He built a stone wall,
high and heavy around his heart.
He told himself it was for protection but really,
it was in good part, to keep her away.

He posted guards around the perimeter – sentries, with strict instructions
to keep her at bay.
She laid siege outside of his ramparts. Settled in, patient, waiting

And then, when the time was right,
she sounded a single note of her love song
and brought the bulwarks down, like Joshua at Jericho.

He had been blind to the obvious flaw in his plan.
He had not considered the strength of her will
or the power of her determination.
He never realized that he wanted her so.

A Tuesday morning response to a Monday Writing Prompt generously provided by The Secret Keeper.

Some Things can Change, Like the Weather


“Change huh? You wanna hear a story about change?” The old man pushed his hat back on his head and looked at each of the kids gathered around in the dust under the tree. They all looked back at him expectantly. There was a passel of ‘em, that was for sure, an even split between boys and girls. Most had curly blonde hair and dirty faces. They’d been playing outside all day. They wore sun dresses, or overalls, jeans, or shorts. They all bore a certain resemblance to one another, clearly family. They all looked like their parents. They all looked like him, all of them except one, the red haired girl, who reminded him of his wife, gone all these years without ever knowing these kids.

“OK, I guess I can tell you about change but first you all need to tell me some things that change.”

They each spoke in turn, respectful of one another.

“The season’s can change.” Said one of the older boys.

“Leafs will change colour in the fall.” Said another.

“I can change my mind…”

“We can change clothes…”

“I got two quarters in change at the store when I gave Mrs. Lattimer a dollar for a 50 cent box of animal crackers.”

“Those are all great examples of change,” said the old man. “I’ll tell you a story about a change in the weather.

“A few years back I was going to go to New Mexico for the holidays. I took a flight and changed planes in Las Vegas. Continued on to Albuquerque where a good woman met me at the airport.”

“Was it Grandma?” the little red headed girl asked.

“Hush, child,” the old man said, “that’s not important to the story.”

She nodded her head and he continued. “Time and distance conspired against me and where the weather had been fair when I left there was a blizzard in full force when I arrived. The two and a half hour drive from the airport took two days, roads were closed, hotel rooms were in short supply and we were forced to live by our wits, with little or no internet access.”

He looked at each of the kids. Their eyes were wide and they anxiously hung on his every word.

“That first night we made very little progress before we were forced to take shelter in a desert cave and make coats from coyote pelts to keep from freezing. I built a small fire in the lee of a rock and we scavenged for food. Luckily we came across a band of free range chickens and we were able to make grilled chicken sandwiches for dinner. The next morning we found that the rest of the chickens had left us eggs, sausage, tortillas, cheese and salsa; probably as some sort of peace offering, so we scraped together a couple of breakfast burritos that provided us sustenance for the next leg of our journey. Then we drove south for an hour through freezing temperatures and blizzard-like conditions.

“Eventually, we were stopped by a trooper who would not let us pass. ‘The road is closed,’ he said, ‘I can’t let you go through. You’ll have to go back and wait.’ I asked him if we could wait there by the river and he advised against it because of the weather but eventually agreed that if that was what we wanted to do then we could. We built an igloo and traded some beads and other trinkets for hamburgers from passing nomads.

“The next morning the trooper was still turning travelers back from the barricade but my companion was an enchantress, had I mentioned that before? She cast a spell on the trooper and he fell into a deep sleep. We passed through and continued on to our destination. We arrived late that afternoon, got a fire going to warm the house and heated up plates of left over lasagna and French bread. It was pretty rough but we survived.”

“That’s it, grandpa?” asked one of the older girls as she worried a scab on her elbow. “No pirates, or desperados?”

“That’s it girl,” the old man said. He took his hat off and squinted at the sun. “I got plenty stories about pirates and desperados but you wanted to hear about change. I can tell you about my adventures with Billie the Kid tomorrow though, if you’d like.” The grandchildren all cheered, jumped up and dispersed throughout the orchard. The old man rose slowly from the stump he had been sitting on, gathered his tools and plodded back towards the barn. He was grinning like the Cheshire Cat.




Janice lowered the binoculars and took another bite of her cheese sandwich. She chewed slowly and continued to stare down the street with her eyes narrowed to slits against the incoming sunlight.

“Dunno Danny. That could be it. I think we’re gonna have to get inside.” She turned her head and looked up the street at the VA Hospital, four or five blocks away. She set her sandwich on the dashboard and lit a cigarette, waving her hand in front of her face to disperse the smoke.

