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WALLY FUNK could feel the weight beginning to press down on him. By his own guess, there were now nearly 10 kilograms of live, writhing honeybees nesting on his body. Hundreds more were joining by the minute. “Exquisite!” he thought to himself. If it wouldn’t have risked collapsing the stable platform his mouth was serving for his winged besties, Wally would have let rip a whoo-hoo grin from ear to ear.
Wearing nothing but shorts and swimming goggles, the strong-as-an-ox-and-twice-as-hairy 42-year-old turned his head in minute increments, like a slow-motion tank turret. What his gaze came to rest upon next lay only a few metres away.
Jimmy Hunzer was half his age and not doing nearly as well. Known more widely by his self-assuming, pompous stage name “Royal Jelly”, the brash council worker, who Wally regarded as at best a “professional amateur” within the ranks of the bee-wearing hopefuls chancing their luck on the competition circuit, was at this moment looking more like a whopping great sports stadium attended by just a handful of loyal fans.
For someone with a penchant for appearing on stage wearing t-shirts emblazoned with gobby slogans like “I’m the bee’s knees” and “I love bees and bees love me”, this was a sad moment. One that Wally was fully savouring.
Before the eyes of a hypnotized crowd and watchful judges, bees continued to land en masse like mini-helicopters on Wally’s flesh-and-bone helipad. Lying motionless while controlling his breathing and heartbeat, he thought back over all the things he’d done to make this moment happen.
Prep had been perfect. The benefits of using a pheromone-enhanced, crayfish-scented hair shampoo were now obvious for all to see. As was his tried and true trick of consuming a bowl of garlic soup the morning of the comp. This guaranteed he would ooze from literally every pore what his fuzzy friends regarded as no less than a potent love potion.
Wally’s training in the lead-up to the competition had likewise been innovative and carried out with the tenacity of a small animal. He’d engaged people to beat him with sticks to build his resistance to the inevitable toe-curling pain of multiple bee stings. He’d used a portable altitude chamber borrowed from his mountain-climbing next-door neighbour in a bid to increase his red blood cell count — something bees are apparently quite doubly good at sniffing out.
He’d even near-memorized every line of the god-awful 1970’s Michael Caine movie The Swarm for some reason, and taken to wearing to bed on cold winter nights a ridiculous yellow-and-black-bee onesie he’d purchased on the internet, just so, in his own words, he could “mind-meld with my teensy weensy insect soul-mates.”
Poised for victory, a catastrophic thought then suddenly sent jolts of panic through Wally Funk’s inert head. Nose plugs! He’d left his on the kitchen bench at home. With his face now transformed into a writhing, humming insect mask, he sensed any second now could spell defeat if a breakaway bee was to venture up the dark cave cavity of either nostril, causing him to abort his attempt.
Wally thought fast. How could he plug the holes? His first idea was trying to expel air from his nostrils in a continuous series of exhaled puffs. In very little time he realized he would be unable to keep this up for long without running out of breath. There had to be another way. And very soon it came to him.
Lunch! Yesterday’s to be precise. Wally began to use his bee-encased fingertips resting at his sides to gently feel the inside of his pants pocket. Incredibly, he’d horded a left-over carrot stick and left-over celery stick from the previous day’s lunch. Lucky for him, he’d decided, for some reason he no longer remembered, to store them there. The trick now would be to remove them without aggravating his furry golden companions.
Moving centimetre by centimetre Wally spent the next few minutes doing just that. Getting to the point where he could insert one veggie stick at a time in each nostril was his next maneuver. Super slow-mo movements were also to eventually achieve this near-impossible feat as well.
Wally finished that day with another gold trophy for his cabinet. He also notched a personal record of 32 kg of weighed bees attached to his face and body. Probably most special of all was a unique winner’s photo he received. For a few days it created quite the “buzz” around town when it was published by the local paper.
Featuring a fist-raised Wally still completely covered in bees, with two prominent veggie sticks protruding from his nostrils and a rather sad-looking and thoroughly deflated Royal Jelly standing alongside him, it was a jubilant prize winner’s image destined to live long in the memory. And one unlikely to be ever repeated.