Friday Fiction – Plus Ultra


Well, after last week and Monday’s posts, the pressure’s on. And once again, mistress Muse is buried under a pile of excuses and a shortage of time. Anyway, I hope you enjoy today’s story, and I appreciate your honesty even if you don’t. The links in the story are completely optional, but might interest some readers.

Friday Fiction is brought to us by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, and the first photo belongs to Dlovering. The second is my own.



Plus Ultra

The snap of the flags overhead takes me back. To a college room behind suspicious walls, and a whispered meeting of ambitious minds; to days when an eagle flew over Spain and we sought to bring it down by force.

But age and frailty brought magnanimity to the eagle and quenched my rebellious fire. Now the red and yellow cloth that surrounds me clothes chanting monks, and the flags that flutter above take prayers to ancient Bon gods.

And I, once youthful and angry, have found peace outside a world of nations and fighting, further beyond and further beyond again.

Copyright Jennifer Pendergast


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

45 responses to “Friday Fiction – Plus Ultra

  1. Helena Hann-Basquiat

    This is, alas, one of those times where I need some help. Who would you say your narrator is? Is it even a person, per se, or more abstract than that. You actually went primarily to the first place I went — to a sort of Spanish Revolution setting — but then you moved on to Buddhism and spiritual enlightenment. Is that the motif here? Revolution – political, ideological, spiritual?

    • Hmm.. do you want clues or answers, Helena? This is definitely a subtle piece, and I wouldn’t expect most readers to get the nuances unless they know the stories in the links very well, but I was hoping the basic story (a rebel for whom old age has brought a more peaceable nature) was clear enough. I wonder what others will make of it… or if I’ve gone too obscure again

      • Helena Hann-Basquiat

        With that in mind, I take the message that with age comes the wisdom to know which battles are worth fighting.

  2. This story I loved for its wistful transformative nature. I too tapped into spiritual growth and the wanting for more in Dee’s image.

  3. An unlikely combination, the Spanish Civil War (I assume) and buddhism, but it worked for me in that I felt I recognised the transition from idealist revolutionary to contemplative old age. I particularly liked the ‘snap of the flags’. As one who spends a lot of time on water, the ‘snap’ of flags, sails, whatever, struck a chord. Well done, Jen.

    • Thanks, Sandra. In my mind, the eagle is Franco (as per the Spanish flag during his rule) and the narrator was an anti-Franco rebel, therefore a little post-civil war, but as I said to Helena, I would expect these little subtleties to be missed by anyone who hadn’t just read the history of that conflict. (They certainly would have been on me, had my research for this story not taken me there!)
      The snapping flags was where it all began for me, so I’m pleased it resonated.

  4. I liked the premise that age brings maturity and one tends to mellow.Perspective is everything and once one stops looking beyond set boundaries and starts to look within ,peace results!Loved that last line Jennifer 🙂

  5. I’m glad to see that I got the right war, although I didn’t know what “Plus Ultra” was. The theme of the aging rebel moving from fighting to mellow came through clearly, though, and I learned a bit looking at your links as well. I’ve got “Fernando” running through my head now. 🙂


    • haha, Fernando ended up haunting me today too, Janet. Plus ultra, shown in the first ‘further beyond’ link, is the motto of Spain. When I discovered that, it just seemed too analogous with the language of enlightenment to ignore. I did wonder whether Further Beyond would be a better title, though; maybe I should have gone with that instinct.

  6. I loved this story about how age and frailty can transform our beliefs. I also loved the resonance through the layers, and ‘suspicious walls, and a whispered meeting of ambitious minds.’ Impressive story.

  7. This has to be (for me) your most difficult story. Title’s good — very rich in meaning. Lots of references, fine. In fact, this thing reads almost like a novel in a fortune cookie. THAT is COOL!

    Two things: I’m not averse to the use of “magnanimity” or anything like that. If you can make it work for you, great. But give me the simple statements. Brevity. Adds more power to the punch. Also, since I know Spain fairly well for an American (my great-grandmother was from the Canary Islands) give me some Spanish “flavor” in the words. A song from that period, maybe a reference to a street where the rebellion took place, a coffee house on the corner, a couple of Spanish words, something. I think it will add some real depth and humanity and put us in there.

    Good job!

    • Kent, you are a genius! Magnanimity didn’t sit well with me either, but I was struggling to find a better way to describe the mellowing of Franco in one word and then when I cut and had extra words, I forgot to go back and fix it. Secondly, and even more important, I knew there was something lacking in the placing of this in Spain, but having put the word there, I couldn’t see what else. You’ve hit the nail on the head with your suggestions, I think.
      And as for the novel-in-a-fortune-cookie comment, that’s about the highest praise flash fiction can receive, so thank you for the good as well as the constructive.

