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The Carriage Driver³ - Proud Mary

Updated on August 4, 2017

It was noisy. The good kind of noisy, where lots of people were gathered. There was the clicking of cups and cutlery. People laughing, people talking over the sounds of the other tables.

Mrs. Sprague was there at a table near the door. She taught Mary English in high school. Both in Freshman English and Senior Composition. Next to her was another former student. He was a youngish looking author with wise eyes. He turned at the sound of Loretta’s voice and said, “Are you telling the story about the time you talked Mary out of going to the prom with the Jackson brothers? You told her she did not want to be ‘that girl’ you know as in who was ‘that girl’ who slept with both of the Jackson brothers on prom night. She always told that story and thanked you.”

Loretta turned back around to her table. Mrs. Jennings was there telling the story of when she warned Mary against what she called counter sharks. Jennings was her supervisor at the Woolworths. Middle age men would come in and proposition the counter help, knowing they could not escape. She taught Mary the easiest way to insult a man of a certain age. The laughter rose from the table. George from the Texaco sat next to Mrs. Jennings. He told the story of how Mary came to the station every Thursday from 1948 to 1952 driving her Nash Rambler. He said he asked her out once, but she had her sights set higher. Then she got the job with IBM and she went the other direction to work.

“She still had plenty to learn,” her friend Patty at IBM told the people sitting around the table. She looked at Mrs. Jennings. “You think the counter sharks were bad, we had the ‘great whites’ working at IBM. They felt the staff was their personal playthings. “Insults bounced right off of them. She and I took judo lessons for two years and plenty of men were turned away having learned a lesson about keeping their hands to themselves.” Again laughter rose from the table. Patty smiled at the memory. “We were all sad when she left to take that job at the University.”

Professor Stanfield at the next table was telling the story of how Mary taught him a lesson about how astronomy and literature where so tightly aligned. “We were talking about a paper that a student turned in. When she said, if there were no stars what would spark our collective imagination? I’ll always remember that. Literature is directly linked to the stars. Anyway, I am convinced.” He smiled, recalling the fond memory.

‘I met her at the university,” the painter Durant said. “Mary always made me smile. If I was sitting in the cafeteria, she would always come over to say hello, which lifted my spirits. Then she would say, why are you sitting there? Get to work, the world needs your art. That woman knew what I needed to hear. There is a nice portrait of her somewhere. Years and years ago she sat for a portrait. She had the bearing of a queen.”

Ben Green was sitting with them. “I knew her after her time at the university. She started her own business. Anyone here remember the antique shop she started up? There was a small inheritance. An Aunt passed away. Her house and garage were filled with older quality furniture and she saw that as an opportunity to strike out on her own. She was too softhearted to run a business, though the shop lasted until she met her first husband. She would go out in the mornings looking to acquire stock, then open at midday. In no time, she knew most everyone in the city. Students and professors frequented her shop. One student came in and wrote his literature papers at an old desk that he felt brought the words flowing. After graduating, he came back and bought the desk. She never told him that she turned down many offers for the desk, saving it for him, until he realized he could not live without it. I think, that’s him, sitting over there. He was famous, as an author, for a little while.”

“I have to confess, I am the first husband. The little antique shop was too slow a life, I thought. It took a good bit of convincing but she finally agreed to sell the shop. We went out and bought a few acres outside the city limits. We raised some beef and read books and enjoyed a few peaceful untroubled years. Then I got sick. She stayed by my side the whole time. She was completely loyal. Then I passed. She again looked around and made an assessment. Our home was filled with books. She moved back to town and opened a small book shop. My understanding is that in no time at all the folks at the university discovered her. She quickly built a network with other bookshops around the English speaking world where the dealers would cooperate in finding specific titles for their clients. Collectors from all over the State had her keeping an eye out for titles they coveted. She offered wall space for the local artists, allowing them to show their wares on a consignment basis.” He took a sip of coffee, “She was a force to be reckoned with.”

Mary’s Mother who was sitting at the head table overheard her daughter’s first husband telling the story. “I remember that shop. Mary loved that shop. We would sit in the evening once the shop was closed. I would make tea, and she and I would discuss all there was in the universe. Books, and romance and travel were frequent topics. She had such a wonderful imagination and such a big heart.” She sat back in her chair and addressed the man sitting next to her. At one time he listened to Mary’s confessions, but even now was not free to talk about them.

The sounds from the room were warm, almost musical.

Griffin readied the carriage. The upholstery was smooth and supple. Not a speck of dust was to be seen on the polished wood and oiled wheels. Nuelle’s coat glistened in the remaining daylight. Griffin and Nuelle shared their apple as was their habit. They waited for the arrival of Proud Mary. She arrived, once again in her youthful vessel.

“I read about you. I am so glad it is you that has arrived to fetch me. Life is indeed a long and winding road. Seeing you I feel I must have done something right.” Mary smiled and bowed her head. “Am I talking too much?”

Griffin held out his hand to her. Mary took his hand and stepped inside the carriage.

“I am here to take you wherever you want to go. But today, we have something unusual first. So with your permission, I am going to take you to a hall. So many of the people whose heart that you touched wanted to gather to greet you. They are waiting in a room that I am sure you will approve. Are you ready?”

