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


There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.

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

Zoe – Looking to the Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sandra gasped and nodded her head in bemused agreement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.

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

Yves – Be careful what you wish for!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.

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

Xenia – Beloved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My two beloved Xenias…..

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.

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

Walter – Lost and Alone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smorgasbord Short Stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? – Usher -Taking things for granted by Sally Cronin


There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.

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

Usher – Taking things for granted

Usher Matthews was a good looking man. Tall, with jet black hair inherited from his Italian grandfather, he could charm the birds out of the trees… or out of a nightclub and into the back of his car which was as flash as he was. The life and soul of any party, he would splash the cash and whilst the fairer sex adored him, males clustered around him on the off chance some of his luck with the girls might rub off.

He had fallen into the estate agency business through sheer luck when he left school. His best friend’s father owned several offices in the surrounding county and he offered Usher the opportunity to join the firm along with his son as a trainee. His friend soon discovered that he was unable to come out from under his friend’s shadow, leaving to join the army, but Usher was born for the job. He worked his way up to branch manager in an exclusive area by his mid-twenties, and as a salesman he excelled. Sometimes his unsuspecting clients would wonder why they ended up with the house they did. Good old Usher always popped round and reinforced all the positives about the property they might have overlooked even when the back wall of the house subsided.

Usher rarely took any of his expanding group of acquaintances home to the modest terrace house where he was brought up. To be honest, his parents, who were quite shy and retiring, had no idea how they had produced this charismatic son of theirs. His father privately wondered if he had not been switched at birth; especially on the rare occasion he joined Usher down the pub for a pint. He would sit there quietly sipping his beer and watch as people gathered to bask in the radiance that emanated from his offspring.

More and more he refused his son’s infrequent invitations. Eventually he and his equally mystified wife sold their home and moved to Bognor Regis to retire. Usher barely noticed their departure and would phone once in a while and threaten to come down for a weekend. His parents soon realised that these promises were empty, resigning themselves to the fact that their son was far too involved in his own life to be bothered about them.

Whilst apparently an open book as far as the world was concerned, there were a couple of things that Usher liked to conceal from people. One was his pathological fear of snakes that did not enhance his macho and gym-toned public persona. At five years old his well-meaning parents had bought him a Jack-in-the box type toy for his birthday. He had screamed like a girl when a two foot and very life-like banded snake had launched itself at him from the stupid thing.

The other secret was his little gambling habit. He did love those horses but unfortunately they did not love him. This had not been too bad when property was selling like hotcakes, but with the downturn, his commission was as extinct as a Dodo. This little matter was resolved by the charm offensive, seduction and marriage to Rebecca, the daughter of a multi-millionaire retailer who gave them a rather nice cash settlement on their wedding day. Just in time, as recently the account with his bookie had plummeted deeply into the red. Their frequent telephone conversations had become downright hostile.

Apart from the gambling there were also some other side activities that Usher kept from his wife who would look at him adoringly when he walked through the door each evening. She seemed to accept that he needed to work late a couple of evenings a week, taking potential clients to dinner or showing properties in the longer summer evenings. He was careful to make sure that he didn’t bring home evidence of his dalliances, thinking himself rather clever at having his cake and eating it.

His wife was pretty enough he supposed, but he also thought she was not very bright. He did however appreciate the generous monthly allowance that her father paid into his daughter’s bank account which he offered to manage for her. She had agreed readily enough, and to his knowledge never bothered to check her bank balance. Usher decided to do a little mining into the account and gradually syphoned off thousands of pounds to cover his debts over the next few months. To celebrate he suggested that he and Rebecca head off to Thailand for a second honeymoon.

They stayed at the best hotel close to the sandy white beach where the calm waters invited the visitors in for swimming and water sports. For the more adventurous, deep sea snorkeling was on offer, and surprisingly the normally reserved Rebecca, took to the activity like a duck to water. She headed off with one of the undersea guides every day for several hours returning exhausted and full praise for her guide’s patient tutelage.

Usher was a little miffed if he was honest at not being the centre of attention. He got a bit bored lying by the pool and sipping a selection of exotic drinks off the cocktail menu. He spent some time flirting with some of the younger bikini clad sun worshippers; knowing that he would be unlikely to get away with anything more in these restricted confines.

At the start of the second week Rebecca suggested that he might come with her out to a small reef just a five minute swim off shore. Taken by surprise by her rather seductive smile and the sight of her now bronzed body in her bikini he nodded his agreement. He donned his mask and after some tips from Rebecca on how to breathe and dive with his apparatus, they headed away from the beach.

He had to admit it was pretty stunning seeing all the brightly coloured fish and coral life and he relaxed into the adventure. Suddenly, his wife appeared right in front of him with her hand behind her back. She gestured to him to rise to the surface.

