large bee had become trapped in the water.

Her gaze became locked on the trapped insect as it turned in frenzied circles of panic. The more it tried to rise out of the water like a phoenix from the flames the more its saturated wings and the weight of its bulbous body anchored it within the puddle. She watched mesmerised, as like a canoeist using only one side of his paddle, the bee seemed only able to turn in ever more stricken circles. Soon it had expended the last reserves of its energy and the bee lay floundering on the surface of the water.

She got up and hunted round the roots of the tree for a twig. Helping the bee survive the puddle would be her good deed for the day. Gawd knows, she thought, I make little enough impression on the world and if the best I can do this day is to save a bee's life then so be it.

Very gently she eased the blunter end of the stick beneath the bee's fat body and lifted it from the water. As she moved it across to lower it onto a dry piece of rockery, the bee fell from the twig and landed on its back on the patio. Once again she used the stick to roll the insect into an upright position, it buzzed angrily, spread its wings and attempted to take flight.

The bee's wings were leaden with dirty rainwater, they flapped uselessly, slicked together like a feather coated in oil and the skyward launch was an abysmal failure. The bee buzzed in affronted indignation and seemed to slump visibly onto the warming rock.

She sat back down and felt sorry for the bee, it looked as if it might die lying there wet and broken in the sun. She wasn't sure what healed first, whether it was his spirit or his physical condition, but soon he was ready to test his wings again.

Oddly she felt as though some bond had formed between herself and the bee and she decided that it deserved the title of 'He.' She hadn't the remotest idea how to sex bees and the insect's gender would remain ever a mystery to her, but after saving his life it would seem churlish to continue thinking of him as a mere it. He deserved her respect for allowing her the honour of making herself feel good about something. Self-respect, like dry wings was low on the ground that day.

He began to try out his newly washed wings and after a couple of seconds of angry buzzing, he was triumphantly airborne.

She watched in awed delight as she thought for the first time that a body as cumbersome as his could be carried on wings more light and dainty as the most fragile daisy petal. She bid the bee "Good day" as it flew over the wall and into next door's Eden.

Her own body was cumbersome and she felt trapped within its heavy confines. Like the bee she felt as if she was drowning. Her mind was weighed down and she floundered in the puddle of her life in ever more desperate circles.

Sitting on the cold, stone bench, feeling its coldness seeping through her body, she decided that it was time to let her mind dry in the sun, so that she too could rise and join the flight of the bumblebee.

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