Smorgasbord Short stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? – Volume One – Jack a VIP visitor 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.

Jack a VIP Visitor

The gardens of the old house were kept immaculately by a team of unseen gardeners, so that others may visit to walk its paths, and smell the fragrances that drift like smoke through the air.

However, not everyone is allowed to wander unaccompanied across the green and luscious lawns, to discover hidden treasures behind evergreen bushes and ancient trees. This privilege is only for those, who in their lives have touched plants with love and respect. No ripping of the roots from the soil or unworthy cuts with sharpened tools when the blooms have faded and died; just a gentle touch prompted by love.

One such special visitor to the magic garden was an elderly man who walked delightedly amongst the riotous late spring colours of the flower beds and along the old stone paths. His name was Jack and he had spent a lifetime working in his own garden; gifting that love of the earth and all that grew within it to his three children and many grandchildren. As he walked in the soft late spring sunlight he caught sight of a flash of pink behind an old wooden shed and heard the tinkle of childish laughter. Intrigued he made his way across the dew damp grass to explore further.

His hand reached out and touched the delicate petals of the wall climbing rose and it reminded Jack of his two daughters. The plant was beautiful and vibrant; with the strength to grow and bloom every year in this hidden spot of the garden. He remembered how delighted Katherine and Amelia had been when Jack had bought them their first climbing rose to grace the wall of their home. He smiled to himself as he remembered the looks on their faces every time he arrived home with a new pot from the nursery on his way home from work. When their mother has died when they were still so young, it had been a way of bringing light back into their desolate home.

As he breathed in the scent of the pink blossoms an image came to his mind of a beautiful woman sat in a chair holding her beloved children closely. A feeling of joy spread through him and he stood for a moment relishing this precious memory.

This garden was not a formal place of worship but that did not matter as he knew that there was spirituality in simple things. Such as being amongst these beautiful plants and listening to the insects that hummed with the joy of spring. It was also in the sharing of fairy stories and cocoa before bedtime, hearing his grandchildren’s laughter and knowing that he was fulfilling his dying wife’s last wishes.

Part of that wish was that he continued to create a special garden for her daughters and son. She wanted them to grow to adulthood appreciating the beauty of nature and how to treat growing things with love and tenderness. It was a task that at first had been very painful, but over the years, it became a source of joy for all of them; and to those that they welcomed into their home. Many a stray dog or cat found sanctuary amongst the bushes and flowers along the borders of the lawn and even the wild foxes knew they could bring their young in safety.

Jack continued to wander, touching a rose here and a gentle scented lilac there. A yellow rose caught his eye as it was the only bloom of that colour in the garden. It stood out amongst the pale pinks and vibrant reds and he thought of his son Michael standing proudly between his two sisters and smiled to himself at the image it conjured.

He found a stone seat under a shady tree surrounded by funny little statues of dwarf musicians. He fancied he heard teenage laughter; and was that really the sound of a guitar playing nearby? Peacefully he sat drinking in the scene before him until a flash of colour and the whirr of tiny wings startled him. Hovering before him was a delicate butterfly decked out in vibrant gold and shimmering green. Amazed Jack held out his hand and the little creature settled delicately into his palm. They looked at each other for a moment or two and then the butterfly flew away back towards an old magnolia tree.

No words had been spoken but a message had been passed between them. Jack knew that he would be welcome to visit the garden anytime that he wished; a place to remember those that he had cherished and to touch again plants and petals he had loved.. But for now it was time to leave. With a lingering look at the beauty that surrounded him, he walked across the grass dotted with daisies and faded from sight into the walls of the boarded up house.

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection.

Sandra Cox 5.0 out of 5 stars Names Reviewed in the United States on December 19, 2020
This book is filled with fascinating short stories, each one based around the named character of the book. Each story is different and might revolve around a child, an adult–young to old–or even a ghost. What they all have in common is the emotion they bring to the story. The scenery is detailed and pulls you into the location. And the characters are relatable. I enjoyed these stories and think you will too. So, grab a cup of coffee or tea, put your feet up, relax and sink into these stories.

Romance,” had already been written. Needless to say, I’ve already purchased my copy.

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 weekend for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? – Volume One – Jane – The Surprise 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.

Jane – The Surprise…

The news of her pregnancy was a surprise to the 45 year old, and to be honest not a welcome one. Her two other children, both boys in their late teens, were very happily studying at the same university fifty miles away. Whilst she missed them all the time, she had sailed through the empty-nest syndrome perfectly well.

Jane had gone to the doctor to enquire about hormone replacement as she seemed to have entered the menopause early. Before prescribing the treatment, her doctor felt it was a good idea to rule out any other reason for her symptoms with a simple test. He delivered the news with a certain amount of care to a bewildered Jane; sitting at her side with a glass of water and a box of tissues to hand.

He had known his patient for twenty-five years and was well aware that Jane was looking forward to some long-awaited overseas trips with her husband Mike and that the planned six weeks in Australia would now have to be put on the back burner. Jane took the glass of water and sat in dumbstruck silence for several minutes as the doctor waited patiently.

It was at that moment that she felt the ‘surprise’ kick gently against her hand clasped across her stomach. Obviously the baby was keen to voice its opinion about the matter and was making quite sure that she knew there were now two of them to consider.

Following a scan the following week it was determined that Jane was just over five months pregnant and what she had thought was middle-aged spread was going to be little more difficult to shift than anticipated. She had insisted that her husband, who was still in denial about the whole thing, come to the appointment and saw the look on his face as he watched his latest child squirm and kick on the monitor.

‘Can you tell us what the sex is at this stage?’ Jane gripped Mike’s hand as he leaned forward to peer at the screen.

