A Million Bees

(This appeared last year (2014) in issue 6 of Gigantic magazine.  Make of it what you will.)

 

 

A MILLION BEES 

 

I know one joke. I learned it from my husband, who cracked me up every time he told it.  When I tell it, nobody cracks up.  I’m horrible at telling jokes.  Some people are just no good at it, and I’m one of them. Here’s me telling this joke:

Once there was a man who claimed he had a million bees.

See, this is a bad start.  The sentence is too formal in structure, plus it starts out with “once,” like a fairy tale.  Fairy tales aren’t funny, on top of which the man turns out to be a farmer, so you have to make that clear right away.

A farmer claimed he had a million bees.

Kind of abrupt. Still too formal. “Claimed.” It’s like the hilarious “writ of mandamus.”

There was this farmer who said he had a million bees.

Okay.

A reporter for the local paper was assigned to write about the farmer and the million bees.

No.  You don’t need “for the local paper,” since we can assume he didn’t write for the Times, and we don’t care whose idea the story was anyway, plus “assigned” blows.

One day a reporter drove out to the farm and approached the farmer and said—

Of course he approached the farmer.  He didn’t bellow at the man across a field of wheat.

So this reporter drove out to the farm and said, “I hear you have a million bees on this farm.”

Close.

So this reporter drives out and says to the farmer, “I hear you have a million bees on this farm.”

And the farmer says, “Yup.”

And the reporter looks around and says, “Are they outside in this field of wheat?” And the farmer says, “Nope.” 

The farmer is standing in front of a red barn.  “Are they in this barn”? The farmer says–

Nobody cares about the color of the barn.

And the reporter looks around and says, “Well, they gotta be in this barn.” And the farmer says, “Nope.”

I’m on a roll.

“Well,” says the reporter, “—

Too many wells.

“Are they in the house then?”

“Then” ruins it.  Act it out instead. Oh god.

“Are they in the house?” [I attempt to look puzzled and skeptical. My voice rises on “house.” My performance is grotesque.] The farmer says, “Yup.” So they go into the house. 

The reporter looks around. “Are they in…the kitchen?” “Nope.” “Are they in the living room?” The farmer says–

God, why don’t you go through every room on the first floor.

The reporter looks all around and doesn’t see any bees. “Are they in the basement—

The reporter looks all around and doesn’t see any bees. “Are they in the fruit cellar—

Stop it.

The reporter looks all around and doesn’t see any bees. They must be upstairs. “Are they…upstairs?” The farmer says “Yep.”  So they go upstairs.  The biggest room is the master bedroom–

Seriously? The master bedroom?

The reporter looks into the farmer’s bedroom.  “Are the bees in here?” “Yup.”

“Are they under the bed?” “Nope.” The reporter is getting steamed.

Steamed!  That’s good!

“So, are they in this bureau?” “Yup.”  [I attempt to convey exasperation. Eyeroll, maybe, exaggerated slump, maybe. Both. I wish I were dead.]

The reporter first tries the biggest drawer, then the—

The reporter goes through the bureau drawer by drawer until—

It’s one of those old bureaus you see in farms. It’s got these huge drawers—

Turns out nothing’s in the bureau drawers.  All that’s left is a large jewelry box on top of the bureau.  The reporter says “There aren’t a million bees in that jewelry box…?”

“Yup.”

[Wearing what I hope is a look of profound disgust, I stare directly at the imaginary farmer. I sigh, desperately.] The reporter yanks open the jewelry box.  Inside there’s some pearls and buttons and pins and a tiny velvet ring box—

That is so very wrong.  But I can see that ring box, it’s very small and of course it’s cheap velvet, black, and the top is worn and shiny. It’s shimmering right there in front of me, a goddamn ding an sich, unknowable and indescribable, yet like an idiot I strive to make it magically appear in another’s mind, so that the two of us can hold hands and gaze at it together and for one precious moment not be mistralswept and utterly alone, and if I were writing instead of telling a joke I’d strive like hell, but nobody cares about the ding an sich

Inside there’s some pearls and buttons and pins and a ring box.

“Are you telling me you’ve got a million bees in that ring box?”

“Yup.”

“Are you serious? A million bees?”

“Yup.”

“You’ve got a MILLION BEES there in that tiny box?”

“Yup.”

Here we go.

“But you couldn’t have a million bees in that box! They’d all be crushed!”

