Smorgasbord Short Stories – Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries – #Winning Streak – The Charity Shop 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.

Winning Streak – The Charity Shop

Mary Jane Brown was thrifty when it came to shopping, and she dropped into the charity outlets in the high street every week in search of bargains. A keen fan of the antique shows on television, she was always on the lookout for an unexpected find; hopeful it might achieve thousands in the auction rooms.

Until now she had been lucky in so much as she had discovered a leather coat for £20 which was a little 1980s, but very smart all the same, and a handbag, which though scuffed was a very good make and only cost £10.

Today Mary Jane had a fiver burning a hole in her pocket – she had won it at the bingo session at the church hall on Friday night. Perhaps her lucky streak would continue? She popped into her favourite charity shop tucked in a side street, often overlooked by other bargain hunters. She spent a pleasant half hour browsing the book shelves and the crockery displays, hoping for a first edition or ancient Chinese bowl.

Disappointed, she was just about to leave, when she noticed a large vase by the door holding a number of umbrellas all for £1 each. It was very decorative but clearly not worth much to have been relegated to a brolly holder, but she thought it might look nice in her hall by the front door.

She went over to the desk and asked for the price for the vase, expecting it to be around £20, but was delighted when the assistant told her it was only a fiver. The chatty assistant revealed it had been brought in after a house clearance following the death of an old lady. She had stipulated in her will, that despite there being nothing of value, she hoped it would bring in a few pounds for her favourite charity.

Delighted, Mary Jane put her heavy new purchase into her supermarket bag-for-life and, wrapping her arms around the package, wondered how she would get it home. Luckily she spotted a taxi in the rank at the end of the road, and arrived home in style. She displayed the vase in the hall, adding some silk flowers she had bought a couple of weeks earlier and extremely happy with the day’s foraging, she got on with making the supper.

Over the following weeks the vase was much admired by family and friends who spotted it on their arrival, and after a few months, Mary Jane forgot it was actually there.

The local paper announced the news that the well-known antiques television show was coming to town. Mary Jane excitedly looked around the house for anything that might be of interest to the programme, and get her a few minutes on the telly. Although she knew the vase was not worth anything, it looked impressive and she decided it might at least get her in front of the appraisers before the show. She rang the number and was directed to a contact form on their website, which she completed and waited for her tickets to arrive.

Wrapping the vase carefully in bubble-wrap for the taxi ride to the event, Mary Jane looked forward to spending time watching the appraisers with other hopefuls. She had splurged out and had her hair done and paid special attention to her make-up, she also hoped she might get a few seconds on camera. It would be a great opportunity to have family and friends around when the segment aired and make a bit of a party of it.

There was a long line of people waiting to show off their treasures, and the vase was very heavy by the time she got to the head of the queue. In fact she had almost decided to abandon the quest and go and park herself on a handy bench with a cup of coffee from the mobile café, when she was invited to sit down at a table with a young man in a smart suit.

At first tongue tied, Mary Jane launched into the tale of buying the vase and how she didn’t think it was worth anything, but it was so attractive she could not resist bringing it along. The young man whose name was Alistair according to his name tag, smiled and nodded in the right places before holding his arms out for the said item. He examined the bottom of the vase and ran his fingers over the decoration, peering inside to check for damage.

Asking her to wait for a moment, he headed off to confer with an older man standing by a linen covered table. The vase was examined thoroughly again and the older man nodded.
Alistair returned and came around to Mary Jane’s side of the table.

‘Would you like to come with me Mrs Brown, our expert would like to have a word with you.’

Three months later the screening of show filmed in the town was scheduled to be aired. Mary Jane invited her two sons and their wives, her three sisters and their husbands to come around for tea followed by the screening. She had only told them she had been at the event and they might catch sight of her briefly. She wished her husband Donald could have been alive to see her moment of fame, but she hoped he would have been proud of her for putting herself forward.

Everybody sat in front of the television in the front room with added chairs taken from around the dining table. Mary Jane brought through some bottles of wine and bowls of crisps and everyone eagerly waited for the show to begin. She sat back and sipped a very nice glass of red wine her son Michael had brought with him and smiled to herself as the introductory music began to play.

After the show finished there was a stunned silence in the room and all eyes turned to look at Mary Jane, who smiled back at them.

‘How much money did he say the vase was worth again Mum?’ Michael looked ashen faced.

‘£500,000, but in fact at auction it made £900,000 as a Chinese buyer bought it for his collection.’

The room erupted with everyone trying to talk at once, until Mary Jane raised her hand in the air and shouted at them to be quiet.

‘I have given half of the proceeds to the charity shop where I bought the vase which they were thrilled about. She laughed. ‘I think they will be making more of an effort to check the worth of the items they receive in future.’

‘I have invested £200,000 in a pension fund recommended by my bank manager, which will provide for me for the rest of my life. I have some money now in the bank to pay for extras such as holidays and family celebrations.

She went around to her two sons and her sisters and handed them an envelope which they opened eagerly and gasped when they each saw a cheque for £25,000.

‘You will need to pay some tax I expect; so don’t spend it all at once!’

They all laughed and took their turns in hugging her leaving her rosy cheeked and happy.

More than anything Mary Jane felt a great sense of satisfaction at the result of her £5 investment. She felt she had honoured the memory of the original owner of the vase, provided for her family and now had plenty of cash in the bank. She was determined to enjoy life to the full, including scouring the local charity shops for more bargains.

©Sally Cronin 2020

My Books

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

Jun 02, 2021 Colleen Chesebro rated it five stars it was amazing

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

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.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Round Up – December 26th – January 2nd 2022 – New Schedule, Starship, NY Party, Shortstories, Reviews, Bloggers and Funnies


Welcome to the round up of posts bridging the gap between 2021 and 2022…

Happy New Year and wishing us all a healthy, wealthy and love filled year whatever life and opportunistic pathogens throw at us.

We had a quiet Christmas and New Year with plenty of movies, good food and the occasional glass of cheer. As with most countries there has been an avalanche of cases here topping 23,000 yesterday, which for a country with only 5 million people.. is high. Thankfully the trend of deaths associated with Omicron is lower than previous variants and there is evidence from other countries such as South Africa that it comes in fast and furious and then burns itself out… Fingers crossed it is its last attempt to infect the world and we see a more positive outcome in 2022.

We have not made resolutions for many years but we have made plans. To redecorate the house and put in the market by the summer. Find a new home further down the south east coast of Ireland, possibly between Wexford and Waterford. And once moved it would be good to be able to travel a little before coming back to settle down with a new fur baby.

Flexibility and adaptability have to be built in to those plans, but that is something we are prepared for.  And there is also time allocated for me to finish some of my writing projects and read more books in 2022.

