At last! The writing challenge is over! In a fit of playfulness, I had asked readers to throw out ten ideas to be incorporated into a single story. I thought I could scrunch ’em all into a single entry, but as it turned out the pacing dictated a four-parter.
This has been an interesting design exercise, and I’ve gained some insight into “winging it” as part of the story writing process. These were pretty much written straight-through without going back and editing anything, just to see what happened. I’ll write more about the experience sometime in the future, but for now…here is the final part of the Bee story. You might want to read part 1, part 2, and part 3 first.
Recap: Ulrick the bee goes on a mission to find a mysterious destination under terrible flying conditions, meets up with his friend Tiffany the hamster to rest, and later finds the meanest sunflower he’s ever met. The mission a complete wash, he returns back to Tiffany’s house to talk things over before returning to the Hive.
Bee Story: Part IV
“Apollonia sounds like she was very unhappy”, commented Tiffany, back at the Southern Prime.
Ulrick looked up from his fruit to bob his head in acknowledgment. “Yes, I’ve never come across such an unhappy flower. I thought they were ALL happy.”
“You would think so, from your perspective as a bee. What do bees say about flowers?”
“The Queen Bee says that every flower is delightful in its own way, and that the Hive reflects that through the honey we make.”
Tiffany chattered in excitment, and ran around in three quick circles around her cage. “That’s so awesome! It’s so true!” she cried. “So what do you think was delightful about Apollonia?”
Ulrick buzzed in surprise. “Delightful? She wasn’t delightful at all! She was rude and self-centered and I don’t think she really was a flower to begin with. Therefore, what the Queen Bee says doesn’t apply. At all.”
Tiffany’s nose twitched in disagreement. “Well, she WAS a flower when you saw her. She must have been delightful. And I think what the Queen Bee said applies not only to flowers, but to hamsters and bees as well.”
“That is a novel idea. Bees and hamsters don’t have nectar, so how could they possibly be delightful?”
Tiffany started hopping up and down in consternation. “What do you mean? What do you mean? Is EVERYTHING nectar to you bees? What about her DRIVE? Her DETERMINATION! Her PASSION! Doesn’t that count?”
Ulrick blinked in that odd unblinking way that bees have. “I don’t think so. Why should it?”
Tiffany sighed heavily in exasperation, and sat on her haunches with a soft thump. “Silly bees”, she grumbled. “And you wonder why you’re so grouchy all the time.”
Ulrick, taken aback, buzzed with surprise. “I’m grouchy?”
Tiffany nodded. “Yeah, you’re really grouchy! Ever since you asked that question about there being more to life than nectar! You’ve lost the buzz in your bottom! You’re just going through the motions, going where you’re told, complaining about your supervisor. Maybe if you looked at something else than nectar for once, you’d be happier.”
“Hm…” hmm’d Ulrick. “What else is there other than nectar collection?”
Tiffany shrugged. “How should I know? I’m a hamster. But there’s got to be SOMETHING. Especially today, with those two suns in the sky! I think Oprah said once that it’s these kinds of unusual events that tend to shake us from our usual perspective and allow us to see things for what they are! Um…”
Ulrick waited for her to finish her sentence, but Tiffany was not looking at him. He hopped around and looked up in the sky, and noticed that the red sun was MUCH BIGGER than it had been before. In fact, it seemed to be floating quite rapidly toward them, spewing fire in a serene manner around its perimeter. It floated down in the apple orchard, setting most of it on fire and sending smoke billowing in their direction. Ulrick froze, feeling the sleepy feeling starting to come over him. Tiffany remained frozen.
The red sun, which was about the same size as the house, cooled to a silvery blue color, and a door opened near the top, about even with the 2nd story window on which Ulrick and Tiffany were perched. A lizard-like creature appeared, wearing a dapper black suit and carrying an alligator skin briefcase. He paused at the doorway, taking a moment to breathe in the fragrant applewood smoke. “Ah, that’s the stuff,” he said. He then checked his watch, a very nice Omega, and noticed them for the first time. He smiled pleasantly, and waved.
“Hello, earth creatures!” he waved.
Ulrick buzzed in confused alarm. Tiffany remained frozen, petrified.
