Mary Elizabeth Leach Raines

Mary Elizabeth Leach Raines
The Laughing Cherub



Just so you all are aware, I am not good with emojis. When people receive a text or a message from me, somehow I can never find the hearts, so I tend to send pictures of food. Food emojis come up for me much more easily than hearts. (My phone knows me well.)

I think everyone should substitute food for hearts, because it can indicate varieties and levels of emotion, whereas hearts are kind of generic and cliche. For instance, I just sent a bagel (or, hmm, perhaps it was a plain donut) to my daughter-in-law in thanks for a short video of my little baby granddaughter. In either case, that's a treat, whereas hearts are kind of...yawn.

Vegetables can indicate whimsy; hearts can't do that! A cabbage or a carrot will certainly make someone pause. I would not attach a heart to a message to a boss, but a salad would not be out of order.

If a person gets a piece of fruit from me, that means I really like them a lot. And a response from me containing high positive emotion calls for a slice of pizza. Think about it. Doesn't bringing pizza to mind give you a strong visceral reaction, and one that is pleasurable?

The supreme emoji that I could bestow would be an ice cream cone or a piece of pie, but I have not yet sent either of those to anyone. You have to be selective, you know, and not just scatter love indiscriminately and promiscuously. For me, an ice cream cone or a piece of pie is the equivalent of a blushing emoji blowing kisses with little hearts circling it. I would personally like someone a whole lot better if they came to my house and brought me an ice cream cone or pie than if they blew a kiss at me. That's just me.

You've been forewarned. 



by Mary Elizabeth Raines, © 2021

Even though I grew up in a spotless home, housekeeping has never been something for which I’ve had a strong instinct. I do love my home to be neat and clean though, and over the years, by gritting my teeth and going against my natural inclinations, I’ve gotten a little bit better at keeping things reasonably tidy. It was not always so.  

I went to a music conservatory for college in the mid-60s. In our freshman year, my delightful dormitory roommate, Marta, (who would later wind up as an assistant stage director at the Metropolitan Opera, a Broadway performer, and then as a script supervisor on TV shows like “Star Trek” and “ER”), began eating a particular brand of candy bar and saving the wrappers. She kept an untidy growing stack of them on her night table, along with a lot of other clutter.

“Marta, why are you keeping all of these candy bar wrappers?” I asked.
“Because if you collect enough of them,” she said, “you can send them in and be entered into a contest.”

“What’s the prize?”

“A pony,” she replied gleefully. “I’ve always wanted a pony!”
“But what if you win? Where would you keep a pony?” I cried.
“No problem,” she replied cheerfully. “We can keep the pony right here in our dorm room. Nobody will ever know.”

She said that because our room was always an enormous mess.

Marta and I had originally been assigned different roommates. I was in absolute awe of mine. She was immaculate. She could fold her panties into perfect squares,–I never figured out how she did that,–and she arranged her books in order of height, and her bed was always made, and she wanted the lights out every night at exactly 10 p.m., immediately after she finished reading her nightly devotions. Marta had a roommate with similar admirable qualities.

The two of us couldn’t have been more different from our assigned roommates. Not only were we supremely messy; we were also night owls. Night after night our roommates, needing to have the lights out, would banish us from our rooms to the small lounge on our dormitory floor. Marta and I soon discovered that we had a lot in common, and we bonded. It wasn’t long before we plotted a scheme to ditch our respective roommates and join forces; our only concern was that it might hurt their feelings. It turned out that our respective roommates had gotten the same idea, and before we could even broach the subject, they informed us that they wanted to swap. Fortunately, nobody’s feelings were hurt, and everyone ended up well matched and happy.

Marta had more money than I did, and she possessed an expensive and gorgeous wardrobe, most of which lay strewn across our floor. She would wake up in the morning and sit on the edge of her bed, tossing piles of clothing into the air with her foot and saying, “Which puddle shall I wear today?” She always looked fabulous, by the way.

In those days, there were weekly room inspections performed by a floor monitor, an older upper-classmate who got free room and board in exchange for being strict with us. If your room wasn’t clean, you would be grounded. Worse, if they found forbidden substances–specifically alcohol (pot & drugs were still a few years away)–you would be permanently expelled from the Conservatory! Marta and I were neither wild nor party girls, but, at age 18, that prohibition was far too tempting to ignore. There were a couple of popular shampoos in those days named Prell, which was green, and Breck, which was golden brown. We filled an empty Prell bottle with creme de menthe, and a Breck bottle with ginger brandy, set them out prominently on our bureaus, had a little sip whenever we wanted, and nobody ever found out.

Every week, only minutes before the monitor showed up for our weekly room inspection, Marta and I would desperately grab armfuls of our stuff, including candy bar wrappers, and shove it all helter-skelter into our closets; the stacks went up nearly to the ceiling. Only our booze stayed out. Then, during the inspection, we would stand to one side looking as innocent (and tidy) as possible, while praying desperately that the dorm monitor would not open our closet doors. She never did, and we never got grounded. (Well, at least we never got grounded for having a messy room. But that’s another story.)

And, although it distressed her, to my enormous relief, Marta did not win the pony.

Once, and only once, she and I went on an unprecedented cleaning binge. Afterward, we gave tours of the room to our dorm mates. They were all quite impressed. We heard comments like, “Oh, you have a radio? I never knew you had a radio,” and “Wow! So there was an actual floor under all that stuff?”

Over half a century later, Marta and I are still close friends.

My habits did not improve quickly. When my son was three years old, I pulled out the vacuum cleaner one day. He began to jump up and down, clapping his hands in delight, as he cried joyously, “Company’s coming, company’s coming!”

