Bee in the Bonnet

I could see his face was shinier than porcelain as it dripped with reflective beads of sweat. They continued to ask me questions about it, but how could you reply to the fact that your dad was a murderer? He sat there still trying to dig the blood from under his nails and on his palm. His face looked overwhelmed by the events of the night. He had gone from being Raven Mortuus to Raven Mortuus, “The Murderer.” I sat staring blankly at the officer in front of me wondering why her hands were so stiff, as if struck with rigor mortis. What was I supposed to do? Just forget it happened? The magnitude of events slowly and surely ate away at my conscience. 

The approaching investigator came and took a seat across from me. He attempted small talk to ease the tension in the room, but it would not work. He asked me how long my dad had been drinking. 

The words oozed out my mouth ever so slowly, as if afraid to escape, until I could finally muster the strength to speak. “Fourteen years,” I said.

That poor little boy was on his way to school.  Dad, why did you do it? I knew it was bad, but never like this. Why did you have to force me into the car with you and give me that sweet pity talk you give after you’re done cussing out mom and beating her like a rag doll? Those two seconds were the fastest of my life. Hearing the loud thump on the car bumper and seeing that poor innocent boy’s head flick backwards in a motion faster than my eye could ever keep up with. All the blood could fill a pool, and the streams of tears I cried could fill another. Oh god if only you could see the boy’s face. I kneeled down to see if he was still breathing. I prayed to myself that he was still breathing. My hands were the color of Mars, a bright crimson, and I tried to wipe the blood off on my shirt as I cried. But even through all my remorse, you sat there untouched, undamaged, and unbothered. How could you hit that poor little boy and even worse, not even feel guilty about it? Through the waterworks in my eyes I turned towards my dad and no longer recognized the person looking back at me, for all I could see were a pair of eyes, dark circles of the abyss. I directed my attention elsewhere, to the side of the little boy’s bag. There lay a beautiful, awe-inducing flower: a lotus. I picked it up and for that instant, I was drawn in by its beauty. It was so precious and delicate. I was immune to all external, for nothing was more important than this lotus. Soon after, the flower withered away in front of me and all at once, reality came rushing back in. Of course, I thought. Death often induced more death. Why was death like this? So abrupt and solemnly devastating. 

I looked into the broken glass mirror behind the investigator and gazed upon my shattered reflection. I looked through the window of the room door and saw a stroller. Nobody was standing near it, and it was just empty. My eyes grew wide and red, and tears leaked down my eyes as I remembered the little boy that dad had hit with the Suzuki. I pondered over the life that poor boy was meant to live and how I couldn’t ever give it back to him. An apology would’ve been fine for me, the chance to say sorry both for me and my dad. Just giving him the chance to see his mom and dad one more time would have sufficed.

Dad was still drunk and wasn’t aware of what was going on. He stared blankly past the investigator in front of him. His eyes were dark portals of macabre vision. The investigator pressed him for answers. However he was only answered by grumbling and groans. At this point, Dad was a lost cause.

When the police officer escorted me back to the house, Mom was sitting on the couch drinking a can of Budweiser. The smell of the house was reminiscent of weed and various beverages. A deep anger engulfed me and I quickly found myself screaming at my own mother. 

My eyes narrowed and I let the words take me over, “Don’t you know what Dad and I have just been through? What are you doing with your life?” I screamed. 

Why was she sitting here as if oblivious to the events Dad and I had just gone through? The sheer thought made my blood boil. She scolded me in a condescending tone, the same way Dad would when he knew he was in the wrong. That only exacerbated the situation further, and I became resentful towards the both of them. She’s just as bad if not worse than Dad, I thought, and soon after we continued the bitter rally between the two of us. 

Mom walked over to me in her discombobulated and meek manner. Her face was grey and her lips were cracked. She rested her hand on my shoulder and muttered that I go to my room. I shoved her arm off me and marched on to my room still in a frenzy.

As I walked upstairs I kicked one of my mom’s beer bottles on the ground and hurried off to my bedroom. I slammed the door so hard the knob came loose and the house rattled. I jumped onto the bed and pushed the side of my head into the dingy cotton pillow. My eyes began to water dramatically and my nose began to run. Several minutes of solemn weeping passed, and my vision became fuzzy through the blur of tears.

I turned my head to my window, and I saw a bee flying above me in my room. It flew around me in a graceful and effortless manner. It buzzed like it had a secret to tell me. My first instinct was to kill it, but after everything that happened I couldn’t muster the courage. Closer and closer to my body it got and I just laid there. I genuinely thought I was going crazy at this point. Was it weird to be jealous of a bee? It flew around so freely and purposefully, yet didn’t have much direction at all. My eyes widened and focused on the bee as I had no tears left to cry. I traced its every movement with my eyes and began to smile. I admired it and envied its beauty. The bee circled the room one last time and hurried out of the small tattered window it had entered. As I watched the bee exit,  I took a long, passionate, gaze at my book bag. 