Nuelle without waiting to hear her answer, stepped away from the curb. She pranced as though she were escorting the Queen herself. In what seemed only a few moments the carriage came to a stop in front of a castle.

Griffin stepped down. Nuelle pulled the carriage to the side of the castle, away from the entrance.

He extended his elbow and Proud Mary took it. They walked together to the big double wooden doors. A man wearing a tuxedo opened the doors for them and brought them to another set of double doors.

The doors opened and the people inside turned in unison. They rose as one. Griffin escorted Mary inside where the crowd broke into applause.

Creedence Clearwater Revival "proud mary -Rollin' on a river"

© 2017 mckbirdbks


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    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 9 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello John - Thanks for the visit. Hope all is well in your new surroundings. I appreciate you stopping by as this series pushes to the finish line.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 9 days ago from Queensland Australia

      A delightful story, Mike. It was wonderful to hear how Mary touched the lives of others wherever she went. Love the Credence Clearwater song Rollin' on the River (Proud Mary), too.

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 11 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Genna – Throughout these stories the one consistent thread has been the lives the people lived. That is what earned them their next ticket on the journey. Mary’s story did not have a well defined next stage, but an outstanding example of this page.

      I have been to enough estate sales to know that the things we accumulate are of no importance at all.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 11 days ago from Massachusetts, USA

      What a beautiful tribute...these people are Mary's memories -- those she knew, loved, influenced or impressed throughout her life. These are the gifts of life -- not the things we accumulate, but the memories that live on. Well done, Mike :-)

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 12 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hi Gypsy Rose Lee – Thank you very much. CCR is still very popular.Our generation, as it were.

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 12 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hell Patty - Funny because Mary is a compilation of people that I know also. See how much we all share in common. I can never figure out why that point is so hard for people to see. I appreciate your compliment.

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 12 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Bill – Thank you. Mary led the life that she wanted. That is the best any of us can do. The writing is much smoother when I can see the scene.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 12 days ago from Riga, Latvia

      Really love this and that song by CCR

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 12 days ago from North America

      This is a really good one, Mike; reading it, I felt as though I were there. Mary, to me, turns out to be a combination of three of my favorite teachers long ago.

      Thanks for transporting me today and I bet other readers feel the same.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      The setting was perfect, Mike, and you described it well...this is your life, Mary, and one hell of a life it has been!

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 12 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Shy - Griffin and Nuelle love you too. They thank you for all your suggestions. As as for Mary, I think we have all made an impact on the people that have been in our lives. All of you have certainly had an impact on me.

      As always, I appreciate the blessings.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 12 days ago from Texas

      Mike this is a wonderful story of the collection of people in Mary's life. We should all be so fortunate as to have people remember how we touched their lives.

      I love Griffin and Nuelle.

      Blessings always

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 12 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Martie - Thank you. As the carriage driver moves along, I am trying to keep the stories interesting. Wouldn't it be nice if we received a wonderful warm welcome. Thanks for your continued support.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 12 days ago from South Africa

      Auw, Proud Mary was one of my favorite songs. In fact, CCR was my favorite band.

      Now that was a fabulous warm welcome, and I don't think Proud Mary ever thought she would have it.

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 13 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Maria - Thank you. Yes, Griffin and Nuelle do get to meet the nicest people. It is part of the job description. Glad you liked the music. I am stuck in the sixties and seventies with the music I select and the music I listen to.

      Griffina and Nuelle are looking over their benefits package and thinking they will retire soon.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 13 days ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Dear Mike,

      What a diverse and satisfying life that Proud Mary lived - touching everyone whose paths she crossed.

      Griffin and Nuelle escort the loveliest people - what a heavenly job they have.

      Loving the CCR along with Peg. Happy Friday and hugs, mar

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 13 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Becky - I think I may have borrowed bits and pieces of everyone's stories as I continued with this series. It is not too late for you to open a small antique store. Thanks for the visit and comment.

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 13 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Nithya Venkat - Thank you. Some of these Carriage Driver stories are easier to write than others. I appreciate your time and nice comment.

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 13 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Peg - Every life seems to be a series of adventures, good and bad. Big and little. You have told us many of your stories and certainly fit the 'Proud Mary ' category. I was reminded of your hubpages story about raising emu the other day. Now, that is among my many favorite Peg Cole stories.

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 13 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Ann - Thank you. Mary touched all those that were fortunate enough to meet her. They were all plaeased to gather to greet her upon arrival. I appreciate your comment.

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 13 days ago from Hereford, AZ

      Beautiful story this morning. I would love to get a small antique shop going again. Not near as large as the other one we owned. I know a lot more now than I did.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 13 days ago from Dubai

      Enjoyed reading your story, beautiful and heartwarming.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 13 days ago from Dallas, Texas

      Oh, what a delightful collection of memories and people who loved Mary. We can all hope to be that sort of person that others love so dearly and recall so fondly. I enjoyed the different occupations that Mary held during her life and felt I could certainly relate to many of them. Well told, Mike. Listening to Proud Mary now.

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      Ann Carr 13 days ago from SW England

      I enjoyed this immensely, Mike. I would have liked Mary and quite a few of your other characters here, I'm sure!

      Strange though, Nuelle often comes out as my favourite of them all!