I went over all my transactions from my bank account, trying to find a deduction-worthy morsel for my tax preparer, and was amazed to discover that the only thing I spend money on all year is food, beer, and plants.

And Bee Fixin’s. Just the essentials, in other words. I’m twenty bucks out for bee fixin’s. It’s not deductible. And it’s way more money than it should have been. That’s how these things go, though.

I have a friend I play the New York Times Spelling Bee with. Not really “with,” more of a bi-coastal joint obsession. The Spelling Bee is a game wherein you find as many words as you can in a group of seven letters, and a particular one of the letters has to be in every word. The first time I played it I was bip-bopping along and all of a sudden the screen filled up with the news that I was a GENIUS and that struck me as a little over the top (just a little, mind you), but I quit playing. The next day I played again and realized that GENIUS was not the top of the line. If you get all the words you get to be a QUEEN BEE.

Well, Janice and I each hammer our way to Queen Bee most days, occasionally shooting messages back and forth complaining about all the words the game doesn’t accept. There isn’t a New York delicatessen item they don’t love, but they don’t know from birds. It can really ruin your day if you find the word ANHINGA and they go Huh? Janice and I grump about it but generally we do get to be Queen Bees.

And it is an obsession. The game renews at midnight and I can’t say I’ve never leapt out of bed at 11:55pm bellowing TELEHEALTH! or NONILLION! which is really alarming to anyone nearby trying to sleep.

Anyway, one day it occurred to me that I needed to send Janice a Queen Bee tiara for her birthday, and then it was all over but the doing of it. I mean, I couldn’t not. Tiaras are easy to find; I just needed to add a bee or two. I went to pet stores in case they had honeybee cat toys. I went to a Party Store that sold an alarming amount of crap made out of oil and destined for the landfill: masks, favors, costumes. Everything but bees.

There was a crafts store about a mile away so I walked over. I thought maybe I could make a bee with pipe cleaners. They had pipe cleaners. But the yellow ones were too vivacious, if not downright rowdy. Wait! They had tiny little rubber animals. Itty bitty rubber animals at a buck apiece, probably a pretty stout markup all told, and some of them could plausibly have been bees. They were clearly meant to be, with their little black bodies painted in yellow stripes, and I picked up three of them and walked back home.

But it wasn’t right. They weren’t bees. They were flies in a bee suit. You can’t paint stripes on a horse and call it a zebra, can you? Well actually you probably can. This was more like painting zebra stripes on a Great Dane.

Couldn’t quite live with it. So I walked back to the store for the pipe cleaners, which come in multi-color packages including the boisterous yellow for $4.25. You can make two bees from one black and one yellow pipe cleaner cut in half.

But wait! I’ve always wanted to try needle felting! I even have the little needles for it and the foam backing thing but never quite got the oomph to go for it. This would be a good introduction. A little honeybee couldn’t possibly take too much of a chunk out of my serenity, could it?

“Do you have any of that stuff you do felting with?” I asked the nice crafts store person.

“You want wool roving?” they said.

“No, I kind of want it to stay put, but I’ve got the needle thingy and I can probably pin it down,” I said.

Store people stare at me a lot. I’ve noticed that. Anyway, twelve bucks for the wool.

The felt bee is still waiting for that oomph to kick in. But the pipe cleaner bees were pretty dang cool and they only took about two minutes apiece. Throw in a little wire and the tiara and Janice’s Queen Bee regalia is ready to take to the post office.

And I’ve got enough pipe cleaners left over for another 78 bees. Green and purple and orange and brown and pink bees. No weirder than my itty bitty rubber fly-bees, which I’m willing to let go for 50 cents per.

Happy birthday, Janice! Thanks for being my friend for the past 56 years!