Monday, January 25, 2016

Fling! by Lily Iona Mackenzie

I apologize for the incorrect sizing of paragraphs so small that it is hard to read...I tried and tried to get them saved but the BLOGGER Program continued to change my instructions!!!

A Goddess* may take many forms based upon various cultures. But nobody expected Bubbles, a 90-year-old Canadian woman traveling with her daughter, to be mistaken for one...Especially when the small town people crowded around her, seeking her blessing for rain!

Feather and Heather each take one of Bubbles' hands, and the three women wade through the chest-high water into the tunnel. It gradually becomes darker, opening up into a cave-like, circular enclosure, supported in the center by a post. Hot springs gush out of a crevice in the stone wall, and ribbons of light pass through a few narrow openings in the ceiling, creating a strobe light effect.
The water is even warmer in the cave and supports Bubbles. She feels lightheaded and free, a girl again, buoyant, the weight of her years dropping away. She hops around without much effort, the skirt on her white bathing suit floating on the pool's surface, resembling a lily. She's always liked water, and she does the dead man's float, her bones turning to jelly, making her think of cherry Jell-O. She could use a nice dish of it right now, whipped cream on top.
Later, Feather leads the way to the changing rooms...Bubbles leaves there wearing her mother's mantilla and Feather's caftan. Feather stares at Bubbles, started. Except for the glasses, she resembles images she's seen in some of her goddess books...
Heather drifts over to the stand and orders a round of cervezas in Spanish. The vendor delivers them, falling to his knees in front of Bubbles, whose mantilla flutters behind her. He removed his hat, bowing over and over. She giggles, inching her skirt up a little higher.
"Give me your blessings,
Eineeuq, Queen of Heaven. I am your slave," he says in Spanish. The vendor falls prostrate in front of Bubbles, shaking in awe...

Feather can't believe it...He thinks Bubbles is a goddess. Feather looks at her as if for the first time. She does look queenly...


By Lily Iona Macknezie

Perhaps because I've traveled quite a bit in my life and am quite happy to stay at home these days, I couldn't image thinking about traveling to Mexico at the age of 90!

Of course, I also couldn't imagine that my own mother's ashes had been lost for many years--in the dead-letter bin--and the government of Mexico was demanding to know when I would be picking her up... Well, let's just say that I'd quickly figure out I was in a fantasy, LOL! Actually, the umbrella of Women's fiction was insufficient for me. I had a hard time getting into the story, not knowing where it might go. The front cover includes the statement "A madcap journey of an aging mother and her adult daughter from cold Protestant Canada into the hallucinogenic heart of Mexico's magic..." Well, magic and hallucinogenic gave me some clues but even while I was reading, I wasn't sure whether there had been a huge festival, where everybody was drugged and the story evolved from that event...

In fact, I went all the way to the ending before the book's story pieces fell into place... In fact, there is almost too much being said that readers may miss by getting caught by the frivolity of the various scenes. Can we hide serious issues behind humor? Can we learn to forgive what once was totally unforgivable?

Bubbles was born to a mother who had left her when she was young, running off with a man... Bubbles then did the same to Feather. 

Feather had wound up in a hippie camp where she, among other things, learned to smoke pot and to begin developing her artistic skills as a sculpture. Feather had maintained contact with Bubbles by phone, but rarely saw her. In fact, she was already scheduled to travel to several places in Mexico to study more in support of her future creations.

When Bubbles called her about having to pick up her mother's ashes in Mexico City, Feather had adapted her trip to accommodate her mother's traveling with her.  

Coatlicue. Primordial earth goddess,
mother of the 
gods, the sun,
the moon and the
stars displayed in Mexico City.

Though Feather hadn't included the capital city in her travel plans because of the dangers lurking there, she realizes it could be the centerpiece for her summer research. An eight-ton statue of the moon goddess that the Aztecs worshipped stands in the Great Temple in Mexico City. Carlos Castenada's books have further convinced her there's something mysterious going on south of the border. That's why she hoped to find a shaman--male or female--who could guide her. That had been her plan until Bubbles talked her into this made expedition to pick up her grandmother's ashes. Feather hadn't anticipated Bubbles being the shaman she sought but who knows. In Mexico, anything could happen. Still, she feels her wings have been clipped again. Weighed down by Bubbles' demand to travel with her, Feather also feels guilty for resenting it, knowing this could be their last trip together. Even so, she had anticipated a summer free of responsibility, with time to explore and expand and try out new modes of art. Pushing the envelope. Throwing off the restraints of teaching and being in control.
Bubbles' abundant energy suddenly makes her feel old, though it dawns on her that she'll be orphaned one of these days. Though Bubbles seems immortal at times, she can't go on forever. That thought makes Feather think of the upcoming Mexico trip differently. It could be an opportunity for them to make a deeper connection before...She doesn't want to finish the sentence.

What she hadn't planned on was her mother pouring a cup of water into her grandmother's urn of ash...and having a woman, about her own age, soon appear as a passenger on the back seat... which is my only clue of what is coming!

Bubbles, on the other hand, is thinking about the "possibilities" in Mexico... 

Bubbles hums, "I'm gonna wash that man right out of my hair." relieved that it's Ernie who is now underground and not herself. They buried him a few weeks earlier. The two had tied the knot when she was seventy, in her prime. They met at a singles' dance, and it was love at first sight. Nine years her juuior, he was quite a dresser in his white tux with a red bow tie and red cummerbund. All the women wanted to get their hands on him, but he chose her.
If she had known then what she knows now, she never would have married the bastard. He couldn't get it up the whole time they were together, and he ran her ragged. It's a wonder she isn't in the grave instead of him.
"Mother, get me my dinner. Mother, I need some razor blades," Mother this, Mother that. It drove her crazy. He also put a good dent in her savings.
When she viewed him for the last time at the funeral home, she had asked for a few minutes alone with the body, wanting to leave something for him to remember her by. The others tiptoed out of the viewing room, and she stared for a few minutes at that face she'd grown to hate. The crooked Popeye nose with the black hair growing out of the nostrils. The mouth permanently twisted in a cruel smirk. Well, she'd get the last laugh on him. A waste of twenty good years. She could have met someone else and had a nice life...
Bubbles had leaned over the coffin and picked up his left hand, the fingers stiff and resisting. She wrangled with the wedding band she had bought him until it flew off, landing on the  floor. She bent over, snatched it up, and dropped it into her coat pocket. He wasn't going to the grave with her ring on his finger...
Bubbles turns away, her feet moving to the rhythms of "La Cucaracha," a tune that she hums. She dances around the room in the arms of a handsome Mexican with a thin, black mustache. He's wearing one of those floppy sombreros. After bumping into the TV set, she falls, out of breath, only the couch, laughing and grabs and letter from Mexico's dead-letter office, fanning her face with it, feeling hot suddenly, though she shouldn't be getting hot flashes at her age. She still can't believe it. Her mother's ashes? She's heard how bad the mail service can be in Mexico from Feather, who sent her a post card once from Puerto Vallarta that reached her two years later. Everything manana. But seventy years? Holy smoke. It's just like her mother to make a surprise visit.

There is much to ponder regarding family relationships in this book--about family that has already died and those for whom death may be near. When we are disappointed or hurt by a parent, is there a way to rekindle the love that once existed--before the hurt occurred. Bubbles is 90 and thinks nothing about her possible near death, while her daughter, recognizing her age, is more aware of it, while at the same time, considering what time she has lost in finding her own way...

I identified more with Feather, a serious woman, living her life as she is able, but still cognizant of others in her life--yet knowing that the loss of her mother at a difficult time led her to grow up faster than normal and to resent what she had lost...On the other hand, it is Feather who finds her "Shaman." I loved this character! He had gone to college to learn about Agriculture to help his own community and then started to learn to become a Shaman to actually care for them. The fact that he had never learned everything he should have been taught allowed for a really funny set of things that constantly happened around him--bits of magic that just happened because he'd not learned how to control his powers. That alone, created a levity for Feather that seemed to change her, becoming more youthful as she fell deeper and deeper in love.

It is the way death was looked at, in the end, that won over my full support for the book. What occurred in the book is pure fantasy--or was it? Who knows, when we reach 90 and head for Mexico, we might also be caught up in the festival where Bubbles' presence resulted in rain sufficient to save the crops... And, of course, then prepare for the Dia de los Muertos festival...
 As night falls, they all move in procession from the square to the cemetery. Bubbles leads the way, holding on to Victor's arm. He carries a pail of water from her fountain...As they pass among the graves, the children strew them with flowers. Bubbles dips her fingers into the water and sprinkles it about, some of it landing on the ground, some on the people. No one minds...Later, rockets will flare, dancikng will resume, and the merrymaking will continue into the night. Laughter and children's voices will float above them all, Bubbles' the loudest.

Do check this one out! 


*(Please note that I had a hard time correlating the gods/goddesses mentioned in the book with those I tried to find through research...I have no idea whether I've been successful in that endeavor.)

Writing requires exertion, the ability not to give in when we've received yet another rejection. Some people call this perseverance. But is that what it takes to keep writing in the face of adversity, rejection, and lack of recognition? The word sounds so duty bound, so driven. To me, a better word is discipline because at the root is disciple, though there are many lovely variations on this word that I actually prefer: student, follower, learner, devotee.

I'm devoted to following the intricacies of language and where it takes me. I'm ardent about words and what they evoke in our minds and imaginations, the worlds they create. And I'm constantly learning, a student of the writer's craft, eager to open myself each day to the endless possibilities this calling presents. No wonder I love to write!

About me? Born in Edmonton, I was raised in Calgary and currently live in the SF Bay Area. A high school dropout and a mother at 17, in my early years, I supported myself as a stock girl in the Hudson's Bay Company, as a long distance operator for the former Alberta Government Telephones, and as a secretary (Bechtel Corp sponsored me into the States). I also was a cocktail waitress at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco; briefly broke into the male-dominated world of the docks as a longshoreman (and almost got my legs broken); founded and managed a homeless shelter in Marin County; co-created THE STORY SHOPPE, a weekly radio program for children that aired on KTIM in Marin County; and eventually earned two Master's degrees (one in Creative writing and one in the Humanities). I've published reviews, interviews, short fiction, poetry, travel pieces, essays, and memoir in over 145 American and Canadian venues. Fling! was published in July 2015. Bone Songs, another novel, will be published in 2016. My poetry collection, All This, was published in 2011. Visit my blog at

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