It’s a beautiful day, the sun is high and is shining in a cloudless sky, cicadas are singing and the flowers are gathering every bit of sunlight to grow their precious pollen — which is then collected by the diligent work of bees.
Summer is at full swing and all hives vibe in a constant buzz.
In the middle of this green and yellow country there is a road. It’s as black and long as a road can be. Small puddles display a mirage in every inch of damaged surface of the road, but they disappear when the eye gets a closer look: an inexorable optical illusion, a trick to make the soul thirsty.
An old van appears on the state highway. An ’88 Chevrolet muscle car with a roaring V8 engine and stain-glassed windows.
As most people work long hours and are deprived of fresh air on their skin, such a road trip is a pleasant change in the daily routine. This van is a great example of how people can experience the joy of the warm summer wind slipping through the open windows.
What’s more delightful than letting the hair fly wild, feeling the summer vibe tickle the nostrils, letting the smooth warmth of the air distill in the bottom of the mouth while swallowing the never-ending miles? The mountains separate from the ocean and the radio plays some sweet Kid Koala’s tunes.
The artist lets his blues go, plays on his record deck, scratches a few notes while keeping the original vibe intact. His music feels like honey to travellers’ ears, it’s a pure delight for their synapses on a journey.
Undoubtedly the Chevy comes from the mountains and steers towards the coastline of the ocean.
The registration plate and the surfboards on the rooftop leave the first impression that the van runs down the road that’s shaped almost exactly like the pacific swells.
This is when Yvette shows up.
Yvette is a twenty-one days old bee. Of course she is not aware of this fact, being a bee, although her Curriculum Vitae would scare any headhunter.
Leaving her larva state and being one of the so many Cinderellas, she dedicates her life to form and clean the hive at its darkest corners.
At the age of five-and-a-half days she is already working her fair share albeit being rather lazy. When the opportunity shows up, Yvette gets promoted to a nurse. And for the following ten days, she has to meet the thousands of larva and provide them nicely prepared meals everyday. Oh she wasn’t the only one to feed Her Majesty’s infants, but this was still a hard time for her. The white larva repelled the Queen badly. She gets disgusted by this clumsy, viscous and grumpy living flesh.
At thirteen days old, Yvette becomes a builder. The hive is growing and the bees are asking for more honeycombs. She likes her new profession as she enjoys working with her tiny legs and mandibles. Moreover, the wax flowing out of her mouth leaves a delicious aftertaste. This task is mixed with some ventilation sessions, and those breaks, although not as restful as one would wish for, make the work colourful, the work that Yvette is yet to find monotonous.
The day before her twenty-first day´s birthday, Yvette is on the edge. Finally her dream will come true: she will turn into a forager, an adventurer who discovers the wild.
This perfect summer day, plenty of cars pass by while Yvette is about to scour the fields of fresh pollen on the other side. She doesn’t care about the engine noise because she never had to. Pollen always looks tastier on the neighbour’s field, therefore she works up the courage and takes off to the air – staggering and struggling, but still trying. “Poc!”, she crashes into the window of the Chevrolet, unable to comprehend what trapped her.
Weak as she is, the young forager falls asleep exhausted.
In the old van there’s a joyful shout and arms wave out of the windows. Between the two sand dunes the ocean’s perfect waves appear. A happy couple drives the van towards the beach. Bill and Belle are young, they are lucky and they know it: right in front of them, the ocean offers everything they could want on this perfect sunny day.
Once parked, Bill jumps in his board shorts, slips in a thin lycra top and runs towards the line-up with the surfboard under his arm. Belle takes her time, she sets the camp: a little bit of shadow for when the sun hits at its strongest. She makes a well-deserved apéritif after having done so many miles. For her, surfing can wait. It’s not like the swell will fade away tomorrow. No, it’s gonna be there, and will stay perfect for the next few days.
Their old dog, Virgule is named after the way his tail bounces around: virgule is French for “comma”. He should have left the van for some time now.
Bill is getting tired, filled with good vibes of the many barrels, and after an hour surfing he leaves the water. The dog is still missing.
Bill finds him in the van, sitting as still as a stick, not moving one hair. At the tip of his snout, making the dog squints his two big eyes, there’s a little bee resting, her legs full of golden pollen: Yvette.
Snatched and sucked up by the open window, she found herself stuck inside the van and for many hours. She had tried to escape restless, then, exhausted, the poor thing fell asleep on the bed. Curious and then thoughtful towards this poor little creature, Virgule took her on his nose, providing her with a little bit of warmth and comfort.
