La Valise Volee (The Stolen Suitcase)
“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta When people ask me where do I get my ideas, one of my top answers is by traveling. Perhaps it’s my overactive imagination, but I see stories everywhere I go. For instance, during a trip to Provence recently to fulfill an agenda item on my bucket list, which was to see fields of lavender in full bloom, one of my favorite suitcases was stolen off a bus. Fortunately it had my husband’s clothing in it, not mine, or you would be reading a story about an international incident in the New York Times. But the point is, once we recovered from the outrage and insult we suffered at the hands of a thief and then a very blasé bus company, I began to see the event as a story with all sorts of possibilities. Spending our first hour and a half in Aix en Provence sitting in the police station in ninety-degree weather without air conditioning was indeed inspiring. Not being able to speak much more than high school French, I found myself conjuring reasons why people were gathered in the dirty, antiquated lobby. I had seen people greet one another before with the French kiss-kiss, one on each cheek, but the sight of French cops bidding hello and farewell in that manner fascinated me. I couldn’t tell whether the expressionless silent people gathered around us were victims or perpetrators, so I made stories up. Before you knew it, I knew exactly what happened to la valise volee, what the demise of the culprit would be in the short story I would write, and where the ending would take place. We had arrived that morning at the airport in Marseille after a short flight from Dublin, a city that I found equally as inspiring. We had chosen to stay in Dublin for four nights on an extended overlay so we could build value into our airfare, which I had been unable to reduce to what I think of as a palatable price. The Hop On, Hop Off bus offered us a great way to see the city as many times as we wanted. We kept going by a vacant over grown lot near the Houston train station where one bus driver told us no one ever got on or off in his twenty-two years of experience. Immediately I knew there was a dead body in the lot. At least that there was a dead body in the lot in my mind. Later, during the trip home when I encountered a young pale-faced Irish woman traveling to Boston with her two little waifs, I knew they had to be part of that story, which was why they had to leave Dublin. Was the body the abusive husband she had done in? Or had he been murdered by someone looking for something of value they thought the husband had and now figured it was with the widow? Another short story idea was born, even though I am challenged to write short fiction. I’m much better at being long-winded. I blame it on the Irish in me. So maybe these ideas will end up in books if I can’t manage to fit them into short stories. Or maybe they’ll end up in my pillow as dreams. But wherever they go, I never would have had them if I hadn’t traveled. Does travel inspire you. dear readers? How, and please share photos.