The fourth installment in my increasing bleak series of ‘family unfriendly’ fables. The first one is over here, if you need to catch up.
How to Be
Once upon a time there was a very clever bee named Macy.
Like almost every other female bee in her colony, Macy was a worker bee. It was a worker bee’s job to go out every day and collect pollen. Then they would bring that pollen back to turn into honey.
Most of this honey was for the Queen, who was the only female bee in the colony who didn’t work. It was the Queen’s job eat honey and lay eggs all day every day.
A lot of Macy’s coworkers talked about how wonderful it would be to be queen. How nice it would be to never have to work and to drink sweet honey hour after hour.
Macy didn’t think that sounded wonderful at all. In fact, she rather liked her job. She thought it would be boring to sit around all day doing nothing. She tried to explain this to her coworkers, but they all just looked at her as if she had grown a seventh leg.
Actually, Macy’s coworkers were always giving her strange looks. She couldn’t seem to relate to the bees around her at all. The other bees always wanted to talk about which types of honey tasted best, or about which male the Queen was favoring lately, or maybe about which dance moves were most fashionable this week.
Macy liked to talk about engineering, which made her a very lonely bee. She had a passion for contraptions, and she would often spend her off-hours taking apart devices she had found and figuring out how they worked. She loved playing with springs and hinges and gears far more than she loved sipping the finest honey, but none of the other bees cared about these springs or hinges or gears. She soon learned to keep her thoughts to herself.
There was one thing about the Queen that Macy was envious about. The Queen could make her own family. Macy could never make her own family, because worker bees couldn’t lay eggs. She reasoned that the only way she would ever feel like she belonged was if she could figure out a way to make her interests valuable to the colony. If she could prove that springs and hinges and gears were worthwhile, maybe the other bees would finally accept her, and she would finally feel like she had a family.
But she had no idea how to do that.
She thought about it every day as she worked.
The traditional approach to pollen gathering was for each bee to fly from flower to flower until she could carry no more pollen. Then she had to fly the pollen all the way back to the hive to be dropped off. Every bee had a quota of pollen to collect every day so that the hive would be on-target for winter, and no worker bee could come back to the hive until their quota had been collected.
While she worked, Macy realized that much of her time was wasted flying back and forth from the clover patches to the hive. It would be more efficient, she realized, if bees could somehow skip this step. But how?
Quietly, her inventive mind began working on the problem.
Several weeks later, she pulled Samantha the foreman bee aside. “I have to show you something,” she said.
Samantha checked the sun. “The morning’s already late, Macy, and you haven’t even turned in a single load of pollen yet! You’d better get to work if you want to make your quota today.”
“I will,” Macy said, “but I have to show you something first.”
Samantha reluctantly agreed to follow Macy out to the clover fields. When they arrived, Macy unveiled her latest creation.
“Behold!” Macy said proudly.
“What is it?” asked Samantha.
“This is the Pollen Launcher 2000!” said Macy. “I’ve been working on it every night for the last two weeks.”
“What does it do?” Samantha asked.
“It catapults pollen all the way back to the hive,” Macy said. “It’s portable, so we can set it up in an area where there’s lots of pollen. While we gather, we won’t have to constantly make long trips all the way back to the hive. Instead, we just make lots of short trips to the Pollen Launcher 2000. Then with a flick of this switch–”
Macy pulled the appropriate lever, and the empty bucket of the Pollen Launcher 2000 snapped upward with a lurch.
“–it throws the pollen to the hive, taking care of the long trip for us!”
“Hrm,” said Samantha. “We’ve never done it that way before.”
“I know,” Macy said. “But I think this way is better.”
“However you gather your pollen is your business,” said Samantha. “As long as you get your quota every day, you won’t get any argument from me.”
“You’ll see,” Macy said. “I’m about to revolutionize how bees gather pollen.”
Samantha seemed unimpressed. She flew back to the hive to continue checking quotas.
“They’ll see,” Macy said to herself.
Macy spent the rest of the morning and afternoon gathering from the clover patches and packing a solid yellow ball of pollen in the bucket of the Pollen Launcher 2000. Dusk was starting to settle in by the time she was finished.
Samantha flew back out to the clover to hurry along the worker bees who were straggling. “Macy,” she said, “you haven’t brought back a single load of pollen all day.”
“Almost done,” Macy said, packing the last powdery bits of pollen into the ball. “Come see, everyone!”
The bees who were still out in the clover all gathered around, and Macy gave them a rundown on how the Pollen Launcher 2000 was about to change their work lives forever. Some of the bees tugged doubtfully at their antennae, but a few were nodding their heads, impressed.
“And now,” Macy announced, “the first launch!”
She grabbed the lever, and all the bees–even Samantha–held their breaths.
Macy wrenched the lever down, and the worst thing imaginable happened.
Instead of the ball of pollen launching all the way back to the hive, it exploded in a bright yellow puff. A cloud of pollen covered all the watching bees, and they laughed until they coughed.
Macy sat beside her contraption, stunned and yellow from being completely coated in pollen.
Samantha shook her head and made a mark on her notepad. “I’ll still need you to hit your quota before you come in tonight,” she said.
The other bees continued laughing.
“Yes ma’am,” said Macy in a small voice.
As the sun set, Macy made trip after lonely trip from the clover fields to the hive. She regretted ever making the Pollen Launcher, and she wished she had just kept her head down and fallen in line with the rest of the bees. She knew she would probably be on the stinger-end of jokes for the next few months. She suspected she would feel even more alone than before.
Unfortunately, her suspicions came true in a way she could have never predicted. On her final exhausting trip out to the clover, a beekeeper’s truck pulled up next to the tree. Thinking all the bees were inside for the night, he collected the hive and took it away to join a vast community of other hives.
When Macy returned with her last load of pollen, all the family she had ever known had vanished without a trace.