Saturday, August 22, 2015


by Mary Elizabeth (Leach) Raines 
I sometimes make friends with the spiders in my house, or try to. This is true. Those that could possibly want to make a meal out of me, of course, get taken outdoors. I'm discerning. (It makes me think about certain people I encounter whom I might want to scoop up with a glass and a piece of paper and remove with my nose wrinkled in disgust.)
This past summer a mild-mannered house spider created what eventually turned out to be an elaborate, multi-layered web behind my kitchen sink. She created her fantastic complex in an area that is hard for me to reach without using a step stool, so, feeling lazy, I let it stay for a while. That while stretched into weeks. Soon I was entranced. Boy, she really helped reduce the fruit fly population in my kitchen, and I think she also kept some of the nastier spiders at bay!
We interfaced frequently, since I am at the kitchen sink many times during the day, and sometimes at night as well. I became familiar with her schedule. I would define our relationship as being one of pleasant acquaintance, rather than actual friendship--I don't think spiders make friends--but she did not seem to be afraid of me, and I, in turn, greatly respected the job she was doing. She got fat.
Last week, I suddenly felt a vibe from her. After spending over a month behind my sink, I could tell that she was thinking of moving on. I don't know how I intuited that; there was just something edgy happening. I'm not sure, but I believe spiders do not stay in one place forever. Still, I hoped mine wouldn't leave, seeing as she had found a jackpot, and I was growing fond of her.
My hunch was right. She has been gone for three days now. I miss her. I wonder about her.
Even though spiders don't need tributes, this is my tribute to her and her excellent work...a summer of abundance well lived.
These days you see videos of all sorts of unlikely creatures befriending one another. In my fantasies, I like to imagine that she was, in some dim way, as aware of me as I was of her, and that she liked our alliance. Perhaps it opened up a new dimension for her, one which she will pass on to her baby spiders, and the world of spiderdom will evolve because of the summer she spent with me. Keep watching YouTube; you never know!

© 2015, M. E. Raines

Friday, June 5, 2015


by Mary Elizabeth (Leach) Raines
© 2015, M. E. Raines

Bear drew angels. That was her thing. The angels she drew were always nude, with huge triangular patches of dark pubic hair. She attracted a fair bit of attention to herself by claiming that she channeled these pictures of angels. She was sketching one now, seated in the front row of the audience where the Guru was soon going to be giving another of his inspirational seminars.

“I don’t know how it works,” she would say with false modesty when someone complimented her on these angel drawings, shrugging her shoulders and looking heavenward with the hint of a smile. “I just hold the pencil and spirit moves through me.”

She had given spirit a helping hand by working very hard at learning how to draw wings. At first she’d traced them and eventually she’d advanced to copying them freehand from a chart of various types of wings that she found on Wikipedia. Even though the ones she drew on her angels weren’t often in perspective, they mostly looked like actual wings. Because this was her strong suit, the angels she drew had enormous wings, twice as big as those possessed by any Renaissance angel.

In other respects, her channeled angels, whether blonde, brunette, or redheaded, looked a lot alike. They were always female, of course, and, apart from their oversized, wideset eyes with long eyelashes (like Barbie dolls), itty-bitty noses (like Barbie dolls), disproportionately elongated necks and tiny waists (like Barbie dolls), and perfectly circular breasts with prominent nipples (unlike Barbie dolls), they somewhat resembled Bear: all of her angels were tall, possessing good cheekbones, curvacious legs, and masses of long, curly hair on their heads, as well as other places, which has already been mentioned.

A year before, she had renamed herself Bear. Her birth name was Jennifer Clay. When people asked how she got the name Bear, she would tell them with a faraway look in her eyes that once when she was in a sweat lodge, the vision of a bear holding a rainbow had come to her.

The truth, however, was that she had arrived at the new name of Bear after spending an afternoon lying on her bed doodling half a dozen potential names over and over:  Rainbow Moon, Rainbow Star, Rainbow Spirit, Rainbow Heart, Shakiva, and Bear . It was a hot day, and even though she wasn’t in a sweat lodge, she truly had been sweating. She had also doodled a rainbow, and had tried, but failed, to doodle a bear. Close enough.

Despite this artistic failure, Bear came out the winner because B had always been one of her favorite letters, one that she could write in cursive with a beautiful flourish.  She renamed herself immediately, thrilled to discard the name Jennifer, for J had always been one of her clumsiest-looking letters. Her third grade teacher, Ms. Miles, had even kept her in during recess once and insisted that she write the letter J twenty-five times on a piece of paper until she got it right. She hated J. She loved B. So Bear she became.

Jillian, who had no trouble writing the letter J, was sitting next to Bear in the audience that day. They were both in the front row, directly under the podium where the Guru would soon stand. Bear reeked of patchouli, and a powerful wave of it slammed into Jillian. Jillian gagged slightly, and a spontaneous little gasp of revulsion escaped her.

Bear, who was focused on her drawing pad, thought that Jillian’s gasp was an adoring response to the angel she was busy sketching. “I channel them,” she said, glancing sideways at Jillian with a proud smile.

“Ah,” replied Jillian, holding her hand up to her chin and extending her index and middle fingers thoughtfully. In truth, she was trying to cover her nose so as not to have to breathe in all that patchouli.

Bear, turning back to her sketch book, paused to stomp viciously on a little bug that had been crawling innocently near her foot, and then resumed her drawing. Jillian winced.

Jillian was a rather tender and wistful, albeit awkward, woman. This was her first seminar with the Guru, and her appearance wasn’t like that of the other attendees, who were for the most part a Yoga-sleek, organic-smoothie-drinking, essential-oil-smeared, and hip-looking crowd. Jillian knew quite well she didn’t belong. That morning, she’d done her best to make a few alterations in hopes of blending in. One of them was going after her mousy straight hair with a curling iron, but despite repeated attacks, it had adamantly refused to curl.

“My head looks as though it’s made up of uncooked spaghetti,” she had complained in a text to her mother.

“At least it’s whole wheat spaghetti,” her mother texted back, attempting a little humor. The whole wheat reference was because her hair was brown.

