Smorgasbord Short Stories – Life’s Rich Tapestry – The 1812 Overture – by Sally Cronin


Over the coming weeks I will be sharing some of the stories from my collections new and old… and I hope you will enjoy them.

Today a story from Life’s Rich Tapestry, the original was in response to a prompt by Diana Wallace Peach Myths of the Mirror

The 1812 Overture

Pixabay image by Marianne Sopala

‘Monsieur Henri, Oh drat, I am so sorry, I didn’t mean to sneeze so hard and blow you into the tree with your troupe.’

The little elephant pressed her trunk up against the lopsided house with its trembling occupants clinging to its roof.

Monsieur Henri, the patriarch of the world famous mouse circus act known as ‘Les acrobates de la famille mouskateer’ shuddered in the cold wind that whistled through the woods, and wondered how une éléphant even one as petite as this one, could sneeze harder than the current almost hurricane.

He was about to give this pesky and overlarge teenager a piece of his mind, when he saw tears rolling down her wrinkled face, freezing in mid-air before hitting the ground. He felt the rest of his troupe huddling even closer as they tried to get warm, almost pushing him off the roof of their living quarters, and decided that he needed to remedy the situation rapidement.

‘It is alright Tiffany; I know that it was un accident and that you did not intend to blow us into the next county. But I need to get ma famille somewhere warm before they freeze their derrieres off, and you will need to help us’

Tiffany blinked her eyes a couple of times to clear the tear related icicles from her long lashes; nodding her head enthusiastically and swinging her trunk from side to side; nearly knocking Henri off his teetering perch.

‘Tiffany, Tiffany mon cherie, you must calm yourself, and please if you are to sneeze again, point that cannon in another direction.’

The elephant looked pleadingly at the shivering mouse, stretching out her trunk tentatively towards him. Immediately all the mice pressed backwards towards the trunk of the tree, terrified they were going to be blown to kingdom come.

‘It is okay monsieur Henri, please climb onto my trunk with your family, climb up to the top of my head and then tuck yourselves behind one of my ears. I will keep them pinned back, and curled up at the bottom, so that you are safe and warm inside’. I will then pick up your house in my trunk and return us to the circus as quickly as possible.

Henri turned his head and looked at his family and fellow acrobats as they regarded him with suspicion and terror.

‘My petit choux, I have seen your family in the circus ring, and your speciality act of flapping your ears to the music of the great Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.’ Henri looked up at the little elephant and smiled wryly. ‘Are you sure you can keep those ears of yours still for that length of time?’

‘Monsieur Henri,’ the elephant looked fiercely determined. ‘I promise you that I will not sneeze or flap my ears until you and your family are safe.’

Commandingly the mouse turned to his shivering family. ‘We have no choice mes amours; we will surely die in minutes if we remain in this exposed position, courage and viva la France.’

With that Henri leapt onto the bottom of Tiffany’s trunk and began the scramble up the wrinkled snout, passed the large brown eyes, over the smooth round forehead and down into the pocket formed by one of her massive ears. Within seconds he was squashed at the bottom of a mound of white fur and scrabbling paws as his family jumped into the envelope with him; shrieking in terror and excitement.

Henri managed to fight his way to the top of the pile and peeped out over the top of Tiffany’s ear. Sure enough their house was in the grip of her strong little trunk, and she was now lumbering into the wind and snow, trying to retrace her steps in the tracks she had made earlier. He shivered and tucked himself back down again, curling up with his sons and their wives as they stared wide-eyed at him for reassurance.

It seemed like hours before he felt their mammoth transport stop moving. Despite his reluctance to leave the pocket of warmth created by his furry if fragrant family, he poked his head up over the top of the ear, and saw that they were now in the middle of a clearing in the forest where Tiffany had come to a halt. She was carefully moving her head to one side and then the other as she looked for the right path to take.

‘Oh caca,’ whispered the mouse, so as not to alarm his already hysterical family.’

He was just about to inquire if they were lost, when Tiffany jerked into a run, nearly throwing him out from behind her ear.

In the distance he could hear the sound of trumpeting, and as they smashed through the snow covered undergrowth, he could feel Tiffany’s great heart thumping thunderously against his own rib cage. With a last push they broke out of the forest undergrowth, and the little elephant stopped, breathing heavily, and putting down the mouse house. She lifted her trunk and gave a trumpet of her own, resulting in petrified shrieks and much scrabbling around from the ensemble tucked behind her ear.

Henri, who had been tossed unceremoniously on top of his eldest son’s head, dared to raise himself up to look out at the cause of such a cacophony, and saw massive grey shapes emerging from the snow storm. He watched in wonder as the beasts drew closer and surrounded Tiffany, touching her with their trunks and rumbling gently as they gathered her into their protective midst.

He had heard, and partially understood, the comforting language of these huge animals as they conversed at night when the circus was quiet, and he gathered that their little friend was advising her family of the traumatic events. Her mother who led the herd, and was the star of the circus, nodded her noble head from time to time and eyed up her daughter’s ear, still firmly plastered to the side of her head. She then picked up the discarded mouse house in her massive trunk, leading the way back through the clearing to a wide path the herd had created, followed by Tiffany and a parade of her sisters and aunts.

Within minutes there were shouts and cries as the circus folk raced towards them from the shelter of the big top and the surrounding caravans. The ring master arrived and took charge, leading the herd into the warmth of the colourful tent, placing a small net beneath Tiffany’s ear which seemed to have gone into a spasm.

‘Someone put on the ‘1812’,’ the ring master bellowed at the assembled circus family, and one of the clowns dashed off through to the back of the tent.

As the sound crashed out of the speakers, the herd of elephants began flapping their ears in time to the music, and with a sigh Tiffany finally relaxed her ear, releasing a white cascade of mice into the safety net. The acrobatic troupe were handed over to their keepers to be rubbed gently with hot towels and given a reviving brandy.

The ring master, who was particularly fond of Henri, held up the mouse in cupped hands and looked him the eye. ‘Well old friend, it seems that you have survived to perform another day, and it has given me an idea for a new act.’

And dear reader, this is how the world famous and most daring mouse act in circus history came to be.

