by Jennifer Wortman

She played in front of their little house with the basement where her dad made bullets with a levered press he let her pull when her mom wasn’t home. The day before, her mom had taken her to Columbus to buy her sandals the color of soft pretzels, their soles like caramel, sweet pieces of the mall strapped to her feet. She waded them through the clover-flecked grass.

This was life: her feet sunk in green, the sun’s hand on her back, her mom inside, humming. Then: Toe. Pain. Bee.

The neighbor woman came running and scooped her up, delivering her at the door into her mom’s arms. This, too, was life: pain comes, and people who love you act fast and lift you.

Her mom removed the stinger and applied paste to the welt. Together they sat in the big brown chair, her mom stroking her hair as light drained from the walls.

Her dad came home. He’d bought another gun. Her mom stood, yelling, her lips twisting like pipe cleaners. Her dad poked his finger at her mom’s face. The louder her mom got the softer he spoke. But his eyes shot hate.

The sting still hurt and her whole foot felt strange. Who could she tell? This also was life: the flight to her room, the long wait for calm. But now she had the throb of her foot, the redness, the burn. New friends. Even after her foot healed, the feeling stuck with her: the shocking betrayal of everything good, the wound aflame, a warmth she’d return to, and summon, for the rest of her days.

Jennifer Wortman is the author of This. This. This. Is. Love. Love. Love., a story collection forthcoming from Split Lip Press in spring of 2019. Her fiction, essays, and poetry appear in Glimmer Train, Normal School, DIAGRAM, The Collagist, SmokeLong Quarterly, Monkeybicycle, The Collapsar, Juked, and elsewhere. She is an associate fiction editor at Colorado Review and an instructor at Lighthouse Writers Workshop. Find more at jenniferwortman.com.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Bee”?

I took a class from the great Steve Almond, who suggested we list moments in our life we couldn’t forget and write from there. My first bee sting made the top of the list. I also vividly remember my second bee sting, my third, and my fourth. I hate bees with a passion, which is another way of saying they scare me. When I hear reports that they are dying out, despite my understanding of the terrible implications, a part of me cheers.

“Bee,” while not strictly autobiographical, is more autobiographical than most of what I write. I used to help my dad make bullets in our basement. And my mother hated guns as much as my father loved them, so lots of family fun ensued. 


Congrats to the Best Small Fictions nominations from Matter Press for Compressed Creative Arts: Sara Backer’s “Oh, What a Night”; Dan Crawley’s “Powers”; Jill Talbot’s “Malahat Highway on Boxing Day”; Christopher Allen’s “Falling Man;” and Kathy Fish’s “Five Micros.”


Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions are now closed. Check out our new category triptychs! The submission period opens March 15, 2019; submit here.


02/13 • Sue Mell
02/18 • Emanuele Pettener
02/20 • Marge Simon
02/25 • Jeff Friedman
02/27 • Heather Bourbeau
03/04 • Dennis Mombauer
03/06 • Robin Moss
03/11 • Jacqueline Doyle
03/13 • Dawn Vogel
03/18 • Tamara Gane
03/20 • Tiff Holland
03/25 • Sara Crowley
03/27 • Hannah van Didden
04/01 • Ian Mahler
04/08 • Cindy Hunter Morgan
04/15 • Mason Binkley