Friday Fiction – Every Journey…

This week’s Friday Fiction photograph comes from Sarah Ann Hall. When I saw it, I was immediately reminded of the “white picket fence” story I wrote for another FF prompt a couple of months ago. I’m still proud of that story, and I almost just posted you a link to it and got on with something else. However, the muse doesn’t lie down once she’s been woken up, and she kept on whirring in my head. Eventually, she gave me a first line, as she so often does, and once I’d written it, she led me like a faithful pony to the rest of the story.

For those who want to read it, I’ve included the original version. It’s 150 words and includes that first line the muse provided, which had to go when the editing began. As ever, you are welcome to just read the final version, which appears immediately below the photo, and I welcome your critique on whatever you read.

One final note – Once I had the story, there was only one name I could use for the main character: Sandra Crook is a fellow Fictioneer who spends far more time than I do on the river. I hope she will forgive me borrowing her name and one aspect of her life story. The rest is entirely fictional. Well, except the danger of shaving on a narrowboat, which as my husband will testify, is not!

aqueduct-sarah-ann-hall

Every Journey Begins With A Single Step

 Sandra eased the boat through the narrow entrance to the aqueduct, keeping her eye out to be sure she didn’t hit the rubber runners on the bank. Ian was shaving, and the tall stinging nettles wafted dangerously close to the open bathroom window.

Sandra smiled.

“Shropshire’s hardly the Seychelles!” her friends had laughed, when she’d told them about her honeymoon.

But Sandra had never been happier. Two weeks had turned into twenty years and that first step onto the narrowboat had been the best she’d ever taken … after the fifteen steps up the aisle to Ian’s side, of course.

 

Version 1:

“Every journey begins with a single step,” her grandmother had told her. This journey had been no different, she supposed, except that first step had been the only one.

Sandra eased the boat gently through the narrow entrance to the aqueduct, then kept her eye on the left side to be sure she didn’t hit the rubber runners on the bank. Ian was shaving, and the tall nettles wafted dangerously close to the open bathroom window.

Sandra smiled. When Ian proposed this honeymoon, her friends had laughed.

“Two weeks in Shropshire? What happened to the Seychelles?” Alison mocked.

But Sandra had never been happier. She had Ian to herself, the weather had been kind and the river welcoming. What more could she ask for?

That single step onto the narrowboat had been the best she’d ever taken … after the fifteen steps up the aisle to his side, of course.

 

43 Comments

Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

43 responses to “Friday Fiction – Every Journey…

  1. A truly lovely story – I wish I was part of them!

  2. What a beautiful story.. and I love the intention that every long trip start with a few steps… I get reminded by Bilbo’s walking song which has part of that sentiment embedded.

  3. I love the idea of the stinging nettles coming in whilst Ian is shaving. I also liked the tightness of the first, but phrase which I think worked better in the second was changed from ‘ kept her eye on’ to ‘keeping her eye out’. Somehow I can’t help but read that version literally!
    Claire

    • Thanks, Claire. I prefer “eye on” too, but I was struggling with word count, and had to get rid of the left side of the boat. Maybe I should have tried harder to keep it in.
      And on behalf of both my husband and Ian, I’m not sure you’re supposed to love the nettles!

  4. Dear Jen,
    There are good things about both versions. I’d be hard pressed to say I liked one over the other. All in all, a lovely story, longer or shorter.
    Shalom,
    Rochelle

  5. Helena Hann-Basquiat

    Sweet story, darling.

  6. Think you have countered my gloomy tale with this entry. Nice to see a natural balance amongst the FFrs. Good work.

  7. life on a boat is always glorious. a delightful romance in the beginning

  8. A tender story, and I like that Sandra’s been happy — even thought they’re not in the tropics!

  9. I agree with Rochelle, both stories rich with the telling. Personally speaking your words gave me a longing for this type of freedom and love. Well written!

  10. Jen, I do like both, but the tightness of the first one gives it an edge to me. Reminds me of “Wind in the Willows”: “There is nothing–absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” Lovely story in all ways.

    janet

  11. A great story, and a great job of editing. I definitely like the shorter version better…although I can see why you would like to keep the adage about every journey starting with just one step. Even so, it’s such a well-known adage, the story seems more original without it.

  12. Lyn

    A completely satisfying read. I’ve seen photos of narrowboats, and I’d love to take a holiday on one. I must agree with Jan, the shorter version is very well edited 🙂

  13. a lovely story.. it was also great to read both the version.. in their own ways both are unique

  14. This is nice, it’s like a haiku in fiction! I should try sooner or later! Well done!

  15. A lovely story Jennifer, and thank you for the reference. 🙂 It all rang true for me, apart from the bit about her steering the boat across the aqueduct. My husband would NEVER allow me to do that – he likes to take sole responsibility for ricocheting our way across – and never more so than when there’s an audience. 😉 Well done.

    • I’m really glad you liked it, Sandra. I imagine your husband likes to do all the ricocheting just to ensure he isn’t shaving at the time! Not that I have ever hit the bank. Much. 😉

  16. I love the way you quietly slip the information that boating has become their way of life into the story! (And you foreshadow that revelation by showing us how deftly she handles the boat. Nice job!)

  17. Mystikel

    They were both enjoyable but I really admired the finished version. A good example of how deft editing can make each line stand out and shine. Also I have a new goal in life: someday I want a life like Sandra’s!

    • Your comment really makes me happy – and I share the ambition to live like Sandra! My husband and I have already picked out a name for our boat and everything!!

  18. Sounds like a wonderful time. It makes me long to go on a boat trip like that now.

  19. I liked then both. Hard to pick just one.

  20. Very enjoyable, Jenn. Makes me want to escape right now. I have heard of Shropshire, as in Shropshire Blue Cheese. I ate at a Gordon Ramsey restaurant and there was a salad that contained that stuff. Delicious! As is the story!!! Five out of five blue cheese crumbles!

  21. Kudos, Jen. Wonderful flow to this piece. Made me feel warm on the inside.

  22. How romantic. Not the kind of romance you see everyday.

  23. Lovely story, but the comedian inside me wanted to see the shaving accident you set up 🙂

  24. A very enjoyable read, well written. I thought of Sandra straight away (not sure if that was intended) as I’m not sure she would be allowed to steet their boat, but you never know!
    Well done
    Dee

  25. How romantic. I love them both. You are getting my Saturday out to a splendid start.

  26. Love the idea of the honeymoon lasting 20 years and the parallel boat trips at both ends of it. Nice!

  27. Sarah Ann

    Nettles poking in the window is a great image. I think you’ve summed up how many people end up living on boats. I’m glad Sandra considered the 15 steps as important as that single one. I was worried for a moment she might have preferred the boat to her husband.

  28. I live quite near to the Oxford Canal and as I walk along the towpath, I often wonder as I pass about the lives of the people who live in the narrowboats moored along the sides. I wonder more about the adventures had by those navigating the narrow channel, sipping a cup of tea as they wait for the water level in the lock to equalize, their faithful dog standing proudly in the bow… I love your story, because it relates so much to my daily life!

  29. Pingback: Elements | Things I See and Know

  30. Very well written – and so true.

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