‘Les acrobates de la famille mouskateer’ thrilled the crowds with their tumbling and acts of daring on the backs of the elephants as they paraded around the ring, flapping their ears to the ‘1812 Overture.’

Many years later an old elephant, matriarch of the herd now enjoying their life in a sanctuary, turned to her great-granddaughter who had been listening to her favourite story for the millionth time.

‘Do you miss the circus grandmamma?’ She looked up at the rheumy eyes of the storyteller.

‘I miss some things Gigi, including friends like dear monsieur Henri.’ Tiffany gently touched the little face in front of her. ‘But, we never knew what it was like to roam freely until we were brought to this sanctuary many years ago, when I was still a young elephant. You are lucky that nearly all animal circuses are now gone, and no more of our kind will be taken from our wild homes. But even that has its dangers from humans, and I am not sure what will become of us in the future.’

Gigi leaned into the side of her grandmamma and felt reassured by the gentle rumblings.
The herd began to move towards the buildings on the edge of the sanctuary, quickening their pace and nudging the little ones ahead of them. This was their favourite time of the day when their head keeper, once a young apprentice at their circus, would crank up the old record player attached to two speakers on poles.

The elephants formed a ring with much excited trumpeting and with the little ones running in and out of their legs; they began to flap their ears as the much loved music filled the air.

©Sally Cronin 2019

I hope you have enjoyed the story.. thanks for dropping in… Sally.

About Life’s Rich Tapestry

Life’s Rich Tapestry is a collection of verse, microfiction and short stories that explore many aspects of our human nature and the wonders of the natural world. Reflections on our earliest beginnings and what is yet to come, with characters as diverse as a French speaking elephant and a cyborg warrior.

Finding the right number of syllables for a Haiku, Tanka, Etheree or Cinquain focuses the mind; as does 99 word microfiction, bringing a different level of intensity to storytelling. You will find stories about the past, the present and the future told in 17 syllables to 2,000 words, all celebrating life.

This book is also recognition of the value to a writer, of being part of a generous and inspiring blogging community, where writing challenges encourage us to explore new styles and genres.

One of the recent reviews for Life’s Rich Tapestry on Bookbub by Marina Osipova December 1st 2020

Engaging. Moving. Amazing.
As always, Sally Cronin’s writing (be it verse, micro fiction, or short stories) awoke in me a fountain of emotions. Some manifested themselves in goosebumps (Life’s Greatest Gift, Musical Interlude, Reunion, An Ugly Mutt, A Moment of Alignment-just to name a few), others brought a smile to my face, (My Mouse, Splashing Good Time, The Witch’s Handbook, etc.). The Enhancement Project was frightening in its futurological likelihood. You’ll find the tales grim or sad, yet most promise hope at the end. While reading all these beautifully written stories, I shook my head in disbelief: how is it possible to tell a life story in such a short piece of literature? Take my word, you won’t be unaffected by these poignant snippets of life, and after turning the last page, you will crave more from this remarkable writer. Can’t help but recommend Sally Cronin’s books to readers who seek tales that deeply move soul and heart.

Read the reviews and buy the book Amazon  :Amazon UK – Amazon USAmazon US

My other books and recent reviews can be found on my Books and Reviews Page 2021

 

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Life’s Rich Tapestry – #Fantasy- The Enhancement Project by Sally Cronin


I have a new collection of poetry and short stories coming out later in the year, and as Life’s Rich Tapestry is now one year old, I thought I would share some stories from the collection over the next few weeks. This story was inspired by the photo prompt as part of a challenge curated by author D.Wallace Peach on her blog: Myths of the Mirror

Pixabay image by Brigitte Werner

The Enhancement Project

They had been working through the night to save his life. The atmosphere in the operating theatre was one of frenzied concentration, with only clipped instructions from the lead surgeon as he worked to stem the bleeding. Scrub nurses moved around the three doctors in an orchestrated dance, slapping instruments into waiting hands, or wiping a brow of its sweat.

Doctor Shanda Graham watched from the gallery and clenched her hands in front of her. If she was religious she would have prayed, but all she could do was focus on the skill and experience of the surgeons working on the man on the table. His enhanced body armour had protected him from the blast on his right side and his robotic arm was undamaged. However, he had extensive and catastrophic injuries to the left side of his head that had likely caused severe brain damage.

Shanda had been part of the cyborg project for the last five years, designing and implementing the enhancements to the selected participants of the project. All were members of elite military units who had been severely injured in combat, and following the world war of 2080, there had been no shortage of applicants. They were men and women ideal for the task, being physically and mentally honed for war, and now for the protection of the survivors from remaining external threats and those closer to home.

Solar power had been installed across the city rooftops in 2050 and with foresight the governing body had stockpiled medicines and other essential staples in the years leading up to the final conflict. However, strict rationing was in place and this had created a criminal element that was determined to take control of the dwindling supplies. Unlike the rest of the population, striving to survive peacefully, they were unwilling to participate in the projects that brought water and food to the 50,000 inhabitants of the city; taking what they needed with violence instead.

The streets of the city were unsafe to wander, as roaming gangs preyed on anyone careless enough to be caught out after dark. During the day, the ringleaders and their followers, barricaded themselves into the high rise office blocks, vacated when the world markets crashed, and financial institutions ceased to exist overnight.

To counter this threat to the lives of the people in their care, the city elders had formed a civilian militia from adults over the age of sixteen who were not employed in other essential work. Each unit was commanded by a six man team from the Cyborg regiment who undertook the training needed for the militia to be effective. This strategy had been partially successful, as even the feral gangs feared the enhanced capabilities of the Cyborgs.

However, the battles for the streets were fierce, especially as the gangs had obtained discarded weapons in the early days following the war, when the city was in chaos.
Until tonight the governing body had thought that they were making progress in clearing the city of this threat to peace. The present riot had begun outside one of the food growing centres that had been established in all the former green areas of the city. Heavy metal fencing and guard towers protected each unit, and the thousands of citizens who would arrive each morning to work the fields and water processing plants above the aquifer deep underground. Workers were unpaid but had identification chips in their arms that entitled them to enough food for themselves and their families.

