Smorgasbord at Christmas – Festive Short Stories – Xmas Eve by Janet Gogerty.


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.

Xmas Eve by Janet Gogerty

Linda hated Christmas, or rather the long run up to Christmas. It was busier but easier when the children were still at school; they knew exactly who would be there for Christmas every year; four children and four elderly relatives. Now, since the children were grown up and the elderly relatives no longer around, each year was different.

But this year would be the first Christmas she and Roger had spent by themselves. He was looking forward to spending Christmas Day and Boxing Day alone, relaxing; Linda was not. With the prospect of such a quiet Christmas there did not seem to be anything to get ready for, so she didn’t.

It was quite liberating, others talked of vast amounts spent, huge crowds fought through and piles of presents waiting to be wrapped. It only took Linda one afternoon to buy the requested gift vouchers and post them off. On the food front Christmas Eve would be no different from her Saturday morning shop at the local butchers and greengrocers.

But the day before Christmas Eve things started to unravel. She checked her e-mails in the morning and there was a long one from Sarah.

….remember the English guy I met at the backpackers’ hostel? (no she didn’t) Well, we’re an item now! Unfortunately, his visa has nearly run out so we are trying to get a flight home together…

In the afternoon John rang, he thought they might be lonely and had swapped shifts; he was getting a lift home on Christmas Eve.

In the evening Kate called; Gavin’s parents had found a last minute booking on the internet and were off to spend Christmas in the sun; she and Gavin should be down by tomorrow evening, picking up Paul on the way. Hadn’t Paul told them he’d broken up with his girlfriend on Tuesday?

Linda looked around the house; apart from the cards, there was no evidence of the festive season. Roger was completely calm, though disappointed he wouldn’t be having his quiet Christmas; he was already working out when they would go again.

‘They can take us as they find us, they know we weren’t expecting them.’

He reluctantly went up in the loft to bring down the decorations and lights, but Linda’s joy at having a proper Christmas was tempered by her panic at how much there was to get ready. She thought of the small joint of pork on order at the butchers and the miniature pudding in the cupboard.

‘No problem,’ reassured Roger ‘we’re finishing early tomorrow hopefully, in the morning you just have to make up the beds and make a shopping list; we’ll go and do a big shop when I get back.’

It took Linda a long time to get to sleep that night; when would Sarah arrive, what was the new guy like, would the weather be okay for Kate and Gavin’s trip down or would they be involved in a massive pile up on the Motorway, why hadn’t Paul told them of the break up?
The next morning Roger decided to take the bus to work as parking would be horrendous, but assured Linda he would be home by two o’clock. She rushed around with piles of bedding and towels, tidying, dusting, vacuuming; she was enjoying herself, but at one forty five the phone rang. It was Roger.

‘Sorry darling, I’m going to be late, all hell’s broken lose here, I could be very late, lucky I left the car at home, you go ahead and do the shopping without me.’

Terror gripped Linda, surely he wasn’t expecting her to drive to the shops?

‘But Roger I…’

‘Sorry dear, got to go, see you tonight.’

She looked out of the front window at the shiny red car leering smugly at her. Officially Linda drove; she had a licence gained at the second attempt, a spotless licence with no points. When was the last time she had actually driven? She had certainly never driven the new red monster Roger had bought when their other car packed up. Take it out during the day when it’s quiet, it’s lovely to drive he had said. How Linda envied those people who proudly stated I never learnt to drive or who remarked I don’t drive as if it was an incurable medical condition. Had she ever enjoyed driving? She couldn’t remember; parking, turning right, roundabouts had always presented problems. With the first baby she had ventured out with him safely strapped in the back seat, but he had started crying and she could not concentrate.

She realised she much preferred the healthy option of pushing the Silvercross pram; you could get loads of shopping in the tray underneath. They had never been able to afford two cars, so much of the time the car was not available for her to use. Roger enjoyed driving, on outings and holidays he naturally slipped into the driver’s seat.

As the children got older and had to be taken to things it was difficult to avoid; but they soon realised it was embarrassing being out with their mother. People would be tooting as she held everybody up, trying to get in or out of the multi storey car park or they would have to walk miles to avoid awkward parking places.

When they all learnt to drive confidently they gave her lifts; otherwise she was happy walking, cycling, going on the bus or accepting lifts Roger’s got the car, such a nuisance!

