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The Carriage Driver 4 – Neil Simon


Griffin found himself with his carriage and Nuelle on the center of a stage. The lights made it difficult to see out into the audience, but he could hear a voice.

“OK, who cast the horse? Working with animals is always so unpredictable.”

The voice had a distinct accent, but Griffin could not place it.

“You. You, standing by the carriage. Who sent you over here? Was it central casting? I did not picture a Lorne Greene type for this role.” He turned to someone out of the scene, “Call my agent.”

Griffin walked over to the carriage and looked at the name in the book. When he saw the name he smiled.

“I guess I can make this work. It could be a cross between Barefoot in the Park and the Odd Couple. Maybe we could call it, Odd Couple in the Park or the Odd Barefoot Couple.” The man paused and jotted things down in a notepad with a pencil. “Are you a member of the screen actor’s guild?”

“I have been sent for you. Nuelle and I will take you anywhere you want to go,” Griffin responded.

“What a carriage ride? I have lived in New York most of my life. I have seen everything and been on a few carriage rides, when I was younger.”

“Not like this one.” Griffin smiled. “And you don’t live in New York anymore.”

Neil stopped at that thought. He spent his life in New York mingling with the theater crowd, with trips to Hollywood to guide his plays into movies. He looked at the stage. This man, plain, but with stature. He looked at the beautiful white horse. He glanced over his shoulder at the control room. The lighting was handled from there. He wondered how the crew was getting the light so perfectly both around the driver and the horse. The carriage sparkled. They never got the lighting done so well in the past. “So what is the gig here?” He finally asked.

“We are here to take you anywhere you wish to go. If you have not given this much thought, then there is a place where we can take you where you can spend as much time as necessary. Many people chose to wait for loved ones, so they can continue together.”

“You mean, my work is done? How can that be? I have worked since I was a child. My motivation was to get as far from the poverty of my youth as I could. I did not need fame,” he put both hands out in front of him, “but a little fortune, couldn’t hurt. I turned to comedy as a refuge. Snappy wit, is often a shield wielded as a defense.”

Neil walked up onto the stage. “As a kid, I read all the greats. I don’t mean Dickens and Tolstoy, but the humorists, Mark Twain, Robert Benchley George S. Kaufman and the likes of S.J. Perelman. Today only one is a household name. Believe me Mark Twain was not the only humorist guiding a fresh batch of humorist to keep up the fight against all the anger and sadness that is around all of us. After a few readings, you could pick up the timing of things. You could learn what made it funny. Making people laugh and earning a living, now that was a balancing act. I did have it good. I tell people, that the theater discovered me, not the other way around. Early on, I got to write with Steve Allen, and Mel Brooks even Carl Reiner.”


Griffin saw the first smile from Neil at this remembrance. “Have you given any thought to what you might do next?”

Neil looked at Griffin, “My plays were never about me. They were about people and the troubles they face. They pursue love and have doors slammed in their faces. They put their trust in someone and are bruised and bashed by that very trust. Through all this, they remain capable of laughter. The trick is to find that common spigot that lets that laugher flow. That does not happen often, but when it does, it is a joy to behold. It took me three years to write one play. The words just kept falling short of the ring of truth. I hope I am not talking to much. I just have never been told before that I am not living. Not even my ex-wives have told me something that heavy to handle.”

“Take your time. Time is no longer something to worry about. If you want to move a mountain, a mountain will be provided. If you want to write, then a place that suits your imagination will be at your disposal. Your reward is a step away.”

“This is good stuff.” Neil jotted down the phrase he liked, for use later.

Nuelle moved a little. The glow around her grew. A wave of warmth swept over Neil.

“So, this is happening?”

“It has happened.” Griffin reassured him. “Your name is in the book. Your ticket is secured. Wherever you go you are assured that natural feeling of home.”

“My writing was all about people; I dissected their eccentricities, gathered their absurdities, embellished their quirks.” Neil glanced at his feet. “How can I continue that in a place such as you describe?”

“People need to be entertained, here or in the hereafter. Many of those same frailties will be available for you to witness. In the Great Hall, there are many artistic types that I understand are quite the group when they get together. Many eccentrics find their names entered. It might be because they seldom think of themselves, and are less likely to follow false trails.”

Neil jotted a note in his book.

Griffin reached out his hand. Neil took it and stepped aboard the carriage.

In that instance, they were outside moving along a cobblestone path. Neil looked over his shoulder at the fading theater that he loved. Nuelle stopped.

Griffin climbed down. Both the travelers, giving their fare a few final moments. Griffin reached into his pocket and retrieved an apple. He cut it into four pieces and fed two to Nuelle. He reached up and handed a slice to Neil and ate the fourth piece.

In the distance ahead of them, Neil could see the spires of a castle.

Goodbye Girl David Gates

© 2018 mckbirdbks


mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on December 05, 2018:

Hello Ann - Your comment is very kind. I appreciate your generosity. Thank you. Neil Simon had a knack for capturing American life. He entertained us, making us laugh and cry. There is not much better you can say about a writer’s work.

You also have a week filled with special memories.

Ann Carr from SW England on December 05, 2018:

I'm afraid I didn't know Neil Simon but now I know a little about him.

This is beautiful, as always. You manage to capture a person's life in a few words so that we understand much about him; that is a talent.

I love this story among so many of your excellent pieces. You never disappoint, Mike.

