As is my custom, I am serialising one of my past books here on the blog, and over the next few weeks, stories from my 2020 collection, Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries, Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet. I hope you will enjoy.
Winning Streak – The Date
Elsie Windsor was just about to sit down to eat her sausages, mash and baked beans for her supper, when the phone on the wall by the kitchen door rang. She counted to ten, but when the ringing didn’t stop, she pushed herself upright and crossed the tiled floor to grab the receiver off the hook, betting it was another scammer.
‘Who is it?’ she barked down the line. She counted to three as the silence was a sure sign it was some automated solicitation call.
‘Hello Mrs. Windsor.’ That stopped her in her tracks, and she decided against using her favourite swear word and slamming the phone down just yet.
‘It might be,’ she said hesitantly.
‘My name is Antonio Carlucci and I am your date for Saturday night.’
‘I beg your pardon, but you are no such thing young man,’ highly indignant Elsie firmly put the caller in his place.
‘I assure you Mrs Windsor I am, you won me in last Saturday’s tombola at the church fair.’
She had to admit this Antonio did have a rather pleasant voice.
‘Young man, I am 95 years old and have not dated since 1945 when I met my late husband Frank, and I certainly am not going to start again now.’ She tried to remember back to last weekend when she had gone to the church fete with Ethel, her best friend.
She admitted to herself the couple of schooners of sherry she had imbibed before their weekly pub lunch may have befuddled her, but she was sure she would have remembered if there had been a date with a young man as one of the prizes on the tombola. She had bought a fiver’s worth of tickets and hoped to win the tin of chocolate biscuits.
‘Mrs Windsor, are you still there?’
‘Of course I am; where did you think I had gone?’
‘Sorry it just went a little quiet.’ She heard some papers rustling.
‘The reverend Johnson gave me your number to ring to set up the arrangements. The prize was donated by my father who has just bought the Italian restaurant in the village. It includes dinner with me on Saturday night if it is acceptable to you?’
‘Well, this is a fine thing. I have never won anything in my life and to think I was excited by the possibility of a tin of biscuits.’
There was a laugh at the end of the phone which made her feel quite perky.
‘I can promise you homemade chocolate ice-cream with our homemade Italian wafers if that is any good?’
Elsie looked at her sausages and mash going cold on the kitchen table.
‘You have a date young man. My address is No 2, Waterfield Park and I will expect you at six sharp, as I cannot be out later than nine o’clock.’ She paused as a thought came to her.
‘I am going to give you a password so I know it is you, and not some fly by night come to rob me.’ Satisfied she had covered all the bases Elsie put the phone down and began planning her outfit for the occasion.
On the dot of six o’clock, the doorbell rang, and Elsie tripped down the hallway in her high heeled shoes unearthed from the back of the cupboard in the spare room. They completed her outfit for the evening which included a black satin skirt circa 1946, a grey silk blouse from the 1950s and a bright pink jacket she had bought in the sale at Harkett’s department store and never worn. The outfit was set off by a large pink rose pinned to the jacket’s lapel.
She had telephoned her long-suffering hairdresser and manipulated her into fitting her in on a Saturday morning. Elsie patted her silver rinsed curls, swept up elegantly and set off very nicely by a little extra rouge and bright pink lipstick.
A little nervously she opened the door and looked up into the face of a very attractive young man with jet black hair, and a broad grin standing on the doorstep.
‘Password.’ She demanded as she held firmly onto the front door in case she needed to escape hurriedly.
‘Glen Miller, Mrs. Windsor.’ A large hand at the end of a navy suit jacket sleeve reached out and she placed her newly manicured fingers into his palm.
Fifteen minutes later having been whisked into a big black car with a driver which made her feel very posh, Elsie sat next to her escort feeling tongue tied.
‘Have you lived in the village all your life Mrs Windsor?’ She came out of her reverie with a start and turned to Antonio who looked at her attentively.
Lawd… this was going to be a story to tell at the next bingo evening.
An aperitif of something sparkling loosened her tongue, as they sat waiting for the first course in what Antonio promised was going to be a gastronomic delight. Not used to eating a great deal these days, Elsie took the precaution of asking for senior portions for her meal, and Antonio had made sure to inform the young waiter of her requirements. By the time the veal in breadcrumbs arrived, they were getting along famously, with Elsie regaling her escort with tales of life in the village over the last 95 years, and bless the boy’s heart he laughed in all the right places. She was getting a little flushed, as she had now consumed two glasses of a very smooth red wine, and she hoped the car would be available to take her home again too.
As they set about their chocolate ice-cream with the delicious wafers, an elderly man approached their table, took Elsie’s hand, raised it to his lips and whispered ‘Bellissima’.
Antonio laughed and pulled out another chair. ‘Now Nonno, Mrs Windsor is my date this evening.’
He turned to Elsie. ‘Mrs Windsor please meet my grandfather Enrico Carlucci who is just over from Italy to stay with us for a few weeks while we get the business up and running.’
Elsie was beside herself with excitement with such very attractive gentlemen paying her such attention. After about ten minutes Antonio excused himself and left the two of them to their deep conversation, sure only about half of what was being said was understood by either party.
He went over to the bar where his father was standing waiting for a report.
‘Well my son, do you think our prize of dinner and a date with you will help with marketing the restaurant?’
‘No worries papa, Mrs Windsor has promised to tell all her friends in the village at the next bingo night, and will make sure they tell all their children about the food and the service. And Nonno has not been so animated since Nonna died.’
The following Thursday, Elsie was escorted again by a very good looking man, as she entered the village hall to play bingo. She introduced Enrico to all her friends and he charmed them with his wonderfully accented English. He sat attentively by her side as she played the games during the evening much to the envy of all her friends. At nine o’clock he escorted her out to the taxi and accompanied her home.
Enrico stood by her side until she had opened her front door and then raised her hand to his lips.
‘Until tomorrow night mia cara Elsie.’
Sighing Elsie stood in the living room and looked up at the photo of Frank in pride of place on the mantelpiece.
‘I am sorry my love, but you have to admit two dates in a week is not bad for the old girl and that fiver was money well spent.’
She kicked off her heels and padded up the stairs to bed, dreaming of handsome Italians and chocolate ice-cream.
©Sally Cronin 2020
One of the reviews for Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries
Short story and poetry anthologies are all the rage now, and Sally Cronin’s “Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries” does not disappoint. This eclectic mix takes the reader through a gambit of feelings that revolve around the themes of love, loss, humor, revenge, and life’s second chances.
A few of these tales brought tears to my eyes, such as “Long Lost Love,” which tells the story of Tom and Elaine, a pregnancy, and a visit from beyond the grave. However, the poetry is as exceptional as the short stories. The butterfly cinquain, “Ritual of Mehndi,” shares a glimpse into the traditional wedding custom of painting symbols in henna on the bride’s hands.
This author is known for an empathetic approach to her writing. She writes what she senses, sharing the ups and downs of her characters with love and compassion. A true storyteller, Sally Cronin’s stories will leave you wanting more feel-good moments
My latest book is a collection of poetry and was published on July 2021
Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed the story.. I always love your feedback. Sally.