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A down and out alcoholic finds a career where he least expected it.
Huggy-Bear didn’t exactly strike me as the sort to work as an apiary. It wasn’t just that he didn’t own land, had never held a job, and had nary a red dime to his name; he also tended to fidget and lacked patience. Most people were sort of annoyed and grossed out by Huggy-Bear. I figured a p---ed-off hive full of bees would take his skin off. It just seemed like a screwed up choice of careers.
Huggy-Bear’s real name was Chuck. I didn’t know his surname; he told me it didn’t much matter. He lived down the hill from The Hollywood Bowl, off in the woods above the pass. He had built his own tent building of milk crates and old wax paper beverage cartons. It was not a bad piece of architecture, considering it was Homeless Modernist, Junk paper.
Chuck had chased all the other bums at least 100 yards away from his humble abode and had begun using the “spange” he’d caged off the Angelinos to buy all sorts of junk food with honey and sugar. He made a big old mound of the stuff and just left it sitting there.
Two of the other homeless people, Quick-Fix and Renaldo, both tried to boost some of it, but were rudely surprised when a swarm of teed-off honey bees chased them a good hundred yards back up the embankment towards The Bowl. They had about ten or so bee stings each and none of Huggy-Bear’s sweet rolls. After that, the others thought Bear was a whack job among the weirdoes and left him to his own strange devices.
Huggy told me all this good stuff, a day or so after I lost my job, my apartment and was disowned by Mom and Dad. It had something to do with my latest Scotch and Quaalude binge, but after the first three drinks, I just went fuzzy about the details. At least until I woke up on the cold, hard floor of an LA County jail.
I called Mom from the Drunk Tank of The Angels. She went all weepy and handed me off to Good-Old Dad. The Dadster considered me an unfortunate experiment in contraception rather than a son and let me know in no uncertain terms I was off his dole for good.
I bummed spange and for a Metro bus; the 314 up La Brea. My apartment was still a mess; it just smelled a little more fragrant from the spilled scotch. I noticed this bee had been buzzing me all day long; I just couldn’t catch him or brush him off. It couldn’t have been my cologne; the other inmates in the jail had dragged me over in the corner, as far away from the bunks as possible. I was truly rank from my previous debauchery.
I checked the calendar over the fridge. It was June 30; five days had vanished from my life. I figured my boss, Pedro, would appreciate a courtesy call. I was scheduled to work the door at Melba’s four of those nights. Sometimes the details just get in the way of a good binge.
It was then I noticed the bee sting. The little bastich had gotten me right on the back of one of my atrophied triceps. It left a ring around the Rosie, just like a Bubonic Plague wart. It also began to itch like a mother.
Ah yes, my phone call with Pedro….
“Pedro Sanchez speaking.”
“Hey, Pedro! Mi Hombre. It’s Pete.”
“Who the f—k is Pete? I don’t know no f—king Pete.”
“I watch your door, man. I hook you up some weekends.”
“You're supposed to watch my door. You haven’t done a real good job. I gave you one last chance. You f—ked the f—king poodle! Get your check, D—k weed! You’re fired!”
I went to Melba’s by shoe leather express. The Go-Gos once sang that no one walked in LA. No one with a choice does anyway. I sucked the exhaust and took a beat down from the angry sun and the hot, filthy pavement. I was sweating like a coalminer by the time I reached my former place of employment.
Pedro gave me check. It was for $95.70, my rent was $550 and my butt wasn’t an ATM. It wasn’t even noon yet and my day had already stopped up the crapper and flooded the bathroom floor. Meanwhile, two or three stupid, f—king bees were in formation around my head. My arm itched and looked a little more red and ugly.
My landlord, Charlotta, took things in stride. She saw this as a YP, not an MP.
“We’ll Mr. Simpson; I’ll give you four hours before I call The LA Sheriffs.”
“I’ve been good; I was all paid up until two months ago. Cut me some slack.” I pleaded.
“I have.” She smiled. “I’ve given you four more hours than you deserve. They’ll send the same nice young men who pried you off the sidewalk two days ago.”
So I packed what a fried-out drunk could carry on his back and went Dharma Bum. My arm kept itching, the bees kept buzzing, and some screwy voice in my head told me to leg it north. This was stupid. North was uphill; as in La Brea and Highland. I kept on anyway. I had no clue why.
I bummed some spange, and bought some water. I also bought a big old, gooey sticky bun. My arm stopped hurting after that, but I now had seven bees around me, flying in their cock-a-many orbits. Sweat soaked through my t-shirt and left a nice, attractive stain.
By evening, I’d passed the Bowl and was wandering in the woods. My thighs paid for my earlier climb. The view had been cool, but not as good as Mescaline.
A tattered, large old man stepped out from behind a tree. He and I were both now surrounded by about forty happy, buzzing bees. My sticky bun was covered by about another twenty. My first inclination was to run away fast.
“Running doesn’t work.” The old man said. “You’ve been stung and are now one of us. It was nice of you to bring the chow. Sit down and stay awhile.”
“I’m not sure what’s going on. This hasn’t been a real good week.” I said. I sat down hard and nearly collapsed completely. It would be a while before I got back up.
“You don’t have to worry, Boy.” Huggy-Bear replied. “The queen needs more than just me to help out around here. Think of this as a change in careers. You’ll work for her now.”
“Do I really have a choice?” I asked weakly.
“Did you ever run track in school?” Huggy-Bear asked.
“Than my name, is Chuck?” He announced. “And welcome to your new life in the hive.”
Hey, short fiction is a good way to avoid doing nothing at work.