Glancing covertly and a bit enviously at the lush, long, brunette curls of Bear, Jillian felt grateful that at least her spaghettiesh bangs covered up the little patch of Clearasil-coated acne on her forehead that had unfortunately chosen to make an appearance the night before. She pushed her glasses back up onto the bridge of her squat nose, something she did often. Except for that nose, the exceedingly straight hair, and the heretofore unmentioned misfortune of being flat-chested and big-bottomed, Jillian’s appearance was, while not fitting in, fairly nondescript and easy to overlook. Mostly she just looked beige.

Her soul was far from nondescript, however. Jillian was in truth a pretty evolved person. She had such reverence for life in all of its forms, for example, that she even refused to kill the ants who persisted in marching into her kitchen. Instead of squashing them, her solution to the ant problem was to call forth the Deva of the ants and plead her case.

“Jillian, you can’t reason with an ant,” her mother would sigh. Jillian would protest that these one-sided conversations were working…that, along with sealing everything an ant could conceivably want to eat inside an impenetrable plastic bag.

Not long ago, Jillian had had an ecstatic encounter, one that she now fervently yearned to share with another kindred soul, since her mother really didn’t get that side of her. This experience had happened during a particularly powerful meditation. The Universe had suddenly opened up to Jillian, and she was given the revelation that she was One with Everything.

That experience was the primary reason she now sat in the audience, waiting for the Guru to appear. She’d never seen him in person before. She had signed up for this event with high hopes after watching a few YouTubes of said Guru, who promised to share the secrets of existence with any who were willing to pay the somewhat steep price of admission for his seminars.

Unlike Bear, in her quest for these secrets Jillian actually had attended a sweat lodge. A revered Native American elder named Bold Feather had recently conducted this sweat lodge, which was Jillian’s first.

It was—physically, anyway—pretty intense. There were about 40 people in attendance. For comfort, they had been asked to wear their swimsuits, and as they crowded into the heated space on hands and knees, Jillian tried without a lot of success to suck in her tummy. Everyone sat elbow to elbow, thigh to thigh, in the small enclosure. It was dark inside, she thought that she had never been so hot in her life, and she felt claustrophobic, but she was at least grateful that she didn’t have to try to hold in her stomach any longer.

Bold Feather poured a ladle of water on some super-heated rocks, which made the heat even more acute. Then he stated that each person in the sweat lodge should now express out loud what they were grateful for. One at a time those in the circle began to share. After the first six or seven people spoke, Bold Feather raised his hand, bringing the sharing to a pause. Everyone waited expectantly in the dim light.

“What’s going on?” Jillian whispered to the woman sitting next to her.

"Bold Feather does this whenever he sees that someone has a really special soul,” her neighbor whispered back. “He gives those people new names.”

The man in question had said, “I’m grateful for Mother Earth and all she gives to us, despite the terrible things we do to her.”

Lowering his hand, the elder proclaimed in a solemn and stentorian voice, “Your name is now Worried Elk.”

Jillian listened in awe as others shared. Four of the 31 people who spoke were deemed important enough to be given new names by Bold Feather. Her turn was coming up soon. It had taken nearly all of the 31 people preceding her for Jillian to figure out what she would say that she was grateful for. Her thinking was a little fuzzy because of the heat. She also wanted to be as sincere as possible, for she hoped desperately that Bold Feather would recognize her heightened spirituality and give her a new name.

A woman two spaces away said that she was grateful for her job. Bold Feather raised his hand and ceremoniously renamed her, giving her a native name that meant She Who Fetches Corn.

When Jillian's turn finally came, she said in a quavering voice, “I am grateful for my mother.” She waited eagerly, wondering what name Bold Feather would assign to her. In addition to it being dark, her glasses had steamed up in the heat, so she couldn’t see whether or not he was raising his hand. Thus, it was quite a let-down when, after a bit of silence, the woman next to Jillian launched into a description of what she was grateful for, and so on to the end of the line. Apparently Jillian’s spirituality had not been all that evident to Bold Feather.

It would have been ironic, and a real problem for this author, if he had renamed her Bear, but that, of course, did not happen. When Jillian related the story to her mother, complaining about how hot the sweat lodge had been and how large she believed her rear end had looked in the swimsuit, her mother remarked, “Well, cheer up. He could have named you Big Ass Runs Out of Tent.”

Jillian’s mother didn’t understand spirituality, but she could be pretty funny sometimes.

Back to the Guru. After that major sweat lodge setback, Jillian pinned all her hopes for recognition on the Guru. She began to think that he might be the one and only man on the planet with the ability to see past her exterior—to see her for who she truly was. He claimed to be able to read auras, after all, and she was pretty sure that her aura was a good one. A psychic had told her so not long ago. The psychic had also claimed that Bold Feather was suffering from indigestion on the night of the sweat lodge, or he would have been more in tune with her. Jillian felt a little grumpy at the thought that indigestion hadn’t prevented him from being in tune with Worried Elk and She Who Fetches Corn, but she got over it.

Her hopes high, Jillian began to entertain a fantasy that, after seeing her aura, the Guru would invite her to become a close friend—or more!—since they had so much in common. He claimed, after all, to be one of the most spiritual men currently alive, and he repeated this frequently in his YouTube interviews. He also often remarked that we are each part of the same whole, which was nearly identical to the message she had received. Of all people, he would surely understand her, and once he became aware of her, he couldn’t help but want to delve into her spirit. Or other parts of her.

Brightening at the thought, Jillian decided to endure the patchouli. She took her hand off her nose, and turned to Bear. “Have you ever had any spiritual experiences?” she asked. Jillian pretty much always got right to the point of things.

“Oh yeah,” shrugged Bear vaguely, not bothering to look up from her drawing pad. “Like, I guess so. They basically used to make me go to church all the time when I was little. You know how it is.” Bear picked at something stuck between her teeth with a manicured fingernail. Her teeth were long, proportionate, and exceedingly white.

Jillian stared at those teeth for a moment, mesmerized, and then said, “No, I don’t mean church…although I guess it could happen in a church. No, what I mean is did you ever have any spiritual encounters? Like me? Because, you see, I had this amazing thing happen to me not long ago.”

