To Get Honey in the Comb

by Clara Nipper

To Get Honey in the Comb


Drive in the hot station wagon for an hour past prairie grasslands bleached silver and gold in the sun. Let the wind simultaneously cool and toast your face.

Pull down a rough dirt road to a local farmer’s market where honey is sold, gleaming amber in glass jars. Smile at your dirty bare feet sticking to the cool, concrete floor of the little warehouse where there is beautiful produce everywhere. Pyramids of tomatoes, bins of watermelons and cantaloupes just broken off the vines, crates of hot peaches whose blushing perfume was so strong it made your eyes cross; boxes of okra, piles of zucchini, flats and flats of mouthwatering crimson strawberries, small boxes of the first crop of blackberries the size of a man’s thumb and dark and shiny. Electric fans and flies everywhere. A wooden sign hanging from the ceiling that reads: ‘no profanity.’

Beg to taste the raspberry and lemon honey and pout when you are refused. Get distracted by the farm kids who are as shy and furtive as their cats you long to pet. The farm dogs lay panting on the floor, their tails thumping whenever anyone comes close. Wave flies away from your face and from all your mother purchases: two gallons of honey, an entire flat of strawberries, a bushel of peaches, a peck of tomatoes, a watermelon that reminds you of sitting in front of the floor fan with your friends yelling into the blast of air, loving your altered voices, waiting for the melon to cool. Once it was cut open, you swept away by the true scent of the melon as you close your eyes and inhale: freshly cut roses and cold sugar. Your Mom also bought two cantaloupes and a tiny container of blackberries.

Express disappointment to your mother that she always insists on buying “dark” honey because she believes it has higher nutrient value. Load the car.

On the drive home, make it your job to sit in the back and protect the melons from rolling around. Become entranced by the amber honey shine and the large combs floating inside the jars like prizes. Open a jar and fall in love with the pure, sweet flower scent. Imagine all the bees out in the fields with clover and sunflower and apple blossom and Indian paintbrush and abandoned wisteria and stray mints wandering south and then stick your finger into the honey. Put your finger onto your tongue. Close your eyes as the taste melts and spreads all over your mouth and into your veins. Forget that your hair is stuck to your forehead with sweat; forget your stubbed toe bruised black; forget all Mom’s constant Noes. Forget the stuffy car. Submerge your hand in the jar and pinch a corner of the honeycomb until it breaks off. Raise it to your mouth, not minding the dripping honey stream that follows your hand, landing on the jar, the car floor, your legs, your shirt and your chin. Cram the honeycomb in and chew. The wax sticks to your teeth a little, but keep chewing, exploding the cells of rich, thick honey. Your throat seizes at the intensity. Keep chewing. You swallow the honey in ecstasy as if it were sunshine. The comb shrinks, dries, hardens in your mouth. You chew as long as you can, until the sweetness is gone. Once you get home, you help carry in the groceries, getting patches of honey everywhere that will mystify and irritate your mother for days. You spit the bolus of spent wax into a Tupperware where all the other chewed and desiccated gobs are, rattling together like ivory stone bones, waiting for your mother to melt into candles.

You put the glass jars of honey into the cabinets within easy reach. You’ll need some more later. Go outside and play in the hose, your mouth still tingling with sweetness.