Bandits · writing

Book Bandit Prompts – Complements of Anita

The Book Bandits gathered today to write. I understand that Riz and Jennifer are providing the prompts and Anita shared today’s set with me along with an exhortation that I should do something with them. They are:

  1. Miracles occur;
  2. I went to the woods
  3. Save one man at a time

I stood with my kids, looking at the tree line. They wanted to go on a hike in the woods. I wanted to take them but tree lines scared me. People hid inside tree lines and shot AK47’s at you and the day was changing. It had gotten oppressive and humid. The heat bore down on my shoulders like it hadn’t done in a long time. Things were changing, time was changing; the quiet day suddenly became noisy. Small arms fire was clattering around me and I ducked low. It was easy to distinguish the sound of an AK47. The AK sounded different than an M16. A lot different.

I pulled Emmy and Therese low into the grass of the LZ. Where was Linda? The kids needed her she had to come and get the kids. They shouldn’t be here. I hoped we wouldn’t be seen. We had our wounded nestled low in a shallow ravine not far from where the girls and I crouched. We were waiting for a medevac. I listened closely but couldn’t hear the sounds of the Hueys. Where were the Hueys?

The AK fire was more concentrated now and someone, about 50 yards to my left popped a red smoke. Maybe they could hear the choppers, I couldn’t. Then I felt them, that hard thump, thump, thump that rattled my teeth first and then moved deeper to shake my bones. It was unmistakable and the sound made me feel safer. I smiled, when I felt the wash of the first one coming in hard and fast. Automatic weapons fire raked the treeline from the open door of an accompanying gunship and the evac bird hovered low, never quite touching down. I took the girls and loaded them in. I went back to help move my injured comrades. We could only save one man at a time.

When the Hueys left, whisking my daughters to safety I crouched low and waited for the signal to enter the woods.

Voodoo was next to me maybe 15 yards to my left. He was calling my name. He shouldn’t be doing that – he was drawing attention to himself, putting himself at risk, but he wouldn’t stop.

“Santa Fe, hey Santa Fe,” he yelled. “Come back man.

“Hey Santa Fe, you’re scaring me. What’s happening?” His voice slowly changed and he started calling me by my real name, “Bobby, Bobby?” He put his arms around me and Voodoo became Linda. “Bobby, are you all right? Come back to me Bobby.”

Suddenly it wasn’t 1969 anymore. The AK47’s were replaced by the sounds of birds and the day was cooler and dry.

“Linda,” I said, “did you get the girls? Are the girls OK? Are they safe?”

“The girls are fine,” she said, “you scared them a little bit but they’re OK. Thanks for saving them. Are you OK?”

I took her hand and we started walking back to the picnic table, “Yeah, I’m fine. You know, I love you.”

“I love you too Bobby. I love you too.”

Thanks Anita!

Bandits · Random Scribbles · writing

7.May.16 Prompts


  • Just a very thin gold leaf
  • A bird came down the walk
  • At the back of the shelf

Daniel fled from the store in tears.
He was mad.
He was angry.
He was ashamed.
The nerve of that checker.
The nerve of that manager.
The nerve of his friends and neighbors,
in line behind him.

Everyone knew, everyone knew.

How many years had he shopped here?
His card is declined once.
They wouldn’t let him have his groceries.
They kept his card.
They took his dignity too.
No one stepped up from in line behind him,
he could feel them laughing; back there in line behind him.

He bolted from the market in tears.

Back home, he tore through his front door, seeing nothing but red.
He ran down the hall to the bedroom.
He searched under the bed. Where was it?
He scoured his dresser drawers.
He found the shoe box in his closet,
at the back of the shelf.
Inside, his father’s old pistol,
and six bullets in a sandwich bag.

Tears were still falling
when he pushed open his door
and started walking back to the store.

Thanks, Jim for keeping me in the loop hope you don’t mind if I play from afar!

Bandits · writing

17 December 2015 – Book Bandits

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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.


CSMA Prompts and Practice · writing

Bandits – 22.August.2015

I haven’t been posting a lot of my “Book Bandit” work lately. Hell, I haven’t been posting any of it these days but at today’s meeting I wrote something that surprised me. We actually played twice today. The first time was three prompts, chosen blind and at random. Using those three prompts for inspiration you write for twenty five minutes. You can incorporate one, two, three, or none of the prompts. Then we share what we wrote and discuss. My initial effort, in my opinion, was a bit pedestrian and I won’t put it here today.

Then we played a second round because the group was small today and time was plentiful. The second round had only one prompt and we had only 15 minutes to write. I kinda surprised myself with what appeared in my notebook. I’m going to transcribe it now because I write by hand in this venue and if I wait too long I may not be able to read my own writing. We are pretty strict on the time limit so often stories go unfinished.

The prompt: Lost between the pages

G0 – you have fifteen minutes.

I lifted the old notebook from the box that had been shoved to the back of my father’s closet. It was a journal. It was his journal. I skimmed through a few of the opening pages and realized that it was from his time in the Navy. He had written about his ocean transit on the USS Fargo.

He wrote about his shipmates and how they passed the time at sea.

He wrote about the monotony of life at sea; endless days and nights working in the infirmary. He wasn’t a doctor, he was a Corpsman attached to the Marines. Doctors were few and far between but a Corpsman was just as good, for a jarhead with trench foot or the runs.

