Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s In a Name? – Kenneth – A Love for Life by Sally Cronin


Welcome to the first of this weekend’s short stories… I am now moving on to What’s in a Name.. Volume Two. The first story begins with ‘K’.

Kenneth – A Love for Life

Kenneth Fitzgerald looked across the crowded ballroom at the woman that he had loved for a lifetime.

Georgina was surrounded by attentive male admirers, and was holding court as she always did, with elegance and grace. He watched as she tilted her head to one side to listen to the young man sitting next to her, cupping her hand delicately behind her ear, to better hear his comments over the sound of the band.

The handsome companion was her grandson Timothy, and even at first glance you could see the resemblance; the same blue eyes, golden hair colour and a long refined nose. Georgie was 90 years old and yet her beauty was undiminished. Kenneth knew he was biased. He remembered his stunned reaction to meeting her for the first time over 70 years ago, in this same ballroom on New Year’s Eve 1935.

Georgina Crowley was the daughter of a millionaire financier who had managed to survive the Wall Street crash in 1929, by converting his wealth in previous years, into a renowned art collection. Malcolm Crowley was an astute businessman and had never squandered his money on the trappings of wealth. He had also salted away cash and jewellery on his various international travels, providing a comfortable buffer for the family, and those that had worked for him loyally over the last thirty years.

He was as canny with his three children as he was with his wealth. His two sons had followed him into the firm after studying for business degrees, and Georgina had also been encouraged to go to college, where she was now training to be a teacher. Malcolm firmly believed that all his children should have skills that could support them, should the financial climate not improve significantly in his lifetime. That is not to say that his youngest child did not also enjoy the benefits of being part of a wealthy family. Georgina was known to have exquisite taste, and her slim figure was the perfect shape to model the latest fashions. To be fair, many of the designs were copied from the leading fashion magazines, and recreated on her treasured Singer sewing machine

Kenneth brought himself back to the present and felt his heart pounding in his chest. It was the same every year, when he remembered that first New Year’s Eve, when he had fallen madly in love at first sight with Georgina Crowley. It had not been a one-sided infatuation, and at that first touch of her delicate hand in his own, he had felt a tremor that caused him to look up into her face. Her pink lips had parted in surprise and her smile dazzled him.

They had danced all night circling the floor; perfectly matched in their love of the foxtrot and quickstep. The other partygoers had moved to one side to watch this golden couple as they seamlessly moved from one dance to another, and Malcolm Crowley paused in his discussions with a group of men, to watch his daughter’s delight in this young man’s embrace.

Kenneth had wanted to kiss those pink lips at midnight but was aware of the scrutiny from those around them. He had whispered in Georgina’s ear as they waltzed to the final tune of the old year.

‘Shall we slip away at midnight and find some moon and starlight?’

She had looked into his eyes and smiled, nodding her head in agreement.

As the clock struck midnight, Georgina rushed to her parents at their table and kissed and hugged them both. In the ensuing rush as the other guests did likewise, the two of them had slipped out of the large double doors at the end of the ballroom and Kenneth had guided her to his car parked along the drive. He grabbed a blanket from the back seat of the roadster and placed it around Georgina’s shoulders before helping her into the front seat. He raced around to the other side of the car and within minutes they were roaring down the hill from the house into the dark night.

Kenneth drove carefully as the road was slick with ice and he was aware that he was responsible for a very precious cargo. Although it was a cold night he knew just the place to take Georgina on this magical occasion. A spot high above the city, where the lights and sounds of New Year’s Eve would provide a backdrop for their first kiss.

He looked across at Georgina as she clasped the plaid blanket around her bare shoulders, and smiled at her obvious delight at this adventure. His eyes were only off the road for seconds, but it was still long enough for him to miss the broken down car around a curve in the road.

He regained consciousness and raised his hand to his forehead; it came away wet and sticky. He wiped blood from his eyes and tried to move his body. Finally he was able to push himself into a sitting position against the upturned roadster and he desperately looked for Georgina. The moon came out from behind a cloud and he took a sharp intake of breath as he saw her crumpled form by the rear bumper of the car. He crawled across and managed to pull her crushed and lifeless body into his arms… his heart was pounding in his chest and he tried to wake her by touching her face and calling her name. After several minutes he rested his head back against the car and he knew that she was gone.

‘Please, please do not take her … it is my fault and it should be me… take me… please take me and save her.’

On New Year’s Day, Georgie asked her youngest grandson to drive her to the cemetery. She came here often to visit her husband’s grave. Phillip had been a wonderful man and she had grown to love him during the long summer of 1942. They had twin sons born in 1944 but tragically Phillip had been killed in the last weeks of the war. He had been brought home and buried in the Crowley family plot close by her house and their sons. She still missed his loving kindness. However, she admitted to herself that it was a different kind of love to the one that has swept her off her feet that magical New Year’s Eve in 1935.

Whilst her grandson watched from the car, Georgina spent some minutes at Phillip’s monument. Then walking carefully, leaning on her stick, she moved down the icy path until she stopped before another gravestone. Tears gathered in her pale blue eyes as she read the inscription.

Kenneth Fitzgerald

Beloved son and brother.

1910 – 1935 Killed in an automobile accident.

It was 70 years ago, and yet every New Year’s Day, Georgie relived those dreadful first moments when she had woken in the hospital. She had a dreadful headache but thankfully didn’t seem to have any other major injuries. Her mother and father were sitting by her bedside and Malcolm gently took her hand in his. Her first words were asking for Kenneth, and she still remembered the look of anguish on her father’s face as he braced himself to tell her the news.

She touched the top of the headstone and smiled to herself. He had been there again last night at the family ball, watching from the shadows as he had done every year, and she had felt that same giddy feeling as that first New Year’s Eve. She suspected that this time however it was more likely that her medication was no longer effective in keeping her failing heart beating.

She felt a touch on her shoulder and looked up into the smiling face of her grandson.

‘Time to go Gran… It is getting cold and I need to get you back home.’

Georgie took his arm and they moved carefully up the path. She turned for one last look at Kenneth’s grave.

She whispered to herself. ‘Next year my love, next year we will dance again on New Year’s Eve.’

©Sally Cronin

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

My latest book, released on September 24th, Tales from the Irish Garden,has received some early reviews… Yeah..

About Tales from the Irish Garden

The queen of Magia and her court have fled their sun filled Spanish homeland and the palace beneath the magnolia tree. Arriving on the backs of geese and swans, they seek sanctuary in the magic garden of The Storyteller who welcomes them to the Emerald Island, a place where rain is almost a daily feature.

Grateful for their safe haven and the generosity of their host, the queen and her courtiers embrace their new surroundings with delight. As the seasons change throughout the year, they come into contact with many of the human and animal inhabitants of the garden and the surrounding forest, all of whom have a story to tell.

This is a magical fairy story infused with fantasy and romance, as well as opportunities for mischief in the company of goblins, witches and Lerpersians. Suitable for ages 10 to 100 years old…..

 Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tales-Irish-Garden-Sally-Cronin-ebook/dp/B07HMXTFKG

And Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Tales-Irish-Garden-Sally-Cronin-ebook/dp/B07HMXTFKG

Here is a selection of my other books… an amazing gif designed by Paul Andruss… thanks Paul

You can find details of all my books in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2018/

 

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Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name? – George – Playing Away from Home by Sally Cronin


This weekend I am sharing two more stories from What’s in a Name Volume One.. and it is the time of the letter ‘G’. This is the story of George who has been courting, where he should not have been courting!

George – Playing Away from Home by Sally Cronin

George Horsefield slowly pushed open the door of the garden shed and poked his head through the narrow opening. He slowly scanned the immediate vicinity to make sure that the dog who lived in the house behind him was not lying in wait. It was a motley small mongrel with sharp teeth and there had been a couple of occasions when those teeth had connected with his legs in a very unpleasant manner.

All seemed safe and George eased himself out onto the garden path that led to the wooden gate, but not before a quick glance behind him for a last look at his beloved. He and Mildred had been having a torrid affair throughout the summer months with secret assignations in her shed or his own. However recent events made them both aware, that for the time being, their trysts would have to come to an end.

