Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Bee Man’s Diary (3,059 Words)

This is the long version of the piece in Verandah 23. It's exploring power and social mores in hetero relationships... Also, I like bees.

Bee Man’s Diary

Friday, November 16
5pm - Appointment with Dr Shrover – Get letter!

The Doctor’s office smells like wet dog wrapped in phonebooks. I wait for him to finish his phone call. The closed-back red vinyl seat strains under my stinger.

Dr Shrover puts down the phone and gives me a level stare. There is a dead bonsai on his desk. He sighs.
‘Well, David, why don’t you tell me why you’re here’. Resigned, as if he knows what’s coming.
‘I need another letter. I… stung someone on the train again.’
He looks at me, exasperated.
‘It wasn’t my fault! It was peak hour, the train was packed!’
‘I can’t keep writing these letters excusing your behaviour.’
‘But if you don’t, he’ll press charges. He’ll sue me for medical damage! It’s not my fault that I have this… thing.’
‘Calm down. Now, don’t you usually wear a sting guard nowadays?’
‘Well, yes, but… this man was really rude, pushing, jostling… AND talking really loudly on his phone! It wasn’t my fault that my sting guard… accidentally… slipped off, and when I bent down to pick it up, he started screaming “you stung me, you stung me!” the train was delayed because we had to get the paramedics.’
‘This has to stop…’ he takes off his glasses. ‘You know about that new procedure. Now we’re able to remove your stinger altogether.’
‘Yes, but... well, I quite like it, is all. I can pierce tricky cans with it, I can hook my shopping on it when I’m opening the door to my flat, it can, um, uh… work as a makeshift sundial if I forget my watch…’
Dr Shrover opens his mouth to speak, but just then the vinyl cover on the seat finally gives and my stinger pierces it with a muffled POP.
‘Sorry,’ I mumble.

Friday, November 16
6.30 – Meet up with Tony for dinner/drinks
I arrive at the pub at 6.42, so I can be settled and have a hassled look on my face for when Tony inevitably arrives 15 minutes late.

At 6.46, Tony walks through the door. Spotting me, he strides to my table.
‘Hey, sorry…’ He points to his watch and does a thumbs-up like a malnourished, remorseful Big Kev. ‘You weren’t waiting long, were you?’
‘Well, we did say 6.30…’ As my oldest, dearest friend, Tony must deal with my Occasional Ungrounded Huffiness.

We go to the counter and order two mixed grills and two pots from the prissy he-bitch waiter, who tosses his hair like a teenage girl as he looks at my stinger and raises an eyebrow. Fuck him; at least my pants aren’t so tight they’re giving me a mock castration. Bloody hospitality queens.
As we sit back down, I carefully arrange my stinger so it pokes to the side of the high-backed chair.

Tony takes a breath. ‘I’m gonna do it.’ He states.

‘Good’, I say, discreetly sniffing my beer before taking the first sip.
I assume that’s the end of this puzzlingly minimalist conversation, until Tony nods his head. ‘At Chelsea’s. Tomorrow night, nine o’clock. It was a spur of the moment thing, but I’ve wanted to do it for ages.’
‘Right you are, then’. I say, putting down my beer and wiping my mouth. ‘So, what exactly is it you’re doing, and do I need to care?’
Tony looks at me, grinning. ‘Stand up comedy. Chelsea’s has an amateur night on Saturdays. People are always telling me I’m funny. I reckon this’ll be the start of something huge’.
‘Who tells you you’re funny?’
‘You know, people. Girls.’ He adds, wiggling his eyebrows so they look like hyperventilating black grubs.
‘They only say that so they don’t have to fuck you. “Funny” has platonic connotations. It’s your beard. Women don’t like it. Shave it and you’ll get “charming”, which is either “you intimidate the hell out of me, let me put your man-parts in my mouth”, or “you’re creepy and I want out”.’
‘That’s total bullshit. Who told you that theory?’
Tony stiffens. ‘Oh. Well then.’
‘Well what? You do that every time I mention her. For the six-thousandth-cunting time, don’t you like her?’
‘She’s fine. Anyway, what I think is of no consequence as long as you’re happy spending time with her. So as I was saying, I’m on at nine tomorrow, you should come, give me some moral support.’
‘Cool. We’re doing wedding stuff in the daytime, but during the night we’re free.’ Tony again bristles at the use of ‘we’. ‘Fucking what?’ I say in frustration.
‘Your mixed grill, Sir’ huffs Queenie the Waiter, who has come up next to me.
‘I’ll put that in my act’ Tony sniggers.

