Hour of the Bees

Grandpa Cactus lives in a desert so scorching it dries his bones. The oxygen tank hisses as air jets through green tubing into his nose.  He’s one thousand years old.

He sleeps on the porch in his snake-stomping boots. The rattlers are always more daring in a drought.  There’s been no rain for one hundred years, and the sheep ranch is dying. The creosote bush and yarrow have taken over. Grandpa’s  been hurt, and he’s alone.  His son is coming to sell the ranch.

His young grand-daughter Carolina thinks he doesn’t look anything like his photographs.  His eyes are pale and watery when she first sees him. But in the sunlight, his eyes are rings of light blue and gold, like ancient tree rings. He tells stories unlike any she’s ever heard.  An undercurrent of truth rolls through his dementia.

The jeweled bodies of bees glitter black and gold in the sunlight, but only Carolina sees them. Grandpa knows that when the bees return, they’ll bring back the rain. Once this dry land was richly blessed, many years ago, when Grandma Rosa still lived.

Grandma Rosa could not stay in the rugged New Mexican mesas. Always she wanted to leave the village—for Paris, for Hawaii, for Russia. Grandpa gave her protections carved from a tree, hoping she’d return.  Once Rosa left, other villagers followed her, abandoning their beautiful lake and its sturdy guardian. In a land that knew no lasting pain, death awakened.

Carolina walks in these lands she’s never known, helping her parents prepare Grandpa to move to a swanky retirement center. She encounters his dementia first-hand, but she also finds her roots. Tossed about on a ranch pulsing with death and decay, she lives his rich, magical stories, and sees a side of her family she’s never experienced.

Hour of the Bees is a dance in the magical elements that weave along the limits of reality. It’s beautifully written and full of wonder, moving us beyond what we see into a greater world.

Lindsay Eagar loves to tear down the walls between the real and the fantastic.  She can be found at lindsayeagerbooks.com.

–Kate Calina



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