That dizzying last summer we explored the one billion possibilities of bumblebee assassination. We learned lacing the curb with Dr. Pepper to lure them under a false pretense of sweetness was easiest, most merciful, for the shadows of our black devil shoe soles were guillotine-swift and double-quick to evict the poor souls from their black and yellow striped cages. What the hell is beeswax anyways? we wondered, watching the furry beasts writhe in Wite-out on paper plates, or rattle in plastic Tupperware tombs. We put them in ice trays in the freezer and waited, called it a science experiment, while Count Chocula plinked into your cereal bowl and the milk sloshed everywhere and you ate it with a fork. You were just that kind of girl. Then you squeezed half a bottle of honey into the empty bowl and funneled a baby bee through a rolled up magazine, and for the first time in my life I felt guilty for our senseless sin. Don’t bees smell fear? I said, and you shook your head. If they smell fear, surely they suffer fear themselves. I asked you to stop and you told me it was no use, it was too late. As I struggled to rescue our tiny prisoner from his undeserved fate with a pair of tweezers, I didn’t see you approaching with the hammer. All I saw were the gooey guts on the blunt edge, embedded in amber ooze, the broken bowl wobbling across the tiles, the satisfied curl of your lips. Let’s go to your house, you said, mentioning how your father would soon be home, and though I agreed I was secretly angry with you. So as we sagged our way there, dragging our bag of bones through the apricot dusk with its inferno flash sweating sugar-heat, I took flight through the tall grass, left you at the halfway mark on the hill. I thought I saw your sticky fingers waving goodbye the night you went home and never came back. Forgive me: I was too young to smell your fear.
Matthew Burnside lives in McKinney, Texas, and is an editor for Mixed Fruit.