snap: the ballad of Buzz, RIP

June 11, 2011

Buzz, on the blanket on which he buzzed his last buzz, in front of the window he came and went through. Photo: Denise Duguay

If, as I told my colleague DB the other day, there had not been another witness, that being my longtime collaborator and conjoint Johnny Cash Junior, I might have thought that I had made up wee Buzz. But I did not. The tiny corpse on the blanket is proof. But how else, other than ghost story or visitation or hallucination, might our time with Buzz be explained?

“Take care of ‘im. They’re becoming endangered …” DB wrote a few weeks back on Facebook after I wrote that JCJ and I were being regularly visited in our bedroom by an enormous bee, about the size of the end of my thumb.

I already had DB’s concerns in mind, but I was also a little worried about getting stung. JCJ hit the web and discovered such bees only sting when their nests are threatened.

Ah, nests. Also concerned about nests. Wobbling on the knife edge of wanting and not wanting to know if there was a nest of baby Buzzes (of course we had to name it), I plunked firmly down on the side of not wanting to know. Or, rather, advising JCJ that “we should really check.” Yeah.

We came to love Buzz, though it was not love at first buzz. The visits had been coming since late March, after we gratefully opened our (screenless, here in downtown Montreal) windows to the spring air. The visits usually began at about 5:30 a.m. Usually just loud enough to wake me.

At first, half asleep, I thought some bonehead was stopping and starting a lawn mower off in the distance. Second and third times this made little sense even to my half awake brain. Then, midday, at work, something made me think, “What if it’s a wasp? Dopey from the cold and lost?”

Sure enough, next morning, I checked and, just below the open window, saw the hairy devil was buzzing away like he wanted to burrow into the corners of the bottom window, which does not open. I grabbed a tumbler and a sheet of stiff paper, trapped it and carried it out to the balcony where, after I gingerly removed the paper, it flew straight up and, I thought, away. For about 10 minutes. After which I was once again awoken by Buzz who was burrowing away at the window seams. Then, because I was so curious and just sat in bed and watched, I saw him walk up the wall and go … for a walk behind the armoire and stay there. Not yet thinking of the possible nest, I shrugged and thought, “Live and let buzz.”

One morning after the nest and stinging fears had been raised, however, and particularly stricken by sleep deprivation, I admit one early visit did almost get the better of me. Half awake, I grumpily watched as Buzz flew over the bed and then back, settling on a hinge on the armoire. There he just sat and, well, he could have been watching me but who knows. For some reason, this enraged me and I rolled up and raised the latest edition of Harper’s magazine. But something slammed me. Something about how unusual a circumstance it was to have even crabby communion with a wild thing. And I must admit I thought of my mother and about how this might be, well, her name did start with a bee. I mean a B. For Betty. Ridiculous, I concluded. Probably. But whatever had slammed my head as I considered using an esteemed literary magazine to snuff out the life of a living being graced me with more wonder than irritation. The bee-B-Betty connection, however, I knew I should keep to myself.

Later that same day, JCJ called me at work and said: “I think I know where Buzz is living. In the bag with your mum’s quilt,” that being the last unfinished quilt, one of dozens she’d made as gifts for family and friends and their children, which sits in a bag by the bed.

“Buzz is actually in the quilt right now. I don’t know how he got in, but he sounds mad. Here, listen,” upon which JCJ held the phone to Buzz, in the quilt (made of flower-covered fabric; I am not making this up). Buzz did indeed sound very angry.

Unsure of how to help Buzz without getting stung, JCJ left him alone with the quilt and somehow Buzz released himself. Upon returning home, I picked up the quilt with tongs (the nest!?!) and draped it over a chair on the balcony where Buzz could continue to have congress with the flowered quilt.

What the hell was going on? Mother? Have you come back as a bee? This seemed like a very poorly conceived reincarnation. A bee in a densely urban area with a lot of apartments littered with magazines that can be quickly weaponized.’

Then Montreal was struck with about a week of ferocious winds. No Buzz for days and days. JCJ and I feared the worst and then, at about 5:30 a.m. Friday June 3, I heard a vague buzzzzzzz and sleepily smiled and while I didn’t fully wake up, I wrote this later on Facebook: “Buzz watch 2011: am happy to report that our adopted bee Buzz has returned for a quick visit this early morning after being worryingly absent last couple of very windy days. Go Buzz.”

Sadly, it was only a few hours later when JCJ again called me at work with distressing Buzz news. Buzz had been found, either dead or very, very quiet for a long time, on a blanket my mother gave me for Christmas couple of years back. No. Shit.

So who knows what brought Buzz around? Or what took him away? (Okay full disclosure: before the rolled-up magazine and accompanying revelation, I sprinkled pepper in the window casing in hopes that Buzz would buzz off. It didn’t seem to bother him but now I worry I peppered him to death. JCJ laughed when I said this. He’s right, right? Right?)

I have the name of a bee specialist at McGill University. I half want to report this as an anecdotal addition to the worrisome observations of an endangered species. I half want to believe, as a couple of friends have suggested, that Buzz was a messenger from Betty. That everything’s okay. That people – and bees – die and yet somehow it’ll all be alright.

So, I met a bee. He was a good bee. He reminded me to be  mindful of other beings. And mums. And never, ever, raise a magazine in anger.

Denise Duguay


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