Both structures had been cleared out, cleaned and prepared for the coming cold months. Lawnmowers had been taken apart and oiled after the final grass cutting of the year, and had been stored in one of the corners. The floors had been swept and mousetraps laid to protect the bags of seed stored on the top shelves. Old grain sacks had been pinned across the window to prevent the intrusion of any winter sunshine and the doors would be locked to prevent gale force winds from blowing them open; curtailing their delightful activities.

Mildred was sleeping peacefully, partially covered by the old plaid blanket that had kept them warm and protected their modesty should anyone enter the shed unexpectedly. George smiled to himself contentedly and could not help adding a little swagger to his walk down the path. No bad for an old codger he thought to himself as he poked his head out and checked the pavement for anyone who might know him.

The coast was clear, but he knew that any minute now, the mothers would be arriving to pick up their children from the primary school on the corner, and the area would become very busy. Hugging the hedge he moved carefully, lifting one uncooperative leg after another; muttering under his breath at the stiffness in his slightly bent knees. His earlier smugness at his athletic prowess began to fade as he struggled to cover the distance between Mildred’s house and his home. He had two garden lengths to go when disaster struck.

Ahead of him he saw the aforementioned dog sniffing her way along the pavement, lost in the scents that assailed her delicate nostrils. George knew from his previous encounters, that the monster would recognise his smell within the next few minutes; coming after him without mercy. He looked to the right and noticed that his next door neighbour’s gate was slightly ajar; with a gentle nudge he slipped rather ungracefully through the gap. He didn’t want to risk the dog following him so he pushed the barrier shut with his backside. Hearing a welcome click, he manoeuvred carefully behind the shelter of the hedge, waiting breathlessly for the animal to pass.

Outside on the pavement the dog had definitely got wind of her foe. She knew that George was up to no good in the shed and it was her job to protect the house, garden and family; including Mildred. She sniffed the air and her eyes were drawn to the closed gate. Barking madly the frenzied demon pushed and snarled at the obstacle. All it did was draw the attention of her master who was walking along behind her carrying the afternoon paper. She felt her collar being grasped firmly and was then frog-marched along the pavement and into her own garden. All she could do was whine in disappointment as she stuck her nose through the bars of the closed iron gate.

Meanwhile George was weak-kneed with relief and had to take a few minutes to recover. The pavement was beginning to fill up with mums on their way to pick up their children and rather than risk being seen, he decided to take a short cut through a large gap in the hedge that he had discovered recently. As he began to ease through the foliage he realised that it was only just in time; it was clear his absence had been noticed. He might have been a bit of a Jack the lad with Mildred, but he felt he had just cause. The mother of his children, boys he loved dearly, was a fire-breathing dragon of the worst kind and through the evergreen barrier he could hear her shouting.

‘George, come out wherever you are,’ she paused for a moment obviously scanning his usual hiding places. ‘Come along you dirty old devil, I have got better things to do than chase you about the place.’

The subject of her ire stayed stock still; poised in the middle of the hedge waiting until he heard the slam of the kitchen door. It was now safe to make his laborious way across the uneven lawn. Carefully he tip-toed into the gloomy garden shed and feigning sleep, he settled down waiting to be discovered.

A few minutes later he heard childish laughter and running feet heading for the house. He knew that after a tea of beans on toast and rice-pudding with strawberry jam he would be joined here in the shed by the three lads. Sticky fingers would nudge him awake and he would be given delightful cuddles and regaled with the adventures of the day.

He was dozing happily, dreaming of Mildred and their next encounter when he felt himself lifted up into the air and gently deposited into a large plastic box.. Beneath him he could smell fresh garden compost and he wiggled his toes as he settled himself down. A lid was placed over the container and through the holes above him he could hear the one of the children whispering to him.

‘Goodnight George, sleep tight and see you in the spring.’

Then the dragon spoke. ‘Thank goodness for that, at least we will know where the old boy is for the next few months. I swear I never knew that a tortoise could be so much trouble.’

© Sally Cronin 2015

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

You can find details of all my books in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2018/

Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in A Name – Francis – In search of a new path by Sally Cronin


This weekend I am sharing two more stories from the first volume of What’s in a Name – both begin with the letter ‘F’ and the second is about a businessman who needs to find a new path in life.

Francis – In search of a new path by Sally Cronin

Francis Baxter checked into the hotel in the middle of Chamonix on the Friday night and tired from his long journey headed off to bed and slept for ten hours straight.

He woke to find the sun streaming in through the windows of his suite and a craving for several cups of strong coffee. He showered and sat in the extremely fluffy bath robe supplied by the exclusive hotel and waited for room service to send up his breakfast. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He didn’t want to think about Chrissie back home in Houston or Dane and Shannon finishing off their semester before heading home for the Easter holidays. He hadn’t informed anyone, not even his business partner of twenty years, where he was going; he had not switched on his mobile since landing in Geneva yesterday.

Unfortunately denial did not stop the rush of thoughts and emotions that had been triggered two days ago when Chrissie has asked for a divorce. Their discussion that had developed into a full-blown argument, replayed in his head over and over. Her accusation that he was more interested in his work and making money than their marriage, and that she no longer loved him, had established itself front and centre in his mind; he had not seen that coming.

He knew that he was ambitious and he and Richard, his partner, worked long hours keeping their accountancy business afloat in these uncertain times. Yes, they played golf at the weekends but it was their way of unwinding after a long week. He admitted to himself that there were too many dinners in the city with major clients, but they required constant attention.

The fact was that without the business, they would not have the big house, fancy cars and vacations. He had thought that Chrissie was content with the trappings that came with his job; he was furious with himself for missing all the signs and taking so much for granted.

There was a discreet knock on the door and Francis walked over to admit the uniformed waiter who wheeled in a laden trolley. Having slipped the young guy a generous tip, Francis settled down at the table and contemplated his breakfast. Suddenly he had little appetite, so sipped his strong black coffee, and flicked through one of the local guides that were spread out in front of him.

The truth was that he knew this area quite well as he had lived here as a child with his French mother and American father who was an artist. They had moved to the United States when he was twelve years old which is why, when faced with this bombshell he had chosen to run as far as he could; to somewhere he still considered his home. A picture captured his attention as he automatically turned the pages in the glossy brochure. It was of a place that he remembered from his childhood when he and his parents would take long treks at the weekend up the sides of the surrounding mountains. His father would carry the rucksack containing their lunch which always consisted of a fresh baked baguette from the local cafe along with fresh tomatoes and a tub of rich homemade mayonnaise. They would find a perch above the valley and the three of them would break the bread into chunks, add a dollop of mayo, a couple of slices of the bright red tomato and it tasted heavenly.

This reminded him that he was actually hungry right now. He decided to tuck into the now cooling omelette and croissant; he was going to need some fuel for the walk he now planned to take.

Francis opened his suit carrier which he had hurriedly thrown random clothes into and realised that he was not equipped for hiking. He pulled on some jeans and a sweat shirt and headed downstairs and out into the main street. The shops did not open until later in the morning, but he spent his time well, window shopping and popping into a bakery for another coffee and some supplies for his hike. He returned to one of the sports outfitters that he had scoped out earlier and bought some jeans, boots, parka and a rucksack. He also picked up a detailed guide to the trails, not trusting his memory completely, and a water bottle. He returned to the hotel and quickly changed into his new clothes. At the last minute he added his mobile phone to the essentials in his rucksack for safety reasons, and headed down the corridor to the elevator.

Two hours later, after realising how out of shape he was, Francis breathlessly reached his destination. The roar of the torrent of water that rushed down the mountainside from the spring melt filled the air and the scent of pine was strong in his nostrils. Memories flooded back of a different time when every spare moment that he had was filled with activities like this. His parents always seemed to be there beside him hiking, skiing and sledding down moonlit slopes close to the town. He remembered drinking hot chocolate around the fire at a local inn, and being included even when there were adult guests around the big kitchen table for fondue. What he could not remember was the last time that he, Chrissie and the kids had spent any time together or even enjoyed a family meal.

He viewed the narrow footbridge across the gorge that he needed to cross to reach the small building clinging to the rock face on the other side of the raging river. It had carried thousands across safely over the hundreds of years that it had existed, but a little hesitantly he walked over, watching the flood waters racing beneath him.