I hope you're having a great week and that you enjoy an even better weekend!


mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 17, 2018:

Hello Paula - 'The Goodbye Girls' is one of my favorites. It captures the feelings so well of those brave enough to venture toward new beginnings. I do agree an enormous talent has left us. I hope he can be replaced. Thanks for the nice comment. The series seems to have turned biographical, which was never my intent.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 17, 2018:

Hello Shauna - Thanks. I did not know where an artist such as Neil Simon would want to go, so the castle was the best choice. I am sure that he will receive an open arms welcome wherever he ends up. Thanks for staying with the series.

Suzie from Carson City on September 17, 2018:

Mike......When I think "Neil Simon," I think "Goodbye Girl," one of my all-time favorites. When I think, exquisite, heartfelt Farewells, I think, "The Carriage Driver." Yet another enormous talent has left us. We are blessed to have his works of art. Paula

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on September 17, 2018:

I think the castle is the perfect choice for Neil Simon until he gets comfortable with the fact that he's passing from one plane to the next. He'll have a good time there.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 16, 2018:

Hello Shy - Thank you. This series, not sure what to say. I tried, The Telling, Mr. Pimberton's Vacation, and The Curious Life, but did not feel any traction or attraction. Fauntleroy and Flossy, has an American flavor that has some appeal. "The Crude Family" arrived as a title. I might loss even more readers.

Thanks for the blessings

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 16, 2018:

Hello John - An easy mistake to make. I had to go and check. haha

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on September 16, 2018:

Mike, thank you for keeping track of our talented artist. I can come here and read about the departure of each one and I miss them all and Neil Simon is high on the list.

Blessings as always

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on September 16, 2018:

Oh, Paul Simon....damn my mistake haha.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 16, 2018:

Hi John - You had me rush off and look up Simon, Paul Simon, shoot, that was close. Thanks for staying with The Carriage Driver stories. Seems I should have thought of something else to write about by now.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 16, 2018:

Hello Peg - David Gates and Bread is my favorite group from my youth. There are many songs for our era that speak to me. And The Rolling Stones has moved way up on my list over the years. I am glad you enjoyed the music. Neil Simon knew what he was doing when he had Gates accompany his story. The Carriage Driver has come such a long way. Thanks for staying with him.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on September 16, 2018:

Another great talent has been lost and your tibute to Neil Simon was wonderfully fitting, Mike. Though I admit when I saw the title of the Carriage Driver story I thought the other Neil Simon (of Simon and Garfunkel fame) must have passed away without my knowledge. A quick Google search proved that to be false thankfully. An enjoyable read.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on September 16, 2018:

Delighted to see another release of TCD4, although, the reasons for the new story remain sad. This hopeful and funny episode makes me want to go back and see Neil Simon's work again. His stories so accurately depicted the foibles and idiosyncrasies of people. We've truly lost a talented writer. Loved the music selection. It is a timeless song that brings back good memories of days past.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 16, 2018:

Hello Bill - We did indeed lose a good one. He turned the craft of writing into one masterpiece after another, and we were all better for it. Thanks for the compliment.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 16, 2018:

Hello Pamela – What a nice thing to say. Neil Simon will be missed. Hopefully some young, talented writer will take his place and continue the fine art of making us feel good about ourselves. I appreciate your visit.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 16, 2018:

Hello Genna – Neil Simon helped us all smile and to laugh at ourselves. He pointed out people’s differences with such flair. So many people enjoyed The Odd Couple, as they ‘knew’ people just like that. The Goodbye Girl was ‘charming’ and California Suite is a jumble of American life. We were entertained and bemused.

Thank you for such a fine comment. Smiles are my reward.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 16, 2018:

We lost a good one for sure, Mike! It's nice to see a gifted writer writing about a gifted writer. :)

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 16, 2018:

Neil Simon is such a gifted writer, and I loved his plays as well. I truly enjoyed this article and the pictures added wonderfully to your writing. I smiled the whole time I read your words. Wonderful job!

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on September 16, 2018:

I've heard that comedy is the hardest genre in which to act and even tougher to write. Simon sure made it look easy with Barefoot in the Park; The Goodbye Girl; California Suite; The Odd Couple. He understood human nature and its eccentricities with a Simonesque humor that may be viewed as passé and no longer relevant to the times but I still love his plays. And then there is Lost in Yonkers. I so liked the way you introduced Simon to Griffin and Nuelle, and to us...this is first-rate writing, Mike. I couldn't ask for a better way to begin my Sunday with a smile. Thank you.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 15, 2018:

Hello Verlie - I think all writers take notes from their day to day encounters. I know I scramble for a pencil/pen from time to time. I have a note that says, 'nuns in an apple tree' it is a great image and now I am looking for a scene to use it. haha I have not been to the theater is some time. You are right it is time. I will put it on my list of things to do. As it happens David Gates from 'Bread' is a long time favorite of mine.

Thank you.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 15, 2018:

Hello mar - I am not sure I knew the writer of The Odd Couple, Barefoot in the Park, Goodbye Girl, but I was lucky enough to enjoy his work. Most of his plays became movies. He entertained us. What can be higher praise than that? As it happens I saw the last half of The Goodbye Girl recently. After all these years, it is still warm and entertaining.

Thanks for staying with TCD4

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on September 15, 2018:

This is great Mike. I love your opening photo of the four horse/men on stage, really powerful. And the closing song. Neil Simon is an icon. Great that you were able to present him with human foibles, funny to see him taking notes from Griffin, great capture of the artistic soul. Makes me want to go to the theatre.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on September 15, 2018:

I grew up with Neil Simon. I recently read that "Simon’s name was a Pavlovian trigger for laughter" - ain't that the truth.

While reading this, I was hoping you'd include this song choice - what a movie, what a theme song!

Neil has a rightful place in TCD4 - great chapter, dear Mike.

Have a peaceful night. Hugs, mar

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