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 email@example.com and just let me know if you would like it in Kindle or Epub format. No strings attached.
Albert – The Perfect Candidate
On Friday night, Albert sat in the white walled room, his eyes closed against the glare from the fluorescent lighting, with his hands over his ears to shut out the infernal racket from the wall-mounted television. He did not have to watch the screen to know what images it displayed. Twenty-four hours a day, it brought the fear and disasters of the World into each room in every house and workplace. Terrorism, financial and natural catastrophes and of course superbugs were all guaranteed to make the headlines. He shook his head. Where did all the ‘good news’ stories go?
His mobile telephone had rung several times in the last hour and he knew that it was Marjorie, his partner, no doubt reminding him for the fiftieth time that he must not be late for dinner.
He opened his eyes, switched off his phone and thought about the pile of folders still unopened on his desk. There was also an e-mail from his boss demanding that he should be in his office first thing on Monday morning. Why do they do that? Under normal circumstances Albert would have spent the whole weekend desperately worried in case he was going to be fired. He had every reason to be stressed out anyway – he was late with this month’s mortgage payments, his doctor had told him his cholesterol and blood pressure were through the roof and his blood sugar was not far behind.
He didn’t need the doctor to tell him he was six stone overweight, needed to give up smoking and drinking and was a candidate for a heart attack. He only had to look at his face in the mirror every morning to see that he fell neatly into the 95% of the population who suffered from a lifestyle induced health crisis.
Everyone he knew amongst family and friends was equally unfit. Most of them were on pills of one sort or another and it seemed that once you were put on medication you were on it for life. Sure, most of the major diseases had been eradicated in the last fifty years, but it was easier and quicker to give you tablets to control your blood pressure and cholesterol than go to all the trouble of showing you how to change your lifestyle.
Anyway, what pleasure was there in life if you couldn’t eat a whole pizza with a bottle of wine two or three nights a week? Albert hated fruit and vegetables anyway. Besides which, who needed to stand out in a crowd? When all your friends and family and even your doctor were fat and unhealthy too, why change? Still, he wished he could remember a time when he had felt well enough to get up in the mornings.
He looked around him and smiled wryly. At least in one very important aspect he had been extremely successful. He was a perfect example of modern man and this was precisely what they had wanted. All his financial problems would be solved now that he had been accepted into the programme. Marjorie would be well taken care of if the worst happened and he was contracted not to make any improvements to his lifestyle for the duration of his lifetime. Bring on the Pizza!
Animal testing had finally become redundant. Eventually it became impossible to recreate, in animals, the levels of physical, mental and emotional stress that humans suffered after prolonged exposure to their modern lifestyle and diet. Scientists could no longer manipulate the gap between species to obtain reliable test subjects without compromising the safety of human trials. Medical records were accessed and from the millions of suitable candidates and the most qualified specimens were recruited.
The door opened and two lab technicians walked in wheeling a trolley containing medical instruments.
“Hi Albert,” one of them smiled at him. “This is not going to hurt a bit.”
©Sally Cronin 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.firstname.lastname@example.org