Francis knew what to expect as he opened the door into the little chapel, but was still unprepared for the wave of emotion that swept through him. Sunlight fought to gain entry into the tiny space through small windows fashioned into the thick outer wall. The faint rays illuminated the walls of stone and the shrine at its heart. Francis walked slowly inside and stood for a moment with his head bowed. Around him in the cracks in the walls, hundreds of small slips of paper caught the light. They were the prayers and supplications of people across time that had needed guidance and restoration of faith. Townspeople had walked up from the valley and travellers through the passes had stopped for a brief respite and comfort.

Their combined presence had created a vortex of emotion, and the hair on the back of Francis’s neck stood on end.

He had never been a religious man but he knew that this place was a spiritual oasis where all could regain their strength and sense of purpose. He remained for a few minutes longer and then gently closing the door behind him he walked back across the bridge.

Gradually the feelings that had been triggered so forcefully subsided and in their place came clarity.

He walked down the trail until he reached a point overlooking the town. He sat on a warm rock and opened his rucksack. He broke the baguette into four pieces and liberally spread fresh mayonnaise on each piece before adding a thick slice of tomato with a little salt. He ate his simple meal as he contemplated his next move.

Satisfied now in body and soul he picked up his mobile and switched it back on. Ignoring all the texts and messages waiting for him; he made two calls. The first to Chrissie that lasted a long time and ended with his satisfied smile; the second that was equally lengthy to his business partner. He packed up the remains of his lunch and headed back down into the town where he spent the next few hours visiting chalet rental offices

For the first time in years, Francis felt that he was where he belonged and a huge weight was lifted from his shoulders. Chrissie would be arriving tomorrow and then next week Dane and Shannon would join them. It was time to repair those bonds that had been broken and to forge new ones that were stronger and would last a lifetime.

© Sally Cronin 2015

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

You can find details of all my books in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2018/

Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name? – Fionnuala – The Swan by Sally Cronin


This weekend I am sharing two more stories from the first volume of What’s in a Name – both begin with the letter ‘F’ and the first is about a young woman who overcomes bullying to become a member of the police force.

Fionnuala – The Swan by Sally Cronin

Fionnuala Garvin was pinned to the wall of the toilet block. Her small hands were pressed back onto the cold red brick as her shoulders were firmly clamped beneath the stubby fingers attached to grubby hurtful hands. The pain from this mauling was excrutiating, as her white blonde hair was trapped beneath the vicious fingers and her scalp felt like it was on fire. With her fragile swan-like neck, slight frame and skinny legs she did not look twelve years old and right now she wished she was back in primary school where life had been so much kinder.

Her lower lip trembled,and she tried not to cry as the onslaught continued, unseen by the teacher on monitor duty in the playground. This was Ciaran Walsh’s favourite spot for tormenting the younger children, and extorting their lunch from them, and today he was in an even worse mood than usual. Not the sharpest knife in the cutlery drawer, at fifteen he was failing a number of subjects. Just this morning he had been sentenced to a week of detention for failing to hand in an essay for his history class. He was looking to take out his rage on someone.

Fionnuala or Nola as she was known to her friends was terrified. Normally there would have been two rounds of cheese sandwiches and an apple in the satchel now lying at her feet, but today she had forgotten to pick the brown paper bag up from the counter in the kitchen at home. Without these essential bargaining chips, she was going to be in for a hiding.

Ciaran’s breath smelled rank and his stained teeth offered plenty of evidence of what he had eaten for breakfast and lack of an acquaintance with a toothbrush. He brought his cavernous mouth close to Nola’s terrified face and spat out his demands.

‘Fionnuala Garvin. You are mine and I own you. Give me your lunch now or I will pinch your arms until they are black and blue’. He sneered viciously and pressed further into her body.

Just then large hands descended on Nola’s attacker’s upper arms, and he was virtually lifted into the air, and shoved back out into the playground. Ciaran steadied himself and poised for a counter attack but stopped abruptly in his tracks. He looked up into the eyes of a tall and well-built senior from sixth year and knew that he would be hard pressed to better him in a straight fight. The older boy stood protectively in front of Nola and with a quick check to make sure his young charge was not hurt in any way, he turned back to Ciaran who was still mulling over his options.

‘Ciaran Walsh I know how to find you and it won’t be just me next time, you need to get your sorry act together. Get back to class and I will be watching your every move from now on; just feck off.’

The disgruntled bully turned and nonchalantly headed off back into school and tried to ignore the smirks on the faces of the bystanders who had witnessed the altercation. Unfortunately as he reached the steps leading up to the main entrance, he tripped and almost fell; gales of laughter followed him as he hurried through the wide blue doors.

Meanwhile Nola’s rescuer put a consoling arm around her shoulders and steered her towards her classmates. They had remained huddled together awaiting the outcome of this daily assault on any of their members foolish enough to get separated from the pack.

‘Listen to me,’ the tall lad addressed the white-faced group. ‘My name is Patrick Flanagan and you must come and tell me if this happens again. He smiled at his new devotees. ‘My friends and I will do our best to keep that one out of trouble in the future.’ He left unaware of the admiring glances and excited whispers behind him.

Ten years later Nola checked herself in the mirror before heading downstairs; she never grew tired of seeing herself in her Garda uniform. Following her training she had been posted to this town in the heart of a farming community and after a year in the job she could honestly say that there was little she did not enjoy. She went downstairs following the aroma of scrambled eggs on toast with a rasher of bacon that her husband Patrick had laid on the table. He turned from the cooker with his own plate and they sat across from each other eating leisurely and enjoying this rare breakfast together. He was a doctor at a hospital in the nearby city and their shift patterns did not always allow for regular meals; when they did manage to get time it was precious.

He kissed her goodbye and watched her through the kitchen window as she backed her car out of the drive. He had some time before his shift started, and as he cleared the breakfast crockery away he reflected on what a lucky man he was. Who could have thought that the little blonde waif that he had rescued that day in the playground, would end up becoming his wife.

He was very proud of her and knew that she had passed every examination and physical test with flying colours. That did not however stop him from worrying about her safety, especially as he saw the results of violence associated with crime on a far too regular basis.

The object of his thoughts was not unaware of her husband’s concerns, and that drove Nola to even more excellence when it came to training and attention to detail. She had two hours before her shift began and she was headed to a physical training session with her partner on the force. He might be a great friend to both she and Patrick, but once they hit that mat they would fight hard for the win.

Dressed in her sweat pants and t-shirt, Nola faced off against her partner. They circled each other waiting for the slightest move that would indicate an attack. Although taller and broader than Nola, her opponent was light on his feet and his muscled body moved agilely across the mat.

Seeing what he perceived as an opening; he reached out and managed to place a hand on Nola’s shoulder. The next thing he knew he was on his back with one arm held upright; his hand bent forward in a tight grip.

Nola leant forward close to the face of her partner who was grinning up at her with his killer smile; the one that had the girls falling at his own feet.

‘Ciaran Walsh, you are mine and I own you. Buy me lunch or I will pinch your arms until they are black and blue.’

©Sally Cronin 2015

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

You can find details of all my books in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2018/

Smorgasbord Short Story – What’s in A Name? – Eric – Just Making Do by Sally Cronin


This weekend I am sharing two more stories from the first volume of What’s in a Name – both begin with the letter ‘E’ and the second is a story about a man who has given up on life until he is manipulated into action.

Eric stood in front of the mirror and for a moment deliberately avoided putting his glasses on. All he could see was a blur and therefore could just about pass muster. Behind him he could feel the presence of his wife Billie and knew what she was going to say.

‘Eric, love you have let yourself go,’ there would be disappointment in her voice.

He slipped his spectacles on and his image immediately appeared all too clearly. He did a quick head to toe scrutiny. Muddy red hair streaked with grey, too long about the ears and hanging over the neck of his dressing gown. Three days’ worth of beard as he only shaved once a week when going to the supermarket for the shopping. His tatty t-shirt that he wore over his ancient pyjama bottoms sported faded lettering that read Grateful Dead; his slippers had a hole where his big toe poked through.

Yes, Billie would have definitely gone to town on him.

He debated whether to pull the bedroom curtains or not and decided to leave them for two very good reasons. Firstly, letting daylight in would illuminate the state of the room which was a shambles, and secondly, it might signal to Mrs Green across the road that he was alive and would welcome her advances.

