The Death of Queen Beatrice (2019 failed entry CBC Short Story Contest)

Willamina hated flowers.  She was emotionally allergic to them.  She detested floral scents, colors and patterns with a passion.  She hated flowers almost as much as she hated her job, the same job she had been stuck in her entire adult life, but there were no other jobs she was qualified for.  The Queen made sure of that.  If there was one thing she hated more than her job, it was the Queen herself.

Queen Beatrice controlled everyone and everything.  It was by the Queen’s mandate that Willamina and her sisters were rendered infertile as children and Willamina resented her Monarch for it.  What if she wanted children of her own?  This was not her current concern.

The sun had long set on the day and one of her sisters, Brenda had not returned.  Willamina’s anxiety was genuine.  The job was fraught with many hazards.  Just that day, Willamina had seen someone she once knew bumbling around like a zombee.  Elizabeth … Beth…, Willamina reminded herself, had been bitten by a fly a few weeks prior while out foraging.  Fear her condition might be contagious led to Beth’s exile, again by edict of the Queen, adding just another layer of loathing on Willamina’s part.

Willamina spotted Susan in a crowd and rushed to ask if she had seen Brenda.

“Sorry Billie, I haven’t seen her today,” Susan said with recognizable sadness in her voice before going her way.

Willamina spent the whole night through pacing nervously.  Brenda did not return.  She felt sadness in her heart knowing another sister had fallen.  She could no longer deny the truth of it, that Brenda was probably never coming back.  She would be just another casualty of the job, just another number on the growing list of fallen sisters.  Willamina was furious.

It’s just the way the world works.  There’s nothing you can do about it, Willamina could hear the words she had suckled on since youth sour as they echoed in her head.  She could no longer accept them as truth.  She had had enough.  Something had to be done.  She could no longer stand idly by while one by one her sisters died, but what could she do?  She would stop the Queen, but how?  Slowly in the back of her head a plan began to form and take shape.

First, she gauged general sentiment toward the Queen among other workers, beginning with those she most trusted before expanding to those she trusted less.  Males could not be trusted at all.  They were a bunch of fat and lazy dumb drones; obedient only to the Queen and so she did not attempt to feel them out.

Much to her surprise, almost all of her sisters shared the same abhorrence for Queen Beatrice in hushed whispers, but they were afraid.  They were afraid of what the Queen would do if she even caught a whiff of dissent, but Willamina was not to be deterred.  She started again with her most intimate circle.  Honey was the first of her sisters that Willamina approached and actually broached the idea of a revolution.

“Oh, no Billie, no, you shouldn’t think such things, let alone say them,” Honey said horrified at first by the idea.  Her concern for her friend’s welfare was obvious in the expression that came over her face.

“You hate the Queen as much as I do,” Willamina pressed.  “Every day our sisters fall, another sister you know dies, maybe more than one some days.  Who’s next?  How many more of us must die before we do something?”

“It’s suicide, the Queen will kill anyone that rises up,” Honey stated as fact.

“So we die.  It’s suicide if we do nothing.  We either die one by one on the job, or we take a stand and who knows, maybe we won’t die,” Willamina retorted.

They debated the issue dead with Willamina eventually prevailing.  Over the course of the next few weeks she had been successful in recruiting the majority of workers to her cause.  They were lucky enough to fly under the Queen’s radar, but Willamina knew that it wouldn’t continue much longer.  They would have to act and act swiftly and decisively if they were going to be successful in pulling off their coup.  There could be no more hesitation without putting everybody at risk.

It was on a hot humid morning in mid-August when the workers assembled by Willamina carried out the plan they had orchestrated to overthrow Queen Beatrice.  As the sun rose and bled red on the horizon, the workers revolted in force and a great battle ensued.  The numbers were near equal on each side of the conflict and so too was the death toll.  Willamina witnessed Honey’s head being ripped from her body among many other horrors.

During the battle, Willamina caught sight of Queen Beatrice and she became singular in her focus.  In that moment, all the hatred she had known for the Queen transformed into an uncontrollable rage.  She made a beeline straight for the Monarch.  As she attempted to attack the Queen, she felt the first wound sting her, followed by another and then another.  The pain was excruciating and before dying, Willamina managed to deliver a stinging wound of her own.  As the white lights blazed and burned in the back of her head, before everything went black, Willamina could only hope the one and only strike she was able to deliver would prove fatal to the Queen as well.


