When he arrived, the congregation was already sitting at long stretches of picnic tables outside the church doors. The tables were heaped with a variety of dishes. Baskets full of fruit, roast of turkey, three–tiered cakes coveredin creamy frosting and strawberries, lamb chops and mint jelly, bowls of pink and orange ambrosia. His mouth watered. He was about to comment on how perfect everything was when he turned from the food to find everyone staring, brows furrowed, eyes slanted.A town mother opened her mouth and said one word, "wicked," and fell silent again.
He searched for the face of the minister’s daughter, that beacon, but she was nowhere to be found. He furrowed his brow then too, uncomprehending, until the minister himself came out the front doors of the church and stood on the top step to give a sermon.
"God has sent us many abominations to deal with these days," said the minister. "People are evil. They destroy buildings, fornicate before marriage, fornicate with their own gender, they want to take God out of our children’s education. These are dark times indeed," he said regretfully."It is a test. A test from God for His chosen. He is giving us these problems to sort out who is with Him and who is without. Why even in church abominations have crept inside to sit among us. Oh yes," said the minister, "do not think the Lord doesn’t work mysteriously. You are not protected here in His house even. This is the testing ground, my friends."
The barbed wire boy swallowed, trying not to listen, for he realized the sermon was directed at him. When the minister said "abomination," he had looked at the boy. He felt stupid having come, not realizing the graveness of his error. Of course the minister would know what had happened between the barbed wire boy and his daughter. She would have gone home cut and bloody. She would have had no way to deny what they had done.
He turned to leave and though the minister continued his sermon, everyone watched the boy. He would not be able to return, he realized. He would not be able to sit and eat at their table. His leaving would only confirm their belief that God had sent him as an abomination, that the minister’s words had caused him to leave. Perhaps I am an abomination, he thought as he walked through the woods back to his father’s cabin.
He started to cry. Tears streamed down the barbed wire embedded in his cheeks, and soon he was running through the woods, faster and faster, pushing away branches, shredding leaves, until he came to his father’s hives. Here the buzz of bees was loud in his ears. A hum, a mantra, a constant praying. He knew then why his father preferred his bees over anything.
Standing over the boxes, he watched them crawl inside, hundreds of them moving through the hexagonal caverns, their lion’s bodies tight within the tunnels. And somewhere in that labyrinth, their queen.
He lifted the lid of a hive without smoking them and brushed his hand over their furry backs as if they were only animals in a petting zoo. The bees scurried though, frightened, fluttering their wings, lifting into the air until they were a cloud surrounding him, swarming. He closed his eyes as they landed and lit upon him, tilted his face toward the sun. Lift me up, he thought, into the blue air. But they were afraid of his disturbance and attacked instead.
He sucked in his breath as the bees began to sting him. He gasped like the minister’s daughter had when his barbs slid into her. His flesh swelled, burning with poison. And there in the woods, with only the bees as witness, the barbed wire boy felt the nearness of God once more. The pain of his mother giving birth, the worry on his father’s face at the first sign of happiness, the hurt that turns the world.
The stings. The stings of love.