I knew what I had to do.

By Alpha Bah, Class of 2020

Experiment Gone Wrong

Sirens blared and white strobe lights emerged from the factory down the block. The TV aired an emergency broadcast. “An experiment gone wrong,” was all I heard before venturing outside and into the chaotic streets. People were falling left and right and no one knew why. A woman on the phone with police yelled, “It’s a rat! It’s spreading a parasite! How can those scientists let this happen? All the damage they’re causing is outrageous! They’ll be getting a call from my lawyer tomorrow!” All of a sudden there was a burning pinch at my ankle. I went cold.

–By Molly Jackson, Class of 2021

Method to Madness

He bursts through the door with such force the whole apartment building shakes. How could she? How could his wife of ten years just go, with nothing said but a meager note on the table? In the months past, some awful things had happened, but this stings deep. He reads the note. It is all meaningless to him. He rips down all her pictures, tosses her clothes to the ground, and breaks the mirror that hangs in their room. It shatters on the ground, and a box of her things scatters on the ratty carpet. Makeup, nail polish, trinkets like cards and jewelry spill among the glass. He looks at his reflection in the shards. His suit, long blond hair, then the makeup. He grabs it and starts yelling to himself, rubbing creams and lipstick on his wrinkled face. 

She said you were crazy! She said you were slipping into madness! Your jokes would be the end of you. He mumbles to himself, grabbing green polish. Well, well, well, how’s this for crazy? 

He stands, then studies his reflection. A smiling clown stares back at him. This sends him into hysteria. A pale white face, darkened eyes, green hair, and a bright red smile make him laugh at the top of his lungs. He looks crazy, and he loves it.

Your boss, your family, and your wife were all right! You’re insane! But, maybe all of Gotham should know! His voice echoes back to him. Perhaps start with the casino! 

He grabs a few items, but the deck of cards from the box of her possessions catches his eye. The joker card sits on top. He giggles at the irony. As he selects a few “tools” for the casino, he picks up the deck and looks at the bizarrely dressed man on top. After a few seconds, he slips the card into his coat pocket.

“Well,” the crazy man says out loud. “They always said you were a joker.”

–By Calli Carr, Class of 2024

I’m John, I’m probably dead now

My name is John. I’m short and 38. The disease broke out roughly two weeks ago and everyone’s becoming corpses. Apparently the rats are the catalysts. They have black fur, big claws, and bloodshot eyes. I found an apartment building yesterday. I’ve taken shelter there, but one thing happened. This morning when I woke up, I noticed that I had cuts and scratches all over my legs. I’m pretty sure it was the rats. I’ll probably die soon, so I want to give you some tips. Sleep with one eye open and kill every single one of those lousy rats.

By Dean Fort, Class of 2023

Across the River

Going through life knowing what you are meant to do, but feeling like there is a wall stopping you from achieving it, is something that most people can likely relate to.  For Scott Williams, however, it was less of a wall and more of a river, the Hudson River to be exact. A river can rush you away from the location you were trying to reach, setting you miles away from where you wanted to go.  Another thing about rivers, is you can drown without ever reaching the other side. And some rivers have alligators whose main goal is stopping you from reaching the other side.  That alligator was Scott’s wife.

Scott spent his entire high school career pining after the prettiest girl in school and finally got the girl. However, after high school Rebecca began to change into a stoic machine who became so focused on her future she lost the present. However, Scott stayed with her.

He went through his day-to-day life in a trance.  He hadn’t much to complain about it, and had the successful life everyone thought he would. However, something was still missing. Something he’d given up for Rebecca, his passion for theater, because it didn’t fit the image she wanted them to portray.

Secretly, Scott never gave up on the theater, frequently traveling to NYC to see Broadway shows when his wife was away on a business trip.  He even had friends who were in the show business. His close friend, Francis, was a talent manager for amateur actors looking to break into the business, and one day when they met for lunch, Francis suggested that he should go to an open call for the reboot of a show scheduled to open next year.  

“It would be great.  It wouldn’t even matter if you got the role, it would just be fun to go and experience it,” said Francis.  “Theater used to be your dream. You were amazing on the stage, and I’m not just saying that because I’m your friend.  I know talent when I see it. It’s like a gut feeling, and I get it everytime you sing.”

“Eh, I don’t know, you know how Rebecca is about me and theater,” Scott replied.

“Of course I do. She won’t even let you listen to the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack at home!  Who doesn’t love Andrew Lloyd Webber?”  Francis sounded like she was holding herself back from saying other things she disliked about Rebecca.  She had gone to high school with Rebecca and Scott, so she had plenty of years to rack up a list of them.  “You have to go to it.”  

