Yellow Jacket
Antonios Maltezos

All I could think of were the spiraling wasps, dizzy with food, too gorged to fly any distance, needing a lift to the next convenience store, donut shop, a Gazbar with a dumpster, entering through her open window, settling on the carpeting to digest whatever had been pilfered from the dumpster.
"There was a wasp in the car with us," I'd said to the paramedic, a slight buzzing in my ears.
"Remember," I told her, slipping it into drive, letting go of the brake so the car could roll down to the edge of the street. "We'll need to stop for gas."
It wasn't a problem. "We could stop at The Gazbar before the 30."
"We'll need a map," I added.
She knew. "The Gazbar. . . before the 30."
I shut the car door; turn on the engine, fish in the glove box for the dog-eared atlas, the one my wife had run in to buy, at the Gazbar. The page is easy to find. All I have to do is drop the atlas on the passenger seat and it opens up, right at the beginning, where her little "h" still marks our home, this home, too small to see except as a starting point for the flow of red ink snaking its way to the edge of the page.
"What was your crime?" I ask the wasp hovering over the steering wheel, as if I don't already know it's blameless, not even real, except it keeps jogging my memory, the perfect companion -- quiet when it isn't buzzing my ears, asking me to go a little further than I'd planned.
It's what kept me in my lane all those trips, her sense that things could turn ugly at a moment's notice. She kept passing me the bottled water, and then taking it away when I'd had my fill, her eyes darting from me to the road, just in case.
"Wake up! You were falling asleep," she'd say, having already slapped my thigh. She was the one who knew where we were going, the one who'd say stop, we're here -- we've arrived.
"Loved her," I say to the wasp. She kept us safe, though most of her exclamations were for nothing, false alarms. I was so used to driving groggy.