They both removed their masks and as the warm water lapped around his neck he saw Rebecca’s gloved hand reach out towards him rapidly. He felt an excruciating pain in his neck and looked down to see the brightly coloured, writhing body of a snake. As his vision blurred he screamed like a girl and stared at his wife treading water calmly.

As his eyes met Rebecca’s cold and steady gaze, she mouthed just one word.

‘Surprise.’

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Smorgasbord Short Stories Rewind– What’s in a Name? – Theresa – At the Checkout by Sally Cronin


There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.

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

Theresa – The Checkout

‘Come on let’s whip into that lane over there.’

‘No, I am fine here, look the line is moving already.’

‘Are you kidding me?’ He glared at her in frustration. ‘We are going to be here till Christmas at this rate and the game starts in twenty minutes.’

She shrugged her shoulders. ‘It’s only football for goodness sake, just be patient.’

‘Patient, patient!’ Hands in pockets he made a face.

‘I came shopping with you didn’t I? He put a hand on her shoulder.

‘Come on Theresa, please we only have three items and that line is much shorter.’

She shrugged his hand off and took a deep breath.

‘She doesn’t like me.’

‘Who doesn’t like you?’

‘The woman in that checkout.’

‘Excuse me!’ He looked at her in disbelief. ‘What are you talking about?’

I have been through that checkout several times when I was in a hurry and each time she has made rude comments.’

‘Love, you’re losing it babe, big time.’ She glared at him.

‘Okay last time I went through that checkout with a pizza and ice-cream; she said that she could see why I was fat.’

‘You must have imagined it doll.’ Laughingly he grabbed her waist fondly. ‘I love every inch of you and you are not fat just cuddly.’

‘Alright, I’ll prove it to you.’ She turned and stomped off to the now empty check-out and waved the first item, which happened to be a packet of fish fingers, under the scanner.

A slightly metallic female voice spat out of the speaker. ‘Oh my, still picking the fat options I see.’

Theresa turned to her husband and gave him a glare…. ‘Well, do you believe me now?’

‘It must be a wind up… Candid Camera or one of those stupid programmes. Put another item through.’

Theresa put the two other items under the scanner one by one. The voice smugly pronounced. ‘That will be four pounds and eleven pence and half a stone madam.’

Fuming Theresa put her debit card into the reader and completed the transaction. She threw the offending items into her bag for life.

‘Okay Theresa let me have a go.’ Her husband picked up some gum from the stand next to the checkout and passed it under the scanner.

‘Hello handsome,’ spoke a silky sexy voice. ‘What are you doing for the rest of my life?’

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Smorgasbord Short Stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? – Sonia – In Search of Prince Charming by Sally Cronin


There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.

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

Sonia – In search of Prince Charming.

Sonia looked through the lead glass window of her bedroom, and watched as her three brothers disappeared into the distant forest. The dark trees swallowed them in an instant, and closing her eyes she imagined she was beside them; riding Anica her white filly. How she loved the trails through the dark woods that suddenly opened into sun dappled glades of wild flowers and mushrooms. But her father had banned her from accompanying her carefree brothers, decreeing that it was time at seventeen to adopt a more ladylike and regal demeanour.

Tears filled her eyes at the memory of her last discussion with her father this morning; standing before him in the cold and intimidating throne room.

‘Sonia my child,’ her father scratched his balding head. ‘It is time to forget childish ways and prepare yourself for your marriage to Prince Aleksander on New Year’s Eve.’ Glaring at her from beneath his bushy eyebrows he continued, ‘I will not listen to your complaining and disobedience any longer; is that understood?’

He contemplated his only daughter, and remembered his wife’s wise words on how to deal with their wilful youngest child.

‘You must remember that the security of our kingdom depends on an advantageous union with all of our neighbours. Your brothers are promised to princesses on three corners of our realm, and when you marry the heir to Pokova to the north, we will have peace and prosperity for the future.’

He sighed and steeled his heart as watched her crestfallen beautiful face. ‘Your mother and I did not meet until our wedding day and we have had a most happy union, being also blessed with you and your brothers. We are royalty, and arranged marriages are as much part of our lives as your silk dresses and other privileges’.

Sonia bit her lip and silenced her response. She had been attempting to persuade her parents for the last two months that she could not marry a man that she had not met, and had not even seen a likeness of. Her shoulders slumped wearily and she curtsied to her father, asking permission to go to her rooms. The king waved her away in frustration and watched as the dispirited girl left the chamber.

Petar, Jakov and Henrik would be gone for several hours and she resigned herself to sitting in the window alcove and watching the palace staff going about their preparations for the grand feast tomorrow. The courtyard and kitchen gardens were bustling with activity. The cook and his assistants were unpacking tradesmen’s carts and gathering vegetables to accompany roast venison and turkey. In the distance she could see the giant farm horses pulling the cart holding the majestic tree harvested from the dense forest and destined for the ballroom.

