08.13.16 Exit, pursued by meat bees


The meat bees are humming.

We came to this incredible little beauty spot in Three Rivers, California (near the Sierra Mountains) a few days ago; we leave in just a few more. And because of this lucky find on HomeAway, I’m able to sit outside with the latest draft of my story — I’m trying to plow through all 85,000+ words in three or four days — and gaze on sheer perfection.

In the far distance are the Sierras, brown and dark green and streaked with yellows and red. In the nearer distance I cam staring at large rounded river boulders, striped gray and blue and beige, protecting a riverbank clotted with bushes and weeds and saplings, behind which spindly pale-barked trees stand watch, like servants awaiting their next orders. The riverbank across from where I sit has a cleaned-out feel, as if not too long ago it was the victim of some kind of massive event, a mudslide, a fire, something. Between there and myself is a happily burbling clear river, the Kaweah. It’s perhaps 15 feet across from where I am sitting and so crystalline you can see not only the small leaves sailing across it but the pebbles and fishes below the surface. Some large rocks are capped by thick green flowing algae that makes me think they have on toupees. Above the water soar hummingbirds and dragonflies and bluebottles. A leaf falls from a tree and then changes direction, coming my way: It’s actually a yellow butterfly.


And here I am, on a small island on the far side of the riverbank, paved over with chairs and a table and umbrellas and bushes and flumes on either side, and I am writing. On one side of where I sit is a tall stand of bushes, through which the river ripples and shimmers depending on the light.

The bees are always here, though.

I noticed them as soon as I arrived, a large number of flying winged striped creatures darting in and out of the bushes, landing sometimes but just as quickly taking off again. But there is no nest; within the heart of the tall bushes stands no home for them. So why are they here? Why are they so interested in the plants? The flowers are thataway, kids.

The owner of the house we’re staying in — it’s on the other side of this island, connected by a wooden bridge — told me a few minutes ago that they’re “meat bees.” That is, they’re only interested if you have food down here. Set some food in the corner and they’ll leave you alone. Leave you … bee. (Sorry.)


I’ve looked up “meat bees” since, as that’s a new one on me. See, if they’re bee bees — honeybees — we can applaud their existence. They’re there to make things good for the plants, and they make us honey and generally keep the world feeling like a good place. Sure, they might sting but it’s a suicide run — so they’re cautious.

Meat bees, however, are yellowjackets. The assholes of the bee family. (OK, it looks like they might be helpful with pest insects, so they get one brownie point.) They not only sting they can sting more than once, and if you’re aggressive they may mark you and pursue. But these meat bees, for whatever reason, are lovesick for this bush, so they’re hanging out. And I’m hanging chilly, waving my hat gently if they come too close. So far, no stings. Though we still have a few days left.

There are bees in my head, humming. This isn’t necessarily always the case, but I’m deep diving into this next book in the hopes it will be as good, if not better, than the last thing I wrote. And as I’ve discovered, rewrites need to be concentrated things. You need to remember what you said in the last chapter so you can echo or bounce off it and yet not repeat yourself; this fine tuning element of taking the story to the next level would be useless if you couldn’t do it more or less all at once.

And so, my characters are in my head, shouting at full blast while I plow forward. They bees. They are buzzing me. They’ve marked me. And if I run, they will pursue.


But in their case, I’m happy to be chased.

More soon.



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