As the gangs were not eligible for the chips, and the water and food they guaranteed, attacks in the green zones were frequent and often bloody. As work in the processing plants went on day and night, citizens were at increased risk coming and going from work, and cyborg units were stepped up to protect the perimeters of the compounds and in the main streets.

The commander of the cyborg regiment was Colonel Brandon Saks, and he had been the first of the enhanced humans that the implementation team had transformed. He had been a special forces major, on the front line with his team in the final battles of the war. Severely injured, he lost not only his right arm, but also a considerable amount of his rib cage. Robotic prosthetics had already been employed for over fifty years, with military personnel acting as guinea pigs. The advancements in that time had been extraordinary, and confidence was high that continuing the project would save the lives of experienced soldiers who would be needed to survive post war.

As one of the senior surgeons undertaking the ambitious project, Shanda had focused her attention on the progress of the first of their participants; the handsome and stoic Major Saks. This led to a closeness that was not permitted, as fraternisation with patients was strictly forbidden. Over the many months that he was in recovery and re-training, they had fallen in love. They had to keep it secret even when he moved into his role as head of the militia, as technically he was still a participant of the project under her continued care. Five years later they still only met infrequently when their duties permitted, in safe houses dotted around the city.

As she thought about his smile and touch, Shanda buried her head in her hands, knowing with his head injuries he would be lucky to wake up, let alone have his memories intact.She stood, resting her hands on the glass of the gallery, looking down into the operating theatre, to see the lead surgeon stand back from the table and turn away. Brandon was alive, but Shanda could see that he now carried a great deal more metal on his left side, reaching from his chin to his forehead. Clearly there had been no way to reconstruct his face and skull with organic material. It was now a question of time and healing, and they would not know the extent of the brain damage until they woke him from an induced coma.

She walked passed the staff in the dimly lit corridor to the intensive care unit, nodding at the doctor in charge, approaching the raised bed where Brandon lay attached to tubes and monitors. They would expect her to be there, having been part of the team that had completed the original enhancement and worked with him so closely; she sat on a stool and reached out to hold his remaining hand.

The battle to rid the city of the feral gangs raged for the next four weeks. Fuelled by anger, the militia and their cyborg commanders were driven to succeed in honour of their fallen commander. Their orders were not to kill unless unavoidable, but to expel those who had committed violence outside the city walls; to fend for themselves in the wastelands. In some cases however, when brought before the magistrates, younger men and women, who had not participated in the violence of the insurrection, were given the option to join the militia or the food plant workers.

In the intensive care unit, Colonel Saks was considered healed enough to be brought out of his coma and to have his brain damage assessed. Shanda had been at his bedside every minute she was not working, and there were knowing looks between the medical staff at this devotion. But she didn’t care. It was time that everyone knew how she felt about this handsome and extraordinary man, and she would bear the consequences.

She stood in the corner of the room as the surgeon checked the new enhancements one more time for infection or instability. Satisfied he motioned for the sedation to be lightened and watched the monitors as his patient resurfaced into the world again. Shanda closed her eyes and held her breath, convinced that the man she loved was gone from her completely.

Then she heard a sound, and looked up to see that the surgeon had turned to look at her, as had all the medical staff. He was smiling and as her eyes moved to the man lying in the bed; she could see him looking at her, saw his lips moving, and above the rapid beating of her heart, heard him say her name.

©Sally Cronin 2019

About Life’s RichTapestry: Woven in Words.

Life’s Rich Tapestry is a collection of verse, microfiction and short stories that explore many aspects of our human nature and the wonders of the natural world. Reflections on our earliest beginnings and what is yet to come, with characters as diverse as a French speaking elephant and a cyborg warrior.

Finding the right number of syllables for a Haiku, Tanka, Etheree or Cinquain focuses the mind; as does 99 word microfiction, bringing a different level of intensity to storytelling. You will find stories about the past, the present and the future told in 17 syllables to 2,000 words, all celebrating life.

This book is also recognition of the value to a writer, of being part of a generous and inspiring blogging community, where writing challenges encourage us to explore new styles and genres.

John Maberry – 31st October 2020Reviews of five books we recommend.

My review of Sally Cronin’s Life’s Rich Tapestry: Woven in Words, is short. We will add a few lines from the book after the review, for your consideration. 

The book lives up to its title–indeed, Sally Cronin has woven a rich tapestry of life in words of many kinds. A variety of poetry–in forms unfamiliar in name to me, microfiction and short stories. What’s more, the graphic imagery of the short poems is inspiring to a person like me who has never really found poetry either appealing or easily understood. This time, for a change, the words grabbed me. I found meaningful passages that could be useful as well in prose writing as in poetry. Examples I must return to in settings or other places where showing and not telling is essential.

The microfiction and short stories were equally compelling. [As noted in the promo for the book coming up next from Eagle Peak Press, we will consider a combination of ingredients as Sally Cronin did—and more in this book]. She is a writer worth reading.

Here a poetry excerpt (not necessarily representative of the content of the whole):

Memories

“Memories are sharp

and as clear as the blue sky

smiles etched on my heart.”

Or consider this brief excerpt from the intro to a short story titled, “The Junkyard Dog.”

“Charlie was a junkyard dog and had the scars to prove it. He was head of security of this fenced off mass of scrap metal, dotted with mounds of old tyres he called home, and he took his job very seriously.”

Amazon £3.50 :Amazon UK – Amazon US $4.53: Amazon US

A selection of other books

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Sally Cronin, Buy: :Amazon US – and:Amazon UK – Follow Sally:Goodreads – Blog: Smorgasbord InvitationTwitter: @sgc58
Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed these stories from Life’s Rich Tapestry.. as always your feedback is much appreciated.. Sally.

 

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Life’s Rich Tapestry – #Cats For the Love of Lily by Sally Cronin


I have a new collection of poetry and short stories coming out later in the year, and as Life’s Rich Tapestry is now one year old, I thought I would share some stories from the collection over the next few weeks.

For the Love of Lily

Millicent Smith sat with her cat Lily on her lap and stared out of her living room window out on the quiet street. Automatically, her fingers gently moved to rub the inside of one of Lily’s velvety ears, eliciting a purr of contentment from her companion.

