The beekeeper knows that he is above other people because he is keeping a species alive which faces extinction. The beekeeper knows he is above other people because he is keeping a species alive with 20,000 variants. The beekeeper knows he is above other people because he is able to walk into a swarm of bees and let them cover his body.
The beekeeper is estranged from his daughter and regrets this the most.
Thrice yearly he sends her honey in jars—for her birthday, for Christmas, for the Fourth of July.
The beekeeper’s daughter is allergic to bees. She cannot come within 25 miles of the beekeeper father’s property because he is reestablishing a natural habitat to attract more wild bees.
They found out that she was allergic to bees when she was only a little girl. She was six and immediately swelled up, could not breath, leaked goo from her eyes.
They then made very particular systems to ensure her father was not bringing any bees back into the house, as he frequently had to tend to his hives in the yard. In fact, today, as he lives alone, he still goes through every step: wipe shoes before the first door, remove veil and suit in the mudroom, examine seams of clothing while in the mudroom, sprinkle diatomaceous earth, feel inside hair, rub behind ears, etc.
They had to suit up in complete beekeeping suits anytime they got into the car. Her father would also comb the car for bees before every outing because it would sit for weeks. He waved to her from the car as she sat waiting in the front mudroom in her bee suit. He checked wheel wells, he looked under the mats, he shined a light in the glove compartment, he unfolded the ceiling mirrors. By the end of inspection in a full beekeeper suit, he’d be sweating, but it was necessary. Even with an EpiPen, it was potentially a matter of life and death.
She was too young to be on her own, so they always went together on their twice-monthly outing to Hank’s pretty good grocery. At Hank’s, they could kill two birds with one stone. They would sell their honey and stock up on two weeks’ worth of groceries.
It was a lot of work and risk to go into town, but she didn’t mind any of it because it was so nice to be in a place which wasn’t so dangerous with bees. Once they parked their car on Main Street, she could walk around town with her helmet under her arm, so long as she avoided any flowers. They were respected everywhere they went. Their hard work was the sole reason this town was so rich in honey.
People approached them in the honey aisle. Her father could answer at length while her daughter faded farther and farther away from the conversation because all along she was a fraud. She hated bees. She hated the beekeeper suit. She hated living constantly in fear. Bees gave her nightmares. Bees possessed her thoughts all day and all night. Bees were buzzing constantly, and she could not escape their sound as they drowned out all other sounds around her. Only here at the grocery store was there no buzzing of bees and yet, she could not escape them. All she and her father were known for was bees.
She had a nightmare where the bees ate through her wall and devoured her, leaving only shreds of her skin, a papery husk like the remnants of an abandoned hive.
After this nightmare, she refused to sleep in her room, and closed the door to her room any time she passed it.
Her father examined the outside wall and found that there were wasps, which had for the first time been attracted to their farm. They had eaten through the siding and built a nest in her wall. It was a problem which he had to deal with swiftly and thoroughly because wasps are a terrible threat to honeybees.
At Hank’s, he bought six filets of salmon and hung them outside over buckets of soapy water. This was a sure trick to wasps. They ate the salmon until they were so fat or thirsty, they dove for the water. The soap in the water broke up the surface tension and made easy work of the wasps by drowning. He sprayed the inside of the wall with wasp-killer and sealed the hole up with epoxy. He then daily scoured every corner of their yard and ran his fingers along the edges of the siding feeling for holes. Still, it wasn’t for another three days that his daughter would agree to sleep in her room again. It was with much crying and protesting, but sleeping on the couch every night was no way to grow up.
One morning he heard screaming. He ran into her room and her sheets had been kicked to the floor. She rocked with her pillow in the corner of her room. There were a handful of wasps on her bed, most of them dead, some still dying. The beekeeper crushed the dying wasps with a glass and rinsed them away in the sink.
It was the night after that, in the middle of a beautiful dream with her mother, that she came into his room choking in silence. She pulled on his shoulder, and he turned on the light. Her throat had swelled like a melon. He threw the contents of his nightstand drawer to his bed and retrieved her EpiPen. He carried her, sobbing weakly but otherwise recovered, back to her bed.
Every night after that, when the beekeeper cracked her door to tell her goodnight, his daughter was there on her bed with her palms and ear to the wall. Her concentration was so intense. It was like she was listening to the giant belly of a pregnant elephant. He had fixed the wall, sure, but how do you trust a beekeeper when he is out there covered in bees?
Bob Selcrosse grew up with his mother, selling books, in the Pacific Northwest. He is now working on a book about a book. It is based in the Pacific Northwest. The book is The Cabinet of Children.