Friday Fiction – Any Person, Any Study

What a surprise to find a photo I’d submitted as this week’s FF prompt. Thanks for choosing it, Rochelle. I’m late (for me) submitting today, but I’m looking forward to reading as many as I can of the stories submitted for this photo over the next few days.

In the meantime, here’s mine – on which your thoughts and comments are very welcome.

jennifer-pendergast4

Any Person, Any Study

Past the mist and trees, past the archways, steps and bike racks, so small that it was completely invisible even though she knew where to look, Lizzie gazed at the house where she’d been born.

It was less than five miles’ walk down the hill, and less than five years since she’d lived there, but to Lizzie it was another world. Shouting and bruises were things she read about in books. Harry Potter was locked in a cupboard; Celie from The Color Purple was abused by her father.

Lizzie clutched the promise of another year’s funding tightly and turned away.

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77 Comments

Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

77 responses to “Friday Fiction – Any Person, Any Study

  1. Some really great lines — “Harry Potter locked in a cupboard” — really great!
    It looked and read well enough for me, Jen. Terrific!

  2. I love stories of overcoming hardships with hope at the other end. I enjoyed this quite a bit.

  3. Onward to new beginnings.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Great photo Jen, layer upon layer within. A bit like your main character. I liked the aura of promise about it.

  5. Dear Jennifer, Great story and I love you picture! Beautiful entryway to a University? You are so clever and I loved all of it! Very enjoyable and Thanks! Nan 🙂

  6. Dear Jennifer,

    I take it Lizzie’s in denial. These things didn’t happen to her, they happened to Celie or someone else. Am I warm?

    Beautifully written and I relate to that kind of detachment.

    I’m not sure about the last line. Another year’s funding? Sorry if I’m obtuse in this case.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

    • Rochelle,
      I’d say warm, yes; although possibly not exactly denial – she’s moved on in the last few years and her past life (in a non-supernatural sense) seems quite alien but not forgotten, I think.
      As for the funding, I don’t really know. I figured that some scholarship or benefactor is enabling her to study her way into a new life, but she feels it’s still on a knife-edge, because without the money she could easily have to fall back in with her father. But maybe it was a bit to obtuse a reference to cram in after the long-winded early paragraphs.

  7. Dear Jennifer,

    What is she clutching? I’m feeling as though I was made of a rare earth element, that is to say, rather dense. I loved the mood set by the first paragraph, began to be confused by the second and upon reading the third paragraph, I sent myself to the remedial education room.

    Aloha,

    Doug

  8. Jen, After reading your story and the comments, I would agree that the bad things that were fitional also happened to her but her life is changing now and she has funding to put it behind her and get an education for a better life. Well-written as always. Thanks for the beautiful photo and your help with my story. 🙂 —Susan

    • You’re bang on, Susan, I’m glad someone got my obtuse thinking on this one! And you’re welcome for my thoughts on yours; I always like to offer concrit where it comes to me, but stand by the author’s rights to disagree with or ignore it.

  9. aloha Jennifer. a hard escape. the incentive to study takes many forms—this is an eye opener to remember. excellent write. aloha

    • Very true, Rick. I was lucky to have love of studying as my strongest incentive, many have something far more like stick than carrot.

      • yes. i think we each have our own private reasonings for the things we do. education and studying is a big one. like you i think my reasoning was quite positive even tho i am not sure i always fully understood it. now, i value it even more. and learning is simply a life long activity as a result. fun on that. aloha.

  10. I’m with Doug. I got lost after that beautiful first paragraph. I don’t really understand what is going on, but perhaps Rochelle’s got it?
    Anyway, your photograph was shear magic!

    • Thanks for saying that about the photo, and for your honest response to the story. check out my detailed replies to Doug and Rochelle if you want a full explanation of my slightly winding thought-process!

  11. Thanks for the photo, and I like how you imply more story than the words themselves have.

  12. I really enjoyed your story AND your photo. As another commenter noted, it reads as though she’s in denial about her former life of abuse. Good on her for escaping through the portal of a good education!

  13. Wow, this was a very powerful story, and I loved how you tied in the struggles of two well-known characters to symbolize her own. Very clever and artful. I’m glad that Lizzie was able to escape from that mess. It seems that the transition into adulthood can be quite liberating! Thank you so much for the beautiful photo as well!

    • Thank you Adelie; I’m glad the references helped you. I didn’t want Lizzie to be dwelling on the dark memories, but I wanted the reader to see them nevertheless.

  14. i’m glad that Lizzie doesn’t have to stay there anymore.
    thanks for the photo 🙂 it inspired lots of interesting stories this week

  15. I had the same impression as Rochelle, or Marie, or whatever her name is.

  16. This may seem like a weird comment but the name you chose for the character really helped make the story. Lizzie, to me, is a warm gentle name and it seems like her life hasn’t been either warm or gentle.

  17. I think Lizzie is glad to be gone from that house forever, and what happened to her there. Another, scholarship perhaps, year in school gets her farther away to a new life. Nice story looking through that archway.

    Is that the University you went to Jen?

    • I think your reading is bang on, Ted, and Lizzie isn’t far from the end of her courses and the beginning of a truly new life.
      The photo is taken at Cornell (NY, USA), hence the title of my story, which is apparently their motto. I did go there, in the sense of visiting last year, but it’s not where I studied, no. I was at Cambridge (UK), many years ago.

