At one point in my life, before the writing, and before being published, I played baseball. Though, playing is a strong word. Participating would be closer, and it was only little league.
I was encouraged by my father, mostly because the world had yet to witness my innate lack of athletic prowess. One day I was playing shortstop, though why they would stick me in the most vulnerable position I will never know, I was much more interested in coming up with backstories for the spectators than paying attention.
I knew I was not long for the game when one boy, his size enhanced only by what could be early doses of anabolic steroids, took a swing launching a bouncing grounder my way. I got into position, in hindsight, it would have been better for everyone if I had let it go. The ball missed my mitt and popped me in the chest, leaving my small eight-year-old frame gasping a wheezing in the sun warmed grass. I convinced myself it was a collapsed lung. The memory still haunts me, thinking I’d never breathe again.
The only time that compares to that was a flight I had early in my career. I was flying to meet with my agent another potential book deal, I believe, but only one thing dominates my recollection of that day. I only remember that I spent the time waiting and jotting new ideas down in my pocket notebook.
“What are you writing?” the question caught me off guard. The voice was different too. The accent was not what I expected. I couldn’t place it. English maybe? No, Australian that was it, I thought. I looked up and saw the person standing in front of me. As soon as I saw her, I was eight again, and my wind locked in my throat, gasping for breath on the playing field; I half expected to pass out before I could answer the young woman, with her brown curls tangling down to her shoulders, the girl from Adelaide.
“Is this seat taken?’ she asked, slipping into the seat next to me.
“I believe they’re assigned,” I said.
“Ah, is that how you do it here,” she said, “Down under we just pile in. More interesting that way.”
“You never answered my question.”
To be perfectly honest, I doubted I would be able to remember my name, but with a small degree of poise, I managed, “It’s nothing. Just ideas for a story.”
“And, what sort of story?”
“Just about the charming Australian woman I just met.”
“Oh, you’re a charmer aren’t you.”
“I promise you only one person in this conversation is charming.”
“What are you writing about really?”
“I already told you.”
“You’re not a very good liar.”
“So, I’ve been told.”
She turned her head away, jostling the brown curls, and yawned.
“Am I that boring?” I asked when she regained her composure.
“Maybe,” she said, “but, I’m also knackered.”
“Tired, I think is what you say.”
“What a great word,” I said pulling out the notebook and scribbling the new word down.
“Ack, is that going to put that in a story?” she said.
“What was that?” I asked.
“Ack, is that a you thing or an Australian thing?’
“Bit of both I suspect.”
I continued to transcribe the additional vocabulary.
“How did you know I was writing a story?”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“You asked about a story. There are many other types of writing.”
“Only one really matters though.”
“I’m going to write that down.”
“If this conversation turns into a book, then I want half the royalties.”
“Half of not very much isn’t a whole lot.”
“Half of something is better than half of nothing.”
“True,” I said, “If you’re going to be in a book. I need to know what you do.”
“I teach,” she said.
“Whom do you teach?”
“Kangaroos,” she said.
I nearly spit out my water right there.
“No,” she said, “though there is one unfortunate boy named Joey. He never hears the end of it.”
I laughed, but the moment passed where a witty reply would be welcomed. I was increasingly becoming aware that I was out of depth conversationally. Luckily, my new companion rescued me.
“You don’t talk much do you?”
“I prefer my correspondence to be written”
“That makes sense. Being a professional writer and all.”
“I would hardly describe my writing as professional.”
“There are worse things to be professional at,” she said.
“A prostitute for one.”
“That’s true. Though, how do you know that’s not what I do. This could all be an elaborate backstory I concocted.”
“I suspect that if that was true. You’d have much better stories.”
“I’d also be flying first class.”
She shifted slightly in her seat, “like you aren’t relishing the opportunity to sit elbow to elbow with me.” She smiled. There are few things lovelier than a woman’s smile and I’m not a good enough writer to think of any.
“I’ll admit this beats my usual conversation partner.”
“I bet he’s much less fun.”
“It’s a she,” I said, and her eyebrows raised. I don’t think she meant for me to notice. But, I’m fairly astute when presented the opportunity. “But,” I said, “she has four legs.”
“Poor thing, some sort of accident?”
“She’s a good listener.”
“I’m sure. And, she can’t tell you to be quiet.”
“Is that a hint?’
“Might be,” she said smiling again.
“All you have to do render me speechless is to keep smiling,” I said knowing how lame it sounded. Though, when one sits next to a pretty woman everything sounds lame so it’s hard to make a distinction. And, I was outclassed in our witty repartee and I was slowly admitting defeat.
“I’m going to give you that one,” she said. The smile didn’t disappear.
We went back and forth for the next two hours. She was one of the most charming people I’d ever met. She was gorgeous in a way few people are, and even after the years, I can recall her face perfectly.
This is the point in the story where I reveal we continued on to dinner. Or, some other activity that young infatuated people would do. But, the flight ended. While we were departing, even though we’d talked for hours, neither of us knew each other’s name. We went our separate ways, and she told me to look her up should I find myself in Australia.
“I don’t know what to call you,” I said as the distance between us lengthened.
“Oh me?” she said smiling, “I’m just a girl from Adelaide.”