Since I have just received a lovely review for Flights of Fancy, which was my first short story collection published in 2009 in paperback and audio with a later ebook edition. The stories were written over twenty years and scribbled down on odd pieces of paper… Over the next few weeks I shall be sharing the stories on Saturday and Sunday.
If you would like to read Flights of Fancy in one sitting rather than each week, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org and just let me know if you would like it in Kindle or Epub format. No strings attached.
The Psychic Parrot
I wasn’t sure how I was going to break the news to my husband Simon that I had managed to add another dent to my car. Living in Spain had many advantages — such as the glorious weather, but the roads were not the safest, and parking had its dangers too.
My car was only three months old and already there were scrape marks down one side, two dents in one of the rear doors and this morning I had been involved in an accident with another car. It was not my fault; I was driving slowly down the exit lane from the supermarket when a blue Seat shot out of a side parking area straight into the front passenger door. The impact had jerked me into the steering wheel and I had banged my head on the side window.
The young man driving the Seat had reversed and driven off without stopping leaving me shaking and clutching my head tightly in both hands. Luckily, a lovely couple stopped and came round to my side of the car and helped me out into the blazing mid-day sun. I have only lived in Madrid for a few months and my Spanish is still embarrassingly limited but the man spoke some English and insisted that the police and an ambulance were called immediately. The woman had made a note of the other car’s number plate and they offered to act as witnesses to the accident.
The police and the paramedics arrived within minutes of each other and I sat in the back of the ambulance being examined while the car was checked by the police officers. I don’t know what was more upsetting, my pounding headache or the prospect of Simon’s anger and recriminations. He had been more than scathing about my two previous encounters; one with a concrete post in a parking garage and the other with the metal side of our gate. I dreaded his reaction to what was turning into a major incident.
The car was drivable but the paramedics wanted me to go to hospital, as they were concerned about my head injury. The police moved my car under some covered parking and handed my keys and handbag to me before driving off with promises of contact when they had found the hit-and-run driver. I thanked the kind couple who had offered me so much assistance and they gave me their card with a request for an update when I felt up to it.
At that moment, I felt like death – my head pounded and the heat seemed to have leached every, last ounce of energy from my bruised body. I lay back on the stretcher and heard the siren wailing above me as we manoeuvred through the busy motorway traffic.
To be honest I have no idea how I ended up here on my terrace, looking over the garden. The last thing that I remember is wishing that the infernal wailing sound would stop so that my head would be clear enough to come up with a plausible story for the new damage to the car. Simon hates being the centre of attention and he was not going to like the fact that the police were now involved and that word might get back to the Spanish company that he worked for, as an accountant.
My head still ached but I can only assume that they must have given me some painkillers when I got to the hospital. Perhaps they had called Simon and he brought me home, but if that was the case where was he now and how did I get out here onto the terrace?
Wouldn’t he have put me to bed or at least on one of the sofas in the lounge?
I have to say that it was rather pleasant lying out here on a lounger with my feet up even if my head and body still felt painful and lifeless. I couldn’t seem to move my hands or my feet and a dreadful thought occurred to me as I realised that perhaps I was paralysed, but dismissed this as ridiculous. If that were the case then I would still be in hospital under medical care.
I could just about move my neck, which seemed to be trapped in a rigid muscular spasm. My eyes scanned the long terrace on the side of the house and I looked into the garden through the dark metal fencing. A movement caught my eye halfway along the railings and a grey object started moving sideways along the metal. At first, the image was blurred and I could feel fear building up in my chest as it shuffled closer. Within a couple of moments my eyes managed to focus and to my astonishment I found myself staring into a piercingly bright eye surrounded by pearly white skin.
I am not an expert on birds but even I could recognise a parrot when I saw one. The bird cocked its head to one side and we examined each other carefully. I have to say that it looked much more attractive than I felt. A mixture of dark and pearl grey feathers covered its body and in contrast to the white skin around the eyes, the black beak looked almost menacing.
I must have been holding my breath as I suddenly felt as though I was suffocating and frighteningly I heard strange voices speaking in Spanish in my already aching head. The urgency in the voices rose to a crescendo and then faded back down again as I let out a breath, releasing the tension in my body. I felt myself slipping away into sleep and I welcomed the sensation; I knew the pain would be gone and I would not have to explain myself to Simon. I almost smiled with relief as I drifted away closing my eyes against the glare of the light streaming through the railings onto my sun bed. I had not noticed how bright the light was but the strange thing was that the light was getting stronger rather than fading as I slipped into sleep.