My child may also have grown up with some confusion about the purpose of an oven. This is because for much of his childhood, I gave piano lessons in our home. My students would be accompanied by one of their parents. To my dismay, the kitchen could be openly viewed from the living room, especially from the couch where the parents sat. It was an unfortunate situation for someone who was not all that great at keeping up with the dishes.

Did you know that, with only a few minutes’ notice, a whole lot of dirty dishes, as well as miscellaneous food items, can be crammed into an oven? There’s just one problem. You must take care to remove said dishes when preheating the oven to bake something. I won’t bother to tell you how I learned that.

Following are some other useful ways to disguise messiness that I have learned over the years. Not only are these touch-ups speedy; in performing them, rather than being scorned by those last-minute guests, you will be admired for the fantastic energy they think you are putting into housekeeping. Read on.

When the house is a total wreck and you discover to your horror that someone is going to pop in soon, here’s what you do. You quickly pull out the vacuum, the mop, and a caddy full of cleaning products: furniture polish, windex, paper towels, that sort of thing. Leave them lying around randomly. It will look as though you have been caught in the midst of doing deep cleaning.

If there are piles of clothes lying around, I have two solutions, both of them simple and fast.
1. Place a big open suitcase near the clothes to make it look as though you are packing for a trip,
2. Open an ironing board and stick an iron on it. Bundle up the clothing and shove it all into a laundry basket. If you have time, for a perfect finishing touch position one of the garments on the ironing board as if you were caught in the midst of ironing it.

When the bathroom is icky and company is arriving, the solution is simple. Sprinkle a whole bunch of cleanser, like Comet, into the sinks and tub, and for a finishing touch, leave a cleaning brush inside the toilet, which makes it looks as though you were caught in the middle of scrubbing. You can do this in under a minute, even while someone is knocking on the front door. Before you open the door, muss your hair a little (not difficult for me to do), quickly don rubber gloves, grab a broom  to hold, and, for the finishing touch, look as weary as possible (also not difficult for me to do). Gets ‘em most every time.

If all of that doesn’t fool them, you can take on the attitude of one of my friends, Peggy, who is a warm human being and talented writer (her articles have been published in places like Reader’s Digest and the Chicken Soup inspirational book series), but also a sloppy housekeeper. Adding to Peggy’s overall untidiness, she has lots of indoor cats and possesses no sense of smell. You get the picture. She tells me that when people visit, she never cleans up ahead of time. Rather, she says, as her guests enter her home, they look around, sniff the air, and immediately feel superior to her and thus very good about themselves. She considers it her contribution to humanity.


I Heart Hippos (and lounge jazz)

Hey, guys, I just watched the most gripping nature documentary about hippopotami! My goodness! I did not know that hippos are the nearest relatives of whales, and like whales, chatter to one another almost constantly when they are underwater. What fabulous mothers these talkative gals are! Their fellows, on the other hand, are into–well you know–things that fellows like. Fighting and yelling and stuff. Each hippo must eat about 80 pounds of grass a day, making me wish I could import a couple, just for a day, to rid my yard of invasive and unwanted foxtails.

Anyway. It seems de rigueur for the narrator of nature documentaries to be a mature man with a British accent. The main commentator for Indycar races, also a man with a few years under his belt, speaks with a similar accent, which may be why I am inordinately fond of Indycar racing, but not of Nascar, where the announcers usually sound like hillbillies. (I write this with profound apologies to my hillbilly friends).

Back to the hippos: as I watched the show, I had to applaud the person who selected the music tracks. There was brittle martial music when the guys fought, desperately dire music when the waterways dried up and fires came, sad and drawn out cello notes when one of the hippopotami died, quirky-but-elephantine music when the bull hippo scattered his dung (I frankly thought that they might have taken that act a bit more seriously; certainly the bull hippo did)...and then, for the lovemaking (which, with hippos, takes half an hour!!!), the song choice was some slow, sensuous lounge jazz that seemed absolutely appropriate. But since, other than having been a good mother and occasionally carrying a few extra pounds, I am no hippo, what do I know?

(Another similarity is that birds like to ride on top of hippos. Welcome to my world.)



“Spend a moment thinking about the most beautiful person you know. It would seem impossible for your eyes to gaze upon this person and not be intoxicated with attraction. But...if the eyes belong to a frog, this [beautiful] person can stand in front of it all day—even naked—and will attract no attention… And the lack of interest is mutual; humans are attracted to humans, frogs to frogs …Our lust circuits are not driven by the naked frog…."

from “Incognito, the Secret Lives of the Brain” by David Eagleman


A Short Short Short Story


Mary Elizabeth Raines

They mixed up the genes. I was one of the earliest designer babies. Another section of the lab was doing amphibian experiments, and by accident, they gave me the horny frog gene. This means that I am not turned on by humans. I lust only for frogs. Sometimes my desire nature gets the best of me. I don a headlamp and skulk around ponds at night, a freaky frog stalker. No frog will like me back, much less mate with me. I’ve got the wrong equipment. And because of that designer business, it’s phenomenal equipment. Just not to a frog. 

The end

Hey friends, if you enjoyed this story, check out Mary Elizabeth Raines' newest book of quirky and unusual short stories: "The Man in the GPS and Other Stories," available in paperback or on Kindle. 