He wrote of landing and marching through jungles.

He wrote about the sights and sounds of guerrilla warfare, and of lost companions whom he could not help.

But also lost, lost between the pages, were the things he didn’t write.

He didn’t write about how what he saw, and did, affected him. His account was more journalistic, a simple reporting of events.

In the interim I have had my own jungle war and having had my own jungle war, I understood. I could feel; and had felt, the same things as he did long ago on that island – his island.

I was able to find the thoughts and feelings that he had hidden, or lost, between the pages.

I wish I had known these things when he was still alive, these things that he never spoke about. I understand them, and I don’t speak about them either.





CSMA Prompts and Practice · writing

16 August 2014 – Book Bandits

16 August 2014

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Today’s adventure with the Book Bandits.

The prompts are:

  1. Release the balloons
  2. A pinch of cayenne
  3. Templeton and Sons


Begin Writing
The sign on the door said ‘Templeton and Sons, Investigations’. When it was just Dad the sign read ‘Templeton Investigations’. Then when my brother John got his license Dad changed the sign to read ‘Templeton and Son, Investigations’.  I had just gotten back from my stint in the Navy and Dad had just gotten a third sign that read ‘Templeton and Sons, Investigations’.  My first case was a missing person.

It started on a warm summer morning when he came in the office and sat down at my dad’s desk.  He told us his name was Jimmy and he had a spot of something on the end of his nose.  As he sat, he pulled a tin of McCormick’s cayenne pepper out of the pocket of his jeans and tapped a pinch onto the back of his hand.  When he leaned in and snorted it, like a hit of snuff, his eyes began to water; but whatever had been on his nose was gone.

“Mr. Templeton?” he asked from behind the tears.  “I need to hire you to find a missing person.”

Dad looked at him with distaste.  He had never seen anyone snort cayenne before. “The police do missing persons. You don’t need us.”

“The police are not interested in this case.” Jimmy said. “It’s been over a month and the leads are drying up.”

“OK, tell us a bit about it,” Dad said. “Who’s missing?”

“It’s my friend Anita,” Jimmy replied.  “She’s just vanished.  Rumors have been floating around that she broke her leg but no one’s been able to confirm it.”

“Do you have a photograph of Anita?” Dad asked.

“No, I don’t,” Jimmy replied, “but I can sketch a likeness if you have some paper.”

Dad reached in a drawer and got a sheet of copy paper that he handed over.  Jimmy pulled a green crayon from his shirt pocket.  He put the paper on the edge of Dad’s desk and went to work.  Tongue protruding ever so slightly from the corner of his mouth. Jimmy quickly produced a sketch of a stick figure; identifiable as a woman only because of the triangular skirt he had drawn.  She had corkscrew hair and dots for eyes.  She was smiling.  He handed the crayon drawing to Dad and said, “This is what she looks like.”

“She should be easy to find,” Dad said, “seeing as she has no nose and is about as skinny as a pencil.”
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.


CSMA Prompts and Practice · writing

17 May 2014: Book Bandits

17 May 2014

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It’s great to see so many of you out this morning and good that the weather is getting a bit more hospitable.  Don’t forget to tip your prompt master before you leave.


The prompts are:

  1. I’m just a businessman
  2. History is not a novel
  3. Hey, you can’t park here


Begin Writing
The judge slammed her gavel on the bench twice.  The staccato rapping sealed my fate.  She closed the file and handed it to the bailiff.  “Call the next case.” she said.

The big guy with the uniform clipped handcuffs around my wrists, put his hand on my shoulder and led me out the door at the side of the courtroom.

He said, “Sorry about this Mr. Wilson.  If it means anything, I agree with your argument.”

“That’s the thing, Doug.  It was not just an argument, I’m nothing but a businessman.  Locking me up is not going to stop the trade.  Someone else will just step in and fill the void left when I’m put away.  It’ll be someone meaner and smarter than me too.  I should have known better than to make the mistakes I did but history is not a novel so I didn’t read it.  And, because I didn’t read it I was unaware of the pitfalls and traps.  The next guy’ll know; and your job won’t be so easy.”

“You may be right, Mr. Wilson.  I can’t say”

Doug led me back to the holding cell in the basement of the courthouse and removed my handcuffs before he closed the door.  As the door slammed shut with a solid metallic clunk, he stuck his hand through the bars.  “Best of luck to you in there sir, watch your back.”

“Thanks, Doug.” I said and I shook his hand.

I turned and surveyed the cell.  Maybe 8 foot square with three masonry, or concrete, walls and bars facing onto the corridor.  There was a metal bench bolted to the floor that ran the length of the back wall.  For the time being, I had the place to myself so I lay down on the bench and listened to the sounds of the courthouse around me.

Another deputy was seated at a metal desk at the end of the hall.  I could hear him open a drawer and soon the sounds of a hand held video game could be heard.  Pings, whistles and explosions from the game almost drown out the tapping sounds of his thumbs on the controller.  My eyes closed and I relaxed.

I woke to someone tapping the bottom of my foot with a billy club.  It was the video game deputy.  “Lets go Mr. Wilson,” he said.  “Time to get you on the bus.”
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.