The burden on Queen Beatrice was enormous.  Hers was not an envious task.  The world was a harsh place and without her guidance chaos would consume the ungoverned and they would all perish.  She existed to serve her population, to maintain the order that was necessary to ensure their survival.  She existed to save the masses from their baser instincts.  This was the onus of her station and she took her responsibilities seriously.  She took no joy in the hard decisions she had to make, but make them she did all the same, because their continued survival required it.

There was little she could do to prevent the deaths of workers.  If the workers didn’t forage they would all starve come winter.  She did her best to limit the dangers to the adult population, keeping the children safe.  It was unfortunate, but necessary.  It was just the way the world worked and there was nothing she could do about it.  She did not invent the system that had seen their survival over countless generations during times of peace and strife.

She had heard the buzz of worker dissatisfaction, but she did not take their grievances seriously.  The workers were always complaining about one thing or another, after all.  When the workers revolted, she was caught completely off guard.  The workers swarmed the Royal Court and those loyal to Beatrice did their best to repel the attack that led to decimation on both sides.  The revolt was eventually put down, but not before a worker broke from the ranks and made straight for Beatrice.

Willamina, Billie…the Queen put a name to the face, but before she could react, before she could say or do anything, the worker was on top of her.  Beatrice was struck, she felt the sting and knew the wound would prove fatal.  Blinding white light obscured her vision and pain racked her body.  She fell, doubled over and curled up.  She died feeling betrayed by the population she existed to serve.


All the workers that took part in the revolt that day suffered violent deaths as a result.  The few drones that survived began feeding the remaining larvae Royal Jelly in an attempt to produce a new Queen and begin the cycle of subservience anew, but they would never recover from the collapse of the hive’s population.  They would never be successful in producing a successor in time and when winter came they too would die.

The death of Queen Beatrice is not an isolated event.  In recent years, events such as these have been occurring much more frequently.  In hive after hive, entire populations have been wiped out.  It would appear no hive is immune.


T J Therien

The Long Ride

(Again I attended my writing group on Wed. and the following little story that was written in ten minutes brought one of the members to tears when read back. Please remember when reading the story was written in ten minutes and remains unedited in any way.)

You’re the only person on a streetcar

3 am, the streetcar rolls along the tracks that stretch out across the city like the tracks on a Junkie’s arms. It’s been a rough couple of days without sleep and it’s hard to keep my eyes open. I begin to nod, but I fight it. I can’t miss my stop. She needs me and I promised I would always be there for her.

The motion of the streetcar rocks me in my seat like a baby in the crook of mother’s arm. I fight off the fatigue and wipe my eyes in an effort to stay awake. Just a few more stops to go.

I open the window as wide as it will open so the cool nighttime air will waken me. It only opens a mere crack, hardly enough to refresh me. I begin to fidget in my seat hoping the activity will keep me awake. Just three more stops to go.

She had been ill for quite some time, but took a turn for the worse this last week. She lost her ability to rise out of bed. We all knew that this day was coming, but it all progressed so quickly. None of us were ready.

She told me about the diagnosis a couple of weeks ago and asked me if I would aid and comfort her in her final hours and as much as it pained me I agreed. We may no longer be married, but I understand that there is a level of comfort between us that makes me the ideal candidate to be her care giver in her final hours to give her the dignity she deserves in life and in dying.

My stop is next. I get off the streetcar and walk down the empty street to the house we once shared.

T J Therien

Mary Had A Little Lamb (Redux)

(I attended my writing group again yesterday morning and here is another of my unedited prompt driven efforts. I had ten minutes to write and incorporate the following words; Jungle, Trunk, Lamb and Stank.)

The lamb was quite lost in the jungle. He couldn’t quite remember how he had gotten there. He had been put in a personal pen and for several days remained in the dark box. Several clusters of breathing holes that perforated the sides of the box were the box’s only source of light. The box had been jostled about quite a bit over the course of those days when with a sudden jolt it smashed open and left the dismayed creature in the thick foliage of tangled vines, strange trees and large broad leaves everywhere sprouting from the ground. What had happened to all the grass? The poor thing wondered.

