Here’s the second in a series of 800 word collaborative stories from Eden Baylee and myself. If it’s your first visit, you’ll find an explanation of the whole idea here as well as further examples of the form on both our blogs.

There was no prior discussion of plot, characters, situation or anything. The story’s starting point was a prompt; it had to include the two sentences ‘Margaret had this habit of spitting. It began to get on my nerves.’ It was chosen randomly by Eden’s husband John. For us, as with all the others we’ve written together, it was fun and satisfying. We hope you like it.

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Prompt: Margaret had this habit of spitting. It began to get on my nerves.
Parts 1 and 3 and title: Eden
Parts 2 and 4: Bill

* * *

Margaret’s Last Term

Margaret had this habit of spitting whenever she ate cheese. It began to get on my nerves. Even the tiniest morsel subjected me to her disgusting routine.

Before I knew she was lactose intolerant, it alarmed me whenever she started coughing. Her coughs were violent, as if she were choking. Not only did they shake her three-hundred pound body, they shook the table as well. I used to rush to her side and give her sharp blows to the back, or prise open her mouth to ensure she hadn’t swallowed her false teeth, or force her to drink water. Now, I did none of that. I just ignored her.

Eventually the coughing stopped, but it didn’t end there. The finale occurred when she was able to catch her breath again. That’s when she sucked air through her mouth louder than my vacuum cleaner to spit a thick, yellow glob of phlegm onto her plate.

And though she was sitting less than eight feet away from me, she’d yell when she spoke.

“Banana!” she called me.

“You know my name’s not Banana. It’s Amy,” I said.

“Whatever, help me up!”

Not only was Margaret revolting, she was racist as well.


Yep. Hard to believe, I know. The sort of thing a hack would invent for one of those old-fashioned ‘penny dreadful’ stories – a character whose outward habits matched exactly her inner lack of morals.

Of course, I knew none of this when she answered my ad for a flatmate. We made all the arrangements by text, and we were both so desperate – me to get help with the rent, her because she’d been looking for a room for ages – that we didn’t get into full details, didn’t even meet before the contract was signed.

So when she first arrived and I opened the door it was a major shock for both of us. On the step there was this huge lump of a woman, looking years older than I expected, but the expression on her face made it pretty clear that I must have been as much of a shock to her.

She recovered pretty quickly, withdrawing her outstretched hand and closing her gaping mouth into a hasty, totally false smile. Being Chinese, I was used to it, of course. White and black ethnic clashes get all the headlines, but yellow’s well and truly in the mix, too. Hence, banana.


“She’s a racist, Amy. You didn’t come to this country for that.”

“I know.” I sighed and sipped tea from my styrofoam cup. “I thought people were supposed to be more civilized in this part of the world.”

Jeanie and I sat on a bench outside the Pharmaceutical Sciences Building. We had a twenty-minute break before our favourite class. The Pharmacy program was dominated by Asian students, many of them international. Like me, Jeanie came from southern China. We immediately connected after I overheard her speaking on her cell in a regional dialect from Guangzhou.

It was poor timing, unfortunately.

Had I met Jeanie just a month earlier, we could’ve easily become flatmates.

Instead, she moved into a house with three other girls much farther from campus than she’d like, and I was stuck with Margaret.

Jeanie put her hand on my arm and turned to face me. “You say she’s allergic to milk products?”

“It would seem so. She gets deathly sick.”

“And she’s overweight?”

I raised a brow. “Grossly, what are you getting at?”

A slow smile stretched across Jeanie’s face. “Just thinking, that’s all.” She stood up. “We better go or we’ll be late for class.”


As usual, the class was absorbing. Dr Ross is a great teacher – never rushes things, always happy to answer even the dumbest questions. Everybody likes her. But, for a change, my mind wandered occasionally – not through any failings on her part but because of Jeanie’s weird mood. After the lecture, she stayed behind but I got my things together and waited for her at the top of the steps that led down into the park. It was lovely walking home through the trees, and Jeanie’s bus stop was at the end of my street so she usually came with me.

She appeared at last, hurrying and a bit flustered.

“Sorted,” she said, with a smile.

“What?” I said.

“Next term’s living arrangements.”

She hitched her bag higher on her back and started down the steps. I had to hurry to catch up with her.

“What living arrangements?” I asked.

“Ours. Me sharing your flat,” she said.


I got no further. She put her finger to my lips and said, “I’ve just signed us both up for Ross’s course next term.”

My expression must have shown my puzzlement because she smiled and said, “It’s ‘Atmospheric Particulate Matter and Pulmonary Toxicity’.”

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We hope you enjoyed it. All comments are welcome. Come back for more in the coming months.



Welcome to the first creation for 800 Word Story, a segment where author Eden Baylee and I write a story together.

In a nutshell, the story is made up of four parts of 200 words each.

I started this one, handed it off to Eden for part 2. She sent it back to me for part 3 and I returned it to her to write the conclusion. With no discussion of the story beforehand, the allure of this process is to discover how the other moves the story along.

It was fun and challenging, and we hope you enjoy reading it.

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Prompt: She may be young but she’s not stupid.
Parts 1 and 3 and title: Bill
Parts 2 and 4: Eden

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The Biter Bit

“She’ll be calling him Daddy next,” said Harry.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” said Anna wearily.

