Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Christmas Short Stories – Maybe you were right by Richard Dee


Stories have always played a part in Christmas celebrations and over the next few weeks I would like to share your festive tales… and you can find details of how to participate at the end of the post.

Today a story from outer space by Richard Dee... and a Christmas dinner with a difference…..

I wondered about writing a Flash Fiction for Christmas, that got me thinking about how you might celebrate it if you were living on a different planet. Or even if you would. The date is really just an artificial construct that has grown up due to the physical characteristics of the planet, and events have been fitted into this pattern over millennia. But if you were somewhere else, say you were on a planet with a solar year of 480 days, set light-years away and remote, you would have to start again. And that threw up all sorts of questions.

That all seemed a little complicated for what was meant to be a bit of lighthearted storytelling. I only wanted to write a Flash so I set it a little closer to home and made it a bit more familiar.

The crew had drawn straws and Martine had lost. I hadn’t bothered, I was happy to stay and let someone else go.

It wasn’t as if I had anyone special to go home for and I honestly couldn’t be bothered with Christmas, all the commercialism and repeat movies, it was for families and kids. The rest of the crew were on their way back to Earth for the holidays, I was the one who was stopping in orbit to watch the shop with the reluctant loser.

I hadn’t been lucky with that, or so I thought. It was typical; Martine was the one person that I had hoped was going home; she was the one who was stopping. I reckoned that the psychological profilers had slipped up with her when they had selected the crew. If I could have chosen someone else to share the fortnight with before the new crew arrived, it wouldn’t have been her. She was the awkward one.

Still, we had to make the best of it.

“Why did you offer to stay?” she asked me, as we watched the shuttle depart, “Don’t you have any family on Earth?”

A lot of us were unattached, the agency preferred it that way, there was less potential for problems as far as they were concerned.

“No,” I said, “and before you ask, I’m not bothered with all the festive stuff. But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to enjoy being up here.”

“With me?” she finished. “I know we don’t really get on but I don’t want to have a lousy fortnight with you and a load of Bah Humbug bitching.”

She smiled, she had a nice smile, it was a pity that it hadn’t been on show more often.

“Truce?” I said. She smiled again, “I hope so. Let’s have a Happy Christmas.”

We were in low orbit and passed the whole northern hemisphere twice a day. As there were only two of us we had plenty of work to keep us busy. And as the time had passed we started to get on much better. She opened up, she was very upset to be here, and not because of me. She told me that she loved Christmas and all the festive activities with her family. Her enthusiasm got through to me and I even started to see why people celebrated. I dropped my Scrooge persona for her sake; it was bad enough that she was here without me making it worse.

We had agreed to stop work on Christmas Eve and relax for forty-eight hours, apart from the essential safety stuff. The agency had supplied us with vacuum-packed festive treats, but to be honest liquidised mince pies weren’t exactly enticing. But as we couldn’t have crumbs floating around in the cabin everything was made to be eaten through a straw.

As the day drew to a close we chilled and watched the night creep across Europe, we could see the snow-clad peaks of the Alps, the sky was cloudless and the twinkling lights of the cities made a living map.

“We’re in a perfect position to watch,” Martine said as we sipped our non-alcoholic festive drinks, at least that was what it said on the pouch. It tasted like spiced apple juice to me. We were strapped in to stop us bumping around; even lifting the drink to our lips was enough to change our centre of gravity and move us around the cabin.

“To watch what?” over the last few days I had got to know her better, she wasn’t really awkward, just quiet and intense and I had to admit the profilers had got it right after all, it was me that had been out of step. I had learned to get on with her and was glad that she had stayed. Her reply still surprised me though.

“To see Santa on his sleigh, we have a perfect view.”

I thought that she was joking, “We could film it; record it,” she carried on; “prove it once and for all.” Surely she was a bit old for all that?

“It would all be a bit of a blur,” I said, joining into her train of thought, “he would have to move really fast; all those houses in one night.”

“My nieces would love it though,” her eyes shone, “they still believe. I think I still want to, because of them.”

“I think we all want to believe,” I said, “it’s better than the real world with all its cynicism.” Had I really just said that? It showed how much being with her had changed me.

There was a rattle from the hull, we had grown used to the occasional piece of dust or whatever bouncing off us, relative motion meant that it was unlikely to do us any serious harm but this sounded like a lot more than usual.

Martine looked at me and raised an eyebrow, “a few bigger pieces, perhaps we should swing the cameras around and have a look.”

“Perhaps its reindeer,” I said, she leant across and punched me on the arm.

“Don’t mock,” she advised; a flash of the old Martine. “Just when I thought you were going all mellow.”

The station suddenly rocked violently from side to side, Martine screamed, or perhaps it was me. All the loose objects bobbed around, creating a blizzard of motion, it was like being in a snow globe that had been rapidly shaken.

“What was that?” I shouted over the wailing alarms.

“There,” she pointed through the port, heading away from us towards the centre of a sleeping Europe was a dark shape. It must have been moving fast, it was already glowing in multiple colours from the heat of re-entry, green and red and gold as it hit the top of the atmosphere.

We both unstrapped and floated around the cabin, cancelling alarms, catching and stowing all the floating objects. As we competed to grab things in the confined space we kept bumping into each other. It turned into a game and we couldn’t stop laughing.

The last alarm to cancel was by the airlock, as I pushed the button, silence fell on us, broken only by Martine’s breathless giggles. I happened to glance through the inspection window.

“Did you put them in there?” I said.

Martine floated across to me; she looked through the clear panel at the collection of coloured boxes sitting on the deck.

“Maybe you were right about the Reindeer?”

©Richard Dee 2019

About Richard Dee

Richard Dee is a native of Brixham in Devon, England He left Devon when he was in his teens and settled in Kent. Leaving school at 16 he briefly worked in a supermarket, then went to sea and travelled the world in the Merchant Navy, qualifying as a Master Mariner in 1986.

Coming ashore to be with his growing family, he used his sea-going knowledge in several jobs, including Marine Insurance Surveyor and Dockmaster at Tilbury, before becoming a Port Control Officer in Sheerness and then at the Thames Barrier in Woolwich.

In 1994 he was head-hunted and offered a job as a Thames Estuary Pilot. In 1999 he transferred to the Thames River Pilots, where he regularly took vessels of all sizes through the Thames Barrier and upriver as far as HMS Belfast and through Tower Bridge. In all, he piloted over 3,500 vessels in a 22-year career with the Port of London Authority.

Richard is married with three adult children and two grandchildren.

His first science-fiction novel Freefall was published in 2013, followed by Ribbonworld in 2015. September 2016 saw the publication of his Steampunk adventure The Rocks of Aserol and of Flash Fiction, a collection of Short Stories. Myra, the prequel to Freefall was published in 2017, along with Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café, a murder mystery set in space and the start of a series featuring Andorra Pett, an amateur detective. He contributed a story to the 1066 Turned Upside Down collection and is currently working on prequels, sequels, and new projects.

A small selection of other books by Richard Dee

One of the recent reviews for Andorra and Her Sister

Nov 12, 2019 Steven rated it it was amazing

Andorra Pett – space station café owner, scooper pilot and sometimes super sleuth – returns for another adventure. Andorra finds herself on Earth to sort out her ex, Trevor’s affairs following his grisly murder at the hands of a mobster on Mars.

Intending this to only be a brief stay to finalise affairs before returning to the space station orbiting Saturn and the comfort of partner Derek. Unfortunately, as ever, trouble manages to find her in the form of her estranged sister Tia. When she is arrested for smuggling through importers and money laundering she calls the only person she can for help – younger sister Andorra.

Suspecting from the start that something is amiss, not least Tia lacking the sense to pull off such a crime, Andorra cannot help but be drawn in to solve the mystery and see that justice is served. Smugglers, corrupt police and a chance run in with Clive – an old face from her first ever mystery – make for high jinks aplenty. He is found running what he claims to be an official Oort Cloud Café tribute bar complete with sleazy Andorra lookalike waitresses and slanderous tales of fictitious romances assuming Andorra will never hear of it way back in space.

Once again Richard Dee has delivered a wonderfully funny murder mystery with a cast of characters new and old to entertain readers. The mystery becomes farcical as it twists and turns to a conclusion. Andorra sees herself in her share of trouble and tight spots all in the pursuit of clearing Tia’s name. This third instalment of the Andorra Pett series is a wonderful addition and only makes me long for book four in 2020 that much more.

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US

And: Amazon UK

Read more reviews and follow Richard: Goodreads

Connect to Richard

Website: http://richarddeescifi.co.uk/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RichardDeeAuthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RichardDockett1

I would also like to invite you to share your fiction here too in December with one of your stories.

  • I know how busy everyone is at this time of year, but perhaps you have a short story you have already published on your own blog and would like to share with another audience over here.
  • I will leave the word count to you but as an approximation I would be happy with stories between 500 and 1,500 words…if longer then I am sure it will not be a problem.
  • If you are an author I will also be delighted to share the link to buy your work on Amazon.
  • Some of you are already in the Cafe and Bookstore and I have all your details, so no need to include again, but if you are new to the blog then I will need some information.

If you are already in the Cafe and Bookstore then please send the following to sally.cronin@moyhill.com:

  1. The link to your short story if already on your blog
  2. Or, your word document of your story.

If you are new to smorgasbord the please send the following to sally.cronin@moyhill.com:

  1. The link to your short story if already on your blog
  2. Or, your word document of your story
  3. Your amazon author page link for your books (so I can find your bio and book covers)
  4. Links to your blog and two other main social media links.

Thanks for dropping in and I look forward to hearing from you soon with your stories.  As always your feedback is very welcome.

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction – Missing by Sally Cronin


This week on the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge by Charli Mills we were tasked on writing a story about a garden gnome or gnomes…mine is loosely based on an alleged true event…

Missing by Sally Cronin

Eunice loved her garden gnomes and each birthday her husband would buy her another for the collection. Then one July, her favourite, a right Jack the lad, with a red jacket and green trousers was stolen. She was heartbroken and even put up missing posters to no avail. Then the postcards started arriving from all over Europe. ‘Having great time, see you soon. Love Jack.’ Sure enough one morning in October, Eunice looked out the window to see him back in his usual place. Her husband smirked. ‘I see the students are back after their summer holidays my love!’

©Sally Cronin 2019

If you would like to participate in the challenge then please head over to Charli’s: Carrot Ranch Challenge December 13th.

My latest release contains a section of flash fiction as well as verse and speculative short stories..

Amazon £3.50:Amazon UK

And $4.53: Amazon US

Thank you for dropping in today and as always your feedback is very welcome..Sally.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Christmas – Festive Stories – Snow Storm by Carol Taylor


Most of you will know Carol Taylor from her Food and Cookery Column here on Smorgasbord as well as her own eclectic blog located in Thailand, where she shares the wonderful food on her doorstep and recipes that turn them into delicious meals.

Carol also is passionate about the environment and has some down to earth things to say about our contribution to the state of the world, and the loss of habitat leading to the extinction of far too many species. You will also find her quirky and whimsical sense of humour coming through in all her posts..

Connect to Carol via her blog and enjoy posts on healthy eating, conservation, waste management, travel and amazing recipes: Carol Cooks 2

Carol also writes short stories and contributed to the Phuket Island Writers Anthology Amazon US

Which leads me to the reason you are here today, which is to read the poignant short story by Carol that I am sure you will enjoy.

Snow Storm by Carol Taylor

The snow was coming down thick and fast, the weather had changed from a few light flurries of snow which didn’t settle, into a raging blizzard with frightening speed. The wind screen wipers struggling to keep the snow off the windscreen, it was building up with alarming speed and ferocity, Jenny knew if she didn’t get to Sally’s soon she would have to stop and clear the windscreen as her driving visibility was fading fast the windscreen wipers getting slower and slower as the snow built up, she was squinting to see clearly. There were already cars and lorries abandoned on the roadside, the weather was getting pretty dire and Jenny was getting worried.

Wearing heels and a short dress was definitely not the most suitable clothing to brave the elements, if she had to get out of the car and walk.

To make matters even worse she had forgotten to put her warm jacket and boots in the car, well, the weather man had said a mild Christmas was on the cards.

I hope Sally is ready, and I don’t have to wait or we will be lucky to get to mum’s in time for lunch. Then snow or no snow she will have something to say. Jenny could just hear her mother…

“I see the pair of you turned up just in time to eat and I suppose you will both be off soon after, some work excuse or other, you don’t think about your old mum and dad spending most of Christmas alone do you?  Just wait until you have kids and they treat your home like a restaurant. Then you will know how we feel, you mark my words.”

“There will be no both of us now mum” Jenny thought.

The car spluttered to a halt outside Sally’s little flat. Jenny could hardly see out of the windows and she recalled that time 10 years ago when getting out of the car had also been a struggle as she battled the wind and driving snow while trying to open her car door, how she struggled up the path to the front door her face stinging from the driving snow.

Stamping her feet to remove the snow as she went up the steps to Sally’s front door, how the door was swinging backwards and forwards in the wind and how she thought that Sally couldn’t have closed it properly when she came home last night.

Jenny remembered calling Sally’s name as she stepped inside the tiny flat, how the heat hit her and how she involuntarily shivered and felt a chill run through her.

How the kitchen was tidy except for last night’s dinner plate in the sink, the cat was mewing outside sounding desperate to come into the warm, his scratching getting more and more frantic, breaking the silence.

The living room was quiet except for the Christmas tunes that Sally loved, playing quietly in the background, the tree lights twinkled, the presents unopened around the little tree, except for one which lay on the chair the pretty wrapping paper discarded on the floor.

Tap, tap on the window, the noise made Jenny jump it was Mrs. Brown next door saying.

“Come on in lovie don’t sit out here all on your own, you will freeze to death. Come on in and have a hot toddy with us before you go to your mum’s.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Brown I was just……

“Oh love, don’t cry said Mrs Brown. Sally has gone, she is not coming back, you know that don’t you?”

“I know, said Jenny tears running down her cheeks, I know.”

©Carol Taylor 2019

About Carol Taylor

Enjoying life in The Land Of Smiles I am having so much fun researching, finding new, authentic recipes both Thai and International to share with you. New recipes gleaned from those who I have met on my travels or are just passing through and stopped for a while. I hope you enjoy them.

I love shopping at the local markets, finding fresh, natural ingredients, new strange fruits and vegetables ones I have never seen or cooked with. I am generally the only European person and attract much attention and I love to try what I am offered and when I smile and say Aroy or Saab as it is here in the north I am met with much smiling.

Some of my recipes may not be in line with traditional ingredients and methods of cooking but are recipes I know and have become to love and maybe if you dare to try you will too. You will always get more than just a recipe from me as I love to research and find out what other properties the ingredients I use have to improve our health and wellbeing.

Exciting for me hence the title of my blog, Retired No One Told Me! I am having a wonderful ride and don’t want to get off, so if you wish to follow me on my adventures, then welcome! I hope you enjoy the ride also and if it encourages you to take a step into the unknown or untried, you know you want to…….Then, I will be happy!

Carol is a contributor to the Phuket Island Writers Anthology:  Amazon US

Carol Taylor’s Food and Cookery Column 2019

Cook from Scratch to avoid Nutritional Deficiency with Sally Cronin and Carol Taylor

Connect to Carol via her blog and enjoy posts on healthy eating, conservation, waste management, travel and amazing recipes: Carol Cooks 2

Connect to Carol – Facebook  Twitter

Thank you for dropping in and I know Carol would be delighted to hear from you.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction – Key Lime Pie by Sally Cronin


This week for the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge by Charli Mills  the prompt is ‘Key Lime Pie’.... and I hope you enjoy the ingredients in my story……

Key Lime Pie

My mother-in-law is coming to dinner tonight with the rest of the family. I am staring at a piece of paper she gave me on her last visit, which provides a step-by-step guide to making the perfect key lime pie. Apparently hers are legendary, and have become a tradition on my husband’s birthday since he was five. Even though we have only been married a few months; I know that his mother will be looking for flaws. Which is why I have made a sherry trifle, a dessert I know my husband loves; a new tradition of our own.

©Sally Cronin

If you would like to participate in this week’s Flash Fiction then please head over to Charli’s to find out more: December 6th Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction

My latest release contains a section of flash fiction as well as verse and speculative short stories..

Amazon £3.50:Amazon UK

And $4.53: Amazon US

Thank you for dropping in today and as always your feedback is very welcome..Sally.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Christmas – Short Stories – #Fiction – Father Christmas by Sally Cronin – Have you a story to share?


Today I am sharing one of the last stories from my collection Flights of Fancy as it is one I wrote for Christmas.

I would also like to invite you to share your fiction here too in December with one of your stories.

  • I know how busy everyone is at this time of year, but perhaps you have a short story you have already published on your own blog and would like to share with another audience over here.
  • I will leave the word count to you but as an approximation I would be happy with stories between 500 and 1,500 words…if longer then I am sure it will not be a problem.
  • If you are an author I will also be delighted to share the link to buy your work on Amazon.
  • Some of you are already in the Cafe and Bookstore and I have all your details, so no need to include again, but if you are new to the blog then I will need some information.

If you are already in the Cafe and Bookstore then please send the following to sally.cronin@moyhill.com:

  1. The link to your short story if already on your blog
  2. Or, your word document of your story.

If you are new to smorgasbord the please send the following to sally.cronin@moyhill.com:

  1. The link to your short story if already on your blog
  2. Or, your word document of your story
  3. Your amazon author page link for your books (so I can find your bio and book covers)
  4. Links to your blog and two other main social media links.

Here is my short story from Flights of Fancy which I hope you will enjoy….

Father Christmas come to visit

The little girl lay in bed, her blonde hair spread over the pillow. She was asleep, but from her restless movements it was obvious that she was in the grip of a disturbing dream. Dark rings beneath her eyes gave her small face a pinched and unhappy look.

Downstairs, Jenny looked at the Christmas decorations hanging from the pictures and light fittings around the room. In the corner, the tree lights sparkled and flashed through the tinsel, and presents for Sophie were piled beneath its green spiky branches in a colourful heap. The family and the neighbours had rallied around, determined that Sophie would have everything that her father would have bought her this Christmas.

Jenny rested her hands on the mantelpiece and stared at the photograph in front of her. It was the last that was taken of them all together. They smiled out of the picture, brown and happy on their holiday in the south of France at the end of October. It had been their first family holiday in three years as business had been tough, and there had been no extra money for trips or any other luxuries. Ironically, she now had more money than she knew what to do with, but she would give it all back in a heartbeat.

Jack had inherited his father’s building business and although in the initial few years work had been plentiful, there was now more and more competition for fewer contracts. He and his small team worked seven days a week usually, and she could see from his face that this heavy load was taking its toll. Just after their holiday in France, Jack began to experience chest pains that he dismissed as indigestion after eating and drinking too much while they were away. Jenny had at first asked him to go and see their family doctor, but after two weeks and getting increasingly concerned about Jack’s lack of energy and grey pallor, she had then begged him to go and get checked out.

To keep the peace, Jack had begrudgingly taken a couple of hours off one evening and gone to the surgery. The next day he was in hospital undergoing tests and that afternoon it was decided that he needed an emergency operation. It had all happened so fast they had barely time to talk about the situation and Jenny had been unable to take Sophie into to see her father before he was rushed off to theatre. Jenny had called out to him as he was wheeled away but she had no way of knowing if he had heard her soft “I love you.”

She and Sophie had sat in the family room, playing with coloured bricks and a jigsaw to pass the anxious time. There had been other families in the room all looking nervously at the clock until doctors or nurses entered to reassure them that their loved ones were safely recovering from their operations.

As the evening wore on, more and more of the waiting families left the room to visit their relatives in recovery or back on the wards. Jenny and Sophie were alone when finally a tall man in a green scrub suit entered the waiting room, loosening the mask from around his face. Jenny took one look at his eyes and knew from their bleak directness that there would be no visit to the recovery room for them.

Resting her head on her hands she allowed the tears to fall; here in private she could grieve. Away from the eyes of her small daughter who could not understand why Daddy was not coming home from work every night. She had tried to be strong for Sophie’s sake, but she had watched her normally lively child lose weight, become silent and withdrawn. Jack was gone and tomorrow was Christmas Day. How could she face it without him?

She heard a noise from upstairs. Sophie would be having one of her nightmares, crying for her daddy, tossing and turning, and reaching out into the dark. Wiping the tears from her face, Jenny walked upstairs to her daughter’s bedroom. She opened the door quietly and was startled to see Sophie sitting up in bed, clutching her teddy bear and staring across the room.

Her mother looked across and saw the toy cupboard with a plate of mince pies and a glass of sherry on the top. Suddenly she felt warm air flow over her. She blinked and stared at the glowing light that grew brighter and brighter. Clamping a hand over her mouth, she darted a glance over at Sophie. Her daughter was smiling and holding out her hand to the light. Jenny’s eyes were drawn back across the room and she gasped as in the glow, she saw a figure materialise.

“Jack” she gasped. Riveted to the spot she watched her husband reach out a hand, take a mince pie from the plate and raise it to his lips. He ate the pie and grinned across at her. She felt the warmth of his gaze as it rested on her eyes and her mouth and an overwhelming sense of peace passed through her. Jack nodded once and then walked across to his daughter’s bedside. In complete silence, he reached out and touched Sophie’s outstretched hand. A radiant glow spread across her face and she lay back down on her pillow, still clutching his fingers. Her smile transformed her face and the dark rings and pinched, sad look disappeared. Her eyes closed and her breathing settled into a gentle rhythm and she was peacefully asleep.

Her father turned away from the bed and crossed over to the door. Jenny stood absolutely still as his body passed in front of her. He stopped and she looked into his eyes and felt a gentle touch on her shoulders. He smiled at her and all the love that they had shared was in that wonderful look between them and she knew that he was saying goodbye. He moved out into the hall and turned for one last glance over his shoulder. Gradually the light faded and the figure disappeared, but the warmth inside her remained.

She stood for a few minutes with head bowed, absorbing and taking strength from that feeling before crossing to her daughter’s bedside. She looked down at Sophie, sleeping peacefully for the first time in weeks. She kissed her forehead gently and then moved over to the toy cupboard where she stared at the plate with its two mince pies.

Three had been put out for Father Christmas. Jenny smiled; everything was going to be fine. It would take time, but the warmth inside her would carry them through.

This year Father Christmas had really come to visit.

©Sally Cronin 2009

One of the recent reviews for the collection.

James J. Cudney Flights of Fancy by Sally Cronin October 2019: 5 of 5 stars

When I picked this one up, I had no idea what to expect. I’ve read a few other books by Sally Cronin, but I knew these were going to be much different (in a good way). Ms. Cronin has published a collection of ~10 short stories and a novella, ranging in style from murder to fantasy, revenge to humor. I loved all of the stories and will struggle to decide which ones to include in my review…

To begin with, the book kicks off with the main character saying, “On my forty-third birthday, I murdered a woman.” Okay… we’re in for something dark and funny. What a great tale! In some ways, it’s very telling about society, and in others, it’s a little shocking. I found myself wondering whether the guilty party should be punished or not. It’s wonderful when a writer can prompt that question. I also worried she might’ve been describing my mindset on a number of occasions. Oops!

From there, we jump into a woman mourning a loss. She kinda/sorta visits her husband and dog, and it will make you get a little sappy. Afterward, I devoured a few tales about marriage, war, love, and a talking parrot who knew exactly how to motivate a woman to leave her ne’er-do-well husband. One thing is for sure; this collection shows the author’s range in developing memorable characters, kooky plots, and a touch of sentimentality in each and every relationship we develop throughout life.

The one I want to touch on the most is the final story, the novella about a group of women around~80ish who live together in a senior’s complex. Unfortunately, a rough family moves in nearby, and things begin to go downhill. Drugs, theft, abuse… then it leads to murder. The surviving women in the group want revenge, thus plotting out how to rid themselves of the two ruthlessly mean parents and their five children who descended upon the town. Some of the kids cannot be saved and must be made to disappear. Others might survive foster care. It truly was a fun story, and I focused on the humor element, as those Jackson’s needed to be taught a lesson!

Cronin has a clear and strong writing style. By incorporating personal experiences and emotions into her characters, she’s made various types of people come to life. Whether it’s struggling with weight loss, interpreting people’s impressions of you, or stopping yourself from doing the things you want to do but shouldn’t do, the cast in each of these stories reminded me of many events in our lives. The girl who steals our boyfriend… the guy who treats his wife poorly… the daughter who can’t recognize her mother isn’t just an elderly woman… the lady struggling to keep the weight off… or the guy misses his wife. It’s all there, and as a whole, this represents so many wonderful and pain-filled stages of life. Now we can laugh or cry together about them.

I definitely recommend reading this book for its levity, ability to watch others get revenge (without you going to jail), and perhaps some motivation to make changes in your own life. What a great collection.

If you would like to browse my other Ebooks.. you can find their reviews Sally’s books and reviews 2019

Available: Amazon US

and on: Amazon UK

More reviews can be found on: Goodreads

Thank you for dropping by and if you have a short story that you would like to share then please get in touch..thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction – Winning by Sally Cronin


Time for this week’s Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge by Charli Mills and the prompt was ‘winners’ in 99 words, no more, no less…

Winning by Sally Cronin

They heckled the last in the pack on the track as he struggled to keep up with the rest of the runners. Even in the lead position Peter could hear their jeers and laughter. One more lap and the race would be over and it was going to be a triumph for him, but a bitter disappointment for his friend Michael. As the seconds ticked by Peter thought about what winning this race would mean for him. Then he dropped back and ran by the side of the person who really mattered and they would cross the line together.

©Sally Cronin 2019

If you would like to participate in this week’s challenge.. Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction 28th November.

 

Flights of Fancy Short Story Collection – Serialisation – Free Book Offer – The Sewing Circle Part Two by Sally Cronin


If you would like to read Flights of Fancy in one sitting rather than each week, please email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com and just let me know if you would like it in Kindle or Epub format. No strings attached.

In part one of the story, we were introduced to the members of the sewing circle, a close knit group of women in their 80s living on an estate in London. Unfortunately a criminal element was taking over the stairwells of the buildings and one member of the sewing circle was a victim of their violence…

The Sewing Circle Part Two.

By the time the police and ambulance arrived on the scene, Darren Jackson was on the back of his cousin’s motorbike and halfway to his aunt’s house on the edge of Epping Forest. He was celebrating his elevation to hardened criminal by replaying the incident repeatedly as he clasped his cousin around his waist. Little did he realise that like his father before him, he had botched a job.

The Jackson family were well known by the police and it was not long before Sharon’s sister found a number of coppers on her doorstep with a warrant. They found a newly scrubbed Darren wearing his cousin’s clothes and smirking as his alibi was established by his extended family — and a few of their mates for good measure. Without forensic evidence and with their only witness lying in the mortuary at a South London hospital the investigation stalled.

Everyone knew however, who had murdered their beloved Flo and even families on the Redgrave who had never spoken to the old lady, stopped at Betty’s flat with shop-bought cakes and sympathy. The other members of the sewing circle sat in vigil with their distraught friend as she repeatedly relived finding Flo in that crumpled heap in the dark.

The police officer in charge of the investigation came from the area and knew both the Redgrave and the Jacksons well. He could only promise that he would not close the case but would watch and wait for Darren to return to his mother’s flat and get back with his little gang again. The detective was convinced that Darren would be unable to keep his mouth shut and would end up boasting about his first major excursion into his father’s violent world. When he did, the detective was sure that his informants in the area would find out and they would get Darren eventually.

The members of the sewing circle were united in their grief and spent the next week together in Betty’s flat, from early morning until late at night. The funeral was eventually arranged by Flo’s extended family and her close friends were all included at every stage. On the afternoon of the service, the sun shone in defiance and the five friends left Betty’s flat together walking proudly towards the waiting black cab that Flo’s family had laid on. They were all smartly dressed, wearing their best hats in honour of the occasion. The service was lovely and the five elderly women held hands as they watched the hearse taking Flo to the crematorium glide sedately pass them outside the church.

After the tea at a local pub, Flo’s eldest son took them home personally in his people carrier and walked them to the door of Betty’s flat.

“My mum would have wanted you to have first pick of her special things, so why don’t I come back tomorrow morning and you can come up with me and choose something to remember her by.” With a hug for them all, he left and the five filed into Betty’s kitchen to drink more tea and to reminisce into the night about their lost friend.

The next afternoon, instead of sitting around completing sewing projects, the women sat quietly as each held a memento in their laps. The objects were neither expensive nor necessarily attractive but they all reminded the women of some different aspect of Flo’s personality. Big Sal cradled a little ceramic dog that had obviously been lovingly handled over the years.

“Flo bought this when her little Yorkie died,” she wiped a tear from her cheek. “She was a feisty one that Flo and I bet if she was here she would have a thing or two to say about those bastard Jacksons.”

Sylvia examined her manicured nails and then looked up at the rest of the circle.

“I know if it had been one of us Flo would have marched up to that Sharon Jackson and given her one over the head with her brolly.”

The thought of the tiny Flo giving slovenly Sharon a good slapping made her friends laugh and within minutes they started to throw in other suggestions of what evil might befall the Jackson clan. As the proposed retribution became more and more virulent, the laughter died away and slowly the five women began to look at each other in silence.

Big Sal picked up her copious black handbag and extracted a pencil and a piece of paper. On the back of an old shopping list she jotted down some of the ideas already mentioned and sat hand poised to record any more.

Maggie Baxter, who was proudly conversant with the entire Bible, clapped her hands and grabbed everyone’s attention.

“Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins.”

Maggie smiled at them all. “That book of Leviticus was sure clear about making those poor Israelites pay and I guess what was good enough for them is good enough for those Jackson’s”

Mary Jones who was the frailest of the group looked worriedly at her friends.

“But what can we do, we are only a few old ladies and those Jacksons have a big family and they are all thugs and thieves.”

Big Sal reached over and patted her hand gently.

“Don’t worry love; I think we can bank on a few recruits from the other residents and what we don’t have in brawn we will make up for in brains.”

Sylvia sat silently, wiping the odd tear from her heavily made up face. What the other members of the sewing circle did not know was that Flo and Sylvia shared a secret from the past that made this violent loss even more poignant.

In her twenties, Sylvia had been vibrantly attractive and had met and married Davy Ross, a minor name in the East End. He had worked for Mike Mitchell who ran an extensive extortion and prostitution racket in the fifties and sixties and Davy was known for his temper and his ability to collect money with menaces.

Unfortunately, for Sylvia, Davy liked to take his work home with him and she spent quite a bit of time in the casualty department of the local hospital having ‘bumped into’ fixed objects in her home. Friends tried to persuade her to leave him but Sylvia knew that he would find her and kill her if she left.

A job had been planned at a large high street bank and at the last minute, a member of the gang got nicked and a replacement had to be found. Mike Mitchell who had masterminded the job recruited Davy into the team, a little reluctantly bearing in mind his unpredictable temper. He was right to be concerned as the night watchman at the bank ended up getting more of a hiding than he might have done with the original set up. Unfortunately for Davy, the guard survived and was able to give the police an accurate description of his assailant. Davy knew the score and accepted his ten years inside without grassing up either the other members of the gang or his boss, who honoured the unspoken code of the East End by making sure Sylvia was taken care of.

Sylvia knew that with good behaviour, her violent husband might be out in five or six years but she hoped that his own basic nature would guarantee that he would not be able to keep his fists to himself for that long. She had originally trained as a hairdresser and she opened a little shop close to her home and began to live a new life.

Flo was one of her regular customers and being from the area was fully aware of Sylvia’s past troubles, although they were never mentioned. Neither were the increasingly frequent visits to the shop by Mike Mitchell, who was crossing the bounds of the accepted code of behaviour by fancying the wife of one of his own men, who was serving time for one of his jobs.

Sylvia was wary at first, as she knew the man’s reputation, but he was good looking and charming and began to show her a life that she did not know existed. Fancy restaurants and weekends in the country; away from the prying eyes of the East End, and Mike’s wife; definitely clouded her judgement and she found herself falling in love with the mobster.

Their affair lasted two years and in that time, Sylvia neither wrote nor visited Davy in prison despite his constant demands. Unfortunately, nature stepped in and Sylvia found herself telling Mike that he was going to be a father in seven months’ time. This fact did not overly please him as he already had four children and a wife who would take him to the cleaners if she found out. Despite being a hard man, Mike loved his family and had to convince Sylvia that if she kept the child it would have to remain a secret. Not only that, but Davy was not going to be happy about finding out, which would be very dangerous for both Sylvia and the child.

This proved to be the case when a woman who lived in Sylvia’s street decided to inform her husband on a prison visit of the local gossip and the possibility that Sylvia was expecting. The man got a broken jaw for his trouble when he passed the information onto Davy and within days, a message was passed to the outside.

Sylvia was locking up her hairdressers for the night when two men grabbed her from behind and dragged her into a nearby alley. Two hours later Flo was passing on her way to the Bingo hall when she heard what she thought sounded like a frightened kitten in the narrow gap between the buildings. She ventured a little way into the darkness and saw an arm protruding from behind a heap of rubbish bags. She rushed forward, completely oblivious to her own safety and found Sylvia curled up holding her stomach with one arm as she bled across the dirty cobblestones.

Flo rushed back into the street and got a man to go to the nearest phone box and call for the police and ambulance before returning to cradle Sylvia’s head in her lap while they waited for help. She went with her to the hospital and was by her bedside when she regained consciousness after her operation. Sylvia suffered a broken nose and arm, crushed pelvis, fractured skull – and had lost her baby. As she looked down into the bruised and battered face, Flo knew that this was not the end. That Davy was not going to let it rest and would no doubt finish the job when he finally got out of prison.

Mike Mitchell was also aware that this beating was just an installment and it was really no surprise to anyone that a week later Davy Ross unfortunately slipped on some soap in the shower and banged his head. He was dead when the guards found him. Sylvia was notified as she lay in her hospital bed coming to terms with not only the loss of her baby but also the fact that Mike Mitchell could now never come near her again in case he was implicated in her husband’s death.

Flo understood, being the mother of so many children herself and having lost one or two in early pregnancy, how Sylvia must be feeling and she was with her when the doctors told her that due to the beating she had received she would never be able to have any more children in the future. Over the next few years, Flo and Sylvia became close friends but the events surrounding the beating and death of Davy were never discussed again.

Even the other members of the sewing circle were unaware of the shared past of two of their closest friends and although they knew that Flo and Sylvia went back a long way they were taken by surprise at the level of grief that Sylvia experienced. She had cried for two days, refusing to leave her flat or even get dressed in one of her elegant but out-dated suits. She finally appeared at Betty’s flat and sat silently as mourners came and went with their offerings. Eventually her friends gave up trying to get her to talk but took it in turns to sit holding her hand and leaning in so that she could feel their comfort.

As a memento of her beloved friend, Sylvia had chosen a pale yellow silk scarf that Flo had worn often. She now ran the scarf through her fingers time after time before looking around at the others as they sat quietly remembering their friend.

“It would be lovely to see the Jacksons brought down and all sorts of evil things done to them but we have to be realistic about what we can do ourselves.” She sighed wearily as her friends listened intently.

“The younger kids are not to blame but they should not be with that mother of theirs, they deserve a chance to live a decent life.” She paused and looked down at the scarf wound through her fingers.