It was damp and excessively hot beneath his woolen fleece, and the heat and humidity rose with a stank that offended his nostrils. The little lamb wondered around for quite a while crying “Mary, Mary?” to the trumpeting of elephant trunks sounding off in the distance. But Mary was no-where to be found.

T j Therien

The Golden Coin

(I have recently joined a writer’s group that meets Wednesday mornings. We write in ten minute segments on various prompts. This is one of my efforts (unedited) from yesterday
Prompt: Child, lost coin, river, ancient, argument.)

It was down by the bend in the river that wound through the green vales and through the thicket and rolling hills of the valley. There the water pooled deep and made a good swimming hole. The children of the nearby village would splash about in the cold water. It was one exceptionally warm summer day when one child, while diving the depths of the swimming hole came across an ancient coin on the sandy bottom. He brought it with him to surface and pulled himself upon the bank to examine it. It was old, in fact ancient and the lettering was some obscure language. It glinted gold in the high noon sun.

Another child seeing the shine in the palm of his friend’s hand came over to feed his curiosity, as children will do. “Let me see that,” the friend said to the boy holding the coin.

“No,” said the other.

“just let me see it for a second, I’ll give it back to you”

“No,” the boy with the coin repeated and closed his hand around the coin to better protect it.

The friend grabbed for the boy’s hand which tightly held the coin and the two boys began to wrestle on the bank. During the tussle the coin fell from the boys hand and back into the river where it was swept away by the current until it came to rest and be buried in silt, arriving in much the same fashion as it had so many years before.

“Look what you’ve done,” said the boy who had found and lost the coin.

“I’ve done nothing, I only wanted to look at it a moment. It was you who would not share.”

The boys continued to argue on the bank of the river for much of the day and there were many hard feeling between them afterward. Their friendship as was the coin was lost to them never to be retrieved. Beyond salvage the two boys went home that day never to speak kindly to one another ever again all because of silly argument over a coin neither could spend.

T J Therien

An Old Tough

The night draws long and sucks wind.

Tom was back in the big city. He had moved away some time ago, but something instinctual had brought him back, like that innate characteristic of migratory birds. He hopped off the Greyhound and stretched his cramped up limbs after the long bus ride. He scratched the grey stubble on his chin and breathed in deep. He almost choked, his lungs no longer accustomed to the smog and car exhaust. He retrieved his weathered and worn duffle bag that contained his life from the storage compartment beneath the bus and dropped it between his feet. He took a long swig from the flask he wore on his hip and lit a cigarette before he slung the bag over his shoulder and made his way down the street with no particular place to go.

It was late and almost everything was closed. He had a few hours to kill until morning when he would be able to lookup a couple of old friends and find a place to crash. The neon lights hurt his eyes as he made his way down the main drag. He was about to light another cigarette when he came across a twenty-four hour coffee shop. He figured it was as good a place as any to kill a couple of hours, so he went inside. A few bums slept at a couple of the tables, but the place was otherwise empty. He ordered a coffee and sat down and planned out his next move.

There he sat and sipped on his coffee. Time dragged on infinitely slow and he found himself needing a smoke something fierce. He left his unfinished coffee and his duffle bag at the table where he would have a view of them from the window and he stepped outside.

Three youths in their early twenties had congregated just outside the coffee shop harassing the few people that walked by. Tom paid them no mind and lit his smoke. The youths spoke with bravado in raised voices. Tom continued to ignore them.

A guy on a bicycle rode up, hopped the curb and dismounted with a jerk. His clothing was worn and his dark hair greasy. Tom noticed how jittery the guy was. Probably in need of a fix, he thought to himself as he took a long haul on his cigarette.

“You holdin’?” The guy with the bicycle asked one of the three youths.

“How much you want?” The shortest youth asked back.

“How much you give me for the bike?” The guy with the greasy hair and shabby clothes asked as his eyes darted here, then there, resting a moment suspiciously on Tom, who ignored him.

“I’ll give you a forty-piece for the bike,” the short youth answered.

“Come on dude, it’s a fuckin’ Bianchi,” the greasy haired guy said as he fidgeted. “Check out how fuckin’ light it is.”

