Cabby's corner: Little Miss Sunshine
I missed the plane for my soccer game. I go to UCLA, and I got caught in traffic. So I got my own plane.
Little Miss Sunshine
By Dell Franklin
Sitting in my cab at the airport, the short girl in a soccer uniform came bounding out the glass doors, an athletic overnight bag held over her shoulder. She was perhaps 18, olive-skin gorgeous, with these muscular legs that were somehow shapely and above all sexy, and she was smiling, her smile broadening as she spotted my cab and her hand shot up. She hurried over, moving like an athlete, but also like a girl, opening the door and tossing her bag in the back seat and settling in the front beside me,
“Hi! Can you please take me to the football stadium at Cal Poly?”
“I can.” I curled around the parking lot and shot out on the main road that led to town, a few miles away. "You in a hurry?”
“Yes! I screwed up. I missed the plane for my soccer game. I go to UCLA, and I got caught in traffic. So I got my own plane, paid my own way. Well, my dad paid. Oh gee, I must seem like a spoiled brat, but I’m not. I just didn’t want to miss the game. You know, my team-mates and all. I wanted to be with them.”
“I understand. Are you the star player?”
“Oh no. But I’m good. I was all-city in high school.”
“Where did you go?”
“Beverly Hills. I’m a little rich girl, a daddy’s girl.” She smiled at me in a mock-pleading way. “That’s not so bad, is it?”
“I suppose things could be a lot worse.”
She laughed, appraising me. “Tell me about your job. Is it ex-citing? Do you meet interesting people?”
“I’m meeting one now.”
She slapped my knee in a scolding way. “Oh, I’m too young to be interesting. I haven’t been around, or done anything. But I’m going to.
“I did go to Europe last summer. I’m a language major and I’m going to travel and be a translator some day. I’m going to join the Peace Corps and then I’m going to get into the diplomatic service and see the world.”
“How many languages you speak?”
“Right now I’m fluent in Spanish and French, and I’m learning German. I want to learn Russian, because it’s really hard. And I want to learn Chinese, because that’s where the future is, I think. I love languages and I love people and I love to travel.”
“What about soccer?”
“I LUUUUVE soccer. I’ve been playing since I was five.”
“Anything you don’t like?”
She slapped my knee again, in a playful way implying I was naughty.
“You think I’m some pollyanna or something?” She was grinning in a mischievous manner. “One of those, you know, goody-goodies...?”
I glanced at her as I drove, “You got a certain glow, kid. Were you voted most popular in high school?”
She slapped my knee again. “Yes! But I didn’t try to be…pop-ular. I wasn’t kissy-assy. I was just me. Don’t you like me?”
“Has anybody ever DISLIKED you?”
She stared at me, eyes growing large. “I don’t know. I hope not. I don’t think so. Why would anybody dislike me?”
“They might be jealous of you. Especially women.”
“Why? I’m nice to everybody. I don’t hurt anybody.”
“Sometimes that’s not enough.”
“How do you mean?” She was bouncing around in her seat, facing me now. She had perfectly round knees. Strong, even teeth, the enamel sparkling. Dark, long-lashed eyes that were perfectly symmetrical in an oval face, eyes that held a resolve, which made me believe she was a fiercely determined little competitor on the soccer field, those eyes shutting everything out but the task at hand. She was suffused in an aura of radiance and energy. She wasn’t like any of the girls I’d remembered in high school or college back in the early 1960s. Very few girls played sports in those days.
The ones that did were mostly unfeminine tomboys. This girl was so compact. She was special. Every time I looked at her I felt a hot flush in my chest. I was overwhelmed, shot with a sudden jolt of giddy joy. I wanted our ride to last forever. I wanted to ride off into the sunset with her.
“Oh, there’s always a bunch of bitter malcontents out there, kid. Don’t ever let ‘em get you down. I doubt they will, from the sound of you, and your natural exuberance. What about a boyfriend? You got one?”
“Nothing serious. I’ve got a lot of, you know, GUY friends. I told you, I’m a daddy’s girl.”
