Deborah Walsh is a talented university student who is growing tired of the gossip that goes on behind her back. Born with a limp, a curved chin, a crooked nose, and a hunchback, Deborah is all too familiar with exclusion and discrimination due to her physical abnormalities. As she attempts to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Deborah cannot help but wonder if she will ever be accepted for who she is on the inside, not the outside.
Deborah’s father raises honey bees as a hobby. Deborah’s sister, Ruth, has her own set of struggles with her husband, Travis, who has left her and her children to fend for themselves. Their unusual family dynamics become even more complex when Deborah intervenes in an attempt to arrange a reconciliation between Ruth and Travis, all while continuing to seek fulfillment in her own life. As Deborah and her family members each tackle life-changing challenges, a real honey bee observes and commentates, offering a new perspective on human beings.
The Honey Bee shares the tale of one woman’s quest to carve out a new future for herself, despite the many hurdles that stand in her way.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.51(d)|
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The Honey Bee
By Heribert Breidenbach
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2014 Heribert Breidenbach
All rights reserved.
I am all alone now, too tired to fly home with my last load of pollen and nectar, and none of my sisters knows where I am. It is so peaceful here, resting and dreaming embedded in this white rose. This is my first time in a rose. The gentle breeze, the sweet aroma, the rays of the evening sun filtering through the rose petals into my cone-shaped eyes, and the light blue sky flooding my ocelli, are all lulling me into tranquility.
I have labored all my life for my community, my family, 40 long days. How many are we? 10,000? 20,000? 30,000? I don't know. I was one of the fastest fliers, flipping my wings almost 250 times per second, and I flew as fast as 12 miles per hour. I gave it all I had, but now I feel no desire to leave this velvet rose. Where will the September winds carry my soul?
"I am not going to let him do that, Mom, and I am not going to tell him where I hid it."
"Hid what, my dear?"
"Has Eric been aiming at birds again?"
"He missed a robin by one inch. Then I saw him aiming at a bee. She is sitting inside of a white rose, looks like she is taking a nap. She is so cute, golden brown with three stripes like grandpa's bees. He was aiming the slingshot at her when I grabbed it out of his hands. I am going to tell grandpa."
"Now don't be a tattle tale. Grandpa has more important things on his mind."
"I've got important things on my mind, too. Let's see if the mail has come."
"Angie, how many letters did you write today?" Ruth yelled as Angie was dashing out the front door.
"I only answered the five I received yesterday. One is from England."
"Angie, Angie, you are spending a fortune on postage stamps."
"I love getting letters, Mom."
* * *
Ruth was clipping roses while Angie was shut up in her room with her mail.
The next-door neighbor happened to walk by.
"Roses do well here in California, Mrs. Riley, from May until October.
"Hi Larry. My home is only half the size of yours. So I have to make up for it with roses."
"Your house may be small, but your rose trees flanking the walkway, and those climbing roses on both sides of your front door, and the trees with the yellow lemons on the manicured lawn make us neighbors feel we are living next to a fairytale land."
"Oh Larry, shut up! You are just being kind. You are trying to make me feel good because Travis left us. That damned alcohol! I feel like smashing every whisky bottle at the Starlight."
"And that dancer, I suppose."
"It seems that the whole street knows about it."
"There is a lot of gossiping."
"Then let me set the record straight. Travis took to the bottle after the cab company laid him off. He already drank too much before then but you could still call him a social drinker. Then disaster struck. He had been at a party too long before picking up two elderly ladies in his cab and promptly ran a red light. Tires screeching, horns tooting, missing a bus by one inch, one of the ladies on the back seat fainted. A cop on a motor cycle happened to be there and promptly ticketed him after smelling booze, and although Travis could not walk a straight line, he later tried to tell the judge that the reason for his distraction had been the constant chattering of the two old women on the back seat. The judge had to use all of his willpower not to burst out laughing and fined him $500. The following day the cab company fired Travis. After that he became a nightly fixture at the Starlight. You probably knew that already."
"I am afraid I did."
"Travis has always had a high opinion about himself. He felt that the available jobs in this town were below his dignity. The local elementary school was looking for a custodian. Two restaurants were looking for kitchen aids, dishwashers. He would not consider it. A month passed without income until my mother with her Irish temper gave him a piece of her mind for which he will never forgive her. Four more weeks passed until that day when he took off for Las Vegas, 'looking for greener pastures,' as he explained while kissing me good-bye. He was going to establish himself and get us out of this hut, he said."
"Well, maybe he meant it."
"That is what I believed until my dad made the time bomb explode. He had found out that Travis had taken the nightclub's striptease dancer with him. She is a redhead, redder than I. Her name is Isabel Macintosh. 'She is from New Orleans, and boy, can she dance!' dad told me. Here I am. Angie is twelve. She keeps his photo on her dresser. Eric is eight. Travis taught him how to use a slingshot but not much else. He is Eric's hero."
"Ruth, I heard that there is no romance between him and the dancer, that he talked her into going with him so that he could open up his own bar with Isabel as the principal dancer."
Ruth dropped her clippers. The evening sun made her reddish-blond hair look like fire. She turned around and said: "Oh, yes? How come he never told me about that? It has been almost two months now, and he called me only a few times and only at the beginning. Each time he calls from a public phone, and when I write, his answers are short like: 'Don't worry! I cannot write now. I am very busy setting up the business.' He inquires about the children with just one brief sentence. I called Travis' parents in Los Angeles, Bill and Helen. They don't have his phone number either but they gave me his mailing address. My mother-in-law in Los Angeles had been under the impression that Travis and I had planned that together but could not understand one thing: 'Who is that woman with him?' she asked. She also told me that the two are sharing a one-bedroom apartment."
"You don't believe that."
After a pause Ruth answered: "I do." The veins on her temples began to swell, but then she changed the topic. "Angie has taken to letter writing. She has discovered the world of pen pals. Letters are all she thinks about. She writes to Travis every other day, now that we have his mailing address. Once a week he answers her, always saying the same thing: 'Thank you for your letter. I love you. Give my best to Eric.'"
"Ruth, he will be back and he will straighten out."
"Nope, I cannot compete with that nightclub dancer."
Two fiery redheads, Larry thought walking to his house next door. They could set a gasoline truck on fire.
* * *
Angie and Eric were in Angie's bedroom.
"Angie, I wish I had this picture of dad. He looks cool in his uniform."
"That was his Air Force uniform from the time he served in Korea. He is the best looking dad in California. I'll let you borrow the picture. The back of the photo has a date on it. It says Korea, September 1952. This is what dad looked like 17 years ago, when he was 25."
"How did you figure that?"
"Well, now is September 1969. From September 1952 to September 1969 it's 17 years. He was born in 1927. From 1927 to 1952 is 25 years."
"How do you know all that?"
"Girls are smart."
"Oh yeah? I bet you that you don't know how to aim with a slingshot. I can hit a small pebble stone on a pole 15 feet away."
"I firmly believe that."
"Why can't mom have a copy made by a photographer? It should be enlarged."
"Eric, that costs money. As a waitress at the diner mom is not making a lot of money. Some people don't even tip her."
"We will be rich, Angie. Dad is going to make a lot of money in Las Vegas."
"I am not so sure about that, but I tell you what: I'll let you keep the photo on your dresser if you will let me keep the slingshot."
"You are no fun. How come you get letters every day and I get none?"
"You never write. You are allergic to books, reading and writing. There comes mom."
"What are you two up to? Eric, have you done your homework?"
"Mom, I'll do it Sunday afternoon, promise."
"You know the rules, Eric. If you are not at your homework in five minutes, you will never see your slingshot again. Remember tomorrow is Saturday, grandpa's birthday. We are all going. He may need your help with the honey extracting. You can learn something and get a good foundation. Some day you might inherit his six beehives. I hope I did not buy that nice beekeeper's suit for nothing. Now get to your homework!"
