Flash Fiction: "Tote Bags" by Laura Stamps

“I knew these would come in handy one day,” Marsha says, wedging the last tote bag into the

truck of her car. Years ago canvas tote bags were a popular gift item. Marsha received many

from family and friends. Now all those bags are stacked neatly in her car, filled with books,

clothes, and household items. She shuts the trunk and walks around to the passenger side. Her

cats, Daffodil and Dandelion, are huddled in a big cat carrier, growling at each other. “Behave,”

she scolds, opening a package of kibble and giving a treat to each cat. The growling stops.

Marsha closes the door and takes one last look at her old life. At the house she cleaned for forty

years. At the flower gardens she nurtured, watered, and weeded every week. At the sprawling

lake behind the house. She won’t miss any of it. Not now. Now that she knows her crumbling

marriage is beyond repair. When Marsha starts the car, the cats begin to panic. “It’s okay,” she

soothes, stroking their silky fur through the mesh screen of the carrier. Five days ago she walked

out of her lawyer’s office and called her best friend from high school, telling her that she had just

filed for divorce and needed a furnished apartment. That was Monday. On Tuesday her friend

found the perfect place. On Wednesday contracts were signed, and the apartment deposit paid.

Thursday, she cleaned and packed. And now it’s Friday. A tropical sun burns through a thick

layer of morning fog shrouding the lake. She won’t miss that either. She was never much of a

water person. Pulling out of the driveway, Marsha turns right toward the highway, toward

another state, toward the tiny mountain town she never should have left. “Who says you can’t go

home again?” she whispers and steps on the gas.

Laura Stamps is the author of several novels, short story collections, and poetry books. Latest novella: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE RIDE: CAT MANIA (Alien Buddha Press). Winner of the Muses Prize. Recipient of a Pulitzer Prize nomination and 7 Pushcart Prize nominations. Mom of 5 cats. You can find her every day on Twitter: @LauraStamps16.