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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 23: 28 April 2024
Microfiction: 187 words
By Richard Holinger

The Desolation of Empty Frames


First cleared the underbrush, the woods’ detritus. Took out two trees, dead except for a couple, three branches. Set the hive on a picnic bench separated from its table after Arnold went at it with an ax four years back. Queen never took. Queens. Plenty of flights in and out the bottom board, but frames pulled from the shallow super came up empty as a placenta in a false pregnancy. Electric 8-frame stainless steel Vivo honey extractor sat in the barn lonely as a motherless calf. Never bought the hat and veil. Wrapped the veil I wore the day I married Arnold round my head three times and a bee stung my forearm. Then died. Stinger penetrates, squirts venom, stays there as the bee flees, the hole in her abdomen leaking life.

Sixty thousand female worker bees there to make honey to keep the hive going, but if they don’t cotton to the queen, don’t believe in her, don’t trust her, why work for her, why counter threats and die after injecting their toxin knowing, I’m certain, before they go what’s coming?



Publisher’s Note:

This aptly titled story resonates strongly for me. Even though I stopped keeping beehives in the backyard ten years ago, my fascination with honey bees and my appreciation of them as true miracles of Nature have persisted.

Other bees are also amazing. As wildlife filmmaker Martin Dohrn says, “Bees are at the center of the world’s pollination services; they are pollinating the fabric of life.” And his spectacular film of diverse species in his urban backyard, filmed and narrated during the pandemic lockdown, has me spellbound with each viewing:
My Garden of a Thousand Bees (PBS Nature, 20 October 2021).

Richard Holinger’s
Issue 23 (April 2024)

work has appeared in Chicago Quarterly Review, Hobart, Iowa Review, KYSO Flash, and MacQueen’s Quinterly, and has garnered four Pushcart Prize nominations. His books include North of Crivitz (poetry, Kelsay Books) and Kangaroo Rabbits and Galvanized Fences (essays, Dreaming Big Press). He holds a doctorate from UIC and lives far enough northwest of Chicago to see fox, deer, turkeys, herons, and eagles cross the field and lake beyond his windows.

Author’s website: https://www.richardholinger.net/

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

The Foreign Zoo: Tour(s)ing in Place, nonfiction by Richard Holinger in HOBART (21 May 2021)

Bluebells in the Time of Coronavirus read by Holinger for Northern Public Radio: Poetically Yours (4 December 2020)

Normandy, flash fiction in KYSO Flash (Issue 8, August 2017)

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