Nashville, Tenn.

Murdering Mamaw

By Robie Sullins Jr.

My grandmother is a murderer. Every summer she murders bees by the hundreds.  In fact, she’s probably killing winged insects this very second.

She takes up watch on her porch, her swatter akin to a samurai’s sword. She and the metal wire become one. Each movement fluid. Each swat calculated.

Her porch is littered with wicker furniture.  Each chair weathered and worn in all the right places. In the distance a CSX train rolls along the tracks. My grandmother sits, alone.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to her house in mild enough weather that she didn’t say, “Let’s go out on the porch.” She prefers to entertain outside, on her porch.

Her porch has remained unchanged during the twenty-odd years she has inhabited the house behind it. It’s been a constant, unchanging part of my life.

In my childhood I would jump on and off the porch on my way to somewhere else; basketball practice, a friend’s house, to direct the neighborhood kids in nefarious activity.  My grandmother would usually be sitting there surveying the neighborhood or directing my grandfather in some honey-do task.

“Sit a while,” she would ask.  Sometimes I would stop long enough to satisfy her request, but more often than not, I would decline.  I hated the bees. It seemed every bee in East Tennessee made its way onto my grandmother’s porch. It also seemed like every bee in East Tennessee met its demise on my grandmother’s porch.

Swat! Down the winged-devil would go.

My grandmother has no fear of bees. Not the slightest.  Me, not so much. You see I’ve been stung everywhere imaginable.  And I do mean everywhere. Bees can be rather traumatic to someone who’s been stung in places I prefer not to mention in mixed company.  How I got stung in those places is a story for another time.  But trust me, it hurts.

My grandfather also hates bees. And so does my brother.  And so does most anyone who comes to visit my grandmother.  It’s unfortunate because bees are attracted to her porch like, well, bees to honey.

Today, I bet my grandmother is out on her porch, alone.   Swatter in hand, she’s waiting for someone to visit.  My grandfather is probably inside where it’s comfortable. My brother is off doing whatever 18 year olds do. And I’m 300 miles away.  Besides, even if I was there I wouldn’t be out on her porch.  I hate the damn bees.

I know one day I’ll wish I was sitting with her.  I’ll long to hear her say, “Let’s go out on the porch, young’uns.” One day I’ll wish my grandmother was still around.

At least the bees will be happy when she’s gone.