“Christ, you and your bloody clichés.”

When he snapped like that, Anna knew he was close to losing it completely. She continued to pick up more of their daughter’s scattered toys and stuff them into the teddy-bear-shaped bag. Her voice softened as her thoughts went back to the nursery where, singing Debbie’s favourite song, she’d tucked her in and watched lovingly as the little lips smiled and the sleepy eyes closed.

“And keep your voice down,” she said. “She’s only just dropped off.”

“I s’pose this is one of his bloody presents, too, is it?” said Harry, lobbing a fluffy animal of indeterminate species to land at Anna’s feet.

It was a familiar argument. Her pregnancy had seemed to suppress the tiresome jealousy that had spoiled so much of their time together but, in the three years since Debbie’s birth, he’d once more, with absolutely no justification, started to become suspicious of every contact she made. Today, the row was triggered by her telling him how Debbie had laughed at the postman who’d delivered a present from his friend Ronnie, their best man.


Anna had just finished eating when she heard the noise of keys. A moment later, the front door banged open. The keys fell to the floor, she heard cursing, and then the door slammed shut. She winced, finished her glass of wine and quietly set it down on the table.

Please, not tonight, she thought. I’m tired of this. Nevertheless, she steeled herself for a confrontation, thankful that Debbie rarely woke up when she finally fell asleep.

“Where the bloody hell are ya?” Her husband’s slurred words were angry. He stumbled into the dining room and leaned against the archway glaring at her.

“I’ve made a plate of food for you. It’s in the oven.”

He shuffled forward and pulled out a chair, falling into it. “Not hungry.”

“Fine.” Anna picked up her plate and stood up.

“Sit! I’m talking!”

She took a breath, slowly lowered herself back down. She was in no mood to fight, but she needed Harry to cool off. As she had suspected, he’d gone to the pub and had several pints too many. She smelled it on him, and it both disgusted and angered her.

How long was she going to keep doing this?


“Guess who I’ve been talking to,” said Harry, leaning back in his chair and stretching his feet out to rest them on the arm of the sofa beside him. He paused, scratched his chin, then continued, his tone hard, aggressive, “Karen”.

Anna frowned. What was this about?

“Karen? Karen Reilly? Our baby-sitter?”

“Know any other fucking Karens?”

Karen was seventeen at most. In the Autumn she’d be starting at Art College. Keep calm. Say nothing. He wasn’t expecting an answer.

He laughed, a throaty, drunken rumbling.

“ Ha! Fucking Karen. Good idea. That’s what we were talking about. Me fucking her. I get bugger-all from you nowadays. So why not? She’s up for it.”

This was absurd. Talk about clichés! Harry was a walking one.

Anna couldn’t resist reacting.

“She may be young but she’s not stupid. What d’you think her dad’s going to do if you try that?”

As he sat forward and brought his feet thumping down on the floor, the snarl in his voice frightened her.

“Who gives a shit? She’s up for it. She said so.  I’m off. We’re leaving, the two of us. There’s bugger-all you or he can do about it.”


It was a rainy day when Anna met a girl on a park bench. The area was deserted save for the occasional jogger. Six months had passed since Harry’s rape conviction. His sentence hearing would be next month. There was little doubt he’d be locked up for the maximum term. Attempted rape of a minor was no small crime.

“How are you, Karen?” Anna sat down, placed her purse beside her.

“Good, thanks. Looking forward to going away to college.”

“Of course,” said Anna, “speaking of which …” She opened her purse, pulled out a small package. “Here’s the rest of what I owe you.”

The teenager took the envelope and stuck it in her pocket. “I trust you.”

Anna turned to face her. “For a fifteen year old, you’re scary smart. Convincing my husband you were … old enough was brilliant.”

Karen shrugged. “He was gullible… A bit of lipstick… That’s all it took.”

“You’re staying with your aunt when you go away?”

“Yes … can’t wait to leave my Mum and Dad. They never stop fighting. Next year, I’ll be old enough to live on my own.”

Anna smiled and stood up. “So glad we both got what we want.”

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Thanks for reading. Please feel free to comment. All feedback, good or bad, is an opportunity to learn and improve!





Author Eden Baylee and I have produced eleven stories together since January 2015. All of them were written for R.B. Wood’s Word Count Podcast.  When the podcast ended in November 2020 after ten years,  we wondered about the future of our co-authorship. Did we still want to write together?

We’re both happy to say the answer is YES!

As per our previous collaborations, we’ll construct a story in four parts, taking turns to write the opening, then alternating between the other three parts. If you want a more detailed explanation of the process, you’ll find it in a previous blog.

To make it even more challenging, we’ve added the following parameters:

(1) Each part will be 200 words. The entire story will therefore be 800 words with an allowance of +/- five words (title excluded).
(2) Whoever starts the story comes up with the title.
(3) The story genre will (loosely) be: Suspense/Mystery/Thriller with a psychological bent and twist ending.
(4) A new story will be posted simultaneously on our respective blogs every month.

The prompt for each story will be taken from Eden’s Writer’s Toolbox—a gift her husband, John, gave her years ago. To help us preserve the random nature of our stories as much as possible, John will be choosing the prompts.


Of course, every new venture deserves a great logo to kick it off. What do you think?

Many thanks to JB Graphics for the fabulous design.

Stay tuned for our first story coming soon!