charlie

Charlie is an old man who hasn’t spoken out loud to anyone for months. His wife passed away around the same time that he stopped talking. He still mumbles and buzzes out noises. He keeps a journal, and writes in it religiously, but the cursive scratch is so flat that any of the nurses who have tried to read it can only make out the heads of the t’s and the tails of the y’s.


I thought about bees today, and honey on fresh wheat bread: the kind my wife used to make, the kind that gives off steam like hot springs, and you wipe a silver kitchen knife full of butter that melts immediately, and then the honey goes on like silent glass that you unearthed somewhere in the forest from out of a tree that was fallen over and humming. I thought there must be a way to recreate the process of these little creatures: hairy, lazy gnomes that seem to be passionately sleepwalking after nectar, somehow sucking up the sweetest parts of the most colorful natural organisms we have, and mixing with their spit, and it’s all packaged in one of the most economical shapes possible. They don’t lick the rocks. They aren’t gathering colorful leaves. By God, where did these things come from?


Charlie sat in his mind in a wheelchair thinking about these bees. The nurse walked in and asked how he was, glwoing like the sun, not expecting anything bright enough to shine back. The nurse placed his pills on this table skirting around him. Last week he had pinched her rear and asked he if she loved the lavendar outside his window as much as he did. He said this after calling her darling, but it was all a humming sound to her.


There has to be a way to make honey. If I could just get close enough to the buzzing of their wings and listen to the buzz, I’m almost certain that I could hear the instructions like a radio signal eminating off of them. It isn’t the way the bee buzzes, but it’s the way it lives, the way it crawls and hovers and is a lover of nector. If God won’t tell me how they do it, then I’m going to steal it like Prometheus, steal what is to my mitochondria golden edible fire.


Charlie sat at the window each morning watching the bees on the lavendar on the other side of the pane of glass. He took his breakfast there and when his lunch came he would ask to go outside. Usually the nurse would consent, but last week they caught him with several bee stings on his hands and two bees still in his hands, one stinger-less and dying, the other crushed.


It’s been a week now. I had a dream last night of dozens of old Mexican men in orchards on ladders with small paint brushes. It was spring and they looked like they were painting the flowers. They chatted in languor. One hand would steady the branch and the other would take that small brush and insert it into the small open flower after flower. I saw one man lick the brush and wipe it on his overalls. He was chewing tobacco and every so often he would lick, wipe and spit: the golden brown liquid would slide down a branch and then I woke up.


Charlie took the candles off of someone else’s birthday cake today, but they were promptly taken away from him.


I’ve been researching how the bees make honey. It’s the enzymes that I can’t get past. Bees make honey by swallowing the nectar, which is mixed with their spit, which has enzymes, which I don’t have. I’ve got to get those enzymes.


Charlie was found at the bus station waiting for a bus. He was turned away because he didn’t have the fare. Later he was found and brought back inside to play checkers with Joe.


I’ve been making hexagons out of candle wax.


The nurse came in yesterday and found Charlie gently placing his things in the plastic trash liners from the bins in his room. She laughed and said, while she slowly took the things out, that he looked like he had just come home from grocery shopping. He pinched her again.


I tried to find honeysuckle on the other side of town.


Charlie didn’t watch the bees out the window today.


I’ve been catching bees. I know there’s a way to get the enzymes out of them. I’ve been thinking about other things that I need to get. It’s not just the enzymes. They dry their spit mixture with their wings and preserve it with their wax. But I can mimic the wings, and I can mimic the wax, but there’s something about honey that is wing dried and there’s something about bee’s wax.


Charlie took his drinking glass and turned it upside down on his table. He put a pea underneath the glass and stared at it.


I knew the bees weren’t the answer. It was the honey, not the bees that I was after. I think it was the nurse with the honey bee earrings. She didn’t say a thing that wasn’t necessary. She just smiled. I watched her smear the honey on my toast. I threw the toast on the floor. I wasn’t going to take someone else’s honey.


Charlie started watching the bees again.


I’ve been watching the honey bees on my lavendar. They seem so fastidious. What’s wrong with what they are doing? They can’t just gather honey all day. What’s the point. All they want to do is gather honey. They get honey, they eat honey, they die. What cruel thing made these insects to do this? Don’t they have a greater purpose in life? Can’t life do something better than cycle itself to death? They just gather honey, and then die. Don’t we all just do this? What is the point in life? To just gather honey, as much sweet flavor out of the beautiful buds of life as we can? Maybe the honey is just a bunch of memories. They are gathering and boxing up memories in their little hexagons, and once the hex is full they seal it off to open up and eat in the winter. Maybe they have short term memory loss, and they have to use the honey in the winter to remember each of the flowers they visited. The rosebush, mmm. Remember the rosebush? One of them would ask? Yes! And what would they say about the rosebush. Would they comment on it like we comment on fine wine? Oh, there is such a flavor to this, yes indeed, yes indeed. And why would they comment? Because it makes them happy? What drives these bees. I must find a way to rewire the bees. Why don’t they work on something grand. We could get them to build the biggest hive of all time. Yes I think I will do that.


