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message 1: by Vincent (new)

Vincent Lowry (vlowry) | 134 comments I like the idea of having a thread about TNBBC members! Over the course of several years, I've published several poems and short stories, and I've always wanted to share some of these pieces for the sheer enjoyment of giving them away. If you like to read, you might find a few you'll enjoy. If you find that I've wasted your time, I can only apologize and ask for your forgiveness.

The first short story is entitled "The Diamond" (June 2006). It's a little long, so I'll have to break it up in segments (I'll update it as often as I can).

-Vince
(Author of Constellation Chronicles: The Lost Civilization of Aries )
Constellation Chronicles: The Lost Civilization of Aries by Vincent Lowry

The Diamond (June 2006)

Davy Banks surreptitiously scaled the ivy-laden stucco wall, careful not to alarm any unsuspecting ears. He landed softly on a patch of ankle-high grass—which was spongy and heavy with sprinkler water—and studied the rear of Sara Clemmon’s house as it stood under the dim, sleepy glow of a moon one quarter from full.
Small patio. Two floors with two square windows apiece. One door with a worn wicker chair sitting indolently at the guard.
The lights were off, but that didn’t mean Sara wasn’t home…Davy had made that mistake once before, on a cat-fire night not unlike the one currently looming over the city of Sawyer.
He checked his bearings and located the satchel he’d thrown over just minutes earlier. He retrieved it, checked its contents, and accounted for all items.
Good, he thought. That was important. Not quite as critical as the diamond, not even close, but important nonetheless.
He inched forward slowly, sidestepping as if he were an elite Delta soldier, exhaling out of his nose in soft, measured breaths. His heart began to beat against his ribcage like a frightened animal. His forehead, though cold from the crisp evening air, was beaded with sweat as warm and slick as oil.
It took two minutes to reach the back door. He was overdoing it, without a doubt, but it was better than the alternative. The job had to be done perfectly or not done at all.
He reached into his bag and removed a key that felt as frozen as his lawn-drenched fingers. It slid into the deadbolt lock easily, effortlessly, and turned with a hushed grating sound. His heart raced faster and his ears, somehow charged by the pressure of the moment, honed in on the softest of sounds: the forlorn baying of a distant dog, the steady whistle of a late-night incoming train, the whisper of his own breath, which was spilling out clouds of white vapor. He could have tried the front entrance, but that was just too risky.
The door opened to Sara’s den. It was dark and cold (not as bitter as outside, but chilly enough to indicate no one had run the furnace in several hours). He knew the layout of the house perfectly, but he entered with an uneasy feeling he’d stumble upon something (or someone) that wasn’t supposed to be in his path. A misplaced chair. A new shopping bag.
Choosing his steps carefully, he threaded between a pullout sofa and a pine coffee table littered with magazines. A blue digital DVD clock beside him read 11:03. If he had his timing right, he’d have half an hour to do the job.
He entered a long and narrow hallway that was surprisingly darker than the den. It was completely black, like being inside a closed closet, and his only sense of direction came from feeling the number of doors he passed. The first on the left was the bathroom. The second, again on the left, was the linen closet (it had a small doorknob in the shape of a J). Further down, this time on his right, was Sara’s room. It was closed. That might have seemed odd to most intruders, but Davy knew more about Sara than he knew about his own mother. Her house had an insulation problem. The master bedroom was the only room that seemed to retain heat, and she purposely kept the door closed when away to seal in as much of the warmth as possible.
He wrapped his fingers around the doorknob (this one was not in the shape of J but a perfect oval), and turned it, half expecting Sara to be waiting for him with a knife in her hands and a freakish grin carved on her face.
He peered inside. Gray moonlight fingered through partially drawn blinds, revealing a queen-sized bed that was neatly tucked and stacked with fluffy, oversized pillows. Perfume permeated air, which was noticeably warmer than the rest of the house, splashed his face like a feminine ghost passing through him. The bedroom was clean, orderly, and—best of all—devoid of any living occupants save the person standing at the door.
Great! Now he could finally get to work.

