This is an excerpt from my book about a chipmunk family – the Jumps- and their adventure harvesting honey from the bees.
But that night the bees are restive, they will not settle to Momma’s quiet bee sing-song. They bang against each other, batter each other, tearing delicate black gossamer trace work wings. Perhaps it was the bear prowling about that morning. Maybe the family of skunks that noon who had climbed so high, till, noses stung, they shot back down again.
The Jump family hover at the bottom of the lightning tree, uncertain about whether to start.
“I know,” says Poppa, let’s get them quiet with smoke, I’ve seen my own Pappy do it, to rob a hive in the old days.”
“How?” Nut dances around the family, his eyes lit, imagining the jitterbug.
“One of us needs to climb to the branch there next to the hive. The wind is flowing from that direction, and light a fire. Then the wind will take the smoke over the hive. Momma can climb to the branch to sing. We need Momma and a fire starter to climb. The rest of us will have to rush in and brave the smoke to steal the honey.”
“I volunteer,” yells Kick, “I’m great at starting fires, better than you, Poppa, you say…”
“Okay, Kick,” Poppa nods, smiling.
Jack agrees, “Climb the far side of the tree, Kick and Momma, less chance of getting stung.”
Tied to her back, Momma carries a flat rock to lay the fire on. Kick carries the fire starters in her back pack. They round the tree and begin to climb.
A lazy, swinging bee sweeps by, seeming to sniff their fur, her stinger bent near. She buzzes and pauses beside them, hovering in the air.
“Freeze, Kick,” Momma whispers, and they crouch into the tree, muscles trembling. They stiffen. Another bee joins the first, then more. The bees curl and swing round them, bumping each other. Their wings are angry, their stingers yellow, gleaming, close.
And then the bee song begins, soft, earthy buzz of resting bee song. Momma singing. Slowly the bees still, lower, sweep off toward their home. Kick and Momma quickly scramble up the tree to the branch. Momma puts the flat rock down on the limb. Kick lays the fire. She has it started in a moment. The wind, steady from the east, sweeps and swirls the smoke over the bee’s nest. This gray gas has them resting, sleeping in a quiet haze.
Ady Braun 2016