Stacy Greenman knew a lot. She read tons of books, watched hundreds of documentaries, and took online courses in prestigious and complex subjects such as ‘Contemplating the Morality of Designer DNA as Pertains to the Reproductive Continuity of the Human Race’ or ‘Bioengineering Black Matter Using Electromagnetic Sound Waves and Naturally Occurring Geological Vibrations’… Stacy knew a lot.
But, she wasn’t smart enough, or perhaps, strong enough, to release herself from the toxic environment which had gradually grown around her. She knew she wasn’t happy. She knew she could be, and what’s more – she knew she deserved to be. But, was it selfish? She felt dirty, just thinking about it. What ‘being happy’ meant was leaving behind everything she’d known and loved for so long. ‘Being happy’ meant cutting the ties to the past, releasing herself from the responsibility of what others might think, and, essentially, becoming an entirely new person – the person she’d always dreamed she’d be.
Sighing, she folded the last of the laundry and went to deliver the clothes to their proper drawers and hangars. If she was doing this work for her own family, maybe she wouldn’t be so bitter. But, being a poor maid surrounded by so much elegance had taken a toll on her psyche. She no longer merely wanted a vacation. She craved a bit of serenity for her soul. Her mother, a retired data analyst, despised her daughter’s profession. But, Stacy had refused to attend college, determined to make her own way in the world. She’d made good grades in school, but her anti-social behavior led her mother to pull her out in her early teens. From then on, she only attended public school sporadically. The rest of the time, she was left to homeschool herself.
This is where her love of learning truly began. It wasn’t in stuffy classrooms, reading the minimal texts and large pictures in her school books. In homeschooling herself, she was free to learn what she wanted, whenever she wanted, and, best of all – how she wanted. The internet opened up a whole new world for Stacy. In the 1990s, it was still relatively new, though most suburban homes like hers had dial-up access. She dove in, soaring through the vast archives of information like an albatross, her dreams as wide as that majestic bird’s epic wingspan.
Though her primary years had been unorthodox, to say the least, Stacy had managed to carry a sense of positivity with her through her life. Many doubted her ability to have a successful future, but then, they’d always measured success by much different standards. It wasn’t a fancy job or respectable title she was after. After many years of reflection, she’d come to realize life was only worth living if you make every moment about enriching the world around you. It was one reason she’d been so comfortable taking this maid job. She’d realized her place in the world wasn’t preordained to be something special. She was merely another cog in the machine. Once she’d settled on this reality, it became clear to her there was no point in trying to achieve the kind of superficial success so many lusted after. Rather, to be happy merely serving. To find contentment in the mundane and meaningless. To be a well-oiled cog in this wonderous machine called life – that, to her, was true success.
Still, she was only human. Those desires to surround herself with comfort and luxury were sneaking into her daydreams more and more often these days. Bringing the now empty basket back to the laundry room, Stacy headed into the kitchen and began to methodically prepare the three course meal she’d planned for the McMann family. As she chopped the peppers and onions for the salad and meatloaf, her mind again drifted away. This time, she was exploring the great Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. She’d read somewhere early Native Americans had taken refuge within the cave’s vast passages. She could almost imagine them. Almost feel as if she were among them. The cool wisp of wind on her face. The sharp scent of wet stone and earth. There was but a thin veil separating her from this primitive reality. Nicking her finger on the knife, Stacy cried out – her shouts breaking the thick silence and dragging her back to her own reality.
Grabbing a napkin, she quickly soaked up the blood. The cut wasn’t deep; a bandage or two and it’d be right as rain. Stacy patched herself up and got back to preparing the meal just as Brooke McMann walked in the front door, with three of her four children in tow. Alyssa, the youngest, was asleep for her afternoon nap – another of Stacy’s many duties. She smiled politely at the boisterous young preteens and their stereotypically overtired mother. Again, she felt the alien parasite of bitterness rising. She pushed it back; it wasn’t their fault the world was the way it was. Even if so many blindly pursued false dreams in hoes of some kind of fleeting adulation, it didn’t mean they were at fault for it. Human’s minds are stupid and malleable, at best. Very few manage to escape the cycle of near cult-like brainwashing by the ‘system’ of society. And those who do either convince themselves they’re the ones off track or they seem completely out of touch, arrogant, and even abrasive to the masses. In truth, they are simply emotionally drained, as much as Mrs. McCann after a long day of mothering.
Yeah, Stacy knew a lot. But, what good does it do her? Cleaning up after another family’s dinner… as ‘worthy’ a cause as her being a cog in the machine might be – it wasn’t sufficient to satisfy her soul. Tonight was her last night. She knew it, even before she blurted it out to the McCann’s in the midst of serving their dessert. They’d been surprised, saddened, even, but it didn’t take long for the kids to return to previous conversations and a few moments later, Brooke smiled and said, “Whatever you need, dear. You’ve been wonderful.” And that was that. Stacy cleared the table, washed the dishes, and walked out the door and into a new chapter in her life. One filled with travel, adventure, and any bit of mystery she could find. Starting with a visit to Mammoth Cave in Cave Town, Kentucky.
Though quitting her job had been almost too easy, Stacy, remembering her bank account balance, almost immediately regretted the decision. Her two-door Honda Civic’s days were numbered, and she knew she could expect a final notice for no less than three utility bills in the coming week. Sitting on the second-hand couch in her studio apartment, she too a quick mental inventory of the items she owned. A 24-inch television, the aforementioned worn brown pleather couch, a small two-drawer dresser, three cradboard boxes stuffed with books, and her grandmother’s wedding jewelry. The latter, she’d inherited only a few months previously after her Nana had a stroke and passed away, leaving the diamond and pearl necklace, earrings, and wedding bands to her only granddaughter.
She didn’t want to sell the jewelry, but, even if just to pay her bills, Stacy knew she may not have a choice. There has to be a better way, she thought. Her phoned pinged on its charger across the room, and she rose to see who’d messaged. Swiping to the right, she unlocked the screen. A dark green forest background hosted only two apps – her messenger and a news app. Opening the messenger app, she was met with an image of her mother’s smiling face along with a caption reading “Miss you, dear!” Sighing, she closed the app and looked at the recent notifications from the news app. One caught her eye ~ ‘Recreational Vehicles – The New Normal?‘
She skimmed the article, which detailed the lives of six different people, one of whom was a married couple with four children. When she finished, a plan slowly began to form in her mind. Sending a quick message back to her mother, ‘Miss you, too!’, she flicked the rarely used google URL bar hovering near the bottom of her homescreen. A little searching brought her to a local RV dealer. When she saw the low prices Stacy gasped out loud. The article had be right! The recreational vehicles listed were priced at only a few hundred to no more than a thousand dollars! With a moment to reflect and mentally ask for her grandmother’s blessing, Stacy tapped the phone once more, calling the dealership. About twenty minutes later, she’d set up an appointment to view the RVs the next afternoon. She hurriedly gathered her grandmother’s jewelry from one of the small dresser drawers, she rushed off to the pawn store.
With cash in hand, Stacy drove to the RV dealership that sunny afternoon. Once there, she viewed three campers before finally settling on a mid-size vehicle priced at six hundred dollars. The salesman informed her he’d be willing to knock it down to a mere two hundred if Stacy wanted to trade in her Honda, as well. She agreed and signed the paperwork, walking away with the keys to her new house on wheels less than an hour later. Once back home, she had more call to make – informing her landlord she’d be ending her month-to-month contract, effective immediately. He thanked her for being a good tenant and let her know she could expect her deposit back within thirty days. Pleased with her successful day, Stacy began making plans for the road trip she so desperately desired – to Mammoth Cave.