This was an after lunch treat for them both, and it was one of the moments that Millicent would miss the most, when the house was sold and she moved into the care home. It was the last thing that she wanted to do, but her son Daniel had been adamant that she could not look after herself properly any longer. He told her that he didn’t have the time with his job and family, to keep coming around whenever there was a minor emergency. Such as when she had scalded herself with boiling water, making a cup of tea last week.

Lily stirred and stretched one leg in front of the other. She hopped off onto the carpet and headed for the kitchen and cat-flap that gave her access to a walled garden. She would sometimes hop up onto the wall and survey the surrounding gardens, but she was very content these days to stick close to home, and being elderly in cat terms, leaving the hunting and other mischief to the younger generation in the neighbourhood.

Millicent sat thinking about the future and the options for making sure that Lily would be looked after. As an elderly cat, she would be so hard to rehome and tears ran down her cheeks at the thought of her beloved friend being unhappy. Lily had been with her since she had adopted her as tiny white and black kitten with a splodge on her nose at the local cat sanctuary. From that first day she had slept on the end of her bed on a pink knitted blanket. Millicent didn’t know what she would do waking up without that little tap on her face as a greeting each morning.

She roused herself and wiped her eyes. Daniel had arranged for an estate agent to come around this afternoon to do a valuation on the property. Her son had insisted that she leave everything to him to manage, so that she was not stressed, and had gone as far to have a power of attorney drafted and other papers enabling him to act on her behalf. She supposed at eighty years old he considered her incapable of running her own affairs, although she had managed very well in the ten years since her husband, Richard had died.

Daniel had taken her to visit the care home he felt would be suitable, and she had to admit it looked very comfortable. The rooms were spacious and she could take a few pieces of furniture, some pictures and small ornaments to make if feel more like home. But, the one thing she could not do, was take Lily with her.

She had mentioned this to Daniel and said that Lily might only be with her another five years, and perhaps they could delay her move into the home until she had passed away. But he shut her down firmly, restating the fact that she would be better off with someone on hand day and night, meals prepared for her and a nursing staff in attendance when needed. He said he and his family would come and see her one Sunday a month and that they would take her out to lunch, especially on holidays such as Christmas.

As he had gone around the car to open her door for her, Millicent wondered how he had become so detached and uncompromising. She had never made any demands on him, accepting that his once a month visit for an hour was all he could manage with his busy job and teenage family. She also understood that it was a worry as she got older as to her care, and that this was the sensible solution. But it brought with it sadness and a sense of loss that she had hoped never to feel.

She went into the kitchen and locked the cap flap. Lily would be fine outside on this sunny spring day whilst the estate agent was viewing the house, and she smiled as she saw her friend, sitting in the sunshine on top of the wall, queen of all she surveyed. Besides, Lily was not fond of Daniel, arching her back and waving her tail at him when he entered the house. She had even on one occasion hissed at him when he had put his hand on his mother’s arm to make a quite forcible point about this proposed move. The feeling was clearly mutual, as Daniel had worn a smug smile when he said he would personally take Lily to the rehoming centre for cats on the outskirts of town.

The garden was another aspect of her home that Millicent would miss. Even when her husband had been alive, she would spend hours outside, lovingly tending the small patch of grass, decorative bushes and large pots overflowing with colour. They had used to sit out in the summer evenings at the small round wrought iron table with a glass of wine and a bowl of cashew nuts, chatting about the day and the world, and tears threatened to flow again. Taking a deep breath and squaring her shoulders she walked down the tiled hall tidying the shelves and tables as she passed.

The doorbell chimed its cheery message, and she opened the door to find her son and a male companion waiting in the porch.

‘Alright mother, this is Mr. Johnson and he will be taking measurements today and looking at your receipts for the work you have had done over recent years on maintenance.’

She shook hands with the bespectacled young man, who smiled and headed off upstairs with a pad and what looked like a flashlight.

Daniel took her arm and edged her into the kitchen, pulling out a chair at the table.

‘Have you signed those papers I left with you mother,’ he paused and looked around for the package he had left a few days before.

‘Not yet Daniel, I wanted to read them through and ask Mr. Henderson from two doors down for his advice.’ She smiled tentatively at her stony faced son.

‘What are you doing discussing private business with that old interfering busybody for?’ He almost snarled at his now anxious mother. ‘This is why I need to take over your affairs and finances so that you don’t get persuaded to do something stupid.’

Twisting her hands nervously Millicent looked at her son lounging back in the chair, glaring back at her with narrowed eyes and a grim set to his mouth.

At that moment Lily scratched at the cat flap to be allowed back in and Daniel pointed a finger towards the door.

‘And that cat goes on Monday, I’ve made arrangements to take her after work, so make sure that she is ready with all her stuff by five pm.’

Millicent stood up and walked towards the back door. ‘I will be in the garden with Lily so that you and the agent can complete your business in peace.’ Outside she picked up the cat waiting patiently on the patio, and sat down at the table stroking her soft fur.

Half an hour later they had the house to themselves again and were about to settle down in front of the television when the doorbell rang again.

It was her neighbour Eric Henderson holding the papers in his hand that she had asked him to look over for her.

‘Can I come in Millie?’ She smiled as he was the only one who called her that. She stepped back to let him into the hall, and they settled down in the two side by side armchairs. Lily jumped from one arm to the other and purred as Eric gave her ears a rub, before leaping back on to Millicent’s lap.

‘I think we need to talk about the papers Millie,’ he reached out and touched her arm gently. ‘I am no solicitor, but over my years in business I have read a great many contracts, and there are things that concern me.’

Millicent looked at him enquiringly.

‘Your son wants you to hand over control of all your finances and care, including the proceeds from the sale of the house and all assets.’ Millicent nodded. ‘Yes, he said that it was for my benefit so that I did not worry about money or being taken care of in the future.’

Eric nodded. ‘That is a concern, but you are in excellent health, except for a few minor issues and you could live another 15 years or longer. Do you really want to be in a care home for that length of time?’ He reached over and patted her hand. ‘You wouldn’t be able to go out with friends for the day, go on trips or have a say in your health care or what you spend your money on.’