“Wake up, wake up.” A forceful voice shook me out of my peaceful descent into rest.
My eyes shot open and I found myself staring right into the parrot’s face as it sat on my chest. I panicked as I couldn’t move to defend myself and I was convinced that this bird was going to peck my eyes out or worse, without me being able to doing anything to prevent it.
“Don’t panic, it’s alright. But don’t go to sleep. Okay!” The voice sounded rather cultured and somewhat familiar and I relaxed a little as the intent behind the words managed to calm my fears.
“You and I need to have a chat and you can’t listen to me if you are asleep.” I realised that the parrot was trying to hold a conversation with me but I found it very difficult to grasp the reality of the situation. How could I be lying on my terrace with a grey parrot on my chest giving me orders about whether I should go to sleep or not.
I managed to open my mouth and croak in its direction. “You’re not real are you?” I tried to focus on the fact that it might be a wind-up toy that Simon had brought home for a practical joke. This I dismissed as unlikely bearing in mind his total lack of a sense of humour.
“I am very real Susan and I need you to concentrate because I am going to help you.”
I blinked my eyes wearily as this was simply not acceptable. I just wanted to close my eyelids and drift off peacefully to sleep.
“Susan, open your eyes and pay attention.” The bird snapped at me as it moved impatiently around on my breasts. It paced back and forth, rocking its head and making hissing sounds under its breath.
“You always do this when there is a problem, run away, hide your feelings rather than confront issues. And look where it has got you.” My eyes jerked open and I stared at a parrot who dared to tell me how ineffectual I was. It was bad enough that I had a husband who constantly criticised and belittled me; I certainly did not need a vermin ridden avian to have a go at me too.
“Don’t get in a huff, just because you know it’s true,” The bird walked right up to my face and glared at me. “You have allowed that husband of yours to get away with bullying you for years now and here you are about to disappear without telling him how you feel.”
It was hard to feel righteous anger at the bird’s words, as I knew, deep in my bruised chest, that it was speaking the truth.
“How do you know all this,” I croaked quietly.
“I am a psychic African Grey Parrot and I can read your mind! You have got one you know.”
I was finding it incredibly difficult to take all of this in and could only assume that they had given me some form of hallucinogenic drugs at the hospital. That would explain everything and all I needed to do was relax and go along with everything that happened, because it was an illusion.
“It is not a hallucination,” the parrot continued, “in fact this is one of the most important moments of your life and you need to experience everything.”
“You have spent the last fifteen years of your life with a man who not only belittles you at every opportunity but has also been unfaithful on several occasions.”
I gasped expelling the breath from my body as I felt two incredible shocks thunder through my chest.
“That is simply not true, Simon loves me he would never do that to me.” My whispered denials fell on deaf ears.”
“You know it’s true but you have shut your eyes to his infidelity and the way he treats you because he has made you feel worthless,” the parrot continued as it walked back and forth across my chest.
“You used to be so bright and enthusiastic, so full of life. But he has sucked you dry until you are now lying here helpless and unwilling to help yourself.”
I wanted to get up and punch this obnoxious bird’s lights out. I couldn’t remember when I had felt so enraged and indignant. I squeezed my eyes shut and willed my body to respond.
“That’s it, show me what you’ve got, haven’t felt as alive as this for a while have you?”
I could sense through my tightly clenched eyelids that there was a presence up very close and personal. I opened my eyes and found myself drawn deep down into the bright face in front of me.
“Keep fighting Susan, great things are waiting for you and you will miss out on a wonderful life if you go to sleep. I will be here and we are going to do all the things that you have wanted to do, but never dared, as soon as you are on your feet again.” With that, the parrot flew away from my chest and swooped over the railings and into the garden.
As it left, I could just hear its voice on the hot afternoon air. “Don’t let me down Susan, open your eyes and see what a wonderful life you could have.”
“Come back, come back,” I cried as I watched the bird fly into the sun-dappled trees at the edge of the garden. Funnily enough, despite the dreadful things that the bird had said to me, I felt a tremendous sense of loss. It was as though I was saying goodbye to an old friend, someone I had known a long time ago who had returned for a brief moment.
