The sun burned through clouds. Shadows shifted across the lawn for a few seconds at a time before the blaze worked its way through and made them disappear again. It faded dark to bright and back like that over and again as the clouds rolled by and by.
The pool sat in the center of the back yard; a pale blue circle centered on a small green square of grass. Dandelions gone to seed floated puffs of fluff over the water and out past the swing set in the very back of the yard.
Victor splashed. His chubby arms clubbed at the water, and he squealed the brazen laugh of the oblivious toddler.
He was old enough now that his parents let him sit out in his kiddie pool for long stretches on his own. Sometimes an hour or two at a time. He'd do it even longer if they'd let him.
Toy boats rocked on the waves he made, while recently released G.I. Joes sank to the bottom. Skeletor floated face down. Every so often a big rubber shark cruised along to gobble up the smaller inhabitants or vomit water from its perpetually gaping mouth.
It was like a bath with no rules. A small ocean where anything was possible.
He jumped. He splashed. He flung water in all directions. He yelled. Action figures dove into hopeless rescue situations. Bad guys overcome with guilt hurled themselves off imaginary buildings into an unforgiving sea. A balding felt skinned horse was drowned and revived over and over.
He was right in the middle of torpedoing a shipment of ghosts when he noticed the bee. It drifted along half on top of the water. The body curled like a fetus, and one wet wing clung to its back. The torso heaved, black and yellow fuzz expanding and contracting.
He pulled away to the opposite side of the pool, startled as much by the fact he hadn't been alone as anything. His movement made waves, and the bee fluttered its dry wing a second as the rippling water twirled it and tossed it.
“Oh no,” he said.
He sat up onto his knees and watched it a moment, the stick legs periodically reaching out for anything solid, the dry antenna tapping the surface, slow and drooped in bewilderment. He thought the antenna looked like an eyebrow that could think, and it seemed to be thinking that this must be the end.
“I can help you,” he whispered.
He cupped his hand and submerged it slowly. He brought his palm directly underneath the bee's position and inched toward the surface, careful not to stir the water too much. His hand pulled up and out, silently carrying the bee in a pool of water.
A smile crossed his lips. He lowered his hand toward the grass, and the bee floated into his fingertips. In one motion its legs grappled around his ring finger, and its abdomen slid into position.
The stinger stabbed at the fleshy spot where the finger tip came to a point, and broke itself off in his skin like a tiny poison knife in the back.
He screamed. He shook. His hand flung like a jerking knee, hurling the spent bee out into the grass.
He cried. Furious, bottomless sobs.
He watched through tears as his mom picked the pulsing stinger out with tweezers, the tips of her hair hanging just to her chin. She pulled him up out of the water and sat him on the edge of the concrete porch.
The pain faded, but he kept crying.
“He didn't know, Victor.” Her voice was really quiet. “This is what bees do.”
“But I was trying to save him,” he said.
BIO: TIMOTHY KOZAR is a previously unpublished writer from Kalamazoo, MI. He is 26. He says he wants to dance with somebody. He wants to feel the heat with somebody.
MOTIVATION: "I've written a few stories lately about my first encounters with death and/or the aggressive aspects of nature. Remembering the first impression I had as an child seemed important, like it was something I had almost forgotten entirely, and I wrote to remember."