Eric went to his room.
"Books! This English lesson is boring. Why do schoolbooks have to weigh a ton? Diagram sentences. I am going to diagram that bee. 'You can learn something and get a good foundation.' She is hiding my slingshot. Girls are mean. Bees are stupid. Books are boring. I feel like I am locked up. I have no freedom. I wish dad were here."
The velvet texture of these petals takes me back to my cell in the soft wax comb when I first became aware of myself, conscious of my existence. Was it the pressure of the six walls against my developed but tender body, the sweet aroma from the outside, or was it the buzzing all around me that made me break out of my confinement? I tasted freedom but now I am confined again. And yet, I feel so relieved, so free from life's burdens like cleaning cells, repairing and building new combs, carrying out the dead, feeding my roly-poly brothers, fanning cool air into the hive, defending the gate against intruders and, finally, flying out for miles, day after day, pollinating fruit trees for people who are not always very nice to us.... The rays of the evening sun and the soft breeze are lulling me into a world of the unknown. Where will the evening winds carry my soul?
Fred and Mary Walsh and their daughter Deborah had just finished breakfast. Fred was stuffing his pipe with his favorite brand of tobacco, which Deborah had given him as a birthday present, even though gift giving had been scheduled for the afternoon.
"Fred, weren't you going to extract honey today?" asked Mary. "I am sure that Angie and Eric would like to help you on your birthday. Ruth went to the bee-keeping supply store and bought them special outfits."
"You don't say!"
"It is nine o'clock. They should arrive any minute."
"It is not exactly what I had planned for today, but okay. I only have two hives left to do. 40 frames, and with their help we can get it done this morning, including cleanup."
As Fred left the house, Mary muttered: "He is always so agreeable, even after 40 years. He and Deborah are one of a kind."
"What Mom, did you call me?" Deborah yelled from her bedroom.
"No, I was just talking to myself."
"But you were talking about me."
"Yes, my dear, but something nice. I was saying that you and dad are always so agreeable."
"That's nice to hear because people usually gossip behind my back."
"Debbie, you always tend to exaggerate," yelled Mary, not noticing that Deborah had already come out of her bedroom and was standing behind her.
"Well, why do I never get invited to any party? Why does no man ever ask me out? Because I limp and because my chin curves to the right and my nose isn't straight, and on top of it all, I am a hunchback."
"Hunchback? That is hardly noticeable. Your large hazelnut eyes, your forehead, and your dark hair are very beautiful. I wish I had those."
"It hasn't done me any good. Because of my chin and my nose I was known as the scarecrow in elementary school. Things have not changed. Remember, last week I went to a department store in response to a job ad for an office clerk? It was not a sales clerk position but a job in a closed office. The personnel manager told me that the position had already been filled. On the way out, the door still ajar, I noticed that I had left my umbrella in his office. I was just about to reenter when I heard one of the secretaries say: 'Lord, that's all we need around here.' I did not go back in. They still have my umbrella. Yesterday I heard that they finally filled the position with a woman with whom I went to De Anza College. She could be a model in a fashion magazine, but she types only 35 words per minute and does not know shorthand. She never managed to get her AA degree at the community college. Mom, I have been through this too many times."
"Debbie, this hurts us as much as it hurts you. We are all proud of you. Dad and I love you as much as we did when we adopted you 25 years ago. You were not even three years old then. And Ruth likes you a lot. When you were little, we visited two plastic surgeons. Both of them said that surgery would be too risky in your case. You know that already. Just be assured that we love you even more because of that."
"I know you all do, but who else does? At the department store I was not expecting love. I was expecting fairness. Thank God these are not the days of the Salem witch hunt!"
* * *
Deborah stomped out of the house. A sharp wind was blowing. Fall was entering early this year. She saw that Angie and Eric had already joined her dad and Ruth was about to step inside.
"Hi Ruth. We did not hear your car pull up the driveway. The two sat on the doorsteps and were able to listen in on the conversation between Fred, Angie, and Eric.
