Healing Wounds

by Tania Hershman

Healing Wounds 


The most famous of all hexagonal conformations, and one of the most beautiful, is the bee's cell... The beautiful regularity of the bee's architecture is due to some automatic play of the physical forces

(p107)“On Growth and Form”, D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson


There is a patient. The patient is patiently sitting, in the room where waiting takes place. The patient sits very still but is not still because in the patient's pocket is a jar.

And in that jar: bees.

As the patient sits, the bees are working.  The patient does not notice all the comings, goings, sittings, standings, callings-out and children moaning. The patient pats the jar and thinks of honey.

In the doctor's office, they talk about the patient's leg, and all the while, the bees are working. The doctor notices how calm the patient is, how there's no grumbling, no depression. The doctor starts to smile and thinks how smiling isn't something often caught inside this office.

The doctor needs to see the wound. The patient moves towards the bed, but before undressing takes out the jar and puts it on the doctor's desk.  The doctor is about to speak but then sees what is in the jar. The doctor bends towards it. Looks up at the patient, then back down at the jar. The doctor's smile is growing, growing.

The patient's lying down; the doctor's hands are washed. The doctor looks into the wound. The doctor's seen so many wounds like this. Sometimes the doctor thinks they're like red wide mouths, grinning and gaping, uncloseable, unshrinking. The doctor looks and makes a note, then looks again. Nothing's changed. Why won't this one heal up? Why don't the sides of skin slim into one another like a snapping handbag? Why can't the doctor help?

The patient doesn't seem to mind. The patient is quite calm and stating facts, not asking, not demanding. The patient doesn't seem to need the doctor to do anything at all. The doctor repeats what's been said before about caring for a wound, keeping healthy. The patient shakes the doctor's hand.

The doctor writes more notes then saves the file and is about to ask the next one in when something moves.

The jar.

The bees.

The doctor picks up the jar, moves towards the door, runs down the stairs.  But the patient's gone. The doctor stands in the doorway, smiling. The doctor stands there smiling, jar in hand, and thinks of honey. 

Creative Process

I get a first line, that comes to me, and I walk around with it for days, sometimes longer, until I am ready to start writing. Then I just write and see where it takes me. I was thinking the ending would be different, but then this is what came out. I do like not having character names or even specifying gender, that frees me when I write, and I think it frees the reader to colour the picture in themselves. I really heard this story as I wrote - could hear and see the bees!


Tania Hershman (http://www.taniahershman.com)'s first book, The White Road and Other Stories,(Salt Modern Fiction, 2008), was commended, 2009 Orange Award for New Writers and included in New Scientist's Best Books of 2008. Tania is currently writer-in-residence in Bristol University's Science Faculty and has just been awarded an Arts Council England grant to work on a collection of biology-inspired short fiction. Tania is Grand Prize Winner of the 2009 Binnacle Ultra-Short Contest, and European winner of the 2008 Commonwealth Broadcasting Association's Short Story competition. Her stories are published or forthcoming in, among others, Smokelong Quarterly, Elimae, the London Magazine, Riptide, BRAND, Dogzplot, Eyeshot, Electric Velocipede and Nature, and a week of her flash fiction was recently broadcast on BBC Radio 4. She blogs about writing at TaniaWrites (http://www.titaniawrites.blogspot.com) and about being writer in residence at www.bris.ac.uk/science/blog