“Look, Tim, he’s putting on his rubber bands.” Casey watched Mr. Beasley. The only protection Mr. Beasley wore were rubber bands around the cuffs of his long sleeves.
“Ya know, Tim, no matter how many times I watch him with those bees, it still seems like some kind of magic or something.
“Remember when we had your dad’s canoe, and we bumped into that bush with the hornets’ nest in it?”
“Geez! We almost lost the canoe over that one. Oh-h-h, yeah, I remember all right. I’m the only one that got stung. Boy, I panicked. It’s a good thing ya tipped the canoe over when ya did; seventeen stings. Oh, yeah, I remember.”
Mr. Beasley went about his business of collecting honey, while the boys watched with avid interest.
“I’ve been watching him for years now, Tim. Look at his hands and arms covered with bees, even his eyebrows, for Pete’s-sake. Why don’t they sting him?”
“You’re asking me?”
“Because, he believes they won’t. That’s why!”
“Oh Geez, here we go again. What are ya—”?
“ Now, wait a minute. Wait, a minute.” Casey put his hand up like a traffic cop and closed his eyes to let Tim know that he wasn’t going to listen to another word until he had his say. “Tim, what happens when ya go fishing, and ya don’t believe you’re going to catch anything?”
“That’s easy. Look at PJ. Has he ever caught a fish?”
“Now you’re catching on. I’m going down there to help Mr. Beasley.”
“Casey, that old man shoots trespassers. You can’t just go walking down there and start grabbing honey and—”
“I’ve got to do this, Tim.”
Tim knew there was no sense in arguing, and shook his head as Casey walked away.
Casey watched Mr. Beasley lift the top off one of the white wooden beehives with one hand and lift out a rack of honeycomb with the other. Mr. Beasley turned, and handed the rack full of honey to Casey. He nodded towards the makeshift carrying container made out of Coca-Cola cases and a Radio Flyer red wagon. It was as though Mr. Beasley had been expecting him.
Casey took the rack and swept the bees off the edges as he had seen Mr. Beasley do many times before. Then he placed it into the case on the wagon. By now, bees covered Casey’s arms, hands, and chest. And, what a sensation that was. The fuzzy little critters just went about business as usual. Casey took an empty rack out of the wagon and handed it to Mr. Beasley, who then put it into the slot he had just emptied in the beehive.
Soon they had all the cases filled. As Casey and Mr. Beasley walked away from the hives, fewer bees remained around the wagon and on them. Casey and Mr. Beasley sat on a log and waited for the rest of the bees to take flight.
“What’s yoah name, son?” The old man squinted.
“Casey. Casey Raymond, sir.”
“Well now, Casey Raymond, I seen ya watching old Beasly for years now. What made ya decide to come and give me a hand today?” With that said, Mr. Beasley turned his head and spat tobacco juice at a dandelion.
“Just today I figured why the bees don’t sting ya, sir.”
“Oh? And why’s that?”
At that moment, his idea felt ridiculous, but there was no turning back, “Because you believe they won’t.”
At that profound statement, Mr. Beasley stood up with the most astonished look on his face. “That’s amazing. My old man told me nigh unto forty years ago that the bees would never turn on me, and I believed him, turns out, yer right!” He turned away from Casey for what felt like a long time. When he faced Casey again, he had a big smile on his face. Casey had never seen him smile. In fact, he didn’t realize Mr. Beasley had a permanent scowl on his face until he smiled. Even the nicotine stains cracked in the corners of his mouth.
“I can’t give ya no money for yer help, Son, but I can pay ya in honey. Now, before I will let ya help again, ya got to pass the test of courage. We got a deal or not?” And so saying, he spat on his hand and held it out to Casey.
Casey did the same and grabbed Mr. Beasley’s hand, saying, “Deal!”
That not only brought on a smile, but a hardy guffaw. Mr. Beasley walked over to the Radio Flyer, selected two of the remaining bees and held them out for Casey to take. Casey cupped them in his hands.
“Put ‘em both on yoa arm. That’s right. Now squish one with yoa finger till it stings ya.” That was mighty strange, but Casey had been stung before and lived through it, his curiosity wouldn’t let him stop now.
Out of nowhere, a Bowie knife appeared in old. Beasley’s hand. With swiftness normally reserved for a much younger man, he grabbed Casey’s wrist and drew the razor-sharp blade across his forearm.