"Those are very neat suits your mother bought you," remarked grandpa as he uncapped the honeycombs with his long uncapping knife.
"Why don't you wear a suit?" asked Eric.
"Oh, when you work with bees as often as I do, a little bee sting here or there no longer bothers you. I like to keep them out of my hair, though. That is why I hide my hair under a hankie or a hat."
"Do you get stung often?" asked Angie.
"No, not often because I make slow movements around bees. Jerky movements, especially a hand movement like chasing flies threatens them, and a bee will only sting you when she feels threatened. Wasps, on the other hand, seem to be more aggressive. They are a different breed entirely."
Angie was curious. "If you don't want to threaten the bees, why then do you blow smoke into the beehive when lifting off the top?"
"Good question, Angie. When I blow smoke into the box the bees think that the forest is on fire. Out in the wild the bees move out in a hurry when it burns, but first they fill their honey stomachs with honey. While they are busy doing that they don't bother me, and I can lift out the frames with many bees clinging to them. A bee with her honey stomach full of honey is calm versus a bee that is hungry. That's why, when I want to catch a bee swarm I first sniff it. If I smell honey I am not worried, but if I don't, I assume that they have been hanging in that tree for days and are cranky because they are hungry. Then I wear protective gear. By the way, some popular books tell you that smoke calms bees down. It does not, but it gets them busy and occupied."
"Do drones sting you?"
"No, Eric. Drones have no stingers. They are totally defenseless. They neither defend nor feed themselves. Their sisters, the worker bees feed them. It is almost 11 o'clock, kids. Let's get this job done."
"Boy, these frames are heavy," said Eric. "That's a lot of honey. If I were a bee I would not take that sitting down if people took my honey."
"They wouldn't either, Eric, if I did not use a smoker. Did you know that during her entire two weeks of foraging the average bee brings home only one teaspoon full of nectar? But multiply that by 10,000 or 20,000 bees foraging, and then multiply that by four generation of bees in one summer. How many teaspoons is that?"
"I can do that," said Angie to Eric's relief. 20,000 times 4 generations comes to 80,000 teaspoons full of nectar."
"Good for you, Angie. And that nectar would turn into almost 80,000 teaspoons of honey if water did not evaporate from the nectar and if the bees did not eat a lot of the nectar and the honey. 5 to 8% of the bees are drones. They do not produce any honey, but they eat."
"How come they are so lazy?" asked Angie.
"Drones have another important function. I'll tell you some other time. We have to get this job done before lunch. We now have to put the frames, five at a time, into the extractor, turn the crank to make it spin at high speed, so that the honey is forced out of the combs. It then runs or drips through this fine screen to filter out all the impurities before it flows into the jars. Here muscle man, show us what you have got," Fred said to Eric.
While Eric was turning the crank with all of his might, Angie looked kind of forlorn. "Are we not mean when we take their honey? What if some big monster with giant arms grabbed into our food pantry and emptied it out?"
"Well Angie, I am glad that you are sensitive, but we always leave them enough honey for the winter. We are not taking anything out of the brood chamber, the big box at the bottom, and between now and October they go on collecting. When bees don't sleep, they always work for the community, never thinking about themselves, always tiring themselves for others. It would be nice if everybody learned a little from them."
"I think Aunt Debbie is like that. She is always doing things for others."
"You are right, Angie. There is a resemblance between her and a honeybee. You ought to become a psychologist."
Eric was moaning. "What is a psychologist? My arms are getting tired."
"Just keep on pushing. You can do it," laughed Angie. "Think of the worker bees."
"Why, the worker bees are all girls. Their brothers don't have to work. You should be turning the crank."
"You can't argue with that," laughed grandpa.
"Psychologist," muttered Eric. "What is a psychologist anyway?"
Excerpted from The Honey Bee by Heribert Breidenbach. Copyright © 2014 Heribert Breidenbach. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsPart 1, 1,
Part II, 51,
Part III, 139,