‘I don’t want to know Mike, please let’s wait until it is born,’ she smiled apologetically at the nurse who was just about to spill the beans.

Mike grumbled all the way home about how quick she had been to give away all the baby and toddler clothes and did she know how much it was going to cost to buy all new kit including one of those new-fangled pushchairs?

‘Darling,’ Jane reached over and laid her hand on his knee. ‘That was fifteen years ago and you never know; this baby might be a girl.’

He shrugged distractedly and Jane could see that Mike was not as invested in the turn of events as she already was. Of course he did not have the benefit of hormones racing through her system, which to be honest she rather enjoyed as she had thought they might have been totally dormant. Except of course after the office BBQ five months ago; she chuckled away to herself much to Mike’s annoyance.

Thankfully they had not reached the stage of paying for their planned six weeks in Australia and Mike now moved his extended vacation time to early the next year so that he could be there for the arrival of the new addition. He tried to be enthusiastic about his impending fatherhood but it was a process he thought he would never experience again…

He loved his sons but admitted to himself that he enjoyed them a great deal more now that the three of them shared similar interests such as football and heading down the pub for a swift pint on Sunday lunchtimes. Now that they were enjoying university he had found himself excited about the prospect of increased freedom to pick up some of the old threads of his life. He had been looking forward to scaling back at his firm too and letting his partner take the slack so he and Jane could take those trips they had promised themselves. He thought back to the sleepless nights with two babies under three and then again when they hit their teens with less than fond memories.

However over the next few weeks he found himself looking over at Jane sitting on the sofa with her feet up on the coffee table, knitting baby booties and matinee jackets in soft white wool and did not have the heart to be disgruntled for long. In fact she was blooming and he had to admit the re-emergence of her hormones was doing wonders for his love life.

The next hurdle of course was to tell the boys… Dan and Geoff came home for the Christmas break, six weeks after their parents had received their unexpected news. Mike had picked them up from the station and they barrelled through the front door eager to see their mum and enjoy one of her home-cooked meals. They flung their bags on the carpet before turning to give her a hug. Both stopped in their tracks, looking at the obvious and now very noticeable bump that Jane was cradling with both hands.

Nervously Jane searched their faces and was highly surprised when they both fell about laughing.

‘Great gag Mum,’ Dan was hanging onto the door frame to the lounge. Geoff whipped out his mobile phone and insisted on taking a selfie with his head next to her bump whilst Jane and Mike looked at each other in bewilderment.

Mike put his hand on Geoff’s shoulder and reached out his other to Dan who stopped laughing at the serious expression on his father’s face.

‘You are kidding, right!’ both of them stared at their parents before picking up their backpacks and heading silently up the stairs to their rooms.

Both boys had jobs over the Christmas break in bars in the centre of town and during the day they would help out around the house as Jane tired easily. Her ankles swelled and she found it difficult to focus on household chores and preparing meals. Mike took over the cooking and in the evening, when the boys were at work, they would sit on the sofa and she would rest her legs across his knees as he massaged her feet. She also became very tearful and the men in her life tiptoed around her in case they set her off again.

Mike spent as much time as possible with his sons over the holidays trying to persuade them that having a baby brother would be cool; they would be able to teach him how to play football and about girls. The three of them convinced themselves that it would most likely be a boy, especially as there had not been a girl in either side of the family since Jane had been born into a family of five brothers.

After a subdued Christmas Day with a rather crispy turkey and soggy potatoes cooked by father and sons; the more urgent business of preparing for the new arrival took priority.

Mike had decorated the nursery and he and the boys had managed to assemble the cot and various essential pieces of furniture before Dan and Geoff returned to university in the middle of January. Early in February he and Jane had gone to the large industrial park to one of the large stores that sold pushchairs and car seats and were both exhausted by the time they reached home. Mike had not been to the pub for several weeks and seeing that he was looking frazzled, Jane told him to meet his friends for a drink whilst she caught up on one of her weekly television shows. She assured him that she would be fine for an hour and reluctantly he headed off patting his phone in his back pocket.

His friends who were the same age as Mike, gave him a hard time in a good-natured way and promised to turn out for the school football matches to offer moral support when the other kids called him granddad. They then sat smugly back with their pints and reminisced about sleepless nights and nappies.

Halfway through the programme; Jane felt the first twinges and ignored them as indigestion. By the time the next adverts rolled around there was no doubt that something was definitely happening. She grabbed her mobile phone and dialled Mike’s number holding her breath as another pain rippled across her abdomen.

The next morning Dan and Geoff arrived at the hospital and were directed to the maternity ward waiting room. After a few minutes their father came in still dressed in his green gown and hugged them one after the other. He looked shattered and as he stared at them tears rolled down his cheeks.

‘Dad for god’s sake where’s mum and what’s happened?’ Dan grabbed Mike’s arm shocked and terrified what the answer might be.

Unable to speak Mike gestured for them to follow him and they walked behind him glancing at each other nervously.

Their father pushed open the door to the labour suite where they saw their mum, flushed and exhausted but smiling down at a bundle in her arms. Mike walked across and placed his arm around Jane’s shoulders looking lovingly down at the two of them.

The boys felt reassured by their mother’s smile and she beckoned them to the other side of the bed. From here they could see the scrunched up face of their new little brother and they both reached out to gently touch the blanket he was wrapped in. At their touch the baby opened his eyes and it seemed as though he was looking directly at them. They caught their breath and knew immediately that they would move heaven and earth for this little boy.

Jane glanced at Mike and they both smiled and then she turned to her two sons. ‘Meet your sister Imogen boys.’

Dan and Geoff looked at each other in disbelief and then Geoff touched his mum’s shoulder gently as he leant over to take one tiny hand in his.