by Mary Elizabeth (Leach) Raines

© M. E. Raines, 2017

“She tells me to take off my dress,” says Tanya. Her raspy voice has a high-pitched growl like that of a tiger cub. “I take off my dress.”
Tanya is entertaining our class by explaining why she has been absent from school. Her pigtails, as tiny and as defiant as she is, stick out at sharp angles from the sides of her head like pieces of frizzy twine, clamped at the ends by white barrettes. I sit right behind her, mentally tracing the grime-embedded grooves in the plastic of those barrettes as she continues her salacious story.
“Then she says to me, ‘Take off your slip.’”  It is 1957. Slips are an indispensable undergarment. Even impoverished girls like Tanya wear slips. “I take off my slip. Next she says, ‘Take off your socks.’ I take off my socks.”
Tanya pauses dramatically and surveys the kids who are clustered around her. “Then she says, ‘Pull down your underpants.’ I pull them down. I is stark neggid.” A ripple of titillation runs through the class. “Next my mamma tells me to lie face down on the bed. She says, ‘Don’t you dare move, or you’re gonna get it even worse.’”
Unable to repress a grin at the attention she is receiving, Tanya’s tan cheeks turn into walnuts. She then proceeds to describe in lurid detail a savage whipping her mother has given her, the worst yet. This one has kept her out of school for a week.
“My neighbor lady saw me in the hall,” concludes Tanya with a proud smile. “She says to me, ‘Girl, you still alive? After hearing you scream, I thought for sure your mamma done kill you!’”
Lots of kids brag about their beatings, but Tanya’s story is the most brutal I’ve heard. Even though she is smaller than anyone else in our fifth grade, she is the undisputed alpha of the class. In our school, the tough girls rule, and scrawny Tanya is the toughest of them all. The boys have their own barbarian world, one that involves a lot of fist fights and rumors of violence. Once they enter the doors of the school, however, they sink into a mute and collective invisibility, subject to absolute domination by the girls.

I am terrified of Tanya and, like the boys, I try hard to be invisible. You do not want to cross her. Despite being the size of a seven-year-old, she is scrappy and mean. Lines run along her mouth like the wrinkles that are usually only seen on hardened middle-aged women, and her scratchy voice sounds as though she has been smoking two packs of cigarettes a day since birth. The very mildest retribution Tanya bestows on those she deems to be her enemies is to put thumbtacks on their desk chairs. She makes enemies easily, so I always check my seat before sitting down. A number of the girls in our class have missing clumps in their hair, hollowed-out scoops in otherwise smooth surfaces. These pockmarks are the ruins left when gum has had to be cut out. Sticking gum in another girl’s hair for no particular reason is one of Tanya’s favorite torments. The very worst that Tanya might do to her enemies remains sketchy, but I suspect that it is dreadful. She is easily capable of carrying out what I saw the seventh-grade twins do to one of their victims.

The fight with the twins happened after school. That day, as I stepped out from the wooden doors, the usually bustling playground and sidewalks were eerily deserted, with only a few newspapers blowing across the pavement, like the scene from a science fiction movie after the atom bomb has been dropped. Confused, I rounded a corner. There, a few yards in front of me, stood a dense, surreal ring of kids silently watching as the sisters repeatedly smashed another girl’s head against the window of a parked car. The fight ended when the twins slashed their victim’s forehead open with a razor blade. I saw her afterwards standing on a street corner. Blood streamed down her face, and she was laughing hysterically. The next day the twins were taken to the Detention Center—a feared place that is mentioned only in apprehensive whispers.
I worry constantly, wondering when the inevitable day will come that Tanya will cut me. This is because, in our overcrowded class of fifty fifth-graders, I am the only white girl. Our family, new to Chicago’s south side, lives modestly. Even so, I am privileged in comparison to most of my classmates. My father is getting his Ph.D. at the University. I am clean, smart, well-fed, and I own more dresses than the other girls. I stick out, a spot of vanilla in a sea of chocolate.
In contrast, Tanya only has one outfit, a faded orange striped dress that she wears every day. It has puffy short sleeves and a bow that ties in back like the dresses worn in storybooks by cheerful white girls. Tanya isn’t cheerful. She scowls a lot, and she smells, too, a thick cocktail of little-girl sweat, cat pee, and mildewed socks.
Her ears are pierced, but she is too poor to wear earrings. Instead, broken-off toothpick pieces have been inserted into the holes, like bits of bone, to keep them open. Her fuzzy unclean hair has a dingy caste of  grandmother gray to it, along with stray pieces of lint. She wears it in the same three pigtails as every other girl in class except for me: there are two tightly braided pigtails in the back, and one that hangs over the side of her face. Most of the girls have crisp even lines where their hair has been parted. Not Tanya. Her parts make crooked paths across her scalp as if her sparse frizzy hair has been carelessly stitched on like the wig of some Frankenstein’s monster.