He left the drapes undisturbed and shuffled out onto the landing and down the stairs to the chilly hall. Damn, he had left the kitchen window open again. He wasn’t bothered by burglars since there was little of value to be taken except for his photograph album, and that was safely locked away behind the big seascape on the dining room wall. The safe also held a few precious mementos such as the leather box that contained Billie’s few bits of good jewellery; her bling as she called it. Her engagement and wedding rings, some earrings she had inherited from her mother and a watch that he had splashed out on for their 25th wedding anniversary.

He wandered into the kitchen and put the kettle on and measured out some oats into a bowl with some water. He stuck that in the microwave and closed the offending window that had let the cold night air into the house. Three pings announced that his porridge was ready and he threw a teabag into a mug of boiling water. There was a few inches of milk in the bottle in the fridge and he poured some over the oats and into the mug. That left enough for a coffee later, but having forgotten to put the item on his list three days ago; it looked like he would have to venture forth after all to the shop on the corner.

He carefully carried the bowl and mug into the dining room and stopped dead. There, sat on one of the dining-room chairs was a cat. A ginger and black cat to be exact and it was looking at him expectantly. Eric nearly dropped the bowl and tea on the floor and just managed to reach the table and lay them down before slopping hot liquid all over his hands.

His visitor remained impassive and kept eye contact, which rather disconcerted Eric who was not used to animals, especially cats. Billie had been allergic to them and since they had travelled a great deal, particularly when he had retired from the police force, there had never been an opportunity to bring one into their home.

The cat was virtually the first visitor to the house in the year since his wife had died. One or two of the neighbours had popped in with shepherd’s pie or offers to come to Sunday lunch, but after several polite rejections of both food and invitations they had given up on him.

Except of course for Widow Twanky across the road who was looking for husband number four. Perhaps his having been a copper had a bearing on the lack of neighbourly communication. There was no doubt that they liked having one on the street as a deterrent to some of the criminal fraternity, but socialising was quite another thing. You never know what guilty secret might slip out after a couple of glasses of wine.

His friends from the force had tried to encourage him out of his self-imposed exile too, with telephone calls asking him to join them at their old watering hole, The Bugle. He just couldn’t face their sympathy or the awkward silences in the middle of a busy night in the pub. Eric was also terrified that he would embarrass himself by blubbering into his beer at the first kind word.

Since the cat was making no move to vacate the chair he usually sat on; he moved to the other side of the table and placed his now cooling porridge in front of him. The creature was still giving him the once over and then offered its opinion in the form of an elongated meow that sounded rather unflattering. Eric raised his hand to his shaggy head and tried to smooth his hair into place. He felt very disconcerted by the direct gaze of his uninvited guest and thought perhaps an offer of some of his porridge might divert its attention.

There was a saucer on the table under a dead house plant that looked reasonably clean and he carefully poured a little of the lukewarm porridge with its milky topping onto the china. He laid it down in front of the cat and watched to see if this would be acceptable. With impeccable manners it delicately placed two front paws on the table and gently lapped at the offering; still keeping both eyes firmly on its host. Eric shrugged and proceeded to eat his breakfast and drink his tea, also keeping eye contact with his feline intruder.

Several days passed and Eric got into the habit of leaving the kitchen window open each night. Every morning he would poke his head around the door to the dining room and sure enough his new companion would be waiting on the chair expectantly.

In the first two or three days the cat would leave its designated chair and disappear into the kitchen after consuming its own bowl of porridge. Eric could hear the faint sound of paws on the marble surface; followed by the sound of a slight scramble as it left through the open window. He was surprised to feel a sense of loss.

It was not long before the visitor, who Eric had named Doris, was dropping off the chair and crossing to the sofa where she would settle herself in to sleep away the morning. She might pop out of the window from time to time but always returned to the warm patch she had fashioned for herself. Eric had established by careful scrutiny that Doris was indeed a girl and that he had not insulted some tetchy tomcat; within a few days she would lift her head when he called her name.

Eric found himself shaving every morning as he needed to go out more often to buy fresh milk and also tins of cat food. He began to open the curtains in his bedroom and the washing machine began to hum in the background more often. Doris would sit in a patch of sunlight in any of the rooms that he happened to be in, and gradually over the next month, both man and house came back to life. A visit to the barbers and a rifle through the sale items in the supermarket had resulted in some new clothes,slippers and also a couple of pairs of pyjamas.

They lived together but remained aloof. It was to be six weeks before Doris approached him as he sat leafing through his photograph album on the other end of the sofa where she normally lay. He tentatively put out his hand and stroked the top of her head and then down her sleek back which she obligingly arched. She nudged closer and he placed his arm around her. He was amazed by the loudness of the delighted purr that vibrated in her chest.

He looked back down at the album open to the photographs of his and Billie’s wedding day forty five years ago. It was the sixties and his long red hair hung down to his shoulders; his lovely Billie who had only been twenty at the time had sparkled in her cream dress and fake fur cape. She used to call him her Viking warrior, and would tell him as they lay in each other’s arms at night, how safe he made her feel.

Tears filled his eyes and they dropped onto the plastic film that protected the photos. Some splashed onto the hand that was holding his warm companion close to him and he felt her rough tongue lick the moisture away. He smiled down at her and then gently wiped the tears from the album. Billie’s last words to him had been to beg him to find happiness again one day and not to live alone. He took his arm from around Doris; closed the album firmly and placed it on the table beside the sofa.

‘How do you fancy a bit of tuna for supper Doris?’ He rubbed a tender spot beneath her chin.

‘Then I have to pop out for a couple of hours to meet some old work mates down the pub.’

©Sally Cronin 2015

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

You can find details of all my books in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2018/

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up – A Summer Party, Music, Myths, Food, Great Books and Laughter…You are invited.


I never thought that I would say that I was grateful for some rain this last week.. but I am. Hopefully not too little, too late for farmers whose crops have stalled. It is a lovely afternoon and have been enjoying some sunshine.. so have my feather family who bring me constant amusement.

My best buy this summer was a metre square three inch seed tray that has become the swimming pool for a wide variety of birds. The bird bath and seed tree we bought last Christmas has also been inundated and preparing meals has never been so much fun. Sally’s Cafe and Bird Spa….

At times there are at least 50 or more birds on the feeder and in the baths with everyone joining in together. The starlings are very keen and spend ages in there splashing around, but until recently I had only seen the sparrows taking dust baths. Until this week when they have clearly picked up a few tricks from the starlings, and today there were little birds having a high old time since early morning and they are still at it now.

Normally when the crows come down the other birds scatter. The crows are not acrobatic enough to use the seeders as intended, so they have worked out another method. One stands on the metal ring and bangs his head on the seeders so that they scatter the seed on the ground below for his mates. However, like elegant pole dancers they can be found hanging upside down on the fat ball holder rocking back and forth as they try to get a morsel. They usually come in a group of rowdy teenagers, but we have got a crow who is rather bedraggled and skinny who started coming down on his own. Much to our surprise the starlings, sparrows and tits ignore him and hang around, and I even saw him in the pool with three starlings this morning.

The only bird who is not welcome is the sparrow hawk who sits on branches in the hedge and pounces on my babies… They are protected in Ireland, but there is nothing to say that I cannot come out and shout at him and wave my arms around like a mad woman. It seems to have discouraged him but my neighbour tells me it spends a lot of time in her garden.. ah well…

The Smorgasbord End of Summer Party Weekend 25th – 26th August

Thank you for such an amazing response.  There are four posts over the weekend with the themes Brunch, Afternoon Tea, Dinner on the Saturday and Sunday Lunch. I am delighted to say that 3 spaces left for Brunch, 1 space in the afternoon tea,  and 2 for Sunday Lunch. The details are in the post and if you would like to be promoted then please do so quickly…

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/08/09/smorgasbord-end-of-summer-party-weekend-august-25th-26th-2018-invitation/

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – update and new promotional opportunities.

I have updated the directory with the blogger daily and other opportunities to promote authors in the cafe so please take a read.  Also in the second post.. how to put your books on the shelves for the first time.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/08/11/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-book-on-the-shelves-updated-free-book-promotion/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/12/27/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-book-on-the-shelves-updates-free-book-promotion/

Anyway on with the posts that you might have missed this week and as always a huge thank you for William Price King and Carol Taylor for supplying the music and the food this week, and to you for dropping by.