Millicent began to look worried so he took her hand in his. ‘Millie, my biggest concern is that the money from this house is not enough to pay the fees of the care home for more than five years, and should that be the case, you will be moved to a council run facility, which whilst adequate may not be what you are used to.’

Millicent stared down at the papers in her hand and knew that she had a decision to make.

‘What do I do Eric, Daniel is adamant that this should happen and I am afraid that if I don’t do as he wants, I will find myself alone and in difficulties in the future?’

Eric handed Millicent a pamphlet. ‘Take a look at this before making a decision Millie, and I think you will find that there are some support services and options that you can take advantage of, even if it is just a few years longer. That will allow your assets to grow with the property market and last longer.’ He smiled and took her hand again. ‘And don’t forget I am only a few doors down and in the same position. I am sure that we can help each other out in the meantime.’

Millicent blushed and gave him much more confident smile. Then she handed him Lily while she went off to make a pot of tea and a plate of homemade ginger nuts, her friend’s favourites.

On Monday after making some telephone calls, Millicent sat with Lily on her lap looking out of the window and the rain swept street. She saw her son draw up in his large black car and stood up to open the front door. As she did so, Daniel took a step back, seeing Lily comfortably clasped in his mother’s arms. ‘Mother, can you put that cat outside whilst we get this paperwork sorted and then put her in her carrier ready to go.’

Saying nothing, Millicent led the way through to the kitchen and sat with Lily on her lap. On the table a pile of papers were stacked neatly in front of the seat opposite. Daniel looked taken aback at this show of rebellion and flung the chair back and thumped down on the seat.

‘I take it that the papers have been signed mother and we can get on with our plan straight away.’

Millicent took a deep breath and scratched the cat’s neck.

‘Lily and I won’t be going anywhere Daniel.’

‘What are you talking about mother, don’t be stupid, this is the right solution for everyone.’

‘It might be for you dear, but not for me or Lily.’ Millicent stared down her son.

‘I won’t be bullied into moving and have rung the estate agent to tell them the house is not for sale’

Daniel moved to speak but she raised her hand.

‘Furthermore, I will be retaining the management of my finances, as your father set them up very carefully to ensure that I was taken care of. I have also looked at the options of using the spare bedroom upstairs for someone to live in should that become necessary. There are sufficient funds for that without me having to sell my home and leave behind all the memories of fifty years of marriage and happiness.’

Daniel stood and glared at his mother. ‘Well since you seem to think you know what you are doing, don’t come crying to me next time you hurt yourself or have a problem.’ With that he slammed out of the house and she heard the roar of an engine as it sped off down the street.

She was shaking and holding Lily a little bit too tightly, but instead of struggling, the cat lifted up her small face and licked the tears from Millicent’s face. A few minutes later the doorbell rang and Millicent opened the door to find Eric with a large bunch of fresh picked pink roses.

‘From my garden Millie and I thought you might like some company this evening. Would you like some fish and chips for supper in front on the telly?’

Millicent smiled and took the roses. ‘That would be lovely, and perhaps a small piece of rockfish for Lily if that is alright?’ With a cheery wave Eric headed down the path to the chippie, and Millicent and Lily went to put the roses in water and butter some new baked bread to go with the supper.

©Sally Cronin 2019

About Life’s RichTapestry: Woven in Words.

Life’s Rich Tapestry is a collection of verse, microfiction and short stories that explore many aspects of our human nature and the wonders of the natural world. Reflections on our earliest beginnings and what is yet to come, with characters as diverse as a French speaking elephant and a cyborg warrior.

Finding the right number of syllables for a Haiku, Tanka, Etheree or Cinquain focuses the mind; as does 99 word microfiction, bringing a different level of intensity to storytelling. You will find stories about the past, the present and the future told in 17 syllables to 2,000 words, all celebrating life.

This book is also recognition of the value to a writer, of being part of a generous and inspiring blogging community, where writing challenges encourage us to explore new styles and genres.

John Maberry – 31st October 2020Reviews of five books we recommend.

My review of Sally Cronin’s Life’s Rich Tapestry: Woven in Words, is short. We will add a few lines from the book after the review, for your consideration. 

The book lives up to its title–indeed, Sally Cronin has woven a rich tapestry of life in words of many kinds. A variety of poetry–in forms unfamiliar in name to me, microfiction and short stories. What’s more, the graphic imagery of the short poems is inspiring to a person like me who has never really found poetry either appealing or easily understood. This time, for a change, the words grabbed me. I found meaningful passages that could be useful as well in prose writing as in poetry. Examples I must return to in settings or other places where showing and not telling is essential.

The microfiction and short stories were equally compelling. [As noted in the promo for the book coming up next from Eagle Peak Press, we will consider a combination of ingredients as Sally Cronin did—and more in this book]. She is a writer worth reading.

Here a poetry excerpt (not necessarily representative of the content of the whole):

Memories

“Memories are sharp

and as clear as the blue sky

smiles etched on my heart.”

Or consider this brief excerpt from the intro to a short story titled, “The Junkyard Dog.”

“Charlie was a junkyard dog and had the scars to prove it. He was head of security of this fenced off mass of scrap metal, dotted with mounds of old tyres he called home, and he took his job very seriously.”

Amazon £3.50 :Amazon UK – Amazon US $4.53: Amazon US

A selection of other books

51ui0kwaml-_uy250_

Sally Cronin, Buy: :Amazon US – and:Amazon UK – Follow Sally:Goodreads – Blog: Smorgasbord InvitationTwitter: @sgc58
Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed the story…Sally.

 

 

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Life’s Rich Tapestry – #Dogs – An Ugly Mutt by Sally Cronin


I have a new collection of poetry and short stories coming out later in the year, and as Life’s Rich Tapestry is now one year old, I thought I would share some stories from the collection over the next few weeks.

An Ugly Mutt.

Desmond Smith’s neighbours were rather curious as to the sudden appearance of a scruffy looking dog in the overgrown garden of his small cottage. The old man kept to himself and rarely instigated a conversation, barely muttering a good morning or afternoon when met in the lane. Following the sight of the new canine inhabitant of No. 6, they had to admit the old boy seemed to be less surly and more talkative after his arrival. On enquiring about the new addition to his household, whilst in the queue at the post office on pension day, Desmond offered up the explanation that the dog had been waiting at the bus stop in the village, when he had alighted after his monthly trip to the library in their nearest town. Dirty, and clearly underweight, the dog had followed him home and after a tin of steak and kidney pie filling had taken up residence.

