Stoplight by Laura Stamps

The light turns red, and Rita’s car slows to a stop. On the sidewalk is a man dressed in a black pinstripe suit, white shoes, and a white hat. He looks like a churchgoer in his Sunday best. He’s not. Pacing back and forth, he waves a newspaper about UFOs at the line of cars. The light turns green, and the cars move forward. No one rolls down a window. No one takes one of his free papers. But he doesn’t seem to mind. He continues to smile and wave his UFO newspaper at each car.

By the time Rita stops at the second light she’s thinking about last night. How nothing on TV interested her. How the nature channels were too violent. And the cooking channels made her hungry. How she watched a talk show instead. 

The featured guest was a popular spiritual teacher. “When you can love everyone without exception,” he said, “no one can harm you.” Rita thinks this can’t be true. What about UFOs? What about abusive people like the ones in her past? She can’t imagine loving them. She wouldn’t know where to start. 

At the third stoplight a woman and a little girl stand on the corner, waiting for the light to change. Next to them is an adorable German Shepherd puppy in a dog stroller, happily chewing on a toy. “Maybe that’s how it works,” Rita says. 

Puppies destroy everything they sink their teeth into. It’s just what puppies do. But you don’t hate them for it. You love them anyway. Kittens are the same. They can’t retract their claws. Scratches are inevitable. But you don’t hate them for it. You love them anyway. 

Maybe the people who abused her as a child were like puppies and kittens. They did what they did because that’s what they do. Maybe she should accept this fact, love them anyway, and move on with her life. But UFOs? Forget it. No way she could love them. She has to draw the line somewhere.

Laura Stamps loves to play with words and create experimental forms for her fiction. Author of several novels and short story collections, including IT’S ALL ABOUT THE RIDE: CAT MANIA (Alien Buddha Press). Muses Prize. Pulitzer Prize nomination. 7 Pushcart Prize nominations. Mom of 4 cats. Twitter: @LauraStamps16.