  8. Dear Jennifer,

    I’m fortunate in being in the company of one who explained wind horses to me. In light of that, and rereading your beautifully written words, all I can say is it gives me shivers.

    Obviously, you work well under pressure. .



  9. Dear Jennifer,

    The first thing I thought of when saw the photo prompt was the prayer flags (also known as Wind Horses) of Nepal and the surrounding Himalayan regions. Each flag has a prayer printed on it and when the wind snaps the flags the prayer is considered to have been said. This simple and practical sentiment extends to the prayer wheels (some of them water powered) associated with the various sects of Buddhism; spin the wheel and the prayer is sent out into the cosmos.

    Your stellar story this week (wonderfully positioned between the apt bookends of prompt and your second photo) was the perfect ‘how to’ for those pilgrims wandering lost in the wilderness and a delight to readers ‘rock hopping’ along the Friday Fictioneers trail.

    Well done and beautiful. Mahalo.



    • Oh Doug. Now you’ve made all sorts of trouble! I saw the length of your comment and thought “Oh no, he hates it!”. Then I read it and you ended on a high note – still king of misdirection, it would seem. 😉
      I spent a few weeks in a Nepalese monastery and then touring Tibet back in 2011, and was completely taken with the prayer flags and wheels (both of which came to the Buddhists from the older Bon (or Bodh) religion). I must say ‘wind horses’ is new to me, but the rest very much fits with my worldview, as you might have guessed.
      Thank you for stopping by, your presence is always appreciated, even when you scare me first!

  10. What a great title and a wonderful way of combining the mottoes and flag metaphors.

  11. Your story of an on-fire rebel who transformed into a more peaceful and mellow person with age has definitely shone through. The nuances of the story went over my head, but I did check out the links and it makes more sense. It wasn’t too obscure or confusing, so that’s a plus! I liked it!

    • Thanks, that’s what I was hoping for. Like I said before, the nuances were just there for fun – I didn’t expect many (any) people to recognize them all; I certainly wouldn’t have – but I wanted the underlying story to still work for people.

  12. Your story is complex and full of imagery. I admittedly had to read it more than once, and I’m glad I did. The second time left a vivid, clearer picture in my mind. It’s a lovely story into the mind of man we might not have liked had we only known him in his youth.

  13. while i’m not sure what this is about, i am sure that the speaker holds much passion. that came through clearly.

  14. clear as a bell and the prose musically beautiful and i got the message on first reading. well done.

  15. Very much enjoyed this reflective little piece. And I too love the “novel in a fortune cookie” concept you’ve pulled off here.

  16. A very subtle piece – I liked this. And the links give it depth (although maybe they’re sort of cheating as they stretch the word limit!). Brilliant completely different way of doing things.

    • Thanks El. I wanted the story to stand alone without the links (therefore not cheating) but just found all the background too interesting not to want to share it all with those who had time and interest.

  17. At first I couldn’t figure out the Buddhist connection with Spain, but on another reading I realized the commentator was remembering back to Spain and that flag because he heard the Buddhist flags snapping. Well written and thorough.

    • Ah, yes, there’s a big time gap and a space one too. The red and yellow of the monks’ robes, together with the sound of the prayer flags, remind him of his youth in Spain

  18. The way the heat of youth an passion mellows.. I can see this happen.. I wonder if this is the aging Robert Jordan who is the narrator..

  19. Sort of like an old Kenny Rogers song “Know When to Hold ‘EM, Know When to Fold ‘Em. The old warrior, I think, is remembering his youth in an unpleasant war and is glad it has passed. Very good story – thanks. Nan 🙂

  20. Sarah Ann

    A brilliant allusory piece. From civil war to inner peace. This is wonderful: so much of the character’s life and world events evoked, and the linking of it all with flags is inspired. Particularly liked the opening descriptions of suspicious walls and ambitious minds. Just keep reading and re-reading.

  21. Jennifer,
    Your story this week is dense and a wee bit esoteric, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The common theme of rebel turned religious sings in your telling, and I especially like the snapping flags as well as your second photo. Well handled.


  22. We do mellow with age, Yes? Nicely done, and as many others said, informative. Thanks.

  23. A journey through life. From anger to tranquility. Lovely.

  24. A rebel’s transformation into a mature person with time and age was simply too good . The way you have written the story it almost felt like a poetry to me 🙂 Though it’s written in a simple manner but it does express the journey of a young heart into a peaceful person in an amazing way . Thanks for visiting my blog .

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