by Michael Obilade
“Where are we going?” I asked. Melissa was driving, one hand on the wheel, the other shifting gears. I sat beside her, watching the street signs turn from names of trees to names of colleges. It was late afternoon, and the sun streamed through the windshield, turning us to bronze.
“Somewhere,” she said. “Sit tight, we’re almost there.” So I did. But I couldn’t help but wonder. Melissa was a year older than me. We’d known each other since the first day of the first grade, which somehow had turned into ten years ago. Her license was three weeks old, but she was already driving throughout town, and I was more than happy to come along. The car was
half mine, after all.
“Did you hear about the accident down at the junction bridge?” she turned to me while driving. “It’s been all over the neighborhood.”
I shook my head. “What happened?” As I turned to face her, I saw loaves of bread in the back seat. They reminded me of hunger, and I started hoping we were heading for a fast food spot.
“This tractor-trailer carrying some kind of Pacific Island honey collided with another one carrying another kind made by wild carnivorous bees, and it messed up the whole bridge. Our very own oil spill – but with honey! They’ve sealed it off and everything.”
“Really?” To me, all this meant was that whatever she wanted to show me wasn’t across the bridge. I went back to thinking of where the hidden place could be. I slumped in my seat, and knocked the glove compartment door open. A butter knife in a plastic bag fell out, along with a small bottle of jam. I put them back in, and made a note to ask Melissa about it later.
“Yeah.” She kept on driving, and pulled onto a main road. Other cars passed us in the fast lane, as she braked for a man on a bicycle. I figured out where we were again. We seemed to be heading toward the bridge. “It’s a shame.”
“Why?” I asked.
She didn’t answer. I stuck my arm out the window and swam my hand through the breeze.
“Have you ever wanted to do something crazy?” she suddenly said. I looked at her. She was breathing heavily with both hands on the wheel. I found myself wondering how to answer. I started thinking of the day she turned twelve, and asked me to run away with her, to keep her parents from divorcing.
“Sure,” I said. “But nothing too crazy,” I added. “Why do you ask?”
“Just because,” she said. She made a left, then a right, then another right, and the bridge swung into view. In the setting sun, it seemed cast in gold. The sweetest, strangest smell – one reminiscent of maple syrup and mahogany honey - consumed the area. I couldn’t put a finger on why, but it was incredibly alluring. This was truly a honey spill.
“It’s intoxicating,” I said. “But it’s quite a mess. And what’s everyone else doing here?” I pointed to the bridge.
There were other cars parked beside us on the grassy stretch flanking the bridge. People were on the other side of the barbed wire fence that had been fastened to the bridge. It couldn’t have been an easy feat – the wall of hooks and wires looked ten feet tall. But it had been hacked to pieces, and people easily passed through without harm. They appeared to be kneeling – almost lapping at the honey-covered concrete. Further down the slope, forty or fifty boys were fishing at the banks of the river. Whenever one of them caught one – which seemed fairly often, he would tear it off the line and rush up
the slope toward the bridge, where the other people were congregated.
Melissa turned off the engine. “I want to taste it,” she said. I blinked.
“You heard me. You can smell it too. It smells so good.” She turned and reached for the loaves. “What did you think the bread was for?”
“I thought your folks had sent you to pick them up on the way...” My head was spinning. I couldn’t tell if it was due to the aroma – which seemed to be growing stronger with each moment – or due to the suggestion of eating an
oil spill. Not an oil spill. A honey spill. In either case, being here seemed like a questionable idea.
“Well, yes,” she said. “But for this. Come on.” She got out of the car. “Don’t forget the knife and jam. There’s some marmalade in the back, and a packet of turkey slices. Here, we can carry everything together.”
After a moment of thought, I decided she was right. She took the bread and cutlery, while I grabbed the ham and turkey slices. As far as bad ideas went, perhaps this was one worth investigating a little longer. We could always turn back if it tasted bad.
By the time we reached the bridge, there were dozens of cars parked behind us, in every direction. I wondered how we were ever going to be able to leave with ours. People were talking excitedly, and the hum of conversation about a singular topic – the spill, and how it tasted – filled our ears the way the scent of the spill filled our noses. The men and women already at the bridge looked at us warily, and went back to licking the spill. Some had had Melissa’s foresight, and had brought plates and cups and whole grain bread. Others wielded ice cream cones, some held straws, while others used nothing but
sticky fingers, grins, open mouths, wet shirts, empty boots, and things found on the grass leading to the bridge.
Melissa found a spot behind a family composed of a boy, his mother, and his father, the three of them busily scooping the spill into giant glass jars. We sat down, cross-legged, and began tearing into the bread with mouths and fingers. The spill was delicious.
“This is unbelievably good,” she said. I nodded, scooping bits of it between the bread, shoveling it into my mouth, barely chewing before swallowing. It tasted like the sweetest honey sandwich a person could have – one made with heavenly bees. I didn’t want it to end. Then we heard sirens behind us. The roar of people grew louder as crowds tried to rush the bridge to grab whatever they could before the police came to re-seal the area. We kept eating, pushing back with our elbows as others pushed against us. But eventually, it was too much. The bridge had started to wobble. In between chews, people began to
scream. I looked around, and saw the family swept away above a wave of hungry people.
“We should probably leave,” I said. Melissa, like I, was covered in honey. She nodded, licking her fingers. “But how?”
It was then we heard the splashing. Lots of them. We pushed to the edge of the bridge, and saw dozens of people jumping over into the river below. No one appeared drowning, though it was understandably hard to tell from this height. In the distance, the police were shooting smoke canisters at the crowd, which gave the honey concoction a burnt smell on contact. They ordered us to stop eating, and surrender. I looked at Melissa, and she looked at me. The bridge shook violently in the stampede.
“Can you swim with a belly full of honey?” I asked.
“I think so,” she said. “And if not, let them know we died happy.”
We jumped into the water, holding sticky hands, as the bridge collapsed above us, raining people and concrete and honey into the river. Even after we’d swum to shore, and managed to find the car, there were still far too many parked around us to free it. We walked home instead, talking long after the sun had set of what it was like to eat a honey spill.
Michael Obilade lives and writes in Massachusetts, where he's learning to play the banjo. His stories have most recently appeared in The Houston Lit Review and Flash Flooding.