When I’m not slinking nervously from Tanya’s view, I am watching my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Oldman, beat kids up. He is white, too. A bull-shouldered man with a marine-style crew cut, Mr. Oldman’s large face turns crimson whenever he is enraged. He becomes enraged multiple times a day. As anger overwhelms him, his tongue protrudes rabidly from between half-clenched teeth, and his body begins to quake. While he has never hurt me, he is happy to push the black girls around, mostly shaking them furiously. His primary targets, though, are the boys, who are routinely beaten up for minor transgressions. His favorite punishments include cracking their heads together, twisting their ears viciously, or punching them.
Once he grabbed and heartlessly twisted the ear of a boy named Jimmy for some negligible infraction. When Jimmy began crying, Mr. Oldman knocked him out of his seat. The sobbing boy lay defenseless on his back on the floor, while our teacher, with a snarl on his red shaking face, straddled him. He pummeled him with his fists while he barked, “Stop crying!” I think Jimmy’s offense had been giggling at something, or maybe it was looking up from his desk, because we are forbidden to raise our eyes from our books or papers when we are working.
Mr. Oldman has other strict rules. They include bringing four sheets of lined paper and two pencils to class every day—nothing less, and nothing more. If someone brings the wrong kind of paper, or too much paper, or too little paper, they get into trouble, said trouble meaning that they will be battered in some way.
On the day after Christmas vacation, Tanya comes into our colorless classroom grinning broadly. She skips proudly to her desk, carrying more than the requisite supplies. In her hands is a red cardboard pencil box. She places it on her desk, lining it up carefully, fondling it, and opening it periodically to inspect the various compartments inside. That cheap pencil box was her only Christmas present. She beams with the joy of ownership.
When Mr. Oldman enters, he surveys the room. We all sit with our hands obediently folded in front of us. I pray that he won’t spot Tanya’s shabby gift, but of course he does almost immediately.
“What is that?” he demands.
“It’s my present,” Tanya replies.
“You aren’t allowed to have that. Bring it up here. Give it to me now,” he bellows, his face beginning to flush.
“No. It’s mine! It’s my Christmas present,” she cries stubbornly. The tension mounts and the kids begin squirming in their seats. Nobody has ever defied Mr. Oldman before!
He repeats his request, growing angrier.
All of us know that if Tanya gives the pencil box to Mr. Oldman, he will confiscate it and she will never see it again. He’s taken other things from kids, and no one has ever gotten anything back.
Rising, he stamps down the aisle, redder than I’ve ever seen him. Even the scalp under his crew cut is crimson. His head shakes with rage as his tongue darts out in the strange lizard-like way it does when he is angry. Snorting more like a beast than a man, he stops only a few inches in front of me and reaches down to snatch up her prized pencil box. Tanya beats him to it, clasping the cardboard edges with her skinny brown fingers and holding on tightly.
“LET GO OF THAT,” thunders Mr. Oldman.
“NO. IT’S MINE,” Tanya shouts back, clutching the box even more fiercely.
He tries to pry her fingers off of it. Tanya is surprisingly strong. She won’t let go.
Then Mr. Oldman bends down and proceeds to bite the back of Tanya’s hand. He draws blood. Yelping in pain and surprise, she lifts her wounded hand in the air…and, with a smug chuckle, he dives in, grabbing the box.
As he walks back to his desk with Tanya’s Christmas gift, a gloat of satisfaction flashes across his face. Tanya, however, is not finished. Leaping out of her seat, she races to the shelf above our coats and grabs a clothesline that she has brought to use as a jump rope during recess. She unwinds about four feet of it and turns toward Mr. Oldman, whirling the rope above her head like a cowboy ready to lasso a steer…or an overseer preparing to whip a slave. With a roar, he turns and lunges at her. She snaps the rope in the air in front of him. He jumps back.
Then Tanya begins screaming. Head held high, pigtails stiff, she continues to twirl the rope, keeping the large man at bay as she pelts him with a torrent of profanity. He circles her, snarling. Spittle runs down the sides of his mouth. Every time she tries to hit him with her rope, he jumps back, surprisingly agile. Their face-off is an even match: the red-faced giant with clenched fists and the scrawny little brown girl with the motor mouth and the snapping jump rope.
And then the door opens. The principal sticks his head in. The kids gasp. An innocuous looking man who always wears a starched bow tie, everyone fears him, for he has the power to send us to the Detention Center. Mr. Oldman and Tanya, suddenly co-conspirators, freeze in their spots and assume wide-eyed looks of  innocence.
“Is something wrong?” asks the principal.
Mr. Oldman hesitates, and then says, “No, nothing.” He goes calmly to his desk and sits down, smiling benignly at the principal as he puts the pencil box in a drawer and closes it. The official, after eyeing Tanya quizzically, apparently reassures himself that everything is okay and, with a shrug, shuts the door. It is over. Tanya carefully coils up her jump rope, places it on the shelf, and returns to her seat. Mr. Oldman begins to teach again as though nothing has happened.
Tanya’s Christmas present is lost forever. As for me, my hair remains gum-free. I still worry, but, for today at least, nobody cuts me.