Now there was no getting out of it. She could never bring all that food home on her bike.

Where had Roger put the car keys? Linda hunted all around the house then found them in the pocket of his spare coat. She knew you pressed the button to unlock the car; that was all she knew. Opening the front door she looked round to make sure nobody was watching, slipped into the car, then slipped out again to open the gates. The road was busy and the driveway sloped down steeply, another reason she was loath to use the car. Linda turned the key and the engine started, but her mind went blank till she remembered it was automatic and managed to get it into reverse. For the next ten minutes she blocked the pavement as she waited for a gap in the traffic.

When she finally lifted her foot off the brake pedal she rolled straight back into the opposite kerb. Somehow she got into forward gear and set off to the sound of angry beeping from the car she had just missed. She perched on the edge of the seat; it was set well back for Roger’s long legs.

Linda had forgotten the new roundabout and stopped to work out which exit she wanted, an impatient horn tooted behind her and she set off in panic, missing her exit and going round again. As she drove up the new dual carriageway she dared to feel a little confident. The brilliant lights of the supermarket loomed ahead, she was going to make it. But where was the entrance? Not over the footbridge or through the cycle underpass; all she could see were hedges and fences. After circumnavigating the whole superstore complex she hit upon a solution and followed the huge supermarket lorry.

Linda was pleased with herself as she drew into a nice quiet car park and found a large bay. She locked the car but as she walked away a loud rough voice yelled out and she realised he was addressing her.

‘Hey you stupid…’

Linda could hardly believe the words she was hearing. She turned to face a scowling driver climbing down the four steps from his cab.

‘Do you want me to crush your… red toy car, move it now.’

As she shakily got back into the car she stalled twice and finally backed out, cheered on by sneering trolley boys. The main car park was busy, yellow jacketed figures directed drivers into impossibly small spaces; she squeezed in, clipping the wing mirror of the next car. The only way to get out of this terrible place would be to shop slowly and leave after everyone else had gone.

Shopping slowly proved easy as it was so crowded; her trembling hands pushed the wonky trolley, the only one left. Little children cried, school children skidded down the aisles and arguing couples blocked the junctions. She was tempted to abandon the trolley, the shopping, the car and just walk home. When everyone turned up at the house she would announce that Christmas had been cancelled. This get out plan comforted her a great deal, gave her the confidence to try just one more aisle, then another; gradually the trolley filled up and it seemed a shame to abandon it. The long queue at the checkout reassured her; the car park should be empty by the time she got out and in the dark nobody would see her.

At last she was outside, but could not remember where she was parked. In the dark the red car was not so bright and shiny.

A security man came over ‘Can I be of assistance Madam?’

‘Well you won’t believe this, but I can’t remember where I put my car.’

‘I certainly would, it happens all the time,’ he replied kindly ‘now what is the registration number and make of the car?’

All hope disappeared; she couldn’t remember the number and didn’t know the make. Her brain had switched off when Roger had talked interminably about what car to get; all she had been interested in was how much it was going to cost.

‘Red you say Madam, how about that one over there?’

He gallantly steered the uncooperative trolley over to the car and she hoped he would not witness her attempts to drive off. Luckily his radio buzzed into life. She struggled to get all the shopping in the boot and wondered if the car would get back up the driveway, weighed down so. The cars either side had gone and she followed other vehicles to the exit.

Linda recognised the nice quiet little road at the exit, she cycled on it to avoid the main road; the circuitous route through the residential area would be safer. She noticed the dashboard for the first time, or more specifically the petrol gauge, it was nearly on empty. Had Roger mentioned filling the tank up? Yes. Would she pass a petrol station? Would she know how to use the petrol pump? No. There was only one thing to do; get home as quickly as possible before the petrol ran out. When she heard the police siren she pulled over carefully to let it pass and was surprised to see the police car stop in front of her.

‘Did you know this is a twenty mile an hour area Madam?’

As she looked into the face of the law in the light of the street lamp a wonderful thought occurred to her; if she got lots of points on her licence maybe they would take it away.

When she arrived home a car was blocking the driveway, but she didn’t care if she left the red monster on the main road. In the light of the street lamp she saw the boot of the strange car was open and beneath it Gavin, Kate and Paul were hauling out huge bags of shopping.