The Music Column with William Price King – Summer Jazz with Diana Krall

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/08/07/smorgasbord-blog-magazine-the-music-column-william-price-king-summer-jazz-diana-krall-part-three/

Writer in Residence rewind – Ionia by Paul Andruss.

I thought you might enjoy revisiting some of Paul’s ealier posts from the beginning of 2017 as he is on his extended break.. This week Ionia – Gods and Myths.

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https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/08/10/posts-from-the-archives-gods-and-legends-ionia-by-paul-andruss/

The Food and Cookery Column with Carol Taylor.

This week Carol makes good use of the spices she mixed last week to create some show stopping meals for the family.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/08/08/smorgasbord-blog-magazine-the-food-and-cookery-column-with-carol-taylor-family-favourites-and-spices-in-action-part-two/

Getting to Know You.

Delighted to welcome children’s author, poet and master confectioner Robbie Cheadle as guest on the Getting to Know You interview. A very busy mum who works full-time but still finds time to write, blog, and support so many of us here.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/08/12/smorgasbord-blog-magazine-sunday-interview-getting-to-know-you-with-robbie-cheadle/

Personal Stuff

Beatrix is about to end her very long and successful theatre career but what lies beneath the mask?

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/08/11/smorgasbord-short-stories-whats-in-a-name-beatrix-behind-the-mask-by-sally-cronin/

From early man through to the current day, the birthright of one particular family is carried from generation to generation.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/08/12/smorgasbord-short-stories-whats-in-a-name-brian-the-birthright-by-sally-cronin/

Letters from America – 1985-1987 – My parent’s visit – Anniversary party and nearly lights out.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/08/09/smorgasbord-letters-from-america-1985-1987-my-parents-visit-rennaisance-festival-and-anniversary-party-and-nearly-lights-out/

Sally’s Drive Time Playlist – 1982 – Dionne Warwick and Survivor

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/08/10/sallys-drive-time-playlist-music-to-get-your-weekend-started-1982blizzards-dionne-warwick-and-survivor/

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New on the Shelves.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/08/06/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-on-the-shelves-childrens-book-wheres-noodles-by-victoria-zigler/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/08/07/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-new-on-the-shelves-hammers-holy-grail-by-b-r-chitwood/

Author Updates #reviews

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/08/06/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-update-reviews-ali-whitelock-jim-webster-d-wallace-peach-and-terry-tyler/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/08/10/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-update-reviews-news-diana-j-febry-lorinda-j-taylor-and-john-w-howell/

Blogger Daily

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/08/06/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-reviewers-monday-august-4th-2018-robbie-cheadle-d-g-kaye-and-colleen-chesebro/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/08/07/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-and-reviewers-tuesday-7th-august-2018pirates-with-mary-tod-writing-with-deborah-jay-and-historical-review-with-olga-nunez-miret/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/08/08/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-wednesday-august-8th-2018-interviews-and-guest-posts-janice-spina-the-story-reading-ape-and-the-sisters-of-the-fey/

 

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/08/09/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-thursday-9th-august-2018-ani-zoe-lucy-bailey-and-twiggy/

Health Column

The components of our blood and Anaemia.

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https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/08/07/smorgasbord-health-column-the-cardiovascular-system-and-the-components-of-blood-anaemia/

There has been a dramatic increase in cases of measles in some of the countries in Europe and there is a spike in the UK too. The most at risk are those with compromised immune systems and mothers-to-be and infants who have not been vaccinated.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/08/08/smorgasbord-health-column-measles-alert-for-mothers-to-be-infants-outbreak-europe-by-sally-cronin/

Nutrients the body needs – Phosphorus and bone health

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/08/08/smorgasbord-health-column-nutrients-the-body-needs-phosphorus-and-bone-health/

Humour and Afternoon Videos

More weird facts and trivia

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/08/07/smorgasbord-laughter-lines-or-in-this-case-how-to-be-a-know-it-all-weird-facts-and-statistics-part-five/

The last part of the weird facts and trivia

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/08/09/smorgasbord-laughter-lines-or-in-the-this-case-be-a-know-it-all-part-six-the-finale/

Thank you very much for spending time here today and for your support.. enjoy the week .. thanks Sally.

 

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Short Stories – #Fantasy -The Time Capsule by Sally Cronin


Over the last few weeks I have been conducting a house-keeping exercise on the blog and going through all the posts dating back to 2013. Some I have rescued and others were reblogs or now out of date. However, I have found some that you might enjoy again especially those of you who have only connected with me in the last couple of years.

This story was a part of a personalised contest that I did in December 2015 when I had just published Tales from the Garden. Three names were drawn out of a hat and I wrote a personalised story for them.  This was the one that I wrote for Annette Rochelle Aben and I hope that you enjoy.. and if you are not connected to this lovely supportive poet, author and blogger then I do suggest you remedy that.  I realise that some of us are sweltering in a heatwave but friends on the other side of the world are in the middle of their winter…

Wordsmith, author and broadcaster Annette Rochelle Aben was one of the winners of the personalised story and has sent me some photographs and the names of her brother and sister to be included in the tale. It is a fairy story so I have of course taken the full licence that this gives me to make stuff up!

 The Time Capsule by Sally Cronin

The three children sat on the green swing seat that was tucked in beside the newly planted tree just as the sun was setting behind the wooden fence. Mitchell sat between his two sisters as he pushed them back and forth with the heel of his sneakers. On his lap was a slightly rusty metal box. They had removed it from the garage where it had been stored on a shelf after their move into the house; being empty it seemed safe to assume that it was not needed by their mother for anything important.

The lid was open and they examined the contents with great care. After all this was going to be buried with some ceremony beside the sapling. It was their very special time capsule; to be discovered it was hoped by other children in some far off distant century. Lorraine and Annette had contributed most of the items although it had required much deliberation. Despite missing a leg, both girls would miss Barbie, but you hardly noticed as they had dressed her in a red maxi dress that covered that little defect quite well. There was a miniature china horse with a small chip out of one ear and a pack of silly putty. Mitchell had been slightly dismissive of his sisters’ contributions and had decided on the ultimate sacrifice. He gently smoothed over the space suit of GI Joe Astronaut and worried about the vacant spot in his collection on the shelf in his bedroom.

Apart from the toys there were some baseball cards and three foreign postage stamps;  rescued from the envelopes of last year’s Christmas cards. They had also felt that they should each put in a bar of their favourite candy which had been a great sacrifice for Annette; she was a fiend around chocolate. Mitchell had carefully written out all their names and birthdays on a postcard and placed it on top of the items. Satisfied that they had represented the year 1974 in style they continued to swing back and forth in the fading sunlight for a little while longer admiring their handiwork.

Little did they know that they were being watched. In the shade of the hedge hidden from view were some figures that were highly interested in the proceedings. A small garden gnome and stone puppy dog that had been overlooked when the previous owners had packed up and left the house.

‘Did you see what I see,’ the gnome nudged his canine companion. ‘Chocolate and lots of it, when was the last time we saw any of that?’

The puppy turned his head and licked his lips. ‘It’s been a while Fred, I wouldn’t mind getting my teeth into one of those bars.’

The gnome hopped up and sat on the plastic toadstool that had been abandoned along with them and rested his chin in his stubby little fingers. They watched as the three children slid off the swing seat and headed towards them. Just as it seemed that they would be discovered, Mitchell stopped and knelt down on the soft grass. He closed the lid with a satisfying click and the two girls placed their hands on his shoulders as he popped the box into the freshly dug hole. The children were not sure if you should say anything special at this point but after Mitchell had covered the box with the dark soil, they stood in silence for a moment or two. There was an old iron lamp stand in the shape of a shepherd’s crook and with the help of the girls; Mitchell pushed it into the ground to mark the spot

As the children walked hand in hand back to the house, the gnome and the puppy looked at each other in delight.

‘Go on then,’ the gnome nudged the little dog. ‘Do what you do best.’

Over forty years later and Mitchell, Lorraine and Annette stood in the kitchen of the house and contemplated the garden. They had been planning on a special expedition today but had woken to find that the first snow of the winter had covered everything with a fine blanket of white.