‘Great gag mum……’

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection.

Sandra Cox 5.0 out of 5 stars Names Reviewed in the United States on December 19, 2020
This book is filled with fascinating short stories, each one based around the named character of the book. Each story is different and might revolve around a child, an adult–young to old–or even a ghost. What they all have in common is the emotion they bring to the story. The scenery is detailed and pulls you into the location. And the characters are relatable. I enjoyed these stories and think you will too. So, grab a cup of coffee or tea, put your feet up, relax and sink into these stories.

Romance,” had already been written. Needless to say, I’ve already purchased my copy.

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 weekend for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? – Volume One – Ifan and the Black Sheep 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.

Ifan and the Black Sheep

Ifan Williams sat in the small velvet chair that usually held his gran’s dressing gown and woollen shawl. The green velveteen gown was now draped over the end of the bed; adding some extra warmth to her feet as she lay sleeping deeply on this winter’s afternoon.

The big double bed was one of the few pieces of furniture in the cottage overlooking the estuary, when David Lloyd had carried his young bride, Megan, over the threshold in 1920.

Over the next few years, other pieces, usually made by local craftsmen, had been carefully brought in through the wide front door at the end of the stone path that led from the main road. None of those hand crafted pieces had been replaced in the last fifty years; the sturdy old oak bed was no exception.

His gran lay beneath a patchwork quilt that she had made as part of her bottom drawer. She had explained that expression to Ifan during their nightly chats by the fireside where they sat together after supper. His granddad had died when Ifan was just three years old; whilst he was living far away in South Wales with his mother and father and two older brothers. He had never known him, but he knew his face well from the old photograph above the mantelpiece. A stern looking man with a big bushy moustache and eyebrows, who Ifan was just a little afraid of.

Gran had laughed at this notion and set about telling him tales of his granddad and his life on the mountain. Cadair Idris was on the other side of the estuary, where David had tended sheep for a large landowner all his working life. She told Ifan of his laughter and the way he would pick her up and swing her around the small kitchen when he came back from the pub on a Friday night with two or three pints inside him. She would smile as she sang the verses that David had romanced her with, even when they were middle-aged; tears would come to her eyes at the memory.

Ifan, his mother and twin brothers, Bryn and George, had returned to the valley to live with gran when he was five years old. His dad had been caught in a collapse in a mine and his mother Bronwyn could not stay in a place that held so many memories of him. It was not just her memories, but fear for her older boys who had worshipped their father and planned on following him down the mines when they were old enough. She dreaded the thought of losing them too and decided that a move back to her home away from that possibility was the only way forward. But it was her youngest son who had worried her the most. He would barely eat and at night he would toss and turn in the grip of dark dreams that had him waking; crying and calling for her.

After a few months it became clear that Bryn and George were unhappy despite finding jobs on a local farm. A soon as they turned eighteen they had announced that they wanted to return to work in the mines. They found this rural farming community too quiet and they missed their friends from the cobbled, narrow streets of the mining town. Despite her misgivings, Bronwyn knew that she could not stop them from following their own paths because of her fear. After some failed attempts to get them to change their minds, she arranged for them to board with a neighbour in the same street that they had grown up in.

Bronwyn had tried very hard to be brave for Ifan’s sake as they stood hand in hand on the platform, watching the train leave the station carrying the boys back to South Wales.

That was three years ago and despite initially missing his brothers very much; they made an effort to write to him often, occasionally sending photographs and also ringing to speak to him on the old black telephone in the kitchen. Ifan was now ten years old and had taken on the role of man of the house. Life had settled into a happy and stable routine and he had flourished. His mother too had gone back to work part-time in nearby Dolgellau in a store, walking Ifan to school in the morning and waiting for him when the bell rang at the end of the day. They would arrive home to supper on the table and Ifan particlarly loved his gran’s homemade berry crumble and thick custard.

In the summer holidays after his mother finished work the three of them would take a picnic part of the way up the track that led to the summit of Cadair, sitting on the mossy grass as they ate egg sandwiches and sticky homemade ginger cake. Megan would tell stories of David’s life as a shepherd and one story that Ifan loved to hear time and time again was about the black sheep.

One winter when unexpected early snow was deep on the ground, the farmer and David had trekked up the narrow path to find the flock and bring them down the mountain to safety. It was almost impossible to see through the still falling snow and they had almost given up hope of finding them when David had spotted the old matriarch of the flock. Black against the whiteness and surrounded by unmoving mounds that looked like snowdrifts.

As soon as the black ewe saw the men she recognised, she bleated and headed towards them, followed by the rest of the flock; visible now as they turned their dark faces in their direction. Within an hour they were all safely down to the lower slopes and feeding on bales of hay hungrily.

Gran said that in these dangerous mountains every flock needed a strong black ewe at the heart of the flock; wherever she was, they would be safe.

Now gran was very sick and the doctor had been in twice today. Ifan sat rigidly in the delicate chair holding a fragile, blue veined hand in his own small grasp. He looked up at her lined and much loved face and held his breath as he saw her eyes flicker and then open.

‘Hello Cariad my love,’ Megan turned her head on the pillow and squeezed his hand lightly.
‘Gran are you feeling better?’ Ifan leaned forward over the patchwork quilt and stared intently into her deeply lined face.

‘I am very tired pet, but so pleased to see you sitting there like a vision,’ she swallowed with difficulty but then smiled at the worried looking child. ‘Nothing that a good milky cup of cocoa wouldn’t fix.’

The boy stood up and removed her hand from his, placing it gently across the quilt… He rushed to the kitchen where his mother was making supper and grabbed her arm.

‘Mum, mum, gran’s awake and says she wants a cup of milky cocoa.’