Prince Aleksander was due to arrive today, but protocol demanded that she wait until she was formally introduced to him at the ball. Her brothers had met him at the annual boar hunt in the summer, and she had pestered them to tell her more about him.

Unfortunately her three brothers loved to tease her and refused to talk about the prince at all; making faces at each other in merriment. A thought struck her and she gasped at the possible reason for their silence. He must be ugly, she thought, or perhaps stupid or had a nasty temper. Her nervousness only increased and she clasped her arms around her body in despair.

As she looked out of the window a flash of movement caught her eye. From the cobbled stable yard came a tall blonde man leading a jet black stallion. He was wearing a loose white shirt and leather jerkin, but it didn’t conceal the fact that he was very muscular as well as handsome. Feeling a little flushed, Sonia wondered why she had not seen this groom before. She also wondered why she had not heard the normally observant chamber maids gossiping about the new addition to the staff.

She watched as the man and horse moved gracefully down to the paddock, and she opened the window so that she could see more clearly. The cold winter air rushed into the room but pulling her shawl closer about her shoulders, she settled down to watch the proceedings.

The man released the horse and moved to the centre of the round paddock. He flicked a fine whip onto the sawdust behind the horse, which responded by trotting around the outside of the ring… Another flick and the stallion turned and moved in the opposite direction. The elegance of both man and beast were magnificent; totally absorbing Sonia in the performance. After several minutes, the man dropped the whip to his side and turned to walk towards the gate… The horse stopped in his tracks and followed, gently nudging his shoulder to gain the groom’s attention. At the gate the man pivoted and placed his right hand at the top of horse’s forehead; leaning into him. They stood for several minutes; man and beast as one.

Sonia caught her breath and stuck her head out of the window, better to capture this intense and beautiful moment. The groom turned away from the horse and as he did so he looked up. He saw Sonia inelegantly hanging out of the window and smiled; even from this distance it was devastatingly effective. She ducked back inside and slammed the window shut. The impudence of the man, and to crown it all, this was just the sort of behaviour that her father had been so critical of.

That evening her mother knocked on her door and ushered through two maids with laden trays. She had also brought the palace seamstress who carried a linen wrapped garment over her arm. Sonia loved her beautiful mother and hoped that over their supper she might be able to win her over to her side.

She had heard her brothers arrive back an hour earlier, clattering into the courtyard and calling for Anton the head groom to come and collect their horses.. As they had noisily run up the steps to the main entrance of the palace, Sonia had been tempted to peek out of the window to see if Anton had anyone assisting him. But she had dismissed this foolishness. Tomorrow she would be betrothed, and married on New Year’s Eve. She must put all these romantic notions from her mind. However, part of her wished with all her might that she could be just a simple maid, who could dream of love and marriage with that devastatingly attractive but unobtainable man.

Her mother eventually left Sonia’s chambers having remained resolute on the upcoming marriage. But she had smiled at her daughter’s determined efforts, whilst reminding her that she had a royal duty to obey her father. Hanging on the front of the door to Sonia’s dressing room was a very beautiful pale blue dress. The ball gown was edged with matching satin and violet flowers draped across one shoulder down to the slender waist. However, even this sensational garment did little to lift her mood as she contemplated how tomorrow would change her life forever.

Early the next evening the guests for the Christmas ball began to arrive in their carriages. Whilst waiting to dress, Sonia kept watch from the window hoping to catch sight of the groom as the horses were led away. Her maid assisted her into her ball gown, and gently tucked in an odd strand of jet black hair which had drifted from the elaborate upswept style. Sonia stood in front of her full length mirror and despite appreciating that she looked every inch a princess, she felt coldness deep in her heart. She had to face the fact that she would never know the kind of love that other girls were privileged to receive. Her father had won, and very soon she would be leaving the palace and going to a strange land, far away from those who had loved and protected her until this moment.

Sonia carefully descended the red carpet of the curved staircase, eyeing the clusters of guests in an attempt to identify the man she was going to be spending the rest of her life with. Most were known to her, and as she moved between them they smiled and bowed. She saw that her father was at the end of the throne room with her mother, three brothers and a tall stranger with his back to the room.

Her father looked up and saw her, beckoning her over and touching the stranger on his shoulder. As Sonia reached the group, the elegantly dressed man turned and she looked into startling blue eyes. She gasped as she recognised the shaggy blonde hair and the broad shoulders, blushing to the roots of her hair.

‘Your Highness, may I introduce my daughter, Princess Sonia.’

Her father took her right hand and placed it into the large palm of the man in front of her.

