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
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