© M. E. Raines, 2017; Copying or reproducing in any form is prohibited by law. Readers may feel free, however, to link to this story.

Author’s Note: The events in the preceding tale are true. It is a story that has long needed telling. For their protection, the names of the characters have been changed. The boy called Jimmy and the girl called Tanya, if they are still alive, are by now the age of grandparents or even great-grandparents. The circumstances of their lives were beyond their control. While I was truly afraid of Tanya, she never harmed or, in fact, even acknowledged me, and I have great sympathy for her courage.

Readers who liked this story may also enjoy the newest books of fiction by Mary Elizabeth Raines, “The Man in the GPS and Other Stories” and “The Secret of Eating Raspberries.”  Both are available in paperback and on Kindle on



© 2016, M. E. Raines

“Gabe, you’ve got to get your teeth fixed,” said Louise, addressing something that had been on her mind since she’d first hired him the week before. She hoped his feelings wouldn’t be hurt. “It will make a huge difference in your life. You’ll be able to get more work,” she said encouragingly.
Gabe grimaced at her words as though he’d just sucked on an unsweetened rhubarb stalk, and turned back to his task with vigorous determination. He was digging a deep pit in the yard behind her house. A pear tree stood next to him in its black plastic greenhouse container, waiting to be planted.
Stopping his work momentarily, he leaned down and picked a thick piece of bone up out of the hole, looking at it curiously.
“Oh dear,” said Louise, her forehead furrowing in dismay. “Frisky must have buried that. She was my collie. She’s been dead for a long time now. Poor Frisky.”
Gabe nodded respectfully and resumed digging. “You’re gonna get some good pears,” he said, pointing his chin towards the tree. “The soil’s real fertile.”
He was her new yard man. Louise went through laborers quickly; they seemed to disappear almost fast as she could hire them. She liked Gabe more than most of the workers who’d come to her. He had a miraculous touch with plants, and boundless energy. Some of his ideas were peculiar, but that could be overlooked, for his fees were low. Because he spent most of his days working outdoors, digging and hauling, his wiry tanned body was exceptionally strong; he could take on nearly any task she needed to have done. And, except for his reaction to her suggestion that he get dental work, he smiled almost constantly. A smile worked itself back onto his face now.
Therein lay the problem. Not only was his hair long and stringy, like that of a hippie from the early 70s; he was missing three teeth from the front of his mouth, two on the top and one on the bottom. While he was in truth a very nice and honest man, his sparsely toothed smile and messy hair made him look like a deranged psychopath.
Before she’d hired him, Louise had quizzed him cautiously, for she was particular about her laborers: “Do you do drugs? Do you drink? Do you smoke?”
“Never touch any of that stuff,” he had replied with his usual grin. “It ain’t healthy.”
No, instead Gabe drank organic kale smoothies and snacked—using his back teeth—on rice cakes while he worked. He was adamantly adverse to junk food. He stated that he never ate sugar, declaring that it was evil. She’d asked him curiously how he had lost so many of his teeth, because it obviously wasn’t due to cavities. He had told her that they’d been knocked out when he was helping someone to move a refrigerator up some stairs. He was holding the back end when the guy lifting the front end tripped.
“Really, Gabe,” persisted Louise, who herself was always impeccably groomed. “Fix your teeth.”
Gabe narrowed his eyes and, exhaling loudly, stopped digging for a moment. “Nope,” he said, leaning on the handle of the shovel. “You ain’t gonna get me into no dentist’s chair.”
“How come?”
“Because of what happens when you go to the dentist. I read about it. They tell you they have to put you out, and then, when you’re anesthetized, they harvest your body parts. They take out your organs and eyes, and sell them on the black market.”
Louise laughed and looked him up and down. “Oh Gabe, you’re 45 years old. Trust me. Nobody wants your body parts!”
He shook his head stubbornly. “I’ve got the body of a 30-year-old. My organs are prime.” He patted his lean abdomen proudly. “My left eye ain’t so good, but my right eye is perfect: 20/20 vision. What 45-year-old do you know who can say that?”
He resumed preparing the hole for the tree. Louise sighed and went into the house. When she came back out, she handed Gabe a business card.
“This is my dentist,” she said. “Go to my dentist. I’ll even help pay for it. I’ve sent lots of my workers to him. Gabe, it’s time. You’ve got to fix those teeth.”
Gabe reluctantly put the card in his pocket. It took a few weeks, but finally he confided in Louise that he had made an appointment. She beamed with approval.

When Gabe came to, he expected to find himself stretched out in the dentist’s chair. Instead, he awakened to freezing cold and enormous pain. Squinting with his only remaining eye, he saw through the door that he was in a cheap motel room. His body had been jammed into a bathtub filled with ice. Bloody ice. Ragged stitches zig-zagged across his body.
At that very moment, Louise, her dentist, and several parts of Gabe himself were already in the air, flying to an unnamed Caribbean island. They hadn’t planned on leaving quite this soon. Their sudden departure meant that she would never get to harvest any pears from her new tree, but they had no choice, for although they’d ruthlessly removed both of his kidneys, Louise had insisted that they leave Gabe with his heart intact, plus one eye (the bad one) and half of his liver. A person can live with half a liver. It was she who was responsible for packing what was left of him into the icy bathtub instead of burying him in the back yard with the other men who had worked for her. The dentist had scolded her for being so tender-hearted.
“I don't know why. I just like him,” she had explained as they dumped the last bit of ice around the comatose man before fleeing the country.
Despite failing to reap the complete set of organs from him that they had obtained from her other laborers, their sale of Gabe’s single eye, two kidneys, and half a liver fetched an obscenely high price on the black market.

Deliriously, Gabe lifted his head and looked at his hazy reflection in the full-length mirror on the bathroom wall. He opened his sore mouth and saw to his amazement that he now, thanks to Louise’s generosity, had a full set of teeth. His smile looked fantastic. His hair had also been nicely cut. After he got a patch over his missing eye, the nurses on the dialysis unit all found him quite attractive.



© 2014, M. E. Raines
Excerpted from The Man in the GPS and Other Stories

The hive of the honeybee centers around its queen. When the hive needs a new queen, nurse bees select several larvae from those laid by the previous queen and feed them a special substance called royal jelly. This turns the larvae 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 sealed cells, they sing back to her. Tracing their location 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. She left a trail of her strong perfume behind her.

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, while pitifully attempting to hide a bag of chips behind her back. “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.



by Mary Elizabeth Raines

(Oct. 10, 2021: Juan J. Wiesbach died suddenly last night. This story is about him. Although he didn't do it deliberately, Juan taught me more about unconditional love than anyone ever has. Dearest Juan, the world has suddenly shifted and it will never be the same again. There are so many memories! I miss you already...)

I blame it on the Contessa. She started it all when she serenaded us by singing Tiny Bubbles. A TV show called the Gong Show also figured prominently in this love affair, because, yes, it was a love affair. Sigh. It all began on a November evening in 1975…

First, let me tell you about the Contessa. When I knew her, she was probably in her 70s, and insisted, rather haughtily, that people address her by her title: Contessa. I don’t know her real name. There were rumors that she and her husband were actually royalty from some obscure European country. (I kind of suspect that she herself was responsible for starting those rumors, but then, what do I know about royalty in obscure European countries?)

The Contessa was not tall, but I remember her as a woman of substance. She possessed a heaving bosom, a double chin and a fleshy waist. Her ample midsection was offset by numerous stiff layers of ruffles in the skirt of the faded green ball gown she always wore, a dress that looked as though it could have belonged to a cast member of Gone With the Wind, or maybe a character from a Dickens’ novel. Dancing slippers completed the outfit. She didn’t really walk; instead she tiptoed and waltzed around the room in little, silly, prancing steps. I think she was trying to be delicate. Perhaps she hoped that people would envision her as floating across the floor like a sailing ship, which was something women of her generation thought admirable, although, sadly, her movements were more like those of a tugboat on choppy waters.