‘Sonia meet your betrothed, Prince Aleksander of Pokova.’

Breathlessly Sonia looked down at his broad and sun-tanned hand.

A deep voice broke into her scattered thoughts. ‘I believe we have glimpsed each other before Princess.’

She looked up into his smiling face and her lips trembled as she fumbled for a response.

Sensing her discomfort, Prince Aleksander continued, ‘ I was working with Kyros this afternoon when you noticed us. He is my betrothal present to you and I hope you will ride him back to Pokova with me after our wedding.’

Sonia’s beaming smile and gentle squeeze of his hand gave him his answer, and as he led her off to the dance floor for their first waltz, she heard her father behind her.
‘Somebody get me a brandy… A very large brandy’.

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection

Nov 21, 2018 Colleen Chesebro rated it five stars it was amazing

This second volume continues where the first book left off. The first story begins with “Kenneth,” and the rest of the stories flow through to “Zoe.” The author includes a bonus story at the end called, “The Village Square.”

Prepare to be transported into the lives of the many personalities, Sally Cronin creates, inspired by a first name only. Each person’s name has a different tale to tell or life to lead, all carefully constructed to draw the reader into their experiences. Linking the stories together are the themes of romance and family. Need I say more?

I’m a great fan of short stories and find them some of the most satisfying bedtime reading there is. But, this book offered more than that. Sally Cronin writes in such a way that she evokes a range of emotions from the reader.

On numerous occasions, I couldn’t help but cheer or cry for several of the characters. The writing touched my heart.

Many of the stories are filled with plenty of sudden developments that will leave you guessing. Some, I couldn’t even attempt to guess the ending, which I found to be a special gift to the reader. Each story is character driven, and the author skillfully reels you in until a satisfying end is reached.

My favorite story was called, Queenie, who after the death of her husband, finds her way forward by taking on a project that matters most to her – her granddaughter’s happiness. Queenie’s granddaughter, Penny, is a psychiatrist and unmarried.

Nana (Queenie) decides that she must help her find a husband before she is called to her husband’s side in the great beyond. Of course, there are plenty of shenanigans that take place, but the underlying truths that unfold touched me deeply. This is the author’s style – she allows you to feel her stories.

The “What’s in a Name,” two book series, has proved to be one of my most favorite short story compilations. I’ll reread these stories, and greet them like long lost friends. Believe me; there’s something here for everyone!

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

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

 

Smorgasbord Short Stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? – Rosemary – The First Date by Sally Cronin


There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.

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

Rosemary – The First Date

Rosemary viewed her face in the mirror. She sighed as she observed the crow’s feet at the corner of her eyes. They said it was a sign of character and a sunny personality; crease lines from a life of laughter. That could be said to be true of most of the last twenty-five years of marriage to Malcolm. Rarely did a day go by that he had not teased her into a smile or offered up a pun that made her laugh despite the corniness.

It was not just the laughter that they had shared, but passions for theatre, the cinema, books and exotic foods. There was so little that they disagreed about over the years. Rosemary struggled to remember any real arguments that had intruded into the happiness that wrapped around them like a comforting blanket.

They had travelled far and wide across all the continents taking advantage of his generous salary and the occasional business trips that she accompanied him on. The scents and sights of Africa and India had thrilled them as they held hands and watched glorious sunsets. The rugged terrain of Alaska and the Rockies had tested their stamina and the deep blue colour of the Pacific Ocean had beguiled them. A storehouse of experiences all accompanied by love and laughter and a sense that it would last forever. They had never had children unfortunately, but Malcolm claimed to be happy to just have her all to himself.

But suddenly all that love and laughter was gone and the years together faded into wisps of elusive memory as each day passed. Those friends that she had confided in about her grief and emptiness had offered advice and support for the last six months. They all assured her that was time to face the future head on. She needed to accept that she could not wallow in this self-pity and denial any longer.

She had laughed to herself when she first saw the website that Molly had pointed out to her one morning as they shared coffee in the village just after Christmas. An online dating agency that proudly boasted a near perfect record of finding your soul mate; that one person meant just for you. Molly had been on the site for nearly a year and she had certainly pushed the boundaries of those claims to the limit; she had kept their small circle of mutual friends very entertained with her experiences.

She had brought up the site on her laptop and Rosemary had sat beside her, browsing the various enticements offered by the men posting. Her eye had been immediately drawn to one post that Molly had marked. She read the words to herself, and then again aloud to fully understand what she was seeing. She had believed for so long that Malcolm was the one and only perfect match for her that she was shocked and intrigued at the same time.

Single, tall, fun loving and handsome 55 years old seeks long term relationship with attractive female 30 – 45 years old. Must have a good sense of humour, enjoy the theatre, cinema, fine dining and travelling to exotic locations. Located in London but willing to travel to meet. Box Number 1596

She had looked over at Molly to share her amazement and found her staring down at her hands cupped around the coffee cup.

