Venice was a long way from Mississippi. Yet, Venice was where Jeff had longed to be since he was a teenager. It would also become the place of his greatest epiphany.

While there were opportunities for the arts in Mississippi, Jeff always felt his accomplishments undervalued. He participated enthusiastically in school plays. He submitted poetry for local competitions.   He shared some of his writings with family, friends and teachers. But in the end he was disappointed with their evaluations. Sure, their words were always kind and full of praise, but Jeff could tell that they would all have been more impressed if he were an athlete on the football team or a skilled hunter.

Jeff chose instead to continue writing. He longed to one day write in Venice like many of his favorite authors. Ernest Hemingway and Robert Browning both spent time in Venice, as had Charles Dickens. However, it was Mark Twain’s account in chapter 23 of The Innocents Abroad that most influenced his desire.

As a young person growing up in Mississippi, Jeff spent plenty of time on local rivers and streams. The tales of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn had served as a launching point for Jeff’s imagination on many occasions He often imagined himself on a grand adventure as he set out in a canoe or flat bottom boat. He knew, though, that his adventure would not be complete until he was writing in Venice.

That was several years ago, before college and a brief stint as a junior reporter with the Vicksburg Post. Today, as Jeff glided along he barely noticed the tall buildings towering out of the narrow canal. He paid no attention to the balconies or the odd shaped windows and entranceways. Instead he felt a nagging sadness.

He could remember a time when he was enthralled by these surroundings, but that was when he first arrived. He would ride the canals for hours absorbing the history and architecture. Venice had been every bit as inspiring as he had envisioned.

He made friends quickly and soon felt quite comfortable. His Italian had not improved much since most people chose to speak to him in English even when he initiated the conversation in Italian. He had picked up a little Venetian from some of his friends, but that was about the extent of his language learning.

Jeff’s main problem was that life seemed to get in the way of writing. He had written several short stories which he was still hoping would get picked up by a publication somewhere. He had two half-finished novels that he had not touched in months. His mind was filled with stories and ideas but they never found their way to physical or digital form. From his years of pretending to be Tom Sawyer, Jeff had always envisioned himself as becoming the next Mark Twain but that was not happening.

Jeff was jostled from his thoughts by the sudden appearance of another gondola rounding the corner. The gondolier, obviously a rookie, had turned the corner too fast and too close to the building. Jeff switched his oar to the other side of the boat, leaned slightly and maneuvered around the back of the oncoming boat. Jeff had a very natural ability for navigating the gondola and considered himself among the best in Venice.

Casting a sour glance at the other gondolier to ensure he realized his error, Jeff had an uneasy realization of his own: No, he had not become the next Mark Twain – he had simply become another one of Twain’s characters. He could see the line from Chapter 23 in his mind…

“The gondolier is a picturesque rascal…”


Footnote: The photo accompanying this post was provided by Icy Sedgwick as a photo prompt for the story. You can find more information here:


11 thoughts on “The Gondola Ride”
  1. Oh this is just lovely! It blends the two worlds seamlessly, and yes, I suppose you would get somewhat jaded if you spent long enough there…and Venice isn’t especially large, so it’s not like London where there’s always somewhere new to explore. Wonderful story.

  2. What a book to be inspired by. Read it twice and would not have expected that to be the key line in his life. Forget sports. Travel writing’s got some money in it, too!

  3. Icy – Thank you. As soon as I saw your photo I knew I wanted to write a story from it. Great photo!

    John – Thanks for stopping by- and good point about the travel writing. 🙂

  4. A pleasant short story, that probably draws many parallels with many writers’ lives and aspirations.

    It’s strange isn’t it, how something that is yearned for soon becomes mundane once we achieve it? I suppose once we realize a dream, as he did by going to Venice, we no longer have the dream to inspire us.

  5. Good story. He seemed to have learned the golden rule of writing: It doesn’t matter where you write as long as you put words on the page. Hopefully he’ll now start following it.

  6. Steve, Yes, it is strange how dreams sometimes lose their inspirational quality once they are realized. I had not thought of it that way before. Thanks for commenting!

    Eric, True. I have trouble simply following that rule sometimes myself. 🙂

    • @DS – Thanks, Duane! I appreciate you stopping by. Now if i can just get that Cheetos poem finished. 🙂
    • @Laurita – Thank you!
    1. Thanks, Lee-Ann. Writing it was a nudge for me too, because I put off writing too often. (In my case, not for other writing projects but just not writing at all.) I have been waiting for another #FridayFlash from you, though… 🙂

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