Jane Hulstrunk and Lauren B. Flax

Jane Hulstrunk

Lauren B. Flax
Inspiration Piece

They assured me that the hive was dead. With each strike of the sledgehammer, pieces of plaster fall away from the ceiling; some pieces cling together by stands of horsehair as they fall to the floor, while smaller flecks catch in my hair and beard. I remind myself that all of this work and the temporary move down the hall will be worth it when our bedroom has smooth walls and good insulation to keep out the cold this winter. The exterminators were here three times, and while the floor upstairs is no longer hot over the hive, I still wonder if at some point this sledgehammer will strike a spot made soft by years of honey and decay and release thousands of angry, panicked bees into my face.

One night mid-summer, after we had been seeing bees swarming under the third floor window for a few weeks, I took a ladder to the side of the house to check it out, expecting to see a hive under one of the cedar shingles. Instead I saw hundreds of bees flying in and out of the house through a heart shaped hole a few feet under the window. I went up to the third floor bedroom that would have been the baby’s room and pushed the boxes and bags of Char’s old, smaller clothes out of the way to make a path. Halfway across the room, I noticed the floorboards were warm under my feet. I took a few more steps toward the window, thinking the warmth might be from the sun coming through, but the room faces north. So I knelt on the floor, and as I brought my ear to the floorboards I heard it- the chaotic vibration of thousands of bees. It was more of a hum than a buzz, thousands of wings and bodies, their hive a machine that thrummed with its own life.

My neck strains from looking straight up at the ruptured ceiling. I am getting into the lathe over my head now, bringing down slats of wood with the plaster. My shoulders burn, my face itches from the dust, and my legs are tight from gripping the ladder. I should have called some friends to help –Char was right about that– but really I was looking forward to spending the day with no one to talk to, nothing to explain, and nothing to do but knock shit down.

When I had knocked out all the plaster and lathe I could reach, I climbed down the ladder and moved it a few feet toward the back of the room, away from the spot where I knew I would find the hive. They assured me the hive was dead, but I wasn’t ready to risk disturbing it, to face the thrumming anger of the live bees, or to have a hand in the quiet dismantling of their dried out chambers.



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