Belle starts laughing, pulls her smartphone out and takes a picture of the canine posing as a statue, bee onboard, as he doesn’t dare to move one bit of hair that might disturb his new friend. Bill takes Yvette, and Virgule follows as he doesn’t want to lose sight of every move of his master.
The bee is still alive, they give her some sweetened water. Yvette is weak but can still move her legs and her little wings. Few minutes later, recovering her strength, Yvette feels good enough to start eating the pollen from her legs. She swallows it with a surprising appetite considering the fact that she was half on her way to dying minutes ago.
Virgule stays silent and stars at the bee so hard that one’s afraid his eyes would pop out. The bee mesmerises the big animal. Yvette is not impressed, not for one second. So far she is resting. What is surrounding her doesn’t seems hostile, she feels it in the atmosphere. Everything is peaceful and quiet. She falls asleep. Bill holds her from the tip of the fingers. Every single move is watched by their pet. He puts her by the the dashboard, in a little box, padded with a piece of cloth that Belle had found some time ago.
The evening is becoming dark, Bill lights up the fire after some struggles with his old Swedish lighter. The first flames start crackling in the night, loving whispers echo under the stars and between the sand dunes, the moon shines in a beautiful crescent.
Sweet and soft licks on the belly. Virgule, the good lil’ dog that he is, got into his head that Yvette would love it. Since the masters are occupied elsewhere and are not paying any attention to him, the beast starts cuddling his beauty, with his snout and wet kisses.
Yvette doesn’t mind or storm out in a huff. It’s not the bee’s first rodeo. Once, still a nurse, an other pink and wet tongue had provided her with some fantastic kisses, and believe it when it says that it was a whole different level of intensity. A wolf wanted the honey inside the hive, and without a fear of stings (since it was a cold winter day and that there had been a fire in the wood earlier in the day), it went on to slurp the honey oozing out of the hive. Yvette was in the first line of defence to keep Her Majesty’s larvas safe, and found herself, before she even knew, enjoying an unknown carnal pleasure. Yet, she didn’t wish to repeat the experience and had kept herself out of wolves’ company ever since.
Virgule being particularly smooth and dedicated at this moment, Yvette relaxes, lounges, enjoys it and falls asleep, carried by this new sensual delight, exquisite feeling as it is.
Waking up at dawn, Yvette feels nervous. She knows that she has to work. Her internal clock is shifted. She feels guilty for having too much of sleep those last two days. She frantically shakes her legs and races her wings in a humming that recalls a teen showing off with his moped in front of high school. So well that Virgule, old dawg supposedly used to any kind of disturbance while being asleep, opens an eye. He drops a heavy sigh, stretches a leg, assume that his second eye does not need to open and falls back in a deep sleep. The “parents” are still kipping without any need to rush yet.
Yvette dusts off, leaves her box, all her feelers point to the East – this kind of things a bee never forgets.
500 meters later she finally reaches the end of the sand dunes and finds herself in front of a redwood forest. The bee makes a lot of foraging breaks, trying to gain strength every time she can to suck some pollen out of flowers on her path. She likes the taste of wood left by the conifers. Yvette decides to loose herself within those woods for a couple of minutes.
- Hi there!
- Who’s there? Be warned, I still have my stinger! I’m not afraid of using it!
- Easy gorgeous, eeeaaasy. Am just an old drone! I’ve heard ya buzzing around and it’s been quite some time since I could share a few words with a relative… Name’s Ignace.
- Yvette, forager. Pleased to meet you, sir.
- Likewise. But if I may, you don’t seems much of a forager to me.
- Excuse me?! Did anyone ever told you not be rude with a lady?
- To hell with those silly, righteous small talks! I just happen to know that there are no hives around for miles. So I also know that you are not, maybe not anymore, huh, a forager and that you chose the same path as I did.
- Freedom, babe! A path filled with drifting, salvaging laziness. The one that genuinely leads you to a life far from chains, far from slavery. A life that you can enjoy down to every bit. Vive la Vie!
- How dare you?! And what are you doing here anyway?
- Am a drone darling, and I have seen thirty-four sunrises… None of my late brothers can say the same. They all got caught by the vicious, yet soooo desirable, trap called Her Majesty’s pussy. We all went inside the hive, took it in turns to fuck her one by one, spitting saliva. And then they died. All o’ them, one by one, just like before when they were ramming her. They all died without mercy. I was the last one to supposedly take turn but I felt that there was something shady about it. So I moved back. When the soldiers watching the Hive’s entrance asked me what I was doing, I just told them that I was gay. They kicked me out. Later another hive tried to hire me into their deadly gang bang, and once again I used the same gay subterfuge. They kicked me out as well. Freaking fanatics, am telling ya. So I kept on me journey, buzzing from a flower to another and here I am, in this delicious forest, not doing anything out of me’ days but chilling, and here and there, foraging. Really doll, you should give it a try.