The Contessa’s heavily powered face had arching eyebrows that had been artfully drawn onto her forehead with eyebrow pencil, and her sagging cheeks were flushed with dainty circles of pink rouge. You are probably ascertaining that she fit a certain type, and as a member of that type, it goes without saying that her lipstick was smudged high up over her lips in exaggerated I-Love-Lucy cupid’s bows.

Please understand that I am not criticizing the Contessa for this. As I age, I am growing fleshy, too. And I recognize the irresistible urge to wear the same outfits and makeup that made me look cute as heck when I was 19; unfortunately, having passed the age of 70, whenever I do that, I wind up looking more like a goofy old clown than a precious young thing. Even so, sometimes I can’t help myself; I cave in and go for it. At such times, I wear far too much makeup and stand around saying smart things like, “That’s groovy, man.” So I understand perfectly the mindset of this elderly woman in her green ball gown. I really look like THAT?! 

To accessorize the gown, our Contessa wore just about every piece of jewelry she owned, and all at the same time, too. Her chest was blinding, covered with flashing brooches and glittering layers of necklaces, and her pudgy, aging arms jingled with bands of bracelets.

She was, if not exactly a flirt, quite coquettish, fluttering from table to table, sometimes leaning down and pressing her withered rouged cheek near to that of some youthful fellow, as though teasing him to kiss her. Again, I get it completely.

But now let’s go back to the very beginning. I was a young single woman who, at 10:30 p.m. on a November night, had just left my comfy bed with reluctance, and had driven to Sarno’s Caffe dell'Opera on Vermont Street in Los Feliz, a section of Los Angeles that borders Hollywood. The area was relatively safe in those days. Sarno’s served Italian food and they had a pastry shop.

In the evenings, Sarno’s Cafe became magical. Strangers would be seated at marble tables next to other strangers, and everyone drank wine and espresso, and anyone who wanted could get up and sing. There was an excellent pianist accompanying the singers. Most folks sang opera, but a few people, like the Contessa, preferred to sing pop songs. Like Tiny Bubbles. Some of the singers were very good. Some were not. In its heydey, Sarno’s was frequented by the likes of Tony Bennett, Sophia Loren, and even old blue eyes, Sinatra himself.

Herald Examiner Collection, Los Angeles Public Library-posted with permission


There were plenty of less-famous regulars who hung out at Sarno’s. It was all new to me. I had only recently moved to Los Angeles, and had discovered the place just a few days before.

On the night in question, I’d been crying somewhat melodramatically to my best friend, a vivacious gay man, about my desperately lonely state and my inability to meet men. (Ye gods, my situation was appalling. Nearly 24 hours had passed since my last date! What was I to do?!) My friend sagely suggested that if I wanted to meet someone new, it wasn’t likely to happen if I remained in my bed, complaining. He prodded me to get up, get dressed, and go out someplace…anyplace.

I did. Where else could I go at 10:30 on a Saturday night but to Sarno’s? I lived nearby. After I arrived, since all the tables were shared, the first thing I did was look around for someone safe and comfortable to sit next to. I found the perfect someone, an elderly, harmless-looking guy whose name was Miguel. He was one of the regulars. Miguel wore a cheap, obvious toupee, and he told me that he was an artist. Some of his paintings were displayed high on the walls of Sarno’s. They looked a little clumsy to me, not unlike Miguel himself. My new friend proudly added that he was also a singer.

Here is where the Gong Show comes in. Some years after the Sarno’s incident, I was killing time one day by watching the Gong Show. If you’re not familiar with it, this mind-numbing TV nonsense from the late 1970s was hosted by a wired and weird guy named Chuck Barris. Here’s how it worked: assorted guests would perform—play music, sing, dance, juggle, tell jokes, you name it. There were three hip judges and a gigantic gong on the set. If any one of the judges disliked someone’s performance, they would jump up out of their seat, rush over and hit the gong. The interrupted performer would have to stop. The show was sometimes funny, and sometimes cruel.

And as I watched, who should appear as a guest but Miguel—yes, my very own Miguel from Sarno’s, still wearing the same toupee! He sang an aria. He was promptly gonged and also ridiculed, although he didn’t look as though he minded very much. I saw him again on two subsequent Gong Show reruns, and he got gonged on each of those, too. The gong-strikers were right. He really didn’t sing very well.

My connection to the Gong Show is even stranger than that. About 25 years after my fated visit to Sarno’s Caffe dell'Opera, I became the next-door neighbor of a woman who happened to be a world-famous stripper, porn star, and cult figure. She had gigantic breasts the size of human heads. For the sake of anonymity, I will call her Lotsa Lotty (although when one has shown the world all the parts that she has displayed on the giant silver screen—in close-up yet!—I don’t think anonymity would really be in question).

Anyway. Lotsa Lotty, I discovered, had also been on the Gong Show! She told me, giggling, that she had played a French maid who came onstage wearing high heels, a short, short skirt, and a low, low blouse. Her “talent” was dusting. She bent wa-a-ay down over various objects, dusting them with a feather duster. She, like Miguel, ended up being gonged.

In fact, dusting wasn’t far from the truth of who she really was. She loved to clean, you see. With her hair up in curlers, she would wear glasses and an old frumpy housecoat, and sweep her patio ceaselessly while she talked on her phone to customers, for when I knew her, she was earning a living doing phone sex.

I remember passing Lotsa Lotty while she was sweeping outdoors one day, wearing big fuzzy slippers and a shapeless bathrobe. From behind the thick lenses of her glasses, she looked over at me and gave me a bright smile and a wave, dustpan in hand. At the same time, in a low panting voice, while adjusting a curler, she was saying to her caller, “Oh yeah, baby, I can taste it. Yeah, I can taste it….”

Sometimes when I passed her place, I would hear screaming. It would momentarily frighten me. Then I would realize that Lotsa was just paying her bills. (Certain customers, she later revealed, insisted that she scream at pertinent points in their, um, conversation.)

