Hi and welcome to FromBelgiumWithBookLove! Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Laura Stamps back to blog. Last year I shared an extract from her book It’s All About the Ride: Cat Mania and today I’m sharing an extract from her new book The Way Out, a collection comprising 39 short stories and a novella.
Let’s have a look at the premise first:
Does life feel overwhelming? Are you totally stressed? Is the craziness of the world getting to you? Help is on the way in this new collection of 39 flash fiction stories and one novella! Humorous, serious, or heartwarming, there’s something for everyone in this empowering book. After a terribly stressful week, one reviewer said to me: “I just told my husband this is the best self-help book around.” No matter what you’re facing today, you can rise above it. Allow these 40 entertaining stories to remind you that you’re always stronger than you think!
And the author:
Laura Stamps is a novelist who loves to play with words and create new forms for her fiction. She is the author of 30 novels, novellas, and short story collections, including her latest novella, IT’S ALL ABOUT THE RIDE: CAT MANIA and flash fiction collection THE WAY OUT (both published by Alien Buddha Press). Winner of the Muses Prize, she is the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize nomination and 7 Pushcart Prize nominations. Her fiction and poetry have been published in over 1000 literary magazines worldwide. Find her on Facebook, Twitter or www.laurastampspoetry.blogspot.com.
Ready? Okay, here goes:
THE QUEST FOR HAPPINESS
The current issue of my favorite magazine is in today’s mail. There’s a Rest Area sign on the cover. I wonder whose bright idea that was? The theme is relaxation. But a Rest Area sign? Seriously? A relaxing beach scene would make me happier. “Marilee, happiness can’t be found outside yourself,” my mother always says. “Happiness comes from within.” I know, I know. She’s right. The pastor at my church says the same thing. And he’s right too. They’re both right. I know. Grabbing my purse and keys, I’m halfway out the door when my cell phone rings. “Marilee, I need you,” my friend Jill groans, followed by sniffling sounds. “He did it again, didn’t he?” I say. Louder sniffling sounds. “Can you meet me at Starbucks?” Jill pleads. I pull a wad of tissues from the box on the table and stuff them into my pocket. “I’m on my way,” I say. When I arrive Jill is sitting at a table in the back, nursing a Praline Latte. She pushes a steaming Peppermint Macchiato toward me. Her treat. Things must be really bad this time. “I’m finished with men,” Jill announces, her eyes and nose red from heartache. “Wise decision,” I say, giving her the tissues from my pocket. Happiness. For me, it’s love. Loving something that can love me back. My neighbor Bonnie taught me that. “My sisters think I’m unlucky because I have cats instead of a husband,” Bonnie told me years ago. “But all they do is complain about their kids and husbands. I’m the lucky one. My cats only bring me joy.” Thirty minutes later the tissues are soaked, and Jill is still a mess. “We’re leaving,” I say, standing up. I’m a volunteer for the Denver Cat Rescue League. Today is my day to work in the cat room at PetSmart, playing with the DCRL cats, feeding them, cleaning their cages. I love those cats. They only bring me joy. “Happiness comes from within,” I say, taking Jill’s hand and leading her out of the coffee shop. “You’ll see.”
PLANES, BRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES
People drive too fast these days. Have you noticed? I have. What’s the hurry? That’s what I’d like to know. Maybe there’s a sale on potato chips at Target, and they’re rushing to get there. I’d hurry for that. I love potato chips. Have I mentioned that before? It’s true. I consider the potato chip one of civilization’s greatest inventions. Seriously. I can live on potato chips all day long if I have to. And that’s exactly what I do when I fly. I’m vegan. And let’s face it. Airports are not beacons of vegan cuisine. There’s nothing in most airports for vegans. Just bags of chips to munch on from plane to plane, airport to airport. I love airports. Have I mentioned that before? It’s true. I think working in an airport would be the perfect job. Beats what I do now as a customer service representative at a cable company. Not that it’s a bad job. It’s not. Most days I enjoy it. It’s just that they monitor our calls. Which means every week I get to hear my boss say, “Courtney, we need to talk about your lack of compassion and empathy for our customers.” I never understand that. I like people. I do. Especially those who don’t misplace their brains. Unlike the man who called the other day to complain that our cable had killed his DVD player. Then he realized he’d forgotten to turn it on. What am I supposed to do with that? What? Tell me. Like I said, I love airports. It’s true. I should get a job in an airport. I could work at one of those little airport shops. Sit at a register all day surrounded by snacks and paperback books. What a dream job! Then I’d never have to deal with cable customers who misplace their brains. Think about it. How many brain cells does it take to buy gummy bears? None. I mean, really. Just grab your snack, pay me, and go. Boom. A dream job. Totally.
Walking through the garden, Julie stops in front of a large clay pot filled with wilting zinnias. “You’re dying,” she says. “This isn’t right.” Julie has a problem with reality. She refuses to accept it. Rolling up her sleeves, she heads toward the toolshed next to the daylilies where she pulls on a pair of rubber gardening gloves and grabs a spade. Returning to the zinnias, she pushes aside a clump of yellowing leaves and plunges the spade into the soggy soil, digging all the way down to the bottom of the pot, searching through the rotting dirt for the offender. And there it is. Just where she thought it would be. Threading her fingers through the tangled roots of a massive weed, she rips it out. Now the drainage holes in the bottom are open again. Now water can flow freely through the pot, and the soil can dry out. “Let this be a lesson to you,” she says to the zinnias. “Never accept what you don’t want. There’s always a fix. Find it.” Returning the spade to the toolshed, she removes the gloves and brushes the dirt from her sleeves. Satisfied, she turns, unfurls her wings, and flies away.