They had spent all last night discussing the time capsule and whether or not it was still safely buried in the spot under the now mature tree. They had completely forgotten about it since their return to the family home. Then a discussion over supper one night had brought memories flooding back of their childhood including the escapades they had got up to. Since they were all fired up and determined to find out if their box had survived the various garden makeovers, they donned warm coats and gloves and headed out of the kitchen door. Mitchell went off and gathered up some tools from the garage to tackle the frozen ground and then joined his sisters at the archaeological site.

The wrought iron lamp holder was still in the same place.  They remembered  how a lantern would be hung from it when they had cookouts in the summer months as they grew to adulthood. Slightly rusty; it still guarded the special spot where they had buried their almost forgotten treasure.

It took twenty minutes of concentrated digging in the hard earth but eventually Mitchell heard a clang as his shovel hit metal. In a few minutes the box was revealed, darkened with age but still intact. The three of them worked the soil away from the edges and pried it loose. Shivering the three returned to the house and into the warmth of the kitchen and Mitchell placed the box on layers of newspaper on the table.

Cupping hands around mugs of tea and coffee, they stared at this physical reminder of their childhood and the years spent here before they dispersed into their adult lives. Gingerly Annette prised open the reluctant lid with a screwdriver and they all leant forward to look at the contents.

Lorraine took the postcard and the items out one by one and laid them on the newspaper; astonishingly the precious momentos were in the same condition as when they were buried. However, when they reached the bottom of the box it was to find three empty candy wrappers flattened and placed side by side neatly. Immediately Mitchell and Lorraine turned and looked at Annette as the most likely culprit.

‘What are you looking at me for?’ she stared back at them defiantly. ‘I swear I didn’t take the candy, I haven’t seen the inside of that box since we buried it in 1974.’

The three of them spent most of the day trying to come up with a reasonable explanation. In the end they gave up and decided that perhaps their mother Nancy had discovered the box when gardening; eaten the candy bars and reburied the box as a practical joke on them all.

Outside in the snow the gnome and the puppy sat in the same gloomy spot they had occupied for half a century; frankly bored daft for most of the time. The gnome patted the puppy’s head and grinned delightedly.

‘I’d have paid my best magic mushrooms to have seen the look on their faces when they found those empty wrappers.’ He turned to look at the light shining into the wintery garden from the kitchen window. ‘Now that they are back for good, we need to think up some more tricks to keep them busy.’

©sallycronin 2015 ©images Annette Rochelle Aben

Annette is an author in the Cafe and Bookstore.

Annette Rochelle Aben, Buy: http://www.amazon.com/Annette-Rochelle-Aben/e/B00MSQTGUY
Blog: www.annetterochelleaben.wordpress.com

Please visit Amazon or Annette’s blog to view all her books.

annettebooku_cover_for_kindle6124zpvlnhl-_uy250_

I hope you have enjoyed the story and since Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story is now finished, I am going to start sharing What’s in a Name – Volume One from next weekend. It was recently offered free during the sale but I would love to share the stories with you again as it is three years since they were featured. I hope you will pop in.

 

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Flights of Fancy – Getting Away with Murder by Sally Cronin


Flights of Fancy was my first short story collection published in 2009 in paperback and audio with a later ebook edition. The stories were written over twenty years and scribbled down on odd pieces of paper… Over the next five weeks I will be sharing them on Saturday and Sunday whilst I get on with editing the next book.. I hope you will enjoy my early efforts.

Getting Away with Murder.

On my forty-third birthday, I murdered a woman. She made me do it. For over fifteen years, she had made my very life, a misery and a mockery. This woman had bullied and forced me into behaviour that had made me ashamed, fearful for my life and sanity. She jeopardized my health and destroyed my self-esteem.

As I stand before you, I freely admit to this killing. I realise that this is my chance to have my say, to explain and to acknowledge this deed of mine. Firstly, let me say, that given the chance, I would kill her all over again. I can show you no remorse or guilt. I cannot stand before you with head bowed and accept your condemnation. It was self-defence in every sense of the word.

This woman came into my life one dreary, wet Irish day, when the clouds met the horizon in a solid sheet of grey. I usually came to the beach when I felt a bit down, sometimes the water washed away my blues, but today the chill wind simply intensified my mood. I didn’t even notice her approaching me. One minute I was alone, and the next she was beside me.

“You look a little sad dear, is there anything I can do to help?”

I looked at her and saw a homely, motherly type of woman, with a gentle, slightly worried look on her face.

“I’m fine, thank you.” I replied, trying to smile warmly, as if I didn’t  have a care in the world.

How come then, ten minutes later, I find myself at a table at the almost deserted seaside café, pouring my heart out to this complete stranger? My husband loved me whatever weight I was, but I knew that others were not so forgiving. I dragged up baggage from my past and held onto it defiantly; determined not to let go of the weight of it. Self-pity flowed like hot lava from my mouth, and she sat quietly, listening intently and nodding her head from time to time.

When I think back, she said very little. She didn’t even tell me her name at that time; I used her like an absorbent sponge, soaking up my misery. All she did was push the plate of fresh cream cakes towards me, urging me to take another; that I would feel better if I did.

We met time and time again, sometimes in cafes or restaurants, and as we got to know each other, in my own home. I kept her a secret from everyone. After all she was my friend and nobody else’s. She understood me, and at first I welcomed the comfort she brought me in the form of chocolate and cakes; sweet things that took away the bitterness that was beginning to grow inside about myself.

Soon I could add being fat to my list of woes. I tried several times to tell her that I didn’t want to eat her sugary offerings, but my will was weak and I always succumbed as she sat there smiling benignly at me. One day I realised that my clothes no longer fitted. My husband began hinting gently, that perhaps for my health’s sake, I should lose some weight, and why didn’t I join a slimming club or perhaps take up more exercise?

I reinforced my defensive position and turned instead to my special friend. I would moan to her, shouting about how unfair it all was. It was my body anyway. She would pat my hand, comfort me, and make me feel safe and loved. She loved me however fat I was getting. She was my friend, the one who never criticised me, or made me feel an outcast.

Over the next fifteen years, she became an even better friend, although there were times when I rejected her and asked not to come around anymore. I told her that I needed to try and lose some weight, make new friends and stand on my own two feet. It would only last for a few weeks. Something would upset me. There would be an emotional crisis, an imagined slight, or a comment from someone about losing weight. I would weaken and call her to come around; knowing that she never came empty-handed.

My secret relationship with her went from strength to strength. She was there whenever I needed her. Late in the night when the urge for a kind word and sweet comfort would overcome me, I would call for her to come around and bring her treats. I lied to my husband and family and pretended that I was eating only the best of foods; that I never touched anything fattening. I certainly never mentioned the chocolate or cream cakes that I shared with my special friend daily. Secretly I would buy my own supplies and would tell outrageous lies to the disbelieving, skinny women behind the pastry counters.

‘Oh, the family is coming over this afternoon for tea, will you ever let me have six of those big chocolate éclairs.’ Or wonderful nights of nights, Halloween, the bliss of a legitimate excuse to buy ten pounds of chocolate bars; never destined to see the inside of a child.

When I was forty-three, after an enduring friendship throughout all those years, our relationship was put to the test. I became ill, tired and listless with nosebleeds and pains in my chest. I went to the doctor who put me through the shame of standing on that infernal machine that always seemed to multiply my weight by three. I stood down, expecting the usual lecture, but was met with a resigned and serious look from my family physician. An hour later, I was standing on my beach, looking at the clouds meeting the horizon and remembering my first meeting with my best friend all those years ago.

I had been told the stark truth of my situation. I would die if I didn’t lose weight. My blood pressure was through the roof and my heart was on the point of bursting. It was lose weight or die. Soon. The ultimatum that I had been given reverberated through my numb brain. My friend was coming to see me, she would be at home now, with a batch of newly baked scones, strawberry jam and fresh whipped cream. I couldn’t turn my back on her friendship.

How could I survive without her sweet temptations? She would never accept a friendship that was so empty of comfort and sweetness. I had a choice, and I knew that it was mine to make alone. She wouldn’t go willingly. I had tried so many times to break off our relationship, but every time, one way or another, she slipped back into my life within a very short space of time.