Brian, as he had been named for some obscure reason, was not considered to be a handsome dog as he had a barrel body on long legs, a dull brown coat which was scarred and pitted, and a short stump of a tail that wagged only occasionally. His face looked like it might be the result of an unusual pairing of a bulldog with a Chihuahua and his small eyes looked rather mean.

As uncertain as everyone was about the dog’s ancestry, they were equally ignorant of Desmond’s past life. He had arrived in the village five years previously and apart from monosyllabic utterances in the local shop and post office, when collecting his pension, he kept himself to himself. Nobody had been into the cottage since the last owner, an old farmer called George Whitely had died. They were not aware of any relatives, but the rumour was that Desmond was a distant cousin. He was not inclined to enlighten them as he avoided intrusion into his life unless absolutely necessary.

His immediate neighbours however, did notice that he began to make inroads into the brambles at the back of his cottage, a relief to the owners of the adjoining properties who had to tackle long strands of errant weed that trailed over the hedges, and into their manicured gardens. Spying on the activity from bedroom windows became a bit of a hobby for some of those closest, with bets down the pub on whether bodies might be uncovered in the undergrowth.

After three months of intensive labour, both Brian, who had supervised the clearance, and his owner were the proud caretakers of a newly laid lawn, neatly trimmed bushes and three neatly pruned apple trees. There was more gossip about where the money for this makeover had come from, as the only income the old man seemed to receive was his pension.

Although, Mrs Simpson who worked behind the post office counter, did let slip that there was also a regular letter from a veteran’s organisation.

Desmond took the precaution of closing off possible escape points at the back of the cottage with a fence one side and a tall gate on the other. This enabled his new companion to run around the garden as he wished, without venturing out into the lane and onto the busy road running through the village. He would also walk the dog every morning at the crack of dawn, along the bridle path through the woods and back, arriving home in time for breakfast.

During the summer, the new housemates would stroll down to The Fox and Hounds and sit outside in the beer garden, Desmond with a pint of best bitter, and Brian with a packet of cheese and onion crisps. Slowly over the weeks, the locals would stop by and gingerly ask if they might pat Brian; with a shrug Desmond would indicate that it was their own responsibility.

Thankfully it transpired that the dog was far more sociable than his appearance indicated and he responded to the kindness, especially when accompanied by the odd bit of hamburger, by rolling onto his back, long legs in the air, inviting tummy rubs.

Unfortunately, on an idyllic Sunday lunchtime, with the sun shining and friendly chatter filling the beer garden, the harmony was disturbed by outsiders. Three men, driving a flash car, sauntered into the pub and ordered three pints of lager. They drifted out into the garden and sat at one of the few tables free, and began a loud conversation about being ‘down the country’ and the local yokels. That put everyone’s backs up, and there were annoyed looks thrown in the three intruders’ direction. This included Desmond who was anti-social at the best of times, backed up by Brian who stood solidly in front of his master, growling deep in his chest.

When the unwanted visitors finished their pints, they stood up and strolled towards the gate leading to the car park, and as they passed Desmond they stood a few feet away and one pointed at Brian.

‘Want to sell that dog mate?’ He turned to the other two and laughed. ‘We could put it to good use in our business.’

Desmond looked them up and down. ‘And what business would that be then?’

‘Nothing you need to know about mate, but give you ten quid for the ugly scrapper.’

The old man turned away dismissively, holding on to Brian’s leash as he was showing signs of demonstrating just how much of a scrapper he was. He had taken an instant dislike to the men and Desmond reckoned he had come across their sort before.

Not getting any response, the men left, but whispered to each other as they passed through the gate, giving parting glances at the dog before getting in their car and driving off.

Later that afternoon Desmond napped in his armchair in front of the television after his roast Sunday lunch. Having satisfied himself that his master was safe, and did not need his protection, Brian wandered off through the open back door to lie in a patch of sun and dozed.

As the warmth of the day was fading, a sudden loud knock on the door was followed by angry raised voices. Brian leapt to his feet and shot through the back door, across the slippery vinyl kitchen floor and into the narrow hallway. There were three men crowding into the small space, and one had Desmond by the throat and up against the wall. He was silent and glaring up at the man holding him captive.

‘Where’s that ugly mongrel old man, I want him as a bait dog for the next fight?’ He snarled as he banged Desmond back and forth against the wall.

All three men swivelled their heads in the direction of a warning growl coming from the doorway to the kitchen. The larger of the men pushed passed the thug with his hands around Desmond’s throat, holding a long pole with a wire noose at the end of it.

‘Come on you ugly mutt.’ He advanced across the carpet with the pole extended in front of him.

Brian waited for him to get closer, widening his stance and stretching his neck out as far as it would reach. He flexed his legs out slightly in front of him as if he was offering to play with the man.

Smiling the thug got closer and was just about to place the noose around the dog’s neck when Brian launched himself upwards into the man’s crotch. With a scream his tormentor dropped the pole, grabbing the now slathering dog around the neck, attempting to shake him off, but that just caused even more excruciating pain. He yelled for help from his mates, and the one throttling Desmond threw him onto the carpet as the two men jostled each other to get down the narrow corridor.

With a last snarl, Brian let go of the man and dived between his legs and straight towards the oncoming threat. One look at his crazed eyes and the other two attackers fought each other to be the first back down the hall and out of the front door, followed by the enraged animal snarling and snapping at their heels. Their companion, staggering and still making very high pitched screams, made his way in the opposite direction through the kitchen and out into the garden, slamming the door behind him. Leaving him to his own devices his friends jumped in their car and sped away.

Desmond by this time had managed to make it to the telephone on the hall table, calling the police before sliding down the wall, cradling his head in his hands.

He felt a warm body curl into his lap and snuggle in, licking his arms and hands desperately.

He took them away from his face and wrapped them around the dog as they both shivered from the shock. It was how the village constable found them five minutes later as he rushed through the front door.