His mother frowned and pulling out a chair from the scrubbed wooden kitchen table, she gently pushed Ifan into the seat. Resting her hands on his thin shoulders she kissed the top of his head before leaving the room.

A few minutes later, Ifan heard sobbing coming from the big front bedroom and he rushed down the corridor and burst into the room. His mother was sat in the velvet chair holding Megan’s hand up to her lips; tears filling her eyes. The boy went to the other side of the bed and looked down at his gran as she lay with her eyes closed and a slight smile on her lips. He looked across at Bronwyn and she met his gaze for a moment before shaking her head slowly from side to side.

A few days later the cottage was filled with mourners, most of whom had known Megan all her life and certainly since she had moved into the cottage with David Lloyd so many years ago. Ifan’s brothers had returned home for the funeral and were now on the back porch drinking beer with the men from the town. Ifan slipped away to his gran’s bedroom and sat in the velvet chair with his small fists clenched on his lap. Through his tears he looked over at the bedside table and saw Megan’s reading glasses perched on top of a white envelope. He picked it up and saw that it was addressed to him. The letter was unsealed so he pulled back the flap and removed the slip of paper inside. He read the spidery writing that covered the small piece of paper.

Cariad, please do not be sad. I am in a wonderful place now with your granddad and I want you to remember the story of the black sheep on the mountain. Your mum is now the heart of the family and if you stay close to her and follow her you will be safe and happy. Be brave and I love you my lamb. Gran.

After the visitors had all left; his two brothers’ and his mum sat around the kitchen table with a pot of tea talking about the day and exchanging memories of Megan. Ifan slipped away quietly and put himself to bed. For a few minutes he stared up at the ceiling above his head and then across at his album containing all the family photos he treasured. A white envelope protruded between the pages and there it would stay forever. He switched off the bedside light and within minutes he had drifted off to sleep, dreaming of a black sheep leading her flock across the green hillside in the sunshine.

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection.

Sandra Cox 5.0 out of 5 stars Names Reviewed in the United States on December 19, 2020
This book is filled with fascinating short stories, each one based around the named character of the book. Each story is different and might revolve around a child, an adult–young to old–or even a ghost. What they all have in common is the emotion they bring to the story. The scenery is detailed and pulls you into the location. And the characters are relatable. I enjoyed these stories and think you will too. So, grab a cup of coffee or tea, put your feet up, relax and sink into these stories.

Romance,” had already been written. Needless to say, I’ve already purchased my copy.

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 weekend for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? – Volume One – Isobel -Hiding in Plain Sight 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.

Isobel -Hiding in Plain Sight

Isobel Smith looked out of the window of her thatched cottage at the small garden that fronted the narrow lane. She would have to rake up those leaves soon. They would start to blow around the house in the blustery wind that came off the sea most days.The issue was finding the time between the autumnal downpours that plagued the coast at this time of year. She chuckled to herself as she contemplated this activity and wondered when she had become such a sissy.. after all it was only rain and not likely to kill her.

It was Halloween, and when Isobel had been into the post office in the village the other day, the post mistress, Agnes Flanagan, had reminded her that the handful of children left in this small outpost on Finigan’s Hook, would be trick or treating tonight. Agnes had suggested that she buy a couple of packs of the fun size chocolate to fill the buckets that accompanied the costumed tricksters, and good-naturedly, Isobel had popped the bags into her shopping basket.

Her life here was vastly different from the one she had left behind. A high flyer, Isobel had definitely raised the glass ceiling as far as women in her profession were concerned. She had been in demand around the globe and had a reputation of being able to resolve complex and seemingly impossible issues decisively and cleanly. She could have lived anywhere in the world on the proceeds from her long career, but with an instinct honed in the cut and thrust of her chosen profession, Isobel knew that a quiet, out of the way retreat would be the perfect spot to settle. She kept a low profile, avoiding the quiz night at the pub and did not venture onto social media, preferring instead to walk the coastal path every morning and watch re-runs of Midsomer Murders every afternoon.

She didn’t lack for company however as she had recently adopted a three-legged black cat called Lucky. He had a squint which meant he never quite met her eye, but in her career she had found that was also the case with people she had come into contact with. As she contemplated the leaf raking task and the upcoming trick or treating, Lucky jumped up onto the back of the sofa at her side and sidled up for a stroke to his arched back.

Later that afternoon, Isobel gave some thought to another problem that Agnes had divulged when she was in the shop this week. Agnes was oblivious to the fact that she was renowned as the village gossip and cheerfully dispensed everyone’s personal business to all who would listen. Isobel would normally filter out these minor snippets and nod knowingly from time to time, but something caught her attention.

‘Well you know, there have been six cats gone missing in the last month and everyone is terrified about letting them out at night.’

Isobel had paused and looked up from examining a new line of cat food on display.

‘Do they have any idea what is taking the pets?’ Placing her hand firmly on the post office counter, Isobel looked pointedly at Agnes.

‘Well…. I don’t like to speak ill of people… but there is talk that it is Patrick Feeney up to his old tricks.’

With Lucky’s safety to consider, Isobel was not going to let the matter drop there, and she eased the rest of the story from the obliging postmistress.

Apparently, Patrick Feeney was a vicious thug who had terrorised the children in the small village primary school before going to the secondary school in the nearest big town. He had been shipped off to a young offender’s institute at age 15 after being caught breaking into the village pub one night. There had been talk at the same time of cats going missing and wildlife being found mutilated and left outside homes in the village. Those disturbing and hideous activities had stopped when Patrick was away serving his sentence for burglary, but had resumed again very shortly after his release.

Isobel’s thoughts had returned frequently to the matter over the last few days. As she heard his rich and throaty purr, and felt Lucky’s bravely beating heart, she decided that nothing was going to happen to her only true companion.