The lizard, about two feet high, took this in stride. He made a small gesture with his tail, and a silvery walkway extended before his feet to the windowsill where Tiffany and Ulrick were rooted. With an otherworldly grace, the small lizard bounded lightly over and inspected the bee and hamster with friendly interest.
“A bee and a hamster! How wonderful!” the lizard beamed. “I wish I could stay and chat, but I’m on a bit of a short schedule and have to get to New York City. Can you tell me if I’ve parked nearby a train station? I’d prefer not to have to drive into the city at this time of day.”
Tiffany squeaked the tiniest of squeaks, so paralyzed with fear she was. The lizard looked enormous to her, and smelled of alien smells that were frankly terrifying. Her nose quivered a thousand times a second, racing with her heart. It’s a wonder that she didn’t pass out. The lizard looked slightly puzzled, and then a wave of realization washed over his toothy face. “Oh, don’t worry. I’m not him. I’m his brother.”
Ulrick managed to pull together some of his wits. “Who’s brother?” he buzzed questioningly.
The lizard looked surprised, “Surely you recognize the resemblance. My brother is the infamous Gojira, god lizard, king of all the monsters! He’ll be playing Paris, New York City, San Francisco, and of course Tokyo this year, as part of his MEGA TOUR of the Earth! We may hit Albuquerque this year too, just to mix it up a bit. I do operations.”
Tiffany squeaked again, not at all reassured, but her curiosity was piqued. “Operations, Mr. Lizard?”
The lizard laughed melodiously. “Call me Joe…my DAD is Mr. Lizard!” His eyes twinkled in amusement, pleased to have finally gotten to use that corny joke on someone. “Joe Gojira, financial operations and tour manager, at your service, young miss. I’m sorry, but I did not catch your name…”
“Tiffany. And this is Ulrick the Bee.”
“Splendid! How wonderful to make your acquaintance, Tiffany and Ulrick. Can you tell me how far I am from New York City? Or whether there’s a train station nearby?”
Tiffany scratched her ear. “I used to go to Columbia, so I think we’re nearby. But I don’t really know. We hamsters aren’t so good with long distances.”
Joe nodded understandingly. “That’s OK, Tiffany. How about you, Ulrick?”
Ulrick buzzed. “I’ve never been to New York City.”
Joe nodded again. “Well, I’m sure I’ll find some way to the city once I get my bearings. There will be a lot of rampaging to do over the next week; a few days delay won’t appreciably set back the schedule. In fact, this might work out to our advantage. It lets the markets heat up a bit more now that people know we’re coming. Do either of you invest?”
“Invest in what?” asked Tiffany, who was somewhat familiar with the idea.
“Stocks, futures, real estate…you name it” said Joe breezily. “It’s a little late to get into the speculation on basic survival necessities, but the post-Gojira market trends would be well-worth looking into.”
Tiffany and Ulrick looked at each other blankly, and then affixed their confused gaze upon Joe. He chuckled to himself in mock-exasperation.
“Oh, I forget that hamsters and bees don’t follow the markets. Are you familiar with the Gojira Effect?”
Tiffany and Ulrick shook their heads no.
“The Gojira Effect is the economic response to one of our ‘events’. When Gojira awakens and exacts terrible vengeance from mankind for their sins, the world financial markets react accordingly with great volatility, which leaves them open for manipulation by the lizards with their pulse on current events. I rampage through the indexes and exchanges with perhaps greater destructive power than even my mighty brother, though with considerably more grace and subtlety.” Joe smiled pleasantly, and winked at Ulrick conspiratorially.
Tiffany was horrified. “That’s…that’s terrible! You’re a monster!”
Joe threw back his head and laughed throatily, his diamond ear studs twinkling redly in the glow of the burning orchard. “Thank you, Tiffany. It’s not often I’m called that. Most would presume that what I do is not on the same scale of destruction that my brother so capably demonstrates. As it is, I just skim 20 percent off the top, and sink most of it back into the organization and operations. As for the world, insurance pays for all the damage, everyone gets a check, and the world goes on having learned a valuable lesson.”