There was only one solution. If she wouldn’t go voluntarily, then I would have to kill her. But I was not sure that I was strong enough to do this face to face. I didn’t have the courage. I would have to find a way to infiltrate her defenses; alter her perceptions and remove her hold on my life by terminating her own if necessary. It would be a shock to my system, after so many years, to be suddenly bereft of this companion of mine. Did I have the survival instinct to kill this woman before she killed me?

That night, we really fought for the very first time. Sure we had quarrelled and parted company for the odd week or even month, but this time it was a physical, mental and emotional battle of monumental proportions. I argued, she cajoled, holding out her hands filled with chocolate bars and promises. I refused and turned my back; she came up and laid her hands on my shoulders.

“You are mine and you must never, ever forget that.”

For the first time I sensed malice and threat in her voice and her manner.

Her hands moved to my neck and I felt them caress my skin as they closed around my throat. I couldn’t breathe and felt my strength and will ebbing from me. I turned and using all my considerable weight, I throw her away from me. She landed in a heap on the floor, staring at me open-mouthed; I lifted the lamp above my head and smashed it towards her.

She looked surprisingly small suddenly, shrivelled and lifeless. I opened the front door and turned to pick up her remains and laid her in the trunk of the car. Slamming the lid, I headed towards my refuge at the beach where I carried my burden of guilt, shame and fear to the water’s edge. I walked forward and stood up to my knees in the cold, dark green water and watched as my nemesis floated away out into the Irish Sea. She slowly bobbed around, this way and that, until she settled on a direction. I turned my back on her lifeless form and trudged up the sand to my car.

Over the next two years I walked that beach every day – shedding my weight and slowly my guilt and my neurosis. No trace of the woman. She just disappeared. Slowly I came back from the brink and every day I would get stronger and stronger. It was as if she had sapped the very life from me during those fifteen years. Taking away my will, forcing me into behaviours that were alien to the woman I had once been. What had begun as a sweet and innocent relationship, had turned sour and harmful in every way possible.

That is why today, I am standing before you. I am fit and healthy with a positive outlook on life. No longer under a sentence of death, I emerged the victor, lighter in body and heart, with hope for a future that suddenly seemed filled with promise and opportunity. There was no doubt that I had lost some of myself. I had killed that part of me that had driven me to the brink. I had killed the woman inside of me that would have taken me to the grave with her without tasting the real sweetness of life.

So no, I will not plead guilty, nor will I feel remorse. I stand before this mirror in all my glory and am proud that I got away with murder.

©sallycronin Flights of Fancy 2009

Other short story anthologies.

You can find all my books at these links:

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

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

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

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

Thank you for dropping in and as always I value your feedback. Sally.

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Short Stories -Odd Jobs and Characters by Sally Cronin


So far I have published over 60 short stories in collections and the one drawback to this is the amount of diverse characters required to star in a wide variety of situations.

Luckily, I have a retentive memory stretching back to around the age of three, of the people, places and events in my life. Thankfully the majority of those memories are happy, but there have also been one or two life threatening occasions as well as times when the world seemed very dark. Although over time they were resolved, they too have become very useful for creating plots in stories and providing emotional context.

I was always imaginative as a child… my mother I seem to remember, called it ‘telling fibs’. For me as we travelled around to various countries, my imaginary friends were a comfort and helped me gain confidence as I made real friends. They were eventually replaced with the real life counterparts and very precious they are too.

Fifty-one years ago I started work on a part-time basis as soon as it was legally possible. I was fourteen years old, and even though I have had periods when not officially employed, I have been working ever since. My intention is to be dragged kicking and screaming into the next world with my keyboard in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.

This series shares some of the jobs I have turned my hand to over that fifty years, and some were very odd. Not many have sat at a table between two teams of champion dairy cows, selling bull semen!  Over the years I have accumulated a massive dossier of characters and events that now take centre stage in my short stories. If you have read my novel Just an Odd Job Girl you will have met some of them but over the next twelve weeks I hope to bring you some of the others that inspired and stimulated my imagination.

Not all these posts appeared on Smorgasbord as some fantastic blogging friends allowed me to guest post. Where this is the case I will of course provide you with the links to their post…

Souvenir and ice-cream seller along the seafront.

Just thinking back to those early spring months of 1967 make me smile. I had pestered my mother and father for months to let me get a part-time job. I didn’t want a paper round as getting up at an ungodly hour before school every morning, including Sunday, held little appeal. Also, my parents were concerned that my schoolwork would suffer so we compromised on a weekend and holiday job.

Just before Easter, I saw an advertisement in the local evening paper for staff for the council run operations along the seafront. The minimum age was fourteen years and three months, which I had just passed, and there was an address to apply for an application form.

Without telling my mother, I sent off for the form, which duly arrived. Being a council application form it covered three pages and virtually asked for your weight and number of teeth. I was proud of my efforts, and presented the completed and signed form to my mother, who also had to sign the form because of my age.

My mother had to accompany me to the interview and she made me wear my school uniform to encourage a belief that I might be a worthy candidate! The interviewer was a nice man and I remember that he had a deep voice and seemed genuinely interested in what this fourteen year old had to say… which was pretty rare!

Three days later a letter arrived stating that I would be employed for the summer season, and weekends once I was back at school, at a cafe and souvenir kiosk by South Parade Pier. I would work for a maximum of six hours a day, at an hourly rate of two shillings an hour. I was rich.

I arrived excited, but understandibly nervous, and was greeted by a rather austere cafe manageress. She issued me a nylon overall and so many rules and regulations that I forgot them immediately.. Thankfully she then uttered the words…..‘I am giving you to Betty.’

I was pleasantly surprised to be handed over to a tiny, beaming woman who had been waiting for me outside the back door of the café.

She was wearing the highest pair of stiletto shoes I had ever seen. She must have been under five-foot in height and nicely plump; I had no idea how she managed to stay upright on these thin, three-inch heels. I am nearly six foot and I looked down on my diminutive new companion, wondering how she was going to boss me around. I was soon to find out that looks could be deceiving!

About twenty feet from the restaurant there was a small round building. Little did I know at the time, but apart from occasional relief duties in the main café, this was going to be my work place for the next three seasons. Betty opened a door at the back of the structure.
I stepped through into the dark and stood for a moment on the threshold of a new life. The lights snapped on and I looked around me. It was filled to bursting with leather and plastic souvenirs and beach games, and stored for security reasons, a large double-sided postcard stand that needed to be taken outside to make room for the occupants.

After carrying that outside between us, Betty busied herself at the old fashioned till perched on the wooden shelf. No mean feat as it stood four feet off the ground and she could barely see over the top of the counter.  I could now see the reasoning behind the three-inch heels.

Betty then proceeded to introduce me to the world of selling souvenirs which ranged from combs, purses, heart shaped badges and other small items. They either bore the coat of arms for Portsmouth and Southsea or with a male of female name. Good luck if you had been called something exotic!

She was a very patient and lovely woman, who not only showed me a management style that became a benchmark for me in my later career, but also became my friend. Her on job training was second to none, and by the second weekend she pronounced me Assistant Manager of the kiosk.  I was solely responsible for stocking, selling to our many customers and cash management when she took her lunch breaks and for her days off.

Betty has featured in several of my stories in one disguise or another and even after 50 years, her influence on my work ethic, management style and sense of responsibility makes me grateful for having her in my life.

As well as providing me with some wonderful characters in addition to Betty, my time  along the seafront provided me with plenty of material for future stories. These included her request for me to wear sneakers one weekend so that I could chase down and capture a couple of lads who had been pinching the saucy postcards on a regular basis; a mission that I completed to her satisfaction if not to the suitably berated offenders.

In my third year at the cafe, I was promoted to the front of house where whipped ice-cream was dispensed. I eventually got the knack of creating perfect whirls topped with a chocolate flake, but I am afraid that I consumed the evidence of my early failures which resulted in a need for a larger overall.

The next post follows my efforts in my first full time job working in a private dental practice at the age of seventeen.

About Sally Cronin.