They wanted to take Desmond to hospital but he didn’t want to leave Brian alone for a minute. The local doctor arrived and as a precaution the vet. Both patients submitted themselves to a thorough examination, and when the vet had finished checking Brian out and washing away the evidence of his defensive actions; he sat down in the armchair to let Desmond know the outcome as the dog cuddled up to his owner on the sofa.

‘Your dog has been in the wars before Desmond, and I suspect that he was used as a bait dog in fights judging by the type of scarring. He won’t have been a fighter as he doesn’t have the brute strength.’ He smiled wryly. ‘That is until today, and he clearly was not going to let them hurt you.’

The decision was made that Desmond could stay at home provided he rang the doctor if he felt unwell, and leaving him to Brian’s ministrations the two men departed, promising to call in again in the morning. Two hours later, the police constable who had been parked in his car outside to discourage any further intrusions, came into the living room to update Desmond on the condition of the third man, who had been found in the garden, curled up in a ball on the lawn crying like a baby.

‘The hospital has phoned to say his tackle is all there but he will be sore for weeks, and serves him right.’ He put a hand on Desmond’s shoulder. ‘He wanted the dog put down for being vicious, but my sergeant told him that he was being charged with trespass and assault and that the dog was just doing his job protecting his master. His mates were picked up ten minutes ago after he ratted on them to get a lesser charge. They are already wanted in London for assault, drug dealing and organising dog fights, and the charges which have been added today, are serious enough for them to be going away for a very long time.’

Over the next week, Desmond’s neighbours dropped around on a regular basis bringing hot meals and steak and chicken for Brian. One or two of the ladies came in and gave the cottage a very good clean, and the old man even found himself taken to the barbers for a makeover. Feeling much better the following Sunday, man and dog made their usual way to the pub and were given a round of applause as they entered the bar. Desmond’s pint was on the house as was Brian’s packet of crisps and a crowd gathered around them in the garden, as the children dispensed tummy rubs to an ecstatic ugly dog who had at last found love.

©Sally Cronin 2019

About Life’s Tapestry: Woven in Words

Life’s Rich Tapestry is a collection of verse, microfiction and short stories that explore many aspects of our human nature and the wonders of the natural world. Reflections on our earliest beginnings and what is yet to come, with characters as diverse as a French speaking elephant and a cyborg warrior.

Finding the right number of syllables for a Haiku, Tanka, Etheree or Cinquain focuses the mind; as does 99 word microfiction, bringing a different level of intensity to storytelling. You will find stories about the past, the present and the future told in 17 syllables to 2,000 words, all celebrating life.

This book is also recognition of the value to a writer, of being part of a generous and inspiring blogging community, where writing challenges encourage us to explore new styles and genres.

John Maberry – 31st October 2020Reviews of five books we recommend.

My review of Sally Cronin’s Life’s Rich Tapestry: Woven in Words, is short. We will add a few lines from the book after the review, for your consideration

The book lives up to its title–indeed, Sally Cronin has woven a rich tapestry of life in words of many kinds. A variety of poetry–in forms unfamiliar in name to me, microfiction and short stories. What’s more, the graphic imagery of the short poems is inspiring to a person like me who has never really found poetry either appealing or easily understood. This time, for a change, the words grabbed me. I found meaningful passages that could be useful as well in prose writing as in poetry. Examples I must return to in settings or other places where showing and not telling is essential.

The microfiction and short stories were equally compelling. [As noted in the promo for the book coming up next from Eagle Peak Press, we will consider a combination of ingredients as Sally Cronin did—and more in this book]. She is a writer worth reading.

Here a poetry excerpt (not necessarily representative of the content of the whole):

Memories

“Memories are sharp

and as clear as the blue sky

smiles etched on my heart.”

Or consider this brief excerpt from the intro to a short story titled, “The Junkyard Dog.”

“Charlie was a junkyard dog and had the scars to prove it. He was head of security of this fenced off mass of scrap metal, dotted with mounds of old tyres he called home, and he took his job very seriously.”

Amazon £3.50 :Amazon UK – Amazon US $4.53: Amazon US

A selection of other books

51ui0kwaml-_uy250_

Sally Cronin, Buy: :Amazon US – and:Amazon UK – Follow Sally:Goodreads – Blog: Smorgasbord InvitationTwitter: @sgc58
Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed the story…Sally.

 

Smorgasbord Poetry – Colleen Chesebro’s #Tanka Tuesday #Poetry Challenge – #Shadorma – A Beacon by Sally Cronin


We have a lovely image this week, selected by Ritu Bhathal as the prompt for Colleen Chesebro Tanka Tuesday Poetry No 165 – Photoprompt

Shadorma – The Beacon

Each cold night
the light shines brightly,
a beacon
to the lost.
A promise of warm comfort
without harsh judgement.

©Sally Cronin 2020

If you would like to participate in this week’s challenge here is the link again: Colleen Chesebro Tanka Tuesday Poetry No 165 – Photoprompt

You can find recent reviews for my latest release and other books: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2020

Amazon £3.50 :Amazon UK

Amazon US $4.53: Amazon US

Thanks for dropping by and your feedback is always very welcome.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Poetry – Colleen Chesebro’s Tanka Tuesday Poetry Challenge #Etheree – The Circle of Life


This week in  Colleen Chesebro Tanka Tuesday Poetry No 162 – Theme Prompt Colleen has offered us a theme – The Circle of Life. 

Etheree – The Circle of Life

Seeds
below
frozen ground
dormant for months,
stir in the rich soil,
absorbing nutrients
that enable them to grow
strong enough to push through the earth,
vibrant and colourful in sunlight;
the circle of life in all its glory.

©Sally Cronin 2020

If you would like to participate in this week’s challenge here is the link again: Colleen Chesebro Tanka Tuesday Poetry No 162 – Theme Prompt

You can find recent reviews for my latest release and other books: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2020

Amazon £3.50 :Amazon UK

Amazon US $4.53: Amazon US

Thanks for dropping by and your feedback is always very welcome.. thanks Sally.

 

Smorgasbord Poetry – Colleen Chesebro’s Tuesday Tanka Poetry Challenge – Mirror #Cinquain – Ritual of Mehndi by Sally Cronin


This week in Colleen’s Tuesday Poetry Challenge 161 we are treated to a photo prompt selected by Willow Willers which is stunning.

