Like any red-(white-and-blue)-blooded American child, I spent a lot of time torturing bugs. It got to the point where my backyard was an Auschwitz for arthropods. Pillbugs met their end at the bottom of an acid-filled beaker. Ants beheld the divine wrath of a magnifying glass. I even made a guillotine for a praying goddamn mantis. It was, in a word, wunderbar. But the best of all, the pièce de résistance of my little reich, was a set of Halleluja firecrackers saved just for beehives. Picture me in a homemade hazmat suit, complete with pillowmail and a football helmet, jamming sticks of mini-dynamite into the crevices of hives, lighting them, then standing back to watch these empires roast in seconds. When the survivors swarmed me, I had a can of spray ready to finish them off.
That was me in 1964. Now I use real dynamite without a faggot hazmat suit. But I was seven back then, and while I burned through cigars like they were going out of style, God forbid I get a bee-sting. So here I am, blowing up bees, when I run out of hives on the farm. You getting this? I killed every one of the little shits, killed 'em all. To this day, that farmland has never had another buzzing, and you can blame those dead flowers on my sadistic ass. But was I content? Fuck no. Instead of going back to Yahwehing anthills, I stuffed a backpack full of firecrackers, got on my eight-speed, and pedaled to the nearest quarry.
The trip took ten, maybe fifteen minutes. When I got there, I hopped off my bike and took a look around. It was early evening, long shadows, lots of gold and red. Mayflies hummed over the quarry pond, and you could hear cicadas sawing. My search didn't take long. That hive--Sweet Lapdancing Mary--that hive was huge. We're talking the size of an engine block, with bees big enough to cover a grown man's thumb. So what did I do? I took out twice as many firecrackers.
Here's where it got weird. I jammed the firecrackers into the side of the hive, lit the ends, and stood back to watch the show. And what a show--honey fucking everywhere, gobs of it oozing down the trunk. Think Chinese New Year in Pooh's pantry. In fact, the honey came down in such quantities that I could smell it from where I was standing. But what I didn't know until that moment was that I wasn't the only one smelling it, because to my surprise, a baby black bear hobbled out of the underbrush to nab some. The sight of it sent me into panic mode--that is, until I realized its parents weren't around, and it probably couldn't eat me if it wanted to. See, this black bear looked like it had crossed the mountains on an empty stomach. Burrs clung to its mangy hide, and its face looked more like a stray dog's than a proper bear's. It sat down below the blasted hive and started lapping up the trickles of honey. Bees gathered around its head, buzzing and stinging to save their lifeblood, but the bear just ignored them.
During all this, I had returned to my bike with the intention of getting the fuck out of there. So far as I knew, when a baby bear's around, its mother ain't far. And what sane boy wants a family of goddamn bears chasing his eight-speed? Me apparently, because I couldn't leave, couldn't pull away. This pathetic creature had a hold on my pity. Yes, the same pity that saw thousands of insects to their end. For some reason (don't judge me, you fuck) I wanted to help this goddamn bear.
When it finally finished lapping up the honey, at which point the bees had given up, the bear crawled away from the tree and curled up in the grass to sleep. I looked at the sky. Figuring I had maybe a half-hour till dusk, I flicked my bike into gear and pedaled back to the farm. There I stole a salmon from the ice chest; fortunately, my parents were too busy fucking in the barn to notice. When I got back to the quarry, I found the bear still sleeping, and rather than wake it up, I plopped the salmon in the grass near its head, and went home content with my good deed. Little did I know, just then, the depth of shit I was getting myself into.