But I digress. Lotsa Lotty told me that when she had been on the Gong Show, a very handsome and famous movie star—someone you would know!—saw her, got a little crush on her, and wangled an introduction. They dated.

Now, Lotsa had dated plenty of famous Hollywood actors, but this particular guy was different. She confided in me that not only was he extraordinarily endowed; he was the best lover she’d ever had. And of course, I don’t know for sure, but I strongly suspect that Lotsa had entertained scads more lovers than most of us!

It wasn’t just that Handsome Movie Star was her best lover ever. He also treated her beautifully. He was unfailingly courteous, romantic, and kind—everything a woman could want. He actually even opened car doors for her! Guys, take note: we women really like that.

“So what happened with him?” I asked, after she revealed all of this to me.

“Oh, he wanted me to take a vacation with him, sorta like a honeymoon, at this tropical paradise," she said. "But I didn’t go.” She returned to her sweeping.

“Did you have to work? You couldn’t get the time off?” I asked excitedly.

“No, not that,” she said. “I could’ve gone. But I said no.” She attacked some dust in a corner.

“Lotsa!” I exclaimed, “This famous movie star was the best lover you ever had in your life, he treated you like a queen, he absolutely adored you, he invited you to a tropical paradise for a little honeymoon…and you didn’t go?! Why not?!!?”

You have to understand the absolutely humorless, matter-of-fact way in which Lotsa Lotty replied to my question. Her answer, to me, exemplifies Hollywood.

“I couldn’t go,” she said, “because MY HUSBAND WOULDN’T LET ME.” (Emphasis mine.)

Back to Sarno’s. As I sat next to Miguel, of Gong Show fame, I said to him, “Listen, Miguel, you know the characters who come in here, and I want to be careful. If I start talking with some guy who’s a bad sort, would you let me know? Just nudge me with your elbow, okay?”

Miguel liked that, the role of being my protector. He leaned back in his seat and smiled.

And then I saw Him. He was standing in line, waiting for a place at a table to open up. (Sarno’s had lines.) He was sooo handsome and hunky—dark hair, dark beard, dark brooding eyes—a real Latin Lover Man. 


When he was finally seated, it was at the table next to ours. I noticed that he ordered a bottle of wine and kept to himself, not conversing with the other people around him.

After a while, everyone at his table left. He sat alone. And there was an empty chair next to me. Seizing my chance, I called over to Latin Lover Man, trying to sound delightfully casual, while my heart thumped with embarrassment.

“No one should be alone on a Saturday night,” I crowed in a chipper falsetto. “Why don’t you join us?”

An elbow suddenly dug into my side. Miguel hissed into my ear, “Watch out! He’s one of them!”

Ignoring Miguel’s furiously insistent elbow, I continued to plead with Latin Lover Man.

The object of my affection glanced up at me and muttered, “I’m a loner.”

I didn’t understand him. He was from Mexico, and his Spanish accent was so thick that I had to ask him twice more what he’d just said. Somehow, if you have to keep repeating the phrase, “I’m a loner,” it doesn’t have quite the same intensity the third time around. With his bubble of isolation popped, to my immense joy Latin Lover Man picked up his bottle of wine and came to sit next to me.

Miguel nudged me more violently, whispering ever-louder warnings, until I became annoyed. I told him, sotto voce, to stop. “All right,” he shrugged. “Whatever you want. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, though.”

Here’s where the Contessa comes in. Did you think I’d forgotten about the Contessa? Not a chance! In her green ball gown, she placed some sheet music in front of the pianist, then pranced over to our table and serenaded us. Her aged voice was wobbly with an out-of-control tremulo. The Contessa sang Tiny Bubbles. She sang it quite badly. It was the start of my greatest romance.

The Latin Lover Man’s name was Juan. I learned that after making him repeat his name four times. In the beginning, my half of our conversations consisted mostly of me saying, “What? Hunh?” Eventually I figured out how to decipher his accent. He became my husband, and the father of our child, and then my ex-husband. But always my good friend.

My Latin Lover and Me

Here’s something weird. When I first came to Los Angeles, without knowing anything at all of the city, I was driving up and down random streets looking for a place to rent when I spotted a charming Victorian house tucked away with a sign on the lawn that said ROOMS. I was drawn to this house almost as if I had been magnetized. The man who answered the door said, “Oh honey, you seem very sweet, but I’m sorry; we only rent to men.” As I left, I felt strangely disappointed.

Later, I discovered that of all the places I could have chosen in this immense megapolis with its population of millions, the first property that attracted me happened to be the very same house where my future husband was living!

Juan also revealed something fascinating, or perhaps fated. Earlier on the night we'd met, he had been exhausted and was driving home to his room in the Victorian house, ready to climb into bed. Suddenly, he said, it was as if a hand reached down and stopped him. Then and there, without thinking, he did a sharp U-turn in the middle of the road and headed towards Sarno’s, because something told him he had to stop there that night. That happened right around the same time I'd pulled myself out of bed and, from the other direction, was also dragging myself to Sarno’s.

By the way, Juan wasn’t really a loner. And Miguel was wrong.

As for the Caffe dell'Opera, the devoted owner, Alberto Sarno, was tragically murdered a few years later and not long afterwards they closed their doors for good. I never found out what happened to the Contessa.

Goodbye, Juan, my dear friend. I am so happy that you remained a part of my life for all these years. I love you.

(c) 2010, Mary Elizabeth (Leach) Raines
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On Christmas Eve, 1998, my father spoke to me the best words that anyone could say.

Let's back up for a moment. Daddy had been a stern man. He was a minister. Even though he took his faith seriously, he did not really know how to express love and tenderness. I perceived him as a harsh, rigid, distant and critical parent. It took me many years to get over my resentments about that, but I did.

Rev. David A. Leach, 1921-1999
Back to Christmas Eve. Daddy and I were on the phone, making plans for the next day, Christmas, when I was going to make a trip to the senior community where he and my mother lived. They had been divorced for many years, but curiously, in their old age, they’d both moved across the country to live in the same retirement community. Each had a separate apartment. I doubt if they were romantic, but they did enjoy one another’s companionship.

“What time would you like me to come?” I asked my father.

And here is where he spoke the Best Words that anyone could say to another human being.

“I want you to come early and stay late,” he said.

I was blown away. Think about how incredible those words are! To me, time is the most precious gift we can offer another. A person has to like you a lot to say that. With my father, I'd never been sure about being liked.

Christmas Day was wonderful. Mother, usually a very dominant and chatty person, faded into the background, and allowed it to be a time of sharing between my father and me. We talked and talked. 

"Unless you're the lead dog on the sled team, the view is pretty much the same," he remarked wryly at one point in our day. For all his sternness, you see, Daddy possessed a wonderful dry humor.

In his apartment was a fabulous and expensive crèche made of paper mache.

Among the elegant figures, however, he had planted a silly-looking, out-of-place plastic lamb. It was supremely ugly.

I picked it up. “What’s this?”
“That?" he grinned with a twinkle in his eye. "Oh, that’s the black sheep.”

Later that Christmas afternoon, we took a walk. My father had always been a cynic; for him, the glass was not just half empty, but would doubtless soon be dropped and broken. Thus, on our walk I asked, “Daddy, what’s it been like to be a pessimist all these years?”

“Wonderful,” he replied with a glowing smile. “Everything has always turned out to be much better than I ever expected!”

As night fell during our visit that Christmas, an ambulance pulled up to the health care center next door to his apartment. My father's energy faded visibly at the sound. I thought it might be because of a recent experience of his. He'd needed to go to the emergency room for a bowel obstruction, the after-effect of a minor surgery he’d had a number weeks ago.

Daddy described what that visit had been like, and it wasn't pleasant. 

“They shoved a tube down my throat to look at my stomach,” he said. I noticed that he began clenching his fist so hard that the knuckles lost their color.

He continued.“It was the single most painful thing I have ever felt in my life. I would rather die than have that done to me again,” he said. Vehemently.

These words came from a man who was so stoic that he once ate a whole chicken dinner when he had the stomach flu just to set an example for his children; his belief was that no matter what, you don’t cave in to illness. A nurse later confirmed that the particular procedure he described was possibly the most painful thing that could be done in an emergency room without anesthetic in those days. Certainly that was the case for my father.

I am a hypnotherapist, and know that not only can we alleviate pain easily; in some cases we can even create complete anesthesia.

“Daddy,” I said, “if that situation should ever happen to you again, call me right away before they stick the tube in you. Either I’ll drive out, or I’ll get the best hypnotist in the area to the hospital, and you won't have to undergo that kind of pain…”

But he did not listen to what I said. Even though I have an international reputation as a hypnosis teacher and writer, to him I was just a child who didn’t understand.

He repeated his words: “I would rather die than have that done to me again.” The statement turned out to be prophetic.

That night, when I said goodbye, I spontaneously hugged and kissed my father. While it might not sound like a big deal to most people, it was to me. My relationship with him had always had a cool distance to it, and our family simply did not touch. The hug and the kiss sprang from my heart, though, and not from my mind. 

And as I hugged him, tears began spilling from his eyes. It was a sweet, quiet, and yet monumental moment of love and healing. We both felt it. Daddy's tears melted away the remnants of any of the difficulties we’d ever had.

“I love you,” he said, his voice choking softly.

I left, and still remember how he stood at the top of the stairs and watched until I was out of the door.

And that is the last time I ever saw my father conscious. Less than a week later, I received a phone call. He had been taken by ambulance to a large city hospital where he had been put on machines to keep him alive.

It turned out that once again my father had experienced the symptoms of a bowel obstruction. Rather than go to the emergency room and have that tube shoved down his throat again, however, he told no one. For four days he stayed alone in his apartment, vomiting, as his bowels began to perforate and his organs started to shut down. The medical staff couldn’t understand why he didn't call for help, but I knew. When they finally got him to the emergency room, he was the sickest man in the entire hospital.

And what was the first thing they did? Shove a tube down his throat.

His words echoed in my mind: “I would rather die than have that done to me again.” 

And so he did. 

For four days I stayed at his side as he lay there in an induced coma. Finally, it was time to pull the plug on the machines keeping him alive, and it was up to me to make the decision.

I still remember the nightmarish sensation of walking down the hall of that hospital, knowing that I had been handed the power to choose the day and hour when my own father would die. It was the most anguishing experience of my life, no matter how necessary or right. I was pronouncing a death sentence on my own father.

After they turned the machines off, the monitor that beeped in conjunction with his heartbeat gradually began to slow down. Finally, there was silence. His heart had stopped. I fell across his chest and cried, “Oh, Daddy!” As I did that, to my astonishment his heart actually began to beat again: thump thump thump. What a testimony to the power of love! And what a wrenching moment! It couldn't keep on, however; his heart soon stopped beating for good.

Some of those who have had near-death experiences claim that after the body dies, we go through a life review where our soul sees and feels each reverberation and consequence of everything we have ever done to anyone in our life, good or bad. My prayer was that my father not see or know that anything he'd said or done had ever harmed me in the least way. Forgiveness is a grace, and that grace healed all the negativity that had ever occurred between us.

I still keep the ugly little plastic lamb from the Nativity scene at my desk.

And I will always remember the Best Words in the World: 
“I want you to come early, and stay late.

(c) M. E. Raines, all rights reserved. Please do not reproduce in part or in whole in any form. Feel free to share links to this true story.

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