Smorgasbord Short Stories – Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries – Animal Magic – The Night Shift by Sally Cronin

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.

Animal Magic – The Night Shift

The corridors of the care home were silent, with only the soft sound of the night-matron’s rubber soled shoes on the tiles. Everyone was asleep by now, televisions switched off, a last cup of cocoa and biscuit consumed, along with a sleeping pill for those elderly who suffered from insomnia.

Jessica had worked in this elderly care home for the last ten years since she retired from nursing and, as the night shift was not popular, she had been welcomed with open arms by the manager. The home was just around the corner from her flat where she lived with her husband Mike, who also worked nights in a factory in the centre of town. It suited them very well, as they managed to work the same shifts, giving them plenty of free time together.

There was plenty to do overnight, with paperwork to catch up on, and stores to check and restock from the basement of this old Victorian house. Admittedly it was a bit eerie walking up and down the dimly lit staircase, but after all these years, she knew there was nothing frightening lurking in the shadows. As she approached the end of the corridor, having gently opened each of doors as she passed along its length, to check on the occupants of the room, she saw a sudden flash of movement out of the corner of her eye and shrank back against the wall.

As her breathing calmed and her heart stopped thumping, she reasoned it was likely this old house might have a mouse of two, but the brief glimpse she had caught gave the impression of being rather bigger than a mouse, or even a rat for that matter.

Slowly she approached the top of the staircase and switched on the main lights to investigate further. On the other side of the landing, another long corridor loomed, and she had ten more residents to check up on. She decided to leave the light on and hesitantly moved forward.

She froze as she caught sight of a tail disappearing into the third door along the corridor which was Mrs. Wilson’s room. This was not good, and walking briskly forward, she pushed open the door and using the torch in her pocket searched the corners and around the skirting board. She saw nothing alarming, but then heard a sound coming from the bed which was not Mrs. Wilson’s usual loud snoring. Hurriedly she shone the torch onto the bed and moved it upwards, nearly jumping out of her skin to see a creature perched on top of the resident’s chest. Backing up to the door she switched the overhead light on.

Dorothy Wilson awoke with a start, and the cat who had been settled very nicely on her ample chest, arched its back and hissed at the intruder.

The three occupants of the room stared at each other in silence for several seconds, until Dorothy put her arms around the cat and pulled it closer to her, where it settled with a contented purr.

‘Oh dear Matron, we seemed to have been caught out.’ She said tearfully.

Jessica moved closer to the bed and perched on the end while the cat looked at her balefully.

‘How long have you had the cat in your room Dorothy, and how have you got away with it?

‘When I came here three months ago, I was told I couldn’t bring Percy with me, and my son said he would look after him.’ She stroked the cat’s ears.

‘He lives a few streets away from the home, and after a month I missed Percy so much that Peter smuggled him in one Sunday afternoon, and when he took him back down to the car under his coat, he got free and ran off into the garden.’

Jessica shook her head as the story unfolded, and had to suppress a smile as Dorothy shared Percy’s suspected means of entry to the home each night, such as waiting for staff to leave after work perhaps, or when the kitchen staff left the back door open when putting the rubbish out last thing at night. But one thing was for sure, this determined cat was going to find his way to this room where the door had been left conveniently ajar.

‘But I check your room every night Dorothy and you are always sound asleep with the door closed.’

‘Well dear you are very predictable, as you always do your check at midnight, so I get up and close the door, and Percy goes into my bathroom until you have gone.’ She held the cat tighter and he voiced his concern. ‘Only I fell asleep early tonight and forgot to close the door after he arrived.’

‘Does this mean you have not been taking your sleeping pill after your cocoa each night?

‘Well dear I don’t need it once Percy is with me, I sleep soundly until six every morning and then I open the door and let him out.’

‘Is he living in the garden during the day and who is feeding him?’

‘He goes back to my son’s house and spends the day there, Peter installed a cat flap in his back door so Percy could come and go as he wanted.’

Dorothy reached out a hand and placed it on Jessica’s arm.

‘Please don’t tell the manager, I know the rules and I don’t want to leave this lovely place, but Percy is so dear to me, I couldn’t bear it if he was not with me.’

Jessica closed her eyes for a moment and listened to the purring of the cat in question.

She patted Dorothy’s hand and got up from the bed and walked out leaving the door slightly ajar.

‘I am off duty for the next two nights Dorothy so make sure you don’t fall asleep before Percy arrives again,’ she smiled at the still worried looking resident. ‘It will be okay.’

Dorothy nodded happily; snuggled back down with her pet and was soon snoring gently.

Jessica continued her rounds, opening doors and checking on the occupants, hoping there were going to be no more surprises tonight. She also decided perhaps it was time to approach the manager with the benefits of having a resident cat on the premises, to keep the mice down she had noticed on her rounds recently.

©Sally Cronin 2020

My Books

One of the reviews for Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries

Mar 03, 2021 Jacquie rated it five stars it was amazing
Life isn’t always easy- sometimes, it’s even the pits.

Sally Cronin’s anthology is an entertaining collection combining sweet, wholesome tales with stories from a more jaded point of view.

I love how she takes everyday situations and infuses them with humor, such as in The Weekly Shopping;

‘What the hell does DNST mean?’ ‘Do Not Serve Treats.’
Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries- Sally Cronin

Bittersweet endings like The Wedding Day when a hero returns from the grave to see his daughter’s wedding.

I teared up think of my Annie with The Nanny. The story of an overwhelmed couple caring for their teething baby and the unexpected help they receive.

Another favorite is a poem titled The Duchess, where the author paints a portrait of her beloved parent.

There were a few stories about the dark side of life, but these just served to enhance the rest and made me appreciate the blessings in my own life.

Easy-to-read, enjoyable, and relatable.

If you need a fun escape from the winter doldrums, give Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries a read! 

Amazon: Amazon US – Amazon UK: Amazon UK – More reviews : Goodreads

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.

40 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Short Stories – Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries – Animal Magic – The Night Shift by Sally Cronin

  1. Sweet story. I probably shared this before, but something I loved about my mom’s assisted living residence because they allowed the people to have a dog or cat in their room. It did my heart good (and others, I’m sure) to see a resident taking their beloved pet out for a walk.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Pete and I totally agree. Leaving behind your home, most of your personal belongings and their associated memories is sad at any time of life but I am sure that being able to take a beloved pet would make all the difference, and usually those pets are very free with their love and attention so others benefit too… xxx

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  3. I remember this one and it’s just as moving this time around. I know one care home that has a cat that loves the attention it gets from the residents and the residents feel calmed and cheered by the cat. xx

    Liked by 1 person

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