Then I heard other voices. A Spanish man who was talking calmly and a voice I recognised raised in anger. “Señor, I really must ask you to keep your voice down as your wife is very ill. We nearly lost her twice and we are still uncertain of the extent of her head injury.” I could sense the voices moving away into the distance.
“I am sure that your wife will be able to tell you what has happened when she regains consciousness but now is not the time to try and disturb her with angry questions.”
Then all was quiet and for the first time in many years, I felt a sense of peace wash through my body. However, it was not just calmness that swept over me, but also a sense of purpose and a determination that I thought had deserted me long ago. I was not afraid to sleep now; I needed my rest as I had a great deal ahead of me.
It is just over a year later and I am lying on my lounger on the terrace of my house. It is not as large or grand as my previous home but it is all mine, as is the rather battered car parked in my driveway. I am no longer in exotic Madrid but in the picturesque village of Hamble, a stone’s throw from the river. Despite Simon’s initial blustering and his ridicule about my ability to care for myself, I had, with the help of a very efficient lawyer, negotiated sufficient funds for me to buy this modest house and provide a reasonable standard of living. I was not however, planning on being dependent on Simon for the rest of my life, as I had put several plans in motion.
I have just finished writing my first novel and it is being published in a few months. I have a new and very able personal assistant who in fact was the inspiration for the title of the book.
I looked over to the corner of the terrace where Cleo was rolling around with some toys, enthusiastically screeching in pretended anger. Suddenly she stopped and flew through the air, landing lightly on my chest.
“I told you so, I told you so.”
“Yes, you certainly did Cleo; you are a very clever parrot indeed.”
©sallycronin Flights of Fancy 2009
One of the recent reviews for the collection.
When I picked this one up, I had no idea what to expect. I’ve read a few other books by Sally Cronin, but I knew these were going to be much different (in a good way). Ms. Cronin has published a collection of ~10 short stories and a novella, ranging in style from murder to fantasy, revenge to humor. I loved all of the stories and will struggle to decide which ones to include in my review…
To begin with, the book kicks off with the main character saying, “On my forty-third birthday, I murdered a woman.” Okay… we’re in for something dark and funny. What a great tale! In some ways, it’s very telling about society, and in others, it’s a little shocking. I found myself wondering whether the guilty party should be punished or not. It’s wonderful when a writer can prompt that question. I also worried she might’ve been describing my mindset on a number of occasions. Oops!
From there, we jump into a woman mourning a loss. She kinda/sorta visits her husband and dog, and it will make you get a little sappy. Afterward, I devoured a few tales about marriage, war, love, and a talking parrot who knew exactly how to motivate a woman to leave her ne’er-do-well husband. One thing is for sure; this collection shows the author’s range in developing memorable characters, kooky plots, and a touch of sentimentality in each and every relationship we develop throughout life.
The one I want to touch on the most is the final story, the novella about a group of women around~80ish who live together in a senior’s complex. Unfortunately, a rough family moves in nearby, and things begin to go downhill. Drugs, theft, abuse… then it leads to murder. The surviving women in the group want revenge, thus plotting out how to rid themselves of the two ruthlessly mean parents and their five children who descended upon the town. Some of the kids cannot be saved and must be made to disappear. Others might survive foster care. It truly was a fun story, and I focused on the humor element, as those Jackson’s needed to be taught a lesson!
Cronin has a clear and strong writing style. By incorporating personal experiences and emotions into her characters, she’s made various types of people come to life. Whether it’s struggling with weight loss, interpreting people’s impressions of you, or stopping yourself from doing the things you want to do but shouldn’t do, the cast in each of these stories reminded me of many events in our lives. The girl who steals our boyfriend… the guy who treats his wife poorly… the daughter who can’t recognize her mother isn’t just an elderly woman… the lady struggling to keep the weight off… or the guy misses his wife. It’s all there, and as a whole, this represents so many wonderful and pain-filled stages of life. Now we can laugh or cry together about them.
I definitely recommend reading this book for its levity, ability to watch others get revenge (without you going to jail), and perhaps some motivation to make changes in your own life. What a great collection.
If you would like to browse my other Ebooks.. you can find their reviews https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/
More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin
Thanks for dropping in and as always your feedback is very welcome. And if you would like a full copy of the book now, just email me with your required format. Sally.email@example.com