***

[End of part I)


message 2: by Vincent (new)

Vincent Lowry (vlowry) | 134 comments [Part II:]

Sara Clemmons pulled her shabby ’88 Oldsmobile inside her two-car garage (the brakes crying out in protest) and killed the engine. It was late. Eleven-thirty according to the watch Davy Banks had given to her for her 25th birthday. She normally didn’t like to stay out past ten unless Davy was with her, but Crissy Peterson, her college friend and former roommate, had called unexpectedly and arranged a catch-up dinner at a local Mexican restaurant about fifteen miles from Sara’s house.
She grabbed her purse off the passenger seat, checked her cell messages—none from her Davy—and propped the Olds door open with a loud, reverberating groan. A gust of cold air fell over her like an icy blanket, an immediate reminder that the sweater over her evening dress was far too skimpy on a autumn Sawyer night such as this.
She hurriedly exited the car, goose bumps breaking out over her body like surfacing landmines, cupped her palms under her elbows, and bolted toward the door, which led into the kitchen.

[End of part II:]





message 3: by Vincent (new)

Vincent Lowry (vlowry) | 134 comments [Part III:]

Something was wrong. She hadn’t flipped the lights yet, and she hadn’t seen or heard anything out of the ordinary, but a surreal feeling inside her chest—a type of telepathic channeling—told her she was not alone.
Her thoughts returned to Davy. Why couldn’t he be with her at this moment and not clear across the town of Sawyer? Why did she always have to be alone? A scared spinster?
She held her breath and ran her hand over the wall, feeling for the light switch. She’d flipped the damn thing on every evening for the past three years, yet, on this particular night, she couldn’t find it to save her skin. Her heart raced inside her throat. The hairs on the nape of her neck stood out like cactus needles.
Someone was definitely with her. She swore she now heard swelling footsteps.
“I know you’re in here!” she yelled out, the sound of her voice frightening her even more. “I have a cell phone. I can call the cops.”
It was a pathetic threat. At best, the police would take at least thirty minutes to reach her house, and by that time…
She was torn between bolting back into the garage and continuing with her search for the switch. She chose the latter, now on the verge of panicking, and finally found the elusive button.
White light bathed the kitchen.
Blinding her.

[End of Part III:]


message 4: by Vincent (last edited Jan 12, 2009 11:05PM) (new)

Vincent Lowry (vlowry) | 134 comments [Part IV - Final Section:]

Davy watched from across the kitchen as she shielded her face from the glare. She looked sweet, standing in her burgundy dress and matching red sweater, almost as cute as when he had first met her while waiting in a movie line. He could tell she was shivering and frightened, but that would all change in a few minutes.
She lowered her hand, spotted him, and exhaled a long breath of relief.
"Davy... God. It's just you."
Sara stood still for a second, gathering herself, then pursed her lips. Pissed.
"Just what the hell are you doing here? Sneaking around like some thief? I tell you, if I had a can of pepper spray or mace I would have..."
"Shhh," Davy said, taking her by the hand and leading her into the den.
Sparkling confetti littered their path, winking back the dull light of a single candle that sat with a rose atop the coffee table. Following the confetti trail, Davy took her into the hallway, passing the bathroom (lit by another candle), the linen closet (a rose hanging by the J-shaped handle), and then into her bedroom, where five roses were strewn about her bed in a circle, surrounding a small black box.
She stared at the sight, speechless, mouth agape, hazel eyes as wide as silver dollars. Her head swiveled like she had just stepped off a spinning carnival ride. Her heart raced on pure adrenaline, beating faster than it had while she'd been searching in the dark.
She grabbed the box, opened it, and saw a beautiful diamond. Shimmering. Brilliant. A stone set atop a gorgeous platinum ring.
She raised her gaze to Davy, no longer alone or scared, her eyes validating every part of his insane surprise proposal.
Davy grinned.
The job had to be done perfectly or not done at all.
[The End:]

This short story was published in an international magazine called "The Storyteller." I came up with the idea several years after I had proposed to my wife--a proposal that was no where near as crazy as Davy's. I liked the idea of having both a mystery and a love story.

-Vince
Author of Constellation Chronicles: The Lost Civilization of Aries

Up next, a poem entitled "Supine." [To save your eyes, I think I'll give something short after every long piece. :) ]


message 5: by Vincent (new)

Vincent Lowry (vlowry) | 134 comments Supine (2007)

Rays spill from behind drained thunderclouds

Like golden cones slicing a blue dome,
The afternoon sun bathes my blood and lightens my load

Cradled in the web of a hammock,
I retire my thoughts on nature’s hook and shed the day’s responsibilities

July dreams soon sweep over me like a welcoming breeze,
Carrying me afar,
To a land where these summer moments never perish



message 6: by Vincent (last edited Jan 15, 2009 03:51PM) (new)

Vincent Lowry (vlowry) | 134 comments The poem above was the selected winner of a small poetry competition in 2007 (The Oak). I have a few more that appeared in the same publication, but I'll provide those at a later date.

Right now, I'll give you another free short story entitled "The Class of 1995."
-Vince
Author of Constellation Chronicles The Lost Civilization of Aries

The Class of 1995

I'm a bit nervous as I stride into a ballroom packed with kids who are too old to be making out in the back of a theater and too young to worry about menopause, life insurance or their 401(k)'s. My heart hammers inside my chest. I don't recognize a single face, and they, in turn, don't appear to know me.
It isn't long before someone named Will approaches and shakes my hand.
"Greg," he says, eyeing my nametag with all the grace and subtlety of a rum-filled sailor. "Greg Stevens."
"Yeah. We know each other?"
Will gives me a thick smile. His jowls jiggle like pudding (a dessert, I'm sure, he's tasted many times, given his fleshy arms and bloated belly).
"You were in my freshman PE class, weren't you? That quiet guy. Sat right next to Coach Peterman's office in the locker room."
"Coach Peterman?" I ask.
Will throws his arm over my shoulders and exhales a laugh that reeks of pretzels and cheap beer.
"Wasn't Peterman a trip, man? The way he'd make us run around the track all morning? Do all those crazy pushups?"
I shrug, suddenly realizing that I've been initiated into Will's buddy club.
"Lew! Timmy T.," Will calls to a nearby group huddled around a trestle-table laden with hors d'oeuvres, chips, dip and chopped veggies.
Timmy T. and Lew turn, along with another guy whose nametag reads Abraham Klein.
"Found another one of Peterman's lost soldiers, boys. We're gonna round up the whole brigade tonight."
Somehow, these three gentlemen make Will seem like the night's designated driver. Lew and Timmy T. have their cheeks stuffed with potato chips, both stoned out of their minds. Abe practically tips the table over in a drunken stagger when he trips and uses it to balance himself.

[End of Part I:]


message 7: by Vincent (new)

Vincent Lowry (vlowry) | 134 comments [Part II:]

"Heeey!" Timmy T. says with a big crescent grin. "Hooow's it goin', man?"
"Hey," I shoot back, noting his bloodshot eyes.
"Peterman…" Lew says, reflecting on the name for a minute, soaking it in, then erupting in laughter. "Friggin' Peter-man…"
"You guys remember senior prank night?" Will asks. "Locking Peterman in the gym?"
"When we used Freddie's bus to block the front door," Timmy T. adds, still holding his crescent grin. "Yeah, maaan. That was a riot."
Will laughs. "We made this whole school one big parking lot. By the cafeteria. Behind the library. Our cars were everywhere."
Abe stumbles up to me and stares into my eyes, his nose a hair away from my mine.
"You…you…" Abe says, then swallows and drops his eyelids, like he's going to upchuck. I take a step back as a precaution. "I don't know you…"
Abe spills forward. I catch one arm and Will catches the other, saving Abe from doing a face plant.
"Whoa!" Will says. "Ain't gonna cash our chips in jus' yet, are we?"
Startled, Abe shakes his head and manages to look sober enough to keep from being tossed out.
"Hey!" Will bellows, spotting a photographer. "Get a picture of us, will ya?"
The photographer nods indifferently. It's probably the sorriest group of glory-day-boys he's seen, but that's why he's here: to take pictures of yesterday's football, soccer, and track stars.
Will huddles Peterman's brigade together (and I'm a part of it, whether I like it or not). But it doesn't stop there. Two girls see us and join in. The girls soon flag three friends, their nametags reading Gina, Kay, and Lucas. And these friends, in turn, wave even more friends in.
Before long, it seems half the ballroom is crowded in front of the photographer… with me smack in the center. It's my fault, I guess. It was my stupid idea to wonder into this place after reading the signs in the hotel lobby. Sure, I had graduated in 1995 but my team wasn't the Angels; ironically, it was the Devils. I attended Roosevelt High, some two thousand miles from Lake Hill High, the institution responsible for this gathering. I've never met Will, Timmy T., Lew or Coach Peterman in my life. I have no idea what senior prank night is, although it sounds like fun (my school was too strict to tolerate such nonsense: part of the reason I skipped my reunion two months ago).
"Okay, on three give a big shout-out to the Angels," says the photographer, positioning his camera. "One…two…"
As I scream "Angels!" with the rest of the alums, I recall my encounter with Mr. Eskimo-kisses. How can Abe, the highest bird in the cage, be the only person to grasp my secret? Right now, the guy couldn't be trusted to drive a lawnmower, much less a car, and yet he plainly stated the obvious.
That I was a stranger.
That I had no earthly business showing my ugly mug in their group picture, which would undoubtedly wind up inside photo albums, wall frames, or — if I was lucky enough! — right on top of my favorite coach's desk.

