We’d let him play with us, just this once.
Cameron had called him over. As the unofficial leader of our group we weren’t about to argue with him, but none of us had expected to spend our playtime with Scott, whose leaking nose and the rhyming potential of his first name – do parents not remember their own childhoods when deciding on these things? – had combined to form the inevitable melody.
Perhaps that’s why he did it. Better than eats his snot.
I’d found the bee, limply buzzing in the grass that marked the playground’s edge, like a toothbrush that needs charging. It was an unpromising find – a grounded bird or a tangle of worms would have been better – but it was the best we had to occupy ourselves with until Ms Munroe rang the bell for the end of play. We poked at it with a twig, trying to turn it over, watching its legs wriggling desperately, but this soon became dull, which is when Scott was invited.
He came over hesitantly from where he’d been squatting and raking through the woodchip.
Cameron smiled and pointed at the dying bee. “Eat it then.”
Scott looked around at us, uncertain. “What? It’ll taste bad.”
“Duh,” Cameron said, his voice thick with contempt, and we echoed his derision. “It’s just honey .”
“Won’t it sting?”
“It’s not got a sting, that’s why it’s dying.” This was news to us, but Cameron’s brother, who we considered an oracle, was at secondary school, so he must have heard it from him.
I picked up the bee carefully – as the finder, I had this right – and dropped it into Scott’s cupped hands. He looked at me then threw it into his mouth like an M&M.
Ms Munroe came striding over to us, instantly suspicious at our howls of laughter.
“What’s going on here?”
Scott looked like he was about to cry.
“Scott ate a bee!” crowed Cameron.
“Is that true, Scott?”
I could almost feel the hot, wet shame behind his cheeks as he nodded and was led off to the nurse’s room.
For the rest of that day I dreaded Ms Munroe coming into our classroom and demanding to see us. But nothing ever came of it – perhaps Scott had insisted it was his decision, or his parents had urged the school not to make their boy even less popular.
The next day I saw Scott raking through the woodchip again, like he was looking for something. I thought about going over to him, but Cameron had brought in a pen that made a noise when you turned it, so I walked past him to this new distraction. Although I was close enough for him to have seen me, he didn’t look up. He just kept trailing his fingers through the dirt as if he might be about to uncover something rare and delicate.