In the early days I used to write regular blog posts but my basic idleness cut in. Then for a while, I posted stories, either stuff I’d just written for the sake of it or when I co-wrote 800-word stories with my good friend Eden Baylee, but then it all stopped. So, just to keep the site alive I suppose, I thought it might be an idea to post the occasional story from amongst all the hitherto (unseen by anyone else) stuff that was lurking in my files. There’ll be no theme or philosophy or advice or anything useful in them; they’re just for entertainment.

I’ll pick them at random and they may last for a while or this might be the only one before the idleness cuts back in. We’ll see.  The first is one I wrote a couple of years or so ago. I called it…



“Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man.” OK, everybody’s heard that. They don’t all know it was Aristotle who said it, but they’ve heard psychiatrists talking about it or seen TV programmes about it. And it’s true. The person we become when we grow up was already there in the kid we used to be. There are a few things I can remember from back then that prove it. Maybe not when I was seven, but certainly when I went to secondary school. And definitely when my mate Billy arrived. I was fourteen by then but that’s close enough for me.

He came when I was in second year and his house was on the way to school so I used to wait for him and we’d walk there together. He had a big influence on me. I haven’t seen him for years now but, back then, we spent all the time together. He was a Catholic, which was interesting because I wasn’t anything. I sang hymns and stuff at Boys’ Brigade and went to Sunday School, but Boys’ Brigade was just so that I could play football and Sunday School was because Pamela Biscombe went and I liked looking at her.

But Billy went to Mass, and confessed, and ate and drank Jesus every Sunday. Well, that’s the way I understood it at the time. It sounded brilliant. Sitting in the dark, making up stories for this shadowy priest behind a screen. Stories about all sorts of stuff, like touching Pamela Biscombe, or peeing in the classroom during playtime.

At the time I thought Billy said his father was a priest. It was only later that I realized it was the other way round. But what I think now isn’t important; it’s how we were then that matters for what I’m telling you.

Billy’s the reason I’m so successful in the magazine business. Well, not the reason but he helped me to write stuff, set me on the path, if you like.

The time I’m thinking of was when we had to write this essay for Miss Blore. Today they’d say she does Religious and Moral Education, then it was just called Scripture. We had to choose one of the seven deadly sins and write a story about it for her. She gave us a list of them and we had to find out about them and pick one. I had no idea where to start. No Google then, remember. It was all books, libraries, encyclopedias.

I was moaning about it to Billy on the way home, but he was a godsend (maybe literally). He knew the list already, knew what they all meant, too. So, the same evening, he came round to my house and we just talked about it. The trouble was, another thing Miss Blore had said was “Write about what you know”. So we went through the sins one by one to see whether I knew anything at all about any of them.

Sloth was easy. Boring, too. I did it all the time. Or, rather, I didn’t do it. It’s true, I think in those early days I was too idle even to be slothful. And nothing’s changed. Pride was the same. I couldn’t see how you could write an essay or a story about that. I mean, back then I didn’t really know what pride was, but my mum often used to tell me off about something, then say “I hope you’re proud of yourself”, so I suppose I must have known something.

Anyway, it didn’t take long to cross them off the list. The next one, Wrath, looked better but not much. I thought it just meant getting pissed off at something or somebody, but Billy said it also meant being vindictive, taking revenge, and I really liked that idea. So I reckoned I knew what that was and it sounded more promising. I could write something about when Miss Blore said those nasty things about me in front of the class and I got angry, but in the story I could maybe kill her. I’d change her name of course. Maybe make her a budgie or something and step on it.

The other four seemed easy on the surface. I thought I knew them, sort of. They were all the same really, all about wanting something. I said so to Billy.

“Envy’s just wanting what somebody else has got, isn’t it?’
“Well, yes,’ he said, “But…”
“And greed and gluttony are the same thing.”

Billy was shaking his head.

“No. They’re different,” he said. ‘Greed means wanting too much, but gluttony is actually taking too much.”

I thought about it for a moment and said, “So gluttony is sort of doing greed instead of just thinking about it. Is that right?”

Billy didn’t seem sure. But it seemed clear to me.

“Yeah, that’s it,” I said. “You start by being greedy and gluttony sorts it out for you. You want a piece of chocolate, so you eat the whole bar, or maybe two of them, and you’re not greedy any more. It’s been cured.”

Billy wasn’t sure. The priest (or his Father) had never said that.

The only one left was Lust and, I don’t know why, but that seemed to me the most interesting one. The others were just wanting, but Lust was… well, desire. You had to have it. I think I may have had it for Pamela Biscombe already. And when Billy said “Matthew says that “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”’, I knew I had. I knew Lust was my best sin.

“So that means,” I  said, “if you’re already guilty, you might as well do it”.
“Not really,” said Billy. “Dad, (or he might have said Father) says it’s about unspiritual not just sexual desires”.

But I’d already made up my mind.

“Listen,” I said. “Jesus died for our sins, right? Cross, crown of thorns, all that. That means these sins, we can just go ahead and do them.”

He protested, but I’d made up my mind. I went home, got out the photo of Pamela Biscombe which I’d cut out of the class photo and wrote about Lust. I was expelled.

Nowadays, they pay me big bucks for basically writing the same stuff. Thanks, Billy.


This is the last contribution of what’s been a fascinating two years of story-telling. Between us, Eden Baylee and I have written 43 800-word stories,  14 of them solos, the rest with each of us taking turns to write  segments 1 and 3 or 2 and 4. We’ve had various minor debates – mostly provoked by different usages and/or meanings of various words in North America and the UK – but a lot of fun with it all. I think it’s also sharpened some of our general thoughts about the whole process of writing fiction. We genuinely hope that, whether you’ve looked in lots or even just once, you, too, have enjoyed your visits. You’ll find Eden’s final solo effort here.

The prompt for our final 2 solo stories is the rather forbidding : I put tulips under all the pillows and then I set fire to the house.



From a very early age, it was clear that Andy was different – and not necessarily in a nice way. He seemed to want to test the limits of what he could get away with, make his own rules about everything. His parents frequently did things of which he didn’t approve, such as insisting on feeding him porridge when he’d already turned the plate upside down to show them he didn’t want it. If they scolded him for anything, he’d go for days refusing to respond to anything they said or did. It applied to the simple, kind things too. For example, if either of them used what he judged to be the wrong voice for a character when reading him a bedtime story, he’d take the book from them, slam it shut and leave it on the landing outside his bedroom door for days. Quite often, his actions were actually dangerous. Once, he piled all the toys in his cupboard on top of one another one by one, climbing first on a chair then a table to add more. He then climbed down, sat next to the pile and pulled out the bottom one. This led to the first of many visits to Casualty.


But those early aberrations only seemed to set the tone of who he was because they persisted and got worse into adolescence, becoming more and more bizarre. Needless to say, he infuriated his teachers by his constant refusal to conform to orthodox behaviours. In History, he handed in essays about 1066 which he’d copied mostly from books about archery, his French translations were into an unrecognisable language based loosely on a mixture of English and gobbledegook, and, when the Biology teacher drew a diagram of an amoeba on the blackboard and labelled one part of it ‘inner cytoplasm’, every subsequent sketch Andy made – a bee, a stork, a mackerel – everything in fact – had a prominent protrusion on it somewhere labelled ‘outer cytoplasm’.
He could be ‘normal’ if he chose to. In fact, when it came to getting a job, he had to, but he did so reluctantly and was easily bored, which meant that most of his time outside work was spent doing things that made no sense, things that his few friends called his ‘escapades’ and usually led to yet more hospital trips, one of which at last made him change his ways.


A hang-gliding accident had hurt a lot but he’d still decided to try a straightforward parachute jump. That, too, though, had ended badly. He’d very much enjoyed floating freely down but paid so much attention to the sensation that he forgot to control his ‘chute properly, landed awkwardly two fields away from his target zone, and burst several veins in both legs. At the hospital, the doctors and nurses welcomed him back with muted greetings. They weren’t looking forward to yet more bizarre anecdotes about impossible activities. But Ursula, a newcomer to the nursing staff, was a revelation. First, she was gorgeous, more beautiful than any woman Andy had ever seen. And, at first, she listened and even appeared interested in his tales. But the more extreme and unlikely they became, the less impressed she seemed to be.
For his part, Andy would do anything to keep her talking as well as listening and when, one evening, she described a house on the corner of her street which someone had bought and turned into a maternity clinic, his mind jumped to thoughts of her having his babies.
‘If you had a baby, what would you call it?’ he asked.
Ursula frowned and  said, ‘I don’t know. Probably Hercules or something.’
‘Brilliant,’ said Andy.


