20 Lines A Day

A Community of Writers and Photographers


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?

1 Comment

Clinging to a Life I Once Knew

Across the room, a picture of the two of you,
Its seems like yesterday, but its been 8 years,
in the purest hell. You- taken only four months later.
Your little brother now 6’3” and growing-
the girl who has his heart isn’t me.
I am alone in my heart-I’ve taken in my sick dad-
and the daily reminders of why I left home at 18
haunting my every quiet move, with doors down,
curtains up to accommodate walkers-hospital supplies.
Every time I think “life” can get no worse, it does.
I need you, I need your brother to be little again.
I want to teach 6 kids about bugs and butterflies
and play in the creek. I want to live, love, dream.
Tonight, if and when I close my eyes, please,
my beautiful young man, stolen for no reason,
come to me, be with me, let me remember life.


Anna froze when the siren wailed. It cut through the humid morning slowly, as if impeded by the thick air – bounced off the palm trees, the thick vegetation beneath her bare feet, into the heavy cobalt sky above and then over the calm sea. Anna couldn’t see it, but could hear the waves crashing against the shore. That was, until the siren started.

She grasped Leo’s arm – it was damp with sweat. “What is that?”she asked. Leo looked down at her, his glimmering face cast in a shroud – he was scared, but not frantic. That was good. But he paused as if wanting to keep a horrible secret from her, one he wished he didn’t know himself.

He put a strong arm over her shoulders and Anna huddled under his protection, but still wanted her question answered.

“What is it?” she repeated. Her voice cracked.

He peered through the trees, trying to find a sign of movement in the shadows between their long trunks. The tension in Leo’s muscles troubled her and she tensed out of instinct.

“The Call,” he said.

“Call for what?”

Something moved several feet to their left and Leo whipped his head towards the sound.

“The Hunt has begun,” he whispered.

Before Anna could ask another question, Leo grasped her shoulders and pushed her down the path, away from the noise.

“We need to run,” he said. “NOW!”

As they sprinted down the path, over roots and rocks, between palm trees and ferns, Anna heard the leaves part where they had been standing. Something growled at her heels but she didn’t dare look back.


Three weeks have passed and we’ve spent every minute of it in this small little room. Four days ago, the rain stopped. It only sounded like rain, but I couldn’t forget what it really was. Ash.

“Can we try the door, please?” My sister has been begging my father for days. It’s hot and she can’t breathe and she’s complained about it over and over. None of us can breathe, all of us are sweating – she isn’t the only one. But I bite my tongue. Father patiently tells her no each time and recites the reason, which my sister already knows.

“We need to make sure the eruption is over. We don’t want to leave too early, or we might not be able to get back in.” And that’s it. Though he doesn’t tell her to drop it – maybe he should – but his tone indicates the topic is closed.

She settles back into her discomfort. All of us try to keep our sanity contained in our skulls, but every day it threatens to spill over, like water in a glass. We wait.

“It’s time,” my father says one morning,. It could’ve been another week, but it hardly feels like a minute – time has become warped and twisted, my mind losing all concept of it. “Gather want you want to bring. I’m going to open the door in 10 minutes.”

Hardly enough warning, I think, but I’m glad to be doing something even if it’s terrifying. I don’t want to see what’s beyond our shelter, what has happened to the world. I stand behind my sister, holding her shoulders so that she rests against my stomach. My mother keeps close behind my father, whose sweaty hands grasp the handle of the door so tightly every muscle in his forearm ripples.

“Ready?” he asked.



The dream was always the same. Two men wore masks over their faces and a bright light floated behind them. They spoke to her softly. The dream remained with her even when she went home, its residue ruining her focus. Her breakfast, a visit from a friend, her mother’s voice, all disappeared in its wake.

“What’s wrong with you this morning?” her mother chided one day. She couldn’t appear vacant or distracted or they’d take her back. It was an unfriendly place, full of crazy people. But she wasn’t crazy, just a little lost.

“I’m fine.”

She told herself the dream wasn’t real. She took her medicine and her mother checked under her tongue. It’s just a dream. But no – the room was familiar and she remembered something, something they did to her. Eyes loomed over paper masks; kind voices; her feet in stirrups.

I’m not crazy – I was never crazy. Maybe confused. But not this time.

She gripped her belly – it was growing rounder. She felt the life inside. But no one would believe her story – no one ever believed her. She was just a crazy girl.


The wood floor groaned beneath her feet, the lantern hot in her hand. Her breath was tight inside her chest. Up ahead-a faint creak. A cold sweat sprouted on her skin; her head swam. He knew she was coming, creeping down the hall. Another step. Two. She raised the lantern but its thin yellow beam only stretched so far. He was behind that door – she could feel it.

“What am I doing?” she recited in her mind, over and over again. “Because you need to see him,” another voice responded.

Yes, she did. She’d seen him in her dreams every night. She could smell his breath as he taunted her with cold whispers. And then the squeeze on her shoulder. His words beckoned her – “come to me…”

It couldn’t be real, it wasn’t possible. He was dead. But he wanted her in their old bedroom. She was almost there now. Her nightgown fluttered in a cold draft, her feet silent. The door opened. She stopped – she didn’t want to see him after all. But the door widened even more, revealing only shadow and cold beyond. The abyss lured her forward.

She raised the lantern again, but its light was halted by a wall of shadow. “Come to me…” he whispered. She passed the threshold. And there he stood, as real as he’d been alive, if not for his transparent glow. The darkness swallowed her as she passed through his arms.

Love Lost and Stolen


Though I am not aware of any great love

 beaming down upon me, I hope they are there

My lost son, my mother , her parents,

They speak to me, hear me when no one else does.

I have searched, believed, dreamed, loved

and seen all of that stolen from me.

In misery, drowning in tears, I have lain,

thinking of you, longing for your touch.

Oh, Holy Spirit, one whom I should trust

I often wonder where you are, near, or far

Do you watch over me while I suffer?

Do you not interject yourself in earths troubles?

There was a time when the majesty of your works,

the beauty of the forest and flowers of spring,

carried me to a place of pure delight.

Now, all I do is wonder what I did to make you leave.

Nothing can bring back what was stolen from me.

I try to find comfort in the winds, the sea,

To find you again, but I cannot see beyond the clouds.

I reach up, longingly to find only emptiness.

All you must do is reach down as I reach up,

as you did once and suddenly withdrew.

I hear the winds power, the majestic clouds.

But i want you, and can never ever have you here again.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,497 other followers

%d bloggers like this: