#Extract: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE RIDE: CAT MANIA by Laura Stamps @LauraStamps16

Publication: 30th August 2021

What happens when a neurotic cat rescue lady, who considers herself a magnet for bad-news men, tries to heal her PTSD with self-help books and YouTube videos? One hilarious cat and therapy adventure after another. If you’re a cat lover or an abuse survivor, be prepared to laugh your way through this wacky, fast-paced novella!  



I always knew I’d find him. It was just that kind of dream. Still, proof is nice. Proof that some dreams do mean what they say. Proof that sometimes we do find what we’ve been searching for.  


Sometimes. With other dreams, who knows? 


With this dream last night: The sun hovers in a clear summer sky, bathing my face in warmth. It feels good. I shift the two backpacks I’m carrying, one on each shoulder. Walking up sloped pavement, I reach the wooded area on the far side of the parking lot. Lowering my backpacks to the ground, I sit on the curb and rest my head in my hands. Not for sadness. Or weariness. But for joy. In a few minutes my best friend will arrive. We’re going on vacation. Taking three weeks to drive from one coast to the other and back again, stopping wherever we like along the way. New towns to explore. New sights to see. Two small backpacks are all we’re taking on this trip. The goal is to travel light. Nothing weighing us down. At the end of the trip she’ll return to this city. Not me. I quit my job and moved out of my apartment this morning. Everything I own is in these two backpacks. I’m ready for a change. A big one. I need to get out of here. See more of life while I can. Meet new people. See new places. If I like one of the towns we stop at along the way, I’ll stay. Live there awhile. Find a job, an apartment. Maybe adopt a cat from the local rescue. I love cats. I miss having one in my life. This is my chance. I’m taking it. A Toyota turns into the parking lot and pulls up in front of me. A woman rolls down the window, rests her elbow on the door, and smiles. “Ready?” she asks. She knows how I am. She knows what it feels like when your soul tells you this place isn’t where you’re supposed to be anymore. That it’s time to leave. To move on. After all, that’s how we met. On the road. Two years ago. “Let the adventure begin,” I say, smiling back at her. It’s time to go.     


And that’s it. End of dream. 


What did it mean? I have no idea. But I woke up this morning with a craving for a backpack. Had to have one. Not just any backpack. But a small one. Small enough to use as a purse. Drove to Target after work to buy one. Found a little backpack in the children’s department. Loved it. Bought it. Blame it on the dream. I did.   


Sponges. Any kind. Petunia has a thing for them. The cat likes to jump in the kitchen sink, perform a series of gymnastics and gyrations, lift a paw, swipe the sponge off the ledge, hug it, wrestle with it, and attack it. “Stop that,” I say, while she works herself into a frenzy, gnawing the corners of the sponge. I wrench it from her jaws and put it back on the ledge next to the bottle of dishwashing liquid where it belongs. She gives me her best impression of an innocent look. I’m not buying it. “Do you know,” I say, “according to a popular guru on YouTube, we’re all just consciousness inhabiting a body. We’re not our thoughts. We’re not our bodies. We’re consciousness.” In response, Petunia demonstrates her talent for slithering around the perimeter of the sink like a snake, claws clicking against stainless steel. “The guru said this is a life-altering revelation,” I continue. “It’s supposed to be the answer we’ve all been searching for, the key to enlightenment. He said knowing this will change everything. It’s an interesting concept. I like it. But what do you think? Does knowing this change anything for you?” Petunia flips over, grabs the pink sponge from the ledge, bites off the corner, and spits it out. “I guess not,” I say. 


But he’s right. The guru. It does make a difference. Consciousness. I am consciousness. When terrorizing thoughts from my bad-news past appear, I rule. Consciousness rules. And I am consciousness. Nothing more. Nothing less. End of story. I rule. Nice. Very nice. I like.  


This week a gibbous moon hangs from the sky. Not a full moon. Not a crescent moon. Not a new moon. Not a sliver or a full bloom. Just a bulbous blob of moonglow. Gibbous. What an odd word. Funny to see, funny to say. Gibbous. Gibbous moon. Gibbidy, gibbidy, gibbidy-goop. I stop by the hospital to visit a friend. He was a good guy until he started hanging out with a bad crowd. Adopted their bad habits. Addicts. All of them. He developed a heart condition. Takes medication for it every day. Now he’s in the hospital with a heart flutter. I’m not surprised. Those friends of his were bad news from the start. It was easy to see. But he couldn’t. He still can’t. They’re still his “buddies.” Bad company. Walking down the corridor on his floor, I pass several rooms before I reach his. In one room a man tells the doctor he sees visions. Ex-girlfriends and giant animals. Must be the gibbous moon. In the next room, a man covered in blood screams like a maniac, trying to pull out his tubes. Three nurses struggle to subdue him. By the time I reach my friend’s room, I’m done. Enough is enough. We need to talk. No matter how much you love your buddies, they aren’t worth ending up in a place like this. Now he needs extra heart medication (doesn’t work). Then shock therapy to stabilize his heart (does work). We have a nice visit. I only yell at him for an hour. Then I leave. Return to my life with cats. The ones who fill my days with laughter. Good company. It’s no wonder I prefer my buddies to have fur and purr, gibbous moon or not.   

Laura Stamps is the author of several novels, short story collections, and poetry books, including IT’S ALL ABOUT THE RIDE: CAT MANIA (Alien Buddha Press), THE YEAR OF THE CAT (Artemesia Publishing), and IN THE GARDEN (The Moon). Winner of the Muses Prize. Recipient of a Pulitzer Prize nomination and 7 Pushcart Prize nominations. Mom of 5 cats. Twitter: @LauraStamps16. Website: www.laurastampspoetry.blogspot.com   

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