Romance Friendship Inspirational

Finn's journey unfolded in the heart of forgotten landscapes, where the sun-kissed fields whispered their secrets to the few who knew how to listen.

Finn was greeted by a sea of red lights as he drove over the hill. Unlike Manhattan, this was supposed to be a peaceful countryside. The journey began with a detour on an isolated road through wheat fields.

He believed he'd sidestepped the broken-down traveling circus blocking the road ahead. Yet, destiny's hand guided him straight into a creek due to a washed-out bridge.

The screeching sounds of metal against cement ended with a quick stop as the front of his car plunged into a swollen creek.

Cold and wet, he crawled up the embankment and glanced at his car.

The lack of signal made him realize that his photo of himself with his car behind him and a plea for help would serve no purpose. He had no choice but to embark on the challenging journey of walking alone on the dirt road towards town. Passing an old farmhouse on his trek, it appeared lonely and abandoned. Like the overgrown fields, no footprint or tire mark could be seen, suggesting that the road had been untouched for quite some time.

As he emerged from the forest into a clearing bathed in a soft, golden light, tall shadows stretched ahead. The time-worn carnival that had blocked the road stood before him. The rusty Ferris wheel creaked softly as it turned against the backdrop of the setting sun. Meanwhile, the midway hummed with excitement, filled with carnie folk who were masters of illusion, eager to lure in unsuspecting visitors.

In his youth, a carnival employee tricked him and took his last penny. The bottle was filled with cement, making it impossible for a tennis ball to topple it. Finn had little use for these modern-day gypsies. 

The sight of a bed and breakfast instantly put his mind at ease.

A sense of excitement permeated Peach Creek as the lively Harvest Festival unfolded. His spirits soared with each bite, peaking at the peach cobbler.

The locals went out of their way to be friendly, offering helpful advice and engaging in chit-chat. In sharp contrast to his residence in Manhattan, he was embraced by almost everyone.

Through the magic of his telephoto lens, images of the workers captured on film added to his collection of material for a stinging article rebuking the modern-day gypsies.

His willingness to write about the evils of the gypsies was diverted by a stray balloon. He watched as two small children chased after it. As if by magic, he was transported from the city to a much simpler life filled with kids, an old couple holding hands, and a curious brunette with curly hair, a flowing dress, and large brown eyes staring at him. This time, without the camera between them, his double take did not interrupt her gaze.

"What brings you to our little town, Mr. Donovan?" Finn smiled. "You have me at a disadvantage, miss. How is it you know me?"

She pointed to a little shop on the strip. Peach Tree Gazette. "I own the local paper. I asked the wrecker driver whose Land Rover he had, and I put the rest together. Your mishap is news in this town. Care to share your story?"

He smiled, gazing into her eyes, "On the way to a story 200 miles south."

She smirked at him, "The riot. Around here, driving into the creek is news."

"I've been in tighter scrapes, Miss…"

"Bridget, Bridget Johnson." She said while extending her hand.

"Were you speeding? You could have been hurt."

Years had passed since anyone rebuked him for anything. Shaking his head, Finn smiled. "I am in one piece. They should have a sign telling people that the bridge is out."

Bridget's gaze traced the contours of his hands, roughened by life's journey. He embodied rugged allure, a man carved from sunsets and secrets.

Like a long-dormant volcano, Familiar emotions erupted within her, bringing back memories of a disastrous past. She softly spoke to her heart to silence her feelings, reminding herself he was only a transient figure resembling a fleeting comet in her tiny universe. Then, as if some divine spirit spoke, she heard her mother's voice, reminding her not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Taking a gamble, she offered him a way into her orbit.

"Since you're here and must wait for your car, I am always looking for content."

Finn smiled while listening to the band warm up. He had his own thoughts about the woman accusing him of reckless driving. He gazed around at the different booths and events shaping the Harvest Festival. "Let me see what I can dig up."

Bridget beamed. At least she might get to visit with him a little more. She searched his hands for rings when she caught him glancing at hers. "Come back tonight and take in the culture. The band's pretty good."

He switched his focus to the laughter coming from the face-painting booth. Watermelon scent fills the air as kids spit seeds. The seed on the young man's forehead made his sister laugh. Shoeless toddlers on bicycles in dusty streets highlighted the lack of freedom for children in The City.

His original idea to expose the carnies slipped from his mind as he focused on capturing the ordinary moments of people living in a small town.

Once in his room, he found a copy of the Peach Tree Gazette.

The few pages that depicted everything from the Harvest Festival to school achievements engrossed his attention.

The open window on the second story allowed fresh air to cause the curtains to dance as the humidity from the shower stirred around him. His home looked nothing like this place. From modern, clean lines to doilies, a wooden floor that creaked when he walked, and antique furniture, the place had a certain ambiance that took him back to his grandmother's home in Gatlinburg.

