Lest I give
the impression that poker occupied all of our time outside of classes,
I will recount the story of the day we directed our attention to
loftier pursuits in a hands-on study of both animal and human behavior
previously that the big winner of the poker game was treated to
a variety of downtown dining options. Losers, on the other hand,
who had seen their week's food budget disappear before the onslaught
of Murphy's uncanny knack for filling inside straights, were not
above foraging in the orange grove for nourishment-sort of an economically
sweet navel oranges could sustain a person for several days, although
the citric acid diet did not enhance social interaction in confined
areas. Not infrequently, hotly contested pots were temporarily but
rapidly abandoned to strangled warning cries of "Orange Fart!
Orange Fart!" These table-clearing events were a form of petty
revenge perpetrated by those whose extended losing streaks not only
consigned them to a one-course diet but also placed them in the
role of observer until their funds were replenished.
out on the short end of a roll-'em-high-low-declarer-can-go-both-ways
game, I was foraging among the trees the next day when I found myself
in the flight pattern of an endless stream of bees, all clearly
headed to and from the old shed where smudging equipment was stored.
As I approached, I could see through the open second-floor loft
doors that the bees had built a hive between two ceiling joists;
and the hive was so full that the honey trickled down the wall in
a steady and inviting stream. Spurred on by the enticing rivulets
of honey and the formidable challenge its retrieval represented,
I hurried back to the house and interrupted the game in progress
with a report of my discovery.
I like to think
it was my persuasive powers; but there might just have been a lull
in the game. In any event, I enlisted a SWAT team to relieve those
unsuspecting bees of their hoard. There were no honey experts in
our force, although I, personally, had been stung on the eyelid
as a child while tormenting a hive. This experience thrust me into
a position of leadership for this ill conceived undertaking.
gang of five cobbled together a strategy that was sure to work.
First, we needed a volunteer to climb the rickety stairs to confront
the bees; and next, we needed a means of disabling the bees long
enough to snatch the prize. A CO2 fire extinguisher seemed to solve
one of the problems; and finally, after excruciating peer pressure,
Dick stepped forward as the point man. The mission was on.
To protect our
intrepid volunteer from potential harm, we outfitted him in heavy
jeans, a raincoat and rain hat, and gloves. One of our rocket scientists
came up with a foolproof scheme to protect Dick from the neck up.
Ignoring the subtle warning printed on the flimsy wrapping ("Put
this over your head and you're a dead man"), a transparent
plastic bag went over his head; holes were cut for eyes and the
lenses of his glasses were scotch-taped into the holes. To insure
adequate oxygen, another hole was cut for the mouth and a toilet
paper cylinder, one end covered by a perforated plastic lid, was
passed through the hole into his mouth and taped in place. The plastic
bag was tucked into the raincoat and he was ready to go.
The first indication
that things might not go as planned occurred at the foot of the
stairs, when Dick's glasses became fogged so badly that he was essentially
blind and had to be guided by shouted directions as he made his
way up the shaky stairs and across the sagging floor to a position
close enough to engage the target.
We outside observers,
at a safe distance we thought, verbally maneuvered Dick into place
and gave the "open fire" signal. CO2 billowed around the
hive, obscuring both the target and our human cat's-paw.
At this point,
things get a little confused, but two things happened around the
same time: A number of bees found a chink in Dick's armor, making
their way up the inside of his pant leg and doing what riled up
bees do best. Simultaneously, a formation from the hive concluded
that the humans outside on the ground were not innocent bystanders
but complicit in this attack, and had to be dealt with.
We did not cover
ourselves with glory that day. Abandoning Dick to stumble blindly
around the second floor of a rickety building with bees in his pants,
the support team scattered in all directions trying to evade the
angry swarms which pursued us relentlessly up and down the rows
of orange trees.
None of the
raiding party went unscathed, especially Dick, who was last seen
executing a series of unique gyrations in his frantic attempt to
escape from his predicament in the shed. In his after-action report,
he refused to divulge where and how many times he was stung.
We each carried
our own lesson away from our experience that day. Dick must surely
have reflected on the wisdom of volunteering and the trustworthiness
of his fellow man. And Kazuo, my Japanese roommate whose English
was not quite at the same level as his math skills, stated his hard-earned
lesson in animal behavior most eloquently: "Those bee got a
good nose!" My own piece of wisdom, which would aid me as a
future military officer, was that there is no substitute for careful
and thorough planning-and running like hell is sometimes the best
Residents of Flem House
(the author is in the middle with sunglasses)
is a retired naval officer living in Hawaii. During his military
career he served in a number of overseas assignments, including
Germany, England, Spain, Viet Nam and Puerto Rico. Following his
retirement, he was an adjunct faculty member of Hawaii Pacific University
and is currently under contract with the U.S. Navy at the submarine
base in Pearl Harbor.
Also by Jean