* * *

We end up celebrating Tony’s upcoming debut by drinking too much and going to the cheesy rock bar across from the pub. Tony claps and shuffles to ‘Run to Paradise’ as I… do seventies dance moves and wag my stinger around. Tony plays air-guitar with my stinger during a Bon Jovi song. What can I say; we do stupid things when we’re drunk together. It’s the reason you have mates, isn’t it?

Saturday, November 17
More Wedding stuff with Trisha
I wake up to the crushing feel of a stack of magazines hitting my bladder and groin through the doona. I cough-moan pathetically and open my eyes.

‘Morning!’ Trisha kisses me. ‘Sorry I was so late last night. Jess and Peter are having another crisis, so we all had to go round to Jess’ to watch her eat pudding and cry.’

Tiredness bitchslapping me into an awkward shuffle-limp, I stagger to the bathroom. I misjudge the width of the doorway, and catch my stinger against it, which partially spins me and makes me hit my elbow on the other side of the doorway. I swear loudly.

‘What is it, Sweetie?’ Trisha calls from the bedroom.
‘I caught my bloody stinger on the bloody doorway’.
‘Don’t be such a sook. You don’t even have any feeling in it!’
‘Yeah, but my…’ it’s too much effort. At the toilet I stick my crotch out so I can no-hands it while I cradle my elbow. Owwww.

When I return to the bedroom, Trisha has the magazines spread out on the bed and opened on bookmarked pages.

‘So Tony’s decided to do stand up comedy, and he wants us to go to his big debut tonight.’
Trisha purses her lips. ‘Fine’. She snaps.
‘What’s wrong? You like Tony, don’t you?’
‘Yeah, he’s charming. Anyway, what I think is of no consequence as long as you’re happy with spending time with him.’
‘OK, cool’ I say, kissing her. ‘It starts at nine.’
‘Ok. As long as you don’t drink too much and do that stupid dancing thing you guys do.’
I give my best ‘innocence-wronged’ look. ‘Hmph. So! Where are we?’
‘We’re at groom and groomsmen’s tuxes. I have a few I think you’d like…’
‘That one’s nice… Jesus, Trisha. Look at the prices. Why don’t I just hire one?’
Trisha gives me that look. Where she stares at me blankly, looks pointedly at my stinger, then looks back to my face. Self conscious, I grab my stinger with one hand and a pillow with the other. I place the pillow on top of it. Trisha frowns and takes my hand.
‘Sweetie, I talked to Dr Shrover last week…’
‘Why were you at the Doctors’?’
Her hand flies to her stomach. ‘Just a check-up. Anyway, he said he was going to talk to you about… removing it.’

Hmm. Doesn’t that infringe on patient confidentiality? Well, I guess that’s what I get for going to a Doctor with an ‘every 11th visit free’ frequency card programme. Trisha takes a breath.
‘Why don’t you get rid of it? I’m sick of having to take your new pants to be altered. And buying backless chairs. And… I want to cuddle up to you in bed, without having to check if you’re facing me or not. And think of how nice the photos will be at the wedding, if we can take side shots without, you know…’ She flicks my stinger. She hardly ever touches it anymore.

It wasn’t like this at the start. When Trisha and I met (we were both drones in the same boring, soulless office) she loved my stinger. She’d scream with laughter when I’d wag it in front of people to freak them out. I once wrote ‘I Love You’ in the sand with it when we were on holiday at the beach. And she would caress it when we kissed. I loved that; even though I couldn’t feel it, it made me feel like… she accepted me.

But over the last year or so, she’s been more and more negative towards it. I told her to love me as I was. She told me I didn’t respect what she wanted and she was just trying to make me a better person. We didn’t talk for two days; I was scared of losing her. Then, on the third day of our fight, I found her in the kitchen, kissed her and turned around. There was an engagement ring hooked on my stinger. She laughed and burst into tears at the same time.

Ever since then, we’ve been at a stand-off. She tells me removing my stinger will make me a more successful person. I tell her it’s a part of me, and I like it. I used to turn it back on her, and say things like ‘Well, I don’t tell you to get bigger boobs’ or ‘If I get my stinger removed, will you start doing yoga?’ (She’s not very flexible). I had to stop doing that, though, because every time I’d make counter-accusations, she’d start to cry, and talk about how insecure I made her feel. And I’d feel like the biggest bastard in the world, making my beautiful, fragile little orchid so sad. Now I just say this:
‘I’ll think about it’ even though we both know I’m never, ever going to get my stinger removed.

Saturday, November 17
9pm – Tony’s Début!
Trisha and I arrive early to get a table. But Tony has obviously spread the news around: we spot Jess and Peter (more Trisha’s friends but Peter and Tony work together), at a table near the front, off to the side. Jess waves us over and I go join them while Trisha goes to the bathroom.

I’m nervous, since I’ve only met Jess a few times, and I’ve met Peter just once, briefly. But I try to make conversation. ‘So…’ I begin, ‘it seems everything is sunshine and roses with you guys again…’

Jess frowns at me. She’s one of those people that look like they’re always frowning, though her eyebrows lower even more and her eyes squint to little perplexed lines.
‘Well, since you had a tiff, and…’
‘No, we didn’t…’ Jess and Peter exchange looks.
‘Oh, it’s just that Trish said…’
‘Ohhhh’ says Jess. ‘Yes, yes, we did have a bit of an argument. But we’re fine now.’ She gives a heavy look to Peter, who doesn’t seem very fine.

Trish comes to join us. Peter keeps staring at my stinger, but then trying to ‘not’ stare. I poke it out of my seat a little more, so it’s ‘pointing’ at him. Hehe.

‘Well!’ Says Jess, turning to Trisha. ‘You would not believe what this one did last week!’ She flicks her head to Peter.

‘I worked late, so he said he’d get dinner. I thought he meant, like, he was going to get some Chinese or something. But when I got home – ’ she shakes her head and giggles. Trisha starts to giggle in anticipation. ‘He had the cookbooks out! Turns out, he wanted to “try” this chicken recipe. It was an absolute disaster; we ended up getting pizza!’ their giggles tumble into laughter. Peter smiles in a sheepish, ‘look at me, I’m so silly’ way. Jess kisses him on the cheek. ‘But bless him for trying’. They laugh some more.

‘You don’t mind me “trying” to empty the traps whenever we get mice!’ Peter says, all jolly good humour. ‘You should see her, David; she hides in the bedroom till all the traps are out in the bin!’ He puts his arm around her.

‘At least he tried to use a recipe book!’ Trisha tells Jess. ‘David tried to “wing it” making a stir-fry a few days ago… I ended up taking over; he had no idea, poor thing!’ She cuddles up to me and everyone laughs, playing that old Battle of the Sexes cliché. I want to join in.

‘Yeah, but when the ring came off that can of water chestnuts, who used his stinger to pry it open?’ I laugh good-naturedly, but everyone else is silent. I’m about to speak again when the lights go down.

Tony’s on first. The MC, a pedestrian local comedian, does some tired material about what would happen if his dog got drunk. Then he introduces Tony, who has abandoned his usual ‘shirt and pants’ look, and is wearing very light stonewash jeans and a white t-shirt. He thanks the audience for their applause. He looks confident. Perhaps he’ll surprise me.

‘So, have you ever noticed that, like, every food label has “may contain traces of nuts” on it? Like, what’s so special about nuts, hey?’

There’ll be no surprises tonight.

I’m about to do a big, supportive laugh anyway. But I’m distracted – a man’s voice from somewhere towards the back shouts out: ‘It’s because some people are extremely allergic, and even trace elements of nuts could kill them’.