She swiveled her head back and forth between the hospital and the old RV that we were surveilling, in front of the market down the street. “It’s just closer to the VA than I would have thought based on the way he told it. But the colours are right, and it is an Itasca, like he said it would be. Do you think we can risk getting closer?”

I turned the key and the Caprice V8 rumbled to life.

Janice took a quick drag off her cigarette and tossed it out the window. She picked her sandwich back up and had another bite. “Just drive past,” she said, “let’s get a feel for it.”

I nodded my head and kept going by the Safeway parking lot. The subject RV had curtains drawn across the windscreen. We couldn’t see a thing. I wheeled around the block and into the Safeway lot. Deciding to be bold I parked right next to the Itasca.

Janice stuffed the rest of her sandwich in her mouth and started to choke. She got it under control before I could get around saving her but I chided her nonetheless.

“Take it easy,” I said. “We don’t want another Mama Cass on our hands.”

She waved me off and tried the handle on the door to the RV. It was unlocked and opened easily. “Hello,” she said into the gloom. There was no response so she signaled me to wait and went up the stairs closing the door after her. I looked at my watch, it was exactly 1632.

At 1635 she was still inside and I was concerned, but I figured I would give her a little more time. When my watch changed to 1638 I opened the door and stuck my head in the old RV. It was empty…

Sorry, I can’t do ’em all but I got a couple!

A Very Steinke Christmas


It was Christmas morning, and I woke to the sound of silence. I lay in bed and savored it for awhile. Soon though, my need for caffeine overtook my pleasure with the silence. I got out of bed and picked my way downstairs, stopping on the way to peek through the blinds at the front garden. A light dusting of virgin snow covered the street and the lawn. I risked looking down the street and happily noted that there was no sign of activity all the way down to the Steinke house.

I poured a couple cups of coffee and made my way back upstairs. I set a cup on Velma’s bedside table and told her that it looked as though the Steinke’s might be out of town.

“Wouldn’t that be nice?” she said, “A quiet Christmas with true ‘Peace on Earth’.” She pushed her covers back and padded to the bathroom in her bright yellow pajamas with the feet in them. The pajamas were too small for her, and pretty well worn out, but she had had them for years. They were to her what Linus’ blanket was to him, in the Peanuts cartoons. I thought she looked really sexy in them. I noticed that the big toe on her left foot was peeking out.

“Baby,” I said, “your toe is coming out to eat grass. You’re going to have to retire those jammies soon.”

“Never,” she said, “I’ll just darn the feet. They’ll be good as new.”

Christmas morning was truly quiet and peaceful. We opened gifts downstairs by the tree. We toyed with the mistletoe a little and made pancakes for breakfast. Christmas carols from 97.3 WPUG wafted softly from the radio on the counter.

After cleaning up the breakfast dishes, the torn wrapping paper, and the ribbons we played with the gifts we had given each other for awhile. Christmas dinner preparation was well underway, and we had enough food to feed an army.

As we worked in the kitchen I mentioned to Velma that as much as I hated to admit it, it was almost too quiet. I kept looking out the window towards the Steinke house.

Velma offered up, “I know what you mean, it really doesn’t seem like Christmas without Sam Steinke lying drunk on our couch and Selma chain smoking in the kitchen.”

“And just listen,” I said, “their kids aren’t running in and out of our backdoor or riding their bicycles in the living room.”

“Not to mention the dogs!” Velma rolled her eyes as she pulled the turkey out of the oven.

As if on cue the back door burst open and the Steinke dogs ran in, all five of them. They were followed closely by Sam and Selma Steinke, he with his Santa hat on, and a highball glass in hand; she with a long slender cigarette clutched between the first two fingers of her right hand and about half a fruitcake in her left.

The red headed twins were right behind her, Steven was picking his nose and Selene had a long wad of green snot hanging from hers. The colour matched some of the fruit in the rum-soaked fruitcake.

“Happy Krishmash,” slurred Sam as he stumbled on the linoleum and spilled about half of his drink.

“Merry Christmas neighbors,” said Selma as she gave Velma a one armed hug. “I brought you some fruitcake. I think the dogs got the other half though.” She tsk-tsked and set the cake in the middle of the kitchen table.

“We’re just putting the finishing touches on Christmas dinner,” said Velma, “we have a lot. Won’t you guys join us?”

“Oh, we don’t want to be any trouble,” Selma answered.

“Nonsense, no trouble at all,” I said and pulled more plates from the cupboard.

Sam spotted Selene’s nose and smacked the back of her head, “hey, wipe your nose kid.”