Image Willow Willers.

Mirror Cinquain – Ritual of Mehndi

This night
before we wed,
my hands reflect my joy
with designs applied with henna
and care.
Beauty
may fade as will this rich pattern,
but not my love for you,
vivid and strong
for life.

©Sally Cronin

If you would like to participate in this week’s challenge you have until Sunday: Colleen’s Tuesday Poetry Challenge 161 photoprompt

You can find recent reviews for my latest release and other books: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2020

Amazon £3.50 :Amazon UK

Amazon US $4.53Amazon US

Thanks for dropping by and your feedback is always very welcome.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge – The Rabbit Hutch by Sally Cronin


Time for the first Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge by Charli Mills of the year and this week we are offered the chance to write about a hutch… either as a piece of furniture or an animal hutch.

Image Tumbledrose.com

The Rabbit Hutch by Sally Cronin

Her kids wanted new things for their children and Milly decided to have a garage sale for toys she had hoarded. Neighbors came and went, but one little boy stood in front of the rabbit hutch all morning. She had put 20 dollars on the ticket as they were expensive to buy new. He clasped a dollar bill in his hand. “My dad says I can have a rabbit when I can buy the hutch”. A tear rolled down his cheek. He raced down the street waving the sold ticket in his hand and she smiled at his joy.

©Sally Cronin 2020

If you would like to participate in this week’s challenge here is the link: January 2nd 2020 Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge

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.

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Christmas Book Fair – Reviews and a selection of FREE books by Sally Cronin


I know that your TBR piles are in danger of collapsing with all the books that you have bought over the year but, if you would like to add a few more to the list waiting to be read then I would like to offer you one a selection of my eBooks for FREE.

Would I love some more reviews, of course, but there are no strings attached with these books, if you can drop me a line to let me know you have enjoyed at some point then I am more than happy.

There are nine Kindle (mobi) and Epub for other devices books included in the offer   … all you have to do is email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com and let me know which book and which version you need.

You can check the books out and their recent reviews: My books and reviews 2019/2020

And I of course could not let this opportunity pass without mentioning my latest collection that is now available to buy. I have received two early reviews that I would like to share with you.

About Life’s Rich Tapestry

Life’s Rich Tapestry is a collection of verse, micro fiction and short stories that explore many aspects of our human nature and the wonders of the natural world. Reflections on our earliest beginnings and what is yet to come, with characters as diverse as a French speaking elephant and a cyborg warrior.

Finding the right number of syllables for a Haiku, Tanka, Etheree or Cinquain focuses the mind; as does 99 word micro fiction, bringing a different level of intensity to storytelling. You will find stories about the past, the present and the future told in 17 syllables to 2,000 words, all celebrating life.

This book is also recognition of the value to a writer, of being part of a generous and inspiring blogging community, where writing challenges encourage us to explore new styles and genres.

Amazon £3.50:Amazon UK

And $4.53: Amazon US

Early Reviews for the book (I am over the moon).

Dec 12, 2019 D.G. Kaye rated it Five Stars – Follow D.G. Kaye: Goodreads

Sally Cronin certainly is a master at weaving with words. No matter how many or few, her words will paint a complete story and leave us with a satisfactory optimism or a tug at our heartstrings.

In this author’s newest release of tales to inspire, we’ll find a smorgasbord of forms of writing from various forms of poetry – Haiku, Etherees and Cinquain poetry to condensed micro fiction, where stories are wrapped up complete despite a minimal word count, to short stories on speculative fiction. A wonderful mixed bag of tales covering topics such as: random thoughts, seasons, aging, nature, holidays, fairies, romance, pets, to the human condition and life lessons.

Please head over to read the rest of the review: D.G. Kaye Reviews Life’s Rich Tapestry

Dec 07, 2019 Jacqui rated it Five Stars – Follow Jacqui Murray: Goodreads

In her latest excellent mixed-media book, Life’s Rich Tapestry (2019), Sally Cronin delivers a wide and varied collection of writing styles and themes, all with the goal of enriching the tapestry of the reader’s life. She covers nature, humanity, faeries, remembering, pets, and more in varied writing styles including Haiku, Tanka, Etheree, Cinquain, 99 word fiction, short stories, speculative fiction, and others.

Each style comes with its own challenges–as those who write in them know–but Cronin moves through them with equal ease and mastery. The challenges of writing micro fiction (like Haikus and 99 word fiction) require a story–be it fact or fiction–told quickly in bitesize chunks that no one can skip over or get bored with. Here are a few examples:

Please head over to read the rest of Jacqui’s review: Jacqui’s review for Life’s Rich Tapestry

Claire Fullerton 5.0 out of 5 stars A Treasure December 15, 2019

We come to know a person’s mind through the words they speak; their personality through what they create, and their heart through what they write. Put this all together and you’ve been gifted a glimpse into an artist’s soul. This is how Life’s Rich Tapestry Woven in Words impressed me. Author Sally Cronin’s precious gem of a book is nothing short of fluid insight into all that it means to be human in a round-robin way as to address the entire sphere in bits and pieces that leave a lasting impression.

These are musings delivered artfully, the perfect melding of heart, mind, and soul. In sharing her personal views, the author invites us to examine our own impressions of the day-today by shining light on life’s rich nuance. There is something profound in these meditative pages, something joyous and real that takes nothing for granted by sheer virtue of the fact that Sally Cronin has called them by name. In addressing the natural world, celebrating pets, seasons of the year, and random thoughts, Cronin speaks to the reader conversationally in such a manner that told me I’d revisit the pages. Her flash fiction, speculative fiction, and short stories are vignettes to savor—all told, this book is a work of art at its finest.

All praise to author Sally Cronin, who has earned a constant and significant place in the blogging world by selflessly serving as the fulcrum of focus for so very many. That she has stepped forth by assembling and publishing this collection of letters has gifted us all with the awe-striking opportunity to see a writer’s career shine at its brightest. 

Thanks for dropping by and look forward to hearing from you with your choice of book and the version that you require…Kindle or Epub to sally.cronin@moyhill.com and Happy Christmas