AND THE FARMER SAYS—

Why can’t I stop now? Why? We’re all  drowning in flop sweat. I haven’t made eye contact with anybody since we got to the stupid master bedroom.  The Funniest Punch Line in the World, delivered by me to these innocent people, would be cringeworthy. We are united in one hope: That the ordeal is almost over.

We need a new style of joke, one which ends just before the punch line.  I could kill with jokes like that.  Who the hell cares what the farmer says?

The whole damn point is that there are a MILLION BEES.  Just the phrase “a million bees” gets funnier every time you say it.  Even when I say it, it gets funnier.  Bees themselves are not funny—they’re not funny at all. They make annoying sounds and sting you. But the sound of the word “bee” is funny, maybe because it sounds like the letter it begins with, also when you pluralize it it even sounds a little like buzzing, and of course the number (a million) is perfectly hyperbolic.  There are larger numbers, but they don’t work.  Try it.  “A billion bees” is just tiresome.

So ideally the whole joke could just be boiled down to

There was this farmer who said he had a million bees.

If I only had the strength of character to just say that and back away.

Fuck ‘em.  That’s what the farmer says.

 

Story to Film

I’ve neglected to note that student films (through Prof. Frederick Lewis, Ohio University Media Arts & Studies) have been made from two of my stories.  Working with these students was a pleasure.

From “The Best of Betty”:

 

From “Julie in the Funhouse”:

Update: Most Intriguing Opening Paragraphs of Real News Stories Involving People Stuffing Things in Their Pants

 

PALM BAY, FL (WESH Orlando).  According to a police report, a loss prevention employee at the Publix on Malabar Road saw the 52-year-old woman open a box of frozen clams and hide them in the front of her shorts. The woman also hid some of the clams in her purse, according to the report.

FRIENDSWOOD, TX (Houston Chronicle) A Friendswood man who allegedly hid three bottles of wine and a package of sushi in his pants at a local supermarket has been charged with misdemeanor theft.

RIVERSIDE (CBS Los Angeles)  The owner of an antiques store in Riverside is hoping the public can help her ID a shoplifter. The alleged shoplifter stole two bronze antique sculptures worth about $350 each — by stuffing the pricey items in his pants. Surveillance video showed the man stuffing the statues in his trousers as he ambled around the store.The owner of “Ann-Tiques” on Magnolia Avenue in Riverside says the man stole the objects last Sunday.

DETROIT (The Guardian)  A Canadian man taped 51 live turtles to his legs and groin and tried to hide them under sweatpants in an attempt to smuggle the reptiles over the Detroit border crossing, according to federal prosecutors in Michigan…On 5 August, two fish and wildlife agents say they watched Xu disappear behind two semi-trailers in a Detroit parking lot for about 10 minutes before reappearing with, “irregularly shaped bulges under [his] sweatpants on both legs”. (9/25/14)

ORLANDO, FL (Orlando Sentinel)  Woman stuffed Publix lobster tails down her pants, police say…A store security guard told police he spotted a woman stuffing the tails into the front area of her pants. Then she left the store without paying. A DeLand police officer got a description of the woman and was told she was heading to McGregor Road. The officer spotted a woman matching the description, and later identified as Reed, in the 400 block of Holly Oak Boulevard. The store security officer was taken to the scene and said Reed was the lobster shoplifter. She waived her right to stay silent and agreed to talk to police, a report said.

“Reed stated she entered the store with the intent to steal food,” according to a police report. “Reed told me she was going to trade the lobster tails to a friend and possibly buy Chinese buffet” or painkillers. (6/12/2014)

STATEN ISLAND, NY (silive.com)  Two Staten Island women have admitted to smuggling cocaine inside their girdles into the country earlier this year, federal prosecutors said…Each was selected for pat-down searches after acting nervously, and in Ms. Blassingale’s case, walking “with an awkward gait,” said court records. (12/11/2013)

SKYSCANNER (www.skyscanner.net)  An American Airlines flight attendant is suing her employees after being accused of smuggling rats on board a plane.

Louann Giambattista, who has worked for the US airline giant for almost 35 years, took legal action after colleagues accused her of smuggling her pet rats onto flights in her underwear and was subjected to embarrassing ‘interrogations’ to find them.

