to 5

    on the 5ives




The beekeeper had taken the can from him first thing.

      They know me, you see, he said. Twenty years. Only been stung twice.
       He chuckled. The sun was hot where he stood, the lawn yellow and patchy around them. The beekeeper wiped his nose with the back of his finger and looked down at the man: There are right ways and wrong ways of handling it, he said, as if to say, we can do this the easy way or the hard way; as if leaving a choice.
       A comb like dried papery skin hung by the tree and swarmed with them. Their thick yellow stuff was daubed around it. It looks like a wound, he said. Donıt it? Like itıs dead and theyıre just flies. Iıll tell you what: You know well as I do that ainıt true.
       The other man lay on the ground underneath the hanging hive, prone and hog-tied with horsehide strips. The stone sat within his view two feet off in the grass. The stone was reddish at a spot where it had struck his head, which now hurt. A few of them, the dying ones, crawled twitching by his face. There were cold-dead ones too. The grass itched under his cheek.
       The beekeeper probed his foot at the manıs chin. Look at me, he said. Youıre a stranger. They will get you. They might badly. But the beekeeper did not know this: He had never spent too much time with strangers, only with his bees.
       He went up and held his finger to it. He pressed it in. They rubbed louder, but kept to themselves. See what I mean? he said. He circled the prone man, then went back into the shack.

In the kitchen he turned the gas flame on under a pot of water and waited. He looked out the window and saw the manıs legs hitching back and forth, his arc of tied limbs twisting, the arc falling to one side. He could see the man's face now, his neck pounding that one side of his forehead into the grass. His mouth was opened wide and his teeth, even from the distance, were yellow and clear. They seemed larger than the beekeeper knew they were, they seemed like horse's teeth.
       He took his time tidying up the rooms, placing the two books back on the shelf so that their spines would be visible, sweeping up the furled hairs from the cat. What the hell, he said, rubbing his fingers in the fur devil.
       When the kettle boiled in the kitchen, he poured the hot water into a mug. The water bloated the bag inside, thin string dangling over the lip down to a yellow tab stapled at the end. He took a spoon and pushed the air from the bag. He smeared a small ant by the sugar jar, then worked it from his thumb. The window was steamed and he wiped his hand across it, creating a swipe of vision where the prone man was clarified and disintegrated by the exchanges between the print of his hand and the steam. In this window the prone man was not a man at all, but a torso, a smear, a neck, stripes of face.
       The beekeeper got out the suit. He had not worn it in years. He put the meshed hood on, then the jacket, then the pants. He used the spoon to take the bag out of the mug and wrapped the string around and strangled black tea from it. Then he put on the gloves and went out.
       Now howıd you like I did it to you? he shouted from the back porch. He waved. He crossed the lawn and knelt by the prone manıs head. Three welts were already raised on his chin and cheek, each with a white aureole, a thick hair-like proboscis still centered in the one beneath his eye.
       The beekeeper shook the can, leaned over and sprayed it close to the manıs face and scalp so as to avoid the bees.
       Howıd you like it? he repeated.
       The bees, agitated, rubbed louder.
       The beekeeper sprayed until the can sputtered and was used up. The prone manıs cheeks and eyes and lips and wound were wet with it. The beekeeper picked the stone up from the lawn. He stood back and threw it at the hive. He walked to the porch, leaving the stranger coughing on the lawn.
       It went on like this for days.




the beekeeper