Welcome to Book Blitz month on Pretty Opinionated! In honor of the national month, I’ll be sharing plenty of reading recommendations to pad out your TBR pile, starting with the fabulous collection of short stories with an Irish slant: Dancing Shadows, Tramping Hooves by Dianne Ascroft.
Dancing Shadows, Tramping Hooves by Dianne Ascroft is a collection of half a dozen short stories with Irish connections. Tales of outsiders who discover they belong, a humorous slice of life yarn, heartwarming love stories and a tale of taming fear. The shadows are on the wall, in the heart and clouding a woman’s memories while tangible foes tramp through the physical landscape.
The stories were previously printed individually in a variety of publications, including Ireland’s Own magazine, Dead Ink Books’ website, and the anthologies, Fermanagh Miscellany and Tuesdays At Charlie’s.
Excerpt from Dancing Shadows, Tramping Hooves
A Link To Her Past
Brenda Donnelly copied the words that ran into each other onto the blank space at the top of her computer screen just as her son, John, had written them. When she clicked the piece of plastic that John called a mouse a familiar image appeared. She smiled as she studied the solid, grey building, knowing each arch and window. St Michael’s Church looked just as she remembered it before she left Ireland nearly forty years ago.
She had never spent much time on her computer before her accident. But, since she twisted her ankle a couple weeks ago and had been housebound, she had been exploring its capabilities – surfing the net they called it. That’s how she had discovered that her local church had a camera filming the Mass and she could watch it. She was glad to find this link to her normal life.
She didn’t know what had prompted her to ask John whether she could see St Michael’s on her computer. When she used to visit her sister in Ballylea, she had attended the church. But she hadn’t been there since her sister moved to town.
It must be several years since I was last there, she thought, surprised.
Why had she even thought of St Michael’s? Maybe John’s questions yesterday about her First Communion had started it. His daughter would make her First Communion this Easter. She told him how she remembered kneeling at the altar rail at St Michael’s in her shiny satin dress with her best friend, Kate McCusker. The dress was handed down from an older cousin but it was nearly new and she loved it. She had smiled at the memory and John had said it was good to see her smile. Then he had searched for the church’s details and had written down the Mass times for her.
She clicked on ‘Watch Live’ and waited as a white pattern swirled around in the middle of the black screen. Suddenly an image appeared. She heard the sound of heels clicking slowly on tiles. Two elderly women shuffled stiffly up the aisle. Brenda watched the congregation filter into the church in ones and twos.
I’ve found it in time for Mass, she thought. She leaned back in her chair, pulling her laptop computer closer to her.
As people continued to file into the church Brenda’s thoughts strayed to when she was a girl attending Mass with her family. It was more than 40 years ago but she remembered it clearly. As the eldest, it fell to Brenda to help mind the younger children. While listening to the priest, she kept her eye on her siblings, glaring at them if they dared fidget or whisper. Sometimes she would steal a glance across the aisle, trying to catch Martin Corrigan looking at her. If their eyes met his face would crease into a smile before he looked away. She tried to shake off the memory. That was, indeed, a long time ago.
Brenda focussed on the computer screen again. Most of the congregation were now seated. A slim, grey haired man walked up the aisle. There was something familiar about him. She leaned forward, peering more closely at the screen. As he slid into a pew a couple rows from the altar she caught a glimpse of his face. This man was obviously older but he was very like Martin. She was nearly sure it was him.
Her forehead creased in a frown. She knew he had moved to Dublin soon after she left for Manchester. So what was he doing back in Ballylea? He must be visiting, she thought.
Brenda shifted in her chair, trying to concentrate. The priest welcomed the congregation. As she listened to the familiar words of the Mass, her thoughts drifted back again to her girlhood in Ballylea.
Dianne Ascroft writes contemporary and historical fiction with Irish connections. Her books include a short story collection, Dancing Shadows, Tramping Hooves and an historical novel, Hitler and Mars Bars. Her articles and stories have been printed in Irish and Canadian magazines and newspapers as well as various anthologies. An urban Canadian, she has settled in rural Northern Ireland with her husband and an assortment of strong willed animals. Online she lurks at www.dianneascroft.wordpress.com
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