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.”

A Brass Vixen

This is very much the home straight. When we started this series, Eden Baylee and I had already co-authored several stories for R B Wood’s Word Count Podcast and when Richard decided to end it we weren’t ready to stop. As a result, The 800 Word Story  began in January  last year. Since then, between us we’ve written 43 stories (that’s about 34,400 words) and managed to stay very good friends. I can’t speak for Eden but I’ve certainly enjoyed and learned from the experience.  I just hope we’ve managed to please lots of readers because that, after all, was the point of the whole enterprise.


For today’s story…

Prompt: ‘After only two months, Helen decided to become an exotic dancer.’

I wrote Parts 1 and 3,
Eden wrote parts 2 and 4



From their first day together at secondary school, Helen and Gillian had been friends. Neither knew what it was about the other that drew them together but it was instantaneous, instinctive. They laughed at the same things, liked or disliked the same teachers and fellow pupils, chose the same subjects to study, read the same books and magazines.

There were differences – Gillian, for example, was good at and enjoyed several sports,  Helen didn’t even like watching them. Gillian’s family had a Chihuahua, Helen was terrified of dogs, big and small. But none of these, or the other minor differences, did anything to diminish how much they cared for and respected one another.

When they moved on to university, it was perhaps inevitable that they should choose to study the same subjects, French and Italian, at both of which they were well above average students.

It might have been expected that such closeness could have caused problems when it came to boy-friends but no. It’s true that they were attracted to the same sort of physical types and personal characteristics but, by mutual if unspoken agreement, whoever first expressed an interest in some particular individual met no competition for him from the other.

* * *

The two women sat at their local coffee shop, sipping cappuccino and munching biscotti. The mid-week ritual gave them time to catch up face to face.

“I’m going on a trip,” Helen said.

“Where to?”

“You know that fitness class I joined?

“The yoga one, or is it Pilates?”

“Neither.” A tiny smile formed on Helen’s face. “It’s a pole dancing class.”

Her friend’s eyes widened. “You’re kidding me.”

“Nope … and I love it!”

Gillian swatted Helen’s arm. “You can sure keep a secret, girl! So is the trip part of the class?”

“In a way, yes.” She bit into her cookie. “I’m going to Moreland, you know it?”

“Can’t say I do.”

“I’d never heard of it either, but it’s 90 minutes from here by bus, and the only thing it’s known for is a …” Her voice drifted off. She picked up her coffee and set it down again.

Gillian leaned in to listen. “For what? Come on, spill!”

Now Helen’s expression changed to a grin. “It’s known for a little club called Brass Vixens. They have a competition, and I’ve entered myself in it.” She leaned back and crossed her arms atop her chest. “Want to come?”


Gillian spluttered the mouthful of coffee she’d just taken back into her cup..

“You? A pole dancing competition?” she managed at last.

She wasn’t to know, of course, that, after only two months, Helen had decided to become an exotic dancer.

“I wouldn’t miss that for the world,” she added.

On the due date they drove to Brass Vixens together. As Helen reversed into a parking space, Gillian was already stifling laughter.

“What?” said Helen, as she got out and locked the car door. Gillian just pointed to the display panels either side of the big entrance. They featured plentifully endowed dancers wrapped around poles, their bodies beautiful and their expressions… well… hungry.

“Cute,” said Helen. “See you afterwards.” And she walked away to the artistes’ entrance.

Her calmness intrigued Gillian. Throughout their friendship, she, not Helen, had been the one more prone to take risks, try new ventures. Helen had seemed almost reserved, even scared of some of the things that Gillian had suggested they try. Whatever the fitness class had taught her, it seemed to be having an effect. As she joined the queue of men at the main door, she was no longer sure she wanted to see the show.


Gillian sat with a group of Helen’s friends from her class. They’d come to cheer her on. Each of the fourteen competitors was given two minutes to show off their best moves. Helen was scheduled to come on in the second half.

When the judges took a ten-minute break after the first seven performers, the friends had already decided who Helen had to beat. A woman named Crystal had wowed the audience with her show of flexibility and strength.

Helen came on as the thirteenth contestant, and her girlfriends jumped to their feet. They applauded every spin, every straddle. A pelvic vice grip stunned the audience when Helen’s head almost hit the floor as she slid down the pole upside down. She outperformed some of the girls half her age! Gillian whooped it louder than anyone at the club.

In the end, as suspected, Crystal took top prize. She deserved it, even Helen said so. Gillian was proud of her friend for putting herself out there. On the way home in the car, Helen wore her third place ribbon around her neck and beamed, “Not bad for an old broad, huh?”

Gillian snorted. “You’re not old, you’re just getting started.”

The End

Nearly there.

A couple of years ago, after collaborating on several stories for submission to R B Wood’s Word Count Podcast (soon to be revived in a different format with a new title), Eden Baylee and I decided to continue producing joint efforts on our own websites as 800 word stories. They were based on randomly drawn prompts and the first (The Biter Bit)  appeared on January 13th 2021, with others following on a monthly basis. That became bi-monthly at the beginning of this year. By way of variation we also interspersed the joint efforts with solos every few months.

The result of it all was 29 collaborations and 14 solos, making  43 stories in all. Our friendship not only survived, but grew and, speaking for myself, I found it a fascinating process, enlightening in the way it compelled me as a writer to broaden my perspectives and shape and develop characters and situations not of my own devising.

My hope is that, when Richard Wood launches his new short story initiative, at least some of the submissions he’ll receive will be more collaborations between Eden and myself but, with another few 800 word stories still to come, we haven’t yet discussed it.