American Airlines  employees became suspicious when they saw the 55 year-old eating a bread roll out of a cup during a flight, believing that she was in fact feeding her pet rats, which she had smuggled onto the flight in her underwear and tights. However, Giambattista claims that she was merely trying to appear professional in front of passengers, and was not in fact feeding ‘Roland’ and ‘Ratatouille’ (names have been changed for legal purposes!). In a further incident, a pilot claims to have seen a ‘bulge’ in her pocket that resembled ‘a live pet’.

Self-confessed rodent fan Giambattista claims that the accusations have led to her being blacklisted by customs and is seeking damages from American Airlines for ‘debilitating anxiety’ and post-traumatic stress. Her attorney said that despite Giambattista’s ownership of a rat, this doesn’t mean ‘she’s some loony tune who brings it on a plane with her’.

In subsequent searches, no rats have been found. The case continues. (7/16/2013)

BEIJING (gawker.com)  On Monday, a man traveling from southern China to Beijing with his pet hamburger was stopped by airport security because, whoops, his hamburger was actually a live turtle that he was praying everyone would mistake for a hamburger.

The  South China Morning Post  (which picked up the story after it was first reported in  Guangzhou Daily) wrote that the man–identified only by the surname Li–tried to smuggle the turtle through with his luggage by wrapping it in KFC paraphernalia.  His plan worked perfectly until airport security officials looked at the hamburger with their eyes, at which point it quickly became obvious it was a turtle.

LONG ISLAND, NY (Mail Online)  An American Airlines flight attendant is suing the airline after allegations were made by her colleagues that she had smuggled her pet rats inside her underwear and pantyhose onto an international flight. (7/12/2013).

MIAMI (Miami New Times) Columbian “nuns” caught smuggling four pounds of cocaine in their habits. (5/7/2013).

SARASOTA, FL (South Florida Sun Sentinel)  When a security guard at a supermarket in Sarasota, Fla., confronted Christopher Frazier Seiler, 45, after store employees spotted him putting 10 cans of deodorant in his pants, Seiler tried to escape on a bicycle. The bicycle chain broke, however, and Seiler fell to the ground, losing most of the deodorant. (5/8/2013).

PORT MACQUARIE, Australia (Port Macquarie News)  Smuggling stolen seafood down the front of his pants and assaulting a local shopkeeper has put Terrence John Rowles behind bars for four months. The 36-year-old of Douglas Street, Port Macquarie was found with almost a complete seafood basket hidden in his pants on February 26, 2013.

Once confronted, Rowles emptied his pants of kilograms of prawns and some oysters he had stolen just hours earlier.

He appeared via audio-video link at the Port Macquarie Local Court on Monday, pleading guilty to two shoplifting offences and common assault.

A statement of facts tendered to the court said an off-duty police officer first spotted Rowles shoving $50 of frozen seafood down his pants from the deli of a local supermarket. (4/17/2013)

PALM BEACH, FL (Palm Beach Post) A customer at a store in the 100 block of North Dixie Highway stuffed two bottles of Head &Shoulders shampoo into his pants, then left the store without paying for them. He was arrested for the $15.58 theft and taken to the county jail. (10/4/2012)

ROCHESTER, MN   (PostBulletin, 6/12/2012)  A 25-year-old Rochester man has been charged with theft in Olmsted County District Court after allegedly stuffing $650 worth of golf clubs down his pants at a sporting goods store, then trying to flee.

The sound of several clubs clanking together initially alerted an employee at Sports Authority as Beruk Meskelu Zeru walked out of the store on April 25, according to the complaint. Zeru, 101 E. Center St., No. 211, allegedly pulled the clubs out of his pants upon leaving the store, then took off running.

A Sports Authority employee drove north, in the direction that Zeru had headed on South Broadway. The employee found Zeru standing in a grassy median about 1 1/2 miles away, the golf clubs still in hand, according to the complaint. (6/20/2012)

FT. LAUDERDALE. A rogue TSA Agent who stole more than $50,000 worth of property has been fired and arrested after he was caught trying to shove an iPad down his pants. The thief was named  Nelson Santiago, and he had been working for the TSA since 2009. During that time, he racked up fifty grand worth of stolen electronics from passengers traveling through Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport’s Terminal 1. If you’ve traveled through there and had something go missing, chances are he stole it. (cultofmac.com, 7/8/2011)

LONGMONT, CO – Police in Longmont arrested an intoxicated woman after they say she stuffed a dog down her pants during a domestic dispute.

Officers found Johna Turner arguing with a man at a home. She agreed to leave that location but wanted to take her dogs.

