Nonfiction | October 08, 2013

When I first saw the “ABSTINENCE = FREEDOM” sticker on Jackie Story’s van, I wrote it down in my notebook, but I didn’t ask her about it. I wrote down “Scooby van,” too, and “light blue” and “rust.” And when I got home that night I opened my laptop and wrote from memory that it cost Jackie eighty-five dollars to fill the tank, and that she had to fill it often, and that she was having to turn down friends when they asked for rides home from church because she couldn’t afford it anymore, and that that’s not the kind of person she wants to be. I wrote this story: Jackie went to San Juan Motors, a used car lot up the street from her church, to trade the van and sign a contract for a white Ford Escort station wagon. The guy who sold it to her went to her church. He said to her, “I’m going to put a brand-new radio in it just for you because you are so terrific.” On the way home, she picked up one of her sons from church and another from school, and every time anyone opened the car doors the tuner would reset to the left-most position on the dial and the speakers would scream with static. The radio slid right out of the dashboard and onto the floor whenever she accelerated from a full stop. Then, a week later, the wagon broke down in front of the Hobby Lobby and Cracker Barrel on a parkway in the suburban Northland of Kansas City, three and a half miles from her house.

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