“ARRGGHH,” Arvin cries, as the bee lands at the edge of his soup.
He swats at it with his plastic spoon, but the bee buzzes away. His spoon upturns his flimsy Styrofoam bowl, spilling tomato soup onto the table, where it pools lethargically between his tray and his neighbor’s before dripping over the side in thick splatters.
But all eyes instead follow the bee, as it lands on Trundo’s cheese sandwich for a second, as he flings it onto his tray with disgust, his face contorting to match the sound of the ugly “Eww” emanating from his mouth. With a napkin he tears off the spot of bread and tosses it aside, then flicks it away from his tray, then tears off an adjacent, larger portion of bread, for good measure. He sits there, his sullen eyes demanding that someone repay him for the food that the bee has ruined.
But the eyes stay on the bee. No one notices the empty spot where Jamille was sitting. At this moment (because of her bee allergy), she is being whisked away from the scene by Ms. Firran, the female administrator on duty, whose blue flowered dress billows behind the two of them like a protective shield. At the same moment Mr. Brug, the heavyset male administrator, strides down the aisle.
The bee enters Bill-O’s territory. Amid a barrage of neighboring whacks, he calmly uses his mouth to take out the straw from his orange juice, raises his head with exaggerated slowness, and aims at the whirring little body. His fellow gangsters hold their breath in anticipation, and he fires a column of orange juice, which misses the bee entirely and instead lands on Mona’s hair. No one notices her as she dabs at the stain. Bill-O’s two neighbors pat him heartily on the back and laugh as they raise their straws, determined to carry out what Bill-O had planned to do. The pink straws fall in unison from their mouths as Mr. Brug appears on the
other side of the table.
“Move aside, I’ll take care of this,” he booms, the entirety of the Washington Post rolled up in his hand.
Allene jumps up to obey Mr. Brug’s command, while Louis scrambles away and peeks out from behind Mr. Brug’s protective bulk.
As Mona swallows her last piece of qinggangcai and moves towards the last spoonful of rice, she finds the bee has landed in her tin lunch container and is busy sucking at an oil droplet, and that the boys opposite her are chanting, “KILL IT KILL IT KILL IT.” Mr. Brug stands over her, frozen in place, his modesty preventing him from leaning over Mona and dirtying her tin container with his newspaper. She calmly puts down her spoon on her napkin and clangs the
The bee fuzzes frantically from inside the tin.
“Bee got owned,” Bill-O remarks, his friends joining in his snickering. Mr. Brug holds his hand out for Mona’s lunch container. She gets up from her seat without glancing at his outstretched hand, and walks down the aisle.
“I’ll dispose of that for you,” Mr. Brug says, as he follows her. She heads the opposite direction from the trash can. “SIT DOWN,” Mr. Brug says. All eyes are now on Mona; the lunchroom quiets until all can hear the bee.
Mona holds her ancient tin container with two hands as she strides confidently, like a waiter about to present the restaurant’s special dish. She puts it down on the windowsill and struggles to open the window. Finally she figures out how to turn the latch and pushes with both hands, almost falling out. Mr. Brug stands behind, not helping, watching.
Mona upturns the container and removes the lid. The bee buzzes out into freedom, then does a 180° turn and beelines for Mr. Brug’s nose.
“OOOWWW!” Mr. Brug shouts as he tears at his face, his butt hitting Mona and his windmilling feet hitting the cafeteria table, sending it rolling until it hits the neighboring one. The bee falls from Mr. Brug’s nose, hanging dizzily in the air. Mr. Brug’s newspaper comes around again, and this time there is no escape.
Mona fingers the jade Buddha around her neck and whispers a prayer as she walks back to her seat, but no one hears her as the students turn back to their friends and resume their conversations, all thoughts of the bee forgotten.