That night the children of the village dressed as spiders, skeletons and witches and knocked on the doors of the cottages that surrounded the square and lined the lane to the beach. They were accompanied by their parents, but when they knocked on her door, Isobel could sense that there was an element of watchfulness and fear to the adults vigilance. She dispensed the various fun sized chocolate bars into the proffered buckets and the noisy group moved onto the next cottage down the lane; laughing excitedly and comparing their hauls.

Locking the front door behind her, Isobel headed off in the opposite direction to the revellers. She left Lucky looking out of the brightly lit window; no doubt surprised by his owner’s rare excursion into the night. Swiftly and with purpose, Isobel walked across the square and headed down the lane that led to the farmland to the north of the village. The road also passed the house owned by the widow Feeney and her recently returned son Patrick. Despite the cold wind, Isobel tucked herself into a small break in the hedge on the village side of the cottage, and with hands in pockets waited patiently.

The next morning the villagers woke to a bright and sunny day and discovered, as they went about their daily business, police cars and an incident van parked in the square.

Knowing that the person to question was to be found behind the counter of the post office, a crowd gathered and shot questions at a delighted Agnes.

‘Shush will you ever let me say my piece,’ she admonished the agitated group.

‘It would seem that Mr. Kavanagh was walking his dog Betty along the beach this morning and found a body.’ Pausing for effect, she pronounced authoritively. ‘I hear tell it is that rogue Patrick Feeney who must have fallen during the night when out on the prowl.’

Over the coming weeks there was a great deal of speculation about the demise of this detested and feared member of the community. Everyone commiserated with Patrick’s mother, who to be fair seemed to be relieved by the incident and she began to thrive as she became the centre of attention in the village. She had been so mortified by her son’s previous behaviour, she had imposed isolation on herself; even to the extent of shopping in the next village down the coast.

As Isobel was a relative newcomer she was not questioned by the police or her neighbours about the event. She therefore did not disclose her observations of the dead man on the night in question; which would have confirmed that he was indeed guilty of crimes against the domestic animals in the area. Nor did she feel it necessary to detail her actions following those observations.

However, one lucky tabby cat had been returned home to scurry through a cat flap and lick its sore ear with a likely determination never to leave its fireside again.

Over the next few years Isobel was taken into the heart of the village, and those who sought her expertise never discovered her sanctuary. But, in high places and low dives around the world, many wondered what had happened to the highest paid and most successful assassin of all time.

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection.

Sandra Cox 5.0 out of 5 stars Names Reviewed in the United States on December 19, 2020
This book is filled with fascinating short stories, each one based around the named character of the book. Each story is different and might revolve around a child, an adult–young to old–or even a ghost. What they all have in common is the emotion they bring to the story. The scenery is detailed and pulls you into the location. And the characters are relatable. I enjoyed these stories and think you will too. So, grab a cup of coffee or tea, put your feet up, relax and sink into these stories.

Romance,” had already been written. Needless to say, I’ve already purchased my copy.

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 weekend for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? – Volume One – Hector – The Homecoming 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.

Hector – The Homecoming

Hector Gonzalez looked out of the plane window, over the wing and across the bright blue sky. Just in sight, dark clouds gathered beneath them and the captain had activated the seat-belt sign with a warning of possible turbulence. With two hours left of the flight from Mexico City to Las Vegas, and the airline magazine read from cover to cover, there was more than enough time to contemplate what was waiting for him on arrival.

The last time Hector had been to Las Vegas was thirty years ago as a college kid. He lived in San Francisco with his parents who had emigrated from Mexico when he was a baby. His dad had worked on one of the fishing boats that headed out into the bay each day, captained by his Uncle Pedro who had lived in America for twenty years. His mom had worked in his Aunt Maria’s restaurant and he certainly had warm memories of the fajitas and quesadillas that made their way home at the weekends. It was a great childhood and his parents never let him forget how fortunate they were to be living in this city, so different from their lives in Mexico where his grandparents still lived.

In the early days it was tough to keep in touch with the family that remained in Chihuahua, but letters and parcels were exchanged and when his grandparents had a telephone installed it was like Christmas to his mom and dad.

Hector turned to look at the man sat next to him but could see that he was not interested in a conversation. He was staring at his laptop screen; writing what looked like a report of some kind. The seat-belt sign was switched off which triggered the resumption of the refreshment service. Within minutes the attendants had reached his row and asked Hector if he cared for anything. He smiled, refusing politely and turned his head away to stare out across the never-ending sky.

Almost thirty years ago to the day over this holiday weekend, Hector and his friend Cesar had decided to use the break from community college to drive over to Las Vegas, picking up Cesar’s cousin Jorge in San Jose on the way. His mom and dad were not happy with the choice of destination. Las Vegas was a town that might appear cosmopolitan at that time, but whilst there were many Hispanics in the service industries, there were not so many at the gaming tables. However, the two boys promised that they would stay in a decent motel off The Strip and would avoid getting into trouble.

They threw their bags into the back of the car and headed out on a glorious spring morning to pick up Jorge and complete the nine hour trip in time for dinner. They arrived in Las Vegas and drove around the outskirts until they saw a reasonably smart looking motel with both vacancies and cheap rates for family rooms. They booked for four nights and were very happy with the large, clean room with three beds and set about getting ready for a night on the town. Jorge was twenty-one and the other two were big strapping lads; buying beer was not a problem in the bars off the main drag. After a few drinks they made a quick stop at the burger joint down the road then, with their saved cash burning a hole in their pockets, the three boys headed into one of the smaller casinos to hit the slot machines.

