The Apiarists’ Army
Twins Abigail and Deborah process along a path of pine straw toward the granite altar. Live Oaks draped in Spanish Moss form the cathedral’s walls and ceiling. The piping of the island’s last thousand honeybees is the only sound.
Clad in long blue robes, turquoise stoles and silver veils, the sisters walk side-by-side, their steps perfectly synchronized. Upon reaching the altar, together they open the winged retable to reveal nine carved panels, stacked in columns of three. Each panel bears the likeness of a deer carved in white marble and is framed by a tangle of Celtic swirls and spirals comprising the deer’s antlers.
The sisters kneel before the altar and bow their heads. In unison, they begin to pray.
“St. Gobnait, patron of bees and beekeepers, revered in thin places. We thank you for your healing, for your miracles. Nine white deer showed you a place of resurrection; we pray for your intercession in the presence of nine white deer represented on the altar before us.
“Mo Gobnat, we confess we have not done all we can to care for your beloved bees. We are sorry for our mindlessness. We seek your forgiveness and ask you to bless us in our repentance.
“It is said you drew a line in the sand to keep your village safe from the plague. We ask now for your help as we draw a line in the sand to protect our pollinators.
“It is said your bees became soldiers to keep thieves and robbers away. We beg for your mercy as we unleash our soldier-bees on those who robbed us by spraying poison on our hives and destroying the plants that give us nectar.
“It is said your honey cured illnesses. We plead with you to remember we are only human, and thus prone to anger and vengeance. Our honey will purge this island of the evil which rules it. While it is too late for us, may future beekeepers produce only sweet, innocent honey and have no need of our vile recipe.
“Abbess, we were born on your Feast Day and named in your honor. We pray for your intercession and compassion when it comes time for the final judgment.”
The sisters stand, raise their arms and look skyward. The buzzing of the bees is replaced with the pealing of a thousand beehive-shaped bells, rung by a thousand bronze-helmeted soldiers. Each carries a jar of honey as the apiarists’ army marches to City Hall.
KATHY SANFORD lives in upstate New York and coastal Georgia with her husband and two senior coonhounds. After retiring from a career of bureaucratic nonfiction, Kathy has returned to the loves and aspirations of her childhood – walking dogs, riding a bicycle, reading, going to the beach and writing fiction. She is surprised to find herself participating in online short story challenges and contests. This story was inspired by a visit to St. Gobnait’s Church in Ballyvourney, County Cork, Ireland, as well as an unfortunate true tale of a honeybee die-off closer to home. Kathy in no way condones or advocates carrying vile honey to City Hall, nor does she mean to imply St. Gobnait would approve of such action.