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.

Moral Bankruptcy

At present, especially in the UK, there are so many things that illustrate the ubiquitousness of the condition identified in our title that potential readers may already be deciding ‘I don’t want to read any more of this stuff’. But be reassured, it has nothing to do with politics, although there does seem to be a predilection for immoral behavior at so many levels even outside the corridors of power. But all we want to do is entertain you by dabbling in 800 words of mild moral mayhem.

Today’s prompt is: There she was, Amy Gerstein, over by the pool kissing my father.

Parts 1 and 3 are by Eden, 2 and 4 by me.


Moral Bankruptcy

Amy came into my life at the start of the year, and her expensive tastes have put a dent in my finances. I’ve almost maxed out all my credit cards, and my bank account’s in perpetual overdraft. She’s worth it though, so much so I even tell Mom I’m considering monogamy for the first time.

“She brings out the protector in me,” I say, “and she’s gorgeous and charming. Who can resist that?”

“Obviously not you!” Mom’s excitement comes through the speaker phone a bit too loudly. I turn down the volume and agree with her. “When are we meeting this young lady?” she says.

“She’s planning a first-class trip to Belize after I finish my PhD, so maybe sometime after we get back?”

“First class?” Now Mom sounds concerned. “Is she paying?”

“Of course not. I wouldn’t let her if she wanted to.”

“You don’t have that kind of money, James.”

“I know … but I’ve got several contracts lined up. I’m sure I can swing it.”

A pause sucks the energy from the conversation, but then Mom says: “Your dad’s friend has a timeshare at a five-star resort in Belize. Maybe you and Amy might consider it.”


What a bombshell! I hesitated a bit, then, trying to keep any excitement out of my tone, asked, “Which friend’s that? I didn’t realize Dad was so well-connected.”

“George Duncan. They’re both in that bridge club, or whatever it is. He’s a fund manager or something.”

“Ah yes, I remember. Thanks. I’ll maybe check with Dad. Is he there?”

Mom’s answer is short, her displeasure badly concealed. “No. Lord knows where he is. His dinner’s going to be cold.”

I should have tried my usual snide remark about Dad’s forgetfulness. It always made her giggle, but the idea of lounging in a plush Belize timeshare didn’t leave much room for thinking about others, not even long-suffering Mom. Instead, all I offered was, “OK, I’ll try his mobile. Remind him to check the time, eh? Love you. Bye,” and closed my phone.

When I got back to the flat, Amy was in the bathroom, wearing only her dressing gown and singing over the loud whirring of the washing machine.

“Good news,” I said, trying – unsuccessfully, as usual – to appear nonchalant.

She just looked at me.

“I think I may have got us a 5-star timeshare in Belize.”

Her dressing gown fell to the floor.


The nominal fee for the timeshare came as a huge relief, but Amy thought differently. She must’ve viewed it as an opportunity to spend elsewhere.

“This bikini on me will make you the envy of the resort!” She sat in bed with her laptop, scrolling through an online shopping site.

I tried to reassure her. “You could wear a burlap sack and I’d be the envy of the resort.” In the end, I couldn’t curb her shopping. Her big doe eyes hypnotized me into handing over my credit card for her latest whimsical purchase.

The morning after arriving in Belize, Amy seemed distracted. Her main interest was in exploring the grounds, and not necessarily with me.

“James, I want to take advantage of every minute.” She applied lipstick and spritzed perfume on her neck.

I pulled myself up in bed in a daze. “Where are you going? It’s not even eight o’clock.” Before I could gather my thoughts, she was gone. I fell back to sleep and got up an hour later. While headed to breakfast, I expected to see my girlfriend in the dining room, but instead, there she was, Amy Gerstein, over by the pool kissing my father.


Apart from being too shocked to say anything sensible, the fact that it wasn’t only my girl but my bloody father stopped me going over to them. I had no idea which one to complain to. So I went straight to the communal breakfast room. It was full of couples, mostly older, but right at the end, next to the serving hatch, was a long table around which sat a bunch of noisy, middle-aged men. The mood I was in made me want to go across and tell them to shut up but the waitress came to take my order.

“Noisy buggers,” I said to her.

She nodded and said, “This is your first time here, isn’t it?”

“Yes. Why d’you ask?”

“You get used to it. They’re regulars. Some sort of club. Most of them have got chalets here.”