Two hours later they decided to move on having won a hundred bucks between them. Enough to cover their motel bill and some left over for food. Delighted they wandered down the main drag enjoying the bustle and lights that brought the place to life after dark. There was some debate about hitting more slots but both Hector and Cesar were tired from the early start and long drive, and they voted to return to the motel, starting fresh again in the morning.

They had just turned around to retrace their steps when they saw a commotion up ahead of them at the entrance to one of the bigger hotels. A man was waving his arms around and pushing a number of security guards who were attempting to eject him onto the street; the boys moved closer to watch the action. Force of numbers eventually ended the tussle as the uniformed men propelled the offending customer out of the big glass doors and towards the spectators who had gathered. There was a certain amount of laughter as the man tripped and fell to his knees but this turned to gasps of shock as he stood and pulled a gun from his pocket. Hector and his two friends froze in place on the side-lines as shots rang out on the now silent street; two of the security guards fell to the ground.

The crowd scattered and as sirens could be heard approaching from the north of the casino, the shooter turned and ran towards the south and right into the crowd including the three boys. For a moment he was face to face with Cesar as the boy stood in his path unintentionally blocking his escape route. He brought the gun up and stuck it into the terrified boy’s chest and smiled slightly as he began to pull the trigger. Instinctively Hector charged from Cesar’s right; punching the man hard in the side of his chest. He stumbled and before he could recover, Hector grabbed his gun arm and they struggled for possession of the weapon.

Hector was oblivious to everything around him. The screams from the crowd, the sirens, even the sound of his own breathing until the noise of the gunshot shattered the silence in his head. He expected to feel pain, but there was none. He expected to fall but he was held in the embrace of the killer who was staring into his eyes. But, suddenly the man’s gaze wavered and he slipped slowly to the ground to lie lifeless at Hector’s feet.

A day later Hector waited in an interview room for his parents to arrive. A detective sat across from him and asked him if he understood everything that he had said. Hector nodded silently. The door slammed back into the wall and his mom rushed into the room, around the table grabbing him tightly in her arms. His father stood helplessly by the doorway, white-faced and unmoving.

Within a week Hector was living with his grandfather in Chihuahua and working in his Uncle Julio’s garage. The house was basic but it was safe and it would be unlikely that the mob would find him here amongst his extended family and their community. His name had not been released but it was always possible that someone would be bribed to provide the name of the killer of the eldest son of one of the most powerful mob bosses in Chicago. Even the police in Las Vegas had not wanted to know where he was going. They were satisfied that it was self-defence and a murderer had been taken off the streets. He was slipped across the border into Mexico having said his tearful goodbyes to his parents and two friends.

It was hard to believe that it was thirty years ago and how much his life had changed. But not as he had thought as he had entered his grandfather’s house for the first time. At that moment all he could think about was what he had given up; having no idea how much he would gain. The family of aunts and uncles welcomed him with open arms and outside of work he found himself caught up in a whirl of fiestas and family celebrations where he met his lovely Maria. They had been married for over twenty five years and had three fine sons who all worked with him in his flourishing garage business in Chihuahua.

His parents had come back to Mexico when his father retired and lived close by in one of the new gated communities. Although so many dreamt of a better life in America; they relished in coming home to the warmth of their extended family and grandchildren.

Today Hector was going to a reunion. He had kept in touch with Cesar and Jorge over the years and this weekend they were going to be staying at one of the brand new resort hotels and casinos. It would be tough for him to revisit this place where his life had changed so dramatically. It had been several years before he had stopped looking over his shoulder and even now he occasionally felt he was being followed. However the mob boss was long gone and the world was a very different place. When he had received the email from Cesar he had almost refused, but Maria had persuaded him to go, meet his old friends and put the past to rest once and for all.

The captain announced that the plane was coming into land and illuminated the seat-belt sign for their descent. After a smooth touchdown the plane taxied to its stand and the passengers filed out of the front door. After passing through passport control and collecting his suitcase, Hector made for the exit into the concourse and into the toilets to freshen up before finding a taxi to the hotel.

A man followed him through the doors into the almost empty restroom. Hector went to wash his hands and turned his head to the man at the next sink. He was surprised to find it was the passenger who had sat next to him on the plane; now wearing a baseball cap and long black coat. The man turned to him and smiled and the next moment Hector felt a sharp pain in his side; looking down he saw his companions hand clenched against his chest. As his vision began to fade he saw the hand withdraw holding a long narrow blade. He clung to the sink as he felt the warm breath in his ear.

‘That’s for my brother Hector.’

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection.

Sandra Cox 5.0 out of 5 stars Names Reviewed in the United States on December 19, 2020
This book is filled with fascinating short stories, each one based around the named character of the book. Each story is different and might revolve around a child, an adult–young to old–or even a ghost. What they all have in common is the emotion they bring to the story. The scenery is detailed and pulls you into the location. And the characters are relatable. I enjoyed these stories and think you will too. So, grab a cup of coffee or tea, put your feet up, relax and sink into these stories.

Romance,” had already been written. Needless to say, I’ve already purchased my copy.

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 weekend for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? – Volume One – Hannah – Finding a way to move on! 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.

Hannah – Finding a way to move on…..

I sat in a corner of the pub nursing my sparkling water and lime juice. The Sunday lunch crowd was growing by the minute in this popular country inn; already there was loud laughter and raised voices of the customers competing with the background music.

We had first frequented the pub to sample their renowned Sunday lunch buffet over thirteen years ago, shortly after our marriage and move to the area. Two years later when our son Michael was born, he had been seated in one of the oak high-chairs supplied by the pub for their younger patrons. I smiled as I remembered the look on his face when handed his first roast parsnip. Distrust swiftly followed by a smile of delight as the crispy outside gave way to the soft sweetness. He was never a picky eater and I loved watching him discover new foods and tastes once he moved onto solids.