A witness told officers to check her pants. Police say Turner shook her leg and a Chihuahua fell out. The puppy wasn’t hurt, however Turner was arrested on suspicion of animal cruelty. (9/6/2012)

NEW DELHI (CNN) — He had a slender loris in his underpants.

That’s the explanation airport guards at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport gave Sunday for detaining a man from the United Arab Emirates who allegedly had the tiny, big-eyed critter hidden in his underwear.

The guards were conducting a routine pat-down of the Dubai-bound passenger when they discovered the rare, slender loris, according to Hemendra Singh, a spokesman for the Central Industrial Security Force.

The loris is a nocturnal primate that grows to no more than 10 inches (25 centimeters) long, according to the conservation group Edge of Existence. The species, native to Sri Lanka, is listed as endangered under the Wildlife Protection Act of India.

Authorities found a second loris abandoned in a trash can. They sent both to wildlife authorities, Singh said.

Guards turned over the man and two fellow travelers to customs officials. No charges have been filed. (9/12/2012)

WINTER HAVEN, FL – Authorities in Polk County are trying to stop a new trend of thieves stealing underwear from store shelves.

Winter Haven Police are working multiple cases where thieves walk into stores like Dollar General and stuff packs of undergarments in their shirt or pants.[This is rather meta, no?–jw]

“Their pants or shirts are baggy enough where they can conceal these items and just walk right out of the store,” said Jamie Brown, Spokeswoman for the Winter Haven Police Department.

Last Friday, surveillance video recorded one thief cramming an estimated nine packages of socks, underwear, and shirts down his pants.

“It may not seem like much to some people, but ultimately the merchants are having to pay for this, which is passed down to us.   So we want to make sure these people are held accountable,” Brown said.

Police aren’t sure why the thieves are focused on undergarments, other than the fact that they’re easy to conceal and walk out with.

Tough economic times may also play a role.

“People are doing desperate things,” she said.

TEMPE, AZ–A man was caught at a pet shop near University Drive and Dorsey Lane stuffing tarantulas into his pants. (myfoxpheonix.com, 2/1/12)

CHICKASHA, OK–A suspected thief was taken into custody after allegedly trying to conceal a stolen chainsaw in his pants.   The limping thief was eventually chased from the store, ditching the chainsaw in the process. A short pursuit ensued, with the suspected thief diving headfirst into a creek, police say. (msnbc, 2/23/2011)

ROME, GA–A Kingston Man was charged with shoplifting from a Walmart store by stuffing a chicken down his pants. (AP, 3/2/2011)

JACKSONVILLE, FL–A homeless man was spotted Tuesday afternoon stuffing the ferret into the front of his pants at the Pet Supermarkert at 609 Beach Blvd., according to the Jacksonville Beach Police Department.

A 17-year-old witness alerted store employees and followed him to a nearby parking lot on First Avenue North, the arrest report said. After a confrontation and tussle, the man shoved the ferret in the teen’s face squeezing it. The ferret bit him, leaving two puncture holes in his ear. (jacksonville.com, 10/28/09)

Note: A pattern is beginning to emerge concerning Germans, lizards, and New Zealand.

MEXICO CITY–A Mexican man was arrested upon arrival in Mexico City after flying from Lima, Peru with 18 titi monkeys strapped around his waist. While the monkeys traveled in his luggage, Roberto Sol Cabrera placed the endangered monkeys into socks that fit into a waist girdle “to protect them from X-rays,” though two of the monkeys did not survive the journey, sadly.  Police said Mr. Sol Cabrera behaved “nervously” when questioned at customs. (7/20/2010, BBC News)

NEW ZEALAND–A German man, Hans Kurt Kubus, 58, was caught attempting to smuggle 44 lizards out of New Zealand, and will now face roughly three months in jail and pay a $5,000 fine, according to the BBC. Apparently, the man sewed pouches into his underwear for the express purpose of smuggling the reptiles…

[T]he reptiles, a mix of geckos and skinks, are endangered species and protected by New Zealand law. The BBC reports that the lizards are profitable as well, selling for as much as $2,000. For his part, Kubus pleaded guilty and said the lizards were for his personal collection, not for sale. (1/27/2010, Today in Travel blog)