Now that she had managed to turn the conversation over to her own experience, she became more animated.

“There was a tunnel, and then a huge flash, kind of like lightening,” Jillian said, adding in a confidential tone of voice, “I’ve never told a single soul until now.” Bear didn’t seem to be swept away by that revelation, but Jillian continued anyhow. “It was almost exactly like one of those near-death experiences you read about, except that I didn’t die, of course. What happened was that I met this incredible being made of bright light. I’m pretty sure it was an angel. And the angel told me that we are all one.”

Bear yawned, interrupting the story. Inside Bear’s open mouth, on her tongue, behind those perfect teeth, Jillian saw a wad of orange chewing gum.

One would have thought that Jillian’s interchange with a genuine angel might have evoked Bear’s curiosity rather than a yawn, seeing as drawing pictures of angels was, as we have said, her thing. The real  reason that she acted bored, however, was because she suspected that the angel Jillian had encountered possessed neither breasts nor pubic hair—(and this was true; the angel had neither)—and after having drawn so many dozens of angels with both features figuring prominently, it would not have been beneficial for Bear to learn that she was totally wrong about the way angels looked.

At any rate, before Jillian could continue the conversation, a reverent hush fell over the room. The Guru had arrived.

Like Jillian, the Guru possessed nondescript features, but he unlike her, he was loaded with charisma. It clung to him like a cloud, and it overpowered everyone around him, much like Bear’s patchouli. Along with this charisma, the Guru possessed an air of humble superiority—an air that he had deliberately cultivated over the years while standing in front of the bathroom mirror. (It was a long-standing joke in his family that Charles, which was his real name, always took a long time in the bathroom.) He helped that air by dressing in beautifully pressed cotton caftans that hung over wide pants, his garments always pink, and by parting his long, scraggly brown hair in the middle. Like Jesus.

Emulating the greatest male movie stars as well as Jesus, the Guru’s face seldom showed any emotion, which naturally made people swoon over him. They did not recognize that, just like the movie stars, they worshipped him because they could project whatever they wanted onto him without ever seeing his real feelings. Some of his detractors nastily claimed that his expressionless face was the result of Botox injections. In fact, they were quite correct. The Guru was aging, and the wrinkles on his face concerned him. He had long preached that one could stop the onslaught of age by proper positive thinking. While he believed this implicitly, he himself was far too busy to spend the time that would be required to change the structure of his cellular tissue. Botox injections, he reasoned, were simply a temporary measure until he had more room in his schedule.

It was his smile that sealed the deal with the crowd. The Guru rarely smiled, but when he did, it stretched across his face like the radiator grill and headlights of a 1963 Chevy Impala. With the brights on. On the special occasions when he smiled at his devotees, they wound up blinded like so many deer, stupefied and ready for the kill.

He cleared his throat and began speaking. After an introductory half hour or so, he moved onto the topic of the link between auras and spirituality. Jillian had been waiting for this, and shifted excitedly in her seat. She felt that her soul was finally on the brink of being recognized. It was all she could do to prevent herself from giggling out loud in anticipation.

“In my books, you can read about several occasions in my life when I have had the rare pleasure of viewing the aura of another highly enlightened being, one like myself,” he said. “If you truly want to learn the real secrets of existence, by the way,” he added, “I urge you to buy my books.” (On YouTube he had suggested that people needed to attend his seminars to learn said secrets, but nobody in the audience protested.) “All of my books and recordings are available for sale at the table in the back of the room. Mandy, would you please raise your hand so people can see where to go to buy my books?”

There was a table stacked with the Guru’s products in the back of the room. Mandy, a pretty but weary-looking woman sitting behind the table listlessly raised her hand.

“Now,” he continued, “for those of us who are able to see auras, it is always quite easy to discern if someone is on a highly spiritual path, for there are inevitably ripples of light surrounding them.” He stepped away from the podium and began to survey the audience.

Jillian assumed her most earnest expression. Sitting up straighter, she tried to clear her mind of any random thoughts that might be cluttering her energy field, and she did her best to raise her vibrational frequency. She wanted to be certain that the Guru would notice the ripples of light that were surely surrounding her…she, who had been addressed by an actual angel! He turned in her direction, and suddenly his huge magnetic smile blazed forth. Jillian caught her breath. The Guru’s smile was, alas, not for her, but she did not initially realize this. The person who’d caught his eye was, of course, Bear. Bear had been sketching with her head down as he spoke, and that had intrigued him. He was accustomed to having the females at his seminars stare at him with enraptured gazes. The way Jillian was.

“There are Beings of Light dwelling among us even now,” he continued, moving down the stairs and into the audience toward Jillian. She still didn’t know his real objective, and her heart began pounding. She thought that she would faint. Reaching up, she adjusted her bangs to make sure that none of the acne was showing. Still smiling, the Guru floated closer and closer…and then he passed right by her, pausing in front of Bear, his pink-draped backside inches from Jillian’s face.

It looked to the crowd as if he was scanning Bear’s aura. Privately, however, the Guru was trying to determine whether or not she was wearing any underwear beneath her extremely short shorts. He concluded that she was not.

With slow deliberation, he picked the drawing pad off Bear’s lap, brushing her thigh in the process and noticing how smooth her skin was. Then he squinted briefly at the angel she had been sketching. She stopped chewing her gum and looked up at him with big turquoise eyes.

“What is your name, my dear?” he asked.

“Bear,” she said.

“And you draw angels?”

“I channel them,” replied Bear, batting her eyelashes modestly. “Spirit like, you know, just moves through me.”

“How fitting for a Being of Light,” he exclaimed. “I am so greatly honored by your presence here.” He took her hand, pulled her to her feet, and gently turned her around to face the larger audience. “Ladies and gentlemen, can you not see what I spoke of—the brilliant Light in this Blessed One’s aura? I’ve seldom seen a light so radiant from someone attending my seminars.”