I thought of making some poor you type of remark but stopped when the door opened and Dad walked in. He went straight to the noisy table, pulled back a chair, flopped down into it and shouted, “Your turn, George”.

I recognized the fat, bald bloke who got up and headed quickly for the door. It was George Duncan.

Truth or Heir

This is the penultimate collaborative effort from myself and Eden Baylee.  There are still a couple of solos to come as well as the joint swan song in the series we’ve c alled…

Prompt: My grandfather lied to my grandmother. I guess it runs in the family.

Parts 1 &3 Bill
Parts 2 & 4 Eden


People often wonder how I came to be the owner of such an obviously expensive property. I don’t mind their curiosity. They’re not intending to be rude. It’s just that I’m not someone you’d identify as a ‘lord of the manor’ type. I haven’t got a particularly well-paid job and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m not particularly gifted at any sort of activity – leisure or otherwise. My wife Jean and I are basically an average couple that attracts little attention. And yet we’ve got this gorgeous place with big gardens, no mortgage draining our resources, and more rooms than we need, even with our four kids. But we do tell lies. It started way back.  My grandfather lied to my grandmother. I guess it runs in the family. Jack, our eldest, tells the kids at school that I was an admiral in the navy and retired with a huge pension because of my knighthood, and Janet told her nursery teacher that Jean worked at Buckingham Palace before having any children. All lies, of course, but no less credible than the actual events which led to my family buying and keeping it since very early in the twentieth century.


It started as a bet. I’m not a gambling man, but that day as I trimmed the hundreds of rose bushes, I wondered about my lot in life. At nineteen, Dewbourne House had hired me because dad and granddad had also worked here.

With three generations of gardeners, my trajectory wasn’t all that different from Lord Buffet’s, only he inherited the luxurious castle, and I inherited a job at his ancestral home.

I was happy for a decent paying job, or at least one that supported me enough to get married and have a couple of kids eventually. The thing was, after Jack was born and dad passed away suddenly the following spring, I began fearing the worst. My life was moving in one predictable direction, that of servitude. I wanted more for my kids, and unless I did something to change course, my eldest son would end up following in my footsteps.

But how could I break the cycle?

When Lord Buffet requested my presence to discuss his family’s cemetery orchards, I decided to make him a proposition. It was a risk, one that might have got me fired if I didn’t know he was a bit of a prankster.


He was also incredibly superstitious and a sucker for traditional folklore, which made conning him relatively easy. He’d known dad and granddad as a kid and they’d always done the usual head-nodding as they dispensed totally fictitious wisdoms about the properties of plants and their associations with witchcraft. Henbane, deadly nightshade, yew trees – they’d all been part of the stories I’d heard about him as a kid and we’d laughed at how he’d believed it all.

So, before we sat down together in the conservatory that long-ago day to plan the necessary changes, I made sure I did my research.

“Traditional Lincolnshire apple trees,” I said, “that’s what we need.”

“Why?” he asked, his eagerness showing he was already impressed.

I shrugged as if the answer were obvious.

“They’ve been guardians of graveyards since way back. Symbols of immortality. Gateway to the underworld.”

He leaned nearer, like a conspirator.

“They’re as good as Bible cedars, protect against plague, make the grave soil purer. Yew’s OK, but these…”

The more I added, the more enthusiastic he got. I judged my timing of the punchline with care.

“There’s only one problem,” I said.


“They’ve to be planted and looked after by the owner.”


Lord Buffet did that thing with his eyebrow, raised it slowly, just the left one.

I panicked. “What I mean is … your Lordship, your son would have to plant the trees and care for them, as I’m sure he’ll become this home’s rightful owner.”

A smile formed on the old man’s face, barely visible behind his thick white beard. “And who says my good-for-nothing son will inherit the estate?”

“My Lord?” A knot twisted in my stomach.

“You know my son cares no more for this house than he does for me. He visits only when he wants money. What makes you think he’ll tend to this place once I’m gone?”

“Surely, he would—”

“No, he’s an entitled man-child! He needs to learn some hard lessons, only …” He bowed his head.

“Yes, my Lord?”

“The time for me to teach him is long past. You’ve given me the perfect reason to write him out of my will.”

I dared not exhale until he said: “You and your family have served me well. I trust you’ll continue doing so in my next life.”

I nodded.

Lord Buffet was a man of his word, and that’s the whole truth.