“What’s dad like?”
“Wonderful. He was a big college jock. Then he started his own business and made millions. He’s only 44, and he’s retired. He seems young, though, like 30. He paid my plane ticket up here. I guess I’m pretty spoiled. I can’t help that. I try not to act like a spoiled brat. I know I’m real lucky. I try to do good things. I want to help poor people some day. I don’t want to live only for number one. I think that’s all wrong. I think being selfish is bad. What do you think?”
“I’m a pretty selfish person, so I can’t be objective.”
For once, she stopped smiling and moving around, appraising me again. “I don’t think you’re that way. You don’t SEEM that way.”
“Well, it’s all about priorities, and not getting involved in the mainstream, grown-up world. But that’s neither here nor there. Tell me about soccer. Are you in heaven when you’re out on that field?”
“Yes! Heaven. I have to play. I can’t LIVE without it. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I’m out of school and can’t play any-more. I’ve got four years, you know. I’m just a freshman.”
We were in town, drawing closer to campus. Traffic was slow. “Is your dad pretty tough on your boyfriends?”
“He’s nice to them. He trusts my judgment. He trusts me, he’ll tell me what he thinks, though, but he doesn’t meddle. All the guys he’s met are pretty nice.”
“Any not-so-nice ones got your juices boiling?”
She slapped my knee, lifting her chin to appraise me in a new light. “No. Not yet. I’m not looking for it. I’m so busy. There’s so many things I want to do. I’m not ready for THAT kind of thing, you know.”
“You’re never ready for it, kid—it just strikes, and you’re al-ways helpless to deal with it.”
“I know. I’ve seen it with girl friends. Crazy over guys. Just CRAYYY-ZEEE. And I’ve read a lot of books. I can’t read enough.”
“Good for you. A well-rounded person.”
She was facing me, smiling. “Do you read a lot?”
“Are you married?”
“No. Married people don’t have enough time to really read.”
“No. I’m an ornery, confirmed old bachelor.”
“But don’t you want kids?”
“Then what do you want?”
“I’m still trying to figure out that one. Listen, if I think about what I don’t have, it’s okay. If I think about what I’ve missed, I get kind of unhappy. You seem to be going in the right direction. Just don’t change. I would hate to see that. But then, of course, we all do.”
“I’m excited about that, too. I want to change. I want to suffer a little. People are suffering everywhere in this world, and I’m not. It doesn’t seem fair. I have it made. I’ve been too lucky.”
We were on the campus. The stadium was half a block away. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. She was still facing me, smiling in a warm, fond manner as I pulled up in front of the stadium and stopped. I stared straight ahead. “You’ve been a treat, kid. You’ve made my day. I want you to know that.” I smiled at her.
“You’ve made MY day. I’ve had a wonderful time talking to you. You remind me of my dad. You seem so youthful and athletic, and you’re so interesting. I wish we could keep on talking. Have you done interesting things in your life?”
“Yes. I’ve been around. I thumbed around the country a couple years. I’ve been to Europe and Mexico and the British Isles. I had the itch as a young guy and saw a lot. The memories are good.”
She reached in the back seat, grabbed her bag, pulled out her wallet, opened it, flipped me a twenty. The ride was only eleven dollars, but she slapped my hand as I fumbled for change and told me to keep it.
“It’s too much,” I protested.
“Oh, just keep it. My dad gives me so much money, too much. It means nothing to me. You’re worth more.”
I offered my hand. We had a firm shake. I didn’t ask her name, and she didn’t ask mine. She got out, waved, sprinted away, bag over her shoulder, a shimmering filly in her soccer shorts. I got out and snuck through the stadium entrance and stood watching the girls warming up on the field, kicking balls. She was dashing toward her teammates. They were all excited, jumping up and down, hugging her. It was quite a display. She was the most beautiful of all these girls. My giddy joy lingered for a long time that day, gradually dissolving into a bleakness I could not describe. §
Publisher Dell Franklin can be reached a firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of his Cabby's Corner series here: