Archives for posts with tag: Wendy Rainey



Novel (Excerpt) by Wendy Rainey

When I called Nancy’s phone number from the ad she had placed in the Pasadena Star News, I was relieved by what I thought I heard in her voice; intelligence, competence, and stability. Dizziness overtook me as I entered my room and sat down on the queen-sized bed. It must have been close to a hundred degrees inside my room, even with all the windows open and the ceiling fan on. Falling backwards onto the bed, I started to remember arriving for the initial interview with Nancy and being impressed by her elegant and immaculately kept two-story Victorian home. Nancy invited me outside to look at her vegetable and herb garden. Lemon and orange trees lined the path down to a huge patch of land covered with an abundance of delectables. Twenty foot sunflowers rose amid watermelon, zucchini, tomato, and strawberry plants. Endive, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, mint, parsley, chives, catnip, lavender, sage, basil, marjoram, garlic, and onions were thriving. Three avocado trees stood by an old well encircled by stones and mortar. The rusted pump looked ancient.

“It’s beautiful,” I said, “I feel like Dorothy landing in Oz. Everything’s in Technicolor. You must love it here, Nancy!”

“This house was built in 1874,” she said, her long, grey hair blowing in the wind. “The property used to stretch all the way down to the end of the block.” Nancy pointed to a line of charming bungalows built in the twenties. “This is where the horseman would have lived.” She pointed to a well preserved structure, “It was converted into a toolshed in the thirties. The servant’s quarters and stables are long gone, of course. Cows, chickens, and horses were kept somewhere down there.” I looked in the direction she was pointing. A kid with a baseball cap turned backwards was balancing a ghetto blaster on his shoulder with one hand, and giving a passing car the finger with the other. She turned around and examined the leaves of a Cecil Bruner. The miniature rose was climbing up a white trellis. “Yes, it was an era when people grew their own food and lived off the land and their wits. She pinched off a brown bud from the rose bush and threw it over her shoulder.

I remembered the first time I sat in Nancy’s living room. It was filled with heirlooms. The windows were framed with delicate white lace curtains. A large antique vase contained an assortment of flowers and herbs from her garden. From where I sat I could see two Shaker chairs in the sunlight. “Hands to work, heart to God,” I said. Nancy looked at me inquisitively. “The Shaker Creed,” I said, pointing to the two chairs. “Oh, yes” she said smiling. She was wearing Bermuda shorts and a white t-shirt. I noticed her white gym socks and athletic shoes. Her bifocals hung from a decorative chain around her neck. “It’s wonderful the way you’ve managed to retain the old fashioned charm. It’s like being transported back in time,” I said.

“Well, I’ve made certain adjustments here and there, but the integrity of the original structure has never been compromised. The antiques,” she motioned with her hand, “are a passion of mine. I pick them up at estate sales all over Pasadena.”

“Nancy, I’m very interested in renting from you,” I said. “You have a beautiful house and a lovely garden. The rent is affordable for me and it’s also close to my workplace.” I looked at her, smiling.

“Now, I want to be absolutely frank wit you, Catherine,” Nancy said, “I have AIDS. I also had a bout with cancer two years ago, which I survived and recovered from. I have health issues but I am functional, although I do get tired easily. I’m attending Pasadena City College in the hopes of reentering the workforce in the future. If you would like to take a day to think about what I have said, by all means do. Also, the two rooms you will be renting can get awfully hot as you may have noticed. I don’t believe in air-conditioning. I’ve managed to survive here twenty-five years without it. “Putting my ice water glass back on its coaster, I considered what she said,

“I would like to put down a hundred dollars now as part of my deposit,” I said, reaching into my bag for my wallet. “I can come back tomorrow and give you the rest of the deposit. I don’t have a problem with you having AIDS. And I’m used to the heat. I lived in the desert for three years and I never had air-conditioning.” She smiled and looked at me,

“Well, it’s settled then. I hope you’ll be happy here. I’ll get you a receipt for that deposit. You’re still welcome to think it over a day if you like.”

“OK, I appreciate that. I suppose you might want some time to check the references I gave you.” Nancy came back into the living room and handed me a receipt for the hundred dollars I had given her.

“Our meeting here, today, is reference enough for me. The rooms are yours if you so desire.”

