Writing Advice

Help for Authors and Writers

Prompt: Start with a packet of crackers

Seems simple enough, right? I didn’t anticipate the direction it would go. The smallest things can start a scene.

He tossed her the small, flat package. She caught it out of the air and looked dubiously at it. “What’s this?”

“What’s it say?”

She examined the writing, blocky black letters on dark green foil. “MIL CR2A CRK, SLT, 8CT, DOD LIC 1441301. That’s not as illuminating as maybe you think.”

“Ah. You got the Saltines.”


“Military combat rations, revision 2A, crackers, Saltine, 8 of them, manufactured under license to Uncle Sam his own self. Bon appétit!”

She turned the dubious look on him. “You’re joking.”

“Serious as a defense appropriations bill.”

“Fucking Saltines? Are you shitting me?”

He nodded toward the large, plain cardboard case the packet had come from. “Five hundred packages. Well, four hundred and ninety-nine, now.” He grinned and tore open a packet with his teeth. The foil, she noticed, was the same drab shade of dark green on the inside.

“That’s what they stole? Saltines? We’ve been chasing an organized ring of thieves over crackers?”

His expression turned serious. “Not just crackers.” He gestured to the rows of pallets, all neatly shrink wrapped, that stretched off into the gloom. Overhead, large industrial arc lamps drilled harsh white holes in the shadows. “Military rations of all kinds. Thousands of cases, from the looks of it.”

“Not guns or rocket launchers or ammo…”

“Nope. Rations.”

“For real?”

“An army travels on its stomach.” He waved an airy hand at the silent rows of pallets marching in precision order through the warehouse. “In the hands of an irregular gureilla force, these might be as dangerous as any bullet. There’s a reason the Army spends a ton of money, time, and logistical resources on things like this. An effective army’s not a bunch of guys with rifles, it’s a system, see? Everyone’s gotta eat. You can’t eat guns or rocket launchers.”

“But still…”

“Trust me, this is a big bust. The kind promotions are made of, even for you civvies. You might just—”

A loud crack split the air. He blinked. His lips moved, like he’d just thought of something else to say. A puzzled expression crossed his face, then he crumpled to the concrete floor. Something dark and wet pooled beneath him.