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Prom Date 

Published September 3, 2014 at 10:00 a.m.

You seem to be at peace with the family drama. I mean, every family's got its drama, right?

"Vermont is so lush. I'm from Texas, just outside of Dallas, and we're dry as a bone."

My customer, Morgan McGee, was speaking from the shotgun seat. At the airport, I had offered my customary "You can sit in the front if you like, whatever's more comfortable for you," and she, like 90 percent of my airport clients, took me up on it. I don't know what cabbies do across the country, but it's certainly a Vermont thing. We're relaxed and informal that way.

"This is my second summer visit here," Morgan continued. "I'm a physical therapist, and these training sessions offer advanced certification."

I might have guessed that profession, I thought. This woman positively glowed with physical energy. She was beautiful, too, with olive skin, a trim figure and long, straight black hair parted in the middle. If not for her height — not much over five feet — she could have told me she was a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader and I would've believed it.

"So tell me about life in Texas," I asked, laying the groundwork for a relaxed and informal chat. We were cruising down Hinesburg Road en route to Bristol, with about a half hour of drive time to go. "You got family down there? Your moms and pops still kickin' it?"

Morgan chuckled. "Oh, Moms and Pops are still kickin' it, all right, but they moved to Oklahoma a few years ago. My mom has only a sister in her family, but my stepdad comes from a ginormous Irish American tribe, most of whom live around Tulsa. I have mad numbers of aunts and uncles and cousins."

"That's great," I said. "It's nice to be a member of a tribe. What about your biological dad? Is he still in the picture?"

"That's another long story. My grandfather — my mom's father — was a traveling musician. He played with Elvis, Willie Nelson — just about everybody, really. Unfortunately, he was also an alcoholic, with all the heartache that goes along with that. My birth dad was a musician who played with my granddad, and that's how Mom met him. Mom was a total wild child, an out-of-control teenager, but her life turned around completely when I was conceived.

"She told me that, when I came along, she knew she had to ditch my dad and get her life together. And when I was a year old, she met my stepdad, who turned out to be a great husband and an awesome father."

Morgan paused to laugh before adding, "And that, my friend, is my story."

"It's a really good story," I said. "What about your birth father? Did he ever remarry?"

"Oooh, yeah," she replied. "Three times, each go-round with a younger woman. His current wife is younger than me!"

"That's got to be weird for you."

"No, I'm way past all of that. Maybe I'd feel differently if I didn't have such a great stepfather. Anyway, I just hope he finds some happiness in life."

"That's a wonderful place you've come to," I said. "You seem to be at peace with the family drama. I mean, every family's got its drama, right?"

We were quiet for a while as we motored through Monkton. I kept it slow, knowing the state police frequently ticket along this stretch. You think you're safe, off the beaten track, and that's when they nab you. They're quite wily.

"Talking about family," Morgan said with a sigh, "my grandfather on my stepdad's side is probably on his deathbed. Most of the family is gathered there with him. I have this image of him surrounded by his grandkids and great-grandkids, being called to heaven by my grandma, who died five years ago. I take a lot of comfort in that."

"Wow, that's a great vision. That would be the way to go, wouldn't it?"

"All these stoic Irishmen," she continued with a laugh. "I'm so much more emotional and expressive coming from my mom's Italian and Mexican side. They don't know quite what to make of me, but from the beginning they accepted me and my mom into the family with open arms..."

Morgan was crying now, softly. "Sorry," she said. "But, you know..."

"I know," I said.

We arrived at a large house on a flowery side street in Bristol. I don't think it was an official B&B, but in these days of Airbnb, there's a lot of informal renting of rooms going on. The owner, a handsome, middle-aged woman in garden overalls and work boots, greeted Morgan with a big hug and "Great to see you again."

"You know," the owner added, "Barry is still talking about last year and what you did for him."

"Oh, it was nothing," Morgan said. "He's a great kid."

"Did you tell your cabdriver about it?"

"Gosh, no," Morgan said, shaking her head and smiling.

"Well," the owner began, stepping closer to my open window. "The last time Morgan stayed here, my son had just been turned down by this girl he liked to go to the junior prom. He was so sad and feeling so low. Morgan heard about it and volunteered to go to the dance as his date! An older hottie! Let me tell you, that evening boosted his self-esteem, like, a thousand percent. It really raised his 'social profile,' as they say."

"Is that right?" I said. "Hey, Miss McGee — next week is the annual Cabdriver's Summer Ball, and I was wondering..."

"Next week?" Morgan asked. "Hang on a sec — let me check my calendar."

All these stories are true, though names and locations may be altered to protect privacy.

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About The Author

Jernigan Pontiac

Jernigan Pontiac

Jernigan Pontiac was a Burlington cab driver whose biweekly "Hackie" column appeared in Seven Days 2000-20. He has published two book-length collections, Hackie: Cab Driving and Life, and Hackie 2: Perfect Autumn.


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