As always I have had help this week between Christmas and New Year by much appreciated friends and collaborators – William Price King, Debby Gies and Malcolm Allen.

In 2022 William and I will continue with The Breakfast Show on Tuesdays… and I am also sharing updated posts from William’s two series – Jazz Icons and Music Greats on Fridays over the year.

D.G. Kaye’s Travel Column Rewind begins tomorrow morning with updates on travel restrictions for all the countries featured, which are open for tourism.

Carol Taylor and I will reshare the posts Cook from Scratch to prevent Deficiency from this Wednesday.

The Health Column returns on Thursday with the series The Gentle Detox to get you into 2022 in good shape.

The new Smorgasbord Bookshelf kicks off with two new releases during the week and the new series of Meet the Authors begins on the 10th.

There will be afternoon videos, some funnies, short stories and a blogger daily.

I hope you will enjoy the new schedule and join us when you have the time. As always I am so appreciative of your support

On with the show

Chart Hits 1985 Part One – Sade, Whitney Houston, Huey Lewis & The News, Jefferson Starship

appy New Year 2022 – Music to get the party started – hosts William Price King and Sally Cronin – Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, ABBA, Swing

Short Story – Technology – The Weekly Shop

Short Story – Technology – DNA

The new Smorgasbord Bookshelf of personally recommended authors and their books

#NorthernIreland #Thriller #Romance – Stones Corner Turmoil by Jane Buckley

#Children’s – Amazing Matilda: A Monarch’s Tale by Bette A. Stevens

#Contemporary Anne Goodwin, #Romance Jan Sikes, #Romance Staci Troilo, #Shortstories Mae Clair, #Thriller Jane Buckley

#Funnies The Story Reading Ape, #Bookreviews Terry Tyler, #Christmas Carol Taylor, #Donation Jennie Fitzkee, #Videos D. G. Kaye, #Farewell to a friend.

January 2nd 2022 – #Pinenuts Carol Taylor, #Reviews Gwen Plano, Colleen Chesebro, Jan Sikes, #Spotlight C.S. Boyack

Head over to find out more about the health benefits of laughter and some funnies to get you started: Laughter the best Medicine 2022

December 28th 2021 – Hosts Debby Gies and Sally Cronin – Balance and Remote Controls…

December 30th 2021 – Malcolm Allen Rewind – E-Reader and Pole Dancing

 

Thanks for joining me during this week of fesitivites and wishing you a very healthy, happy and wealthy 2022….

Smorgasbord Podcast – Short Stories – Grace by Sally Cronin


Welcome to the podcast and the first of the short stories I have recorded for over Christmas. I hope you will enjoy.

Grace

Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed… Sally.

 

Smorgasbord Short Stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? – Zoe – Looking to the Future by Sally Cronin


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.

I hope that those of you who read the stories before will not mind the rewind

Zoe – Looking to the Future

Madame Zoe looked at the screen in front of her and watched the teenage girl in the waiting room. She was her next client and looked nervous; as many did who came to consult the renowned fortune teller, in her little oasis in the back streets of the town.

These few minutes observing her next client were important before meeting them for the first time. Were they nervous, excited, and worried? That gave her some clues as to what direction their consultation might go. Added to the extensive report that her assistant Marjorie had compiled, this allowed Madame Zoe to tailor her reading to each specific client needs with outstanding results.

For example the young woman waiting for her fortune and fate to be revealed was called Sandra Johnson, and was twenty years old. She worked at a solicitor’s office in the main street, and was currently in a relationship with a young mechanic called Steve. Unfortunately this union of three years was going through a tough patch, as Steve had been fooling around with Tracy; one of Sandra’s closest friends.

Since her 18th birthday, the girl had been trying to find her birth mother. Unfortunately, it would appear that the official agency were finding it difficult to track her down, to get consent to reveal her whereabouts, to her long lost daughter. All that the girl had to go on was her mother’s name, which was Linda Watkins, and that she had been 16 years old at the time of her birth. Sandra had been adopted very soon after this and was brought up by her new parents in a village a few miles away. Seemingly this had been a very happy arrangement, but unfortunately her adoptive mother had died recently; obviously caused much sadness. And probably prompting Sandra’s search for her birth mother.

Madame Zoe adjusted her turban and creamed her hands with Shea butter; one of her little indulgences. When you are holding the hands of others, in an attempt to read their futures, it was important that your own looked their best. Sandra had booked a half-hour appointment. This length of time warranted the assistance of the crystal ball, currently residing on its gold trestle beneath a blue silk square.

What the client would not be able to see however, was the discreet screen resting on Madame Zoe’s knees, with all the relevant information that she needed to provide a satisfying and remarkable experience for this young woman.

At the tinkle of the bell over the inner door, Marjorie, who had been wafting incense across the waiting room, crossed over to Sandra and offered her hand. The girl stood and looked around nervously, as if about to bolt for the street door, but at Marjorie’s insistence she followed her through into the inner sanctum. There she was invited to take the chair across from Madame Zoe, whose hands stretched across the blue velvet cloth, palms upward in welcome.

‘Hello my dear,’ the gentle and soothing tones caused Sandra to straighten up in her chair. Zoe extended her well-buttered hand; taking the girl’s thin and cold palm in hers.

‘I understand that you seek some answers to very important questions today, but I would like to spend a few minutes sharing the thoughts and feelings that I am receiving from you.’ She paused for effect and waited for the girl to respond.

‘Okay, if you feel that is what we should do first.’ Sandra was visibly shaking, and for just a moment, the fortune teller felt a smidgeon of remorse for the scam she was pulling. But business was business and she had her reputation for accuracy to uphold.

‘My dear, I feel that you are going through a difficult time in your love life, and I see the letter S seems to be on your mind. Do you know someone with a name that begins with S?’

Sandra gasped and nodded her head in bemused agreement.

‘Sadly, I feel that this person has behaved very badly, and that the relationship has come to an end. Would I be right about that?’

Again the girl nodded and Zoe smiled sweetly as she stroked the back of her hand.

For a moment or two Madame Zoe stared intently into Sandra’s palm and then groaned theatrically.

‘Ah, yes I see that you have been betrayed by a friend whose name begins with a J… No wait… I am wrong it is a T.

There was a satisfying gasp at the mention of the letter T and it was clear that there was another relationship that was over.

‘I also feel that you work in a place that might be involved in legal matters,’ she held up one finger of her free hand to prevent any interruption.

‘Perhaps a police station, no don’t tell me… I think it might be a solicitor’s office, am I correct?’

By this time Sandra was hooked and it was now time to reveal most important element of today’s reading.

Claiming back her hand from the girl, Zoe lifted the blue silk square to reveal the glass orb beneath. Sandra’s eyes were riveted on this piece of fortune telling magic that she had been told about by some of her girlfriends. They had assured her that Madame Zoe seemed to have a window into their lives and had seen many things that they had only confided in to friends. They had assured her they always left their appointments safe in the knowledge that love would find them, and fortune was theirs for the taking..

After a few minutes of silence as Madame Zoe sought to pad out the half hour, she raised a solemn face to stare into the wide-eyed Sandra’s face.

Now confident that she had the girls complete attention, she delivered her next question in a fateful tone.

‘My dear child, I sense that you seek another, who is not a man but a family member long lost to you.’ You could have heard a pin drop. She continued.

‘There is someone from your past that you have barely met, but you are desperate to reconnect to.’ Both of her hands cradled the crystal ball in front of her as she searched its depths.

‘You look for your mother.’ With that Sandra clasped a hand over her mouth; tears filling her eyes. Absolutely stunned she stared at the exotic creature in front of her.

‘I have her name on the tip of my tongue… Now let me see it begins with an L…Yes that’s right, her name is Linda, is that correct my dear? Sandra nodded eagerly and waited with bated breath for the next pronouncement.

‘I see that this woman has changed her surname more than once, and I see her living in Manchester, in a house with the number 15.’

With this Madame Zoe appeared to go into a trance. Sandra looked on in concern as she desperately waited for the woman to resume her revelations. She was about to interrupt, but Zoe raised her hand in a gesture to remain silent.

Sandra couldn’t see that the mystic in front of her was consulting her hidden screen; waiting while Marjorie typed further information into the computer behind the reception desk.

Finally the silence was broken and with a smile of relief, Madame Zoe announced with a flourish.

‘Your mother’s surname is Baxter and she is looking forward to meeting you very much.’ With that she collapsed against the back of the chair, and smiling weakly at her now very emotional client, waved her away from the table.

Sandra didn’t know whether to hug or kiss this strange looking, all-seeing woman, but sensing that it would be unwelcome, she retreated through the door into the reception area. Marjorie was waiting behind the desk and while Sandra wiped her eyes and composed herself, the assistant prepared the bill for this momentous session.

Without looking at the cost, which was nearly a week’s wages, Sandra handed over her credit card and gratefully tapped in her pin number.

‘Please thank Madame Zoe for me, she is amazing, and I will pass on her information to all my friends… Thank you, thank you.’ With that the smiling girl opened the door to the shop and headed off into her future.

After making sure that Sandra had gone, Marjorie locked the door and put the closed sign up for lunch and headed back into the consulting room. There she found Zoe divested of both turban and wig with her feet up on one of the velvet chairs.

‘Well done Marjorie… all that Facebook chit chat between her and her mates was gold dust, but that was a stroke of genius hacking into the adoption agency. What a coincidence that the girl’s mother had been in touch after their letters finally reached her. The girl should get their message informing her of her mother’s name and address tomorrow and that will really seal the deal.’

Marjorie put two plates down on the table and settled herself into the vacated client’s chair. ‘It will soon be time to put our charges up Mum,’ she smiled across the table as she helped herself to a ham and cheese sandwich.

‘Once the word gets around on Facebook about this latest prediction we are going to be overrun… Tenerife here we come.’

‘Her mother laughed and then shook her head… No… I don’t think so pet… I see Hawaii in our futures.’

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection

Mar 19, 2018 D. Peach rated it five stars it was amazing

I read the first volume of What’s in a Name and was eager to give the second a try. Volume 2 is a collection of short stories that picks up when the first ended, covering names starting with K through Z (Kenneth through Zoe). Cronin includes a bonus short story for a collection coming out later in 2018.

This is a quick read that I breezed through in a few hours, sitting outside in the spring sunshine. Many of the stories have older characters, covering a range of topics from heartwarming reunions, grief and loss, recovered dignity, and romantic love beyond the grave. There’s also a bit of happily ever after and match-making, as well as some swindling, and a taste of well-deserved murder! The variety is highly entertaining and kept me engaged throughout.

Cronin is a master storyteller and I recommend this collection (both volumes) to readers of all ages.

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: :Sally’s books and reviews

I hope you will join me again for more stories next time… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short Stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? – Yves – Be careful what you wish for! by Sally Cronin


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.

I hope that those of you who read the stories before will not mind the rewind

Yves – Be careful what you wish for!

Yves Bertrand spoke English impeccably with a sexy French accent. When romancing a beautiful woman he used anything and everything in his arsenal. He was now in his late thirties, and had spent the last twenty years acquiring an encyclopedic knowledge of the trivia of the world. The vast majority of middle-aged women that he honoured with his attention were delighted at his acerbic wit and ability to name the world’s most influential fashion designers. Not to mention his knowledge of the latest season’s ‘must have’ shoes and handbags.

The majority of the women were divorcees or widows with time on their hands and money in their accounts. Their generosity had financed his activities and allowed him to buy a spectacular villa in the Greek islands. Along with a substantial amount tucked away in off shore accounts, Yves had sufficient to fund his early retirement; which he had decided would be at the age of forty.

With only a year to go before his income would be reliant on bank interest rates; Yves decided that this summer on the French Riviera would have to be exceptionally profitable. He consulted with the various concierges of the top hotels who were on his payroll. It was money well spent and within days, Yves received a coded text message to his burner phone, indicating that there was a big fish ready to be reeled in.

A lesser man would have felt guilty about the methods used to part vulnerable older women from their cash, but Yves believed in giving value for money and his conquests seldom went away without happy memories. He had to admit however that it was becoming more difficult to play the role of amorous partner without some form of enhancement, and there were days when he wished he might retire sooner than the end of the season.

He received this particular text from the concierge at a luxuriously appointed hotel owned by a Saudi Prince, newly opened and a magnet for this season’s divorcees. The penthouse suite had been rented for a month by a mysterious guest who would be occupying the opulent accommodations on her own. This was indeed promising and Yves selected his most recent acquisition from his wardrobe; congratulating himself on his foresight in buying the expensive but eye-catching dinner jacket. An hour later and dressed to kill, Yves walked casually into the hotel’s garden restaurant and slipped the manager a suitably high valued bank note. He was whisked elegantly between the tables and the guests dipping into their caviar and duck breasts, and was seated at a table opposite a woman eating alone.

Surreptitiously, Yves peered over and around his menu at his target. She was stunning he had to admit. In her mid-forties perhaps; but possibly a little older. He would need to inspect her skin more closely to find the tell-tale signs of any cosmetic surgery. Long dark hair cascaded around her shoulders and her lightly tanned arms rested gently on the table in front of her. A waiter arrived and placed a covered plate in front of the attractive diner, and with a flourish, lifted the lid to reveal a whole lobster with a salad garnish. Delicately the woman picked up her fork and began to eat the white and succulent flesh. Yves found it very seductive and smiled to himself. Perhaps this summer was going to be more enjoyable than he had anticipated.

At that moment the woman looked up from her lobster and stared right back at Yves with stunningly green eyes, penetrating deep into his soul. He fought against the wave of desire that swept through him with devastating effect. But he was already lost, and for the first time in his life, Yves Bertrand was in love with someone other than himself.

As a waiter hovered at his shoulder to take his order, the woman lifted her hand and beckoned Yves across to join her. He rose from his chair and arriving by her side, picked up the elegantly outstretched hand, kissing the jasmine scented skin at the base of the wrist. The woman smiled at him knowingly and he pulled out the chair beside her and sat down.

He barely remembered ordering the same dish as his new conquest. He was too busy thanking his lucky stars that this last summer was going to be the most delectable of his professional career.

Three weeks later as Yves and Christina lay side by side in the palatial king-sized bed in her suite, he reflected on his good fortune. He turned his head to watch her as she slept, exhausted by his amorous skills of last night. He smiled to himself and began formulating his new plan in his head. He had discovered that Christina was the 45 year old widow of a multi-billionaire who had collapsed suddenly at the age of seventy on the golf course. Although there had been three other wives and numerous children, he had left his newly acquired wife over fifty million along with a wonderful home in Monaco. She had been devastated to lose this wonderful man after only eighteen months of marriage and she had sobbed in Yves arms as she recounted her unspeakable loss on the second night of their acquaintance.

Yves in turn had admitted to owning a stunning villa in Greece. He still felt unwilling to admit to the magnitude of his bank holdings, but hinted at a generous income from a family trust fund. This had reassured Christina that she was in the company of a man of substance; unlike some of the admirers she had encountered in the last few months. She had relaxed into a sensual and delightful relationship that she hoped would last longer than the original month she had planned on staying.

Two days before her departure back to Monaco, Yves asked Christina a question that he had sworn would not pass his lips. Her acceptance, accompanied by tears and a substantial amount of kissing, elevated his emotions to previously unimagined heights. A hurried wedding was planned, and it was decided that Christina would sell her Monaco home and they would live in the villa in Greece, until such time as they could buy a more opulent property together.

Yves could not believe his good fortune. Not only had he found a beautiful companion for his retirement, but she was bringing with her a fortune that far outstripped his own few millions.

The sun shone as the two of them left the registry office with their witnesses trailing behind. Two passing tourists had been well paid for their services and had been only too happy to accept the invitation. The jubilant couple returned to the hotel and picked up Christina’s several pieces of luggage. Within hours they were on their way to Greece and the love nest that waited for them.

Yves new wife suggested that it might be prudent for her to make a will to ensure that there be no challenge from her step-children should the unthinkable happen to her, and a local lawyer complied with her wishes. The document, leaving everything to Yves was signed and witnessed and placed in the safe of the villa. Yves at this point felt that he should of course reciprocate and detailed all his various bank accounts in his own will, leaving everything to his beautiful wife. She was grateful for his consideration, and told him how happy she was that they were so fortunate to have found each other.

The next six months were spent in blissful indolence and even the thought of selling the villa and buying another was temporarily shelved. They loved their home’s cool marble interior and the sloping garden that went down to the beach and sunlit sea. Their happiness was complete.

Then out of the blue tragedy struck. Yves was enjoying his morning swim a few hundred feet from the beach, when he felt a gripping pain in his chest and found himself unable to breathe. He lifted his hand to try and get the attention of Christina as she sat on the sand reading a book waiting for him to finish his swim. For a moment before he slipped beneath the waves, he thought he saw her smile and lift her hand to wave at him, but those images, like his last breath, were gone within seconds.

A year later when all the paperwork had been completed, Christina sat at the table on the terrace where she and Yves had enjoyed their breakfasts in the sunshine. In a metal waste bin sat a neat stack of shredded paper. Striking a match, Christina dropped it into the pile, watching it catch light. As she observed her old life go up in flames, she stroked the file of new documents in her name that gave her ownership of the villa, and the small fortune in the off shore bank accounts.

She had been down to her last 100,000 dollars when she had booked that hotel suite. But with her looks beginning to fade she knew this was probably the last summer of her professional career. There had been no husband, just a succession of much older men that she had nursed in the last years of their lives. Some had been more than generous in their wills to their devoted nurse; little knowing that their end had been hastened by rejuvenating potions. Over the years she would find new victims by spending the summer in one of the less expensive hotels along this stretch of the coast, but dining at the more luxurious accommodations. Like Yves she had paid the concierges well for their information. Most knew of Yves and his activities and suspected that he had earned substantially on the basis of their information. They also rather resented his success with the ladies and they were looking forward to him receiving some of his own medicine. And at the end of the day, a beautiful woman’s money bought a little more loyalty than his.

However, Christina regretted that the handsome and attentive Yves had to pay the ultimate price for their love. But she could not afford for him to find out that her house in Monaco and her fifty million was fictitious. He had begun to suggest that they sell this villa and go to live in tax exile in Monaco. The final nail in his coffin was his announcement two days before he died, that he had booked flights leaving in a week so that they could check out properties.

She could remain in this beautiful villa now, living in luxury for the rest of her life. She would miss Yves but knew that there were plenty of young men who would find her mature beauty alluring and possibly lucrative. She might have retired from her professional life as a nurse and murderer, but there was plenty of scope for some innocent fun.

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection

Mar 19, 2018 D. Peach rated it five stars it was amazing

I read the first volume of What’s in a Name and was eager to give the second a try. Volume 2 is a collection of short stories that picks up when the first ended, covering names starting with K through Z (Kenneth through Zoe). Cronin includes a bonus short story for a collection coming out later in 2018.

This is a quick read that I breezed through in a few hours, sitting outside in the spring sunshine. Many of the stories have older characters, covering a range of topics from heartwarming reunions, grief and loss, recovered dignity, and romantic love beyond the grave. There’s also a bit of happily ever after and match-making, as well as some swindling, and a taste of well-deserved murder! The variety is highly entertaining and kept me engaged throughout.

Cronin is a master storyteller and I recommend this collection (both volumes) to readers of all ages.

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: :Sally’s books and reviews

I hope you will join me again for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Weekly Round Up – 10th – 16th October 2021 – Crows, Robins, Diana Ross, Relationships, Stories, Reviews, Health and Humour


Welcome to the round up of posts that you might have missed on Smorgasbord this week.

I hope all is well with you. Quite a bit going on around here with spare parts for the wood burner, tiles to replace cracked ones and other bits and pieces arriving daily. We are still waiting on those who will be installing topsoil, lawn, fixing said wood burner and chimney sweeping but early days yet… no fixed day or week was mentioned in negotiations! When we can ‘fit you in’ seems to be the common phrase you wait patiently.  David will be fixing the tiles himself during the redecoration process so no mystery there.

An earlier photo of Charlie

We believe that Charlie has been back in the garden. We noticed a crow, slightly bigger which is to be expected, but with the same mottled grey markings foraging under the bird feeder, accompanied by a friend. He still has trouble flying but managed to clear the hedge and perch on a telephone line. What made us think it was Charlie was that he wiped his beak from side to side on the line. Because his beak was damaged he did that after eating so we are hoping it was him.

Other than that I am making progress on the writing front and you can read an example in the post that Jane Risdon kindly shared this week…with an excerpt from the next collection.

I was the guest of author Jane Risdon who shared my short story, Miss Lloyd’s Robin, from the new collection due out at the end of the year… I hope you will head over to read.. Thanks to Jane for also showcasing Life is Like a Mosaic…

Guest of author Jane Risdon with a short story

This week William Price King, D.G. Kaye and Daniel Kemp contributed their expertise in the form of music, relationships and humour… they are amazing. Thanks to you for dropping in and the support during the week.. it keeps me motivated.

On with the show

Chart Hits 1980 Part One – Christopher Cross, Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross, Queen

D. G. Kaye Explores the Realms of Relationships – October 2021 – No Contact – The Breaking Point

Walter – Lost and Alone by Sally Cronin

What’s in a Name? – Xenia – Beloved by Sally Cronin

#TankaProse – The Hunter’s Moon by Sally Cronin Posted

New Review #Fantasy #Adventure – The Ferryman and the Sea Witch by D.Wallace Peach

Memories, Music and Movies – 1966 – Manfred Mann, kittens and Georgy Girl

Podcast – Turning Back the Clock – The Hormone Factor Part Two – by Sally Cronin

Women’s Health – The Heart and Stress by Sally Cronin

Weekly Grocery Shopping List by Nutrient – Part Two – Vitamin C to K2 by Sally Cronin

#Finance – Absolutely Necessary Expenses by Sharon Marchisello

#FlashFiction The Last Ride of the Night by D.L. Finn

Do You Know What To Do When One Of Your Blog Posts Gets Reblogged? Hugh W. Roberts

#Offer Marcia Meara, #Teaching Pete Springer, #Writers D.G. Kaye, #RoundUp Carol Taylor, #Halloween John Howell.

Thursday October 14th 2021 – #Humour Joy Lennick, #Interview Terry Tyler, #Booklaunch Mae Clair with Joan Hall.

Smorgasbord Children’s Reading Room – Book Review – Drystan the Dragon and Friends Series, Book 6: Dragana Helps a Fairy by Janice Spina

New Author on the Shelves – #Portugal – #Memoir – Another Day in Paradise by Karen Telling

New Book on the Shelves – #Paranormal, #UrbanFantasy, #Shortstories -Things Old and Forgotten by Mae Clair

#Reviews – #Menopause D.G. Kaye, #Mennonite Marian Longenecker Beaman, #Comingofage Bette A. Stevens

#History #NorthernIreland Jane Buckley, #Mystery James J. Cudney, #SouthernCulture Claire Fullerton

#History #JewishFiction Eva Hnizdo, #Fantasy Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene, #Poetry Balroop Singh

October 12th 2021 -Hosts Debby Gies and Sally Cronin – Funny Bone and Famous Last Words

October 14th 2021 – Another Open Mic Night with author Daniel Kemp – Recovery Time and Lost in Translation

 

Thanks for dropping in and I hope you have enjoyed the week… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short Stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? – Xenia – Beloved by Sally Cronin


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.

I hope that those of you who read the stories before will not mind the rewind

Xenia – Beloved

Your name is Xenia, after your Greek grandmother, whose wrinkled complexion smelt of roses and almond oil. I remember the hot summers of our visits as we played on the rocks beneath her stone house; working up an appetite for the platters of goat’s cheese, olives and warm bread. The loaves were taken straight from the wood stove; handled carefully with well-worn hessian rags, and served up on the rough wooden table in her wild garden. I remember being fascinated by her hands as they sliced thick warm chunks with an ancient serrated bread knife. They were blackened from nearly 80 years in the sun, with dark-rimmed nails from digging into the soil for home grown vegetables.

She was still a beautiful woman, who loved to have her long black and grey hair gently brushed in the twilight; sipping delicately from her glass of rose pink wine. Happy sighs filled the scented air; encouraging continued effort. We dreaded her tears as we left to catch the ferry at the end of summer, with her whispered goodbyes and pleas for us to return again the next year, remaining in our minds for weeks afterwards.

But one summer only my father made the journey, to stay just a week to bury his beloved mother, with her silver backed hair brush and a small bottle of almond oil resting in her hands.

That was ten years ago and I have been saving up her name to give to you, my first child.

From the moment I knew that I was carrying you in my womb, I felt certain that you would be a girl and worthy of this much loved name. As the months passed, and I felt that first movement beneath my hand, I began to talk to you of your name and the woman who owned it with such grace. Sometimes when I listened to music playing softly in the background, I would feel a flutter, as if you were dancing in time to the tune. I would imagine Xenia, swaying and clapping her hands in delight, lost in the gentle songs that my father played on his guitar after our evening meal. I knew she would be so happy that I had named you after her.

My time with my grandmother was too short, but I had saved up the stories to tell you, as well as photographs we took during those summers. I would tell you those tales as we rocked, still joined together, in the chair in the newly painted nursery. I promised to show you the embarrassing snaps of your mother when a girl, dressed in her bathing suit with face filled with sticky baklava. I imagined taking you back to Greece to see where you came from, and to visit Xenia’s grave to lay some blossom, and to show her how beautiful you are. I was certain that your hair would be raven black and that you would love almonds.

Your father laughed at me as I waddled around the house in search of more feta cheese and pickled onions. He said that there must be two of you, or that you were really a big bouncing boy; destined to be a rugby player. He would lay his head on my stomach and listen to your heartbeat; loving it when you kicked against his hand. We had chosen not to know the gender of our baby. I already knew it was a girl to be called Xenia, and your father just wanted a baby who was healthy that we would love.

I knew the moment you had gone. All was still where you had been so active. I thought you must be sleeping, and lay in the hospital bed resting, waiting for that kick and ripple, telling me you wanted my attention. But the cold gel, and pressure of the machine in a doctor’s hand, broke the spell. Your father and I held each other as we cried at our loss.

The love I feel for you will not diminish or change throughout my life. It comforts me to imagine you holding the hand of your great-grandmother, as you twirl to the music of a guitar. I see you eating baklava with sticky fingers, and her washing your hands and face lovingly, with rose scented water. I know that you are safe now, and that one day, we will meet face to face, and I will recognise you as the child of my heart. One day the three of us will sit in that wild garden, and laugh in the sunshine.

My two beloved Xenias…..

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection

Mar 19, 2018 D. Peach rated it five stars it was amazing

I read the first volume of What’s in a Name and was eager to give the second a try. Volume 2 is a collection of short stories that picks up when the first ended, covering names starting with K through Z (Kenneth through Zoe). Cronin includes a bonus short story for a collection coming out later in 2018.

This is a quick read that I breezed through in a few hours, sitting outside in the spring sunshine. Many of the stories have older characters, covering a range of topics from heartwarming reunions, grief and loss, recovered dignity, and romantic love beyond the grave. There’s also a bit of happily ever after and match-making, as well as some swindling, and a taste of well-deserved murder! The variety is highly entertaining and kept me engaged throughout.

Cronin is a master storyteller and I recommend this collection (both volumes) to readers of all ages.

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: :Sally’s books and reviews

I hope you will join me again for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short Stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? – Walter – Lost and Alone by Sally Cronin


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.

I hope that those of you who read the stories before will not mind the rewind

Walter – Lost and Alone

Somebody mentioned that they had heard that his name was Walter. He was a funny old duck who said little, giving you a discouraging look if you passed the time of day, or suggested sitting with him in the pub. He would nurse his pint of beer, the only one he would have for the two hours he visited The Crown each Friday, and he spent that time staring at the door as if waiting for someone he knew.

With his scruffy appearance and lack of hygiene it was difficult to determine Walter’s age. Some said he was in his 80s but others thought he might be even older than that. He didn’t bother anyone, although the landlord would have liked a little more custom from him over the two hours. However it would not be good for business to be seen ejecting a frail old man; despite his musty odour. That was until he ambled in one day with his stick in one hand and a filthy mongrel on a lead in the other.

Bill, who had run The Crown for twenty years, didn’t have a problem with dogs coming into the public bar, but this one felt the need to cock his leg against the first table leg he came across, marking his territory. Diplomacy was required, and being the summer months, Bill suggested that Walter and his new companion take their business outside to the beer garden, where there was a very nice table facing the back door to the pub.

Walter gave Bill one of his looks and led the scruffy mongrel outside and parked himself; indicating that he required his usual pint to be brought to him. Resigned but happy that this matter had been resolved peacefully, Bill brought out the pint and commented that it was on the house. He received a curt nod in return and shaking his head in exasperation he returned to the bar where his staff were mopping up the offending yellow puddle with some bleach.

Bill was a good man and he made enquiries of other locals as to where Walter lived, and if they knew of his circumstances. It was thought that he rented a small terrace house two streets over, and some commented that they had seen him in the corner shop and post office from time to time, collecting his pension and buying a few staples such as bread and jam.

Thankfully the weather was dry for the next few weeks and Walter and his new friend would now enter the beer garden from the side; sitting at their table waiting for the requisite pint to be delivered. The old man would carefully count out some silver and copper coins to the exact amount of the pint, to indicate that he was intent on not accepting it for free.

Bill noticed a slight difference in Walter’s appearance, and in fact the dog looked a little more nourished and cleaner than during his first visits. He wondered who was having a good influence over whom in this partnership; suspecting the dog was responsible. The pub had a thriving food business and there were always scraps left after lunch. Bill began taking out a bowl of these bits of meat and vegetables; putting them down under the table much to the delight of the dog who dived right in. Walter said nothing but he did offer a brief nod before Bill returned inside to the bar.

The weather began to turn into autumn and Bill knew that it was going to start getting too cold for the old man to sit outside. And sure enough the following Friday Walter walked into the bar with his dog and sat down at his usual table. This time the dog behaved itself and lay down by his owner’s feet. By now there had been a marked improvement in the scruffiness of both man and beast and Bill resigned himself to their presence in the bar. He smiled to himself as he pulled the pint of beer, thinking that the old boy was to be admired for his tenacity and spirit.

Regulars to the bar began stopping to talk to the dog who responded politely whilst leaning back against Walter’s legs. Soon patrons were slipping the odd piece of steak or chicken to the animal who took the offered tidbit daintily, licking the proffered fingers. Although Walter had tidied himself up considerably, he still looked too scrawny, and Bill came up with a plan. As Walter was getting up to leave he handed him a carrier bag with some cartons inside.

‘Something for the old dog over the weekend Walter,’ he smiled at the stony face in front of him. ‘Just some leftovers from lunch that will only go to waste.’

With a quick nod, Walter took the bag and with the dog eagerly nosing the plastic, they walked out the door and into the wintery weather.

On the following Friday, Bill’s mother, a spritely 85 year old arrived for her annual two weekly visit. Ethel had left the town some twenty years ago to live with her sister in Margate, but she loved coming back to the pub she and her husband had run for 40 years, taking it over from her parents when they retired. The place held happy memories and apart from Bill, she had brought up four other children in the small flat above the bar. They were all dispersed around the country, but they would all take the opportunity to visit whilst she was here to have a family party.

Ethel had been born in the main bedroom upstairs along with a twin brother. He had not wanted to stay in the town or follow his father into the family business. He had chosen to leave instead. Joining the army in 1952 and being deployed to Korea shortly afterwards. As she sat on the edge of the bed in that same bedroom, she ran her fingers over the black and white photograph of the two of them sitting at a table in the back garden. Her brother Donald had a pint in front of him and his arms around her shoulders. They were laughing and playing around for the camera, a gift to their father for his birthday. That was the last time she had seen Donald. They had a few letters during the next year but they revealed little but basic daily life in the army. After the war ended in 1953 they waited to hear about his next leave but nothing arrived.

Eventually Ethel’s father contacted his regiment only to discover that Donald had received a medical discharge three months before and that they had no forwarding address.

The family had searched for him everywhere and even got a private detective involved. Eventually, after two years, they found out that he had immigrated to Australia where all efforts to find him proved futile. It broke their hearts and they spent the rest of their lives wondering what had happened to him.

Ethel sighed as she remembered those tough days. Of course so much more was known about PTSD these days, and the doctors she had spoken to felt that was probably the reason for him shunning his family. Sorrowfully she placed the photograph back on the dresser and prepared to go and greet some of the old regulars who were coming in to join her in a drink.

Sure enough, when she arrived in the bar, there was a warm welcome from her old friends. Bill looked on smiling as he saw his mother embracing the people she had grown up with and served for all those years. The door opened and in walked Walter and his dog, clearly unsettled by the crowd of people gathered in their path and the noisy celebrations going on. He looked like he was about to turn around and leave, but Bill knew that both he and the dog would probably go hungry over the weekend without their normal leftovers. He stepped out from behind the bar and circled around the group greeting his mother; clearing the path to Walter’s usual table. Hesitantly the man and dog navigated their way across the room and sat down warily; the dog leaning protectively against Walter’s leg.

At that moment the crowd parted and Bill saw his mother smiling across at the three of them. Then she grabbed the arm of one of the people next to her and looked as if she was about to faint. Bill rushed across and grabbed a bar stool for her to sit on.

‘Mum, whatever’s the matter, don’t you feel well?’ He put his arm around Ethel’s shoulders, but she pushed him gently away and pointed across the bar.

‘That’s Walter and his dog Mum, you don’t know him. He has only been coming in for the last few months.’ He followed Ethel’s gaze and was amazed to see Walter on his feet, tears pouring down his face into his newly trimmed beard.

As the crowd of people moved back, the old man with his dog at his side, walked slowly across the carpet to stand before Bill and his mother.

‘I came to see you but you had gone and I thought you were dead.’ The regulars looked at each other in astonishment at the first complete sentence they had heard from Walter.

Ethel moved away from the protective arms of her son, and reaching out a trembling hand, she gently touched the front of Walter’s wrinkled jacket.

‘Oh Donald, you have come home love, you have come home.’

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection

Mar 19, 2018 D. Peach rated it five stars it was amazing

I read the first volume of What’s in a Name and was eager to give the second a try. Volume 2 is a collection of short stories that picks up when the first ended, covering names starting with K through Z (Kenneth through Zoe). Cronin includes a bonus short story for a collection coming out later in 2018.

This is a quick read that I breezed through in a few hours, sitting outside in the spring sunshine. Many of the stories have older characters, covering a range of topics from heartwarming reunions, grief and loss, recovered dignity, and romantic love beyond the grave. There’s also a bit of happily ever after and match-making, as well as some swindling, and a taste of well-deserved murder! The variety is highly entertaining and kept me engaged throughout.

Cronin is a master storyteller and I recommend this collection (both volumes) to readers of all ages.

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 week for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Weekly Round Up – 3rd – 9th October 2021 – James Bond, 1979 Hits, Green Kitchen, Stories, Book Reviews, Bloggers, Health and Humour


Welcome to the round up of post you might have missed during the week here on Smorgasbord.

We have been busy enough around here with final end of summer jobs in the garden… more topsoil and the turf coming in next week to complete the lawn work in the front of the house.. and then we finish the back in the next month. They need to be done before we put the house on the market next year and then we can start on the redecoration inside… it is five years since we did the last round and it needs freshening up.

We have been talking about where we go next, it will still be in Ireland and we are leaning towards the coast between Wexford and Waterford giving us access to both of them but still in a rural or coastal location if possible. The motorway that now goes all the way from Dublin to Wexford is to be extended on to Waterford in the next few years and that will make it very much easier to travel that southern coast.

My mother’s family originate from a small hamlet called Ballinacura in cork. Having managed last year to gain access to some records from the 1820s, it looks like the men in the family were pilots who would row out to ships and bring them into harbour. They also worked on the river.. When we move we are going to explore further in person which is much more effective. David’s family moved to Waterford from Cork and so we both have our origins there.

Just a note about the next couple of months. I am in writing mode at the moment and so I am scheduling non time sensitive posts out two weeks or so. If you are in the Cafe and Bookstore and have a new book due to be released.. either on pre-order or available in the next month or so, please email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com so I can put a date in the diary to share the news.

 

We went to see No Time To Die the latest Bond film on Wednesday. It is a long film 2hour 45 minutes but it is action packed and the time flew by. It was certainly a great send off for Daniel Craig as James Bond and tied off quite a few loose ends with some surprises along the way. We had recently rewatched Spectre and this film picks up where the story left off . I still think Skyfall was the best of his films but can recommend this to all Bond fans and it will be interesting who picks up the 007 designation next.  Here is the official trailer courtesy of James Bond 007  

Gwen Plano shared her reviews for three poetry collections in a lovely feature this week and I was in great company with Elizabeth Gauffreau and Colleen Chesebro...

I hope you will pop over to read Gwen’s reviews: Gwen Plano – Reviews for Colleen, Liz and Sally

This week William Price King, Carol Taylor and D.G. Kaye have done an amazing job with their contributions and so grateful to everyone who has visited, liked, commented and shared the posts.

And congratulations to contributor to the laughter series Malcolm Allen and his long term partner Sarah who married earlier in the week. Here is a lovely photograph of the occasion.

On with the show

Chart Hits 1979 Part Two – Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand, Earth Wind and Fire, Abba and Dire Straits

Carol Taylor’s Green Kitchen – October 2021 – Yeast Free Raisin and Cinnamon bread, Hair Conditioner, Fabric softener, World Food Day

Usher Taking Things for Granted

Vanessa – In a Dilemma

1965 – Lancashire – The Sound of Music – Something Good and The Lonely Goatherd

Turning Back the Clock – The Hormone Factor Part One – by Sally Cronin

#Anthology – The Shadows We Breathe (volume 1) Edited by Sarah Brentyn and contributing authors

New Review #Memoir – Flashes of Life: True Tales of the Extraordinary Ordinary by Pamela S. Wight

Book Reviews Rewind – #Children’s #Adventure – Felix Finds Out by Elizabeth Merry

September Recap – #Children Dawn Doig, #Dogs Andrew Cotter, #Fantasy Richard Dee, #Poetry Annette Rochelle Aben, #Murder #Mystery Sharon Marchisello

Weekly Grocery Shopping List by Nutrient – Part One – Vitamins A – B by Sally Cronin

Meet My Best Friend San by D.G. Kaye

The amazing Jennie Fitzkee who delights us with her stories from her classroom came to the attention of the producers of the Kelly Clarkson Show and that began a wonderful adventure with the culmination in Jennie’s appearance on the show.

Jennie Fitzkee is a guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show..

How To Write The Perfect Titles For All Your Blog Posts #BloggingTips by Hugh W. Roberts

#Writing and our #Health by D.L. Finn… on Story Empire

#Finance -Squeeze the Most out of Your Money – Part 1 by Sharon Marchisello

Tuesday October 5th 2021- #Connections Jane Sturgeon, #Cats Nikki Fries, #Food Carol Taylor, #Launch Chris Hall and Elizabeth Gauffreau, #Revews Diana Peach

Thursday 7th October 2021 – #Haunting Rebecca Budd, #Reviews Sandra Cox, #Interview Melanie Stewart with Sharon Marchisello, #Update and #Llamas Mary Smith, #OracleCards D.G. Kaye

Old Dog Tray by Sarah Taylor

New Author on the Shelves – #Historical #Witchcraft – Bitter Magic by Nancy Kilgore

Word Weaving #1: A Word Craft Journal of Syllabic Verse – The Moons of Autumn. – Colleen Chesebro and other Poets

#Reviews – #Fantasy M.J. Mallon, #Poetry Elizabeth Gauffreau, #Suspense Joan Hall

#Reviews – #Fantasy Yvette Calliero, #Romance #Mystery Mae Clair, #western #romance Sandra Cox

Smorgasbord Laughter Lines Extra Rewind- Courtroom funnies host Sally Cronin

October 7th 2020 – Hosts Debby Gies and Sally Cronin – Baked Beans and Great Expectations

 

Thanks for dropping in today and hope you have enjoyed the posts.. please join me again next week… Sally.

Smorgasbord Short Stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? – Vanessa – In a Dilemma by Sally Cronin


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.

I hope that those of you who read the stories before will not mind the rewind

Vanessa – In a Dilemma

Vanessa cradled the cooling mug of tea between her hands and debated getting up and putting the central heating on early. It was just after six o’clock, and having had a sleepless night, she was feeling colder than this spring morning warranted.

She was waiting for the national bulletin to finish and the local report to come on. The images from the top news story last night were still playing in her mind; as they had done as she tried to fall asleep in the early hours. She usually lay awake waiting for her son Jack to get home, but even when she heard him open the front door and creep up the stairs, she had failed to find comfort in his safe return.

The local news report began and she turned up the volume on the remote just a fraction, as she didn’t want to wake Jack yet. The announcer repeated the basic facts about the assault and murder of a fifteen year old girl; now named as Tracy Martin two nights ago. A photograph of a young beautiful girl with long blonde hair, smiling happily into the camera, flashed up on screen.

They also replayed the CCTV footage from last night of the victim in the company of a group of young people, walking through the precinct two hours before her body had been found.

This was followed by additional footage they had just received; captured an hour afterwards, showing Tracy walking arm in arm with a young male. The couple had disappeared into an alley behind a restaurant. The camera had picked up the man leaving twenty minutes later but no sign of his companion. It was impossible to see his features as his grey hoodie was pulled up over his head, but as the cameras tracked his progress along the main street, it was clear that he had a slight limp as he favoured his left leg.

As a mother she could only imagine how this young girl’s devastated parents must be feeling this morning. Since Jack’s father died ten years ago she had felt the weight of being a single parent, and the responsibility of being both mother and father. He was an only child, and she had tried to make sure that he was not spoilt, and that he understood the value of the important things in life, such as hard work, kindness and responsibility.

She felt she had done a pretty good job, and the thought of losing him was unthinkable. She played back in her mind the events of the last year, and how she had felt Jack pulling away from her. At first she had accepted that it was normal for a young man to want to distance himself from his mum, and make a life for himself with friends. But now, as she contemplated the devastating loss that this young girl’s family were facing, she knew that she had to take action.

As the report finished, with a request from the police for any witnesses to come forward with information to a dedicated incident telephone number, Vanessa put down her now cold tea, heading into the hall and up the stairs.

She pushed open the door as quietly as possible to her son’s bedroom. She could hear his steady breathing as she crossed over to stand by his bedside. At nearly twenty he still retained his boyish face, and with his blonde hair across his forehead and long eyelashes, he looked young and vulnerable. The sweet natured boy she loved so much. She sat on the chair against the wall and watched her son as he slept; seemingly oblivious to the world and its potential evil.

How many nights had the parents of Tracy Martin sat and watched their daughter sleep in an attempt to keep her safe from that same evil? She wiped the tears from her cheeks as she imagined their sorrow and anger at what had happened to their child.

Slowly she stood and crossed to the laundry basket filled to the brim with her son’s washing. She picked up his discarded sweatshirt thrown casually on the top of the other clothes and held it close to her chest inhaling his familiar scent. She replaced it on top of the basket and carried it carefully through the door; pulling it closed behind her. Satisfied that she had not woken her son, Vanessa headed downstairs, placing the washing in the hall next to Jack’s sneakers, which he had kicked off before creeping upstairs.

It was now nearly seven, and it would not be long before the houses in the street would be filled with light, as families prepared breakfast before heading out to school and to jobs. She went into the kitchen and pulled the door shut behind her; reaching for her mobile phone on the counter. She dialled the number that she had written down an hour ago, and waited for an answer at the other end.

She clung to the phone desperately and tried to find the courage that she knew she would need for the outcome of this conversation. She had been gifted this night with her son, and that was something that Tracy’s parents had not been given.

She relived the moment when she had recognised her son in the grainy video they had broadcast last night, as he had walked at the edge of the group in the precinct. She had intended to ask him about it when he woke up this morning, and to break the news to him that one of his young friends was dead.

But that was before she saw the second video of Tracy and her companion this morning, entering the alley, and then the footage of the man leaving alone and limping along the street. A limp caused by a broken leg from falling out of a tree seven years ago. An indistinct figure of a man that only a mother would recognise.

In the dark Jack had clearly not realised that his grey hoodie had several strands of long blonde hair attached to it when he threw it in the laundry basket that night, nor that his sneakers by the front door, had what looked like drops of blood across the laces.

With tears rolling down her cheeks, she realised that a man was talking to her at the other end of the line.

‘Hello, is anyone there?’

‘Yes, I have some information about the attack on Tracy Martin two nights ago.’

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection

Mar 19, 2018 D. Peach rated it five stars it was amazing

I read the first volume of What’s in a Name and was eager to give the second a try. Volume 2 is a collection of short stories that picks up when the first ended, covering names starting with K through Z (Kenneth through Zoe). Cronin includes a bonus short story for a collection coming out later in 2018.

This is a quick read that I breezed through in a few hours, sitting outside in the spring sunshine. Many of the stories have older characters, covering a range of topics from heartwarming reunions, grief and loss, recovered dignity, and romantic love beyond the grave. There’s also a bit of happily ever after and match-making, as well as some swindling, and a taste of well-deserved murder! The variety is highly entertaining and kept me engaged throughout.

Cronin is a master storyteller and I recommend this collection (both volumes) to readers of all ages.

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 week for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.