A Real Buzz-Kill

Fran Vlahos Rohm

© Copyright 2020 by Fran Vlahos Rohm

Photo of a hornet's face by Max Muselmann.
                                 Photo by Max Muselmann

A gorgeous late spring day beckoned me outside to sit on the grass with my fellow classmates. I happily joined a group of my friends, who had already escaped to soak up some afternoon rays. 
Given the nature of modular scheduling at our 'experimental' high school, we often had blocks of free time between classes. Of course, the expectation was that our free time would be used wisely, for studying and completing assignments.  However, it being our senior year, and with no one really monitoring us, or requiring us to be anywhere in particular, leaving the concrete prison-like building even for a short time, was a no-brainer.  
Our brand-new high school was built to relieve the overcrowding at the existing area school, already operating three overlapping shifts. While the shifts helped with classroom size and teacher to student ratios, it did little to alleviate the masses hitting the hallways between classes and it forced an open campus because there was no room to serve all the students during lunch periods. In the excitement surrounding the first new high school in several years, it was seen as a great opportunity to implement some innovations in education.  
The design of the building itself was unique. It was built in wings: east and west, with a central hub for the common use areas. Due to projections of more population growth in that area, the original design also included north and south wings for the future. 
As students coming out of a traditional and very structured system, the idea of the open periods offered something new and exciting. This experimental system attracted some of the best and brightest of teachers, and many students thrived in this environment. Some, sadly, took advantage of the excess of freedom and education became secondary. The majority of us made the most of the educational opportunities, but by spring of our senior year, we were ready to use and abuse some of that built in freedom, taking some latitude in the balance of school and fun!  
So, any hint of a break or a sunny day drew us outside in swarms. Following my Biology lab, I had hurried out and plopped down to join a lively discussion of the upcoming play, starring a mad crush of mine, the school talent show, and other possible weekend activities including a party or two.  
The time had gone by quickly, and I checked my watch. In the distance, I heard the class-change warning bell. Along with a couple of friends, I gathered up my books and heavily inked Pee-Chee folders. By this time of year, those ubiquitous folders were covered in doodles, sarcastic comments, other fine examples of teen wit, and very little could be seen of the familiar yellow and brown cover. As I stood up and brushed off my jeans (acceptable apparel for girls now, thanks to a recent relaxing of the district dress-code) a low-flying critter buzzed loudly by my cheek and ear, lightly grazing my skin. I was startled, but did not dwell on it.  
I started walking across the expanse of lawn toward the drab school building, in no serious hurry to go back indoors. But with the realization I had only a few minutes to get to Mr. Simonsen’s class, which I actually did enjoy, in the farthest wing of the H-shaped building, I quickened my pace. With about the length of a football field left to cover, again came that buzz, buzz, BUZZ! Now it had a different pitch to it, and my brain quickly grasped that it was not a friendly sound. 
WHAP! It thwacked my head just above my right ear. This was getting serious, and a bit creepy. 
Just hold still and it will go away.” I heard Gramma Hazel’s voice in my head, as I fought the urge to swat at it.  And at any rate, my hands were full of books. I reverted to a little slower pace, thinking that should stave off a more serious confrontation. With deliberate steps I moved toward the safety of the building, while trying to remain calm and nonchalant.  
Using only my peripheral, thinking sudden or erratic movement could escalate this strange (and certainly in my mind) unwarranted attention, I tried to keep a lookout for my harasser. 
Again, the dive-bomber buzzed my head - louder and even more menacing than before. Okay, I was starting to freak out.  
BUZZ! BUZZ! Again, and again it dove at me, circling my head in wild agitation. Now I could identify it as the biggest, blackest flying bug I had ever seen! 

I still had half a football field to go, and I was not sure I was going to make it unscathed. 
This creature had singled me out, honed in on me for some unknown reason, and was actively pursuing me. All this distance across the open field we students dubbed “the back forty”. Why? I wasn’t wearing any perfume or even any makeup. Was it the lotion I had applied hours ago? My clothes? My “Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific” shampoo? These thoughts tumbled around my brain, competing with that voice still warning me not to panic.   
An even stronger, more insistent, primal voice broke through the now-constant buzzing, and edged me over an abyss into survival mode. Dropping my books to the ground, and counter to the quiet warning about calm behavior around bees, I flailed my arms about and batted wildly at the hornet from hell.  
Within seconds, I realized this reaction was not helping, and broke into an all-out fifty-yard dash, hoping to outpace my crazed and highly motivated winged adversary. At last I reached the building, yanked open the heavy metal door, flung myself inside, slamming the door shut behind me while rejoicing in the reassuring “thunk”.  
Over the jackhammering of my heart in my chest, I heard the loud SPLAT as that creature smashed into the large window next to the door. As I stared, still panting, transfixed by the gooey remains of the Kamikaze flyer, relief flooded through me. I had been spared an undoubtedly nasty sting, or worse.  
At the same time, although quite thankful for the end to my own personal Hitchcock scene, I was struck by a sense of horror and sadness, that this complex, shiny black creature, having perceived a serious threat, was driven into attack mode, spurred by some mysterious insect instinct, and gave up its life, because of me.                                        
 I am a 68 year old Granny (aka: Granny Franny) and although I love to write, it is mostly for catharsis and/or pleasure. My daughter goaded me into writing and submitting the story. It has stuck with me for many years, and may be part of the reason I kept hives for several years.

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