Some people nodded. Jillian wondered how anyone could see anybody else’s aura through the glare of the overhead fluorescent lights in the hotel conference room, and, in a moment of naughty cynicism, thought maybe the radiance he was seeing was a reflection of the orange chewing gum. Still, she wasn’t ready yet to give up. She tried even harder than before to squeeze out a few ripples of Light that he would notice. It didn’t work. The Guru, who was again scanning the audience, continued to look right through her.

He now moved back towards an attractive and very busty blonde woman, took her by the hand, and also had her rise from her seat. Jillian had overhead this woman speaking in the hallway. She was a would-be real estate agent with a grating, nasal voice, but plenty of cleavage, who had come to the seminar in hopes of improving her prosperity consciousness.

“Do you see these creatures of Light?” the Guru queried the remaining flock, waving at the two women. “You don’t even need to read auras to be aware of the deep emotion and passionate spirituality these two possess.”

Mandy, at the back table, gave a little smirk that nobody particularly saw. Meanwhile, Jillian wanted to raise her hand and shout, “Hey, what about me?” She wondered plaintively what she needed to look like to show the Guru that she, too, was deeply emotional and passionately spiritual. Breast implants and contact lenses would have helped a lot, but this did not occur to her. The glasses slid down her nose again, and, slumping in her chair, she let them stay there. After a few hours Jillian left the seminar, temporarily dejected. “Everybody is One with Everything except for me,” she thought gloomily.

Earlier, when the Guru had brushed up against the blonde would-be real estate agent with the enlightened soul, she’d pulled away a little. Plus, it was obvious that she was wearing underwear. Bear hadn’t pulled away, though, and so, within less than a month, the Guru arranged for her to move in with him. After he dumped Mandy.

It took a lot of nagging on Bear’s part, but finally, reluctantly, he added a few overpriced prints of her angel drawings to the products stacked on his back table, replacing the mandala prints that had been designed by Mandy. The Guru, it seemed, had a preference for artsy women. When Bear begged and pleaded to illustrate the cover of his next book, however, he tactfully but adamantly declined. She became sulky, and their relationship started to go downhill pretty quickly at that point.

Soon after their argument, a young man named Jade Heart approached the back table at one of the Guru’s seminars. Bear was there, sitting at her now-relegated post, swiping credit cards and taking in the cash for the Guru’s books and recordings. Jade Heart, clutching a large drawing pad in one hand, began to thumb with the other through her angel prints, which, in truth, had never sold all that well. He scrutinized them more carefully than anyone ever had, and he even appeared to like them.

“They’re mine,” she said finally. “I channel them.”

“Wow. Is that a fact?” he asked, genuinely impressed. He leaned on the table to get closer. They began to talk, and as they chatted, it turned out that he too channeled drawings.

“Here, look at this,” he said, coming around the table to stand at her side, and opening his sketch pad to show Bear his work.

His pictures were remarkably similar to hers, except that they featured tall, youngish, well-muscled men. With ridiculously big eyes. Most of them had swords. Just as Bear was best at drawing wings, Jade Heart was best at drawing swords.

He showed her one of his pictures, explaining that it depicted a man wrestling with his dragon. The dragon sprang out from between the man’s legs and rose up at an angle. Surrounding the base of the dragon was a huge thatch of dark pubic hair. Bear stared at Jade Heart, then back at the drawing, and then at Jade Heart again. She was smitten. That they were soul mates destined for one another was obvious even to those who could not see auras.

She promptly left the Guru, who himself promptly looked up the blonde would-be real estate agent. Bear and Jade Heart were soon inseparable. After a number of lengthy discussions, they decided that they would call themselves The Jade Bear. Bear still could not handle writing Js in cursive, however, so they eventually settled on The Bear Heart. She found to her delight that she really liked writing the letter H.

The two started a highly successful series of workshops called “How to Channel Drawings.”  Jillian, who finally did get contact lenses and breast implants, along with a nose job, attended one of these workshops, where her ripples of Light continued to go unnoticed.

Saturday, April 25, 2015




That time I came in as a fruitfly, I recognized clearly that we’re all One. Humans don’t know this, but fruitflies do.

I’d landed on a banana peel in your kitchen, along with hundreds of my mates. I mean mates literally. Man, was I one horny fruitfly!

Then I saw that you were ready to squish me. As your thumb loomed over me, I screamed, “Don’t do that! We are the same! We are One!” I guess I wasn’t very articulate. You/I squished me anyway.

That was not fun. Next time, I'm coming back as a rattlesnake.

© 2015, M. E. Raines
For more stories by this author, please scroll down:; check "other posts" at the bottom of the page for still more!

Friday, December 19, 2014

THE BEST APPLE EVER (A Very Short Story)

by Mary Elizabeth (Leach) Raines

It was the best apple ever. There can only be one, and this was it. Never before or since on earth would there be an apple so outstandingly, scrumptiously good.

Along with thousands of its lesser siblings, the apple got shipped to a supermarket, where some lucky guy picked it out of a bin. His mind was on things other than spectacular apples, though. It fell and he gave it a kick. The apple rolled against the refrigeration unit and lay there, bruised, until the produce manager found it and threw it away.

Sometimes I feel like that apple. 

© 2014, M. E. Raines
Copying or reproducing in any manner prohibited by law
Please feel free, however, to link to this story.

Thursday, December 18, 2014



For a while, I lived in Hollywood. During my time there, my dating life was almost non-existent. 

Here’s why:
  1. I was not thin.
  2. I was not blonde.
  3. I was not a member of the Academy.
  4. I was not rich.
  5. I had never had botox or lip plumper, and I possessed my original breasts.
  6. I was not bi-curious.
  7. My idea of doing drugs was to take an aspirin if I had a headache.

That said, I did become the focus of heightened sexual attention one night. It was, as they say, waaaay cool! I was at a party and my becoming an object of lust was completely accidental. It happened like this:

Sometimes by chance, everyone in a room stops talking at the same time and there is a space of awkward silence. We’ve all been there. At the party I was attending, just such a gap occurred—a surprise lull in the flow of chatter. All conversation suddenly dropped away.