“Sharon Jackson and that son of hers deserve everything they get and we need to make sure that they never do this to anyone else again.” She gave a tight smile.

“We have to get to Archie Jackson inside and feed him a story about Sharon and he will take care of her for us.” Her friends listened in fascination as Sylvia displayed a side of her they had never even imagined before. “After that he needs taking care off so that he can have nothing more to do with his kids as they grow up.”

“As for that Darren, he is past redeeming and needs to be got rid of like any other vermin on the estate and we have to get him to do the job on himself.”

The others looked at each other and realised that if they were to undertake this revenge on the Jacksons they were reverting to the old life that they had known as teenagers and young women living in the East End. They knew that if they didn’t do something then the Jacksons would continue to terrorise this estate and any others they moved to.

The key was to cut the head off the clan in the form of Sharon Jackson. Without her around, and Archie taken care of in prison, the younger members of the family would be put into care and unlikely though it seemed, that might give them a chance of a better life than remaining with their mother and father. Darren however had to go, as they knew, without any doubt, that he had cold bloodedly killed Flo. He now had power and he would use it against people for the rest of his life.

The next morning the rumours started within the various communities around the estate. Sharon Jackson was having an affair with a police officer from the narcotic division. Nobody suspected that the whispers that infested the bingo hall, corner shop, post office and surgery waiting room were started by five old women as they went about their business. Those who dealt drugs on the estate were understandably nervous and tried to find out more information without much success. This only served to make them even more paranoid and soon the rumour mill was working overtime on the stairways until it reached the ears of Sharon Jackson.

She was furious but did not have the intelligence to work out how to combat the growing tide of speculation and false accusations about her. The one thing she did have was a healthy respect for her husband’s fists and as the days passed she became increasingly terrified that word would reach Archie. Even though he was banged up inside she knew he had a long reach and time was not on her side.

She was definitely right about that one. A week after the gossip started, Sylvia Ross left the estate and took a taxi to the Docklands. In a wine bar there, she met with an elderly man who despite his walking stick still strode confidently across the floor to the table where she sat, beautifully dressed and made-up.

An hour later Sylvia left and returned to a meeting at Betty’s flat. She said little but she nodded to Big Sal and they both knew that the toughest part of their plan was in play.

Three weeks later Sharon Jackson went missing. A concerned elderly woman rang the social services and mentioned that there were four young children living alone in a flat in Grange House. By the end of the day, with no sign of their mother, the police had been informed and the children were taken into temporary care. Darren, who was still at his aunt’s house in Epping Forest, was alerted by one of his gang members and he got his cousin to bring him home on his bike where he let himself into the now deserted flat.

He was not bothered by losing his entire family in the slightest. He now had the freedom to live and do as he pleased even though Sharon’s idea of parenting had been relaxed to say the least. He could get up when he wanted, eat what and when he liked and best of all he could drink his favourite tipple, vodka, all day without his mother sharing the contents of the bottle. His friends all came round to sample the delights of the new gang headquarters and the neighbours were subjected to noisy parties into the small hours and harassment on the walkways and stairs.

The social services came round but their hands were tied as Darren had turned sixteen while away at his aunts and could not be persuaded to give up his freedom and go into some form of care. The council promised to re-house the boy, as he could not remain in a three bed roomed flat on his own, but were not sure how quickly this would happen. On the fourth day, two large men in suits appeared and the residents on that landing assumed that they were from the council, who had been called that morning with further complaints and requests for assistance.

The two men knocked on the door to the Jackson’s flat and one of Darren’s mates, on his way out to collect more vodka, inadvertently opened it and admitted them into the confined hall. He took one look at their faces and hurriedly left, glancing nervously over his shoulder as he ran down the landing. Within minutes he was followed by the rest of the gang, one of them nursing his right ear and trying to hold back unmanly tears.

The neighbours on each side of the flat listened with ears pressed to their lounge walls but they could not hear a word. They were beginning to doubt that the two men were from the council after all and their suspicions were confirmed when sounds of a more physical nature were heard from the Jackson’s living room.

Twenty minutes later, the two men left, carefully closing the door of the flat behind them. All was silent and the neighbours on either side settled down to enjoy their after lunch television programmes and a well-deserved nap.

Several hours later, just as they were preparing their supper, the neighbours heard someone falling around inside the Jacksons’ flat. It sounded as though furniture and ornaments were being knocked over and then a crash as something heavy such as a television smashed to the floor. Not wishing to get involved in anything to do with the family, the police were not called and anyway after half an hour, the front door was opened. On both sides of the flat, curtains were twitched and eyes followed the progress of the figure that emerged onto the landing.

It was an astonishing sight. It was Darren, but barely recognisable as he stumbled in high-heeled shoes, drunkenly down the landing. He was wearing a tight satin dress, fishnet tights and he was wearing make-up and jewellery. The neighbours found themselves tittering and laughing at the spectacle as Darren staggered towards the stairs. A man returning from work stood one of the stairwells, transfixed by the vision before him. Darren stared glassily back at him and then grabbing the handrail almost slid to the bottom of the steps. He didn’t  even appear to see the man in front of him and tottering on his stilettos he swung around the corner and down the next flight.

Unfortunately for Darren, he was inexperienced in the management of high heels and as he reached the top of the last flight of stairs leading to the car park, he slipped and fell untidily to the bottom landing in a crumpled heap.

He lay motionless as a crowd of residents clustered around him. One daring soul prodded the supine body with the toe of his shoe and then leapt back as the body began to twitch and jerk before going rigid and collapsing back onto the dusty surface of the pavement.

The post mortem showed that Darren had a great deal of alcohol in his system as well as a considerable amount of recreational drugs. No one else was suspected in his death although the residents of the estate had their own ideas. Darren’s gang were not bothered by the nature of Darren’s death, but were mortified to think that their leader, and the terror of the neighbourhood, was secretly a lover of fine clothes, high heels, make up and jewellery. Those gang members that lived on other estates were never seen again and those that remained on the Redgrave kept a very low profile. Some even went as far as to go to school on a regular basis and one graduated to college where he trained as a social worker.

A month after Sharon’s disappearance and Darren’s death, Archie Jackson apparently slipped on a bar of soap in the prison shower and hit his head on the tiles. His death was ruled as accidental by the authorities.

The sewing circle continued to meet although they were not only missing the lovely Flo but Sylvia too on some occasions. In the weeks following their successful campaign, she could be seen getting into an elegant black car one or two mornings a week. One day as the friends sat around working on their latest projects, she looked up and smiled at them gently.

“I have some news.” They all turned to her expectantly.

“I am getting married.” She announced to her open-mouthed audience.

“It’s someone I have known for years, a widower living in Chingford. He has got a lovely house and he says it is too big and empty for him on his own.”

She drew a handful of envelopes out of her handbag and distributed them around the stunned women.

“I hope you will all come to the wedding, and be my bridesmaids, and when we get back from honeymoon I would like you to come out to me every week for our meetings as I don’t want to give them up.”

Big Sal who was sitting next to Sylvia grabbed her in her ample embrace and kissed her resoundingly on her powdered cheek.

“You just try and stop us you sly old floozy. Perhaps you can set us all up with mates of his at the wedding? We could all do with a bit of a fling!”

The others all laughed and Betty rushed to the kitchen for the sherry bottle and five glasses.

As they toasted the future Mrs Mitchell, they also raised their glasses to their beloved friend Flo and prayed that she could now rest in peace.

©Sally Cronin 2009
One of the recent reviews for the collection.

James J. Cudney Flights of Fancy by Sally Cronin October 2019: 5 of 5 stars

When I picked this one up, I had no idea what to expect. I’ve read a few other books by Sally Cronin, but I knew these were going to be much different (in a good way). Ms. Cronin has published a collection of ~10 short stories and a novella, ranging in style from murder to fantasy, revenge to humor. I loved all of the stories and will struggle to decide which ones to include in my review…

To begin with, the book kicks off with the main character saying, “On my forty-third birthday, I murdered a woman.” Okay… we’re in for something dark and funny. What a great tale! In some ways, it’s very telling about society, and in others, it’s a little shocking. I found myself wondering whether the guilty party should be punished or not. It’s wonderful when a writer can prompt that question. I also worried she might’ve been describing my mindset on a number of occasions. Oops!

From there, we jump into a woman mourning a loss. She kinda/sorta visits her husband and dog, and it will make you get a little sappy. Afterward, I devoured a few tales about marriage, war, love, and a talking parrot who knew exactly how to motivate a woman to leave her ne’er-do-well husband. One thing is for sure; this collection shows the author’s range in developing memorable characters, kooky plots, and a touch of sentimentality in each and every relationship we develop throughout life.

The one I want to touch on the most is the final story, the novella about a group of women around~80ish who live together in a senior’s complex. Unfortunately, a rough family moves in nearby, and things begin to go downhill. Drugs, theft, abuse… then it leads to murder. The surviving women in the group want revenge, thus plotting out how to rid themselves of the two ruthlessly mean parents and their five children who descended upon the town. Some of the kids cannot be saved and must be made to disappear. Others might survive foster care. It truly was a fun story, and I focused on the humor element, as those Jackson’s needed to be taught a lesson!

Cronin has a clear and strong writing style. By incorporating personal experiences and emotions into her characters, she’s made various types of people come to life. Whether it’s struggling with weight loss, interpreting people’s impressions of you, or stopping yourself from doing the things you want to do but shouldn’t do, the cast in each of these stories reminded me of many events in our lives. The girl who steals our boyfriend… the guy who treats his wife poorly… the daughter who can’t recognize her mother isn’t just an elderly woman… the lady struggling to keep the weight off… or the guy misses his wife. It’s all there, and as a whole, this represents so many wonderful and pain-filled stages of life. Now we can laugh or cry together about them.

I definitely recommend reading this book for its levity, ability to watch others get revenge (without you going to jail), and perhaps some motivation to make changes in your own life. What a great collection.

If you would like to browse my other Ebooks.. you can find their reviews https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin

Thanks for dropping in and as always your feedback is very welcome. And if you would like a full copy of the book now, just email me with your required format. Sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Flights of Fancy Short Story Collection – Serialisation – Free Book Offer – The Sewing Circle Part One by Sally Cronin


Since I have just received a lovely review for Flights of Fancy, which was my first short story collection published in 2009 in paperback and audio with a later ebook edition. The stories were written over twenty years and scribbled down on odd pieces of paper… Over the next few weeks I shall be sharing the stories on Saturday and Sunday.

If you would like to read Flights of Fancy in one sitting rather than each week, please email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com and just let me know if you would like it in Kindle or Epub format. No strings attached.

The Sewing Circle Part One.

The sewing circle met at Betty’s flat on the ground floor of Malcolm House, every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. There were six regular members and the odd person who dropped in who appreciated that the group was the source of gossip and information about the Redgrave Estate.

Copious cups of tea were provided with members taking it in turn to produce homemade cakes that were judged critically during the course of the afternoon. Recipes were swapped and toppings envied as the ladies knitted and embroidered the hours away.

All of the members were over eighty and had lived varied and sometimes tragic lives. All had been born and brought up in this deprived area of South London and the fact that they still participated so fully in their lives was a testament to their strength of character.

The tenant of the flat, and gracious hostess, was Betty Smith. She had been lucky in as much as her husband had lived long enough to enjoy ten years of retirement with her. They had lived in the annexe of their son’s lovely house near Chelmsford but after Arthur’s death, Betty felt lonely and isolated, with her son and daughter-in-law out at work every day. She moved into the flats five years ago and was delighted to find that several of her old friends were not only still alive but resident on the estate. She was now eighty-six and a firm favourite with the younger children on the Redgrave who were the eager recipients of her cupcakes.

Mary Jones was eighty-three, had lost two husbands in the Second World War, three children as babies, and had toiled into her seventies as a cleaner at an office block in the heart of the City. Her wrinkled face identified a life-long affair with nicotine and her skin had the patina of a well-polished piece of walnut. Mary was the matinee-jacket expert, having knitted for four generations of the offspring of her two surviving daughters. Her eyesight was not all that it used to be but her loving family forgave her the odd dropped stitch. Arthritis made it difficult for her to get out on her own and the other more mobile members of the circle would walk with her to the post office to collect her pension on Thursdays and to the convenience store on the corner of the estate. She had recently started using a wheeled stroller and was very pleased with her new-found independence. With the help of her neighbour she had even made it down to the Red Lion pub for the pensioner’s special one week and was planning to make this a regular outing.

Sylvia Ross, the youngest member of the circle, was a bit of a mystery as she always changed the subject when asked about her early years. She had no family, by all accounts, and even when firmly pressed, refused to give details of where she was born or brought up.

She once let slip that she had been married but then changed the subject which, of course, elevated the curiosity of her fellow members to extraordinary levels. This resulted in a certain amount of behind the scenes digging, and once or twice snippets of an enticing nature were ferreted out, only to fizzle away from lack of information. She was just eighty and extremely elegant. She always wore a smart suit to the sewing circle although it was obvious that the classic clothes were decades old. Her blonde hair was touched up every month by the hairdresser in the high street and her nails were the envy of all the teenage girls in her block.

The circle marvelled at her ability to embroider with her extended, red talons but liked her too much to pass comment. They doubted that they would ever get to the bottom of the mystery, but Sylvia was a lively and generous member of the group who was always there if one of them was ill or needed something special brought back from the shopping precinct. She truly had a heart of gold.

Maggie Baxter was originally from Jamaica and had married a seaman from Hackney in the fifties. She had the most wonderful laugh and her generous spirit was well known throughout the estate. A trained nurse, she had acted as the community midwife for over twenty-five years and even now, at eighty-five, was called upon regularly by the young mother’s on the estate for help and guidance during and after their frequent pregnancies. Nothing shocked Maggie and she could be relied on to keep a secret. She was not above giving some of the younger, more obnoxious, residents of the estate a quick smack if they got out of hand on the stairwells, but on the whole even the toughest of adolescent boys who roamed the estate, jobless and bored, knew that Maggie Baxter would be there if they needed them. Her friends in the sewing circle warned her however that she needed to be careful. In recent months, several new families had been housed on the estate and their rowdy kids were an unknown quantity. In fact, petty crime was on the increase despite the fact that they had their own community police presence, and on two occasions recently elderly residents had been mugged and injured on their way back from the local shops.

The frailest of the group was Flo Miles, a tiny little woman who had amazingly borne twelve children, all of whom had survived wars and sickness. She had thirty-six grandchildren and fifteen great grandchildren and at ninety years old was considered the queen of the Redgrave. She had lived there since it was built, twenty years earlier, and knew every little bit of gossip there was to be had about the residents. The other members even suspected she knew more that she was telling about Sylvia Ross but on this subject, she was strangely close-mouthed. She was also fearless and despite her fragile appearance walked herself to and from the local Bingo Hall despite her friends’ insistence that she go by taxi. The fact that she was a prolific winner also worried the members of the sewing circle, but she did make the compromise that on nights that she won money she would get a cab home and get the driver to walk her to her ground floor flat, conveniently close to the parking area.

Sarah Dempsey or big Sal as she was known to her friends and neighbours was a gregarious and fun loving Irish woman who had come over to London as a spinster of thirty-eight, in the late 1950’s. She had cared for her parents until their death and then found herself evicted from her family home by her brother who had inherited the lot. He had begrudgingly given her forty pounds and bought her a one-way ticket to England. Luckily, Sal found a job as a waitress in a large department store in Knightsbridge, and being the hard worker that she was, she remained in that job for over thirty years. She had a lovely little pension as well as her State benefits and she adored giving unusual and unexpected gifts to every one of her acquaintance. She was treasured by everyone, especially when she burst into song at quiz nights, and other functions, at the community centre in the middle of the estate.

So, here was the sewing circle, a group of friends who were independent and who took care of each other lovingly. All very different, but all intent on one thing, ending their lives with dignity and in the company of people they cared for.

There was just one problem and that was the Jackson family. The Jacksons had moved onto the estate after being moved from two other communities because of their unreasonable behaviour. Archie Jackson was in prison for violent offenses more than he was out and his wife Sharon was a loud-mouthed harridan who could be heard through the thin walls of the flats, shouting and swearing throughout the day and long into the night. They had five children although it was a mystery to everyone how she had so many bearing in mind that Archie was inside most of the seventeen years they had been married. The more uncharitable amongst the residents speculated on the difference in look and colour between the offspring and there were certainly enough suspicions to cast doubts on Archie’s participation in some of their conceptions.

Everyone on the estate gave the Jacksons a wide berth. Since their arrival, petty crime on the estate had risen dramatically and the residents’ committee had even requested a meeting with the Police representative to try to stem the tide of thefts and muggings that suddenly affected the area. The police did what they could and in fact, they did catch the older Jackson boy, Darren, red handed shoplifting from the corner shop. But because he was only fifteen he was let off with probation. Next, the committee tried the council who said that having moved the Jackson’s twice already they were running out of options. There were suggestions from some of the residents that a prison ship or deserted island would be a suitable place to move the family but in the end, the council promised to try to find alternative accommodation away from the Redgrave.

Hoping that a resolution was only a matter of weeks away everyone on the estate held their collective breath and trusted that not too much damage would be inflicted on property, or themselves, in the meantime.

This wish was not to be granted and for one of the members of the sewing circle, life was about to take a desperate turn.

One Wednesday evening Flo Miles won over £500 on the bingo. She was ecstatic and could not wait to share her news with her closest friends in the sewing circle. One of her bingo pals owned a mobile phone and with great delight, Flo called Betty to tell her the news. What she didn’t know was that Sharon Jackson and her sister were sitting right behind her and had made note of the substantial win.

Betty suggested that her friend come round for a sherry to celebrate and Flo decided to call it a night and get a taxi back to the estate straight away. She left the bingo hall and looked up and down the street for one of the cabs that normally parked outside. Unfortunately, there was still two hours to go of the evening bingo session and the usual line of cars was not to be seen.

Flo was so elated by her win that she decided she would not hang about any longer and would walk the short distance home, something she had done many times. She was blissfully unaware that at precisely the same time Sharon Jackson was on her own mobile phone nor did she know that the woman was setting her up for another surprise tonight.

Despite being on probation, Sharon’s eldest son Darren had made little effort to control his violent and anti-social behaviour. When his mother had rung him, he was hanging out on one of the stairwells with two of his mates from his previous address. They had been drinking vodka and smoking shoplifted cigarettes as they sat on the steps leading to the top landing and they were fired up and ready for trouble.

Darren snapped shut his mobile phone and looked at his mates. “Mum says some old bitch has just won over five big ones at the bingo and is on her way home.” He smiled evilly showing brown discoloured teeth. “She says I can have half if I get the cash without being seen! Anyone fancy a laugh?”

With his two mates in tow, Darren scurried rat-like down the darkened stairs to the parking area below. Flo was just entering the estate from the main road, trying to move as quickly as possible in and out of the shadows that stretched outside the reach of the street lamps. She was looking warily around her but she held her head up high and marched determinedly in the direction of the flats.

As she approached the entrance to Betty’s block, she had to pass some dumpsters on her left and failed to notice the movement in the darkened recesses between the bins. Suddenly a hand was clamped over her mouth and her bag, which was held tightly under her arm, was ripped away. She struggled as she fought for breath and she found herself on the ground feeling the jagged gravel through her clothing. Her eyes widened as she put her hands up to try and pry loose the hand around her mouth, and they looked pleadingly up into the hard eyes of her attacker who she recognised immediately.

Darren knew that the old bitch had made him and he had a decision to make. Should he do a runner with his mates, with the bag, and wait for the coppers to catch up with him? He was on probation now but this would certainly get him inside some juvenile detention centre. On the other hand, he could finish the job here and now. He held his hand tightly cupped over Flo’s nose and mouth and pressed down steadily as her struggles weakened and finally stopped. Satisfied that he had eliminated his victim and witness to his crime, he slid back into the shadows where his friends waited in breathless admiration.

Betty laid out the sherry glasses and some special crisps that she had bought for the next sewing circle meeting. After half an hour, she became worried that Flo had still not appeared and crossed to her lounge window overlooking the parking lot. At first, she saw little but as her eyes adjusted to the dark outside, she noticed a heap of what appeared to be clothing lying by the dumpsters. For some reason a feeling of dread passed through her and she rushed to the phone to call Big Sal who lived two floors up from her.

“Sal, can you come down, I think something has happened to Flo and I don’t want to go outside alone.”

Within minutes Sal was at the door and the two elderly women walked hand in hand towards the dark shape lying motionless on the ground. As they got closer they saw a hand, palm up stretched pleadingly in their direction. Hearts beating rapidly they drew closer and looked down at the frail face of their beloved friend. Betty immediately knelt down and touched Flo’s face.

“She’s still breathing Sal. Quickly, go and call an ambulance from my flat while I stay with her.”

She handed her keys to Sal who hesitated for a moment tears pouring down her face. “Hurry Sal, don’t worry I will be fine.”

As Sal hurried inside, Betty cradled Flo’s head in her lap and leaned as close as she could to her motionless friend. As she bent forward, she thought she heard a whisper coming from the bruised lips.

“Flo, it’s me Betty, what is it love?” She gently stroked Flo’s forehead.

“Jackson……boy…..” With that, Flo breathed softly and for the last time.

©Sally Cronin 2009

The second part of the Sewing Circle tomorrow morning….

One of the recent reviews for the collection.

James J. Cudney Flights of Fancy by Sally Cronin October 2019: 5 of 5 stars

When I picked this one up, I had no idea what to expect. I’ve read a few other books by Sally Cronin, but I knew these were going to be much different (in a good way). Ms. Cronin has published a collection of ~10 short stories and a novella, ranging in style from murder to fantasy, revenge to humor. I loved all of the stories and will struggle to decide which ones to include in my review…

To begin with, the book kicks off with the main character saying, “On my forty-third birthday, I murdered a woman.” Okay… we’re in for something dark and funny. What a great tale! In some ways, it’s very telling about society, and in others, it’s a little shocking. I found myself wondering whether the guilty party should be punished or not. It’s wonderful when a writer can prompt that question. I also worried she might’ve been describing my mindset on a number of occasions. Oops!

From there, we jump into a woman mourning a loss. She kinda/sorta visits her husband and dog, and it will make you get a little sappy. Afterward, I devoured a few tales about marriage, war, love, and a talking parrot who knew exactly how to motivate a woman to leave her ne’er-do-well husband. One thing is for sure; this collection shows the author’s range in developing memorable characters, kooky plots, and a touch of sentimentality in each and every relationship we develop throughout life.

The one I want to touch on the most is the final story, the novella about a group of women around~80ish who live together in a senior’s complex. Unfortunately, a rough family moves in nearby, and things begin to go downhill. Drugs, theft, abuse… then it leads to murder. The surviving women in the group want revenge, thus plotting out how to rid themselves of the two ruthlessly mean parents and their five children who descended upon the town. Some of the kids cannot be saved and must be made to disappear. Others might survive foster care. It truly was a fun story, and I focused on the humor element, as those Jackson’s needed to be taught a lesson!

Cronin has a clear and strong writing style. By incorporating personal experiences and emotions into her characters, she’s made various types of people come to life. Whether it’s struggling with weight loss, interpreting people’s impressions of you, or stopping yourself from doing the things you want to do but shouldn’t do, the cast in each of these stories reminded me of many events in our lives. The girl who steals our boyfriend… the guy who treats his wife poorly… the daughter who can’t recognize her mother isn’t just an elderly woman… the lady struggling to keep the weight off… or the guy misses his wife. It’s all there, and as a whole, this represents so many wonderful and pain-filled stages of life. Now we can laugh or cry together about them.

I definitely recommend reading this book for its levity, ability to watch others get revenge (without you going to jail), and perhaps some motivation to make changes in your own life. What a great collection.

If you would like to browse my other Ebooks.. you can find their reviews https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin

Thanks for dropping in and as always your feedback is very welcome. And if you would like a full copy of the book now, just email me with your required format. Sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Part two of the Sewing Circle tomorrow….

Flights of Fancy – Serialisation – Free Book Offer – Albert – The Perfect Candidate by Sally Cronin


Since I have just received a lovely review for Flights of Fancy, which was my first short story collection published in 2009 in paperback and audio with a later ebook edition. The stories were written over twenty years and scribbled down on odd pieces of paper… Over the next few weeks I shall be sharing the stories on Saturday and Sunday.

If you would like to read Flights of Fancy in one sitting rather than each week, please email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com and just let me know if you would like it in Kindle or Epub format. No strings attached.

Albert – The Perfect Candidate

On Friday night, Albert sat in the white walled room, his eyes closed against the glare from the fluorescent lighting, with his hands over his ears to shut out the infernal racket from the wall-mounted television. He did not have to watch the screen to know what images it displayed. Twenty-four hours a day, it brought the fear and disasters of the World into each room in every house and workplace. Terrorism, financial and natural catastrophes and of course superbugs were all guaranteed to make the headlines. He shook his head. Where did all the ‘good news’ stories go?

His mobile telephone had rung several times in the last hour and he knew that it was Marjorie, his partner, no doubt reminding him for the fiftieth time that he must not be late for dinner.

He opened his eyes, switched off his phone and thought about the pile of folders still unopened on his desk. There was also an e-mail from his boss demanding that he should be in his office first thing on Monday morning. Why do they do that? Under normal circumstances Albert would have spent the whole weekend desperately worried in case he was going to be fired. He had every reason to be stressed out anyway – he was late with this month’s mortgage payments, his doctor had told him his cholesterol and blood pressure were through the roof and his blood sugar was not far behind.

He didn’t need the doctor to tell him he was six stone overweight, needed to give up smoking and drinking and was a candidate for a heart attack. He only had to look at his face in the mirror every morning to see that he fell neatly into the 95% of the population who suffered from a lifestyle induced health crisis.

Everyone he knew amongst family and friends was equally unfit. Most of them were on pills of one sort or another and it seemed that once you were put on medication you were on it for life. Sure, most of the major diseases had been eradicated in the last fifty years, but it was easier and quicker to give you tablets to control your blood pressure and cholesterol than go to all the trouble of showing you how to change your lifestyle.

Anyway, what pleasure was there in life if you couldn’t eat a whole pizza with a bottle of wine two or three nights a week? Albert hated fruit and vegetables anyway. Besides which, who needed to stand out in a crowd? When all your friends and family and even your doctor were fat and unhealthy too, why change? Still, he wished he could remember a time when he had felt well enough to get up in the mornings.

He looked around him and smiled wryly. At least in one very important aspect he had been extremely successful. He was a perfect example of modern man and this was precisely what they had wanted. All his financial problems would be solved now that he had been accepted into the programme. Marjorie would be well taken care of if the worst happened and he was contracted not to make any improvements to his lifestyle for the duration of his lifetime. Bring on the Pizza!

Animal testing had finally become redundant. Eventually it became impossible to recreate, in animals, the levels of physical, mental and emotional stress that humans suffered after prolonged exposure to their modern lifestyle and diet. Scientists could no longer manipulate the gap between species to obtain reliable test subjects without compromising the safety of human trials. Medical records were accessed and from the millions of suitable candidates and the most qualified specimens were recruited.

The door opened and two lab technicians walked in wheeling a trolley containing medical instruments.

“Hi Albert,” one of them smiled at him. “This is not going to hurt a bit.”

©Sally Cronin 2009

One of the recent reviews for the collection.

James J. Cudney Flights of Fancy by Sally Cronin October 2019: 5 of 5 stars

When I picked this one up, I had no idea what to expect. I’ve read a few other books by Sally Cronin, but I knew these were going to be much different (in a good way). Ms. Cronin has published a collection of ~10 short stories and a novella, ranging in style from murder to fantasy, revenge to humor. I loved all of the stories and will struggle to decide which ones to include in my review…

To begin with, the book kicks off with the main character saying, “On my forty-third birthday, I murdered a woman.” Okay… we’re in for something dark and funny. What a great tale! In some ways, it’s very telling about society, and in others, it’s a little shocking. I found myself wondering whether the guilty party should be punished or not. It’s wonderful when a writer can prompt that question. I also worried she might’ve been describing my mindset on a number of occasions. Oops!

From there, we jump into a woman mourning a loss. She kinda/sorta visits her husband and dog, and it will make you get a little sappy. Afterward, I devoured a few tales about marriage, war, love, and a talking parrot who knew exactly how to motivate a woman to leave her ne’er-do-well husband. One thing is for sure; this collection shows the author’s range in developing memorable characters, kooky plots, and a touch of sentimentality in each and every relationship we develop throughout life.

The one I want to touch on the most is the final story, the novella about a group of women around~80ish who live together in a senior’s complex. Unfortunately, a rough family moves in nearby, and things begin to go downhill. Drugs, theft, abuse… then it leads to murder. The surviving women in the group want revenge, thus plotting out how to rid themselves of the two ruthlessly mean parents and their five children who descended upon the town. Some of the kids cannot be saved and must be made to disappear. Others might survive foster care. It truly was a fun story, and I focused on the humor element, as those Jackson’s needed to be taught a lesson!

Cronin has a clear and strong writing style. By incorporating personal experiences and emotions into her characters, she’s made various types of people come to life. Whether it’s struggling with weight loss, interpreting people’s impressions of you, or stopping yourself from doing the things you want to do but shouldn’t do, the cast in each of these stories reminded me of many events in our lives. The girl who steals our boyfriend… the guy who treats his wife poorly… the daughter who can’t recognize her mother isn’t just an elderly woman… the lady struggling to keep the weight off… or the guy misses his wife. It’s all there, and as a whole, this represents so many wonderful and pain-filled stages of life. Now we can laugh or cry together about them.

I definitely recommend reading this book for its levity, ability to watch others get revenge (without you going to jail), and perhaps some motivation to make changes in your own life. What a great collection.

If you would like to browse my other Ebooks.. you can find their reviews https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin

Thanks for dropping in and as always your feedback is very welcome. And if you would like a full copy of the book now, just email me with your required format. Sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up – 4th – 10th November 2019 – Books, Reviews, Videos, Health and Humour


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

We arrived back from two weeks in the UK on Thursday in slightly rougher sees than we might have liked but you can expect this in November. My two sisters had been on the Ventura for a cruise down to Portugal and back and they certainly had much rougher seas than we did and in fact it made the papers when a passenger shared a video of the water exiting one of the swimming pools and flooding a lounge. Both my sisters are good sailors and very little seems to phase them… they thought it was a storm in a teacup!!!

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7650639/Cruise-ship-passengers-carry-drinking-eating-torrent-water-surges-feet.html

Anyway, it has taken a couple of days to catch up online as I was off more than I was on during our time away. It gave me time to get some reading done and expect some reviews over the next couple of weeks. I also began plotting out the direction that the blog will take next year and how I can increase author and blogger promotions. There will be more reviews on a more regular basis and there will be a return of the Posts from Your Archives series for both new bloggers and those of you more established.

This week sees the start of the last major outside projects with the removal of the old broken down fence between us and our neighbour’s garden and a brand new post and concrete wall, making the garden fully child and dog safe for the next owners of the house.

A couple more inside jobs and then in the spring the house goes on the market and we shall be off further down the coast between Wexford and Waterford, two historic cities with a great deal of cultural appeal and great amenities.

Highlights of the coming week.

There will be the usual Cafe and Bookstore updates with recent reviews and several new books on the shelves. The Blogger Daily will resume and plenty of fun with afternoon videos and funnies.

MondayThe Travel Column by D.G. Kaye and this month Debby is taking us to the lovely not-so-well known little gem of a place, Puerto Peñasco, for a tropical escape in Mexico.

Tuesday – William Price King shares the life and music of jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman.

Wednesday – Carol Taylor and I join forces to share the mineral Manganese and some recipes to include regularly in your diet to ensure that you do not become deficient.

Thursday – our Italian food expert Silvia Todesco shares a wonderful almond dessert that would be perfect for Thanksgiving.

Friday The Smorgasbord Christmas Book Fair kicks off with a selection of children’s books in the Cafe and the first of the guest posts. D.G. Kaye will be sharing her expertise in writing memoirs.

The Weekend – Another post from Mike Biles about Britain’s history and Allan Hudson joins me for the Sunday Author Interview. There will also be two more stories from my Flights of Fancy Collection.

Time for the review of this past week’s posts.

This week Mike Biles lifts the lid and reveals the truth about one of my favourite books and television series as a child..Lorna Doone…

Lorna Doone a Romance of Exmoor, R D Blackmore, London & Glasgow, Collins clear type press

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/11/09/smorgasbord-blog-magazine-guest-writer-mike-biles-a-bit-about-britain-the-dastardly-shooting-of-lorna-doone-history/

My guest this week is multi-genre  bestselling author P.C. Zick who shares the inspiration behind her popular Crandall Family Series and what we can look forward to later this year.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/11/10/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-sunday-interview-and-new-book-on-the-shelves-love-on-course-by-p-c-zick/

My review for the latest book by Frank Prem – The New Asylum

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/11/04/smorgasbord-book-reviews-poetry-the-new-asylum-by-frank-prem/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/11/05/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-book-on-the-shelves-my-review-passport-to-death-by-yigal-zur/

I have put together a pdf of the recent book marketing series so that you have all in one place. It is free and the content page and email is in the post.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/11/09/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-the-book-marketing-series-by-sally-cronin-free-pdf/

It is remembrance Sunday and as it was Poet’s Choice this week on Colleen Chesebro’s Tanka challenge… I have written a double etheree ‘Young Soldiers’. I also wrote a Haiku for the header.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/11/10/smorgasbord-poetry-colleen-chesebros-tuesday-tanka-challenge-152-double-etheree-young-soldiers-by-sally-cronin/

Two more stories from the Flights of Fancy collection and Free book offer.

A combination of language issues and an unhappy marriage offer a parrot the chance to put things right!

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/11/09/flights-of-fancy-serialisation-fantasy-the-psychic-parrot-by-sally-cronin-and-a-free-book-offer/

An old woman reflects on her life using the changing colours of her bedroom curtains to tell her story.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/11/10/flights-of-fancy-serialisation-wartime-romance-curtains-by-sally-cronin-free-book-offer/

 

New Book on the Shelves

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/11/06/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-book-on-the-shelves-a-new-life-in-ventis-science-fiction-steampunk-adventure-by-richard-dee/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/11/07/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-book-on-the-shelves-googling-old-boyfriends-book-7-camilla-randall-mysteries-by-anne-r-allen/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/11/08/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-book-on-the-shelves-a-z-of-dumfries-places-people-history-by-mary-smith-and-photographs-by-keith-kirk/

Author Updates

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/11/04/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-update-reviews-stevie-turner-terry-tyler-and-teagan-riordain-geneviene/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/11/08/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-update-reviewsvictoria-zigler-fiona-tarr-and-barbara-silkstone/

My go to recipe to bring as many nutrients together on one plate – Brown rice pilaf

DSC_1207aw

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/11/06/smorgasbord-health-column-cook-from-scratch-multi-vitamin-on-a-plate-brown-rice-pilaf-sally-cronin/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/11/05/smorgasbord-laughter-lines-comedian-in-residence-d-g-kaye-and-a-joke-from-sallys-archives-2-3/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/11/07/smorgasbord-laughter-lines-comedian-in-residence-d-g-kaye-and-a-joke-or-two-from-sallys-archives-2/

Thank you very much for dropping in this week to like, comment and share.. I am so appreciative of the support. Thanks Sally