I have lived a fairly nomadic existence living in eight countries including the Sri Lanka, South Africa and USA before settling back here in Ireland. My work in a number of industries, and a desire to see some of the most beautiful parts of the world in the last forty years, has taken me to many more incredible destinations around Europe and Canada, and across the oceans to New Zealand and Hawaii. All those experiences and the people that I have met, provide a rich source of inspiration for my stories.

I have been a storyteller most of my life (my mother called them fibs!). Poetry, song lyrics and short stories were left behind when work and life intruded, but that all changed in 1996. My first book Size Matters was a health and weight loss book based on my own experiences of losing 70kilo. I have written another ten books since then on health and also fiction including three collections of short stories. I am an indie author and proud to be one.

My greatest pleasure comes from those readers who enjoy my take on health, characters and twisted endings… and of course come back for more.

My latest book – What’s in a Name – Volume Two.

Our legacy is not always about money or fame, but rather in the way that people remember our name after we have gone. In these sixteen short stories we discover the reasons why special men and women will stay in the hearts and minds of those who have met them.

Kenneth watches the love of his life dance on New Year’s Eve while Lily plants very special flowers every spring for her father. Martha helps out a work colleague as Norman steps back out into the world to make a difference. Owen brings light into a house and Patrick risks his life in the skies over Britain and holds back from telling a beautiful redhead that he loves her.In one way or another all these characters will be remembered by those whose lives they have touched.

There is also a bonus story introducing a new collection The Village Square to be published in 2018.

One of the recent reviews for the book

A brief romance that lasts a life time and longer, a poignant story of Easter eggs and then we meet Martha, a colleague we would all love to have… Three stories in and I was already enjoying the deliciously different tales in this collection. Cheer on Norman, admire Patrick and have the last laugh with Rosemary. Dip into this these easy to read short tales any time, but expect some to have dark twists.

You can buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Whats-Name-Stories-Life-Romance-ebook/dp/B0748MLZ1W

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

My other books

Author Page UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

And Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Everything you need to know about how to buy my books and connect to me on social media is here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/about-me/

Thank you for dropping by and your ongoing support.. It means a great deal to me.. thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name? Volume Two – Kenneth by Sally Cronin


New Year’s Eve by Sally Cronin

Kenneth Fitzgerald looked across the crowded ballroom at the woman that he had loved for a lifetime. Georgina was surrounded by attentive male admirers, and was holding court as she always did, with elegance and grace. He watched as she tilted her head to one side to listen to the young man sitting next to her, cupping her hand delicately behind her ear, to better hear his comments over the sound of the band.

The handsome companion was her grandson Timothy, and even at first glance you could see the resemblance; the same blue eyes, golden hair colour and a long refined nose. Georgie was 90 years old and yet her beauty was undiminished. Kenneth knew he was biased. He remembered his stunned reaction to meeting her for the first time over 70 years ago, in this same ballroom on New Year’s Eve 1935.

Georgina Crowley was the daughter of a millionaire financier who had managed to survive the Wall Street crash in 1929, by converting his wealth in previous years into a renowned art collection. Malcolm Crowley was an astute businessman and had never squandered his money on the trappings of wealth. He had also salted away cash and jewellery on his various international travels, providing a comfortable buffer for the family, and those that had worked for him loyally over the last thirty years.

He was as canny with his three children as he was with his wealth. His two sons had followed him into the firm after studying for business degrees , and Georgina had also been encouraged to go to college, where she was now training to be a teacher. Malcolm firmly believed that all his children should have skills that could support them, should the financial climate not improve significantly in his lifetime. That is not to say that his youngest child did not also enjoy the benefits of being part of a wealthy family. Georgina was known to have exquisite taste, and her slim figure was the perfect shape to model the latest fashions. To be fair, many of the designs were copied from the leading fashion magazines, and recreated on her treasured Singer sewing machine

Kenneth brought himself back to the present and felt his heart pounding in his chest. It was the same every year, when he remembered that first New Year’s Eve, when he had fallen madly in love at first sight with Georgina Crowley. It had not been a one-sided infatuation, and at that first touch of her delicate hand in his own, he had felt a tremor that caused him to look up into her face. Her pink lips had parted in surprise and her smile dazzled him.

They had danced all night circling the floor; perfectly matched in their love of the foxtrot and quickstep. The other party goers had moved to one side to watch this golden couple as they seamlessly moved from one dance to another. Even Malcolm Crowley paused in his discussions with a group of men, to watch his daughter’s delight in this young man’s embrace.

Kenneth had wanted to kiss those pink lips at midnight but was aware of the scrutiny from those around them. He had whispered in Georgina’s ear as they waltzed to the final tune of the old year.

‘Shall we slip away at midnight and find some moon and starlight?’

She had looked into his eyes and smiled, nodding her head in agreement.

As the clock struck midnight, Georgina rushed to her parents at their table and kissed and hugged them both. In the ensuing melee, as the other guests did likewise, the two of them had slipped out of the large double doors at the end of the ballroom. Kenneth had guided her to his car parked along the drive. He grabbed a blanket from the back seat of the roadster and placed it around Georgina’s shoulders before helping her into the front seat. He raced around to the other side of the car and within minutes they were roaring down the hill from the house into the dark night.

Kenneth drove carefully as the road was slick with ice and he was aware that he was responsible for a very precious cargo. Although it was a cold night he knew just the place to take Georgina on this magical occasion. A spot high above the city, where the lights and sounds of New Year’s Eve would provide a backdrop for their first kiss.

He looked across at Georgina as she clasped the plaid blanket around her bare shoulders, and smiled at her obvious delight at this adventure. His eyes were only off the road for seconds, but it was still long enough for him to miss the broken down car around a curve in the road.

He regained consciousness and raised his hand to his forehead; it came away wet and sticky. He wiped blood from his eyes and tried to move his body. Finally he was able to push himself into a sitting position against the upturned roadster and he desperately looked for Georgina. The moon came out from behind a cloud and he took a sharp intake of breath as he saw her crumpled form by the rear bumper of the car. He crawled across and managed to pull her crushed and lifeless body into his arms… his heart was pounding in his chest and he tried to wake her by touching her face and calling her name. After several minutes he rested his head back against the car and he knew that she was gone.

‘Please, please do not take her … it is my fault and it should be me… take me… please take me and save her.’

On New Year’s Day, Georgie asked her youngest grandson to drive her to the cemetery. She came here often to visit her husband’s grave. Phillip had been a wonderful man and she had grown to love him during the long summer of 1942. They had twin sons born in 1944 but tragically Phillip had been killed in the last weeks of the war. He had been brought home and buried in the Crowley family plot close by her house and their sons.  She still missed his loving kindness.  However, she admitted to herself that it was a different kind of love to the one that has swept her off her feet that magical New Year’s Eve in 1935.

Whilst her grandson watched from the car, Georgina spent some minutes at Phillip’s monument. Then walking carefully, leaning on her stick, she moved down the icy path until she stopped before another gravestone. Tears gathered in her pale blue eyes as she read the inscription.

Kenneth Fitzgerald
Beloved son and brother.
1910 – 1935
Killed in an automobile accident.

It was 70 years ago, and yet every New Year’s Day, Georgie relived those dreadful first moments when she had woken in the hospital. She had a dreadful headache but thankfully didn’t seem to have any other major injuries. Her mother and father were sitting by her bedside and Malcolm gently took her hand in his. Her first words were asking for Kenneth, and she still remembered the look of anguish on her father’s face as he braced himself to tell her the news.

She touched the top of the headstone and smiled to herself. He had been there again last night at the family ball, watching from the shadows as he had done every year, and she had felt that same giddy feeling as that first New Year’s Eve. She suspected that this time however it was more likely that her medication was no longer effective in keeping her failing heart beating.

She felt a touch on her shoulder and looked up into the smiling face of her grandson.

‘Time to go Gran.. It is getting cold and I need to get you back home.’

Georgie took his arm and they moved carefully up the path. She turned for one last look at Kenneth’s grave.

She whispered to herself. ‘Next year my love, next year we will dance again together on New Year’s Eve.’

©sallycronin 2016

I hope that you have enjoyed this story from What’s in a Name Volume Two.. Both volumes are now available in print in the UK and Ireland.. But they are also available separately in Ebook.

Also

You can read the reviews and buy the books

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for dropping in and Happy New Year… see you in 2018…