This is the first part of a much longer story. Here are the links to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. Enjoy! -CJS
Rolling on through the desert, pedal to the metal, toward the Hoover Dam- America's greatest monument to the modern miracle of hydroelectric power. Between where we were and where we were going, there was only yellow desert, the baking sun, and endless rows of traincars bringing an endless supply of cheap foreign products to Walmart- America's greatest monument to the modern miracle of global monopoly. Out here, there wasn't much, only a vague suggestion of commerce, the sky unpoisoned by the outstretched middle finger of a McDonald's sign at every exit.
We were only about a hundred miles from meeting the penpal I had had since I was sixteen. I sent him a video once when I was in high school. I show him my friends. I show him the mall. I show him my school. I am smiling, but uncomfortable, self-conscious from the gut instinct that my world was a small one, that there were better places than the food court and the inside of a beat-up car.
I thought about those feelings, and the difference between me and the person in that video. I was still the same inside, the same feeling that the world was exploding with possibility at every turn, but now I really believed it, because I was living it. My best friend was beside me driving the car, adjusting her bandanna in the rearview. The world was full of like-minded individuals, and if you were brave enough to seek them out, they would come to you.
I flipped through the pictures of sunsets and desert on my digital camera, my bare feet hanging out the window. The wind felt up my toes, lapping them like a fetishist in an HBO special. The world was swarming with chances, buzzing with good fortune. We were the lucky ones.
I felt the wet slap on my feet, saw the spray of blood and guts on the windshield, and heard the sound of the moist impact against the glass. I threw my camera down on the floor and looked up at the Amityville Horror that had just happened all over my car.
“WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED?!”
I shifted to face Ali, with my feet, coated and dripping with an unknown substance, still hanging out the window.
“ALI, WHAT THE HELL IS ON MY FEET?!”
Ali was slack-jawed, hitting the arm for the wipers. Blood and white liquid smeared in waves. It looked like a massacre in the sharktank at Seaworld. Ali's mouth hung open, not speaking.
“WHERE ARE THE WETNAPS?!” I frantically spun around in my seat, trying the keep my feet from soiling the inside of the car. I felt around in the backseat, blindly and desperately clawing for the recognizable shape of a brick of babywipes.
“THE MOTHERFUCKING WETNAPS, ALI!” I grabbed Ali by the shoulders, shaking her on the verge of a madness I had never thought possible.
“WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED? WHAT IS ON MY FEET, ALI?!” I located the wipes, mopping the blood, guts, and mysterious other parts from my toes, feet, and ankles.
The windshield started to clear. Ali braked and pulled the car over.
She finally spoke. The rumblestrip shook the Toyota and we came to a halt.
I looked at the gore-scene on the wetnaps I was holding. “BEES?!”
I cleaned off my feet, cursing and sputtering, and Ali got out to survey the front end of the car.
“Holy shit, dude. You really are not gonna believe this.”
The hood of my car, the windshield, the wipers, the side mirrors- they were all coated in bees. Bees. Bee parts. Bee guts. Twitching headless, limbless bee middles. Disembodied wings lifting lightly in the wind made by other cars as they flew past us. The highway was quiet. We were alone, mouths agape, standing in the dirt on the side of the road.
Ali knelt down to assess the grill. I looked, too. Melted and half-dead, a thousand bees met their maker in the radiator, sizzling.
Ali leaned in to hear it. “Total carnage.”
When the spray of bees devastated the Echo, the windows were open on both sides. I cannot estimate how many bees were in the cloud of insects trying to make their way across that fateful stretch of highway that afternoon, but from the amount of wayward bee parts that remained in my car until the day it was junked, it must have been in the tens of thousands. I am not a praying woman, nor am I an etymologist, but I will say that although many lives were lost that day, I believe countless others were saved by divine justice when we took out that cloud of Killer Bees.