Friday Fiction – He promised me a white picket fence

It’s Fictioneers time again! This week’s picture (the top one) is from Janet Webb, via Rochelle. It’s an intriguing photo and I hope you feel I’ve done it justice. I’ve finally managed to achieve my goal of following Rochelle’s advice to use it as inspiration rather than illustration – the illustration for the story is the second picture below, although I hope you’ll agree I’ve taken more than one element from the first image.

The edits are back – but for those without time or interest to read them, the final version is immediately below the first picture. Edits are then in reverse order after the second one.

copyright-janet-webb

He promised me a white picket fence (Genre: Historical Fiction)

He promised me a white picket fence. And that we’d go blackberrying in summer. He promised that our boys would be strong and dependable, our girls pretty and sweet. He promised me my dreams.

But the brambles grow all year round now, and yield nothing more than thorns. Our boys will never be and our girls cannot smile.

He promised he’d come back. He promised he wouldn’t get shot down, or captured, or killed: that he wouldn’t, under any circumstances, go Missing.

He promised me a white picket fence. Now we have one, but it is nothing like my dreams.

War Cemetary

Version 1

He promised me a white picket fence.

He promised me a white picket fence. And that we’d go blackberrying in the summer. He promised that our boys would be strong and dependable, our girls pretty and sweet. He promised my dreams. He promised me the world.

But the brambles grow year round now, and never yield anything more than ants and thorns. Our boy will not speak and our girls will not smile.

He promised he’d come back. He promised he wouldn’t get shot down, or captured, or killed: that he wouldn’t, under any circumstances, go Missing.

He promised me a white picket fence. Now we have one, but it is nothing like my dreams.

 

Version 2

He promised me a white picket fence.

He promised me a white picket fence. And that we’d go blackberrying [I hesitated over this, in case it’s an English phrase. I feel this story is American in nature, because of the picket fence. But apparently soldiers in the American Civil War called truces to “go blackberrying” to ward off dysentery – the things you learn! – so I’m good to go. I just hope you guys use “bramble”]  in the summer. He promised that our boys would be strong and dependable, our girls pretty and sweet. He promised my dreams. He promised me the world.

But the brambles grow year round now, and never yield anything more than ants and thorns. Our boys will never be and our girls cannot smile. [I felt this was a young, newly married couple, so the idea that they already had three children didn’t fit that. It felt more heart-breaking that she would never have a son, and maybe the girls are twins – still very young but old enough to know Daddy isn’t coming home.]

He promised he’d come back. He promised he wouldn’t get shot down, or captured, or killed: that he wouldn’t, under any circumstances, go Missing. [I thought at first this was a story of abandonment. Then I realised her resentment was actually grief. I wrestled with a feeling that it was set during the American Civil War, even before I found the blackberrying reference, but ultimately stuck with a more recent period of history.]

He promised me a white picket fence. Now we have one, but it is nothing like my dreams. [The story didn’t feel finished in version 1, so I added another line to tie it back to the beginning.]

[Changes to get this to the final version above are purely word-count related. I took out the first line because the repetition felt unnecessary, especially when it’s at the end as well, but I might have left it in if word count had permitted, so it became the title (which had originally just been Promises)]

 

 

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24 Comments

Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

24 responses to “Friday Fiction – He promised me a white picket fence

  1. I enjoyed this, as ever. I liked the way the promises gave way to the realities. I read the other versions and the only thing I would have left in was ‘our girls will not smile’ as opposed to ‘cannot’ which made me think something final had happened to them. It’s a great idea, and touching too. Well done.

    • Hmm.. thanks for the critique, Sandra. I’d changed will not to cannot precisely becuase I wanted to contrast the girls (born but devastated) with the boys (never will be born). But now I see the confusion I’ve added instead. This is why I love critique!

  2. Wow, nice tie in to the white fence.

  3. Jennifer, that’s beautiful. Period. Don’t know if you meant it hat way, but the falling-down barn felt to me to be a symbol of the death of their dreams. I’m glad you liked the photo and you did well by it.

    janet

  4. the dreams sweet, the reality, bitter. A fine bittersweet story.

  5. Dear Jen,
    Bravo! Applause! Stunning! Well done!
    Shalom,
    Rochelle

  6. kz

    very sad, and brilliant..

    • Thank you, kz. I have often thought about the ones left behind. I can’t comprehend what soldiers go through, but their families must have gone (and still go) through a hell that’s close to my own worst fears.

  7. Kent Bonham

    YES!!!!!!! LOVE IT!!!!! Thanks, Jen! Rochelle warned me it would be a stunner. There’s an old song called, “Johnny Has Gone For A Soldier” my mom used to teach in elementary school. Same theme. THIS was BRILLIANT!!!!

  8. So sad. Wasn’t sure where this was going until the end. Great job.

  9. John Henry Beck

    I really like this story. I think you did a good job mixing the happiness of marrriage with a white picket fence with the sorrow of loss during wartime. Version 2 was good but I think the asides detracted from the overall story. Nice work.

    • Thanks John, I’m glad you liked it. Long time no see! The asides are merely editing notes – something towards explaining my process – which is a new thing I’ve been including. It interests some people, everyone else is welcome to ignore the previous drafts and the notes.

  10. This is so poignant. I like the repetition of ‘he promised’ and how it becomes almost poetry. Just loved it – sorry for not being more eloquent or constructive.

  11. So many lives are put on hold or forever changed when loved ones answer the call of their country. The freedoms we have are worth so much that we must not take them for granted. To do so would make sacrifices like you write about worth less.

    • I quite agree, Joe, although I’m not sure all the wars we’ve been involved in could always be said to be worth the sacrifice!

      • Yes that is an unfortunate truth. The young men and women aren’t always considered heroes when they trudge off to locales most of us do not consider as necessary battlegrounds. Unfortunately for them death and injury will come due to the nature of their job, whether the public deems it “appropriate” or not.

  12. Pingback: Friday Fiction – Every Journey… | elmowrites

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