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The Carriage Driver 4 - Harlan Ellison

the-carriage-driver-4-harlan-ellison

“I was hoping that Isaac, Alfred and Robert would be here to meet me,” the man looked at Nuelle, as he spoke to Griffin who was there to meet him.

“There is some misconception about the transition. Many have contemplated and many have written their thoughts regarding the next plane. There is simplicity, a grand design, if you will, to the process.” Griffin reached into his pocket and produced an apple. He cut the apple into four pieces and fed two to Nuelle. He offered a quarter to the man standing by the carriage.

He reached out his arm and took the offered apple. He tossed it into his mouth and chewed furiously. Thoughts of the symbolism of the apple were swirling through his head. “What is your name?” He looked at the carriage driver, “What is her name?” He nodded his head toward Nuelle.

“I am Griffin, Captain Griffin Chaffey, and my friend here is Nuelle. We are here to escort you to wherever you want to go.”

“I am a writer. My job was a revolutionary, a guerilla warrior, fighting the battle of the blank page. It was not my job to make you feel better. Shaking you by the lapels was more my tactic. With my Olympia typewriter, I inconvenience you. I stir things up. That made me a hothead in some circles. In this world, you have to fight. Fight for what you believe. Fight for those that can’t fight for themselves. It is the responsibility of the strong to make those that are weaker to become strong.”

Nuelle twitched her head.

He continued, “I created the world, over and over. Some called me a Science Fiction writer, but I felt I excelled at many genres. Speculative fiction is the category that is the best fit. There were so many labels: troublemaker, malcontent are a couple. In an interview, I referred to myself as a combination of Zorro and Jiminy Cricket. Try living with that.” He rubbed his chin. “I listened to so much ‘bibble-babble’ one would hope that people were always bettering themselves. But that does not seem to be the case. Reading exercises the imagination; reading makes the mind work, to fill in the blanks. To some extent, movies do the same. Now, television is for lazy people. People are led step by step, no imagination is necessary. Along with books, short stories, and essays, I wrote for television. I built a large library with the money I made writing for television.” He paused, “Did you say your name was Griffin? In my story, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream one of my characters is named Griffin. He had made it to the heaven of his dreams. His forever place. He has led a life that he always felt was not quite enough. And yet, here he was with the wind and the water and the goodness. He stood near the brilliance and light.” He paused and smiled, “One fellow, a Mr. Neil Gaiman once said, ‘The words—there is an attention to the words. There is an attention to the sound of the words. You’re reading them in your head, and they sing.’ So, you see, you and I are in the same business. We build a heaven of our own design. You Griffin, have the luxury of parking a client at a castle if just yet, they cannot make up their own mind. Me, I have to lift them and carry them where I think they might like to go. They have to like where I carry them. And in this business, they have to want to return. To see what else you have on your mind. What something new, or special or macabre or gray you can bring to them. You offer a garden of delight, if that is their wish. I offer, or should say offered a bordered corridor of imaginative, colorful, intrusive, abrasive, irritating words and was often amazed at the readers that gathered and cheered.”

“Nuelle and I are here to take you wherever you want to go. You used your imagination to entertain many during your career. You have explored the unknown, spent time as a tramp, walked down pathways free from footprints. You reached the end of one journey and stand here, stalling, I might add, before starting the next. Your name is in the book. That is, your accomplishment.”

“That reminds me. I was married five times. Punched a professor, mailed a dead gopher to my publisher, sued AOL and the makers of The Terminator for taking my story plot without payment. Just how is my name in the book? Just who is your publisher? Just who is your editor?”

Griffin pushed his cap back on his head and laughed. “I don’t question the names in the book. Everyone that climbs into the carriage belongs there.”

“Did I mention that I am my own genre. I probably did. I am proud of it. One writes for posterity, one writes to be remembered. A story sits on my shoulder like Quasimoto’s hump. It stays there until I get it written; I write the story, to get it off my back.” Harlan looked at Griffin, standing there, with all the time in the world. Nuelle’s coat sparkled with care. The carriage was shined to craftsmen like splendor. “I bet you have some stories to tell.”

Griffin smiled. The rhythm of the man's speech was pleasant, similar to Nuelle’s footfalls along a cobblestone path. “Nuelle and I have some stories. Have you decided?”

“Decided?”

“Yes, once you climb into the carriage we can deliver you…”

“I know, I know, sorry to interrupt. You can deliver me to wherever I want to go.” Harlan smiled at his own wit. Pleased with himself.

“Yes.”

Nuelle took a step forward.

“Whoa,” Harlan called.

“Don’t worry, we won’t leave without you. Unless you wish us to go.”

“As a short story writer, I have learned that the story lets the reader build what happened just before the story begins and what will happen once the story ends. It is a craft and well trained craftsmen or craftswomen, to be politically correct, if they can find a way to capture the reader’s imagination, soon they will have a following.”

Harlan stopped talking and stepped up into the back of the carriage.

It took a moment for Griffin to react. He walked to Nuelle’s ear and said, “I thought this might go just like the last fare.” He climbed up and gave Nuelle her rein. She waited.

Over his shoulder he asked, “Have you made up your mind?”

“Yes, please bring me to the The Lost Aztec Temple of Mars.” With a wry smile on his face, he leaned back and waited.

Nuelle took a step.

Griffin scratched his chin, “That's in Sherman Oaks, isn’t it?”

the-carriage-driver-4-harlan-ellison

Robert Jablon | AP as published in the Washington Post

During a career that spanned more than half a century, Ellison wrote some 50 books and more than 1,400 articles, essays, TV scripts and screenplays. Although best-known for his science fiction, which garnered nearly a dozen Nebula and Hugo awards, Ellison's work covered virtually every type of writing from mysteries to comic books to newspaper columns.

There are reports that Harlan Ellison wrote or edited 100 books and 1,700 short stories. I don’t think that I should dismiss the possibility of 300 short stories.

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