Charlie got a new nurse.


I think I’m going to start picking flowers and placing the dried petals in jars. After some time I will have tons of petals and then I can show them to my friends and . . . what’s the point? Why would I bother gathering petals. I don’t want to gather petals for the sake of just doing it. But think of all the honey. Think of all the time you can spend with sweet things. Why do I even like sweet things? I do. I love sweet things. I was made to love sweet things. There’s something inside me to make me love sweet things. But why do the bees love sweet things? There must be a reason why they love sweet things. Is it because they were made that way? Did they develop that way. Or was it the sweetness that came first? Why did the flowers develop that way? And how did these two things find each other?


Charlie didn’t do anything today.


How did the bee come to find the flower?


Charlie likes to slowly push his pills around on the table before he ingests them. He takes them with water one at a time. It usually takes three-quarters of an hour.


How did the honey bee come to want the flower? I just can’t seem to figure it out. There is the flower, and the bee wakes up in the morning as soon as the sun announces the day and finds the flower. If the sun never set I’m sure the bee never would either. It’s magnetic. It’s like what I’d call aesthetic. How can the bee be so wrapped up with the flower? Doesn’t it wonder or want anything else? Couldn’t it want wood like the termite? I’m sure if it did, it would become white and pale like the termite. Bees hate termites. They are disgustingly fragile and sickly and destructive. There isn’t any virtue in them. There isn’t anything like a bee in them, except obsession, even though the obsession is something different than the bees. Maybe I’m a termite.


Charlie likes to sleep with his glasses on.


I’ve decided that it’s not about the honey or the flower or the bee. It’s something to do with the wings of the bee. It’s what the bee is; it’s what it has: wings, a straw-like tongue, hair on its knees. If the bee didn’t have wings then it wouldn’t be able to approach flowers in such a way as it does. It couldn’t fly right up and kiss her right on the mouth, and ask her for her hand and walk away through the garden with her. How could the bee harvest honey without that smooth long tongue? I look at my hands and my feet and my mouth and wonder what I was made for: picking fruit, running into waves on the ocean front. I think I’m going to ask that girl out on a date tomorrow.


Charlie was found in his room nude.


I don’t get it. We people have made our flowers: furniture and buildings and such. What happened to the original flowers? What are the original flowers? Isn’t there a house somewhere that isn’t contrived? Wait, the bees have made their own houses, and cupboards and such, but what about their flowers. Where is my flower?


Charlie hates doors and doorknobs.


What does a bee become when you takes it’s wings off? When you pluck off the lace that provides them with the wind to move from flower to flower? Are we just angels without wings?


No, Charlie doesn’t pinch the new nurse’s rear.


Do I have my wings? Why do I have instincts that for feelings that I never have the ability for?

When you pluck of the bee’s wings, what does he think? Does he feel that he has a sudden urge, like an addiction? He feels that need to fly, that need for honey. What is my honey? Stop asking questions. Just think. THink about it . I can’t seeem to theink about it anymore. It’s like I was thinking about it and then I wasn’t thinking about it and there is something to what I was thinking.


Charlie doesn’t want to talk about it.


This morning I took a bee to my writing desk. I put him in a jar and shook him senseless in the jar. When I opened the bottle and dumped him out, I plucked his wings off with tweezers. I let him stand on the desk and walk around a bit, just to see that he was alive. I’ve become so envious of these bees. The fact that they deal with sugar all day. The fact that they get to fly among flowers. I ground the wings between my thunb and forefinger as it crawled around on the table. I planned to kill the bee, get the enzymes out from it somehow, but I just thought about the small blood and gore on my table. All the mircoscopic cells. How was I supposed to find enzymes among all that? I eventually just dumped the bee in the toilet and flushed him. I wondered how he enjoyed dealing with filth, swilrling among crap, dark pipes and no light. I wondered if he didn’t deserve it. I didn’t. I wondered how long he would survive, how long he would last down there. Did he have the strength to the deal with the smells? He lived beautifully and among beauty—and how would he deal with such a contrast is what I wanted to know. It made me feel better. It made me feel like a bee.




The next day I took another bee in a jar down to my room, shook him senseless, plucked his wings off, and threw him in the trash. Then I took out the trash. I put the trash out to the road a day early. When I went back inside I thought about the bulging plastic bag in the sun. I thought about the all the rotting fruit and vegetable peels sweating. I thought about the trash and that bee looking for nectar in there without his wings. And then I wondered why I was doing this. I wondered why I was working with trash everyday at work. I wondered about the bee, believing that I was just like that bee, looking for nectar in the a hot sweaty bag of rotting refuse.


Before Charlie retired he worked as a garbage collector.


I got a bee sting yesterday. I put another bee in a jar and shook it a bit. I put the jar right on my stomach and let the bee sting me. Once he did I put him on my desk and watched him stumble around. I sat there with my shirt off and left the stinger in my stomach.


In the evenings Charlie would look at the collection of National Geographics in the common area. He never opened them. He just looked at the covers.