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.”



Since we published the first story at the beginning of January last year, I think this probably qualifies Eden Baylee and me as being in the home stretch of a series which we’ve called the


Prompt: Your mother lied to you. That’s the truth.

Title and Parts 1 & 3 Eden

Parts 2 & 4 Bill

Given the disparity between our ages, the choice of a title gave rise to a very brief online discussion but we’re confident that enough of you will be familiar with the expression we’ve agreed on so this is…




Kathy said things in a direct manner, never minced words. She sat back in her chair and flicked her head of blonde curls before delivering the blow. “Your mother lied to you. That’s the truth.”

Mary fired back. “How do you know?”

“I was there when it happened.”

The room spun; Mary felt like she might faint. She gripped the table top to steady herself.

What was supposed to be a fun evening of catching up was turning into something ugly. The last time they saw one another was before Kathy left for Europe six months ago. As usual when her friend called, Mary dropped what she was doing to accommodate her. Her husband was rightfully annoyed she broke off movie night with him and the kids, but she’d make it up to them. With Kathy, she just never knew when she might get a chance to see her again.

Now, as the conversation turned to that dreaded day from her childhood, Mary wondered why they were even friends. “You are so mean spirited, you know that?”

Kathy took a sip and set down her martini glass. “I’m just being honest. God, Mary, it happened years ago. Get over it!”


The words were spoken with a wave of her hand as if they had no significance.  Mary gave a shake of her head. She’d always been semi-jealous of Kathy’s composure, her ability to take whatever came along and embrace it with passionless calm, but the careless, throwaway manner in which she was treating that long ago confrontation with her mother felt cruel, uncaring. Yes, Kathy had been there, witnessed it, been part of it, but this dismissal of it just seemed particularly spiteful.

“Get over it?” she echoed, just managing to suppress her anger. “It was you she was talking about as well, you know. You were wearing the same gear. ”

Kathy spread her arms and shrugged, as if to suggest that Mary was simply proving her point.

“Oh, come on, honey. It was nothing,” she said. “A mother disapproving of what her wee girlie and her friend were wearing to the school disco. How many million times a year d’you think that happens?”

Mary was silent for a while. When she did speak, her voice was low, her rage was under control.

“I’ve got my own ‘wee girlie’ now, Kathy. “And I’d die before I said anything like that to her.”


When Mary got in, her husband was putting away the dishes. Steve seemed surprised to see her.

“Kids asleep?” she said.

“Yep, finally … after reading them five stories!”

“You’re a pushover.”

She sat at the dining table and her husband joined her. He poured them both a glass of wine. “How’s Kathy and her fabulous life?”

“Why do you say it like that?”

Steve shrugged. “Because that’s Kathy, you always return with stories about her adventures, her love life, her next trip. Sometimes I wonder if you wished your life was more like hers.”

Her husband suddenly seemed more intuitive than she gave him credit for. “Interesting you should say that.”


“Because I don’t want Kathy’s life. As a matter of fact, I’m home early because I ended our friendship tonight.”

Steve cocked his head to one side. “No way.”

She nodded slowly, took several sips of water. “Yes, I finally got to see her for what she is.”

“And what’s that?”

“A narcissist,” she said without hesitation. “We’ve had nothing in common for years, so she brought up something from my past. It was stupid but hurtful. Not once did she ask me about how I’m doing now.”


Steve shook his head and turned away. Mary suspected he was smiling but she couldn’t be sure. He’d never understood the complexity of her childhood friendships, especially the one with Kathy.

“Kate still keeps asking why none of the people in the children’s stories ever go to the lavatory,” he said.

Mary laughed and, gradually, mutual recollections of their youngest’s obsession with excretory functions seemed to banish the memory of the Kathy incident.

In the end, Steve got up and,  saying he had an early start, gave Mary a peck on the cheek, took the empty glasses through to the kitchen and went up to bed.

Mary just sat and, in the silence, the residue of fury from her argument began to burn in her again.

At last, she stood up, put on her coat and drove, much faster than she should, back across town to Kathy’s flat.

She rang the bell. The door opened almost at once, as if Kathy had been waiting just inside it. No words were spoken. Mary stepped inside and let her coat fall from her shoulders. There were tears in their eyes as they hugged and kissed like the lovers they had always been.