One by one the three youths proceeded to check out the bike, lifting it and examining it this way and that. The greasy haired guy grew anxious and began to fidget even more. Tom continued to ignore them and smoke his cigarette.

“Okay, I’ll give ya an eighty-piece,” the short one negotiated.

“It’s a fuckin’ Bianchi,” the greasy haired guy said obviously more aggravated.

“Fuck guy, you would sell your mother for a forty. Take the eighty-piece and shut the fuck up,” The tallest youth spoke up.

The short youth reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of white rock and handed it to the greasy haired guy, who in turn looked it over, rubbed it against his teeth to check the quality and then thought better of it. While he did this, the tall youth didn’t like the way the greasy haired guy looked at him, so he started a beef.

“Watch how you look at me, or I’ll smack you upside the head,” the tall one threatened.

The greasy haired guy quickly thrust the piece of white rock back into the hand of the short youth and quickly snatched the handlebars of the bike back. He ran and hopped on the bike and quickly rode away before any of the three youths had time to react. Without a target for his anger, the tall youth turned his attention to Tom, who was lighting a cigarette off his previous cigarette and looking through the window of the coffee shop to keep an eye on his things.

“So what’s your deal? You a crack-head too?” The tall gangly youth asked aggressively.

Tom ignored him and continued smoking his cigarette.

“I’m fuckin’ talkin’ to ya,” the tall youth pressed on.

“Fuck off and leave me the fuck alone!” Tom said as he flicked the ash on his cigarette.

“Talk to me like that old man and I’ll smack you upside the head,” the tall youth threatened.

“I’m warning you now boy, you better have some respect and leave me the fuck alone,” Tom said asserting himself in no uncertain terms as he flicked what remained of his cigarette on the road.

The tall youth took a clumsy swing at Tom, who was ready for it. In one fluid motion Tom ducked the punch, and stepped under the swinging arm to come up behind the youth. Tom grabbed the back of the tall youth’s head and used momentum to smash the tall youth’s face into the brick wall. Blood splattered everywhere as the tall youth collapsed and held his face screaming in pain. Another of the youths rushed Tom from behind, but ran into a quick sharp elbow. The youth reeled backward from the blow as Tom turned around. Before the youth was out of reach Tom grabbed him by the back of his head. Tom pulled the youth’s head down and met it full force with his knee which caused a large cracking sound and a geyser of blood to erupt from the youths face.

Two of the youths rolled on the ground and Tom turned his attention to the last youth standing, the short one. The youth was struggling to pull something from the pocket of his hoodie. Tom caught the glint of cold steel in the youth’s hand reflecting the streetlight. Tom casually slipped out of his denim jacket and twirled it a couple of time so one sleeve wrapped around his right hand. The youth jabbed and poked and slashed with the blade while Tom calmly stepped back out of range each time. The youth overstretched and Tom slapped his jean jacket across knife and knife-hand. With the blade covered, Tom quickly stepped in, grabbed the youth and threw him to the ground. Tom then came down with his boot and stomped on the head of the youth. The heel went thunk and the skull of the youth gave way to the force.

“Fuckin’ Punks!” Tom spit.

Tom slipped his jacket back on and took a long pull from his hipflask before going back into the coffee shop to retrieve his duffle bag. He slung it over his shoulder and left. As he walked down the street he could hear sirens approaching. He turned onto a side street as an ambulance and a couple of police cars raced toward where the three youths lay.

Tom made his way across town to an old friend’s place. Later that day he was watching the news at his friend’s apartment when he heard about the drug deal gone bad that left three youths in hospital in critical condition. Tom laughed as he lit a cigarette and looked at his friend who had asked Tom what his plans were.

“Think I’m gonna be leavin’ town again soon. This city ain’t nothing but trouble.”

T J Therien


He woke up feeling discombobulated. He sat up in his bed. His head felt fuzzy and everything looked grey. He felt strange, different somehow, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. He couldn’t remember going to bed, in fact he couldn’t even remember his name. He bent his mind on remembering, but nothing came.

He rose to his feet. He felt anxious about something, but what? He did not know. He felt like there was something he had to do, but what? He did not know. He looked around the room. It was a typical bedroom, furnished as most bedrooms are with a dresser, night table and a bed, although there seemed to be a lack of personal effects such as photos and pictures. He looked at the bed from which he had just risen and there he saw someone sleeping.

He studied the waxen, wrinkled complexion of the man that lay in the bed and he wondered why he was sharing a bed with this man. The man in the bed looked vaguely familiar, but he could not recall who the man was. He was confounded.

Who is this? Who am I? Maybe I will find something elsewhere in the house that can jog my memory, he thought to himself.

He decided to have a look around and see if he couldn’t discover something that might jog his memory and help solve the mystery he was confronted with. He walked slowly to the door, which was shut. The floorboards creaked beneath his feet. He reached out to open the door, but when he did his hand passed through the knob. He tried again with the same result. He tried a third time and again his hand passed through the handle.

He was perplexed, confused, this just wasn’t right. How would he open the door if he could not turn the knob? He stood for some time looking at the door, studying it. This was all very strange to him and he didn’t know what to make of it.

He was about to return to the bed when he could hear the approach of soft footsteps on the other side of the door. The knob slowly turned and the door squeaked on its hinges as it opened. A tall, slight dark haired woman wearing a blue nurse’s smock with a monkey print entered the room and flicked on the light.

“Time to get up for breakfast Mr. Wilson,” she said in a soft voice.

The man in the bed did not respond. The nurse repeated herself and still no response. She approached the bed and checked his vitals before rushing out of the room leaving the door wide open. Within a few minutes the staff of the old age home had converged on the room staring and gawking at the deceased man in the bed.

“Good riddance, he was such a foul man,” one of the staff said aloud and the others nodded the correctness of the statement.

The cook had left the kitchen to find out why no one in the dining room was being served and found the gaggle of staff in the deceased man’s room. The cook had overheard the comment made by one of the staff.

“You’re all a bunch of ghouls. There’s a time to pay your respects and this isn’t it, we still have residents that are very much alive and waiting on their breakfast. Get back to work,” the cook said; obviously aggravated by the way the staff was behaving.


He had watched all this and nobody had noticed him, it was as though he was invisible. Thank God for the cook, he found himself thinking. The staff filtered out of the room and left him alone with the corpse.

“I must be dead,” He said.

T J Therien

The Tale of Poor Tom

Tom Simpleton was the village idiot. He was a strapping young lad, strong as an ox, with dirty brown hair and deep blue eyes. Despite his deceptive strength Tom was a gentle soul and spent most of his time in nature. He would play with feral dogs and cats because the boys and girls of the village would not play with him. In fact, the other children ridiculed and ostracized him. The adults of the village perceived Tom as a nuisance and nothing more, hardly worth paying any attention to.

Tom was the only child of peasants who could not afford to give him an education. While the other children learned to read and write, Tom remained illiterate. When his parent passed away in an accident there was no body to take care of young Tom and he was left to fend for himself at the age of fourteen. He may not have had book smarts as did the other kids, but even at fourteen he was stronger than most men. A local landowner took pity on Tom and offered him a job chopping and stacking wood and maintaining the grounds of his estate.

Tom continued to live in the shack of his parents and would walk half an hour in each direction rain, or shine to and from the rich landowner’s estate. He would take the shortest route through a field of tall grasses and richweed, or horse balm as it was otherwise called. Every day regardless of the weather he would chop and stack a couple of cord. When he finished with the wood he would muck the stables and then tend to the flowerbeds and the grass. The landowner was very proud of his tract of land and preferred it when it was perfectly manicured, though he himself would never lift a manicured hand to do the work.

The landowner was not a hard man to work for. In truth he expected very little of Tom and Tom for his part worked tirelessly and the man appreciated that. Eventually the landowner began to care for Tom as he would a son. He had no son’s himself, only a daughter around Tom’s age. Not having a son of his own saddened the man because his wife was left barren after the birth of their daughter, due to complications with the delivery. It was all the doctors could do to ensure both mother and child survived.

At fourteen Isabelle was developing into a beautiful young lady and the landowner knew it wouldn’t be much longer before the suitors arrived at his door vying for her delicate hand. Isabelle had grown up opposite of Tom. She knew privilege and popularity and she had many friends. She wore the latest fashions and had even gotten a new pair of bobby socks which had taken New York by storm. Isabelle was rapidly growing into a younger version of her beautiful and socially conscious mother.