Yvette is speechless. Torn in between by the disgusted feeling that this old, self-confident male gave her, and by the newborn thirst for more discoveries and adventure that the last few days had showed her.
- My duty is to get back to the hive, even if it means loosing my stripes doing so. My family’s name is at stake!
- Do you know that no-one gives a damn? Just enjoy what’s left of your life. You’ve already spent it working your butt off and you’ve hated it, I can tell. How old are you? Something like twenty sunrises? Well no offence but you look like a fifty day old bee! Relax forager, relax. Breathe in and think about your next move. Smells like BBQ over there, must be plenty of sauce and sweets, I’m gonna go take a look around. If you join me, you’ll have won yourself a few more days of your new life. If you keep going into your lifeless quest, to you I say good luck and Adieu.
Ignace leaves and takes off with a loud Harley-Davidson buzz.
Left alone, stunned, Yvette doesn’t know what to do anymore. Sun is already high in the sky, heat is stifling, she decides that another day spent with her saviours and their big sweet dog wouldn’t be that bad. To hell with the nasty bumblebee redneck!
Back to the camp, in the shade of their Chevy after a beautiful morning surf spent together, Bill and Belle enjoy a delicious salmon steak, lightly cooked on the barbecue. Virgule is basking on the surf bags, enjoying every bits of sun and the wetsuits are drying, hanged on the slack line tied between the van and a little tree. Virgule feels Yvette coming back. The old dog rises up and starts barking and joyfully moans. Wagging his tail, he gets to his master and immediately gets sent back to his couch, “Virgule, when we eat, a lil’ dawg lays down!”. Yvette arrives, greets her friends buzzing in their ears and goes back to the little padded box.
Bill cannot help to salute the insect’s boldness and Belle laughs again, trying to take a new picture. They enjoy the new experiences flowing around them. They revel the joys of simple life, putting aside the real world and all its troubles.
Now here is a smell that Yvette does not know. Back in the water for the afternoon session, some surfwax leftover lies on the table, right between two drops of milk caramel spread. This wax, used to cover the deck of a surfboard so it doesn’t get all slippery, smells like coconuts. Yvette let herself drown in the smell, mesmerised, carried by this new vibe.
- Here you are! Cool, we gonna have some fun, you and I.
- Sir, I do not wish to have a conversation with you.
- As you wish babe, I’m just here for the jam anyway.
- Don’t you dare touch it, it doesn’t belong to you!
- But… they don’t want it no more! You’ve seen it yourself doll, they left!
- Maybe. But… You just… You do not deserve it!
- What? I got to deserve what I wanna eat now?
- Yes! Yes indeed.
- But, if you help me… maybe we could… share?
- Excuuuuse me?!
Yvette has something in mind. This piece of wax seems just fine and the drone, this big slob, may be right. She will never be able to go back home, but she is not done with life, just not yet. So let’s get cracking!
Grumbling, Ignace gets on with his job. The wax is divided in smaller piles. He gets to chew, she builds. She remembers liking it, doing this job, in her youth. She really enjoys creating her masterpiece, anyone watching the scene would agree with that. Even an old grumpy drone such as Ignace can’t deny the self-satisfaction that emerges under his taste buds. This organic wax coco’s flavour is just of the most exquisite (from a bee’s point of view of course).
And before he even knows it, Ignace chews, masticates, enjoys, and goes through the job faster than you can say “working bee”.
As efficient and perceptive as her fellow worker, Yvette, seeing his commitment, tries twice as hard, and a few hours later (the sense of time is relative to a bee’s life rhythm) some solid foundation of a white mini hive are ready, filling up the little box that Bill had pulled off earlier.
From the foundation rise the first honeycombs. In the first line are the cosy ones so Yvette could wander in, sleep and stock the pollen inside. Then another line, with bigger honeycombs for Ignace. Three times already since they had begun, Yvette had to ask for his name. Scatterbrained creature.
The work is almost done with a dozen lines. There is no rooftop and the whole thing could melt down on the next morning, when, as everyday, the sun will reach it’s zenith, and the strength of its sun’s rays are then devastating.
Virgule, good old dog, did not miss one second of the show. Crouching in the shades, the animal awaits for his masters to return.
There was a time when he would come with them in the water. Even to the peak, where the waves start breaking, when the swell was small and the current light. Once he thought that he would drown and die, but his master, this true hero, grub him by the scruff of the neck and pulled him up on board right before another massive rogue wave broke into him. Virgule kept himself away from the breaks ever since, the comfort of the board bags and the freshness of the van’s shadow suits his needs better.