She did, and in one long motion managed to successfully transfer the string of snot from her face to her sleeve.

After we ate, Sam took a nap on our couch while Selma chain smoked and watched Velma clean up. The twins were sneaking sugar cookies to the dogs and a good time was had by all.

As Velma slipped into her footed pajamas that night she said, “You know – Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without the Steinke’s.” When she slid under the covers she leaned over, smiled, and gave me a kiss on the nose.


Oh my, Oh my


Dorothy considered the consequences of her actions.
It troubled her greatly, and
she struggled to accept what had happened.

The small black dog that she clutched to her breast, offered a modicum of comfort. She stroked his head and worried the hollows behind his ears with her finger tips.
“Oh my, Oh my,” was all she could say. It became a mantra.

She hadn’t come here to melt the wicked witch. It just happened.
Like one of those pancake mixes her Auntie Em liked so much. You know the ones –
“Just add water.”

Dorothy knew that she’d eventually come to terms with it all.
She just needed some space, and some time to think. Uncle Henry might recommend a good therapist.
Maybe… when she got back to Kansas she’d find peace.

A Monday Writing Prompt generously provided by The Secret Keeper.

Please accept my apologies for barging in. I had fun.

17 December 2015 – Book Bandits

victoriansansalpha 760x100

Today was a day for the Book Bandits (aka Orange County Writers Guild). When I am in attendance (as often as possible), I am usually allowed to provide the prompts for the group. I tend to provide short phrases, names, two or three seemingly random words, or single words. I usually keep a picture or two on hand as well. I keep a file on my laptop with 50 prompts. The group calls out three numbers between 1 and 50. The corresponding prompts are what we use to spark our imagination, our creativity if you will. The practice is that you can use one, two, or all three of the prompts, but you don’t have to use any of them if you are not so inclined.

I am always amazed at the diversity and quality of the writing that emerges. I really shouldn’t be. My fellow bandits are good writers. Really good. I learn a lot from them.

Having said all that, if you are still awake, let’s get to today’s festivities, shall we?

Today’s adventure with the Book Bandits.

The prompts are:

  1. Lonesome Johnny
  2. He was damn sure good looking enough
  3. We had a picture prompt today. It was a young girl, no more than 10 years old. She was wearing shorts, a red tutu, and a black tank top. She had full protective skater gear on; including a pink helmet, and all the required pads/wrist protectors, etc. She rode a purple board and had a pink brain bucket strapped to her head. Her long blonde hair streamed out behind her and her face was a mask of comfortable concentration as she does a 50/50 grind on the edge of a large concrete bowl, in a skate-park somewhere. I say she has a look of comfortable concentration on her face because, it is obvious she knows what she’s doing! It’s a great picture.

Begin Writing
Emeline finished her meeting and made her way to the street. She didn’t get downtown often and she had some time to kill so she decided to walk around some. The area was in the process of being reclaimed – gentrified. Posh art galleries were flanked by dive bars and pawnshops. She glanced in the open door of one of those dive bars and thought she recognized Johnny.

She confirmed it was him as soon as she walked into the bar. Something about the way he held his head. He sat at the end of the bar with two empty stools between him and the closest other customer. Now that she had recognized him she made a bee line to the stool right next to him. He was drunk. Sloppy drunk. His chin kept falling off his hand and there was a cigarette butt in his beer glass. Four or five empty shot glasses sat upside down in front of him.

The bartender was trying to wave her off as she approached Johnny’s stool. She ignored him and perched on the stool next to Johnny.

She said, “Hey there fella, buy a girl a drink?”

He looked in her direction with no recognition in his eyes, “Piss off,” he said, “leave me alone.”

“We used to call you Lonesome Johnny,” she said, “now you really are, huh?”

That got his attention and he looked at her again, “How’d you know my name?” he asked.

“A better question might be how come you don’t know mine? Look at me Johnny. Who do you think I am?”

He studied her sitting straight and tall on the stool next to him.

“Don’t just look at my tits,” she said, “try to recognize me!”

He raised his eyes and looked at her face. Looked at her hair and looked into her eyes. She saw a spark.

“Emmy?” he asked softly.

“First guess Johnny. Maybe there’s hope for you” She looked him over; he had the soft grey pasty flesh of a drunk who never got outside. His nose was red and his butt hung off the sides of his stool.

“What happened to you, man?” she asked. “When we skated together as kids you were so full of life. And, and in high school you were good looking enough to have had anything, or anyone, you wanted. You’re my age but you look 20 years older… What happened?”