Well, almost all. Except for mine. I happened to be making a comment to another party-goer at that very moment. As the other sounds ceased, my remarks were amplified, projected boisterously into the otherwise dead room.

Here’s what I said: “I can get really kinky.”

Everyone heard me.

My declaration was followed by several seconds of stunned silence—reverence, perhaps. (It being Hollywood and all.) Then it was as if someone had turned on the floodlights. In a flash, I became the object of intense and fascinated scrutiny by more than a few turned-on party-goers. I felt sexy! I felt desirable! By golly, it was fun.

They liked me. They REALLY liked me!
But it didn’t last long.

My short sweet burst of popularity came to an abrupt end when the truth about my purported kinkiness emerged. I had only been describing what happens to my hair when it’s humid outside.


Even though my love life was sparse in those years, it wasn’t totally devoid of romance. (For proof, see my previous post, The Movie Star Who Wanted Me.) Occasionally I even dated. Once, for instance, I met a man in a cafĂ©, and we went out to a nightclub the next evening. He was a well-mannered and good-looking European man who held some promise, even if he was a tad dull…dull, that is, until the end of the evening, when he managed to turn the conversation to a new topic.

My would-be beau began telling me, with animation, about certain women he knew who enjoyed wearing dog collars. That's right. Dog collars. As he spoke, his pupils grew larger—and maybe other parts of him as well. There were some clear hints that he enjoyed being the one who held the leash.

I imagine he was looking for Ruff-Ruff sex.
My response was that I needed to go home (alone!) and do some drugs right away (please note what my propensity for drugs entailed in the introductory paragraph, #7).

Okay, so I was mostly dateless when I lived in Hollywood. I was, however, well entertained, for I lived in a strange little compound populated by movie and TV folk who were themselves somewhat kinky.

In this eccentric show-biz community, for instance, lived Gary, a cameraman from the original Twilight Zone series who wound up committing suicide by hanging himself; we found his body swinging from the rafters. But that’s a story for another day, and yeah, probably not the most shining example I could give of being entertained.

So, okay, another resident of our compound was Santa Claus. Well, actually it was an actor named Harry, but he looked exactly like Santa, with the requisite round tummy, twinkling eyes, snub nose, white beard and jolly laugh.
Harry had started out playing Falstaff in the theater, and had gone on to earn a modest living with bit parts on TV shows like Cheers, Knots Landing, Batman and Night Court. It was when he reached his senior years that Harry found the perfect niche. He became a professional Santa Claus, and enjoyed modest success playing Saint Nick in a number of movies, commercials and TV shows.

Not long after I’d moved into the compound, my landlord, Bob, and I were chatting one afternoon on the street in our favorite spot next to the garbage cans (more about that later), when Harry-aka-Santa came down the steps of his apartment. He walked over to a parked car, where a friend of his emerged.

Lo and behold, Harry’s friend was another Santa look-alike, right down to the cherubic smile and rosy cheeks! The two were the same height, the same heft, had the same white flowing hair and beards, and were even dressed in identical garb. Both wore purple t-shirts. I couldn’t tell one from the other! Confused, I looked at Bob.

“All the professional Santa Clauses in Hollywood know each other,” he said. "They belong to a club."

As I watched, the two Santys hugged. Their hug grew in intensity. They wrapped their chubby arms around each other in an embrace and, belly pressed against belly, gave one another an extremely generous and lengthy kiss. Full on the lips. My jaw dropped and I stood there by the garbage bins, dumbfounded.

Although it may have made my story spicier if I were able to relate having had an affair with Santa Claus, this was not to be. Harry, as it turns out, was quite gay. But at least I can say in all honesty that—hold onto your hats—I saw Santa kissing Santa Claus.

The aforementioned garbage bins from our complex were a favorite gathering place of ours. Whenever cops came into the neighborhood—frequently—or a movie star disembarked from a limo at the studio across the street—also frequently—we would stand by the garbage cans to stare or gossip or exchange greetings.

It was also a fantastic place to hunt for treasures. Most of them were contributed by Lotsa Lotty, a member of our community who had at one time been a famous stripper and porn star.

In her heyday, she’d possessed silicone breasts the size of human heads. Now, decades past her prime and flat-chested after a double mastectomy, she buzzed around the compound in her bathrobe, glasses and curlers, sweeping the sidewalk—for she was a compulsive cleaner—and chattering into her telephone headset.

As a newcomer to the compound, I’d become alarmed one day when I heard groans and screams coming from behind Lotty’s closed door. I ran to Berta, the former Broadway actress who lived across the patio, and breathlessly suggested that we should call 911 because Lotty was making funny noises.

Instead of responding to my panic, Berta sank back onto her divan—Berta spent most of her days reclining on her divan—and murmured, “Oh, I’m so glad to hear that. Lotty really needs the money.” 

It turned out that Lotty, no longer in demand as a porn star, earned her living by doing phone sex. I grew accustomed to seeing her standing at her kitchen sink, ferociously scrubbing a frying pan and waving cheerfully at me through the open window, while crooning words into her headset like, “Oh yes, yes, whatever you want, baby…oooh, ahhh, it’s huge…

Back to the garbage bins. Even in retirement, Lotty often received gifts from her still-avid fans, for she had become a kind of cult figure. Her philosophy was easy-come/easy-go, and she despised clutter. Thus, whenever she grew tired of something, or if a gift wasn’t quite to her taste, she discarded it immediately, regardless of its worth. Lotty would even throw out expensive clothing when she got tired of it, despite the fact that she could have made a tidy amount of cash taking her used garb to a shop that specialized in reselling the clothing of former stars.

A person could find anything from designer pocketbooks to jewelry to appliances lying on top of our garbage cans, waiting for some enterprising scrounger—or me!—to give the unwanted stuff a new home.  

One day I noticed a hair dryer sitting on the garbage cans. It was a big hair dryer. I needed a hair dryer, and this one looked as good as new. Snatching it up, I took it home and tested it. It worked wonderfully and immediately joined my bathroom appliances.

It wasn’t until some weeks later that I had the opportunity to ask Lotty why she had thrown out a perfectly good hair dryer.

“Oh, it’s because of one of my phone-sex clients,” she said. “He likes to call me up and ask me to ‘do it’ with my hair dryer while he talks to me. One day he sent me a new hair dryer to use, so I threw out the old one…”

By association, my hair may be even kinkier than one would ever want to know.

(c) 2011, M. E. Raines
Copying or reproducing in any form prohibited. Please feel free to link to this article.

See Mary Elizabeth Raines' newly released novel, UNA, on Amazon

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


© 2014, M. E. Raines

“The hive of the honeybee centers around its queen. When the hive needs a new queen, the workers select several larvae from eggs that had been laid in the cells of the honeycomb by the previous queen. The  workers feed these larvae a special substance called royal jelly and the cells they inhabit are later sealed. Because of the royal jelly, the larvae in these particular cells will eventually turn into queen bees. 

“Upon hatching, the very first queen to emerge from her cell begins to make a high-pitched piping sound. She sings to her still-unhatched sisters. From within their cells, they sing back to her. Tracing the location of their cells by the sound of their calls, she finds each of her unborn sisters and stings them to death. This is because there can only be one queen bee.”

Her name was Bodacious Bea and the club where she performed was called, ironically, The Beehive. Bodacious Bea had soft tawny-colored skin, fleshy breasts, and flawless, if spectacularly overdone, makeup. Her glitter-strewn scarlet hair was perfectly curled and coifed, piled high on her head.

On the past Thanksgiving, Bea’s brother had commented rudely about the color of her hair. “That shade of red is not even in the spectrum,” he had remarked, mumbling through a mouth crammed with stuffing and mashed potatoes. “It’s just wrong. Like seeing a blue popsicle.”

He did not approve of her being a drag queen. None of her family did. She consoled herself with the thought that even Jesus couldn’t preach in his home town.

Despite the sneers of her brother, Bodacious Bea was clearly the star act at The Beehive. And everyone always told her that they loved her hair!

“What makes me so special,” she said haughtily in a recent radio interview, enunciating each word carefully and lisping ever so slightly, “is my size. I am sooo not one of those gargantuan, ludicrous imposters. You can see right through them in a second. I am only 5’4”, and except for certain portions of my anatomy, I am very petite.” She rolled her “r” when she said the word very. With a little giggle, she added, “I am feminine, you see, to the hilt.

Night after night, audiences screamed their approval of Bodacious Bea. She had a bit where would return for a curtain call and stand in the spotlight. As the roars subsided, she would bat her eyelashes and cry to the audience, “Ooh, you naughty men! You make me want to throw my panties at you!” Of course, this made them begin to cheer her loudly all over again.

In her mind, it was indisputable: she was the queen of the queens…or she would have been if it weren’t for her rivals, Kurvee Kittee and Luscious Lou-Lou.

It was almost time for the show. Bea was punctual, and she was always ready well before everyone else. Emerging from her dressing room, wearing a snug turquoise sheath that glittered with the garish reflections from thousands of embedded rhinestones, Bodacious Bea minced confidently down the backstage hallway. Her dress was so tight that she had no choice but to mince. It wasn't a problem. She liked to mince.

In a high-pitched piping voice, Bea sang out, “Kittee! Kittee? Where are you? I so need to see you!”

Kurvee Kittee had galloped in only a few minutes ago, and she was decidedly grumpy. From one of the dressing rooms, a masculine voice growled, “What the hell do you want? I’m late, damn it.”

Whenever Kittee was stressed, she fell out of character. She could be decidedly unfeminine. This bothered Bea, who wished that Kittee’s fans could hear her now. Bea herself was always genuine; she never forgot for a moment who and where she was.

Bea opened the door to the dressing room from which the voice had sounded. Kittee, in her underwear, sat awkwardly on a stool before the mirror, legs splayed for balance, and was frantically attempting to glue her false eyelashes on. They kept falling off. Kittee’s red-smeared lips were curled back in a furious, impatient snarl.

Posturing coquettishly with one hand on her hip, Bea moved in behind Kittee and shook her head at the scene. “Oh Kittee, darling,” she crooned, “You always have so much trouble with your makeup...." She leaned in more closely and murmured softly, "You know, honey, I’m not sure you really belong here. You should leave.”

Kittee swiveled angrily around on her stool. She seemed to be preparing to shout obscenities at Bea, but she choked on her words as the latter waggled her hips and departed swiftly from the dressing room.

Re-entering the hallway, Bea turned in a new direction and, in a high-pitched falsetto, trilled out, “Lou-Lou? Oh, Lo-o-o-u? Where are yo-o-o-u?”

“I’m here, Bea, in wardrobe. And oh my god, I need help!”

The sad wobbly alto voice came from behind the clothing rack in the costume department. Bea sashayed over to the gleaming, gaudy garments. It was easy to spot Lou-Lou. 
She hovered high over the rack of clothes, for she was nearly a foot taller than Bea, and she was decidedly not thin. Nobody else was present in the room except for the two drag queens.

Unlike Kittee, Lou-Lou never lost sight of her feminity, but still, in Bea’s mind, she was always just a little bit off the mark. Yes, Lou-Lou tried too hard, but it wasn’t that. Trying too hard and being over the top were expected of the girls. Lou-Lou’s height was a flaw in Bea’s mind, but most of Lou-Lou’s fans enjoyed her gigantic frame. No, the problem was that Lou was just…pathetic. There was something whiney and droopy about her. Her voice constantly quavered and she always seemed ready to burst into tears. Granted, she did a good Judy Garland, despite her size, but otherwise, Bea felt that Lou-Lou was distressingly inferior.

“I just cannot find a thing to wear tonight,” the tall queen moaned helplessly. “I’m retaining water and it’s made me puffy. Nothing fits!”

Bea wanted to make a bitchy comment about the three puffy beers and two puffy cheesteak subs that Lou-Lou had wolfed down last night when they went out after the show, but she held her tongue.

Grabbing a large-sized emerald green frock from the rack and moving around to the other side to get closer to Lou-Lou, she warbled, “Why don’t you try this one on, dear?”

