The history of honey is the story of a tide pool.
Something destroyed the bees. It came hard and fast and sudden and while most stayed back to console the sick and dying some escaped into the water. Mistaking anemones for blossoms, they dove and swerved and realized their mistake but found that their wings nonetheless served as passable fins and so they went with it. Before long, the small pool teemed with these new small fish that were not at all fish but there they were anyway, striped in black and yellow with little fuzzy bodies that swam slow and ridiculous.
At first they busied themselves waggling little waves, trying to explain to each other how to get to a particular sea cucumber or pointing out spots to avoid, but this swirled up too much sand and grit and many of them just ended up blindly rotating in the water. They soon gave up on that, and took another approach to resuming what they knew best. They retreated to the anemones, buzzed the clownfish out of the way, and buried in deep. From here they watched closely as the coral polyps told each other jokes. The bees waited for the little punchlines, watching for the telltale sign of little coral mouths starbursting open with delight, and then they darted out to collect the laughter before it dissipated back into the sea. They swallowed the tiny coralline chuckles and brought them back to a nook in the rock, vomiting them out again into the pocks and crannies and stockpiling them with the spoils of their fellows. They ate this salty honey and oozed out a very sandy wax and built themselves a honeycomb reef in the tide pool. There they grew a little colony of baby bees born with slick streamlined bodies and finny wings and considerably fewer legs than their parents. And all was going well, until after a time the corals stopped laughing. And then the honey grew thin, and so did the colony.
One of the elders had an idea. He swam over to his mates and he did his ludicrous swimmy waggle and there was general agreement that his plan was worth a shot and so they went to work. They divided the remaining honey, leaving half of it in honeycomb cells until it was nice and fermented. Once that was done, half of them puffed out their mouths and filled them with mead and swam to the anemones and waited. The other half huddled together on the floor of the tidepool and, together, began to buzz. They kept on that way until the entire pool shook with a low murmur and eventually the corals emerged from their torpor to ask what all the fuss was. As soon as they opened those filmy circly mouths, the mead minders zoomed in and opened their gullets and spat their liquor into the many tiny quizzical coral faces.
In no time the polyps were good and drunk, and they began to recall the worst of their jokes and slowly began to giggle. As they remembered more, they began to share them with each other, and once again they began to laugh, and then so did the bees, who resumed their honeymaking. Sometimes people visit the pool now to admire the golden glow, and the slow satisfied waving of the sea stars, and the languid cruising of the fish, and the silly bursting guffaws of the corals. If you decide to make a trip there and you sit very still and you’re lucky, a bee just might leap up and plant a honeyed kiss on your face before buzzing back to work below the surface.
[To return to The Elizabeths, swim on over here.]