The bumblebee-herder prepares for OUTLANDER Season 4
As some of you may know, Diana Gabaldon gave me the title of "Chief Bumblebee-Herder" in the Acknowledgements of one of her books a few years ago. I love the imagery, which is a very apt description of what I do in my role as Section Leader, aka moderator, of the Diana Gabaldon section of TheLitForum.com, formerly the Compuserve Books and Writers Community.
This little story sort of bubbled up last night while I was contemplating how insanely busy the next three months are going to be on the forum while OUTLANDER Season 4 is in progress. This is the first piece of fiction I've ever posted online. Hope you enjoy it!
THE BUMBLEBEE-HERDER PREPARES FOR OUTLANDER SEASON 4
Copyright 2018 by Karen Henry
I open the door of the storage room and take a cautious step inside. I haven't been in this little room for almost a year. It smells a little musty, and there's a thin film of dust covering all the exposed surfaces. In the dim light, I can just make out the shapes of cardboard boxes and plastic storage bins of various sizes, stacked against the walls. I venture further into the room, careful not to trip, for there are small items scattered over the floor. I spot what I'm looking for on a high shelf at the back of the room. Straining up to reach it, I pull it down for a closer look, coughing a little at the dust. It's a bulky object, but not too heavy, resembling an old-fashioned hard-sided suitcase, with metal clasps on the side facing me.
This isn't the place to open it, though. I drag the case out into my bedroom and set it down on the floor, running my fingers over the embossed gold lettering on the top. "OFFICIAL BUMBLEBEE-HERDING GEAR," I read out loud, and at once I feel the knot in my stomach begin to unclench. It's going to be all right. I can do this!
I flip the clasps open, and a soft, golden light emanates from within the case. Slowly, carefully, I raise the lid and peer inside. The suit appears to be in excellent condition, showing no signs of wear even though it's been ten years since I first acquired it. I pull it out, one item at a time.
Bumblebee-herding gear is specialized equipment, and this particular suit was custom-made just for me. It bears a superficial resemblance to a beekeeper's protective suit, but it's much more comfortable. It has to be, because it's designed to be worn all day, every day, for months at a time, except when I'm sleeping. I run my fingers over the soft, fleece-like inner layer, smiling at the familiar feel of it.
The outer layer of the suit is smooth and slightly cool to the touch. I don't know what it's made of, but the label inside says it's flame-proof, which is definitely a good thing, under the circumstances! Whatever this material is, it's lightweight and flexible enough that it doesn't impede my movements at all. That's essential. Bumblebee-herders have to be able to react quickly to unforeseen events. I was told by the person who gifted me with this suit all those years ago that the outer layer is impervious to bee-stings. "Let them buzz all they want to. As long as you're wearing this suit, they can't hurt you." And so far, that seems to be the case. I've been through some rough times, bumblebee-herding, but I hardly ever get stung.
Putting on the suit takes some time. It's been almost a year and I'm having to re-familiarize myself with how it works. Suddenly I hear a pair of voices in my head, a man and a woman:
"I havena done this for a verra long time."
"Neither have I."
Smiling at the memory of Jamie and Claire, reunited after twenty years, I rummage in the case until I find the boots, and slip them on. They look just like an ordinary pair of brown leather boots, but they have two unique features. They've been specially treated with an invisible coating that makes them resistant to bee-stings, just like the suit itself. And when I put them on, I can move with far more speed and agility than I'm normally capable of. If you're going to herd bumblebees, you have to be able to move very fast when needed!
Next, a pair of leather gloves, roughened at the fingertips so I can type, or tap on a phone, while wearing them.
And last but not least, the headgear. This is the part of my equipment that most closely resembles a beekeeper's costume. The fine netting keeps the inquisitive insects away from my face. But I doubt most traditional beekeepers wear a microphone attached to their headgear. I reach up to check that it's securely fastened. A bumblebee-herder has to make herself heard over all that buzzing!
Just about ready now. I check the suit pockets. The right pocket is empty, but the left one holds a small object resembling a spray bottle, with a nozzle on top. My left hand curls around it, and I press down briefly on the nozzle, just to make sure it's still working. At once a wisp of smoke wafts from the bottle, and I nod, reassured. Smoke stuns the bees.
"Ready as I'll ever be," I mutter under my breath as I head for the door. "Bring on Season 4!"
If you're looking for a place to discuss All Things OUTLANDER, including in-depth discussions of both the books and the TV series, check out TheLitForum.com! You have to sign up in order to read or post on the forum, but it's free. Diana Gabaldon often posts on the forum, participating in the discussions and answering questions.