“Thank you, Nancy,” I got up off the divan, “it was nice meeting you.” I reached out, shook her hand, and smiled. “I will see you tomorrow after work at around 5:00.”

As I walked down the front steps of the stately old house, I detected the intermingling of jasmine and magnolia. Rose bushes lined the long pathway that led out onto the sidewalk. Two squirrels were chasing each other in the grass. I turned around and looked at the sprawling house. An oasis from the madness of life, I thought. Off to the side something glimmering caught my eye, a fountain with a statue in the middle: a cherub spewing water from his little rose bud mouth. He looked as if he was ready to ascend to the heavens.


Find more of Wendy Rainey‘s novel-in-progress, Nancyland, at Cultural Weekly here.


L.A. poet Wendy Rainey (pictured at right) is working on a novel entitled Nancyland. An excerpt is featured in this week’s Cultural Weekly here. The subject matter shows that inspiration comes when and where we least expect it. Here’s the excerpt’s opening paragraph:

It all seems like a dream since I made my way out of Nancyland. The world is a different place to me now, bigger and bolder. Sometimes I feel as if I have to grab hold of life right here and now while I still can before my flesh and bone become part of the great compost heap we all must return to when our bodies can no longer endure prison or war or even freedom. Sometimes I still have nightmares about Nancy but I don’t give them much credence anymore. It’s the hum-drum day to day details that trip me up. The slapping of thongs, the smell of strawberry preserves, any Beatles song, even the bastardized elevator version can trigger disturbed and restless musings that are a part of a landscape that I myself have created. At one time, the idea of having God’s love and protection was meaningless to me. But now, when I see someone lying in the fetal position on the steps of the library, or dazed and speaking in tongues at the bus stop I think, “there but for the grace of God go I.” It is odd the way certain events can happen in one’s life that change a person forever. Through the Pasadena smog I saw the beast and was confronted with my own animal nature. It was then that I finally cast off the burden of youth and made my way out of Nancyland.”

Photo: Cultural Weekly


Gerald Locklin will read his poetry at the Hotel Cafe, 1623 1/2 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, California, Sunday, July 29th at 6 p.m. — the July installment of Tongue & Groove‘s monthly literary series. Find more info hereWendy RaineyDana JohnsonYuvi Zalkow, and Kerrie Kvashay Boyle (T.C. Boyle‘s daughter) will also appear, along with musical guest Foster Timms. The performers promise a fun, thought-provoking evening — and it’ll only set you back $6!


Nighthawks (1942) by Edward Hopper, © The Art Institute of Chicago

Nighthawks, 1942 (excerpt) by Gerald Locklin

In those days, even the
nighthawks wore suits, not
to mention ties and fedoras.
but notice they were hawks,
not owls…
gangsters? gamblers? police
detectives? private eyes?
…it is a clean place, with
good wood, and it is a source
of light for a dark and empty
downtown neighborhood, where the
second-story shades are drawn
to half-mast.
Mark Your Calendars: Gerald Locklin will read his poetry at the Hotel Cafe, 1623 1/2 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, California, Sunday, July 29th at 6 p.m. — the July installment of Tongue & Groove‘s monthly literary series. Find more info here. Wendy Rainey, Dana Johnson, Yuvi Zalkow, and Kerrie Kvashay Boyle (T.C. Boyle‘s daughter) will also appear, along with musical guest Foster Timms. The performers promise a fun, thought-provoking evening — and it’ll only set you back $6!


At the Charles Bukowski tribute on June 30th, actress Rebecca DeMornay revealed that Buk was — and is — a major influence on her as an actress and writer. With wit and enthusiasm, Rebecca read several Bukowski poems, then returned to the stage at the end of the evening to share her thoughts about Bukowski and women.

Around the time Rebecca started her career in Hollywood in the early 1980s, she began to read Bukowski. People asked how she — an avowed feminist — could applaud the work of someone who portrayed women in a less-than-flattering light. To show that Buk loved and respected women, Rebecca read a Bukowski poem that can only be called a paean to females of the species.

From all women who admire Bukowski — including Wendy Rainey who gave a heartfelt reading at the event — thank you, Rebecca!

(Photo by Silver Birch, Los Angeles, June 30, 2012)