In a way, it was a sort of turning point. She had no desire for marriage and was certainly too young to be thinking about offspring, but Andy was too self-centred to recognise the curl of her lip which greeted his approval of her choice of name. For him its outrageousness made her seem even more attractive. Indeed, his enthusiasm for it led to him moving from his tales of ordinary derring-do to hints of a possible relationship between them and, typically of him, he reverted to descriptions of what he saw as his uniqueness.
‘When I worked offshore, I got things done more quickly by not bothering with safety gear…’ began one memory. Another had him driving his car on the wrong side of the road to bypass a long traffic jam. Yet another involved a waterfall and a rubber dinghy. His enthusiasm for them brought more, thick and fast.
At last, in a rare pause, Ursula yawned and said, ‘Yesterday I went in that maternity clinic I told you about. I put tulips under all the pillows and then I set fire to the house.’
‘Really?’ said Andy, with seeming admiration.
Ursula stood up, said ‘Of course not’. Then she left.









Mother of all Lies

This is the final collaborative story in the two year sequence written with Eden Baylee. We’ve both enjoyed it all and hope very much you have, too.



Prompt: My mother was doing that thing she did. That thing with the rag in the sink.

Title: Mother of All Lies

Parts  1 and 3 EB, parts 2 and 4 BK


Mother of All Lies

My mother was doing that thing she did. That thing with the rag in the sink. After squeezing dish soap on the stainless steel sides, she ran hot water at full power until it created steam. With rubber gloves on, she plugged the sink and swooshed soapy water around then scrubbed the surface vigorously before pulling out the stopper. A rinse of hot water followed by cold water, another wipe with the rag, and it was finally time to start doing the dishes.

That was just one example of Mom’s obsessive compulsive behavior as I grew up. It’s been twenty years since I left home, and I can’t believe how I’ve turned into her.

A friend once asked me: “Why are you wasting soap and water by cleaning the sink before filling it with dirty dishes?”

I snapped back. “Do you strip naked and sit in a dirty bathtub to bathe?”

She was taken aback by my reaction, but no more than I was. I had had the same question for my mother when she did it but never asked. She probably learned it from her mother was my best guess.

Unfortunately, questioning her now would no longer be helpful.


The physical distance between us didn’t help but her unwillingness to try texting, emails, WhatsApp and the rest meant that we’d become… well, not quite strangers, but seeming to exist in separate realities. I suppose I also secretly thought her affections seemed to have transferred to my two daughters. On the phone, her questions about me and my husband, Joe, were few and predictable but when she switched focus to Marie and Imogen, a creepy sort of cuteness crept in. She was desperate to see them, of course, but they’re both already pretty good at manipulating people and a visit to her would probably give them an even bigger sense of their own importance.

I guess I have to admit that, on top of that, they might also be affected by the weirdness of some of her other ‘rag in the sink’ habits. That was by no means her only bizarre ritual: stacking the brooms in order of size in the hall cupboard, hanging her collection of dusters – one for every room in the house – on the clothes line when rain was forecast, never using a cup or mug twice on the same day… These and others were followed as religiously as any catechism.


“I’m sorry, Mom, we can’t come by with the girls. They both have birthday parties on Sunday.”

The pause on the other end of the line was deafening. I bit my lower lip and remained silent. Over the years in arguing with her, I’d learned it was futile to defend my point in earnest. It was better to let her think it through and respond, even if the wait was agonizingly slow. Just when I thought I couldn’t stay quiet any longer, Mom said, “I didn’t call about the girls. I want to see you … that’s if you’re free.”

Her tone, restrained rather than demanding was unlike her. “You mean, you want to see me and Joe?”
“No, just you,” she said.
“Are you all right, Mom?” Suddenly, I felt a twinge of guilt. I’d lied; the girls had no parties this weekend, but I didn’t want to ask them to visit their grandmother and hear them whine about not wanting to go.
“I’m fine, in the general sense of the word, but …”
“But what?” Silence, then it sounded like the receiver hit the floor. “Mom? Mom! Are you there? Are you all right?” Seconds later, the line went dead.


There were no neighbors I could call. My only choice was to drive over to her place, a thirty mile round trip.
God knows why I didn’t get a speeding ticket on the way but I was there in…

“14 minutes, 43 seconds” said Mom.

She was sitting in her usual chair in the kitchen, a cup of tea on the table in front of her, her elbow on the table and, in her raised hand, her mobile.

“Not bad. Maybe you do care,” she said, putting the phone on the table and, before I could answer or swear, or ask what the hell she was playing at, she went on…

“Did you know that animals that lay eggs don’t have belly buttons?”

Then, after a pause, she added… “Well, why should they? No need for umbilical stuff, they get all the infant-bearing out of the way by squeezing out a couple of eggs. Very sensible.”

“Mom, For God’s sake! I thought you were…”

Her raised hand stopped me.

“Marie was on the line this morning. Imogen, too,” she said, her voice low, quiet.

“Said they’d like to come over on Sunday. Asked if I’d make a chocolate pie. I said I was busy.”