It was an ‘all you can eat’ buffet which was highly dangerous, especially for my husband Tom, who could rarely resist the temptation. As he sat contemplating his empty plate; I would run through the desserts up on the blackboard in an effort to move him on from the roast potatoes, but rarely succeeded. He always had room for apple and blackberry crumble; especially with piping hot custard poured liberally over the top of it. Michael was into ice- cream and usually opted for a scoop of all three flavours available. In the early days the evidence of his dessert was clearly seen around his mouth and down the front of his shirt.

As his sixth birthday approached I brought up the subject of a party for his friends and was firmly put in my place. ‘Mum,’ he looked firmly into my eyes. ‘I want to go to the pub with you and dad for my birthday like every Sunday.’

I rang ahead and reserved our usual table and having mentioned that it was Michael’s birthday, the manager offered to have a birthday cake made. When we arrived there had been helium balloons attached to the backs of the chairs and a banner on the wall behind the table. I have never seen such delight on my son’s face as the assembled Sunday crowd sang him Happy Birthday. Most of them had seen him grow into this fine young boy, and it was just the perfect day.

The noise from the bar interrupted my train of thought. The pub had changed hands about four years ago in my absence. I had been surprised when I had walked through the door to see no food being served and a completely different atmosphere. There were few families; just a four deep crush around the bar area and loud music playing discordantly in speakers at each corner of the room. Something had not changed however, and I recognised one tall man who stood head and shoulders over those he was drinking with. He looked like the life and soul of the party, and it was clear that his enraptured audience of middle-aged men were very happy for him to keep putting his hand in his pocket to pay for another round. Raucous laughter created a moat around this particular group as other patrons, excluded from this select few, moved further away towards the tables along the walls.

The man had been here on the day of Michael’s birthday party and had been the only discordant note of the day. Loud and brash he had dominated the crowd at the bar as he was doing today, knocking back several neat whiskies in the space of an hour. In fact it was his behaviour that had encouraged us to leave earlier than usual, having indulged in birthday cake topped with Cornish dairy ice-cream. The staff kindly packaged up the remaining half of the cake, and with one very happy birthday boy clutching the box in his hands, we headed home.

I remember that drive as if it was yesterday. My son strapped into his booster seat behind us still clasping the remains of his cake. My husband humming along to one of the CDs playing some jazz; turning occasionally to smile at me. The weather was not great with freezing rain beginning to coat the dry roads. Tom was a careful driver and slowed down as we navigated the narrow country lanes between the pub and our village five miles ahead.

Suddenly there was a blast of a car horn behind us and Tom looked into the rear view mirror at the vehicle that had suddenly and rapidly appeared around the curve in the road. Tom rarely swore and certainly not in front of Michael so his ‘What the bloody hell….’ both shocked and scared me. I looked over my shoulder to see a long sleek Jaguar sports car almost on our bumper; Tom slightly eased ahead as he approached the next bend. We had nowhere to pull into as a wall of granite stretched up on one side and there was zero visibility ahead. That however did not deter the driver behind us as he accelerated passed us across the solid white line and into the curve.

Tom and I saw the oncoming car at the same time and I screamed as it swerved to avoid the Jaguar and slammed straight into us at speed.

I was in a coma for five days, watched over by my devastated parents. My first words as I regained some form of coherent thought were to ask for Tom and Michael. I remember my father’s ashen face as he held my hand and told me that I was the only one that had survived. Despite my injuries I insisted on attending the funeral of my husband and beautiful son. I did not cry.

I did not cry at the inquest; or the subsequent trial of the man who had caused the accident. I had been able to give the police enough information about the distinctive car for them to track it down to a house at the other side of our village. This was not the driver’s first offence but armed with an expensive and clever lawyer he claimed mitigating circumstances. Including putting the blame on Tom’s slow and careless driving. In the end despite his blood alcohol level and his dangerous driving he only received a seven year sentence and a driving ban of ten years.

I had moved away from our home as I couldn’t live with the memories we had created together. I moved to the city and went back to work as a chemist in a large pharmaceutical company. I lived in a sterile flat with just the photographs of my husband and son and rarely sought out the company of others outside of work. I knew that Tom would be disappointed in me and that he would only wish that I would go on with my life and find love again. But there was no space for another love until I had received justice for those I had lost.

I came back to the present as the tall man at the bar threw back the contents of the glass of whisky and slammed it back down on the counter. He slapped a few of the men on the back and sauntered to the main door. I left my half-filled glass of water and lime juice and followed him out into the car park. I knew which car was his as I also knew which direction he would be taking. Although I had moved from the village my neighbours had kept me in touch with his movements; including the party he had thrown himself when he had been released two years early for good behaviour. It was clear that he had not taken his punishment seriously or the fact that he was still banned from driving for another five years.

I had counted every whisky that he had drunk this lunchtime and as he fumbled for his keys beside his car I approached him from behind.

‘Excuse me,’ I smiled as he turned to face me. He showed no sign of recognition despite seeing me in court every day of his trial. My long dark wig and sunglasses were more than adequate a disguise considering how drunk he was.

‘How can I help you sweetheart,’ he leered at me suggestively.

‘I know there’s a police speed trap around the first bend out of the village,’ I lied through clenched teeth. ‘I thought you might like a spray some of this breath freshener just in case they pull you over.’

‘Thanks babe,’ he held out his hand for the small aerosol. He opened his mouth wide and winked at me as he squirted a healthy dose onto his tongue. He handed the spray back to me and I headed to the car that I had borrowed from a friend. I sat behind the wheel and watched as he too slipped into the driving seat. After a few minutes I started my own engine and as I slid passed the Jaguar I smiled with satisfaction. He was slumped back in the seat clutching his chest and gasping for breath. I carried on driving out of the car-park and onto the road that would take me back to the city.

