Saturday Short: A Colony of Bee-Eaters

photograph of bee-eater sitting on branch

“Bee Eater” by Sean van der Westhuizen (CC-BY-NC-ND)

They blamed the bee-eaters for the decimation of the honeybee population. It wasn’t hard to see why. It was in their name after all. No matter that the colonies of bee-eaters hadn’t expanded in the last century. No one could prove they weren’t the problem so they had to go.

A decree came down from the courts that all the bee-eaters had to be “made scarce”. A stupid euphemism for killing them. They couldn’t come right out and say it, though, not with the protests in the beginning. But then the protestors left or were made scarce. I didn’t ask, at least not in pubic.

Everyone in a town that was near a colony was required to “make scarce” any bee-eaters found. Proof was required every fortnight or else fines were imposed. It was ridiculous, but then so were the people who wanted to blame the birds for the plight of the bees.

The officials at the highest courts announced yesterday that all the bee-eaters were gone and the crops would be better this season. The cameras panned to a cheering crowd. It looked staged to me. But then, that’s what I think about a lot, staging. You can find anything on the Internet, they say. So I’ve seen, which works for me, for what I do.

You see I did my duty. I “made scarce” the bee-eaters. I pretended I didn’t know what they were talking about when they asked about alleged sightings of iridescent jeweled birds way down by the river, back where no one sane ever goes.

“No, sir. Never seen one. Think they’ve been hitting the tipple a bit early, don’t you?”

Who are they going to believe? Some city folk or an old woods hand like me?

“Nope, no one here but me and the finches. Ain’t seen any since the decree.” And I smile and whistle and go back to my work.

And they walk away. Because they don’t really want to know, do they? No, they want to go home and close the book. They leave because they want to, because staying would be the harder thing.

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