Laura Stamp

 Nominated for seven pushcart awards, Laura Stamp presents:  



When I walk out of the art

supply store, he’s standing

next to a parking meter,

this man I just met a few

minutes ago, this man who

helped me choose the right

brand of paint, this artist.

He’s staring at a maple, its

leaves flapping back and

forth in a light breeze like

the pages of a book. “What

are you looking at?” I ask,

while I stuff my purchases

into the lavender backpack

I use as a purse. “Life,”

Val says. “I love this time

of the year.” That makes

me laugh. “Most people

complain about the hot

summers in Columbia,”

I say. He loops the strap

of a black messenger bag

over his shoulder. “Not

me,” he says. “I’m cold-

natured. The heat feels

good.” A flash of scarlet

darts past us and lands in

the tree, a cardinal. “I’m

hungry,” he says. “What

are you doing for dinner?”

The cardinal fluffs fiery

wings, preening in the heat,

as June wraps the city in

a humid embrace. It’s my

favorite time of the year,

too. “I’m in the mood for

the raw vegan restaurant

on Main,” I say. “You?”

By now we’ve reached

Gervais Street. The light

changes from red to green,

and rush hour traffic crawls

past us like the feet of a

centipede. “That sounds

intriguing,” he says. “Do

you mind if I join you?”

I turn left, leaning into

the slight incline up to the

State House, my thighs

accustomed to walking on

city pavement, Main Street

three blocks away. “Not

at all,” I say. When we

arrive the server seats us

at one of the tables near

a window with a view of

the Nickelodeon Theater.

I’ve never seen anyone

look so bewildered while

studying a menu. “You

don’t eat raw vegan, do

you?” I ask. Val shakes

his head, his gaze glued

to the menu, searching

for something, anything

familiar. “I assume this

isn’t the place to order

a rare steak,” he says.

It always feels good to

smile. Since my divorce

I’ve surrounded myself

with people like this. I

may add him to the list.

“Try the raw lasagna,”

I say. “It’s incredible.”

Later, my fork sinks into

zucchini noodles tucked

between thick layers of

cashew and macadamia

nut cheese, smothered in

sun-dried tomatoes and

basil pesto. On the side,

red cabbage slaw and the

best kale I’ve ever eaten.

Who can resist such

culinary treats? Not me.

“This isn’t bad,” Val says,

taking a tentative bite.

“The desserts are divine,”

I say. “Banana pudding,

brownies smothered in raw

chocolate, salted caramel

and cherry cheesecakes.”

He glances at the street.

Outside, the city shines in

full bloom. Petunias flood

wire baskets swinging from

streetlights. Roses cluster

like peacocks around regal

palmetto trees in weeded

pine bark beds. “To new

experiences,” he says and

clicks his glass against

mine. Now that we’re not

in the dimly lit art supply

store, now that we’re sitting

in the bright light of this

restaurant, I can see he’s

younger than I thought.

Early thirties at the most.

I’m at least fifteen years

older. Maybe more.

“To life,” I say, tapping

his glass with mine. I’m

ready for something new.

I have been for a long time.


Laura Stamps is a Pagan novelist and poet living in South Carolina. Her fiction and poetry have been nominated for seven Pushcarts and appeared in many literary journals, including Curbside Review, Half Drunk Muse, Main Street Rag, Iodine Poetry Journal, Mannequin Envy, Poetry Motel, and Word Riot. She enjoys creating experimental forms for her prose poems, blurring the line between fiction and poetry.


About vision791

Pushcart nominee Jeanette Cheezum has been published on several online writing sites and in fifteen Anthology books and four poetry books. Three of these books have made the New York Times Best Sellers list. Awarded The Helium Networks Premium Writer’s Badge, Bronze Creative Writing Award and a Marketplace Writers award. Recently she has published thirteen ebooks at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. You may find a list of some of her work at
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