  18. Even I was going to ask about the title, but then I read the comments. 🙂
    I agree with the others that the last two sentences are difficult to understand unless you read your explanation in the comments. Once you read the explanation, however, they feel bang on. Sometimes, as writers, we forget that the only window that the reader has to our imaginary world are those few words in the story, and everyone might have different ways of looking at the same few words.

    PS: I made the change you suggested in my story. Thanks for that. 🙂

    • I always say, the way to fit a story into 100 words is by implying everything. I stand by that, but perhaps my implications were a little too subtle this week!

  19. It took me a couple of reads to see what you were getting at here – that she used to be abused by her family but had escaped via education. Might be clearer (although the word limit wouldn’t allow it probably!), to add a ‘now’ or something: Now it was Harry Potter who was locked in a cupboard, Celie who was abused etc. Just a suggestion. I always enjoy your stories and I love hearing about people who escape through education!

    • Thanks, el. I wondered about the “now” but dismissed it as a bit too obvious – I think in hindsight you’re right though. Easily changed, but perhaps a bit late now!

  20. Evocative on a number of levels. Higher education is the way to success for most of us, and there are those for whom it is literally salvation. Very nuanced and well done. And a great photo today!

    Here’s mine: http://unexpectedpaths.com/2014/05/30/friday-fictioneers-and-an-elegy/

    • I have a great deal of respect for people who change their own destiny, like Lizzie here. Thanks for your comment. Don’t think I’ve got to yours yet, but I’m working my way through them all slowly!

  21. Dee

    Hi Jen
    I read your story and then read the comments as I wasn’t sure I had ‘got it’.
    Seems I almost had it, but not quite, your replies put me on the right track. Your first paragraph is beautifully constructed and sets the sense of place perfectly and your photograph is stunning.
    Dee

  22. I find this is funny because a lot of times I have to re-read your stories because you are so smart. This one I got, first time. I hope that is not an insult (lol).

    • Hurray! I take full responsibility for people not getting this story, but it makes me very happy that you did! And no, I don’t take it as an insult at all. Thanks for reading!

  23. Very well done. Just the right amount of ambiguity at the end.

  24. Sun

    applauding the fact your character has found a way to improve her life and hopefully goodness will take control and see her through to the end. thank you for the wonderful photograph this week. 🙂

  25. Very vivid story that has a subtle smooth flow. Harry Potter locked in a cupboard indeed. Most amusing

  26. Sometimes you can move past — sometimes you’ll fall back into the rutty old tracks.. I hope she lift herself above those ordeal of having to face things a young girl shouldn’t

  27. Nicely done! Love the photo prompt, thanks you! 🙂

  28. Loved your story. Very well done. Loved your picture. I used to drive up to Cornell a lot when I was at UCONN. They had a Peruvian archaeology program that was constantly having conferences and inviting me. I recognized the view . Again, well done. Lucy

    • I’m impressed you recognized it; I enjoyed our day trip there, could definitely imagine it being a nice place to stay and study

      • Cornell is nice but too many hills for me. I’m in nice, flat Florida now. Actually, I wasn’t sure about the portico but I recognized the view . You keep writing and I’ll keep reading. Lucy

  29. Great hopeful story. You depicted two different worlds perfectly in just a few words and made us feel deeply for Lizzie.

  30. Thank you for the gorgeous photo this week. I felt your story was just a glimpse – there is so much more to learn about LIzzie. But the feeling of hope and moving on was really strong in this.

  31. Haunting and hopeful piece. I think five miles and five years is just far enough away to begin taking deeper breaths.
    Great photo, too!
    Ellespeth

  32. Jen, thanks for the wonderful photo for inspiration this week. As you know, when I saw it, Maya came to mind immediately… having just read of her death. That bright doorway was so inviting. Cornell is a gorgeous place for sure!

    I love your opening… the entire first paragraph pulled me right in, as a reader. The drawing back from a distant house, was so well done! Like others, I got a bit lost at the end. I found the 2nd paragraph worked well, as I read from it that she had lived a difficult life earlier on, but had moved past it and was working on her education. The final line, as you’ve noted, was too obtuse, and left me confused. “Celie, from The Color Purple, was abused by her father,” was confusing as well… as I’d assumed Lizzie had been too… as written it seems to imply that these things happened to others, while other bits of your story say otherwise. That first paragraph, however, is delicious. Wonderful writing and strong hook.

    • Definitely think the ending needs a bit of work. I’m trying to read all the stories this week, so haven’t had chance to go back and edit, but I think if I do, I’ll be focusing on making the ending tie in. Thanks you for leaving such detailed notes

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  35. Masterfully juxtaposed. This really captured the protagonist’s thought processes.

  36. This is more interesting after reading your latest blog. The unwritten is stronger that the immediate telling. I can see this as an introduction to a novel and letting the full story unfold.

  37. I love the photo, the view, the arches, your flow of words. All could lead to so many different stories.

    Lily

  38. I found myself peering over her shoulder, trying to see the place where the house was. I also found the distance achieved both physically and by time to be very symbolic. Shalom! Beth

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