To Peterman ~ Class of 1995 10-Year Reunion

[The End:]

This short story was published in 2008 (Wild Violet). I wrote it a few years after my 10-year high school gathering, and I thought it might be funny to weave a tale about a guy who shows up to the wrong reunion. The twist, of course, is no one knows he's a fake because of the decade-long time gap.

Up next, a poem called "Godspeed." (I've gotta do some hunting for this one... It's buried somewhere in my drawer.)

-Vince
Author of Constellation Chronicles The Lost Civilization of Aries


message 8: by Vincent (new)

Vincent Lowry (vlowry) | 134 comments Godspeed

Ride on my friend
Take thy steel horse and blast its heart
Consumed by ambition, a past marred by failure
A highway awaits that dissolves all memory
Align the stars with thine inexhaustible passion
Steer thy soul down an uncharted course
Ride on my friend

(2006 - The Oracular Tree)

I wrote this poem during a difficult part of my life. I wanted to create something that captured the hardship, yet offered a redemptive quality.

In the wake of the economic downturn of 2008, is my hope that this piece, although short, offers a little bit of solace for those who have suffered similar misfortune.

-Vince

Up next, another poem called "The Cabin."


message 9: by Vincent (new)

Vincent Lowry (vlowry) | 134 comments The Cabin

Thickening snowdrifts, waves of evergreens
A sanctuary atop an icy giant
Within, a fire--stoked by assiduous hands--
Burns off the day as evening comes apace
Games and stories
Families, friends, coworkers
All seek a respite from the routine, from the known
To witness the icicles bleeding from the eaves
To savor nature's powdery carpet
For tomorrow they shall return
Skis in hand, kids in tow
Parting the cabin
Retaining the magic

(2006 - CWW)


message 10: by Vincent (new)

Vincent Lowry (vlowry) | 134 comments This next short story was written a few years after 9/11, but it wasn't published until 2005. It's set in New Mexico--my birth state.

White Sands

The Soaptree Yucca sits defiantly atop a wind-carved dune. Its needle-like leaves resist the incessant gypsum whippings and its fingering roots grasp the shifting soil. The stubborn tree sits alone, a green dot on a vast ocean of white.
Jim – clad in sneakers, blue jeans, and a yellow windbreaker – stares at the spiky plant from another dune, his teal eyes as wide as saucers.

A breeze billows the hood of his thin jacket, filling the nylon opening with golden light. Jim’s father, standing in a larger but identical yellow jacket, looks at his awestruck son and pats his back.
"Neat, huh," Jim’s father says.
Jim nods, never taking his eyes off the Yucca and the ever-changing dune. Jim’s father bends down, his knees going off like gunshots, and buries his hand into the fine sand. He scoops up a heaping handful, some of the sand cascading off his palm, and shows it to Jim.
"Deposits from the ancient sea," Jim’s dad says. "Put your hands together."
Jim does as his father tells him, and receives the colorless soil as if it were a precious, breakable gift. The tiny white grains pour into Jim’s cupped hands like warm silk. Some of the sand slips between his fingers, and Jim, ashamed of his carelessness, closes the gap.
"Know how old that stuff is?"
Jim shakes his head.
"Millions of years."
Jim nods as if he could comprehend this amount of time. He knows it’s older than his dad, and that, to Jim, is a long time. Another gust of wind lifts his hood as he watches the sun reflect off the sand in brilliant flashes. Maybe, he thinks, there are a million grains in his hands.
Jim’s father walks toward the Yucca, his feet swimming through the soft dune. Jim carefully places the sand in the same hole his father had dug it from, and runs to catch up. Sand is funny, Jim thinks. His feet feel heavy, like the Thanksgiving weekend he walked in knee-deep powder at Taos Mountain with his mother. Suddenly, a terrifying thought floods his head. What if he were to get buried under all this? What if his dad weren’t around to dig him out?