The dress served as a shield when she stabbed Lou-Lou. She didn’t want any more blood to spatter her turquoise gown the way it had when she had cut Kittee’s throat…although she realized that the audience might simply see the red spots as a wonderfully chic way of balancing out the glorious red color of her hair.

That night Bea gave the most splendid performance she’d ever given! The audience went wild! They loved her! They couldn’t get enough of her! It was the best night of her life. Bodacious Bea was truly the queen of queens!

A year later, sitting with her legs crossed on a chair in her prison cell, impatiently thumbing through a magazine, she came across the article describing the behavior of honeybee queens. Bea reflected sadly upon this. Why did the rules for one species have to be so different for another? She sighed, and wished she could freshen her lipstick. They would not let her wear her makeup in prison.

It wasn’t so bad, though. She still quite popular. She looked good in orange. And she was the only queen on her cell block.

Monday, November 17, 2014


(c) 2011

It was the early 1980s, and I was driving to the East Coast to reconnect with a man whom I hadn’t seen for years. In my youth, what a crush I’d had on this sweet unsuspecting fellow! He, however, had never shown the slightest interest in me beyond that of a cordial friendship.

Now, more than 15 years later, I was going to visit him.
And his wife.
And his children.

Before I proceed any further, let me interject a disclaimer: I am not a shallow woman. I hold in disdain the kind of people who focus on superficialities and appearances. To me, a janitor has the same worth as a CEO; an 85-year-old grandma with a face full of wrinkles and hairs on her chin wearing K-Mart sweatpants is just as important to me as the latest hot Hollywood star boasting jewels and a designer gown.

Speaking of Hollywood… While working some years ago on the set of the TV show West Wing as a Professional Background Actor (translation: as an extra), I had the pleasure of meeting the show’s star, Martin Sheen. Sheen was an activist and a good guy. He’d even been jailed for his activism. He refused to discriminate against anyone; he treated his producers no differently from the way he treated me.

One night, when the cast was being transported some distance for a shoot at an airport, rather than use a limo, Sheen hopped into the van that was carrying all of us extras. 

He plopped down right in front of me, sitting next to an old wizened fellow.

“Where are you from?” Sheen asked the man amiably.
“I just got out of  prison,” the old guy answered. “I’m on parole.”
“No kidding!” exclaimed Sheen happily, clapping the man across his back. “Me too!”

His enthusiasm was not fake. He was simply the kind of person who refused to buy into status or appearances.
Like me. 

That being said, it was my intention to appear as jaw-droppingly gorgeous as I possibly could at my reunion with The Unrequited Crush. 

Why did I care so much how I looked for a man who had never even seemed to notice that I was a girl?

Well, if my host were to see me in all my splendor and appreciate the alluring vision I presented, and if he were, as a result, to experience even the slightest pang of regret at having never seized the opportunity of indulging in me when he’d had the chance…I certainly wouldn’t mind!

As for his wife, who was a talented and smart woman, my stunning appearance wouldn’t do any damage to her either. It could only serve to boost her confidence, since my former not-beau had chosen her when he could have had me, the jaw-droppingly gorgeous female! How could she not feel good about herself?

Talk about win-win-win!

The only problem—and it was a daunting one—was that of looking jaw-droppingly gorgeous. As soon as the date for our reunion drew near, I knew that I had work to do, for I am not a natural beauty. External devices would be required.

To this end, I deliberated for hours about exactly how I would style my hair.
I went on a crash diet.
I bought new underpants.

The rest of my wardrobe fell into place when a friend offered me a hand-me-down blouse. It was an expensive silky blouse that was quite flattering on me. I had no idea how she could part with such an exquisite garment. (I would, to my great dismay, find out later.)

The day of the meeting finally came. I dressed both with excitement and immense care before the long drive, wearing the new underpants, pulling on my sexiest open-toed high heels and, of course, putting on the flowing blouse.

It was a dreadfully humid day, so I decided that I wouldn’t attend to my makeup until I got close to my destination. Granted, I looked a little pasty-faced, but that was preferable to arriving on the doorstep of my youthful love interest with smeary lips, blotchy rouge, and raccoon eyes from melting eye-makeup.

I patted down the natural frizz of my hair, and then sprayed it mercilessly until it was as hard as the aluminum siding on a suburban tract house, hoping to close off all possible escape routes for even the smallest bit of fuzz. Just in case, though, I stuck a few bobby pins in my hardened hair at weird but key places. I would remove the bobby pins when I put on my makeup.

And I was off!

After several hours, my gas gauge began dipping down near the empty mark. I was driving on a crowded turnpike skirting New York City, so I exited into the designated gas station. Self-service had not yet become the norm, and this station was one of the kind where attendants still pumped the gas for their customers.

Do ever I miss those gas stations today! In most respects I am an ardent feminist, a woman’s libber from way back, but I’m sorry: pumping gas is just plain unfeminine.

I am not the only evolved woman who believes this. A childhood friend of mine named Joyce Jillson actually wrote a book once called Real Women Don’t Pump Gas. It was a clever response to another popular book that came out in the 80s called Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche.

In her book, Joyce drew a chart that showed the highlights of a woman’s life. Almost at the top of the chart was losing your virginity. At the very top? Telling your friends you lost your virginity.

Here is something interesting about the author. She eventually became an astrologer, and she was one of the astrologers whom Nancy Reagan secretly consulted while hubby Ronald was president. She also chose the astrologically fortuitous date for the release of the movie Star Wars.

I knew Joyce before her astrology days. She lived next door to me when I was in the third grade. We didn’t have blogs back then, but we did the next best thing: Joyce and my sister and I put our heads together and created a neighborhood newspaper. We tried diligently to sell copies to people on our block; they only cost a nickel, but our readership never went beyond about five people. We put out two editions before we turned our attention to something else.

Back to pumping gas: Joyce was right. It is not something a woman should ever have to do, at least not this woman.
Why not?
First, whenever I  pump gasoline, some of it always seems to dribble on my shoes.
Second, my fingers wind up smelling like Exxon instead of Shalimar.
Third, I always feel icky when I have to grab onto a nasty gasoline pump handle that untold others have held. God knows where their hands have been!

So. It was a relief that someone else would be pumping my gas for me on this special occasion. I was especially glad because of the open-toed shoes I was wearing. It doesn’t feel good when gasoline drips through one’s nylons onto one’s toes. (Probably you have to be a woman to understand.)

The gas station attendant sauntered over to my car, and I rolled the window down. He was a scowling young black man wearing a grimy bandana across his forehead. His sweat-drenched tank top revealed muscular arms, and he spoke in a thick inner-city dialect which I couldn’t understand. He looked like he might be the member of a gang. A mean gang.

“Yeah?” he muttered in a surly voice. At least that’s what I think he said. His attitude meter was set on high.
“Fill ‘er up,” I said with a perky smile, pretending to be oblivious to the fact that he was scowling at me.

Racial prejudice was rampant in the early 1980s. Integration was still a recent concept. Mainstream role models like Obama and Oprah were young and unknown, and The Cosby Show, which would accomplish more to delete bigotry from people’s minds and hearts than any law could ever hope to do, wasn’t even on the air yet.

It was a really rough time to be black, young, and male.

I watched this gas-station attendant with growing compassion, thinking about how hard it must be for someone like him to find a job that paid a decent living; obviously pumping fuel in a dumpy gas station on a congested turnpike would be no one’s deliberate career choice. It was probably the only work this poor guy could find. His life must be lousy. It wasn’t fair.

I understood.

Unfortunately, I became smitten with the insane urge to make it clear to him that I understood.
We liberals do that sometimes.

When he had finished filling the tank and came to take my money, I launched an energetic barrage of sympathetic chatter at him.

“Wow, what a hot day,” I said, oozing empathy as I opened up my purse. “It’s got to be tough working in this kind of heat…”

I beamed my best “I’m-not-prejudiced” smile at him. He avoided making eye contact with me.

Determined to connect, I kept on chattering. Words spilled out of my mouth at a rapid pace.

“…Have you worked here long? It can’t be easy to find a job these days. Do you live in New York? Do you commute from there?...”

He didn’t answer. The more I chattered, the further he pulled away. The further he pulled away, the more desperately I tried to draw him in. I would prove to him that I was no bigot! I would make him see how much I cared, damn it!

“…because I don’t know what I would have done if I’d run out of gas on the turnpike in this heat. When it’s so hot outdoors, you must feel absolutely exhausted at the end of the day…”

As I blabbered, the observer part of me stood off to one side, utterly aghast.

“…Or maybe not. Maybe you don’t get tired. I mean, look at your muscles…”

Yikes. Now I not only had to let him know that I understood him and had compassion for him, but also that I wasn’t hitting on him!

“…Oh, it's not that I’m staring at your muscles!” I giggled, my voice artificially high. “I just said ‘look at your muscles’ because they show how strong you are, you know, so you probably don’t get tired as easily…”

I was floundering, unable to extricate myself, sucked so deeply into the whirlpool of my own fatuous jabbering that I had no choice but to persist.

“…and because of how much you’re sweating...but wait, now. I don't mean that you’re sweating too much! No way! It’s so hot! Hey, I’m sweating too. Everyone’s sweating. We’re all sweating…”

Avoiding the onslaught of the well-intended words pouring from my mouth, he held himself as far away from me as he possibly could, taking my money with a stiff arm. There was something peculiar in his facial expression; I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. As he started to hand me my change, he made very sure not to touch me, or even to brush my hand by accident.

“…Why, thank you for the change. No, no, no, don’t be silly. You don’t have to count it out for me. I trust you…”

And that was a lie, because I didn’t trust him. I felt compassion for his circumstances, I’m sure his path had been difficult, I would’ve liked to have given him a break, but that did not belie the fact that he was a menacing-looking man and by no means did I trust him.

On and on I rambled as he gave me the last of my change. Despite the fact that my mission had failed, despite the fact that I knew how goofy I sounded, I couldn’t stop talking.

Maybe it was the heat.

The guy’s expression, meanwhile, had compressed into something so unreachable that I’d have had better success at getting on a flight to the moon than of establishing any sort of rapport with him.

With crude mercy, kind of like shooting a crippled horse, he finally put an end to our mutual misery by stalking away from me right in the middle of one of my long, rabidly rambling sentences. He shook his head as he walked away.

Defeated, humbled, but mostly relieved, I called out a final weak goodbye and reached for the key to turn on the ignition. As I did so, I glanced at my reflection in the rearview mirror—and I saw, to my horror, the vision I had presented to the young man at the pumps.

See, in those days I needed glasses to drive. I owned some fashionable aviator-style glasses, but they were so bottom-heavy that whenever I wore them, they left deep red creases in the middle of my cheeks. The indentations would remain on my face for hours, looking like fiery wrinkles.

Needless to say, in my guise of being a spectacular beauty, I wasn’t going to wear glasses while visiting the former desire of my heart, nor did I intend to appear at his front door with dark red gouges in my cheeks.

So on the last rest stop before this one, when I went to the bathroom, I’d grabbed two large handfuls of toilet paper before exiting the stall. In the car, I had shoved these wads of paper mindlessly under the bottom rims of my glasses to protect my cheeks. Then I promptly forgot about it. As I gazed in the rearview mirror, I saw that the toilet paper was still there on my cheeks, two big crumpled puffs of it, with tails of perforated squares streaming down both sides of my face.

Furthermore, my gorgeous new silky blouse, which I was wearing for the very first time, had somehow become unbuttoned. That, it turns out, is why my friend wanted to get rid of it. I’m not talking about one or two buttons here. All the buttons had come undone. The blouse had slipped back to the sides, fully exposing me in my bra.

There sat I, grinning too hard and chattering like a crazed blue jay at that poor guy, with toilet paper wafting over my cheeks, bobby pins stuck in my hair at weird angles, and my open blouse fluttering in the breeze...

I imagine he tells his friends about me to this day. Maybe I’m on a blog somewhere.

(c) M. E. Raines, 2011
Copying or reproducing in any form prohibited by law.
Please feel free to link to this article.