Editor’s Note from Janice Leagra: I’m drawn to Dan’s stories because they are intelligent and entertaining, told from a singular slant. He has a rich imagination, as evidenced by the story below, and an ability to find the humor in a poignant situation. His characters are quirky, but believable. I appreciate his mastery of vivid detail and his willingness to experiment with the unexpected.
It felt good to wear the bee costume until I got fired in the bee costume. I bought the bee costume for the Halloween party, which I thought they were going to cancel because corporate has been downsizing lately and a big party seemed like a rude waste of money, but then corporate said a party would boost morale, so I took that as a good sign and I went out last minute and bought a bee costume and wore a bee costume to work and they fired me right after I walked in the door wearing a bee costume.
I had to walk into Mike’s office wearing a bee costume and he asked me to close the door. I was careful not to sweep his bookcase with my stinger and tried to concentrate on what he was saying, but the bee costume’s clever little fuzz ball antennae were rising and falling in my field of vision.
I don’t think bees actually have fuzz ball antennae. Maybe the fuzz is supposed to be the leftover pollen that the bee collected for the hive, a little something he set aside for himself. Seems like it’s an artistic choice of whoever makes the design decisions at the bee costume factory. They probably have an art department that also isn’t hiring, where I could’ve made hopeful designs for the people who make decisions practical and designs worse, sending ideas off to be stitched together by machines and by the time it’s finished and you’re there wearing it it’s too late to change anything and really who cares anymore? We’re all exhausted of this goddamn bee costume.
At a certain point you’re locked into whatever choice you’ve chosen, and you just have to hope for the best. Most of my choices were made in a youthful panic and making new choices requires a stability that a series of poor choices does not provide. If you’re not very good at your job, you know it and you know they know it but you’re locked in, so you try to blend in, make your way through the danger by being as nice as possible, wear a bee costume, dazzle them with pot luck prep, smile during presentations and say “Great Slides, Mike!” to try to make it hard for Mike to later fire you in a bee costume, because you’re so nice and you clearly like Mike so much, even though the only thing you hate more than Mike is Mike’s slides. “Left align, Mike!”
My wife keeps saying “fake it until you make it” and that it’s not worth it to hate Mike, that it might take ten years of faking it to fake make it, but bees molt, shed their outer layers, but only when they are very young and only to fine tune their camouflage. I am horrified to find myself thinking that sitting still and remaining calm while getting fired in a bee costume will be good interview practice.
A lot of animals have camouflage, something to make them blend into their surroundings, and look like they belong, a minor adjustment of self to stay alive one more day, but I overdid it.
If you should ever find yourself being fired in a bee costume, you will have a moment where it’s hard to know if it’s more dignified to take off the antennae or leave them bobbing in tempo with your practiced and professional “I understand” nodding and the eventual shuddering of your weeping.
It would only take a moment to reach up, grab your antennae by the last bit of your dignity, and rip them off your head but you won’t. Don’t beat yourself up about it. You wouldn’t know what to do with the silence it creates, and it would feel disrespectful to your boss and the recommendation letters you will eventually need him to provide. Anyway, I didn’t. I just let them waggle, let them waggle and wave, conducting my emotions across the table into the face of a man who wouldn’t be caught dead in a bee costume.
It felt ridiculous somehow to take off the bee costume, so I packed a box of my things while in my bee costume, walked around the party and shook hands with my coworkers in a bee costume, lingered too long in the kitchen and had a conversation with security in a bee costume. Threw the box in the dumpster, sat in my hot car all afternoon afraid to go home in a bee costume. Watched the sun set over the corporate park wondering where bees go at night in a bee costume.
Dan Sanders is a writer in Pennsylvania. His writing has appeared in The Hong Kong Review, Okay Donkey, Bridge Eight, and elsewhere. His novella The Loop is available now at Anvil Press. Bad drawings of his writing can be found at dan-sanders.com.