‘Hi Mum, we knew you wouldn’t have much in, so we did a big shop on the way.’

©Janet Gogerty 2019

About Janet Gogerty

I have been writing frantically for 12 years and still enjoy being part of two writing groups. I am inspired by anything and everything and enjoy writing about ordinary people; but usually they find themselves experiencing strange events!

When I was encouraged to tackle a novel my daughter suggested I use my short story ‘Brief Encounters of the Third Kind’ as she wanted to know what happened to Emma, whose fate had been left in the air at the end of the story. The novel became a trilogy, Three Ages of Man and finally Lives of Anna Alsop, published in March 2015.

Quarter Acre Block was inspired by my family’s emmigration to Australia.

My new novel is called At The Seaside Nobody Hears You Scream. When Toby Channing’s girlfriend disappeared without trace he was the last person to see her…

I enjoy writing fiction of any length and have had many short stories published online.

This month saw the release of Janet’s latest book, a thriller – At The Seaside Nobody Hears You Scream.

About the book

In the summer of 2013 Annette Bethany Brown went missing without trace. Her boyfriend Toby Channing was the last person to see her, the only person who knew where she had spent the previous days.

In February 2014 Tobias Elliot Channing, private investigator, was still roaming the country, a camper van detective specialising in missing persons; hoping to discover why so many people go missing. He was visiting every place that had a connection with Anna, there were still no clues to her disappearance.

Head over to buy the book: Amazon UK

And: Amazon US

A selection of other books by Janet Gogerty

A review for Quarter Acre Block

Anita Dawes 5.0 out of 5 stars History remembered and relived…

I can remember the winter of 1962-63, also known as the Big Freeze. It was one of the coldest winters on record for the UK. The temperature plummeted and lakes and rivers froze. The sea actually froze in a few places, something I never expected to see!
Blizzards and the freezing cold probably had most of us dreaming of living somewhere warmer. I know my mother did.

She had heard about this new scheme where you could travel to Australia to start a new life and all for £10. That must have appealed to many people after suffering through that particular winter. I was only a child then, and don’t remember why we didn’t go, so when I saw this book all about a family who did go, I had to read it.

I followed this family as they made plans, packed up their belongings and travelled all that way. I discovered what it was like to find yourself in such a vastly different environment to the UK, and found it all fascinating.
The early arrivals were given a quarter Acre block of land to live on, which is a substantial amount of space, practically unheard of in the UK unless you had pots of money.

I learned what their new life was like through the eyes of the youngest daughter. She described an enjoyable journey as they slowly came to terms with their new life.

This was a light-hearted and fascinating read about something that almost happened to me. I often wonder what my own life would have been like if my mother had managed to swing it...

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon UK

And on: Amazon US

Read more reviews and follow Janet on: Goodreads

Connect to Janet

Blog: https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/
Websitehttps://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Beachwriter/

Thank you for dropping in today and I know that Janet would love to receive your comments.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Christmas Posts from Your Archives – Christmas Lights by Sue Vincent.


Hard to believe that we are only 15 days away from Christmas and this weekend we are putting up our tree. It is a six foot artificial variety that you won’t find in any botanical reference, but it has been with us for twenty years and is part of the family.

Sue Vincent shares one of the posts from her Christmas archives and as always with her stories, it will leave you with a warm glow. Tissue alert………

Christmas Lights by Sue Vincent.

“I must be mad.” A wry smile played amongst the wrinkles as she heaved the top half of the faded tree into place. Not a large tree… about the same height as its owner. Taller, probably, these days, she thought. She had always struggled with the damned thing. Why today? She cursed herself for an idiot, laughed at herself… a fine picture in her nightie putting up a Christmas tree no-one would see. Except her, of course. She would know.

So many times she had dressed this tree and carefully packed it away again. Every year for over half a century. Gawd but that sounded a long time. Somehow, at this end of life it didn’t feel it. But the children had grown and had homes of their own now… trees and children of their own. There had been the year when no-one came… and there is nothing sadder than a Christmas tree no child will see. She hadn’t bothered with the tree after that; not for a long time. Why she had decided to drag it out this year she would never know.

Boxes littered the floor; scraps of tarnished tinsel, the inevitable sparkle of old glitter and dust motes. She straightened the branches, bending their ageing wire into some semblance of order. The thing looked a sorry specimen, after all. Years of use and longer years in the cupboard under the stairs had taken their toll. “Should have left it there.” Her voice broke the silence that hung in the air. Too much silence, she thought.

In the bottom of the box she spied the old CD in its dog-eared sleeve …old favourites. Would it still work? They would make her cry… they always did… but what the hell. The machine groaned and creaked as she pressed ‘play’ and the crooner oozed into the familiar song. She could never hear it without tears welling unbidden; even in the supermarket. That and the damned chestnuts roasting … got her every time, they did. Ah well, she had memories for every note … she pressed repeat. It could keep playing.

She sniffed and wiped her eyes on her sleeve, smiling. Then, eyes narrowed with determination, she bent her knees. Joints protested at the unaccustomed movement; it took a while and a fair amount of cursing to make it to the floor. She had forgotten what the world looked like from down here. The tree looked taller, more imposing. A child’s eye view… Mind you, they had been proper trees then, smelling of pine and shedding needles everywhere that turned up all year in the strangest places. There had been trees so tall they’d had to saw the bottom off to get them in the room… and the ceilings were high in the big old house. She remembered Grandad wrestling with the biggest of them, fighting his way in. It took up half the room. The whole place had smelled like Christmas, garlanded with holly and mistletoe. She’d never liked killing trees though…

They’d always decorated the laburnum outside the French windows too… stringing monkey nuts together to make garlands and making fat balls and coconuts instead of baubles for the birds to have Christmas too. That was where she’d learned their names. So long ago now…

The lights were all tangled, of course. “Sod’s law”, she thought, “I’ll sort ‘em out and then they won’t work…” Even so, her fingers began the long, fiddly job, untangling the wires. She remembered tiny candles on the tree as a girl. Little golden holders with clips on the end. “Gawd, what a fire hazard that must have been. I suppose that’s why we only lit them Christmas Eve.” She plugged the wires into the socket, astonished to find herself surrounded by pinpoints of multi-coloured light. “Bloody hell…” She winced as she climbed to her feet once more, catching her breath as she straightened the stiff spine before winding the little lamps around the tree. Somehow, they seemed to bring it to life.

Tinsel should be next, she thought, picking up the crumbling mass. The tarnished strands looked drab and brittle. Maybe not… She’d always liked the tinsel. Even the plain silver stuff they’d had back then… thin and sparse. Not like the big, thick garlands of it she had bought when the children were small… emerald green. They had spent one December making big, shiny bows to hold the top loops of the draped tinsel that ran around the picture rail. Faded green now, almost silver. Full circle…

The icicles were okay though. She loved those… clear and iridescent, they had always looked good. Garlands of small ones to drape through the branches… big individual ones to hang alone… they looked almost new, like the day they had bought them. Their first Christmas together with the kids… Woolworths, she recalled. They had been expensive back then… they could only afford a few and by the next year the icicles were frosted twists. Not the same at all.

There had been icicles on the real tree too… glass ones. She remembered the care with which they had been packed and unpacked each year from the sectioned cardboard boxes. Each one wrapped in tissue paper… and still there were always broken baubles; shattered piles of gilded shards amid the treasures. The caps went missing too… and the little sprung pins that went through them to hang on the tree. It was always a time of wonder for the little girl, unwrapping the magic of Christmas, discovering old friends… all the baubles were special and had their stories that wound back through the garlands of time and family. Plastic now. Safer. But not the same.

Adeste Fideles… Grandma used to love that song. She sang along with the Latin carol. Her mind went back to the merry old lady in the paper crown, scraping the brazil nuts she loved against her few remaining teeth. Granny had hated the false ones. “Yeah…. I can understand that now.” Paper crowns… and turkey and Christmas pudding…. And Great Granny needing the commode halfway through Christmas dinner every year… “And I’m older now than she was…”

She found a few crackers… squashed and battered. They wouldn’t bang, not now. But then, she wouldn’t be pulling them. They’d had to help great granny pull them too. Still, they had the paper crowns and corny jokes inside. Grinning with remembered mischief, she teased the crimped end apart, tipping the little plastic toy into her hand. Utter rubbish of course… but she had been adept at peeking to see what was in them when she was little. She put the cheap puzzle back in the cracker, crimping the ends so you couldn’t tell… she could still do it… not that anyone would look. They probably never had…then she placed the crackers on the tree. The magic was always there for children… they didn’t care that the toys in the crackers were rubbish. It was the laughter.

She was near the bottom of the box now. Were they really still there? Those little parcels, neatly wrapped… their very first Christmas when they couldn’t afford baubles so had wrapped all manner of things… mainly matchboxes…to hang on the tree. Then there were the little knitted toys her own granny had made… a snowman, an angel and a Santa. The star was missing though… the big, shiny star for the top of the tree. She had made a hole in the back so she could light it up… but it had gone, who knew where… He was still there though. She smiled, reaching down to the bottom of the box… the robin was a little moth-eaten and threadbare, but he still seemed to smile back at her. Could robins smile? He would be the star. She placed him on top of the tree and stood back. A bit wonky, but suddenly it felt like Christmas.

There was still something missing though. Rooting around in the screwed up paper she found the little bag… the nativity figures. She set them out around the base of the tree. Crudely carved, she loved the lines of the tall Magi… and especially the little wooden donkey. She was still holding him as she sat down, breathing in harsh little gasps… she needed a rest. Getting old was no fun…

Rheumy eyes travelled across the tree. She’d always had good taste, always been at war with herself over the Christmas decorations. On one level she saw them as a little overblown and tawdry… but they held memories. Lifetimes of them, not just her own. Every bauble held a story… and they would all be forgotten one day. She was their custodian. For now. Did it matter? Probably not, not any more. The children had their own memories… no-one else would care, not really. They wouldn’t even know they didn’t know, would they?

Half a dozen Christmas cards on the mantle… old friends far away, one to Grandma. That made her smile. She’d kept them, the special ones… the ‘I love you’s, the ones the children had made… they were there. She remembered long strings of cards filling the walls once upon a time, hundreds of them. Never enough room. Such a lovely thing… paper thoughts that had fallen on the doormat, bridging miles and bringing friends and family close to the heart with each opened envelope. She was tired now. “…Have yourself a merry little Christmas, Let your heart be light…” Said it all that song… The room blurred as the tears came. They always did.

Gentle tears, greeting each memory with love, grateful for their presence. Setting them free like snowy doves, saying farewell to the memories that would not return to her ageing mind. There had been love, so much love. And laughter. Silliness and games, tears and longing. Empty places, missing faces, new brides, new babes…There had been Life. And every year of it, there had been Christmas. “…Through the years we all will be together, if the Fates allow…” Would they come, she wondered? Would they be waiting? She stroked the rough lines of the cockeyed wooden donkey… she’d have to put him with the others. Let him go. Not yet though… a few more minutes…

Outside she could hear children playing in the August sun…

The young woman watched from the corner of the room, silent and unseen. She was filled with love for this little old lady. Her heart ached for her, wanting to reach out and wipe the last traces of tears from the withered cheeks… yet she smiled too, knowing they were not tears of regret for loves that were lost, but joy for the love she had known.

She watched as the eyes closed and the mouth fell open, saw the arthritic fingers relax and the little wooden donkey fall to her lap. He would stay with her till they found her.

Unseen, unfelt, she studied the quiet figure, moving closer, dropping an ephemeral kiss on her brow. Where had the years gone? How quickly they had flown… what had she learned and what would come next?

She turned to say a last goodbye to the faded glory of the Christmas tree… a present of Christmas past. A final gift. A Christmas feast of love and memory illuminated by fairy lights. The lights filled the dark corner of the little room. Lights filled with Love and the promise of a greater Light beyond.

Light that drew her like open arms, waiting… drawing her… onward.

There was always Light and Love at Christmas.

©Sue Vincent

My thanks to Sue for this delightful story that illustrates how powerful the memories of Christmas and love of families can be.

About Sue Vincent, her collaborations and her books.

One of her most important collaborations is with a small black dog with a delightful mind of her own!  Meet Ani..

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Sue is a prolific author and has also co-written a book with Dr. G. Michael Vasey and over recent years a substantial number with Stuart France.  Here is a small selection.

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About An Imperious Impulse: Coyote Tales – the latest release from Sue and Stuart.

“Couldn’t you make me into a Bull?” asked Coyote. In a time before Man walked the Earth, the Great Spirit breathed life into the land. Coyote was the First. Playful, subversive, curious and sometimes comical, he and his fellow creatures shaped the world for those who were to follow. Coyote is a Native American Trickster and hero of many adventures.

Tales of Coyote were passed down and shared with the young to illustrate the dangers of being human. Wilful, headstrong and always in trouble, Coyote journeyed through the spirit worlds, stealing fire and outwitting Death. When the Earth was loved as a living being, the rocks sang and the trees danced. Animals uttered Nature’s wisdom and the sun rose and set upon a wondrous world. The echoes of this magical landscape can still be found in the myths and legends of many cultures. They represent the weaving of the human spirit and the silent lore of creation.

‘Be careful, Coyote, never perform this trick more than four times in any one day.’ ‘An Imperious Impulse’ is the first book of the Lore Weavers, a collection of ancient tales retold. All traditional cultures evolved stories through which the natural and supernatural worlds could be explained and approached. Beyond their entertainment and humour is a deeper layer of mystery and symbolism through which the wisdom of the people could be transmitted. Telling of a time beyond human experience or memory, these tales meld a knowledge of the natural world with the spiritual and moral code of their creators. The essence of the human quest for an understanding of our role within creation has changed little over the millennia.

From the Dreaming of the Australian peoples, to the Great Mystery of the Native Americans and the ancient Celtic myths, there is a common thread that unites humankind across time and distance. It is in the rich tapestry of folk tales that we glimpse its multi-hued beauty. Long may they continue to be enjoyed.

Buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Imperious-Impulse-Coyote-Tales-Weavers/dp/1910478172

And Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Imperious-Impulse-Coyote-Tales-Weavers/dp/1910478172

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire born writer currently living in the south of England, largely due to an unfortunate incident with a map, a pin and a blindfold. Raised in a spiritually eclectic family she has always had an unorthodox view on life, particularly the inner life, which is often reflected in her writing, poetry and paintings.

Sue lived in France for several years, sharing a Bohemian lifestyle and writing songs before returning to England where the youngest of her two sons was born. She began writing and teaching online several years ago, and was invited to collaborate with Dr G Michael Vasey on their book, “The Mystical Hexagram: The Seven Inner Stars of Power” (Datura Press).

51sl-a2xhyl-_uy250_Stuart France and Sue Vincent are also the authors of the Doomsday series.

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Find out more about their work together: http://www.franceandvincent.com/

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Sue, along with Steve Tanham and Stuart France, is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, an international modern Mystery School that seeks to allow its students to find the inherent magic in living and being. http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk

Also by Sue Vincent

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Discover all of Sue Vincent’s books: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sue-Vincent/e/B00F2L730W

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Sue-Vincent/e/B00F2L730W

Read more reviews and follow Sue on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6551588.Sue_Vincent

Connect to Sue Vincent

Blog: http://scvincent.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/scvincent
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/S-C-Vincent/17967259931?ref=hl
Silent Eye Website: http://thesilenteye.co.uk/
Website (books) : http://www.franceandvincent.com/
Silent Eye Authors FB: https://www.facebook.com/silenteyeauthors?ref=hl

Thank you for dropping in today and I am Sue and I would both love your feedback.. thanks Sally

 

Smorgasbord Posts from MY archives – Short Story and FREE Ebook – Three Mince Pies by Sally Cronin


Here is one of the stories from my first short story collection released in 2003. Flights of Fancy and if you like this story you are most welcome to have a FREE ebook.. either Mobi for Kindle or Epub for other devices.

All you have to do is email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com and ask for the format of your choice.

Three Mince Pies by Sally Cronin

mince piesThe little girl lay in bed asleep, long blonde hair spread over her pillow. 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 and cards around the room. In the corner, the tree lights sparkled and flashed through the tinsel; presents for Sophie were piled beneath its green spiky branches in a colourful heap. Family and friends had rallied round, determined Sophie would have everything 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 Spain at the end of October. It had been their first family holiday in three years; business had been tough and there had been no extra money for vacations or 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 initially work had been plentiful, there had been more and more competition for fewer contracts. He had worked seven days a week and she could see from his face that this was taking its toll. Just after their holiday in Spain, Jack began to experience chest pains that he dismissed as indigestion after eating and drinking too much while they were away. Jenny had grown more and more concerned, begging 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 he was taken to theatre for an emergency operation.

It had all happened so fast they had barely time to talk about the situation. Jenny had been unable to take Sophie in to to see her father before he was rushed away from them by concerned medical staff. She 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 long hours into the night. 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.

They 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.

She allowed the tears to fall; here in private where 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 tried to be strong for Sophie’s sake, but she had watched her normally lively child lose weight, become silent and withdrawn. Tomorrow was Christmas Day how could they 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.

Jenny followed the direction of her daughter’s eyes, to the toy cupboard with a plate of mince pies and a glass of sherry on the top. As she stared across the room, she felt warm air flow over her. She blinked and stared at a glowing light that grew brighter and brighter. Clamping a hand over her mouth, she darted a glance over at Sophie and was amazed to see her daughter smiling and holding out her hand to the light. Jenny’s eyes were drawn back to the other side of the bedroom and she gasped, as in the incandescent glow, she saw her husband’s body materialise.

Riveted to the spot she watched Jack reach out a hand, take a mince pie from the plate and raise it to his lips. Taking a bite he 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 where he reached out and touched Sophie’s outstretched hand. A radiant glow spread across the child’s face and laying back against the pillow her breathing settled into a gentle rhythm; she was peacefully asleep.

Her father left Sophie’s bedside and walked to the door where 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 too brief moment between them; 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 of his presence remained wrapped around her like an invisible cloak.

She stood for a few minutes with head bowed, absorbing and taking strength from that feeling before crossing to her daughter’s bedside. She kissed her forehead gently and moved over to the toy cupboard where she stared at the plate with its two mince pies. She always put three of the treats out for Father Christmas. This year he really had come to visit.

©sallycronin Flights of Fancy 2009

I hope you have enjoyed the story and if you would like a copy of one of my earlier books FREE then please email me and let me know if you need mobi for Kindle or Ebub for other devices.. Sally.cronin@moyhill.com

If you feel so inclined.. my other books are available in print and in Ebook. My latest What’s In a Name volume 1&2 is in print for the UK only at the current time.

My books and Reviews 2017

Here are my current books available on Amazon and  Smashwords. 

All except for Just Food for Health are available in E-versions for most readers. You can buy all my books from my own bookstore at the links beneath the titles below but also on

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

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

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SallyGCronin

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

My latest book was published on July 27th 2017 – What’s in Name – Volume Two – Stories of life and romance. The print version of combined volumes one and two is available in the UK and Ireland

This is one of the reviews for What’s in a Name Volume Two.

One of my most FAVORITE reads of 2017 September 5, 2017 by

Carmen Stefanescu

It is the first fiction book written by Sally Cronin that I’ve had the opportunity to read. I was drawn into What’s in a Name collection and went on reading until the last story was done. I would call most of them ” tales with a twist.” I really did enjoy this book…you may need some tissue at times. You will love the unexpected and won’t think to put the book down. I found it hard to put down

The motives and emotions of the characters in all of the stories were well defined and expressed. I really liked the fact that each story came to a satisfying ending and the next story quickly engaged me with the new people and place. It’s undoubtedly one of my most FAVORITE reads of 2017, in my TOP 5. Sally Cronin creates stories that will keep you flipping pages and loving it!

I won’t tell you what they are about because being short stories I would reveal important details and I want other readers to live themselves the emotions I experienced. What I can tell you is that each story is as touching and compelling as the next one. The thread that links them all stories or characters is sacrifice and romance. Children, parents, lovers, life being lived.

These stories are for me like a fragrant flowers bouquet, each flower having its own special color and scent.

If you are short on time, What’s in a Name allows you to read something start to finish, which I love. Great for airplanes or a one hour mental break, beside being just great for personal “escape from the world.”

Thank you for dropping in today.. Sally

Please connect to me on

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sgc58
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sally.cronin

 

Smorgasbord Christmas Party – Guest John W. Howell with A Christmas Story


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I have been collecting guest posts and stories for the last few weeks and have brought them all together as part of the Smorgasbord Christmas Party. There will be humour, short stories, stories about family and friends, music, humour and some food of course. The posts are scheduled right up to Christmas, but if you would still like to promote your blog, books or other creative work there are some other opportunities to be found here.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/christmas-2016-smorgasbord-promotions-blogs-books-gifts-short-stories/

For my first guest…. who better to kick the party off than author John. W. Howell whose short stories are edgy, humourous and always leave you wanting more. Here is a story that John has written especially for the Smorgasbord Christmas Party.

A Christmas Story

 by John W. Howell   ©2016 

Who’s there?”
“Where?”
“In the living room. I can hear you stomping around.”
“There’s no one here.”
“If there is no one there how come you are answering my questions?”
“Would be rude not to answer wouldn’t you say?”
“What do you want?”
“I don’t want anything. I’m Santa Claus, filling your stockings and putting gifts under your tree.”
“Come on now. There’s no such thing as Santa Claus.”
“Okay. Have it your way. I’ll need a few minutes to put all this stuff back.”
“Okay. I’m coming in there, and I’m warning you I have a gun.”
“I can always tell I’m in Texas.”
“What?”
“Nothing. Just talking to myself.”
“I’m going to turn on the light. Don’t make any moves.”
“Fine. I’m standing here as still as I can be.”
“Hey. You don’t look like Santa Claus.”
“What is Santa supposed to look like?”
“You know. Big belly, red suit, white beard, mouth drawn up in a bow.”
“Well, the PR firm was in charge of that image. I didn’t necessarily go along with it.”
“PR firm?”
“Yeah. You know those guys who give the public an image. Those Coke commercials pretty much started it all. I’m more of a Brooks Brothers type. Besides the red outfit is a bear when sliding down chimneys.”
“So you do slide down chimneys?”
“Mostly through the wall. It is much easier.”
“Wait. You can go through walls?”
“I can see you have a tough time with faith don’t you Ferd?”
“Name’s Frank. Hey, hold on. If you were Santa, you would know that.”
“Sure I would. Let’s see how many Franks would you say there are in this world. Come on Frank. Give me a break. I used “Ferd” as a term of endearment.”
“You’re confusing me.”
“Not hard to do I might add. So, should I gather up all this stuff and see you next year or what?”
“W-well. I can see some pretty nice stuff.”
“You were laid off weren’t you Frank?”
“Y-yes.”
“Don’t you think little Jimmy would like this bike?”
“S-sure. Sure he would. My wife would like that coat too.”
“So what do you say? I leave all the stuff, and you have a Merry Christmas.”
“How will I ever repay you?”
“Only one way to do that Frank.”
“How’s that? I don’t have any money.’
“Won’t take money, Frank.”
“What then.”
“Do you your best this year to foster peace on Earth and goodwill to humankind. Can you do that?”
“I-I will try very hard Santa.”
“You’re a good man, Frank. Bless you. Now where did you hide the cookies and milk?”

About John W. Howell

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John’s main interests are reading and writing. He turned to writing as a full-time occupation after an extensive career in business. John writes thriller fiction novels and has a number of short stories published in various on-line magazines. One of his short stories has been recognized by Writers Digest in the Popular Fiction Writing contest. His novel, My GRL published by Martin Sisters Publishing and is the first of many exciting adventures of the book’s central character John J. Cannon. The second, His Revenge published by Keewaydin Lane Books is now available in Paperback and Kindle formats. He has recently published the third book in the series, Our Justice.

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Buy John’s Books: Amazon Author’s pagehttps://www.amazon.com/author/johnwhowell

John lives on Mustang Island in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of south Texas with his wife and their spoiled rescue pets.

You will find some great articles and photographs on John’s website with a different perspective of the same spot each week

Connect with John.

Blog Fiction Favorites, http://www.johnhowell.com
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/john.howell.98229241
Twitter – https://www.twitter.com/HowellWave
Authors db – http://www.authorsdb.com/authors-directory/6604-john-w-howell
LinkedIn – http://www.linkedin.com/pub/john-w-howell/48/b59/462/
Google + https://plus.google.com/+JohnHowellAuthor/
Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7751796.John_W_Howell
Shelfari – http://www.shelfari.com/johnwhowell
Amazon Author’s page – https://www.amazon.com/author/johnwhowell
Martin Sisters Publishing – Http://www.martinsisterspublishing.com

My thanks to John for writing this story especially for the blog and I hope that if you are not already connected to him that you will head over and introduce yourselves.

Lots more guests with their special contributions to come and also festive recipes and music. Thanks for dropping in and please help yourself to a mince pie.. If it is your first of the season you have to make a wish.. I hope it comes true.

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