The sun is setting down and almost ready to give the horizon his good night kiss, when Bill and Belle leave the line up and walk back to the camp. What a wonderful day! The waves were absolutely perfect, the night falls, and to be able to share those moments with just a few pelicans and no one else around for kilometres… The landscape and the beaches gave them the sweet feeling that they had touched this summer trip’s panacea.
Bill puts his board down, relieve Belle from her own and throws his arms around her. Virgule forces his nose between the two lovers. He wants his caress and gets an ear scratch instead. It is definitely not enough for the dog. Moaning, he points his snout at the buzzing coco wax’s hive. It is more than Belle can handle and she bursts out laughing. Bill can’t believe it either, congratulates his dog who falls down on his side, offering his belly to his master’s hands. Letting his own God scratching and deliciously tickling his abdomen, exquisite reward for just being a dog.
A roof covers the coconuts hive now, Bill found some bits of redwood barks on the edge of the forest. Several days went by and the more time passes the more Yvette gets the hang on Ignace’s relaxed attitude.
She forages on the morning, enjoys her drop of milk caramel spread at lunch with her drone friend, then lets Belle carry her till the shore, waiting for the wave to reach and softly touch Belle’s feet and then flies back to the cosy little tropical flavoured hive. This is how the fierce ex-forager spends her days. A well-deserved nap after cleaning her quarters, Yvette goes off racing in the sand dunes with her friend Ignace. The sun is setting while they laugh at life, enjoy every moments of it. The two buzzing friends fly back to the young surfer couple to the camp after their last evening session.
- Do you still think of your eastern sisters?
- Yes. But I try not to. It makes me sad.
- You miss them?
- No, I barely knew them now that I think of it. But it saddens me to know that they think they are living when in truth, they are just dying a bit more every day. They don’t have the slightest clue of what life could give them.
- And if it were to be, it would be the Doom of bee’s age. For years now bees only had in mind that living means expending, growing, making profit and bringing prosperity to the hive. Everyone has to work his ass off while the Queen just stuffs herself. If the pace slows down, our people would become idle and would start dreaming about more free time. Can you picture that anarchy? I think most of the bees would prefer not to know anything about those little moments of pure joy like you’ve had experienced those last two weeks. Many wouldn’t be able to adapt to such a lifestyle and prefer to have a lifetime hard working that would bring them stability and security. It is sad but I just see an Utopia that we alone were allowed to find the main door. And imagine a full hive live as we do: there wouldn’t be enough milk caramel spread for everyone…! Ok am kidding now.
- This is why it makes me sad. I would love to find a solution, so everyone would stop being crazy about working their whole life…
The next morning, when Yvette wakes up and goes to Ignace’s comb, she finds him laying on his tiny bed, put in an eternal rest. The old drone was gone, after nearly sixty-three dawns, and after the most extraordinary life he could have had, having been almost sentenced to death by the Queen.
Some little sweetened tears drop from the mourning bee’s eyes. She takes off slowly, leaves the hive without any idea where to fly or what to do. The sky is cloudy, the atmosphere feels heavy on everyone’s shoulders, a thunderstorm is coming, the rain starts. Heavy drops explode loudly when they hit the dry ground.
Virgule hides himself in the van, Belle packs everything and Bill wipes the whole place clean as it was before their arrival. They put the hive under a bush, Yvette feels lost and wanders around. She ends up in the van and falls asleep on Bill’s shoulder.
In her dream she’s back in her native hive. Only she doesn’t know anymore what to do nor where to go. She is rushed over and almost get trampled to death by her own sisters. Panicked, she flies away towards a gorgeous rainbow-coloured flower field and starts foraging here and there. And when a snake gets a little too close to her friend Ignace she knows that in her dream she can do anything: Yvette drops on the beast’s head, sting out, and shove it deep in the monster’s eye. The snake writhes in agony and dies. Ignace is safe.
The van swerves, Bill shouts, the tires screech and the Chevrolet stops. The door opens and Bill rushes out holding his shoulder. Belle opens the glove box, pulls out the first aid kit and out of it, a tweezers. She moves the sting out of Bill’s arm, still attached to the bee’s abdomen by a thin thread. Her wings are still shaking, the nervous system being accounted for it, her legs are already stiffened by the sore kiss of death. Virgule cries.
Yvette is put in a matchbox, Belle insists. They dig a little grave by the side of the road, and minutes later, the van fades away in an optical illusion, mixing dust and water on the horizon line.