Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Glass Bottle Dancer, by Celeste Rita Baker

[Lightspeed]
★★★★☆ A Sweet Tale with a Caribbean Flavor

(Caribbean Fantasy) Approaching 50, Mabel decides to become a glass bottle dancer. She tries to hide it from her family, but the local cockroaches notice it for sure when she gathers up their bottles, and they’ve got dreams too. (5,683 words; Time: 18m)


"Glass Bottle Dancer," by (edited by John Joseph Adams), appeared in issue 119, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Review: 2020.206 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: The story is set on a Caribbean island (probably in the US Virgin Islands), and the dialect is Caribbean English, which isn’t quite the same as black English in the US. With some help from The Caribbean Dictionary, I learned that Oswald and Treevia are flying cockroaches, but otherwise it’s not hard to get used to, and it gives the story a unique flavor.

Mabel’s whole goal is to do something fun. A “could” instead of a “should.” Mabel is a delight, partly for her matter-of-fact observations about people. E.g. (speaking of her daughter) “She barely want to talk to me ‘cause I’s an embarrament. She sixteen.”

Mabel’s story involves quite a lot of tension: first we worry she’ll fall. Then we worry she’ll be discovered. Finally, we worry that the show will go wrong.

And Fling Ting turns out to be a real song. A “fling ting” is a short-term relationship, i.e. just for fun, so it’s ideal for Mabel’s purposes.

The cockroaches (Oswald in particular) have their own goals. Oswald dreams of a future where humans don’t automatically kill cockroaches. He thinks if they put on a good show, they can somehow work a deal with the humans. He’s a dreamer, but, hey, that’s the same strategy he used to win Treevia’s heart. And how can you not love a cockroach who keeps tabs on humanity by watching TV and listening to the radio?

Their story also has a lot of tension. We worry they’ll get squished. Or get caught trying to reach the show. Or cause a huge disaster at the show.

And the ending somehow manages to satisfy Mabel and Oswald alike.

Con: The ending didn’t entirely satisfy me though. Mabel seems happy enough being “The Roach Lady,” but her kids all seem appalled—and I don’t blame them. Was this really a happy ending?

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Celeste Rita Baker Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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