There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.
Fionnuala – The Swan by Sally Cronin
Fionnuala Garvin was pinned to the wall of the toilet block. Her small hands were pressed back onto the cold red brick as her shoulders were firmly clamped beneath the stubby fingers attached to grubby hurtful hands. The pain from this mauling was excrutiating, as her white blonde hair was trapped beneath the vicious fingers and her scalp felt like it was on fire. With her fragile swan-like neck, slight frame and skinny legs she did not look twelve years old and right now she wished she was back in primary school where life had been so much kinder.
Her lower lip trembled,and she tried not to cry as the onslaught continued, unseen by the teacher on monitor duty in the playground. This was Ciaran Walsh’s favourite spot for tormenting the younger children, and extorting their lunch from them, and today he was in an even worse mood than usual. Not the sharpest knife in the cutlery drawer, at fifteen he was failing a number of subjects. Just this morning he had been sentenced to a week of detention for failing to hand in an essay for his history class. He was looking to take out his rage on someone.
Fionnuala or Nola as she was known to her friends was terrified. Normally there would have been two rounds of cheese sandwiches and an apple in the satchel now lying at her feet, but today she had forgotten to pick the brown paper bag up from the counter in the kitchen at home. Without these essential bargaining chips, she was going to be in for a hiding.
Ciaran’s breath smelled rank and his stained teeth offered plenty of evidence of what he had eaten for breakfast and lack of an acquaintance with a toothbrush. He brought his cavernous mouth close to Nola’s terrified face and spat out his demands.
‘Fionnuala Garvin. You are mine and I own you. Give me your lunch now or I will pinch your arms until they are black and blue’. He sneered viciously and pressed further into her body.
Just then large hands descended on Nola’s attacker’s upper arms, and he was virtually lifted into the air, and shoved back out into the playground. Ciaran steadied himself and poised for a counter attack but stopped abruptly in his tracks. He looked up into the eyes of a tall and well-built senior from sixth year and knew that he would be hard pressed to better him in a straight fight. The older boy stood protectively in front of Nola and with a quick check to make sure his young charge was not hurt in any way, he turned back to Ciaran who was still mulling over his options.
‘Ciaran Walsh I know how to find you and it won’t be just me next time, you need to get your sorry act together. Get back to class and I will be watching your every move from now on; just feck off.’
The disgruntled bully turned and nonchalantly headed off back into school and tried to ignore the smirks on the faces of the bystanders who had witnessed the altercation. Unfortunately as he reached the steps leading up to the main entrance, he tripped and almost fell; gales of laughter followed him as he hurried through the wide blue doors.
Meanwhile Nola’s rescuer put a consoling arm around her shoulders and steered her towards her classmates. They had remained huddled together awaiting the outcome of this daily assault on any of their members foolish enough to get separated from the pack.
‘Listen to me,’ the tall lad addressed the white-faced group. ‘My name is Patrick Flanagan and you must come and tell me if this happens again. He smiled at his new devotees. ‘My friends and I will do our best to keep that one out of trouble in the future.’ He left unaware of the admiring glances and excited whispers behind him.
Ten years later Nola checked herself in the mirror before heading downstairs; she never grew tired of seeing herself in her Garda uniform. Following her training she had been posted to this town in the heart of a farming community and after a year in the job she could honestly say that there was little she did not enjoy. She went downstairs following the aroma of scrambled eggs on toast with a rasher of bacon that her husband Patrick had laid on the table. He turned from the cooker with his own plate and they sat across from each other eating leisurely and enjoying this rare breakfast together. He was a doctor at a hospital in the nearby city and their shift patterns did not always allow for regular meals; when they did manage to get time it was precious.
He kissed her goodbye and watched her through the kitchen window as she backed her car out of the drive. He had some time before his shift started, and as he cleared the breakfast crockery away he reflected on what a lucky man he was. Who could have thought that the little blonde waif that he had rescued that day in the playground, would end up becoming his wife.
He was very proud of her and knew that she had passed every examination and physical test with flying colours. That did not however stop him from worrying about her safety, especially as he saw the results of violence associated with crime on a far too regular basis.
The object of his thoughts was not unaware of her husband’s concerns, and that drove Nola to even more excellence when it came to training and attention to detail. She had two hours before her shift began and she was headed to a physical training session with her partner on the force. He might be a great friend to both she and Patrick, but once they hit that mat they would fight hard for the win.
Dressed in her sweat pants and t-shirt, Nola faced off against her partner. They circled each other waiting for the slightest move that would indicate an attack. Although taller and broader than Nola, her opponent was light on his feet and his muscled body moved agilely across the mat.
Seeing what he perceived as an opening; he reached out and managed to place a hand on Nola’s shoulder. The next thing he knew he was on his back with one arm held upright; his hand bent forward in a tight grip.
Nola leant forward close to the face of her partner who was grinning up at her with his killer smile; the one that had the girls falling at his own feet.
‘Ciaran Walsh, you are mine and I own you. Buy me lunch or I will pinch your arms until they are black and blue.’
©Sally Cronin 2017
One of the reviews for the collection.
I love short story collections. There is something about the brevity of words that appeals to my senses, especially when there is a theme that we all can relate to. Think about it. We all have a name, but many of us have no idea why our parents chose that name or the possible stories behind that name.
Sally Cronin tackles this naming issue. In “What’s in a Name,” each chapter is titled by the name of its main character, leading the reader on a journey of discovery. Every name has a tale to tell, and under the brilliant creativity of this author, each name takes on a personality of its own.
My favorite story was that of “Diana,” a kind woman who choose a husband that proved to be a scoundrel in every sense of the word. With a little help from her family, Diana reaches into her heart and finds the courage to stand up to her husband’s abuse. The pacing of this story is marvelous and carries the reader to a satisfying end.
This compilation of stories covers a wide range of genres. There is something here for everyone. I read these stories a few at a time, savoring the emotions the stories evoked within me. This was my first read by this author, and I look forward to more of her writing. I was thrilled to find that the second volume of “What’s in a Name ~ Tales of Life & Romance,” had already been written. Needless to say, I’ve already purchased my copy.
You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews::Sally’s books and reviews
I hope you will join me next Sunday for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.