Issue #220: Where the Bees Are Going by Andy Holt

220_coverI always get excited when I see a writer trying something unexpected on the page. Well, get ready folks–this new story if FULL of surprises. Tying the collapse of bee colonies to the loneliness of those pushed to the edges of society, “Where the Bees Are Going” by Andy Holt will make you buzzzzzzz with excitement. Since Karen Friedman took this story through its editorial paces, I’m passing the introduction reins into her hands. In the meantime, enjoy! And pass the honey. –HT

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. After you read it, check out our online Q&A for more on how Andy created this memorable story.

And if like me, a latent bee obsession gets reignited, take a peek at this incredible art installation in London where you can step inside a gigantic metal hive and feel a bit of what it’s like to actually be a bee.

3 thoughts on “Issue #220: Where the Bees Are Going by Andy Holt

  1. I was quite literally on the edge of my seat reading this story — morning coffee getting colder by the minute, cat’s meows being ignored — and thinking in the back of my mind, “That’s it! I am definitely NOT expanding my flower garden to help repopulate the disappearing bees… not if they are planning on coming after me!”

    Thank you so much for your comments and clarification of the author’s actual intent. I must admit my thoughts traveled in a totally opposite direction as I kept reading his story with pounding heart and breathless anticipation. Not knowing who this author is nor what his writing style was, my initial thought was sci-fi (the bees are taking over and this is the end of mankind… but how?). The story was so completely engrossing, and I was so eager to find out how he was going to tie all these different threads together, that the final paragraph was a total, total letdown. My immediate reaction was “HUH? WHAT??? What the hell is this?? Even after re-reading the last paragraph a couple more times, I’m still puzzled by it. Did I miss something? It feels as though that ending belongs to a totally different story… or that the author just wanted to finish quickly (deadline, perhaps?) and tacked on an ending just to get the story done. What an utter disappointment to this reader… I’m still fuming about it! But, then again, kudos to the author for eliciting such an emotional reaction from me — first time I felt compelled to comment on a One Story story! I plan on re-reading the story to see what I missed.

  2. What a touching story, with such an original point of view. I kept asking myself, Am I really reading a story narrated by bees? And am I really getting emotionally involved in the issue of colony collapse disorder? I was, and I am. What genre is this? Scientific magical realism? Whatever you call it, it’s original and unique. Maybe the ending wasn’t perfect. But those bees were trying so hard…

  3. Hats off to Andy, at risk of exposing my head to the swarms. I bought an extra copy of this to give away, knowing it’ll be passed along among my environmentally concerned friends and family who also love good literature. I love when a story is brilliant enough to move me on more than one level. Ok, it’s about human loneliness. But it’s also about the dire crisis of this other, magnificent and vital species of life. Andy’s marvelously inventive bee point of view had me rooting so hard for both species – and I am highly allergic to bees – that’s how deeply compassionate this magical story is. P.S., I loved the ending. Huge thanks, Andy!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *