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Miss Sunshine Fills `Er Up

By JOHN GOULD / June 2, 1989



SOME years back, Bill and I were on our annual way into the far Maine woods to meditate for a week, and as usual we pulled into the filling station at Greenville to top off the gasoline tank in our trusty pickup. Also a five-gallon can for spare, because there are no fuel oases beyond Seboomook unless you have a Canadian insurance card and can talk French. The cutest little teen-age girl fairly bounced toward us as we stopped and in dulcet tones wished to know if she might fill-'er-up. Bill waved his charge card and said, ``Pray do - and the can as well.''

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``You look's'if you might be off on a trout hunt!'' she jollied, smiling with straight white teeth and pushing back a coy lock of auburn hair with her free hand. The nozzle was in the fill-pipe and the pump was going ding-ding-ding.

``You couldn't be closer to the truth with two guesses,'' said Bill.

She said, ``This is my first day on the job!''

``Great!'' said Bill. ``We've gassed up here for 16 trips; we'll be back next Saturday on our way out!''

``I'll watch for you,'' she said, and she shifted the hose to the empty can. She said she was from Greenville, and meant to go to the university come fall, and asked where we lived, and to the extent that a couple of old fogy grandfathers may do so, we fell in love with the fair damsel and wished her all happiness before we drove along. As we did, Bill said it was a rare filling station with such a charming hostess to beguile the wayfaring stranger.

We passed the several logging road gates to get to camp, and after we unloaded our gear we settled in to make preparations for our usual first supper of our week - steak and onions, French fries, assorted with-its, and the strawberry shortcake that rounds off the joy, and after these exercises we cleaned up the dishes, held a philosophic seminar, and went to bed. The cry of the lunatic loon off the lake lulled us to slumber, and off and on a playful moose would trot past while an alert owl made frequent inquiry.

Upon arising, we made breakfast and ate it, and held witan as to what we should do today, and where, and I put things in a basket and in a cooler to sustain us when noon came. We picnic each day in a different place. It was while we were setting up the fly rods that William said, ``That girl didn't put back the gas cap!''

True, logical positivism would allow for the chance that it had popped off along the way, but there was no cap, and I joined Bill in accusing the young lady. We always have a kit of hand tools with us, so with tinsnips and an emptied peach can we fashioned a temporary cap that would keep out the dust of the woodland roads, and we tied it on with a string. William and I revised our earlier opinions of the young lady, and William said she would do well to divert some of her affability to paying attention.

When we broke camp on the Saturday, we took our long, last ceremonial gaze at Caucomgomoc Lake and bowed at the wise old gull that sits forever on the remnant of his boom pier, and after repassing the gates we came again to Greenville to refuel and to retrieve our gas cap.

This time we were greeted by a gruff-looking geezer who could have been a muskrat trapper just back from six weeks on the Musquacook Deadwater, and saying nothing in the way of a greeting he reached to take off our tin-can gas cap. He looked up and grinned. ``One o' them, eh?'' he said.

Bill said, ``We were hoping to renew our acquaintance with Miss Sunshine.''

``Ayeh,'' he said.

Bill added, ``And get back our gas cap.''

``It's up there,'' he said, and he pointed at the top of the diesel pump where some two dozen gas tank caps sat orderly in rows. ``Miss Sunshine,'' he said, ``worked here two days - her first and her last. She never put back a gas cap. One guy telephoned from Montreal that he was suing us. People keep coming in. We let her go that night. Had to, or we'd own every gas cap in Piscataquis County. Good kid, but we was scairt somebody'd wring her fool neck.''

``Pleasant girl,'' said Bill. ``She could have been an asset to the business.''

``Ayeh. But we didn't just kick her out. I got her a job down to Guilford. She disinfects the rental shoes in the bowling alley. Making more than she would here. Goes to the university this fall. Wants to study to have a more useful life. This looks like your cap. Eyah! That's it! I'll toss this makeshift tin cap with the others. Have a good day!''