Isabelle’s mother pressed her husband to move back to the city. It was time to start introducing their daughter into society. It worried her that there was so little culture in the country. She feared her daughter would adopt the mannerisms of these bumpkins. If that were to happen they would have a difficult time finding a suitable husband for their daughter. Isabelle’s father was a stubborn man and his wife’s complaints fell on deaf ears. It wasn’t that he didn’t love his wife; he just thought she put too much stock in society.

Isabelle and Tom rarely came into contact with one another. She would see him around the grounds doing this and that, but she had only spoken to him once when he first started working for her father. She determined that he was not all there and she wondered why her father brought him on.

Each day, after her studies, Isabelle would go riding. The family had five horses, hers was a spotted filly and she loved the animal dearly, even if the horse was jittery and juddered at the slightest provocation. The horse was skittish and her father had begged her to choose another, but Isabelle would hear none of it. It was one day in May while riding in the adjoining woods that an animal scurried across the path and her horse reared, tossing her from the saddle. Isabelle struck her head on a root and was knocked unconscious.

Tom was mucking the stables that day as he always did and when he didn’t see the girl, or the horse he had a sinking sensation that he could not explain. Something inside him told him that Isabelle was in trouble. He had always had these gut feelings that turned out to be true. He never told anyone about them because they would have figured him mad. This extrasensory perception had served Tom well over the years keeping him safe and out of trouble.

Prodded on by that uneasy feeling in his stomach Tom went off in search of Isabelle. As he approached the forest at the edge of the property, he came across the horse saddled, but no rider. Tom ran into the woods along the riding trail and followed it until he came upon Isabelle. She was unconscious and lying upon the ground, dressed in tan jodhpurs, black riding boots and blazer, Her hair was loose and fell about her shoulders. Tom dropped to one knee and scooped her into his arms. He rose to his feet without effort and began to run, he ran back to the estate. He ran tirelessly and as fast as he could back the way he had come.

Tom was met before he reached the front porch of the estate by the girl’s father who was stretching his legs and getting some air, as he always did at that time of day. Surveying his property from his porch, he saw the boy running toward the house with his daughter in his arms. He ran out to meet them where upon he took the girls into his arms.

Isabelle’s father carried her into the house and up the stairs. Tom followed quietly behind. Her father laid her upon her bed. He listened to her chest and could hear a faint heartbeat. He left the room and came back with a wash basin and a cloth and proceeded to wash the drying blood from her hair and temples. All the while Tom stood silently in the corner. When the doctor arrived, Isabelle’s father placed his hand on Tom’s shoulder in a gesture of comfort. He led the boy from the room and left the girl with the doctor.

Isabelle had slipped into a coma. She lingered between life and death for seventeen days. For seventeen days Tom did not go far from her side. The first night he slept in the stables and when he arrived at the house the next morning smelling of manure Isabelle’s parents made him bathe before they would let him sit with her. The doctor had said that it would be better if someone sat with Isabelle and talked to her and her parents didn’t see any harm in letting Tom relieve them. Isabelle’s mother would fall into hysterics almost as soon as she entered the room and saw her daughter laying so near death, so in some ways Tom was a blessing.

Tom thought Isabelle looked like an angel. Her expression was one of peace, her features were so fair. His mother had told him all about angels. His mother told him there were different types of angels. She had told him there was something called a hierarchy of angels. There were little angels that did the little jobs, there were your average angels that did the average angel things and then there were the archangels, these were the angels that spoke to God. Tom thought Isabelle looked like one of those archangels as she slept.

On the eighteenth day after her fall Isabelle expired. Tom was in the room when she breathed her last breath. He saw Isabelle lying upon the bed and he saw another Isabelle. The other Isabelle was made of light and bathed in albescence. First she sat then she rose to her feet and she walked without touching the floor. She smiled upon Tom as she drew near, passed through him and then passed through the wall.

Isabelle’s father semi-adopted Tom after his daughter’s passing. Tom moved into the estate. He still did the jobs he always did, and was still given wage for them, but he did not need to pay rent and without much need of money he had accumulated a little nest egg. Isabelle’s father hired the best tutors for Tom and he learned his alphabet among other things. After her passing Isabelle watched over Tom for the rest of his days which were long and happy.

T J Therien