‘Is something the matter Molly?’ Rosemary was unused to Molly being subdued and quiet.

Slowly Molly looked up from her cappuccino and smiled fondly at her friend.

‘I was going to meet this guy for dinner but changed my mind when I saw him sitting at the table in the restaurant,” she paused and looked through the cafe window as if trying to choose her words carefully. “I know how much you still love Malcolm, but I think that it is time that you faced the reality of your situation and look to the future.’

Molly tapped the advertisement on the screen with her immaculately manicured nail. ‘You need to arrange to meet this man and confront your fear of losing everything you have treasured from the past.’

The two women parted company outside the cafe and Rosemary drove home to the empty house that she had shared with Malcolm for so many years. It was far too big for the two of them especially when he was away on business trips alone, leaving her for several weeks at a time. She had hoped at one point to fill the rooms with children’s laughter, but somehow it was never the right time for one reason or another.

Rosemary knew that Molly was right. She could no longer hide away from life; she needed to face the future whatever it held. She rang her friend’s mobile number and asked her to come over the next morning to help her upload a profile to the site to enable her to respond to the advertisement.

So here she was, getting ready for her first date in over twenty-five years with a man called Andrew. When her own profile had been activated, she had replied to the box number in his advertisement and over the next week they had exchanged a number of emails via the site. Although he was eager to know more about her, Rosemary had been reticent to offer her personal email address, or too much information until she met him face to face.

She had changed her mind several times about what to wear for this first encounter, finally deciding to wear a new dress she had bought on a whim a few weeks ago. Malcolm had always insisted she looked perfect in pastel colours and this daring emerald green number would have certainly provoked some comment. She had also been to a new hairdresser this morning and requested a radical new look. Gone was the long brunette hair that Malcolm said suited her best; in its stead was a sleek blonde shoulder length bob.

Finally she stood in front of the long mirror in their bedroom and viewed the transformation. Rosemary took several moments to get used to the new image and then smiled as she decided that she liked it. Picking up a colourful floral scarf to put around her shoulders and grabbing her handbag, she walked down to the kitchen to order a taxi.

She deliberately arrived at the restaurant fifteen minutes early and was shown to a discreet table in the corner. Rosemary could not remember when she had been this nervous and sipped the water provided by the waiter when he left the two menus. She kept glancing at the door of the restaurant apprehensively. She knew that Andrew would have to ask directions to the table as he would not recognise her, particularly in the dimly lit room. On the table to the right of her place setting was a bulky envelope. Andrew in one of his recent emails had suggested that she might bring some photographs of the places that she had visited on her trips and that he would do likewise. A talking point to break the ice.

Closing her eyes she took a deep breath and tried to calm her nerves. When she opened them again she saw a tall, good looking man standing in the entrance to the dining area. He managed to get the attention of one of the waiters who then pointed out Rosemary sitting in the corner table. He walked confidently across with a warm smile on his face until he stood in front of her. Andrew looked into her eyes and he gasped.

‘Hello Malcolm.’ Rosemary attempted to keep the quiver out of her voice. ‘I see that you are not at the New York head office after all this week. Please sit down as we have a great deal to talk about.’

Taken aback by his usually complacent wife’s new look and the rigid set of her mouth, he complied ungraciously; flinging his coat on the back of one of the chairs. She pushed the envelope across the table towards him and as his fingers closed over the bulky package she smiled sadly.

‘Perhaps we should start by discussing these divorce papers.’

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection

Nov 21, 2018 Colleen Chesebro rated it five stars it was amazing

This second volume continues where the first book left off. The first story begins with “Kenneth,” and the rest of the stories flow through to “Zoe.” The author includes a bonus story at the end called, “The Village Square.”

Prepare to be transported into the lives of the many personalities, Sally Cronin creates, inspired by a first name only. Each person’s name has a different tale to tell or life to lead, all carefully constructed to draw the reader into their experiences. Linking the stories together are the themes of romance and family. Need I say more?

I’m a great fan of short stories and find them some of the most satisfying bedtime reading there is. But, this book offered more than that. Sally Cronin writes in such a way that she evokes a range of emotions from the reader.

On numerous occasions, I couldn’t help but cheer or cry for several of the characters. The writing touched my heart.

Many of the stories are filled with plenty of sudden developments that will leave you guessing. Some, I couldn’t even attempt to guess the ending, which I found to be a special gift to the reader. Each story is character driven, and the author skillfully reels you in until a satisfying end is reached.

My favorite story was called, Queenie, who after the death of her husband, finds her way forward by taking on a project that matters most to her – her granddaughter’s happiness. Queenie’s granddaughter, Penny, is a psychiatrist and unmarried.

