Second Hand

I listened to this story while running on Sunday morning, Mothers’ Day. If you have time, take a listen (or, heck, go get Chris Offutt’s Luck at the library and read it the old fashioned way).

A woman drives her boyfriend’s eight-year-old daughter to a pawn shop. She doesn’t know how to make her happy. The girl falls in love with a mountain bike that it turns out the woman can’t afford, and she ends up trading the guy her prized ostrich-skin boots for the bike, then wedging the bike into the trunk of her old car and, lacking any rope, removing her bra from under her shirt and using it to tie the trunk closed. The last line of the story is something like I wonder if I would have made the same trade for my own daughter.

I am poorer than I want to be at knowing what a writer means, and before having kids I never would have interpreted it this way, but lately I feel like what happens in this story is, oh, pretty much exactly like being a mother. Don’t you feel like you’re driving home shoeless and braless, with someone in the back seat you hardly know but have cashed in something precious for, hoping like crazy that the trunk stays shut and the bike’s not a lemon, that this moment of harmony can last, that what you’ve just done—the least you can do, all you can do—is somehow enough?

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