A Sense of Belonging

By Arthur Westover

During the spring in Texas, the usual summer crews of
orange-vested Mexicans, the tractor mowers and weed
whackers, by the order of unknown Austin men in air
conditioning, leave the highway grass tracks for the
wildflowers-Bluebonnet and Indian Paintbrush.

On my once-yearly drive home in April, I leave Interstate 20
for Highway 6.I mention this because my only attachment
to home is this drive through the towns, their two street-
lights, or maybe one caution yellow, the small oil derricks
like donkeys, heads-bobbing-these places I never grew
up in.

Academia failed my father, or vice versa, another Ph.D.
who ate inordinate amounts of rice and beans to pay for
his wo-bedroom home in a neighborhood free of a single
native tree. Chinese Pistachio, Fruitless Mulberry, Black
Plum and Fig-my father digs around the roots this Sat-
urday morning, mulch, manure, organic treatments.

I’m moving the hive in the backyard in a few minutes, he
Tells me, knees shifting over sod, not looking up, to out by
that shed on Wellborn Road. Huisache--He picks up a
grub, tears it in half drops it in the mulch. Huisache's in
bloom over there. Do you want to help?

For two years my father has kept bees, five or six hives-
Buckfast, Cordovan Italian, a couple feral queens-all as
if the manifest metaphor of his own words: I finally put
God first in my life, after fifty years.

Yellow-mesh veil, suede gloves to the elbows, & white bee
suit, pant legs rubber-banded at the ankles. The hive is
just a wooden box with the holes drilled near the bottom,
comb-heavy top bars cut from crates left behind a super-
market, set on cement blocks. Drunk and full, like leop-
ards, leg-heavy with pollen from Indian Hawthorn, they
return to the hive, a low humming, a mantra.

Will you be staying a while? he asks, drops a match into
the smoker, squeezes the bellows, flips the cap shut.
Your mother and I will be going to church tomorrow. You're
welcome. Lifts the lid, a spray of bees released, throws
pine smoke over brood and sister workers. Takes a top
bar, a strawberry-shaped cluster of bees on the comb,
sets it in the cradle. See the queen? Isn't she beautiful? She
lowers herself backwards into the cell, fat abdomen first.
A singular transparent egg.

My father returns the top bar, wraps the hive with screen
and duct tape, I carry it to the pickup. Far from the city,
the truck bumps over gravel-filled potholes, my father not
yet aware that tomorrow morning, as I drive north on
Highway 6, he will find a cluster of bees, a couple dozen,
in the cinder block in the backyard. He will plan to move
another hive there, and the stragglers will join them.