☠ Readers beware: This story is from a writing project I did between May 24 to June 24, 2021. The goal was to write a new story every day. Although I'm happy with them, they are first drafts and many could use some work.
After his father’s funeral, Steven was surrounded by friends and family and suddenly couldn’t breathe. He grabbed the key to his dad’s truck and left.
Although he hadn’t acknowledged, he knew exactly where he was going.
He drove east out of town until he reached the twin bridges over the Black Bear River. He went through the ditch and onto the dirt path that was carved along the edge of the forest and the field. At the end of it was an old farmyard and in the center was his father’s last bee-yard.
Steven pulled in and stepped out of the truck. The sun felt warm on his face, and a gentle wind rustled the treetops. All around him were birds chirping, animals rustling in the leaves, and beneath it was the gentle hum of the bees.
He was still in his dress clothes, but he didn’t care. He pulled off his suit jacket and found a hat and veil under the seat. He slipped it on, tying it snug around his chest. In the utility chest in the truck box was a smoker and cardboard, and he set to work.
He hadn’t been in a bee-yard in over twenty years, but he was surprised how quickly it all came back to him. He rolled a strip of cardboard and lit it, building up a good flame, before slipping it inside the smoker. He grabbed a hive tool from the dashboard and went over to the closest hive.
He puffed the entrance with the smoker and the bees surrounding it scurried inside. He lifted the outer cover and slid the hive tool under the inner cover, cracking apart the wax that sealed it tight. Another shot of smoke over the top and the bees simmered down.
Working from the outside and moving inward, Steven pulled up each frame to study the health of the hive. They were heavy with honey and bees skittered across their surface. Although he was working without gloves, none of them bothered his bare hands.
The top of the hive looked good, so he pried it off and set it aside. He lifted out another frame and saw that it was full of brood waiting to hatch into more workers. When he pulled another, he noticed the queen, long and dark, and he was careful not to disturb her too long. He slid everything back into place and put the hive back together.
He moved over to the next hive, and then the next, trying not to disturb any of them too long like he had the first.
By the time he was halfway through, Steven was hot and sweating and made his way back to the truck. He had filled his dad’s water jug, and when he drank it, it was cold and metallic, and he savoured every moment of it.
He studied the old house as he rested, and walked over to the entrance and peered inside. The floors were littered with old books, magazines, clothing, and appliances. He stepped inside, looking around before he made his way to a staircase that led upstairs.
When he reached the second floor, Steven was startled to see a woman sitting in the window that overlooked the bee-yard. She wore a yellow sundress and a big hat that obscured her face.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you were here.”
The woman didn’t turn or answer, and Steven was scared by her presence. He backed down the stairs, not taking his eyes off her, and when he couldn’t see her any longer, he rushed out of the house and back into the sunlight.
He ventured to look again, and the woman was still there. The sun kept shining in his eyes, no matter where he stood, so he could never see her face. He waved and said hello, but she didn’t respond.
He returned to work, and she continued to watch him from above. Every once in a while, he’d look up to see if she was there. Occasionally, she’d disappear but then return a moment later.
Once he had checked the yard, he was hot and tired but good. He had ruined his dress shirt, but he didn’t care. Between the bees and the woman watching him, things seemed better.
He grabbed some grass and shoved it into the funnel hole of the smoker and tossed it in the box of the truck. He took another drink of his water and washed the stickiness of the honey off his hands.
He looked one final time up at the woman. He knew he wouldn’t see her again, but he was okay with that. He climbed into the truck and backed out, and chose never to look back.
This is one of my longest stories at 794 words, but also one of the most complete at that length. A big step for this was that I did a breakdown of my favourite stories and found out I usually have 5-7 story beats in each one. Knowing this, I sketched out a plan (without really a sense of an ending), then wrote it until I hit a wall, then cleaned up the outline.
I still had holes on the backend and didn’t know how to finish it. However, I went for a walk and realized what the woman was all about and why he was in the bee-yard (grief). I gave another rewrite focusing on his grief better and finished up the scenes with the woman (she originally disappeared when he went outside, which didn’t work for what I was going for).