The Star-Spangled Banner caught his attention, and he looked out the window to witness the town's people celebrating their hard work, beginning with a sense of patriotism.

Bridget immediately attracted his attention as he spotted her at the pumpkin judging booth. Along with the change in scenery, she had also donned Western attire to fully immerse herself in the experience.

His camera was his constant companion, faithfully documenting the events he encountered, from the horrors of wars to the fierce intensity of fires. Now, the town was alive with the sounds of pie-eating contests, pumpkin carving, and a festive parade.

"I see you joined us."

Finn snapped the picture of a man playing his fiddle before focusing on Bridget.

With her radiant smile, sprinkling of freckles, and tousled, unruly hair, she exuded an utterly different persona that was carefree and laid-back.

"I did. Where I live, you have to watch your back. If you strike up a conversation with a stranger, they are suspicious at best and, at worst, might assault you with pepper spray."

"Oh my. Hungry?"

Finn glanced down the street, then back at her, and nodded. She led him to a restaurant that served mudbugs. Cajun food was a must in this part of the world.

Finn was no stranger to crawfish, and his southern charm passed to him from his granny remained intact.

The town's sheriff sat near the gazebo, where the band played to the dancers as the two approached him.

"Andy, Finn tells me there was no sign to warn drivers that the bridge was out on Deadman Road."

Andy tipped his hat to both of them. "If that don't beat all, I put that sign there myself. You say it was gone?"

Finn nodded before glancing at Bridget. "I turned the corner, and the next thing I knew, I was sliding into the creek."

"If that don't beat all, I wondered why a city boy would be on that road in the first place. Everyone in these parts knows that bridge went out with the last storm."

Bridget glanced at Andy. "I already accused him of going too fast, but I drove up there myself. There isn't a sign. Would you have your man put up a barricade?"

"Yes, ma'am, first thing tomorrow."

The two headed over to the pie booth for dessert when Finn glanced at her.

"You drove up there?"

"Took pictures, it's a story."

Finn shook his head, "not much of one."

She laughed. "Round these parts, that's page one news."

Teaching Finn to square dance was the highlight of the evening.

Fireworks over the river signaled the end of the event.

"Did you get any pictures worth printing?"

Finn glanced at her. He handed her his camera. "I'll come by and collect it tomorrow. If you see anything you like, they're yours."

When she smiled, it was as if a beacon of light pierced through the night.

Lightning bugs sending coded messages lit the way from the street through the garden in the back of the antique bed and breakfast.

His room seemed to welcome Finn back, but his thoughts were still preoccupied with the vibrant individuals he had encountered, the delectable culinary delights he had indulged in, and the enigmatic newspaper owner who had captured his attention.


Each image on the screen seemed to transport Bridget to another world as she marveled at the artistic genius behind the award-winning photographs. He was a natural. He had a talent for capturing the perfect shot as a photojournalist.

Two things caught her attention. One picture was of the carnies using sleight-of-hand techniques to exploit their clients. The other was on a more personal note. He had taken several candid shots of her.

While waiting for him to retrieve his camera, she noticed a black suburban with New York plates driving through the town's square. Minutes later, Finn came through the door of her business.

"You're leaving?"

"I've been asked by my editor to cover the riot." Taking his camera, their hands lightly grazed each other, and he gave her a small, rectangular card. Feel free to contact me by phone or email with any inquiries regarding the photographs."

Bridget glanced at him and nodded. "There are a couple I might want to publish."

As Finn smiled, she caught a glimpse of the warmth in his eyes, a fleeting moment before he turned away, leaving the small town behind and diving back into the chaos of his usual work routine.

A look of sadness crossed her face as she witnessed him climbing into the suburban's passenger side.

Tim Rothchild was the Journalist who didn't want Finn out of commission and volunteered to rescue him from that dreadful small town in the middle of nowhere.

"Hey buddy, what's the matter? You're being quiet."

Finn glanced at him as they pulled onto the highway. "When was the last time you slept through the night?"

Tim looked at him. "What do you mean, you take a pill and go to bed?"

"Without pills or booze, when was the last time you just fell asleep and had a pleasant dream?"

Tim laughed, "Journalists don't sleep, nor do we dream. What's going on with you?"

Finn had caught a bug. It wasn't the lighting bugs but something else. The sensation of his roots awakening coursed through him, demanding his attention like never before.

His silence spoke volumes as his mind was consumed by thoughts of a captivating brunette and the irresistible allure of a small-town culture.

Four hours down the road, the air was filled with the deafening sounds of a riot. The smoke hung heavy in the air due to the burning buildings and police cars. Finn had been in combat, and this situation brought back the familiar intensity he had experienced before, making his heart race as he began taking pictures.

As Tim worked to gather information for the story, Finn was fully engrossed in documenting the protestors wreaking havoc. Oblivious to the brick hurtling toward him, he moved closer to a group of people lighting tires on fire.


