20 Lines A Day

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Consciousness came gradually. He first became aware of a loud whirring sound – a sound he knew was unfamiliar, even though he couldn’t remember his name. That realization alone made him shoot upright in bed.

And, he now saw, he didn’t know where he was either.

The room was small – no bigger than a bathroom – its walls made of cinderblock painted white. He couldn’t see a window, but the room was awash in natural light. He twisted in bed and found its source – a long, narrow window high on the wall and set with bars.

Bars. Why am I in a room with bars?

As his gaze moved to a heavy steel door to his left, his eye caught something on a bedside table – a small book. It fit wholly within his palm. On the cover – typed in official, old-fashioned type – was the following: WELCOME TO THE COMPOUND.

With a shaking hand, he opened the soft paper cover. The first page began, “WE ARE VERY HAPPY TO HAVE YOU WITH US, XAVIER.”

Is that my name?

He thumbed through the remaining pages – they were filled with widely-spaced, tiny letters, organized in numbered lists.

Rules. Dozens of them.

Before he could read the first one, someone knocked on the door and its knob creaked as it turned.

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Ben didn’t care much for hiking. He hated the bugs, the sweating, the exertion. It was the city life for him. He came for his friends – they loved adventure. Ben usually got hurt. “Live a little!” they’d say, slapping his back.

This isn’t living, Ben thought as he slapped another bug dead on his arm. He groaned away the cramps in his legs and lungs.

“Keep moving, old man!” Seth hollered. He was a fair distance ahead and Ben fell back, losing sight of both his friends among the trees.

Of course he panicked like a lost child. He scanned the thick woods as he climbed the widening trail but they were gone. “Seth? Dave?” He reached a flat spot where the trail wound through thinning woods and there was a clear view for a hundred feet. No sign of them.

But there was movement. A flicker, like a light flashing, pulled his attention on the right. It flashed again. Ben lost his common sense and followed. He found the light hovering under a small outcrop of rock. It grew brighter with every step.

Suddenly, Ben couldn’t breathe, his eyes blanketed with blackness and a heavy rhythmic hush like in a seashell. When it passed, Ben flung forward and fell on top of Seth and Dave.

They were alive but lifeless. And they weren’t in the woods.


When Mirabelle opened her eyes, she thought she was blind. It took a couple minutes for the flame of a single candle to emerge from a far corner. Shadows flickered against the wall like a hulking bat.

She shifted and something rattled. Then a solid, heavy pressure grew on both wrists and ankles and Mirabelle’s foggy mind cleared. She was chained. The manacles rattled again as she began to tremble, their metallic clink echoing closely in the chamber.

With a panicked gulp, she opened her mouth to scream.

“That won’t help, my dear,” came a voice. Soft, gentle, motherly. But not a friend, Mirabelle felt that as sharply as a knife in her side.

A woman’s figure then appeared from a deep shadow to Mirabelle’s left. Her skirts scraped the dirt floor in a delicate, measured pace. A face slowly caught the light – nose first, then chin, cheeks and forehead. All noble, prominent, sculpted.

Mirabelle knew that face.

“Milady -“

Her eyes certainly didn’t flash of recognition. Mirabelle was, after all, one smudged, vague face in a sea of servants at the Lady’s feet. Indeed, she barely looked in her face, studying instead an object below her that commanded great interest.

It was a blade. It rose up, point first, from beneath her chin. Candelight graced its sharp edge, glowing silver and liquid.

Mirabelle, whimpered, like an animal.

“Shhh, shhh my dear.”

Earl Grey

The downpour that began the night before was now – at nearly dawn – a hovering, thin mist. The grass was soggy, the air just above freezing. It reminded Lottie of home.

“You look awful,” Det. Marx said as she approached the bridge. Such a charmer. He offered her a Styrofoam cup of Earl Grey that promised to be awful. Lottie long ago accepted that she’d never find a decent cup in this century. All the same, she took it – the hot liquid inside warming her fingers – and glimpsed at the corpse.

He lay on his back, spread eagle and bare-chested. Carved into the gray skin and glistening dully with morning dew, Lottie saw it clearly even from a distance.

It was his mark.

“So… he’s crossed over again,” Lottie said.

Her partner nodded.

Let it begin.


This was the sweet spot. Late afternoon, when the sun slanted her golden light across the land and made everything suddenly more beautiful and vibrant with color. Today blades of late summer hay glowed like they were rays of the sun, too.

Joe never missed afternoon light.

She held her position, crouched among the hay, heels digging into the soft earth. Camera ready. A butterfly was perched on one blade, its black wings specked with cornflower blue. Joe’s heart raced just a little faster, excited to catch the shot. Breathing quietly, she watched the butterfly flutter her wings. She slowed time and pushed down on the shutter.

And the neighbor’s six-year old son squealed from across the field. Joe’s focus buckled and she looked in the direction of the house. When she looked back, her butterfly was gone. Joe cursed under her breath. She cursed when her father sold that plot of land to city folk, and cursed again when they built a three-story summer home on it. A place to get away from the city, they said, cultured voices dripping with pretension. Joe hated city folk.

Maybe I still got the shot, she assured herself.

Summer Lilies

They say deer eat these mine are all still healthy

Summers lilies of pumpkin gold

waving softly in the wind

The black seeds perched

precariously at the center of every leaf.


I wonder-which wisp of wind

will scatter seeds and where will they land?

Will they hang on drying slowly

until fall finally wilts the plant?


The fuzzy stamens, tempting new life-

why do the seeds form down the branch,

when the stamens and ovulates

rest within the velvety soft flower?


Each tiny gift nature has given

develops its own ways,

keeps its mystical secrets,

reminds us that every living thing.


is special, unique, magical.

Look at a daisy, a lily, a daffodil,

every one with its own way to reproduce,

Life itself holds infinite recipes.


Every flower shares it beauty,

to observe and enjoy is a gift

free and simple, there for the taking.

The finest things in life ARE free!



Cockroach Wells loved to dig graves. We often said that he was always ahead of schedule.

Sometimes he brought a flashlight into the graveyard and Mrs. LaRoque would watch the dim light from her living room window across the street and call the police. He had no business messing around in the graveyard, disturbing the dead’s peace, she’d say. And the officers would come and Cockroach would put up a terrible fight and he’d spend the night in jail.

Cockroach was an odd looking fellow – he had a messy black beard that was always littered with crumbs, a slump to his shoulders and a little march to his walk, like someone had him on strings. And always mumbling – perhaps talking to the voices in his head.

One moonless night my friend and I snuck out of our beds on a dare to test our bravery in the graveyard. We crept along the stones – the names and dates on some of them worn clear off, others marking deaths 200 years old – giggling in whispers, carrying our own flashlights and hoping Mrs. LaRoque didn’t notice and call the police again.

And then we ran into Cockroach – he’d turned his flashlight off and sat in the blackness, Indian-style in front of one particularly old and moss-covered tombstone, chatting away.

“That must’ve been just awful,” he was saying. “Were you injured?” Cockroach stopped as if hearing a reply. “And that dun you in, eh? That’s a shame.”

He sensed the two 11-year-old boys watching and turned around. When he smiled, his mouth opened onto toothless gums – a wet cave above the bristling beard.

“This here feller just tellin‘ me bout his days in the Civil War,” he told them, motioning to the grave to introduce the dead soldier.

We just nodded and kept on walking – Cockroach didn’t seem to need our company. As we hustled between the stones, we could hear his low grumble of a voice continue his one-sided conversation. Who am I to say no one spoke back?


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