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The Carriage Driver³ - Birthday Bike

Updated on January 21, 2017

“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.

Source

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.

Source

“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)

Mungo Jerry - In the summertime

© 2017 mckbirdbks

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    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 5 months ago from Dallas, Texas

      Mike, this heartfelt story brings back so many memories of the past. You've woven together a tale of caution and childhood peppered with recklessness and competition. I'm lucky that my own child did not end up in this sort of tragedy. It made me go into my old scrapbook and take a look at him at that age with his brand new bicycle that his granddad bought him. Another beautiful reminder that our choices make such a difference.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 5 months ago from Southern Illinois

      Mike, I loved this story even though it was sad. I also loved your description of the rolling hills in heaven. Is that your drawing of the boy and girl on the bikes? If so, it is very good. It brought back a memory when my son had a nasty spill on his back, and so did I. I think my spill was about eight years ago. I was lucky, that's when I exchanged my two wheeler for a three wheeler. Another great episode Mike!

    • mckbirdbks profile image
      Author

      mckbirdbks 5 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Peg, Thank you. As children, we took so much risk. Most of us came through it alright. Luckily, I write fiction. The boys on the bike bikes were real, and I on a small bike was real. It was more hill than that little bike with me at the wheel should have tried to handle. You would think I would learn lessons from these types of experiences. Oh, yes, I can tell exactly what choices lead me to where I am today.

      As always, thanks for sticking with these stories.

    • mckbirdbks profile image
      Author

      mckbirdbks 5 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Ruby – Thanks for the visit on this very busy national day. Oey Vie. Yes, this was a sad story, more for Fran than Michael. Fran was sent to take care of Michael, in every sense of the expression. Now, rolling hills in heaven sounds like a great place to spend time for a long bike ride. That should clear the cobwebs of the senses. I don’t know how many times I dropped my bike while out delivering papers. Either a spill caused by myself of some hungry angry dog.

      Hope you are still riding the three wheeler when the weather cooperates.

      The drawing is not mine. I used to draw, but not much anymore. I no longer seem to have the necessary peace of mind.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 5 months ago from Southern Illinois

      My granddaughter Sarah came for a visit and rode the bike and loved it, so I gave it to her. I really didn't have a good place to ride since moving on Main, St. I still exercise faithfully everyday. I bought a Tony Little AB lounge. I put it downstairs, so I get double exercise climbing the stairs. Oey Vie, what a speech. George W was lol. Hillary looked so sad. Sigh..

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 5 months ago from South Africa

      Oh shame! I hate this kind of tragedy! But I still remember the joy of being 10-12 years old, riding on my bike and challenging the hills, not thinking about the dangers, which only happen to others. Fran and Michael scored a bike trip to heaven, but they will surely be missed.

    • mckbirdbks profile image
      Author

      mckbirdbks 5 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Ruby - that exercising keeps you young. The doctors tell me that every time I see them. I did not listen to the speech. I guess I should go and do that. I wrote a story about heaven instead.

    • mckbirdbks profile image
      Author

      mckbirdbks 5 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Martie - I don't think my sister knows how many times I use her character in my various stories. Yes, tragedy strikes more often than we care to think about it. The stories in this third series seem to me are darker than the first two. I am surprised there are now 15 stories written in this new series.

      The parents in this story bear the brunt of the sadness, not knowing about the green rolling hills of heaven.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 5 months ago from Dallas, Texas

      There's a story in the making, Mike. The Paperboy! You have such a great talent for turning real life into stories, fact and fiction combined in entertaining and educational ways. We had paper routes as children, at least my brother did and I was the little helper. I remember riding on the back of the Vespa motorcycle tossing papers into people's yards at oh dark thirty. Bet you have some great stories to share. Not many youngsters are that ambitious anymore.

    • mckbirdbks profile image
      Author

      mckbirdbks 5 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hi Peg - Funny (or not) around here the few papers that are delivered are delivered by an adult driving a car. Those carefree days are long over. I did not a paper route, and I do think I could muster a story. I think I agree that not many kids seem ambitious, or need to be, they all seem to have expensive phones, etc.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 5 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

      I'm grateful this story only borrowed from reality... I cannot imagine the grief that parents would experience in this scenario.

