The small tottler in a yellow circle dress, yellow ribbons at the end of her three long ponytails, let’s go of Marie’s free hand to wobble down the path that leads into the local park.
It is early spring; the sun is bright, the sky has refrained from clouding, and Marie thought it is another perfect morning to walk to the local Mom and Pop’s convenient store to pick up a few necessities. If her child tags along, the park is always a regular stop.
The heads of the golden flowers rise above the iron park fence. That’s where the toddler heads as soon as she crosses the threshold of the tall gate.
Marie once explained that the flowers are called snapdragons, and the tottler knows why. Their heads raise high, and their jaws drop low, showing sharp colorful teeth.
She is the only one who sees the dragon’s thin slanted eyes carefully watching the bees as they skirt in and out of the dragon’s mouth before that unthinkable “snap!” came to lock them inside forever.
Her favorite of everything else in this routine is to squat and watch the busy activity of the bees. The undulating buzzing fills her head with pictures of car motors. It reminds her of the “vroom” that the old car in the garage makes when her father revs the motor.
The teeny yellow-orange and black “people” must have motors at the end of their bodies, the tottler figures, to make their wings move so fast.
Zip, zip, zip!
She watches in awe as the little dragons happily welcome the visitors. They wait quietly to snatch them up for their next meal. After all, they were not afraid of the bees, and neither is the child. She opens her mouth and makes a low “growl”, showing her own teeth as she waits for the bees to easily find their way inside.
Would they also want to collect a sample of her nectar before scooting out to try another dragon mouth?
Marie sits on the nearby wooden bench holding the plastic bag of mixed groceries on her lap.
“Honey, don’t get too close, please,” she reminds her.
The child giggles as she turns her head towards her mother and points at the flowers. “Mota peeple, mota peeple! Gonna get eaten by da dra’ons!” She returns to the busy activity of the bees and continues to point and giggle.
Marie isn’t sure, but it appears that the tottler in yellow is happily speaking to something on her arms. Startled, a dread thought crosses the protector’s mind.
“Honey? Baby? Did a bee sting you?” She calls. Without waiting for an answer, the panic mother jumps up. The bag falls from her lap and small items roll onto the granite cement. Marie doesn’t notice as she scampers to her daughter’s side.
Several bees are flying around the small tottler in yellow. A few are on her arms and hands, moving around in their special dance.
“Lookie, Mommy!” She shouts in a high squeal. “Mota peeple, mota peeple! D’ey love me!” She giggles while moving around in a small circle. “Mota peeple, mota peeple!”
The bees continue circling and the ones on her arms are now fixed in place.
“No!” Marie stops, her eyes wide, her hands on her pale cheeks. Suddenly, she quickly grabs one of the child’s arms and swats madly at the flying buzzing insects with her other hand. “Run, baby, run!”
She yanks the tottler towards the gate, toward the road back home, but she ends,
instead, in a tug of war of sorts. The tottler in yellow screams fill the air.
“No, no, no!”
Marie looks up, startled, when a flock of Ruddy Ducks lift from the pond, flying high into the cloudless sky. Still, she holds tight to the little wrist as her breath comes quickly, gently, in a rush.
“Sweetie, please, run home with mommy. It’s time for lunch. Yes, let’s run home and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I have a special grape juice box for you. Please hurry home with me.”
Suddenly, two bees sting the hand that is holding the “want-to-be dragon,” forcing Marie to unwillingly release her grip. She holds her own wrist with her other hand and watches helplessly as two swollen pink dots spring up from her tight skin. Her eyes move to the little person who now stands with her legs apart, her hands on her waist, glaring up at her, the voice turning harsh.
“No, mommy. Not now!”
Marie rubs the two spots on her hand that burn as they turn a bright red, not aware that the stingers stand straight up out of her skin.
“What is happening to my baby?” She whispers the fearful words that rises to the center of her brain making her headache as the stings burn on.
The tottler in yellow relaxes her face until her lips move up into a toothless smile.
Defiantly, she turns away from the one she calls, “mommy” to attend to the flowers. With bright eyes, in a sing-song voice, she coos, “Bye, bye, mota peeple. Bye, bye, dra’ons! Snap your food now.”
She giggles and waves.
Without hesitation, the bees that had flown around her and the ones that had rested on her arms, return to join the others fly without a definite pattern in and out of the snapdragon’s open mouth.
“’Kay, Mommy.” She brushes her hands together. “I ‘ungry,” she announces and wobbles her way through the open iron gate.
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