Nana (Queenie) decides that she must help her find a husband before she is called to her husband’s side in the great beyond. Of course, there are plenty of shenanigans that take place, but the underlying truths that unfold touched me deeply. This is the author’s style – she allows you to feel her stories.

The “What’s in a Name,” two book series, has proved to be one of my most favorite short story compilations. I’ll reread these stories, and greet them like long lost friends. Believe me; there’s something here for everyone! 

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

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

 

Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name? – Patrick – Love in a Time of War by Sally Cronin


At the weekends I will be sharing some of the stories from my collections and also new stories that have not been published before… I hope you will enjoy.

Patrick – Love in a Time of War

The first time Patrick Walsh saw her, was as he wended his way slowly down the hill between the slow moving trucks on his motorbike. The road was lined with women and old men who were handing out hastily cut sandwiches and mugs of tea to the men in the trucks, whose outstretched hands gratefully received these simple acts of kindness. It was clear from the their faces that they found the peaceful summer skies overhead, and clamour of women’s voices, a much needed reminder of home and safety.

He knew where they had come from, as for the last six days he had been flying over them as they had scrambled into small boats to be ferried out to the larger naval vessels waiting to take them to safety. He and his squadron had been a part of the massive air defence operation over the coast of Northern France. Thousands of soldiers had been pouring off the beaches having gathered over the last few days from the surrounding countryside; exposed and being attacked by superior German forces.

On the last run today his spitfire had received a direct hit to the cockpit from a persistent Messerschmitt Me 109; luckily missing his head by inches apart from a cut over his eye, earning him a few hours respite. His plane would be ready to fly first thing in the morning. The ground crews at all fighter squadrons were working around the clock to get pilots back in the air until the evacuation from the French coast was complete.

As he carefully maneuvered between the trucks he responded to the shouts from the men above him with a small wave. He knew that their good natured jibes were aimed at his uniform and the wings that it displayed, and that their friendly ribbing was their way of showing gratitude. He decided that it would be easier to wait until the convoy had passed to continue into the village square. He dismounted, standing by the hedge to watch the villagers as they persisted in their need to comfort these dispirited men with tea and offerings of food.

She stood out from the crowd of women. Tall with long red hair tied back with an emerald green ribbon, she was dressed in overalls and wore heavy boots. She had a natural elegance as she darted between an older woman, holding a tea tray piled with jam sandwiches, and the trucks. Despite the men’s exhaustion, eager hands grasped the food, winking and flirting with the prettiest thing they had seen for a long while.

Patrick leaned back against the saddle of his bike and let himself enjoy this brief moment of humanity that was so rare today. He had been flying since the first weeks of the war and his squadron had suffered huge losses; particularly in the last few weeks as they had provided air cover for the retreating British forces.

They had been warned that far worse was to come as the enemy amassed both fighters and bombers for an all-out offensive on the country. Having already lost many friends, Patrick knew that it was only a matter of time before he became a statistic.

Some of his fellow pilots and aircrew decided that they would live as hard as they fought. There were plenty of pretty girls around the station that were delighted to dance the night away and bring some laughter and sometimes love into the young men’s lives. He had seen the results of these whirlwind romances at the Saturday night dance in the village hall. As the airmen arrived in an ever changing group of young men, expectant faces would be watching the door and it was not unusual to see a girl being led away in tears by her friends.

Patrick loved to dance but gently refused the invitations to take to the floor and over the last few months he had become regarded as something of a misery. His friends gave up on their attempts to persuade him that he should live for the moment, and with a wry smile he listened to the chat up lines that were guaranteed to pull the heartstrings of a pretty girl.

But now as he watched the red head flying back and forth and smiling up at the men in the trucks, he felt an overwhelming urge to hold her in his arms and waltz around a dance floor. He shook his head and reminded himself that it would only lead to heartbreak for her, and he couldn’t bear the thought of those beautiful green eyes filling with tears.

An hour later the last truck in the convoy disappeared through the village square and out of sight. There would be more coming through from the coast, and Patrick watched as the crowd of villagers gathered up their cups and trays and disappeared back into their homes. They would prepare more from their meagre rations for the next wave of returning soldiers and be waiting for them by the roadside. He remained by the hedge until the red headed girl had linked arms with her mother and entered her house before riding down to the square.

‘Patrick, are you awake my friend?’ The voice of his Polish friend Jakub intruded into his daydream about dancing with his stunning red head.

‘Just about, do you want to go to the Black Swan for a beer? He sat up and rested his head in his hands and tried to bring his mind back to reality.

He looked around the Nissen hut that was their home, taking in the four empty cots that waited for the new arrivals. They would be mostly teenagers with only a few hours flying solo, and none of them in combat. He was only twenty-four, but he felt like an old man compared to the fresh faced and eager boys that would come through that door tomorrow.