      The manner in which you describe Michael and Fran's relationship makes my heart smile. Your words always make the story come alive in my mind...

      We earned this weekend - hoping yours is a good one. Hugs, mar

    • mckbirdbks profile image
      Author

      mckbirdbks 5 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hi mar. California celebrated Black Friday with the worst rains I can remember. The house was pounded with falling water. California must be nearing officially being over their drought.

      Yes, Michael and Fran have a lifelong relationship - not that we understand each other. haha

      Thanks for staying with these stories.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 5 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      I remember the allure of racing downhill as a young girl. I loved my bike, and would often ride it on the back roads in the mountain country where we lived at the time. One day, my feet lost their grip on the pedals for some weird reason, and I missed a turn, hitting a boulder. The impact flipped me into a foreword somersault into the air. I don't remember hitting the ground. When I awoke, I was flat on my back, staring up at the sky in front of the huge rock. My head had missed it by about three inches. As a parent I can't imagine the terrible grief these parents must have felt. But the child in me still remembers the joy I had with my beloved bike -- the same joy Michael and Fran will take with them on their journey. This is such poignant, writing, Mike that stays with the reader. I love that drawing. And Spirit in the Sky is better than perfect.

    • mckbirdbks profile image
      Author

      mckbirdbks 5 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Good morning Genna - What a terrifying story you tell. Missing that boulder by three inches makes me want to bite my nails. As parents, our worse fear is losing a child.

      I would ride miles from our house on my small bike. It was a much different world. And when I had that paper route I road for miles and miles a day, as I went in and out of the cul-de-sac that made up the neighborhood.

      Thank you for such a nice comment.

    • profile image

      Genna East 5 months ago

      It sounds like it now, but when it happened, I didn't give it a second thought, except, "How weird was that?" Lol. As kids, we're pretty resilient, without much of an idea of how lucky we were. Weren't our bikes great? Freedom on open-air wheels...that is until we were old enough to drive.

    • mckbirdbks profile image
      Author

      mckbirdbks 5 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hi Genna - Yes, we all have our stories. I am glad the accident is now just a sweet memory of youth. Thank goodness for resilience and iodine. And car stories - don't get me started. ha

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 5 months ago from Texas

      Mike this is too sad, for me that a family could lose two children.

      This brought back memories of the big Monark Bike that I had as a teen in Chicago, and when a big kid tried to take it away from me.

      In the summer the fire hydrants were flushed and neighborhood kids played in the icy cold water, I had stopped in the edge of the water and the big kid ran up and grabbed my arm and told me to get off the bike, I jerked loose and swung at him and he leaned backwards and he slipped in the water and fell back, when he got up my brothers were on each side of him, they knew him and his family was told what he tried to do. I don't know what happened to him after that.

      You are such an amazing writer, I treasure reading your stories.

      Blessings my friend

    • mckbirdbks profile image
      Author

      mckbirdbks 5 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Shy - It seems many of us have fond memories regarding our bikes as children. What they represented to us varies, as do the many stories. Near death accidents, and the lesson of a bully and a thief were learned early.

      I appreciate your kind comment regarding the writing. As writers, I think we have each sharpened our imagination, That has allowed us to 'go inside' the stories found here on HP.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 4 months ago from Central Florida

      Mike, although this series is about death, you always offer a heartwarming, uplifting message. It's a tragedy these kids had to die - and on Michael's birthday, no less - but in the end they were still allowed to be kids without fear.

      Love your choice of songs! Norman Greenbaum's one hit wonder has always been one of my favorites.

    • mckbirdbks profile image
      Author

      mckbirdbks 4 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Sha - This series started out (all those years ago) trying to answer two question. Who goes to heaven and what is heaven?

      The series jumps all over the place these days, as I have exhausted my concepts of both questions.

      I appreciate the kind comment.

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