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A dead bumblebee

This week’s post is a writing exercise I gave myself. I am starting from a dead bumblebee my wife found on the windowsill and the only requirement I have is that the bumblebee must somehow be part of the text, which also must not exceed 500 words.

A child. That was what he was. She looked out of the window at the grey-black cloud cover that stretched over the forest. It looked like it was going to rain. A child! Frustrated, she repeated the phrase to herself. She was married with a child in the guise of an adult.

Back in the kitchen, she was greeted by the glass baking dish on the counter. The one that, according to the husband’s wishes, tonight would contain a certain type of gratin that his mother had always served. The guests would arrive at seven o’clock this evening and then the food would be ready. She had been happy and suggested oven-baked salmon with her own recipe for potato salad, a dish she loved to cook. I want us to serve my mother’s gratin, he had replied. You know which one, the recipe is in her old cookbook in the cupboard. Don’t forget to serve it with parsley! My mom was very particular about that.

She took out the ingredients and lined them up on the sink. “Peel and finely chop yellow onion” she read on the handwritten note in the cookbook but remained standing with the onion in her hand. Suddenly she threw the onion across the kitchen. Onion number two went the same way and she tore the bunch of parsley out of the jug and slammed it against the edge of the sink over and over again. In the end, she had only a bundle of stalks left in her hand while the floor and bench were full of parsley leaves.

One of the onions had rolled under the kitchen sofa and she had to crawl under the table to reach it. Next to the onion, she found a dead bumblebee on the floor. Carefully she pulled it out by one of its wings and placed it in her palm. It was a small bumblebee – black with a yellow-brown back. It looked small and defenceless. She realized that the little bumblebee had been lying behind the sofa and died all alone.

An hour later she was still sitting on the floor by the couch with the dead bumblebee in her hand. She had cried, though she didn’t quite know what about. But she felt sorry for the bumblebee, she felt sorry for everyone who was alone and had to die and she felt a little sorry for herself. It felt as if she would never be able to get up again. A paralyzing fatigue had settled over her and she couldn’t even pick up the onions from the floor.

Exactly at a quarter to seven she looked at the kitchen table and she smiled for the first time in ages – it looked nice! On the table was the mother-in-law’s glass gratin dish. In the dish were two yellow, unpeeled onions and torn parsley leaves strewn over it all. On the table was also the dead bumblebee, resting eternally on the note with the old recipe. She buttoned her jacket, turned and left. Outside the door, she thought that at least she hadn’t skimped on the parsley.

(Sum: 453 words)

Mattias is an author and illustrator

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