Gunnar Lundberg

The Beekeeper's House

The grass squirmed beneath my feet as I made my way to the abandoned beekeeper's house- the green unkempt guards fighting each of my steps. They did not want me there, but I didn't care- because like so many other daring fools before me, I had to know. I unhooked the painted red latch barring out the world, and took one last breath of the pollen-laden air; with a firm tug I began an unsponsored excavation of the past.

It was dark, and some unsourced dampness crept in through the door behind me. As a child this place had seemed almost comically frightening, with its low ceiling and cracked concrete floor. The walls had been left to rot, and the small remnants of puffy insulation wilted to the ground. But most feared of all was the large spinning-stone, powered hesitantly so many years ago by the peddling of our little feet. I walked to its corner, and used what little effort my then large foot required to spin it once again. I extended my hand to rest upon the rotating surface, my palm and fingers bouncing on its tread like a ballerina on pointe. That stone was used to spin the honeycomb, separating the gooey liquid from the waxy maze entrapping it. As the stone sped up my skin winced with the continuing light touches. I removed my foot from the pedal and watched the machine fizzle back to lifelessness.

I knew that the answer hid there, somewhere amongst the beekeeper's old possessions and the accumulated junk not sold at any of the previous garage sales: a baseball bat, newspapers, letters, empty condom wrappers, bottle caps, beer cans. I remembered my own delinquent nights there- her and I snuggling together on the tattered couch after our first time. We weren't the only ones who used it. Its privacy and grime warded off adults, but invited curious teens to explore more than just its contents.

I sifted through the scattered papers in the beekeeper's house, shuffling them about and moving them as delicately as possible into the present. Nothing there was useful, it was all pamphlets, leaflets, sheet music and magazine clippings.

I never knew the beekeeper personally- only as the mythical pseudo-chemist that enchanted our small town with his work. He died when I was just starting elementary school, but his reputation lived on. They said he had a honey for every season, and more importantly for any ailment. Heartburn, headaches, hemorrhoids, and heartbreak- all easily cured by his gold sticky medicine. He sold these bottled miracles on a stand by the side of the road, and on the weekends he traveled to markets all around the county, usually selling out his stock. Not everyone believed his claims at first, but my grandpa told me that when he and the beekeeper were young, they both loved the same girl. Both were trying to win her hand in marriage, but the beekeeper pestered the girl endlessly, until it looked like her and my grandpa were bound to be. But the beekeeper shut himself away for a few days, and when he emerged he had concocted a honey so sweet that it made her fall in love with him- no one doubted him after that. My grandpa swore that hypnotic honey was the only reason he had to settle for my grandma.

I needed that honey. A nectar so sweet that it would quell any bitterness of the past. I knew that the beekeeper had been dead for decades, but any hope of finding a recipe rested in that dark shack- possibly within an inch of my sweeping hands.

The omens of the place crept out of my peripherals and began to hamper my search: a creak here, a drop of something there, and a puzzling lack of sunlight. I had come to the end of my mental wick, and so I retreated once more to the unwelcoming grass, latching the heavy door behind me. But my left foot never touched the ground. No, when it plopped down in procession with the right I came to notice a piece of paper stuck to its bottom. I bent over to read it: "This notice serves as a third attempt to reach you for the purpose of impending divorce proceedings."

My lips tensed, the paper must have fallen out of my own pocket when I was searching the beekeeper's house. People always said as childhood sweethearts we'd never last. But what had stuck it to my shoe? I lifted the paper for inspection and noticed the smallest drop of gold, no larger than the back of a thumb tack. Something bewitched me, and I raised it to my tongue to taste it- honey.

The grass quieted around my feet, and a low mechanical hum filled the air. I paused to listen and the sound became more distinct. With my neck craned and my forearm raised to block the sun, the tiny silhouettes of bees emerged. I licked the honey again, and after letting it settle I concluded that it wasn't that sweet. I exhaled; there was no recipe, and I had no experience, but evidently there was still a hive, so surely there was still hope- and eventually there would be a honey sweet enough to win her back.


Gunnar Lundberg is a recent graduate with a BA in English Literature. He enjoys Ina Garten memes, hiking, and reading in hammocks. He has previously been published in Global Hobo, and Xene. He is currently living out in the woods of Northern Wisconsin in a log cabin. Follow him on twitter @ghostbbgunnar