A Bee’s Life ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
Queen Lucretia XXV, the Queen of all the Bees, came into the hive dragging her enormous egg sac, a cigarette dangling from her lips.
“Where the hell is everybody?” she said with a sneer. When she spoke, her ill-fitting dentures made a whistling sound, sending a chill down the spine of all the worker bees. Her harlequin glasses were crooked from when she sat on them on the bed with her full weight. If anybody felt like laughing, they didn’t.
When she saw one of the worker bees—her own offspring—working a crossword puzzle, she bit his head off and ate it without a moment’s hesitation. Before she went into her office and slammed the door, she turned to the room at large and said, “Now let that be a lesson to everybody!”
“My goodness, she certainly is in a foul mood today!” Wallace said to Marge, the worker bee closest to him.
“She always gets that way right before she lays her eggs.”
“I’m not scared of her,” Vivian said. “She’s full of turkey doodle. Somebody’s going to drive a stake through her heart one of these days, and a lot of bees are going to be very happy.”
“And I suppose you’ll be the one driving the stake,” Wallace said.
“I’ve imagined it many times.”
“And then who will be our queen?” Carpathia asked.
“I’d make a better queen than her any day!” Vivian said. She stood up and sashayed up and down the aisle, trying her best to be queen-like. “My first official act would be to have her thrown out of the hive!”
“Be realistic,” Wallace said. “She’d raise an army and come back and re-take the hive.”
“That’s right,” Carpathia said. “Just ejecting her from the hive wouldn’t do any good. You’d also have to kill her.”
“I can’t do it alone,” Vivian said. “I’m going to need some help.”
“We’ll all help, Carpathia said.
“If she ever tries to eat my head,” Sherwood said tearfully. “I’m not going to just stand there like a statue and let her do it. I’ll put up a fight.”
Sherwood was still a little shaken over seeing the queen eat a worker bee’s head. He knew it happened all the time but had never seen it before.
“Oh, and just what do you think you’re going to do about it?” Wallace asked, turning around and facing Sherwood. “You know you’re powerless against the queen.”
“I’ll punch her in her egg sac and then when she doubles over I’ll stick a knife in her eye. When she’s howling in pain, I’ll leave the hive. I’ll fly so far away nobody will ever find me. I’ll fly to Tanzania.”
“You know that would never work,” Wallace said. “The drones would catch you, no matter where you are, and bring you back. She’d eat your head anyway and she wouldn’t do it quick either. It wouldn’t be pretty.”
“He’s right,” Carpathia said. “The queen always wins. The rest of us are puny nothings compared to her.”
“Be careful what you say,” Wallace whispered to the others. “I think Georgie is listening.”
They all turned and looked at Georgie. He seemed to be engrossed in his work but they knew he was listening to every word and would repeat it all to the queen the first chance he got. He was her pet worker bee. There were even rumors that she took him to bed with her sometimes.
“I say we kill him, too,” Sherwood said. “If we kill her, we’ll have to kill others.”
“We’re bees!” Wallace said. “Bees don’t kill other bees!”
“They do when they have to,” Sherwood said.
“Oh, he’s not going to kill anybody,” Vivian said. “He wouldn’t have the nerve to kill a maggot!”
“You think so, do you?” Sherwood said. “Maybe I’ll surprise you one day. Maybe this will be the day.”
The door to the queen’s office opened; she stepped out and stood at the front of the room, hands on hips. Everybody suddenly became very busy.
“There seems to be a lot of non-work going on here!” she screamed. “You jerk-offs need to realize I’m not blind and I’m not deaf. Just because I’m not in the room doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s going on!”
All the bees kept their eyes on their work and pretended the queen wasn’t yelling at them. Georgie was the only one who looked at her, and that was with adoration.
“Georgie!” the queen said, bringing him out of his reverie. “I want to see you in my office! Right now!”
“Yes, your majesty,” Georgie said.
He stood up, almost falling over his own wings, and ran into the queen’s office and slammed the door.
“He has always been such a toady!” Wallace said.
“She needs him to wipe her ass and she knows he’s the only one that will do it without complaining,” Sherwood said.