It was now August and the skies were filled with formations of enemy bombers most nights. His plane was grounded again having the undercarriage repaired after a problem on his last landing. His mechanic said he had the ‘luck of the Irish’. Patrick was well aware that he was now one of only a handful of pilots remaining from the original group a year ago; he knew that his luck was bound to run out sooner or later.

There was just one thing that he needed tonight, and that was the sight of Red, and she would be helping out her dad behind the bar at the Black Swan.

Two hours later he and Jakub sat quietly at a corner table with their glasses of beer. One beer was the limit as both of them would be back in the skies tomorrow; a cockpit was no place for lack of concentration.

Jakub was married and expecting his first child and was happy to sit quietly in the warm and welcoming atmosphere thinking about his next leave in a week’s time. Patrick however spent his time watching Red as she served customers and laughed with the regulars. That laugh was in his head and was added to all the other pieces of her that he carried with him as he flew missions. The thought of those green eyes helped dispel the voice of the other constant companion that was by his side each time he buckled himself into the cockpit. Her presence in his heart and mind had helped him control his fear; bringing the realisation that he was experiencing the very emotion he had desperately wanted to avoid; he was in love.

Over the weeks since that first day on the hill, there had been moments in the pub, when he would catch her eye and they would both smile then look away. By sitting at the bar when he popped in alone, he had gathered more information about her. She wasn’t called Red of course, but Georgina and Georgie to her friends. She didn’t seem to have a boyfriend amongst the regulars who frequented the pub, and one day he overheard that she had been engaged to a soldier who had been killed within weeks of the war starting.

He would watch as she gently refused all attempts by eager young warriors to take her on a date, realising that her heart had already been broken. This reinforced his resolve not to give in to the growing need to tell Georgie of his feelings; convinced it would only bring her further sorrow.

Through the rest of the summer months missions intensified, with both daylight and night bombing raids on the docks and major cities; almost bringing the country to its knees. In the October the tide began to turn, but not without the loss of thousands of fighter pilots and bomber air crews. It was then that Patrick’s luck ran out as he limped home with a badly damaged plane and shrapnel injuries in his chest and arm.

Patrick fought to stay conscious as the plane shuddered and bucked as he flew using his one good hand. Blood from a head wound almost blinded him, but as he saw the runway rushing up to meet him, he managed to bring the nose around and head for the grass to the side. The last thing that he thought about as the world went black was Georgie’s face and laugh.

A month later Patrick got one of the pilots to drop him off at the Black Swan and he walked into the early evening quiet of the bar. He had just received his new orders on his return from the hospital. From Monday he would be moving into an intelligence role where his experience in combat could be put to use. He was making a good recovery, but the extensive injuries to his arm meant the end of his flying career; now he would be ensuring that he kept others safe in the skies. In one way he felt that he was abandoning those that he regarded as family in their close knit squadron, but he also knew that it offered him the opportunity to fulfil a dream that was equally important.

Georgie was polishing glasses and looked up to greet the new customer with her usual smile but instead she took a deep breath. As he moved closer Patrick could see that there were tears in her glorious green eyes. Georgie stepped out from behind the bar and walked towards him, glancing at his arm in its sling and the scar that was etched into his forehead. She stood in front of him and neither spoke for a moment until he reached out his good arm to take her hand.

‘Is there any chance that you might let me take you to the dance tomorrow night?’

She smiled through her tears. ‘How are you going to be able to dance with only one free arm?’

He pulled her into him and looked down at the lips that he had imagined kissing so many times in the last few months.

‘Don’t worry Red… I’ll manage just fine.’

©Sally Cronin 2015

I hope that you have enjoyed this story and as always look forward to your feedback. Thanks Sally

My latest short story collection is Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet.

About the collection

Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet is a collection of short stories with scattered poetry, reflecting the complexities of life, love and loss.

The stories in the collection dip into the lives of men and women who are faced with an ‘event’ that is challenging and in some cases life changing.

Even something as straightforward as grocery shopping online can be frustrating, and a DNA test produces surprise results, the past reaches out to embrace the present, and a gardening assistant is an unlikely grief counsellor. Romance is not always for the faint-hearted and you are never too old for love. Random acts of kindness have far reaching consequences and some people discover they are on a lucky streak. There are those watching over us who wish us well, and those in our lives who wish us harm.

One of the recent reviews for the collection

Jan 13, 2021 Jaye Marie rated it Five Stars

Reading Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries, Sally Cronin’s new book, was time well spent, it was a breath of fresh air in a what had become a very stale world.

