The little boy breathed in the crisp, cool air of the spring morning. Bulbous dew hung from the long blades of grass at his feet, and the sun pierced the mist that hunched near the ground like a scorned dog. Birds, hidden in the bushes and trees that surrounded him, sang a melodic song, both hopeful and alive. One bird chirped mightily above the rest, emphatic and commanding. Bees buzzed by him, headed to an overgrown garden near the road. The flowers waved and glistened in the supple sunlight as the bees encircled them intoxicated by the pollen.
The boy stood still for a moment observing all that surrounded him. The sunlight struck his fiery red hair revealing flames and twists of curls. He looked at the flower garden and its collection of bees and ignored it for the moment. Something more enticing beckoned him – a sandbox. He hopped and ran in the tall grass toward the object of his affection until both feet landed with a thud in the soft sand.
He dug his fingers into the damp sand enjoying the feel of the tiny grains on his hands as he molded and formed the it to his will. He grabbed a toy bucket, a small, plastic shovel, and an impossibly tiny earth mover as he played, making engine sounds and clicking noises that indicated a boy serious about his work. Meanwhile, the sounds of spring still engulfed him.
A lone car trundled by on the two-lane asphalt road near his house, but he hardly noticed as deep into his play as he was. A slight breeze pricked his skin and rustled his unruly hair. He looked in its direction, blinked slowly, and sighed in content. Life was good in the sandbox.
A few yards away his mother stood at the door to her home behind the screen that kept the bugs out of the house and watched her son as he played. She put a cup of coffee to her lips and sipped. The black coffee steeled her against the chill of the morning, but the sun threatened to over-warm her. She could hear her son making noises as he played and she smiled to herself. Such was the life of a young boy. She stepped back into the house to busy herself with the day’s chores.
A long moment passed as the boy played, but something distracted him from his sand castle. He looked up from his creation and noticed the flower garden again, basking in the glow of the sun. The flowers beckoned him with their vibrant reds and yellows and purples. The bright colors enchanted him. He suddenly wanted to touch them, feel the delicate blooms in his tiny hand.
He stood up in the sand box and dusted the sand from his shirt and shorts being careful not to step on his sand castle. He walked to the flower garden like a boy possessed taking in all the colors at once. One flower, the tallest one in the garden, stood in the center and glowed a velvety red. It reminded him of a cake his mom had baked once, and he remembered how warm and soft it had been when he bit into it. He knew he couldn’t bite the flower, but he wanted to feel it on his own hand, rub it or pet it like he would a dog. He imagined it would feel so soft.
He stood on the edge of the garden and reached for the red, velvety flower. He leaned precariously on the edge as he did so taking care to remember to stay out of the garden as his mom had warned him. He technically wasn’t in the garden as his feet were firmly planted on the edge of the bricks that circumscribed the flowers. He had to stand on his tiptoes to reach the enticing flower. The puffy, red bloom wavered just beyond his finger tips before he made one last stretch and grabbed it in the palm of his pale hand.
The flower felt as he had imagined – buttery soft and delicate. The pleasant odors of the flowers entranced him for the briefest of seconds as he enjoyed the feel of the flower in his hand. Suddenly, a sharp rebuke met his palm. It startled him and sent an arc of pain through his palm and up his arm like he had sliced his hand on a knife or other sharp object. He withdrew his hand quickly and eyed his reddened palm already starting to swell from the bee sting. The pain and the sight of his impaled hand startled him and he let out a wail that punctured the otherwise peaceful morning. Tears flooded his eyes and he squeezed them shut as he screamed in pain.
He turned and ran toward his house holding his hand as if it would fall off should he let go. The drama followed him to his doorstep where his mother bent down and examined his hand. She rubbed it and placated her son with her soothing words. He tried to tell her what happened, but the words were lost in the trauma. She knew, as all mothers do, even without her son’s explanation. He had ignored her warnings about the flower garden. As she tended to her son’s sting, she knew it was a lesson he would not soon forget.