The Carriage Driver³ - Birthday Bike
“I’m nine. I'm nine.” Michael rushed into the kitchen where his mother stood cradling a large pink glass bowl in one arm and held a wooden spoon in the other hand. She stirred the batter that would soon be a birthday cake.
“Not until 2:47 p.m. young man. About the time this cake will be ready. I remember I held you in my arms the first day of your life.”
The back door opened, and Michael’s father walked in wiping his hands on a rag. He winked at his wife. “It’s done.” He had spent the last three weeks refurbishing an old bicycle as a birthday gift. There were signs of red paint on his hands and the sleeves of his shirt.
Michael’s sister Fran was eleven and a half. She sat in a chair in the kitchen, ignoring the goings on while flipping through a magazine with Dick Clark on the cover and a banner that said Maybelline. She was right at that age; not quite a woman and not quite a kid.
At 2:30 p.m. the kids in the neighborhood showed up. They enjoyed their freshly baked cake and ice cream. By 3:30 p.m. the party was winding down the kids waved their goodbyes, and there was a shiny red bike with twenty-inch tires and a high raised “U” set of handlebars. The new tires still had those little rubber manufacturing nipples left from the mold.
“Can I take it out?” Michael asked.
“Sure Honey,” his mother said. “Fran get your bike and go with him.”
Fran made a face in protest, but she still loved riding her bike, and she loved her brother. “Oh, Mom.” She said because she felt it an obligation to protest. But she jumped up still wearing her birthday party dress, and the two went out with their bikes.
Not long after they left the house, they were miles away. “Look,” Michael pointed. There were three older boys at the top of a high hill near expensive houses. They rode in circles, on the asphalt street while Michael and Fran watched. Then they lined up and pushed off, racing down their hill. At the halfway point, there was a sharp turn.
Each reached the half way point leaning deep into the turn and gently tapped their hand brakes to maintain just the right speed as the centrifugal force held them in perfect balance and guided them through the turn.
The three boys went past Fran and Michael with big smiles on their faces. They were showing off for Fran’s sake.
Michael pushed off and began climbing the hill. He had to stand on the pedals and use all his weight to lug himself and his bike up the steep hill. Fran felt responsible for his safety, and she also stood on the pedals of her bike to make it to the top.
At the top of the hill, Michael and Fran caught their breath while riding in circles. They were also letting the burning pain in their legs subside.
Fran lined up her bike on the inside and Michael stood looking down the hill. His eyes were wide. He was still sweaty from the push to reach the top. “We don’t have to do this,” Fran told Michael.
“Ready?” Fran pushed off. She hung tight to the left side wanting plenty of room for the sharp turn at high speed. Michael followed.
The wind seemed to push them. Fran was in the lead as they approached the turn. She could feel the weight of the force begin pulling her, and she found herself moving sharply toward the far side of the street.
Michael selected the middle of the road. His small bike picked up speed rapidly. He leaned hard into the turn, the bicycle neared the ground. The pedal hitting the asphalt caught him by surprise. The bike skidded along and then came to rest.
His left leg lay at an odd angle, but it did not hurt. Two of the fingers on his left hand turned backward, but it did not hurt. The deep gash on his head, where his head lost the battle of hitting the chrome bumper blade continued to bleed. But it did not hurt.
Fran heard him crash and turned her head back to look. Her front wheel turned from the movement. The speed tumbled her, over and over. When she stopped, she lay still, the wind tossing the hem of her birthday dress.
The three boys on their bikes with large wheels and hand brakes rode to where Fran lay and circled her. They looked at each other and raced away.
Captain Griffin Chaffey prepared his carriage. It was clean as he could get it. The spokes of the wheels shined with wax. Nuelle was cleaned and brushed. When they were ready Griffin made sure he carried an apple for Nuelle, and he led Nuelle and the carriage out of the barn.
He checked the book again and saw his fares were children. He did not hurry. He knew what time he had to arrive. He had to allow the family time.
The bad news traveled quickly, and both parents of Michael and Fran rushed to the site in disbelieve. Michael’s mother held him in her arms, on his last day. Her father’s arms cradled Fran.
Griffin parked the carriage at the bottom of the hill. Michael came over and gave Nuelle a pat on her cheek. He could barely reach, so Nuelle had to put her head down.
Fran stood looking at the scene. She had never seen her Father crying. Her Mom cried all the time. She said it was from happiness.
Griffin went and gathered first the twenty-inch ‘stingray’ bike and tied it to the back of the carriage. Next, he did the same thing with the beach cruiser that Fran had successfully maneuvered around the curve.
Griffin stood with the kids as the emergency vehicles came and made their reports and carried the bodies to the hospital and tried to console the parents. The police found no witnesses.
One by one the people went back to their houses. The emergency responders left, and the street once again became quiet.
Griffin offered his hand first to Fran and then to Michael and they both made themselves comfortable in the back. “That was one heck of a ride,” Michael said. “It was like someone grabbed me and pulled me down. When that pedal hit the ground, everything spun around.”
“One heck of a ride,” Fran echoed.
“If you two don’t mind, I’ll take you back to the barn and get those two bikes pounded back into shape and polished up as good as ever. What do you think? Do you mind spending some time with Nuelle and me?”
Fran and Michael agreed. Two weeks later, both bikes, as promised were again straight and shiny. Griffin went and told the kids their bikes were ready. He unfolded a map that showed a stretch of heaven with smooth rolling hills with shade trees and sweet water evenly spaced along the path.
“I thought you two might want to take a bike trip to heaven while you are deciding what you want to do next.”
Nuelle swished her tail and tossed her mane as the two children pushed off, sun at their back, on their next leg of their journey.
Norman Greenbaum - Spirit in the Sky (PSK Remastered)
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© 2017 mckbirdbks