Each beautifully written story and the interwoven poems reminded me of what life is really like, far away from all the sadness and disappointments that 2020 has dumped on us all.
I loved all the stories, but I know that some of them will be remembered better than the others. These are the ones that struck a familiar chord with me personally.

Like The Wedding Day, with its message of hope. The sadness of Long-Lost Love and the Gaffer Tape, so satisfying! My favourite must be The Nanny, I needed tissues for this one!

I can thoroughly recommend this book as the perfect escape from life and all of its problems!

Read the reviews and buy the collection for £3.50: Amazon UK – And $4.65 : Amazon US –  More reviews : Goodreads

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2021

Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name? – Theresa – At the Checkout by Sally Cronin


At the weekends I will be sharing some of the stories from my collections and also new stories that have not been published before… I hope you will enjoy.

Theresa – The Checkout

‘Come on let’s whip into that lane over there.’

‘No, I am fine here, look the line is moving already.’

‘Are you kidding me?’ He glared at her in frustration. ‘We are going to be here till Christmas at this rate and the game starts in twenty minutes.’

She shrugged her shoulders. ‘It’s only football for goodness sake, just be patient.’

‘Patient, patient!’ Hands in pockets he made a face.

‘I came shopping with you didn’t I? He put a hand on her shoulder.

‘Come on Theresa, please we only have three items and that line is much shorter.’

She shrugged his hand off and took a deep breath.

‘She doesn’t like me.’

‘Who doesn’t like you?’

‘The woman in that checkout.’

‘Excuse me!’ He looked at her in disbelief. ‘What are you talking about?’

I have been through that checkout several times when I was in a hurry and each time she has made rude comments.’

‘Love, you’re losing it babe, big time.’ She glared at him.

‘Okay last time I went through that checkout with a pizza and ice-cream; she said that she could see why I was fat.’

‘You must have imagined it doll.’ Laughingly he grabbed her waist fondly. ‘I love every inch of you and you are not fat just cuddly.’

‘Alright, I’ll prove it to you.’ She turned and stomped off to the now empty check-out and waved the first item, which happened to be a packet of fish fingers, under the scanner.

A slightly metallic female voice spat out of the speaker. ‘Oh my, still picking the fat options I see.’

Theresa turned to her husband and gave him a glare…. ‘Well, do you believe me now?’

‘It must be a wind up… Candid Camera or one of those stupid programmes. Put another item through.’

Theresa put the two other items under the scanner one by one. The voice smugly pronounced. ‘That will be four pounds and eleven pence and half a stone madam.’

Fuming Theresa put her debit card into the reader and completed the transaction. She threw the offending items into her bag for life.

‘Okay Theresa let me have a go.’ Her husband picked up some gum from the stand next to the checkout and passed it under the scanner.

‘Hello handsome,’ spoke a silky sexy voice. ‘What are you doing for the rest of my life?’

©Sally Cronin 2015

I hope that you have enjoyed this story and as always look forward to your feedback. Thanks Sally

My latest short story collection is Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet.

About the collection

Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet is a collection of short stories with scattered poetry, reflecting the complexities of life, love and loss.

The stories in the collection dip into the lives of men and women who are faced with an ‘event’ that is challenging and in some cases life changing.

Even something as straightforward as grocery shopping online can be frustrating, and a DNA test produces surprise results, the past reaches out to embrace the present, and a gardening assistant is an unlikely grief counsellor. Romance is not always for the faint-hearted and you are never too old for love. Random acts of kindness have far reaching consequences and some people discover they are on a lucky streak. There are those watching over us who wish us well, and those in our lives who wish us harm.

One of the recent reviews for the collection

Jan 10, 2021 John W. Howell rated it Five Stars

I always enjoy a good short story and have been known to write a few myself. I guess you would call me a particular guy when it comes to short stories. I generally am turned off if I can detect that there will be some cute, contrived ending designed to bring the reader to tears. You know the type. Husband and wife fall on hard times. She sells her hair to buy him a watch fob. He sells his watch to buy her a comb. Wait, that is an O’Henry story. Well, anyway, you get the idea. The stories in Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries has no such contrived circumstances.

These are stories from the heart. They are about some people you come to care about what happens to them. There are also stories of people who you get the feeling need a karma hit. In each case, Ms. Cronin does an excellent job developing circumstances that are just right for both.

I liked the fact that the book has convenient headings. In this way, the stories are all grouped into Technology, Connections, Winning Streak, Animal Magic, and Falling in and Out of Love. These headings alone will give the reader an idea of the kinds of stories in the book. Suffice it to say, there is a wide range of stories that should appeal to everyone.

I thoroughly enjoyed these stories and highly recommend the book to anyone who enjoys reading well-written work.

Read the reviews and buy the collection for £3.50: Amazon UK – And $4.65 : Amazon US –  More reviews : Goodreads

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2021