Specter of a Stinger

We sat packed three in a row
back seat of the sky-blue Oldsmobile.
My sister had always been older
but felt impossibly so by then
a class ring on a faux-gold necklace.
She hadn’t told my parents
it was an engagement ring,
emerald seated in gold,
her boyfriend’s birthstone.

He sat, hairy knuckles bare beside me.
My father had me sit in the middle
between them.
He said it was because
I was the skinniest.
The boyfriend sat easy in a wrinkled gray
Nirvana t-shirt
the smiley-face with the eyes
x-ed out.
The mouth a wobbly curve
like a child had driven it,
or someone grownup enough to know
smiles are rarely smooth
or easy.

We talked about the bee
frozen in place behind my headrest.
We were sure it was dead
for not having moved in weeks.
Maybe frozen when the temperatures dipped,
wings folded delicately,
a translucent blanket
in those final moments
after a false start to spring.
Do bees shiver? I might have asked.
I told the boyfriend
how this bee haunted me–
its specter of a stinger.
I’d never been stung then
but knew enough to fear the pain.

But this boy was unafraid.
to pinch the thing
between thumb and forefinger
to discard it out his window.
Unafraid of letting go.
So unlike me.

Michael Chin

Michael Chin was born and raised in Utica, New York and currently lives in Las Vegas with his wife and son. His debut novel, My Grandfather’s an Immigrant and So is Yours (Cowboy Jamboree Press) came out in 2021, and he is the author of three previous full-length short story collections. His essay collection, Stories Wrestling Can Tell, is forthcoming in 2023. Find him online at miketchin.com and follow him on Twitter @miketchin.

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