Tiffany stamped her foot. “That’s not what happens at all! People die, people get sick, families go broke, dreams are crushed! You’re just EVIL!” She sobbed, tucked her head under her forearm and snuffled noisily.
Joe, surprised by Tiffany’s reaction, knelt down to reassure her. “Oh, don’t worry about the humans. There are plenty of them, and they’re more than capable of surviving the Gojira Effect. Think of it as a redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor, and my 20% as a gratuity for a service competently performed on behalf of the Earth herself.”
Tiffany’s head abruptly popped up, her eyes glistening and red with determination. “No no no! You’re hurting innocent people. You’re stealing their dreams and their livelihoods. The checks don’t come soon enough, because the insurance companies are in the business of surviving, not reconstruction. You are a terrible, terrible lizard.”
Tiffany stood up, drawing herself up to her full height of 6 and one half inches to face Joe, who took an involuntary step back away from the cage. Ulrick tensed, his stinger ready to back up his friend. The lizard, at over four times the height of the hamster, appeared amused at Tiffany’s sudden change of mood. Tiffany lowered her chin, quelled her shaking whiskers, and looked him right in the eye.
“Oprah is going to get you.”
“Op-rah?” Joe’s eyes widened slightly, professional interest piquing his curiosity. “I have not heard of this kaiju. Is she local talent?”
“OPRAH is the DEFENDER OF OUR PEOPLE, a force of POSITIVE CHANGE, and she controls the MINDS AND HEARTS of everything good that I believe in!” cried Tiffany. She lowered voice a shade, and then whispered defiantly. “She will bring you down, and I will be there with her.”
Joe smiled. “I like your spirit, Tiffany. So, what can you tell me of this Op-rah?”
Tiffany, by way of answer, hopped to the door of her cage, reached around to unlatch it, and burst onto the windowsill. It was a tense moment. Ulrick was sick with anticipation at what might happen, stinger quivering. Joe, though appearing unconcerned, had subtly shifted his balance to the balls of his feet. Tiffany, however, hopped off the windowsill into the room, and jumped on the Tivo remote.
“I will show you Oprah,” she said.
With amazing speed and fluidity, Tiffany hopped up and down on the remote, calling up an episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show”. Joe watched with great interest, eager to catch a glimpse of Gojira’s latest opponent.
“This is Oprah at the Superdome after Katrina,” said Tiffany. Joe watched with interest, but it was soon followed by a feeling of discomfort.
“This is Oprah talking to survivors of 9/11” said Tiffany. Joe started to shrink a little bit, the imagery on the screen causing him to sweat. Reptiles can’t actually sweat, but the sharp creases in Joe’s impeccably tailored pants seemed to lose their snap. He winced as Tiffany hopped on the remote for one last time.
“And this,” said Tiffany with a gravity never before seen in a hamster her size, “is Oprah giving free cars to everyone in the studio audience, to people who really needed them.” Exhausted from her impromptu presentation of daytime television, Tiffany flopped over and lay panting on the top of the coffee table.
Joe was silent for several minutes, processing what he had just seen. At last he spoke.
“I must confer with my colleagues in Toulouse”, he said crisply. “We have not fully considered the scope of our actions, particularly in the current socio-economic climate. Clearly, there are critical second- and third-order factors that we have failed to take into account in our model.”
Joe bowed to Tiffany, and smiled warmly. “We shall meet again. Well played.” And with that, he strode back across the walkway to his ship. With a slight whooshing sound, the walkway retracted and the ship rose majestically into the sky. It bobbled, much like Ulrick did when he waved goodbye while in flight, and then streaked east toward the ocean.
Ulrick hopped up to Tiffany. “Wow, that was amazing.”
Tiffany groaned. “I think I’m going to be sick. I’m not used to moving so fast.”
Ulrick pushed his head against Tiffany’s furry side in a comradely fashion. “And you’re outside of your cage too. Are you going to be ok?”
“Yes. I think so.”
And after that, Ulrick and Tiffany stayed up late chatting about sunflowers, Oprah, mysterious lizards, where “Toulouse” was, while watching the fire engines put out the orchard fire. Ulrick didn’t know it at the time, but it was the beginning of the rest of his life, and he was learning how to make the best of it.
THE END (FINALLY)