“Iraq happened,” he said. “Go away Emmy, I don’t want to talk to you.”

“Where’s your spirit gone Johnny? Did you let it slip away?”

He slapped both hands on the bar top hard. SMACK. Everyone in the place jumped and looked over at them.

“Get the fuck out of here Emmy,” he stared at her for a few seconds. “NOW” he screamed.

She pulled a card out of her pocket; tossed it on the bar in front of him.

He looked down at it and read:

Emeline Evans
VP, Mergers and Acquisitions
Santa Cruz Skateboards

“You ever want to straighten up and rejoin the world, come see me,” she said. “If you can still skate, that is.”

“Go now Emmy,” he stared her down till she got up from the bar and headed for the door.

Halfway there she came back and handed a hundred dollar bill to the barman.

“Put this towards his tab,” she said. She left, walking quietly back into the sunlight.

Johnny stared at her till she got out of sight.
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.


You guys still with me?

The piece here is pretty raw. First draft stuff. The only editing is what I did during our allotted writing time. Usually we have 25 minutes but today we got a little longer; an early Christmas present. I also corrected some of the spelling while I was transcribing. I write with a pen and paper on Saturday mornings. It can get pretty messy.


Picture Prompt #42

Photo courtesy of The Blog Propellant
Photo courtesy of The Blog Propellant

David pushed the shop door open. The bell fixed above the door tinkled to announce his arrival. There was no one behind the counter so he decided to browse. He loved used book stores and wandered between the shelves for awhile gazing at the treasures housed thereon. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the way the books were displayed on the shelves. He spotted what appeared to be a first edition of Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop dated 1841 in very good condition. It was set, askew, atop a stack of Little Golden Books; including Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood, and Pierre Bear.

Holding on to the Dickens he went back to the front of the shop but the counter was still unmanned.

“Hullo,” he said in a stage whisper.

No response

David cleared his throat, “Hullo,” he called again slightly louder than his normal speaking voice. Bookstores, like libraries, demanded a certain level of decorum and respect. In his opinion, this meant keeping the noise down to a minimum.

But there was still no response. So he wandered towards the back of the shop. He found her there in a back room that had probably begun life as an office, but could now be described as nothing other than a book depository. The desk was piled high with books. Sagging shelves, lining every wall, were filled with books. Books were stacked on the floor. In fact, books were everywhere; with the exception of a path from the door to where she sat, perched on a stool. Her bare feet resting on the upholstered arm of the desk chair, a stack of books were on her lap and her nose was buried in an open tome that must have been three or four inches thick.

She did not acknowledge his presence.

“Excuse me,” David said and she immediately raised one finger in the air while she continued to study the page of the open book in her hands. Finally she slipped a scrap of paper between the pages and closed the book to look at him.

“Oh,” she said – as if somewhat surprised by his very presence. “What can I do for you?”

“Uhm, I’m interested in this copy of The Old Curiosity Shop that I found out front. Can you tell me where the shop assistant is?”

“I don’t have an assistant,” she answered. “It’s just me.”

“Oh, OK then. Well, can you tell me what you want for this book?”

She smiled and her face lit up. “You like first editions, do you?”

“Very much,” he replied.

“I’m afraid I can’t sell that. It’s not worth that much anyway. Maybe 300 or 350, that’s all. But, if you like first editions take a look at this.” She leapt off the stool and set her stack of books on the desk chair. Turning to kneel down she plucked a red volume from a lower shelf behind her. “Look at this; The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle, first edition from 1902. It’s in really good condition. Or this, Dashiell Hammet, and here’s a Graham Green. Oh, I just got this in too: Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha, 1855.” She caressed the leather cover of the latter like it was a lover and held it out, somewhat reluctantly, for him to admire.

“It’s beautiful,” he said as he took it from her. “What are you asking for this?”

“I can’t sell that either,” she advised him. “In fact I can’t sell any of these books. I love these books. Selling these books would be like selling my children. It just won’t do.”

“But this is a bookshop,” David said, his confusion evident in his tone of voice.

“I know, isn’t it wonderful?” she held her arms out from her sides and spun around slowly.


The Tempest

“It’s raining in my coffee again,” said Melinda gloomily.


“And waves are kicking up.”

“I see that.”

“Yes,” she said and sighed. “It renders the coffee almost undrinkable; diluted and cold.”

“There’s a cloud though. Does it have a silver lining?”

“Maybe,” she said, “it might make the washing up easier.”

Photo Courtesy of Grammar Ghoul Press
Photo Courtesy of Grammar Ghoul Press
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