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art by Ron Sanders

Stingerbee

R. C. Bartholomew lives in Washington D. C. with his great dane Gandalf. His favorite writers include Ursula K. Le Guin, George Saunders, and Lord Byron. He has not yet been to the moon.
"Don't forget to take your growth inhibitor," came the anxious voice of his mother. She held out the ovaloid pill and Dash took it on his way out the door. It tasted bitter but all children living under the moon's low gravity had to take them. In school they showed movies of what happened if you didn't, how your body became extended and scraggly like a string bean.
He left the apartment but didn't go far, he just wanted to look once more at the sky. His dad had said you didn't get a better view anywhere else than from Luna City skydome with its panorama of Earth and the stars, unobstructed by atmosphere. A full Earth would have been more dramatic, but a waning blue half circle was what he got that day. His dad had taught him to recognize the various continents and oceans, but today they were obscured under a chaos of clouds.
Genie, with her black-as-space and braided hair, sidled next to him, looking up as well before getting bored. She gave him a sly smile then and asked, as he'd known she would, "You wanna play stingerbee?"
"Yes," he said, "but I can't."
"'Cause you're scared?" she asked.
"My family is moving," he said, not returning her teasing. "We're leaving today."
Her eyes widened. "Where are you going?"
He gave a significant nod to the big blue crescent that dominated the sky. "Up there," he said.
The shuttle had been disappointing to Dash. It had no windows and then he hadn't even gotten to see Earth. When he woke up he was in a hospital bed right back in Luna City with his mother crying in a chair by his side. Her face partially relaxed when she saw he was awake, but held onto some of the grief still.
"Why aren't we on Earth?" he'd asked her, but she only hugged him to her chest and cried some more.
Later on when the doctor came by, she insisted on speaking with him in the hall but Dash could hear everything through the thin walls and door.
"Kids are resilient at this age," the doctor said. "He'll make a full recovery. Practically has already in fact, but I wouldn't take him back up there."
"But I still don't understand," came his mother's weeping voice. "They say you can go back home up to age ten. He's only eight, and he's taken his growth inhibitor every day."
"Every case is different," he told her. "His body is too adjusted to Luna."
"So he will never see his home?"
"This is his home," said the doctor, and he heard his mother storming away.
Later that day, taking the rail back to their apartment which they had fortunately not yet sold, his mother turned to him and said she was so sorry, that they hadn't known when they took their jobs here all those years ago. His father put his hand on hers to silence her, but she tore away.
"It makes Siberia look like Eden," she whispered with a gesture of her head out at the grey rockscape outside. "This will be his life? As an exile?"
His father seemed to have some complex adult struggle play out on his face, twitching cheek, brow, and neck muscles duking it out, but he didn't say anything.
Getting off the train, he happened to see Genie down a corridor and she saw him at the same time and her eyes and face lit up into a rare smile.
"Dash!" she yelled and ran over to him. "I thought we were losing you?"
It seemed a very adult way she'd phrased that he thought, and he did his eight-year-old best to reply in kind. "I'm here to stay," he said. She lumped onto him in a tight hug, to which he made an act of reluctantly submitting.
She pulled away and gave him a raised eyebrow mischief look.
"Stingerbee?" he asked her.
"Now Dash," his mother said, "you're still not--"
But his father cut in: "It's okay," and then to mollify, "I'll go with him to make sure."
His mother gave Dash a wan defeated smile. "Come home soon," she told him.
Genie and Dash went down the corridors, trailed at a respectable chaperone distance by his father. They picked up other kids as they went till they had enough for a game and made their way to a rec area, with its springboards, trampolines, plastic structures, and metal bars coming out of the walls and ceilings. He didn't have his cape with him, but his dad gave him his credit card and he borrowed one from a dispenser in the hall. He did an easy practice jump ten feet in the air, doing a double flip before he landed.
He saw his father looking over at him, unmasked surprise on his face. He was aware that he could do things that his parents, Earthborn and Earthbred as they were, could not, but it occurred to him that they hadn't seen him play in a number of years.
It was determined Genie would start out as the Bee. She brandished her stinger wand which gave its playful little jolt of static shock to whomever its tip touched and everyone started to back away, some jumping on the trampolines and then using their capes to glide down over to the opposite side of the room. Dash ricocheted himself off a wall to get to the top of a tower, and Genie was bouncing on a trampoline with stinger held high and a predatory glee shining from her eyes. Grabbing hold of a ceiling bar and gathering her cape about her, ready to spring off no one knew where, she shouted out the traditional verse of the game in a triumphant echoing vibration:
"I soar like an eagle, I sting like a bee! Lunarans, you can't escape from me!"
The End
This story was first published on Monday, April 28th, 2014

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