“Well, I’m relieved he’s out of the room,” Carpathia said. “I think I’m going to take a break and go to the little girls’ room. Want to come along, Vivian?”
“No thanks,” Vivian said. “My boyfriend’s going to call. I don’t want to be out of the room when the call comes through.”
A few minutes later Carpathia had returned from the little girls’ room and was freshening her makeup at her desk. Vivian was blatting into the phone to her boyfriend about where they were going to have dinner. Wallace was balancing his checkbook, trying to figure out exactly where he had made his latest mistake. Sherwood had taken off his shoe and sock and was picking at a scab on his foot while he whistled a happy tune. Suddenly the door to the queen’s office opened with a suck of air, and once again she was upon the worker bees like a Kansas cyclone.
“You should see yourselves!” she bellowed. “You all look like you think you’re vacationing on the Riviera. Well, I’m got a news flash for you! You’re not vacationing—but you are all really close to being on permanent vacation, if you get my drift!”
“Call you later!” Vivian said into the phone and hung up, hoping the queen hadn’t noticed she was on a personal call.
“Is there something we can do for you, Your Majesty?” Carpathia asked sweetly.
“I want all you lazy slugs to get your worthless asses into my office right now! And that means this minute! Pronto! Post-haste! Chop, chop!”
The worker bees filed into the queen’s office with a sense of foreboding. They knew something unusual had occurred. Wallace had a lump of dread in his stomach. Carpathia had gone pale and her lipstick was smeared because the queen startled her when she was putting it on.
When they were all seated around the table, the queen closed the door loudly and regarded everybody with disgust.
“Is anything wrong, Your Majesty?” Wallace asked with a nervous smile.
“Wrong? I’ll say there’s something wrong! I’ve just been going over the figures from the last month. Honey production is down twenty-five percent! This is unacceptable! I feel like firing the whole lot of you!”
“Then who would make the honey?” Sherwood asked.
“I’ve just been discussing this problem with my lieutenant, Georgie. He suggests we work longer hours with fewer days off until honey production is what it should be.”
They all looked turned their heads and looked at Georgie. He was smirking with superiority. Wallace, remembering the remark he had made earlier about bees not killing other bees, wanted to kill him.
“Now, after today I’m going to be on maternity leave,” the queen said, “for I don’t know how long. Georgie will be in command while I’m gone. He will be my eyes and ears. He has assured me he knows how to increase honey production, so I’m going to turn everything over to him. We’ll see what stuff he’s made of. If production hasn’t increased by the time I get back, there’ll be some heads eaten, of that you can be sure!”
After the meeting, the calm after the storm, the worker bees were silent and worked very diligently. Georgie was working on a new work schedule whereby days-off and vacations were to be canceled. All worker bees were going to have to come in an hour earlier in the morning and stay an hour later in the evening until honey production was up.
When the queen left for the day, the worker bees still had hours to go before their day was over. They were tired and didn’t know if they were going to be able to keep up the pace, but they knew that Georgie was watching them and would report everything to the queen, so they at least tried to give the appearance of being productive.
“Killing the queen never seemed like a better idea,” Vivian whispered to Sherwood when Georgie had stepped out for a moment.
“You can’t kill the queen,” Wallace said. “It just isn’t done.”
“Wouldn’t you kill her if you had the chance?”
“You have to be realistic. Even if we could get rid of her, we might get stuck with a queen ten times worse. I know it’s hard to imagine anybody being worse than her, but, believe me, it’s a real possibility.”
“I don’t think we should even be talking about it,” Carpathia said. “The walls have ears, you know, even with Georgie out of the room.”
“Maybe there’s another way,” Sherwood said.
“What do you mean?” Wallace asked.
“I’m going to keep wishing for her to die, praying for her to die. She deserves to die. If there’s any justice in the world, she will die. I’ve willed bees dead before!”
“Just a coincidence,” Wallace said. “They would have died anyway.”
“Die, queen! Die, queen! Die, queen! Die, queen! Die, queen!” he chanted.
“I don’t think it’ll work,” Carpathia said.
“I can certainly try,” Sherwood said. “Would anybody like to place a bet?”
