Where the Bees Are Going
by Andy Holt
Issue #220 • September 8, 2016
The first time we speak to you, we whisper.
Some of you hear us right away, but Levi Colby can’t make out the words, only the buzzing around their edges, so that we come to him like his own bona-fide idea. He’s on the couch watching the Netflix browsing screen flow upward. An unopened beer can warms on the coffee table, but he’s so high that he’s forgotten it’s there, and perfect, we think. This guy right here, he’s perfect.
Three days later, Levi will remember how our words flickered sudden and blurry in his mind, like a hint of neon through urban haze.
Go for a walk.
We tried subtle attempts on him all afternoon: arranged objects from his apartment into strange patterns, tickled the back of his neck, formed waving figures at the edge of his vision. Hallucinations, he decided. Tricks of the mind. After six full weeks indoors, Levi has started to see his apartment like the inside of his own head. It’s a paranoid land of spooks, hiding around every corner. We need him out in the open.
Go outside. Go for a walk.
Andy Holt was born and raised on the Gulf Coast of Florida. As a result, his blood is mostly lemon-lime Gatorade. His work has appeared in Chicago Quarterly Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and places beyond. He is a recent graduate of UC Riverside’s MFA program in writing, and his first novel, Junk Food, is nearing completion. It is not about bees.
Karen Friedman on Where the Bees Are Going
In my early 20s, I moved to New York without a job and with very little savings. My roommate, an aspiring actress and high school friend, found us a cheap one-bedroom in Fort Greene. She was my only friend in Brooklyn, which seemed fine at first — there were drinks with producers and various “industry” people to fill the hours and I was always invited along. Then she left for a month to try pilot season in L.A. Without my friend, there were no nights out. I was trying to temp, but work was slow, so I spent three weeks alone in our apartment trying and failing to write. I lived on cereal. I read. I watched our 5 channels of network television. I listened to “Blood on the Tracks” so many times I can still sing the entire album from memory. I wished I’d never left home. Mostly, though, I waited for something to change.
Almost 20 years later that feeling of overwhelming inertia, the sense of being powerless to move beyond my circumstances, came back to me as I read “Where the Bees Are Going” by Andy Holt. Through the unexpected and captivating voice of bees, Andy explores the nature of loneliness and how we survive it.
Far from mindless drones buzzing around the backyard, the insects narrating his story are survivors of collapsed hives. They long for the homes they’ve left behind, navigating what it means to be thrust out into a world where the very basis of their survival, the hive, no longer exists. In their desperation, the bees attempt to create a home. This time one based not on conformity and duty, but rather shared need. Along the way, they learn from a species all too familiar with what it means to struggle in loneliness: our own. The bees find that their survival depends on a measure of grace, sacrifice, and compassion. I hope this story captures your heart and imagination the way it captured ours.
Q&A by Karen Friedman
I think writers should be aware of how our own insecurities impact our writing. It’s one thing to inject ourselves into stories, which just about everybody does. But it’s another to forget that storytelling lives between ourselves and the readers, not only inside our own heads.
I still write stories about lonely boys sometimes, it’s just that I hope they’re better ones. “Where the Bees Are Going” features two lonely boys and a lonely girl, but hey, there are bees.