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.



First Love

Our 800-word story sequence is nearing the end and this is the next but last of our solo pieces. The prompt for this one was ‘So, there I was, just standing there, when what I wanted to do was forbidden’. Unfortunately, it’s a wee bit clunky but that’s how it came out of the box, so we had to respect it. You’ll find Eden’s solo effort on  her own blog. I hope you like them both. Thanks for reading.


First Love

The songs all make it sound so easy, don’t they? Young lovers, hand in hand, strolling through some idyllic setting, the evening sun warm on their smiling faces, no thoughts of anything but the bliss of being together. Not that they wish harm to anyone else or are even aware of the existence of others, but the fullness of their love allows little space for anything or anyone else in their world.  Their love is a ‘many-splendoured thing’ and hasn’t yet been soured or contaminated by jealousies or habit or the tedium of familiarity. It’s not something that includes children, bank accounts, mortgages; it’s a precious, unique, shared sensation which gives them access to a soft, gentle eternity in a magical kingdom. Together.
And when life, inevitably, intrudes, it bewilders them with its complications, contradictions, unpleasantnesses, and serves only to reinforce their conviction that their love is the one real truth. The media’s preoccupation with the various excesses or deprivations perpetrated by their fellow humans is a jarring commentary on a place from which their adoration of one another has elevated them to a separate, flawless realm. They prefer to listen to the words of the poets


On the other hand, despite what I’ve just said, if you haven’t been there, I’m not really sure whether I’d recommend it. It’s a fine balance. Your age has to be right – pretty young, of course. Probably early teens. Mid teens maybe, but only if you’ve lived a pretty sheltered life. And you’ve got to have had the right doses of reality – a few, but not too many. Certainly nothing remotely serious. No bereavements, obviously, and no big brothers or sisters with their own emotional hang-ups from the times when they’ve been there. Oh, and don’t get it mixed up with sex – that’s a very easy mistake to make.
Then, of course, there’s the collateral damage when it ends, or even, before then, the little fissures which just appear, letting in ordinary light and bits of reality. They’re minute and of hardly any significance really but they can feel like world-ending earthquakes. The trouble is, I can’t help you there because they’re so unpredictable. They could be just from a word that’s said, a name that’s mentioned, a misunderstanding about a meeting place, being late for a date or, even worse, missing one altogether. Once that sort of thing starts, it’s over.


So what makes me such an expert? I don’t remember much else about back then. But that first love was different. I’ve still got such clear memories of it. It’s definitely left its mark. And it’s only happened once.
Because you learn from the experience and, every time you start to feel the same thing, you mostly know what to expect, so you never let yourself be vulnerable in the same way.
She wasn’t even my first girl-friend. There’d been a couple of others before her. But this one was love. It was at a party. I don’t remember any of the usual stuff – what she was wearing, her figure, her voice – none of that. It was her eyes. She was with a group of her friends; she looked up, straight at me, and kept on looking. Huge dark brown eyes, mesmerising. She was still talking with her friends, but those eyes kept coming back to me. I wasn’t hearing what anyone around me was saying any more. I just kept staring at her. In the end, I just walked away from my friends, pushed past the other little groups, went over to her, and we started dancing. Close.


We just danced. No speaking. No words. We met up again the following evening, and the one after. And that was it. The kissing and all the rest of it started a week or so later. Soon we were together all the time –movies, gigs, restaurants. We even got a credit card together, so there were never any money issues. I told her I loved her. She said, “Thank you. I love you, too.” We both really believed it, really meant it. It lasted for nearly a year. Serious stuff. But then… well, one day it was over. I got a note from the bank saying we were over our limit. I didn’t understand it, but checked. We were standing in the queue outside a club when I told her about it. She didn’t seem bothered. Or even interested. Eventually she lost her temper. I hated seeing her upset. Tried to calm her down. Just wanted to kiss her, reassure her, tell her I loved her. Then she told me she’d been using the card to book weekends at hotels for her and this other guy. So, there I was, just standing there, when what I wanted to do was forbidden.