Two days later the paper carried the story about a local man convicted of dangerous and drunk driving that had killed a father and six year old son; found dead from a heart attack behind the wheel of his car outside a popular public house.

Three months later I sold my flat and moved to the West Country where I bought a coffee shop with the proceeds called Hannah’s. On Sundays I served an ‘all you can eat’ buffet with a wide selection of Cornish ice-creams. At last I could move on with my life.

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection.

Sandra Cox 5.0 out of 5 stars Names Reviewed in the United States on December 19, 2020
This book is filled with fascinating short stories, each one based around the named character of the book. Each story is different and might revolve around a child, an adult–young to old–or even a ghost. What they all have in common is the emotion they bring to the story. The scenery is detailed and pulls you into the location. And the characters are relatable. I enjoyed these stories and think you will too. So, grab a cup of coffee or tea, put your feet up, relax and sink into these stories.

Romance,” had already been written. Needless to say, I’ve already purchased my copy.

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 weekend for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? – Volume One – George – Courting danger 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.

George – Courting Danger

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 2017

One of the reviews for the collection.

Sandra Cox 5.0 out of 5 stars Names Reviewed in the United States on December 19, 2020
This book is filled with fascinating short stories, each one based around the named character of the book. Each story is different and might revolve around a child, an adult–young to old–or even a ghost. What they all have in common is the emotion they bring to the story. The scenery is detailed and pulls you into the location. And the characters are relatable. I enjoyed these stories and think you will too. So, grab a cup of coffee or tea, put your feet up, relax and sink into these stories.

Romance,” had already been written. Needless to say, I’ve already purchased my copy.

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 weekend for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? Volume One – What’s in a Name?- Francis – Forging New Bonds 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.

Francis – Forging new bonds

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 didn’t 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 2017

One of the reviews for the collection.

Aug 16, 2018 Colleen Chesebro rated it five stars it was amazing

I love short story collections. There is something about the brevity of words that appeals to my senses, especially when there is a theme that we all can relate to. Think about it. We all have a name, but many of us have no idea why our parents chose that name or the possible stories behind that name.

Sally Cronin tackles this naming issue. In “What’s in a Name,” each chapter is titled by the name of its main character, leading the reader on a journey of discovery. Every name has a tale to tell, and under the brilliant creativity of this author, each name takes on a personality of its own.

My favorite story was that of “Diana,” a kind woman who choose a husband that proved to be a scoundrel in every sense of the word. With a little help from her family, Diana reaches into her heart and finds the courage to stand up to her husband’s abuse. The pacing of this story is marvelous and carries the reader to a satisfying end.

This compilation of stories covers a wide range of genres. There is something here for everyone. I read these stories a few at a time, savoring the emotions the stories evoked within me. This was my first read by this author, and I look forward to more of her writing. I was thrilled to find that the second volume of “What’s in a Name ~ Tales of Life & Romance,” had already been written. Needless to say, I’ve already purchased my copy.

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 Sunday for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? Volume One – Fionnuala – The Swan 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.

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 2017

One of the reviews for the collection.

Aug 16, 2018 Colleen Chesebro rated it five stars it was amazing

I love short story collections. There is something about the brevity of words that appeals to my senses, especially when there is a theme that we all can relate to. Think about it. We all have a name, but many of us have no idea why our parents chose that name or the possible stories behind that name.

Sally Cronin tackles this naming issue. In “What’s in a Name,” each chapter is titled by the name of its main character, leading the reader on a journey of discovery. Every name has a tale to tell, and under the brilliant creativity of this author, each name takes on a personality of its own.

My favorite story was that of “Diana,” a kind woman who choose a husband that proved to be a scoundrel in every sense of the word. With a little help from her family, Diana reaches into her heart and finds the courage to stand up to her husband’s abuse. The pacing of this story is marvelous and carries the reader to a satisfying end.

This compilation of stories covers a wide range of genres. There is something here for everyone. I read these stories a few at a time, savoring the emotions the stories evoked within me. This was my first read by this author, and I look forward to more of her writing. I was thrilled to find that the second volume of “What’s in a Name ~ Tales of Life & Romance,” had already been written. Needless to say, I’ve already purchased my copy.

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 Sunday for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? Volume One – Eric – Just Making Do 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.

Eric – Just Getting By

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 2017

One of the reviews for the collection.

Aug 16, 2018 Colleen Chesebro rated it five stars it was amazing

I love short story collections. There is something about the brevity of words that appeals to my senses, especially when there is a theme that we all can relate to. Think about it. We all have a name, but many of us have no idea why our parents chose that name or the possible stories behind that name.

Sally Cronin tackles this naming issue. In “What’s in a Name,” each chapter is titled by the name of its main character, leading the reader on a journey of discovery. Every name has a tale to tell, and under the brilliant creativity of this author, each name takes on a personality of its own.

My favorite story was that of “Diana,” a kind woman who choose a husband that proved to be a scoundrel in every sense of the word. With a little help from her family, Diana reaches into her heart and finds the courage to stand up to her husband’s abuse. The pacing of this story is marvelous and carries the reader to a satisfying end.

This compilation of stories covers a wide range of genres. There is something here for everyone. I read these stories a few at a time, savoring the emotions the stories evoked within me. This was my first read by this author, and I look forward to more of her writing. I was thrilled to find that the second volume of “What’s in a Name ~ Tales of Life & Romance,” had already been written. Needless to say, I’ve already purchased my copy.

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 Sunday for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.