“College Stories” — Abby 4


College stories sig

Gavin Colton

“College Stories” is a weekly column by MFA student Gavin Colton. Read last week’s installment here.


Abby pulls up outside the University Flats, where she’d lived her freshman year. She puts the car in park, feels the whip of the locks open on the doors. She locks them again. Her knuckles glow there on the steering wheel. When she lifts a hand off, she feels it tremble, so she laces it again, twisting the rubber cover.

“Why are we here?” Collins says. She looks about, fixes the rearview mirror so she can see. Then she pulls her ponytail in two directions to tighten it.

“I can’t drive any further.” Abby takes her hands off the wheel and settles them in her lap.

Collins glances at her phone again, swipes the screen up to check her notifications. She pulls the plastic pin of the lock up and gets out, walks to the hood, and rests against it. After a moment, she leans back and taps the windshield with tip of her finger.

Abby takes the lit cigarette from her, pulls hard on it. She watches the ash fall in an orange shower on the hood, then get whipped away by the breeze.

“What are we doing here?” Abby says, handing the cigarette back.

“This is where you drove us.”

An Uber pulls up next to the car and a crowd of boys get out. They scramble up the steps and into the building. Abby recalls a night she’d fallen asleep in the breezeway, until the RA on duty found her and threatened to call the police. She got up and scampered off across campus, woke up the next morning in a bush near Funkhouser to the sound of construction workers.

Collins counts bills, muttering to herself. Abby supposes there is over $200 there.

“Drugs?” Abby says. She blurts it. Collins goes on thumbing twenties, folding them over into a neat fan. What else could it be? she thinks to herself, feeling suddenly ashamed for her assumption.

Collins looks at her. Then doubles the wad over again and pockets it. “Sure.” She gets up, opens the driver’s door. “You coming? I can drive.”

Abby checks her phone. A text from Kara: Where you go? A pile of Snapchats. She’d get to them in the morning.

“Who owed you money? I knew most of those people,” Abby says. She lights another cigarette. The nicotine levels her.

“Wes Roberts.”


“Know him?”

“Sister’s boyfriend’s friend. He asked me to go to dinner once, all nice. I almost said yes.”

“You should’ve. He’s got some serious money.”

“That’s what Kara said.”

They drive down Tate’s Creek road, almost at Man O War. Another text from Kara: Abby? Headlights pour in the windshield and glimmer off the rosary beads dangling from the rearview mirror.

“Didn’t think Wes had it in him,” Abby says.

“Guys like Wes are an easy sell. Line one up for him and give them your number and they’ll come by once a week to pick up. You can give him the worst shit and he’ll text you the next day saying it’s the best buzz he’s ever had.”

Collins pulls into a driveway. A couple of lights are on upstairs and a white cat sits on the window side of the blinds, gazing out. Collins makes straight for the mouth of the drive again, tossing the keys into the overgrown grass on the lawn.

“I wouldn’t hang around if I were you,” she says.

A spotlight spills down the drive. Abby hears the crunch of the porch door opening, then a woman at the door. The cat tears out.

              “Run!” Collins’s voice is farther away now.

Abby pulls off her shoes—the woman starts out the door, clasping her dressing gown shut and trying to finagle a knot with the silky belt—and sets off after Collins.

When she catches up finally, Collins is already walking. Looking back, Abby can see the blip of light from a phone screen on the woman’s face, getting dimmer as they walk.

“Your mom?” Abby says. She catches her breath.

“Dad’s wife.”

“Won’t he be pissed?”



“It’s cool. Want to smoke?”

Collins holds back the plastic construction curtain into the half-built housing developments. Maybe it’s just the lack of furniture, but the rooms feel huge. Vaulted ceilings and two-part staircases. Abby turns over two buckets in what she assumes is the kitchen, the initial plumbing has been installed.

“These are going to be for older folks. Community living,” Collins says.

“A commune.”

“All these old bastards will be f—ing each other after the first week.”

Collins pats the bud down in the bowl with her thumb and passes it to Abby. Abby corners it and hands it back. She lets a stream of smoke fall out of her mouth, taking it up through her nose. She hasn’t smoked in months. She feels her face sink almost immediately.

“Sorry to get you wrapped up in that tonight,” Collins says. She is staring out the empty space where a bay window might go.

“You’re good. There wasn’t much going on anyway. Bit of excitement in this at least.”

“I shouldn’t have asked you. I just panicked a bit, being on my own in there.”

Abby takes another hit, really going for it this time. She feels her ribs balloon.

“How much do you make selling?” Abby feels bold asking.

“About a thousand.”

“A month?”

“A week sometimes. During Keeneland or football season. Easy. If I’m organized.”

Quiet sits between them now. Abby lets her eyes shut. She hears the hiss of Collins burning the bowl.

“Abby, right? You’re Kara’s sister?” Collins says

Abby opens her eyes. Collins is flat on the ground looking into the ceiling.

“How do you know Kara?” Abby says.

“I don’t. But I know Jeff. Shitty guy, great customer. I’ve seen you in photos. I like to keep tabs on who I sell to.”

“Yeah.” Abby moves the bucket and lays down too. The cold concrete feels good under her. The hardness takes her weight.

“I bet that’s fun,” Collins says.

Abby says nothing for a few minutes. Then, “A thousand dollars?”

“On a good week. Like I said.”

Abby doesn’t hear Collins leave. On the upturned bucket next to her, two cigarettes, a lighter, and a fifty-dollar bill. She lights one and puts the other in her hair. She thumbs the wheel on the lighter as she walks down Tate’s Creek, letting her shoes dangle in her other hand.

Disclaimer: All characters and events in these stories are fictional. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.