The Story of Jack's Jacket

An expansion and written account of the story I told @edotshann when she asked who Jack was.
  1. Jack Goodnight was a tall, lanky son of Scottish immigrants.
  2. Mr. Goodnight worked for the Studebaker plant in South Bend, Indiana, and his wife kept a lovely home.
  3. Jack, 18 and still figuring it out, got a job pumping gas for Shell where he dutifully spent the hours of 8-5pm filling up Studebaker tank after Studebaker tank.
  4. One irregular event brought eventfulness into his otherwise uneventful routine.
  5. Opal Donaldson would occasionally drive up to his station, filling the tank of the brand-new Studebaker she was gifted on her 16th birthday.
  6. Opal was the daughter of a University philosophy professor, educated to question everything and argue until her face turned blue.
  7. She seemed to have a second sense for when Jack needed to see her and would show up precisely an hour later.
  8. Her visits to the Shell always lasted slightly longer than strictly necessary, and one day stretched even beyond that.
  9. When Jack's shift was almost over, at 4:50 on August 3rd, 1955, she opened her door, sat behind the wheel, started the engine, turned to stare Jack dead in the eye, and said the four words that would alter the trajectory of his small town existence forever.
  10. "Run away with me."
  11. So Jack did what any insensible 18 year old would, and with only his brown attendant's jacket and a wallet of crumpled $5 bills, he rode shotgun, away from South Bend towards nothing in particular.
  12. The Studebaker wasn't meant for long distances, but the passengers were.
  13. With Opal's raw determination and Jack's practical mechanical skill, the young lovers pushed their piece of metal to the West Coast, then back to the east.
  14. They saw the Redwoods and the Mojave.
  15. They followed circuses, befriended old men in small town bars, and slept under the stars more times than could be counted.
  16. They went hungry and unwashed, but the kind of hungry and unwashed that is easily glossed over and romanticized not long after food and soap is acquired.
  17. They listened to Jazz in the French Quarter and boated by Ellis Island, shielded from the ocean breeze by a ratty brown jacket.
  18. There was a chance they could've gone on forever, if history had been different.
  19. During one call back to the Goodnight home, Mr. Goodnight sounded strained.
  20. "Is something wrong, Pop?"
  21. Duty called.
  22. Tried and true American lads from the heartland answer duty's calls.
  23. While Jack was in Vietnam, Opal had to return home.
  24. She finished school, and enrolled at the women's college.
  25. She taught history, while Jack lived it.
  26. Others would say that Jack returned relatively unscathed, but the sense of adventure, the call to be a wanderer, disappeared during his first and only trip overseas.
  27. Jack Goodnight after the war bought a home equidistant from his parents and hers.
  28. He talked little about Jack Goodnight before the war, which is why his children didn't know about where his ratty Shell jacket had been or what his ratty Shell jacket had seen.
  29. When Jack passed away, that jacket and most of his other belongings were given away.
  30. The coffee brown jacket sat on a rack at the Salvation Army between an oatmeal Member's Only bomber and a tan corduroy blazer.
  31. Fifteen minutes before closing, on a chilly night last winter, a girl walked in looking for nothing in particular.
  32. As she flipped through the cracked leather dusters and coats with broken zippers, she pulled a brown Shell jacket from the end of the rack and immediately knew that she was not leaving empty-handed.
  33. Without trying it on, she felt a connection to the inanimate object.
  34. The price tag said $0.49 to which the checkout lady responded, "That's a mistake, but I guess it's your lucky day."
  35. And she was wrong on two accounts because the universe was intentionally granting her a gift of fate, an inevitability not a result of chance.
  36. The girl is a wildly questioning, never-settling, restless youth.
  37. On her, the jacket's shoulders are slightly too broad, and the waist band wasn't meant to stretch overfits female hips.
  38. The jacket fits her perfectly, and she will take it far.