The Carriage Driver³ - Zoey
A gentle breeze pulled his door shut; the click of the latch made Zoey look up. A whine escaped her, and a shadow draped her mood.
The Carriage Driver waited, the appointed time came and went. He was a patient man; he has proven that time and again. He referred to the book carried under the front seat. Closing it, he climbed down and went to Nuelle. Reaching into his pocket, he retrieved an apple. They had grown accustomed to sharing an apple before picking up a fare. The ritual affirmed their place in the universe. Things had changed, Griffin had lost his edge. Cutting the apple into four pieces he fed two to Nuelle and ate the others.
He climbed into the carriage and decided to go his fare. After reaching the house, Griffin climbed down to wait. Nuelle, who normally maintained her regal air seemed restless. Her white tail waved, and her long white mane swished.
Patting her on the neck, Griffin took to the sidewalk and quietly opened the front door. Zoey, a six-year-old Labrador Retriever, greeted him as he entered. “Hello girl,” Griffin kneeled to royalty and gave a scratch behind her ear.
From the street, the house looked like other houses in this sparsely populated area. The room that he stood in had been made over into an eighteenth-century tavern, with thick uprights fashioned from lumber of old sailing ship masts, the bar was rough-hewn, and there stood a stone hearth. “I hoped you would come,” the man behind the bar said. “Though, I had my doubts,” he smiled a broad smile. “You are not at all what I expected.”
Griffin liked him immediately.
“No one has visited me here, must be, over five years now.” Zoey sat by Griffin’s side. “You can see why I couldn’t leave.” He reached down below the bar and came up with two steins and filled them from a keg. He pushed one toward Griffin, put the other to his mouth and drank. Griffin joined him.
“My fares usually meet me, but things may be different here. Are you ready to go?”
“Go? I am not going anywhere. The very least I need you to do is leave the door open, so Zoey is not trapped inside. Besides, I like it here. I have built my castle.”
Griffin took a seat at the bar. Zoey followed and sat near his feet. “Few have turned down a ride in the carriage. Most feel they have strived throughout their journey for the privilege of a ride in the carriage and when their time comes enjoy their passage to their choice of destination.”
Griffin turned his head, got up and walked to the front door. He could see a small boy talking to Nuelle. His curiosity satisfied, he returned to his seat. “You know some ‘house-flipper’ will come in here, having bought your house, and tear everything you have built out. They will modernize and throw this property back on the market and a new family will move in and begin to build their castle.”
“Tear everything out? I’ll haunt them, I will.”
“That girl there is named Zoey. She has been with me from when she was a little pup. What will become of her?” He took a swig from his stein and wiped his mouth on his sleeve. “I can’t just go.”
Griffin finished his beer. “I can take you anywhere you want to go.” He stood to go and check on Nuelle. When he opened the door, Zoey followed him outside.
The boy who had been talking to Nuelle spotted Zoey. Zoey ran past him; he gave chase.
The man stepped out from behind the bar, walked outside and stood next to Griffin.
“I suppose I ought to go and find out where those two are off to.” He smiled and walked away from his castle.
Griffin went to Nuelle, and they both followed after this most unusual fare. Whatever the boy had told Nuelle, she seemed more assured than when they arrived. They reached a clearing to see the man sitting on the ground cross-legged. Zoey and the boy were wrestling about the yard reminiscent of an English fairytale garden. There was a thatched roof cottage with flowers blooming in window boxes. A beautiful young woman was trimming a well-tended hedge. Her hair was gathered in a scarf, just enough showing at the edges to tell the color.
When she saw Griffin she waved and called out, “They told me to expect you.”
Griffin came closer.
She approached them, “This must be Nuelle. We have heard so much about her; and of course you.” She turned toward the house and called out, “Girls, they are here.”
Two girls appeared in the doorway. They joined the third with Griffin. “This is our heaven,” the one that was working in the yard when Griffin arrived said. “When we heard you may need a way-station in this area, we immediately agreed that you could bring your fares here. We will take care of them. But for your fares inside the city, there is a large station nearer to your new location. Come inside, tell us about the castle. We’ve heard many stories about the castle.” The girls, smiling, took Griffin’s arms and led him inside.
“Mister, is this your dog,” asked the small boy.
He had not seen Zoey so active in a long time. “She and I have been together since she was a pup. We belong to each other. But it looks like I reached the hour of my calling. Where do you live?”
“I am from across the river. When I was sick, I was allowed to watch the girls build this place. It is a favorite landmark in my mind.” The boy paused, “What’s your dog’s name? And what are you going to do with her?”
“I could let you take care of her for a short while. But when she is ready to cross back over, long before you, I want her back. Does that sound fair?”
“Nothing about that sounds fair. Come on; I’ll show you where we can wait. Follow me. When my Mom’s around, you have to promise to be as quiet as possible. I put Mom through enough already. OK?
The two new best friends stood. The three of them moved quietly back to the other side. Zoey’s tail wagged all the way. They were all secure in the knowledge that Zoey would know the way back.
Later, one of the girls grabbed a couple of carrots and brought them to Nuelle. She returned with the comment, “They’re gone.”
Griffin stood, thanked the girls for the afternoon and walked out to Nuelle. She waved her mane and swished her tail. She seemed quite happy with herself. After all, it is not every day; she could save a boy and save a dog and lead Griffin to a way station off the beaten path.
Griffin climbed on board. Maybe, he thought, just maybe, this new area would be even better than the last. He gave Nuelle her rein.
Nuelle looked around the garden; the trill of their hosts reached her. She led them back to the country road. In the distance could be heard children laughing and a dog named Zoey barking for joy.
“What of the man you say?”
His name is in the book.
Dedicated to those that have gotten past, just, 'What is best for them."
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