Wilberforce Wasp was weary. Wilberforce Wasp was worried. Wilberforce Wasp was wretched. It was late summer and he was cold and alone. What had he done to deserve it? He may not have led the life expected of him as a wasp, but what good had come from the evil done to his kind? They were universally loathed by the human race and, indeed, most of the animal kingdom. Flying about and stinging was hardly a way to win friends. And being labelled nasty and vicious? No! Definitely not. Not for him.

He, Wilberforce, was different. He was peaceful by nature and quiet. Well, as quiet as a wasp could be. At Wasp School he had been constantly reprimanded for his lack of ambition and drive. “If you don’t get what you want, you must take what you want by force,” his teacher had told him. “And if that means a little sting here and there, fair enough. Go for it!” He had paid no heed, but it was as a result of this constant insistence that he had become known, not as Will, his real name, but as Wilberforce and there was nothing that delighted his classmates more than taunting him, “Go for it Wilberforce! Sting ’em!”

Well, as far as he knew, many of them had come to a sticky end. Yes. Stuck to a wall or on a table, having been swatted by man, together with other insects. Potential food, for goodness sake! Fleas and mosquitoes, but without even enough breath to gobble them up before their inevitable death. And what about the fate of other wasps? Rendered deaf by the constant screaming of hysterical girls and women; or, worst of all, drowned or imprisoned in bottles. No! This was definitely not the life, or death, he envisioned for himself.

Poor Wilberforce. While his peers thrived on their evil pursuits, he just wanted to dance. Spreading his wings and pirouetting in flight was pure joy to him, and executing double entendres in mid-air was heavenly. So, whilst others went about their work terrifying mortals with their screeching and stinging, he just took himself off and flew solo.

It was a lonely life, but then one day, just as he was despairing at his miserable existence, a chance encounter changed everything. Exhausted from having just completed thirty two fouettés, he fell from the sky, and, to his amazement, landed alongside a large bumble bee who was seeking pollen from a beautiful rust coloured Chrysanthemum. The bumble bee was handsome and furry, and for Wilberforce it was love at first sight. Oh, if only he could exchange his slim waistline for a furry tummy. If only he could lose his irritating buzz for a gentle hum.

The bumble bee, surprised by this intrusion, turned to Wilberforce, but rather than accusing him of interrupting his collection of pollen, he smiled and introduced himself. “Hi,” he said, “my name’s Bertram. What’s yours?” Wilberforce explained that although his name was actually Will he was always known as Wilberforce, and as he told his story, a large tear fell down his cheek. “I don’t have any friends,” he confessed, “and I just want to be quiet and gentle like you.” Bertram’s heart immediately melted and he moved over so that Wilberforce could sit alongside him more comfortably. “Don’t worry,” he said, “where there’s a Will there’s a way. You can stay with me and I can always get you some honey from my cousin Hilary Honey Bee. That way you won’t have to hover around picnics and so put yourself in danger. And who knows? If you have enough, your waistline may even increase.”

Wilberforce was ecstatic. He had never been so happy. And so began their enduring friendship. They would fly alongside each other from flower to flower collecting pollen, and when their work was finished, Bertram would rest in the sunset as Wilberforce performed his ever increasing repertoire of dance steps, wheeling high in the sky. It has to be said, his elevation was second to none and his arabesques and grand jetés were a marvel to see.

Of course, as winter approached the days grew colder, and Wilberforce, having made one return trip to his former nest and finding it already empty, knew that it would soon be time for him to die. He returned to Bertram, and, settling beside him and resting his head against his friend’s warm fur, whispered, “I may not be the Queen Wasp, but l am a Queen, and I am happy. Very, very happy.”

Kate Dyson

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