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……”

Tom Petty - Free Fallin'

Day 22 High lights Yelapa Mexico Paragliding

© 2016 mckbirdbks

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Comments 23 comments

always exploring profile image

always exploring 11 days ago from Southern Illinois

What a beautiful ride among the pines. Ann was blessed to have a loving family and memories to return to. This is a wonderful addition to a life well lived. I love your Carriage stories! It reminded me of the times I water skied behind a boat on the Current river in Missouri. Aha the good old days!!!

Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 11 days ago from Hereford, AZ

Beautiful story this morning.

mckbirdbks profile image

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

Hello Ruby - I also liked the ride above the pines as the story unfolded. Thank you for soaring over to this corner of the Hub. Yes, Ann was blessed to have a supportive family around her. I hope your holiday was everything you had hoped for.

mckbirdbks profile image

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

Hello Becky - Thank you. I sure hope your family gathered around your table for Thanksgiving.

always exploring profile image

always exploring 11 days ago from Southern Illinois

Hi Mike. I had a great Thanksgiving with family. I hope you and family had a great day too. Now, I'm going to watch the videos.

always exploring profile image

always exploring 11 days ago from Southern Illinois

The paragliding and skateboarding look like fun. It's amazing to me how fearless kids are today. I'm sure if they'd had them in my day I would've tried it. Perfect videos for this piece...

mckbirdbks profile image

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

Hello Ruby - The holiday was everything I expected it to be. Good to know your family appreciated your company. As for the paragliding, kiteboarding and skateboarding, it does look like fun. Skateboarding was just coming into its own when I was a teenager. I was already thinking about cars for transportation.

marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 11 days ago from Jeffersonville PA

Griffin and Nuelle are so accommodating - helping a mother say goodbye on this unscheduled stop.

Ann left this part of her journey on her own terms and heaven only knows where she will soar in her newfound freedom.

What a perfect song...listening now. Happy Friday, dear Mike.

mckbirdbks profile image

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

Hello mar. Ann needed to soar. She felt she earned it, her day on the lake was the perfect send off. There are many seniors who go out for their sports, even flying on nylon wings. (Not something I would do.)

New found freedom a soaring above the pines. That is quite an escape plan.

Enjoy your weekend.

I finished another F & F, and half of a TCD3 today.

Jodah profile image

Jodah 10 days ago from Queensland Australia

A lovely story, Mike. It was good that Ann was able to soar before her time came. There was an elderly lady, Edna, who lived down the lane from us. Our children were riding a billy cart up and down the lane and as they were passing Edna asked if she could have a turn, and she did. She had the time of her life. When asked why she wanted to ride the billy cart she said it was something she had always wanted to do but never had the opportunity. Edna was 85.

mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 10 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas Author

Hello John - That is a great story. Thank you for sharing it with me. Here we head into the cold and holiday season. You must be nearing your Summer.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 10 days ago from Olympia, WA

Sorry I'm so late, Mike. Holidays are tough when one tries to keep up. I always love your message. Someone commented on one of my stories lately that he just couldn't follow me too often because he doesn't like fiction, but how could someone not like a story like this?

mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 10 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas Author

Hi Bill - I recall that comment. I guess if you only read and write non-fiction your creativeness still gets a workout. But I am just guessing.

Well, one more holiday on the books for 2016.

MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 10 days ago from South Africa

This episode pulled my tears. Even old and dying people do in their imagination what they have done while they were young, healthy and fit. My efforts to ski on water were disastrous, so, I will have to find another exiting way to die when the time comes. How wonderful that we can choose where we want to be regardless of reality and our earthy body.

Your descriptions are, as usual, absolutely perfect. Thank you, Mck, for a heart-touching episode of the Carriage Driver 3 :)

mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 10 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas Author

Hello Martie and thank you. Indeed our bodies may be getting older, but our imaginations can take us places just as they always have. Some people have manged to stay fit throughout their lives, I do not find myself in that group. haha Enjoy your weekend.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 10 days ago from Dallas, Texas

Enjoyed reading this tale of sweet freedom on the wings of air. I like the idea that despite our age, we can soar to heights above the pines and take in the view. This story lifted me off the ground. I could almost feel the wind in my face and the sensation of weightlessness. Nicely told, Mike.

mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 10 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas Author

Hello Peg - Thank you. The part I liked best was the tree house. With rays of sunlight, a row of books, a box of cookies, and some cold milk. But I can see the fascination of flying also. Thanks for your visit this afternoon.

That is two in a row about flying away.

Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 10 days ago from Hereford, AZ

Mike, My family gathered at my oldest son's this year. He has a deep fire pit and he cooked a 20 lb. ham and a 20 lb. turkey in it over mesquite wood that he cut in my back yard. I have so many mesquite trees that you can hardly walk out there. He is trying to get them down some, because they have such long, sharp thorns. They are rough on doggy feet.

Katy and I made pies and both boys girlfriend's made the rest of the meal. We all had a good day sitting around the fire pit and enjoying ourselves. It even stayed nice and warm until nightfall. It is so nice living in an area where we can celebrate outdoors on Thanksgiving and even Christmas. I didn't even miss snow and cold. He has a long picnic table and a nice smaller round table, so there was plenty of room for us to eat out there. I have enough room too, but they wanted to do it where he has the big fire pit. Mine is just a round metal one.

mckbirdbks profile image

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

Becky, that sounds so nice. Everything you need gathered around a fire pit. So, nice that you could all get together. All best wishes to you and yours.

Genna East profile image

Genna East 9 days ago from Massachusetts, USA

Where the spirit soars. :-) I very much liked your character, Ann, and how you lifted us, high above the pines, to feel what she felt and observed. Her visit to the group home to see her children, gathered together, one last time was beautiful. This is superb writing, Mike.

mckbirdbks profile image

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

Hello Genna - I hope the holiday filled you with joy. Ann soared away in this story of freedom from all the worries and tensions of day-to-day-living. Her worries were unfounded. Raising her family, and taking in strays was enough for her ticket to ride.

Shyron E Shenko 4 days ago

What a beautiful exciting way to die,

To soar with eagles

And see the earth as if through their eyes

For one last flight before she dies



Mike, I do love how you describe Ann's last flight.

I love it.

mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 3 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas Author

Hello Shy - That is so kind of you. There are some daredevils out there. Mostly I think the younger crowd goes into soaring on a wing of silk. But it is fun to think about. I know such a daredevil. She found herself free to do what she wanted and moved to Hawaii and began a life in the sun.

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