Tony stares out into the crowd. He giggles nervously and clears his throat. ‘Well, that sucks, hey? Allergies suck. I mean, I mean…. I’m allergic to the latex in condoms, so whenever I meet a girl our first date’s always romantic. I take her to get a pill prescription and an STD check-up!’

This is grim. He’s not actually allergic to latex, and he’s told me this joke before. Again, I’m beaten to a laugh, this time by another voice around the left.

‘Why don’t you try vinyl condoms, then? You can get them shipped from Germany.’

Oh, this is bad. Bad, bad, bad. But he still has two minutes of his three-minute set to go, and I plan on being his own personal laugh track.

‘Germany, don’t get me started on Germany. I mean, do you know what the number six is in German? I was at this bar in Germany and…’
‘Excuse me,’ I whisper to Peter as I slip passed him and creep towards the bathrooms. I told Tony this was a bad idea.
Tony spots me getting up. ‘Hey!’ He says, squinting into the audience. ‘Look! It’s my good friend David McCrossin! Does anyone remember the Bee Boy? This is him! Everybody, let’s hear it for the Bee Boy!’

I look around and give an awkward little wave. I’ll kill him for this. When I was born, I was obviously a bit of a curiosity. Sixty Minutes did an annual feature on me, Bee Boy’s Journey, till I was about six. By then, I was going to school, and the kids called me Bee Boy till they got sick of my abnormality and started teasing another kid whose left arm was visibly longer than his right. Every so often, people remember me. I usually don’t mind, they’re always polite. But I don’t like Tony using me as a distraction. Especially since this means I’m going to have to sign some autographs ‘with my stinger’ later on. That’ll get Trisha all embarrassed again. Which is crazy; because even if she had, I don’t know, three extra breasts, I wouldn’t care. I would love her the way she was. Who cares if people stare sometimes? Strangers mean nothing.

Plus, three more boobs? It’d be kind of hot.

‘Anyway, people, I’ve gotta go. I’ve been Tony Motwill, and you’ve been great!’ Tony waves and runs offstage to the sound of scatter-clacky applause. I shuffle to the men’s toilets. At least if people accost me there, Trisha won’t see.

Sunday, November 18
Nothing Planned
I wake up after some… weird dreams. Mostly about chainsaws, lawnmowers; buzzing, scraping things. But I always have weird dreams after a big night. See, we had to take Tony out afterwards, buy him alcohol, and make sure we never spoke of the show again. What? You would have done the same.

I roll over and Trisha is on her side of the bed, sleeping peacefully.
Then I see it.

In the middle of the bed, between us, is my stinger.

But… it’s not on me. It’s just laying there. I feel my lower back. No sticky blood, just a flattish, jagged rough patch where my stinger used to be.

I let out a scream. Trisha wakes up and turns around. She sees my stinger. Then the horrified look on my face.

‘Sweetie, this is wonderful,’ she says. ‘Not only do you not have to make a decision about whether to keep your stinger or not, we’re finally rid of that… that inconvenience! I feel like we’ve made a huge jump forward!’
‘We have to go to the hospital.’
‘David, you’ll be fine. They said it wouldn’t get infected or need dressing. I mean, I don’t think it’ll get infected or need dressing.’

I pick up the stinger, tears in my eyes. ‘I’m going to get it reattached’. I say. For a moment, Trisha is silent.
‘No, no, David, no you’re not. Look, this is the best thing. You’re normal now, and I can look forward to my normal life with my normal husband. Think about it. No more stares. No more ripped sheets and clothes… no more walking around with a sock on your back when it’s laundry day and your sting guard’s in the wash.’ She gets up, staring down at me on the bed. I’m determinedly cradling my stinger. ‘This is all for the best. If you get that reattached, then you’re going to lose me.’ She starts to cry. Oh god, I hate when she cries. It makes me want to do anything to take away her pain.

I get out of bed and give her a hug.

Monday, November 19
Schedule Appointment for Stinger Reattachment (Keep stinger on ice)
And I couldn’t be happier.

# # #

1 comment:

Chris said...

I've been feeling that way as well about the impetus for personal change.....