LOS ANGELES–A man was charged Tuesday with smuggling songbirds into the United States by hiding more than a dozen of them in an elaborate, custom-tailored pair of leggings during a flight from Vietnam to Los Angeles. Sony Dong, 46, was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport in March after an inspector spotted bird feathers and droppings on his socks and tail feathers peeking out from under his pants, prosecutors said. “He had fashioned these special cloth devices to hold the birds,” said U.S. attorney spokesman Thom Mrozek. “They were secured by cloth wrappings and attached to his calves with buttons.” (5/7/2009, Times Wires)

SYDNEY– An Australian man was caught with two pigeons hidden in his pants on an international flight from Dubai to Melbourne, Australia. The 23-year-old man was searched after authorities discovered two eggs in a vitamin container in his luggage, said Richard Janeczko, national investigations manager for the Customs Service.

They found the pigeons wrapped in padded envelopes and held to each of the man’s legs with a pair of tights, according to a statement released by the agency. Officials also seized seeds in his money belt and an undeclared eggplant. (2/3/2009, AP)

SWEETWATER, TN – A woman has been charged with possession of burglary tools after police said a crowbar slipped out of her pants as she was lurking around a church. (AP, 1/28/08)

LOS ANGELES – When the rare birds of paradise escaped from his suitcase and flew over the heads of U.S. Customs Agents at Los Angeles International Airport, Robert Cusack decided it was best to confess that, yes, he did have more to declare.

“I have monkeys in my pants,” Cusack told the agents. (Court TV, 9/19/06)

SYDNEY, Australia–A Sydney man has been charged under the country’s biodiversity conservation law after allegedly trying to smuggle parrot eggs out of Australia in his underpants. (ENS, 11/15/2004)

LOS ANGELES–The two men couldn’t wiggle out of this one—not when customs agents found snakes writhing in their pantyhose. (L.A. Times, 9/16/97)

BAYONNE, NJ–Ace Hardware Store employees at 915 Broadway saw John Pasuco, 41, of Broadway, stuffing about $130 worth of paint brushes into the front of his pants, police said. (nj.com, 11/19/03)

LANSING, MI – A woman stole a boa constrictor from a pet store by slipping the snake down her pants, the owner said. The animal was stolen Thursday afternoon from Preuss Animal House in Lansing.

“I am far less concerned for the person than for the snake,” owner Rick Preuss said. The 20-inch snake was worth $174.

Jayzun Boget, assistant manager of Preuss’ reptile department, called the heist “audacious.” (AP, 4/7/08)

ST. PETERSBURG, FL–William Napoli was almost in the clear with his purloined strip loins but the bulge in his pants did him in, authorities say. (St. Petersburg Times, 6/17/08)

SAN DIEGO – A San Diego man accused of poaching lobsters allegedly was caught with six of the creatures stuffed down his pants.

Thirty-three-year-old Binh Quang Chau, who has been cited four times for poaching, allegedly took the lobsters from the La Jolla State Marine Conservation Area.

Department of Fish and Game warden Daryl Simmons says wardens arrested Chau when they noticed “odd bulges” in his pants. All six of the newspaper-wrapped lobsters were still alive and were returned to the ocean. (AP, 10/11/08)

SAN LEANDRO, CA–The younger of two brothers who survived a Christmas Day tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo has pleaded no contest to grand theft for allegedly shoplifting video game equipment from Target stores in the East Bay, authorities said today…

Dhaliwal was arrested March 27 by San Leandro police after a security guard at the Target at the Bayfair Center mall on East 14th Street saw him hiding two Nintendo Wii controllers in his pants, police Lt. Tom Overton said. (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/14/2008)

NEW ZEALAND–A German reptile collector has been fined US$5,300 for attempting to smuggle lizards out of New Zealand in his pants.     Customs intercepted Jorg Kreutz, 38, trying to leave the country with two green geckos in his underwear, according to Customs Minister Phillida Bunkle. (BBC News, 2/2/2001)

LAFAYETTE, IN (WLFI) – A Lafayette man, Joshua Parrish, received his sentence for possessing pain killers and trying to leave a grocery store with a frozen pizza in his pants.

Parrish pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of a controlled substance and one count of theft. A judge sentenced Parrish to time served at the Tippecanoe County jail and community corrections.

Prosecutor Pat Harrington said officers found 24 pills in Parrish’s pocket that he did not have prescriptions for. He said Parrish was arrested when security at Pay Less Grocery Store witnessed Parrish stuffing a frozen pizza down his pants.