Amidst the throbbing pain in his head, the sterile antiseptic smell in the air transported him back to the hospital in Germany, awakening vivid memories of being shot while capturing war footage. His mind felt wrapped in a thick fog as he tried to remember what had happened.

The blurry images started to come into focus as an old doctor approached and shone a bright light into each eye.

"Do you know what happened?" He asked.

Finn shook his head as the room spun as if he were on a merry-go-round. The doctor saw his eyes flicker back and forth and advised him not to move his head: "Focus on the light on the ceiling until the spinning stops."

Within moments, the images in front of him froze in place, as if time had suddenly stopped.

"Someone hit you in the head with a brick. You are safe now."

As they gave them something for the pain, the beeping sound gradually returned to its normal rhythm.

He saw a face that he immediately recognized, and their eyes met.

"You're a tough bird to kill," Tim said.

Finn smiled. "The object of our job is to get the story, not become it."

His words slurred as the meds put him back to sleep. Echoes of voices he recognized invaded his dreams. Even through a helicopter transport, Finn mostly slept.

Once again, fuzzy images cleared to reveal his friend and the fact that he was in the hospital.

"I feel like crap. Did we get the story?"

"Yeah, we got it. Now you just rest. You are on leave. Ross told me to tell you not to worry about anything other than getting better."

Finn stared out the window and then back at Tim. "Where am I?"

"Oh, you are back in Peach Creek. They flew you out after they stabilized you."


Tim smiled, "I'll let her tell you."

Finn remained befuddled until Bridget's angelic face peered down at him. Despite the pounding headache, Finn mustered a smile.

"Did I die and go to heaven?"

She smiled as she reached for his hand. "You have been in a coma for several days. Before you awoke, I was told you repeatedly called out my name. I made the trip to a hospital that was overloaded to find out my friend had been hurt. While your car is fixed, you still require medical attention. Our little hospital is all you need, so we had them fly you here."

For the first time in many years, his eyes became damp.

"Don't worry; we will get you on your feet again."

The days turned into weeks until he recovered enough to leave the hospital.

Bridget had been by his side as often as possible throughout the process.

Renting a room, he made an excuse to stick around for physical therapy. Bridget pinched her lips together after learning he had been in touch with a local realtor. Given her adventurous past as a traveling journalist, the idea that he might find a home in her little corner of the world thrilled her.

"You went through battle where you were shot, and you got hit in the head, and now you want to quit?" Ross said.

"In the grand scheme of things, life is too short to not chase after your dreams."

The Harvest Festival triggered his southern roots, reviving the spirit of his granny, who lived on a farm her entire life.

Bridget saw him often after he moved away from his apartment in town. "Finn, you can't sneeze in this town without everyone saying, 'Bless you. ' What are you doing?'

"I bought the old Henderson ranch." I parted with my residence in Manhattan, and it appears my sentimental attachment is still linked to that decrepit bridge."

She giggled, "Are you going to be a farmer now?"

He smiled, "Beats getting a brick in the head. I grew up on a farm. It will come back to me."

Bridget knew that change was in her future. Patience must play a role, and she knew it.

Weeks turned into months after he moved to his new home in Peach Creek. He learned to work the land from the locals while occasionally catching a show or having dinner with Bridget.

Days before the next Harvest Festival, she was not surprised when he entered her door with a bouquet.

"What's this?"

His smile told the complete story; it didn't take a journalist to decode the events that led to that moment.

"With winter coming, I will have some extra time. I hoped a certain newspaper owner would have an opening for an unemployed photojournalist."

Bridget smiled, stepping around the front of her desk while standing before him. "Not as an employee, but I have an opening for a partner."

As she anticipated this life-changing moment, her heart raced, knowing he had purchased a ring. He delicately presented the ring as he knelt before her, symbolizing the union of two wandering hearts.

Despite the trials of living in a small town, the selfie of the two of them standing by the washed-out bridge in front of their new home captured the essence of their experience.

Every event seemed to have a positive aspect, like a silver lining.

Possessing a nose for news, all it took was a shift in perspective to uncover the positive amidst the negative or the ying to the yang.

April 04, 2024 22:56

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Helen A Smith
15:09 Apr 08, 2024

A well told story. Sometimes it takes a life changing event - in this case a blow to the head - to open up a new perspective on life. Liked the way you led us through this journey. Small towns can pull at the heartstrings, as much as a certain lady pulled at his. An enjoyable read.


Scott Taylor
04:24 Apr 09, 2024

Thank you Helen! It was fun to write.


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Trudy Jas
13:15 Apr 05, 2024

He had to get hit in the head before he saw the light. :-) Lovely story. He


Scott Taylor
15:32 Apr 05, 2024

That prompt made me wonder who would risk their neck to take a photo. Photojournalism seemed natural, but the idea of a spy also came to mind. Have a great weekend!


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