The Carriage Driver³ - Unscheduled Stop
“Nonsense, child. If you'd lost all your faith, I couldn't be here. And here I am.”
―The Fairy Godmother
A small child walked by the carriage singing the quick-tempo notes to a song. “nah Nah nah - nah Nah nah - Nah nah.” He began when he reached the back wheels. Then when he was parallel with the front seat, he winked at the driver. He repeated the notes, “nah, Nah, nah - nah, Nah, nah - Nah, nah,” as he passed Nuelle. That was two hours ago and Griffin, unexplainably, could not get the notes out of his head.
Ann thought about her day on the lake. She disliked climbing into the wetsuit; it always felt kind of creepy climbing into it. But once she was out on the lake she was protected from the cold water. As a member of the kite club, she anxiously waited her turn to be towed behind the speed boat and then await that moment of liftoff.
Paul’s sports boat, powered by two, 250-HP engines, roared alive when he set his hand on the throttle. The wave of the wake was immediate. The line pulled taut in an instant, and the kiteboard skipped along with choppy bounces. Ann’s knees were springs, absorbing the mild shocks.
Once the momentum reached a level where the wind filled her wings, she was aloft. She was thrilled by the acceleration leading to flight; she tingled from the exaltation; there was a heart pumping excitation, and there was the view.
Her feet now held in their cradle on the kiteboard served as her platform. It was her glide path for landing and helped determine the direction. Now, is the time the wetsuit was most welcomed. The step in harness secured her weight to the kite. The air could be surprisingly cool as it lifted her. The training she received allowed her to find strong air streams and the strength training allowed her to make smooth turns as necessary, as she circled overhead. She breathed deeply, as she contemplated the blue. She watched as sunbathers waved to her from their places on the shoreline.
Ann’s mind wandered to the spray of pines along the shore. She had to keep herself and her kite over the water. She tried to look into the past as pine cones fought for a foothold in the soil. They needed room, and they needed light. A tree looks so much different from this angle; she thought as she banked back out over the lake.
Paul circled the boat in an unhurried fashion. She could see Joe, helping Sue into her wetsuit as she prepared for her turn. A curious bird flew into sight; a huge smile flashed across Ann’s face as she tried to imagine what the bird could be thinking. Her flashy blue, white and pink double laminated rip-stop canopy must have caused much confusion in the mind of the bird.
She turned away from the shoreline. As she did, she spotted a tree-house in the pines and imagined a tin of Oreo cookies, a glass bottle of milk, cold and sweating; and a shelf of Nancy Drew and long hours of splendor. The idea of peace and comfort of a house suspended in the pines lifted her spirits. An afternoon cradled in sunbeams seemed perfect.
She saw Paul signal for her return and began to circle for her landing. No one saw who snatched the wind from beneath her sail. For a moment she still held grace and seemed to ride the board. Then she tumbled.
Ann’s children sat around her bed at the home. They had been taking shifts, scheduled by her oldest daughter, Carol. Her brothers followed instructions, and someone was with Ann from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. Carol, assigned herself, longer shifts. Two of her brothers, Paul and Joe, were still employed. The boys traded off mornings and evening shifts to accommodate the schedule of their jobs. At nine p.m. the staff chased off the last family member in the room.
Carol was a keen observer; she knew the numbers on the health monitor drifted lower as the days passed. Ann’s heart rate drifted to alarmingly low numbers. She had not moved for hours. Carol noted her mother’s wry smile and wondered just where she was.
Carol’s mind drifted to her mother’s faith and wondered if a life, raising children, and taking in stray animals would prove enough to be embraced among the everlasting. Her thoughts were disturbed when her kid sister, Susan entered the room.
“We should call the boys,” Carol told her. “Mom has not stirred for quite some time, and her heart rate is slipping lower.”
The Carriage Driver checked his book. He did not know every street and alley of this new location. He stepped down and went to talk with Nuelle. He pulled the apple he carried with him for Nuelle and cut it into four pieces. He fed two to Nuelle and ate the others. “It’s time. We have to go along a dirt road through some pines. I think the place is over there somewhere.” He scratched Nuelle behind the ear. “We have all the time in the world.”
Nuelle tossed her mane and tail at the sound of Griffin’s comforting words. She led them to a path through the pines. The smell gave both her and Griffin comfort. The fresh air and wide spaces had a bit of charm, which reminded him of his youth.
The boys arrived at the home after the numbers on the monitor reset to zero. Carol embraced her younger sister Susan. Paul and Joe knew upon entering the room; they were late for their mother’s last moment of her life.
Griffin had become more used to paved roads and cobblestoned roads. The wheels did not sing their songs along these bumpy dirt roads. People gathered along the shore. Some just stared. Some pointed excitedly. The ones that had been in the water wrapped themselves in big towels.
A beautiful woman wearing a wetsuit came toward the carriage. She was carrying a towel and patting the moisture from her long brunette hair. “Did you bring me some clothes?” She asked.
“We can see to all your needs,” Griffin told her while stepping down. He reached into the back and grabbed the ever-present blanket beneath the seat. He handed it to Ann.
Ann unzipped the wetsuit and shimmied out of it. With the towel, she dried herself and took the blanket. “You look friendly. Who is this girl,” she walked, toward Nuelle, “such a beautiful horse.” She eyed Griffin, “I can’t imagine the accommodations are so nice,” she paused, “for the other place.”
Griffin held out his hand, and Ann stepped into the carriage. She leaned back proud of her accomplishment.
“Do you mind, there is a group home about a mile from here. I would like to see my children, all in one place for the last time.” Her voice trailed off, “I know it is an unscheduled stop……”
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