“Fine, fine, fine, I’ll go!”

“Good, I’m happy now.”

As Scott opened the door to the audition center, nervousness overwhelmed his body.  He didn’t know how he was going to do this. While he barely had time to prepare his audition, everyone else had been working for months for this one moment.  He ran over his audition song in his head thinking about how to sing it perfectly.

“Scott Williams? It’s time for your audition,” said the audition manager. 

Scott stood up and shakily walked the through the door. This was his childhood dream.  This is what his life could’ve been if he didn’t lose himself to pursue Rebecca.     

“Whenever you’re ready, Scott,” said one of the casting agents. 

As Scott began sinbging, he began to see what was on the other side of his river and knew that he wanted to make it across.  He could picture himself center stage, a spotlight trained on his face, bellowing out a song in front of a crowd who all had bought tickets to see him perform. This was what he was meant to do.  

After the last note was finished in the song, the directors had Scott read through lines from the show.  He made it through the first few words, but stumbled over the next one and it was like a chain reaction that he couldn’t stop.  He began to butcher every word that tried to escape his mouth until the casting agent stopped him.

“Thank you that is enough,” he said.  “Was this your first professional audition?”

“Yes sir,” replied Scott.  

“Well, your singing was phenomenal, but you just desperately need to work on your delivery of lines.”

“Okay, thank you I will.  Thank you for your time.” Scott nodded his head to say goodbye and walked out of the room.

After he left the building Scott called Francis to tell her about the open call.

“I just finished the audition and it was terrible.  I stumbled over every line. However, I need to thank you.  I’ve missed the theater and I’ve decided I need to pursue this.” 

“I knew that you would love it.  And don’t worry about messing up, it’s your first time.  You’ll do better at the next one and I’ll set you up with good acting coach.”

“Thank you, Francis.” 

When he arrived home late that night,a single lamp burned in his living room.  Rebecca. Scott walked into the house and took a deep breath.

“Where have you been?  And don’t tell me, ‘at the firm,’ because that’s where I was,” said Rebecca.  She sat reading a book.

“I was in New York, at an open call for a show.” 

Rebecca snapped her head up, angry and disappointed.

“It was amazing. You know how it was my dream to perform on Broadway.”

“Yeah, maybe when you were fourteen, but now you’re thirty-seven and have an actual job.  Not one that involves being on a stage in a silly costume making a fool of yourself. And not just yourself, me!”

By this point Rebecca was fuming.  When they had become engaged, she said his pursuing theater was a deal-breaker.  Now, Scott realized that Rebecca not allowing him to pursue his dreams should’ve been the deal-breaker long ago.  Now, he was ready to to start swimming across the river, towards the side he so desperately wanted to be on, so he held his breath and jumped.

“Rebecca, you are my wife who I love and chose to marry, because I believed you would support me and my aspirations, as much as I support yours.  But, now I realize, you only supported the goals you made me have, and that’s not something I can live with anymore. There’s a whole other life I want to live, and I’ll never have it if I keep pretending to be happy in this routine I am stuck in.  I’m sorry if you don’t chose to support me, but if you do, I would be very happy.”

“I’m sorry, Scott, but I just can’t condone this horrible decision,” said Rebecca.  She sounded like a mother talking to a foolish child. “I’ll give you a week to realize the mistake you’re making, but after that, I’m calling a divorce attorney.”

After a week of crashing on a friend’s sofa and attending acting classes surrounded by people much less talented than him, Scott still didn’t regret his decision. If Rebecca wouldn’t stay married to him because he wanted to pursue his dream of being on Broadway, then why was she married to him in the first place?  This is who he was.

*****

Now seven months after the divorce, Scott still didn’t regret his decision.  He hadn’t been cast in any shows, but he knew that there were thousands of people trying to get into this business and it takes time.  He took acting classes at night and went to auditions on the weekends. Occasionally, he would land a small role in an off-Broadway show.  

Since Rebecca’s life was their law firm, Scott left it and found a job at another one.  It was much smaller than his old firm, but it was less busy and allowed Scott to have more free time.  

Earlier, he’d received a callback for a new show soon to debut soon on Broadway.  He’d been a nervous wreck the whole week, thinking about it.  

At the audition, he went through the normal routine: signing in, sitting, waiting, and then auditioning; it was almost routine.  After Scott finished singing, the room was completely silent.  

The director smiled at him and turned to the rest of the people at the table. “I think we’ve found our lead.”  He walked towards Scott. “Congratulations, welcome to Broadway!”

It was that moment when all the pieces of the puzzle fell together and Scott knew that this is the life he was destined to live.  After swimming as hard as he could, he had finally made it across the river and was ready for everything this side had to offer.

By Morgan Murnane, Class of 2020