e r i k    l e a v i t t

Hive

 

The walls are dreaming bees. At night as the roof cools they slip out. Bees slit the ceiling above my bed and out-crawling. Someday mom and dad will sell this house. Someday the new people will split my bedside wall and bees will throb out, bees will wick the crawl space between studs and gush. There will be so many exterminators. Open up the wall and everything is bees.


*****


Brett worries about bees wherever we go. At recess he tells me killer bees are flying north from Mexico. Theyíre big as circus peanuts. He shows me with his fingers. Killer bees can sting over and over and not die like regular bees. If a swarm chases us we have to spray them with a fire extinguisher or go underwater. Bees canít go underwater. Drop one in the toilet and it strokes around in circles but canít get out. When they climb in my dadís Coke bottle he puts his thumb over the top and shakes it, and when he stops shaking the bee is dead. I donít know how long Iíd have to stay underwater if bees chased me (I can hold my breath for forty five seconds). I donít know if there would be so many of them on the top of the water that I couldnít come up without bees climbing onto me and into my mouth and stinging. Brett doesnít know either.

On the slide at the playground one stings me on the back of the leg. I skootch down and a safety pin pokes me, and when I lift up my leg a beeís underneath. This is just a regular bee. Brett says stinging kills them so he must have really wanted to sting me. He says it to make me feel better. The sting makes a goose egg while we walk home and I keep touching it because it keeps hurting. The stingerís poisoned and I bet if I could tug the stinger out the lump would go flat like an inner tube. Brett thinks so too. We stop and I feel for the stinger but I can only feel the hurt where it went in.

When we get to Brettís house his mom cuts an onion in half and tells me to hold it on my thigh and the onion will suck the stinger out. Brett says she knows about medicine. In her car she makes everyone wears their seat belts even though itís not illegal because she knew a kid who got in a crash. He was in the back seat and wasnít wearing his seat belt and he shot forward and all his teeth dug into the back of his brotherís head. The doctors had to pull out all his teeth one by one and now this kidís brother has got all false teeth even though heís just a kid. Brett says he has to leave them in a glass of water while he sleeps. I hold the onion on real tight.

In the kitchen I wait for my mom to pull up and honk the horn. Brett waits too. He thinks Iím a baby for saying this hurts so much. He says last summer a bee stung him on the face. He puffs up his cheeks to show me how it looked.


*****


The room is always bees. I see them four or five at a time on the edge of my skylight. I donít know where they get in or if they live in the walls. The walls donít sound like bees. I push my ear up to them but I donít hear anything. They come down one at a time. Bees fly slower then they should, like I could outrun them. In the movies no one ever outruns bees. Swarms fly in fishhooks shooting forward then wrapping back so bees are always in front of you. You canít get away. But I might be able to run from one bee. They sneak though. I hear it first, and when I look around to find it sometimes a beeís right next to my face. Itís worse if I donít hear them. Bees are quite when they land, and maybe land in my clothes, or in my hair and if I stand up too fast theyíll sting inside my ear. I feel things landing in my hair. My hair moves and I scrape my hands over it to maybe knock off anything crawling in there. But itís nothing. Then a beeís flying again all the way across the room. My hands are empty.


*****


Everyone thinkís Iím a baby. Matt Foley, someone tells me, does an impression of me apologizing. He wrings his hands. He looks at his knees. ďMrs Lynn, Iím really sorry. I forgot my homework.Ē He cracks my voice ďIím really, really sorry.Ē I didnít know anyone was watching me. I went up to Mrs Lynnís desk before class when everyone was still talking. I do this a lot. I try to remember the first time I forgot homework and how long Matt might have been doing this impression. I like Matt. His house is behind a golf course and at a sleepover we climbed the fence and ran around the green stealing flags and belly-crawling up to the club house. He made sure weíre quite so his parents didnít know. In his bathroom there are show towels youíre not supposed to use and guest towels that you really wipe your hand with. In the morning Matt told me Iíve used the wrong towels and that his mom is mad but it will probably be all right. She made us waffles and she acted nice but I thought she was still mad.

Sometimes when I ride my bike home from Mattís I look behind me to see if anyone is following. On the stairs to my house I say ďthereís a murderer behind meĒ and I scramble inside before his hand can close over my ankle. Every time my heart races. Every time Iím sure I made it just barely.


*****


Mom tells me to go down to the basement and get a bag of peas out of the chest freezer. The stairs to the basement are the worst. The light switch is all the way at the bottom and the kitchen light only makes it around the corner of the stairs. When I run my hand along the wall I never know if it will punch through right into the hive. Brett says two hundred bee stings could kill me. I see my hand trapped in the wall, a sleeve of bees stinging every inch of skin. I hit the switch, I get the peas. When I turn the lights off I run upstairs to get to the kitchen. I donít pretend Murderer on the basement stairs, not until Iím right at the top. Not until Iím sure I can get away.


*****


I donít think I hate school. In homeroom Patrick asks me to say hey you guys. ďNo,Ē he stops me, ďyou got to say it more retarded. Like that guy from Goonies.Ē He means the big guy, the one everyone calls a mutant. I like when people talk to me so I do it and everyone laughs. Patrick calls over Nik and Nathaniel and Matt Foley and makes me do it again. They all laugh. ďI told you guys he was retarded,Ē Patrickís laughing too hard and he can barely talk. Later Matt tells me that Patrick had a dream where I was the guy from Goonies with my face all smooshed up and my voice all dumb. When they pass me in the hall it starts all over again. In the back of the class they whisper it to each other: hey you guys.

Before recess Iím sad. Mrs Lynn asks whatís wrong and I say my mother forgot to pack my lunch. She takes me with her to the front of the class. ďErik just told me his mother forgot to pack his lunch. His mother. Children, you have to do things for yourselves. You canít expect your mothers to do everything for you.Ē As she talks she makes me stand next to her and look at the whole class. Later, when I go home, I donít say anything to my mom. I go to my room and between the screen and the window: bees.


*****


Dad propped up a ladder and looked around at the skylight, but he didnít see where bees could come in. He doesnít think theyíre living in the walls. ďNo sense in calling an exterminatorĒ he says. ďSummer means bees.Ē He brings in a can of bug spray from the garage: Ortho Hornet and Wasp Killer. Guaranteed kill. Twenty foot spray radius. When I see bees on the skylight I spray Ortho and it mists down onto my bed. I do this every night. Ortho makes a bee heavy. Its wings canít keep it up but it doesnít want to land. It spirals down to the carpet. If itís still alive I cut it in half with scissors and flush the cuts down the toilet. Iím sure to look for the stinger. Always always always.

I spray the skylight so much poison bleeds through the wall and bees just die on their own. Sometimes they die and fall into bed with me. My neck rolls onto one and it stings. This scares me; that things might be crawling over me while Iím asleep. Bees dead and curled like question marks around my bedóeverywhere my feet would go. I start awake and shake out my covers in case theyíre full of bees. I stand first on my bed then I check the ground. If there are bees, I take a blanket and sleep on the couch. There are always bees. Theyíre stinging inside the walls. The walls might be swelling with them.


******


When I am sleeping the bees are never sleeping. I wake up and the bees are never sleeping. Bees crawling over bees crawling over the inside of my walls, next to my pillow and my head. Everywhere bees. Bees in the garbageóthrow a rock and they fly around. Bees trying to land on my potato salad. I say go away but they donít listen. I wave my hands over them but they donít listen.

I pretend murder but I never pretend bees. Murderer might hit me and drag me out of the bathroom at the mall, might throw me in the trunk of his car and drive me away. In JC Pennies I hide in the middle of the clothing racks and murdererís legs walk past. If he grabs my arm I can wiggle out, I can scream and someone can help me. No one can save me from bees. They are swarm and angry and crawl in my ears and sting and everywhere is hurt where I brush them away is hurt and blood cries out of my hands. I never ever pretend bees.


*****


Bees are noise before theyíre bees. If I try hard I can make myself hear them. I listen hard and it sounds like theyíre flying, and when I turn on the lamp I canít see them. At night everything sounds like bees. Sometimes if I leave the window open bees try to fly outside and I trap them between the screen and the window. I have to wait for them to starve. They live for days. Their wings hum against the window and I always look over; I canít tell which side of the glass theyíre on. At night I canít tell trapped bees from free bees. Iím almost asleep and the buzzing wakes me. I canít let them out once theyíre trapped, even just to kill them, because theyíll be angry and I wonít be able to control them. Theyíll sting me and Iíll have let them. I put my face up to the glass and watch them crawl belly up like they were crawling over my face. I tap the glass, and if they donít buzz I tap harder.

 

next

ERIK LEAVITT is a graduate student at Columbia University studying nonfiction and holds a masters degree in poetry from Boise State University. His work has appeared in AGNI and New York Quarterly, and is forthcoming in 1913 a journal of forms.


I S S N     1 5 5 9 - 6 5 6 7