Georgie took over the queen’s office, making it his own during her absence, but he kept the door open at all times so he could keep an eye on the worker bees. He was going to enjoy being boss and he hoped the queen might have some complications with laying her eggs so she’d take a much longer-than-expected maternity leave.
The afternoon progressed slowly. While the worker bees gave the impression of being immersed in their work, they all had their minds on other things. Wallace was trying to keep from watching the clock; it was only two minutes later than the last time he looked. Vivian was considering how familiar she was going to let her boyfriend, Alphonse, get on their date that night. Carpathia was thinking about her children at home by themselves; she longed to get home and make sure they were all right. Sherwood was thinking about the movies he had seen in the last few months and was arranging in his head a list of the ones he liked best.
Once, when Wallace raised his head from his work and looked at the ceiling to relieve his stiff neck, he saw two drones, looking very business-like, go into the queen’s office and close the door. In a little while, everybody in the hive heard Georgie wailing, as if in great pain.
“What the hell is going on?” Vivian asked.
“Maybe they’re arresting Georgie,” Sherwood said with a hopeful smile.
In a little while Georgie and the two drones came out of the queen’s office. The drones left and Georgie stood at the front of the room and solemnly raised his arms for quiet. When he had everybody’s attention, he began, with difficulty, to speak.
“It is my painful duty to inform all the worker bees: we have confirmed reports that the queen has died.”
There was an intake of breath as everybody absorbed the momentous news.
“It worked! It worked!” Sherwood said, but only loud enough so those closest to him could hear what he said.
“What happened to her?” Carpathia asked.
“Not long after she left the hive this afternoon,” Georgie said, “she stopped on a tree branch to rest and have a sup of water.” He stopped and lowered his head and dabbed at his eyes with a handkerchief.
“Yes?” Wallace said. “Go on.”
“A crow came along from out of nowhere and, seeing her majesty sitting on the branch, swooped in and ate her in one gobble and then flew off. There were two worker bees there who saw the whole thing. They’re being questioned by the bee police this very minute.”
“Are you sure this is not a trick?” Vivian said.
“That crow must be dead or really sick by now,” Sherwood said.
“Out of respect for our beloved queen, “Georgie said, “I’m going to shut down the hive for the rest of the day. You are all free to go, but remember to be back here tomorrow morning bright and early. We’re all going to have to work extra hard now to honor her memory.”
After Georgie had left, bent over with his grief, all the worker bees who had heard Sherwood’s boast turned and looked at him.
“Do you have some kind of magical powers?” Carpathia asked him. She had started to cry in spite of herself.
“I don’t know what you would call it,” Sherwood said, “but I definitely have something.”
“We’d better all try to stay on Sherwood’s good side,” Vivian said.
“Hey, didn’t you bees hear what the man said?” Wallace said. “We are free to go home now! Tomorrow is another day.”
“I wonder what we’ll do now for a queen?” Carpathia said.
“They’ll probably bring one in from outside,” Sherwood said. “I think that’s what usually happens in these cases.”
“They don’t need to bring anybody in,” Vivian said. “I am fully positioned to assume the throne.”
“I think you have to be born to it,” Wallace said, trying to keep from laughing.
“I have a feeling Georgie is going to initiate a coup to make himself the new queen,” Carpathia said.
“Aren’t you forgetting one little detail?” Wallace asked. “Georgie is a male bee. A male bee can’t be queen.”
“Well, anything is possible.”
“Maybe Georgie really is a woman,” Sherwood said. “I’ve always had my suspicions about him.”
When they were all outside, ready to leave the hive together, Sherwood said, “Now that the queen is dead, I’m going to take a few days off from the hive. I want to find that crow and tell him what a hero he is to all of us, even if he doesn’t know it.”
“Make sure he doesn’t eat you, too,” Wallace said.
“Not a chance,” Sherwood said and buzzed off happily.
“The queen is dead!” Vivian said, waving her handkerchief in the air as she flew away. “Long live the queen!”
All the worker bees, as they left the hive that day, felt hopeful and happy. They were sure the good feeling was going to last forever.
Copyright © 2020 by Allen Kopp