[End of Part I:]


message 11: by Vincent (last edited Jan 30, 2009 12:59PM) (new)

Vincent Lowry (vlowry) | 134 comments [Part II:]

A dirt devil coils past Jim’s dad as he hikes up the ripples in the dune. Each ripple is perfectly formed, a frozen wave in a sea of white. A black beetle, small but somehow magnified into something larger on this blinding surface, scurries past Jim and burrows into the sand. Where does it go? Jim wonders, furrowing his wrinkleless brow. What does it eat?
Jim’s dad stops beside the Yucca – his thinning black hair flailing in the desert breeze, his lungs expanding and contracting in an effort to recover from the hike – and stares at the prickly tree. Jim, a few steps behind his father, trips and falls hands first to the soft ground. Embarrassed, Jim slaps the thin coat of gypsum from his palms and continues his climb.
"Ever seen a Yucca before?" Jim’s dad asks.
Jim nods, lying.
"I don’t think you seen this kind before. It’s one of the few plants that can grow out here."
Jim nods again, wondering why a beetle could survive in a desert when a plant couldn’t (maybe it’s because the beetle moves?). Above him, scratching the cloudless blue dome with a thin white line, a plane races west. Neither Jim nor his father notice the jet or the sparrow which flies safely, freely above their dune.
Jim’s dad, still staring at the plant, thinks about the land out east: another country, another desert, another sandy field inhabited by people similar to him (yet so drastically different). Jim’s father thinks about how he’ll be there this same time next week. He’ll pack his few belongings, say his goodbyes, then head to San Diego – the sunny city which eludes all soldiers who wish to remain on its inviting beaches and beautiful coastlines. Despite the uncontrollable urge to stay, they’ll depart on a carrier, or a destroyer, or a cruiser, and head out into uncertain waters.
And from there? Undisclosed.

[End of Part II:]


message 12: by Vincent (new)

Vincent Lowry (vlowry) | 134 comments [Part III:]

It was a war Jim’s father did and didn’t believe in. He was one of a few still walking the taut high rope, refusing to take a side. Below the rope, the crowd on the left chanted peace, love, and diplomacy (as if the right didn’t believe in such things). Opposite to them, shouting just as loudly, were cries for security, safety, and freedom (as if the left lacked such interests). Both sides were equally determined to drag him down, to take a stand, to choose. Jim’s duty, though, was to simply walk the twine and keep a steady course (fulfill his job).

San Diego, the ship, the war – they were all over the horizon. Right now, on his last weekend, Jim’s father has Jim and the sea of white sand and the brilliant sun. It’s magnificent, this place called White Sands, New Mexico. Every part of it. The untainted blue dome; the cool and constant breezes; the single stubborn green Yucca which refuses to give in to the same elements that destroyed all other forms of vegetation. It’s a snapshot Jim’s father wishes to freeze, spend another week or two roaming the dunes with his son, spend time on things his own father never spent time doing.
"Does it rain out here?" Jim asks, stuffing his hands in his windbreaker because he doesn’t know what else to do with them.
Jim’s father shakes his head, the sun reflecting off a bald spot where there had once been hair. "Not that often."
The plane and its white tail of smoke have disappeared. Like so much that surrounds them, Jim and his father had missed the pleasure of its brief existence. There were pilots in that jet, people, stewardesses, and, more importantly, a soldier who was headed to report for service, a man not unlike Jim’s father – young (yet old), proud (yet ashamed), courageous (yet cowardly).
Jim father’s bends down and lowers himself eye level with Jim. There’s so much he should tell his son. So much he should explain before he leaves. He’ll tell him it now, while the wind tousles his son’s silky black hair, while another dirt devil spirals past them.
"You tired?" Jim’s father asks.
Jim shakes his head. "I’m alright."
Jim’s father nods. The moment has passed. He puts his hand on Jim’s shoulder and stands back up.
"Lets move on, then."
They decline down the dune. They walk side-by-side, feet seeping in the gypsum carpet, two yellow windbreakers (one large, one small) billowing in the gusts. They walk, on this final weekend, as father and son.

[The end:]

There are parts of this short story that might punch a few buttons for some people, but I didn't want to erase what I had originally written. I wanted the show this solder's state of mind in the purest way possible--torn, melancholic, uncertain. I guess it expressed my own thoughts in the immediate aftermath that followed that dark American hour.

Next up--something a little more cheerful.

A poem entitled Morro Rock.

-Vince
Author of Constellation Chronicles The Lost Civilization of Aries


message 13: by Vincent (new)

Vincent Lowry (vlowry) | 134 comments Morro Rock

Beneath a blue dome, above an azure sea
A volcanic prodigy stands proudly to the heavens

Caressed by the tide, encircled by a cloud of feathered hunters
Nature’s landmark beckons a sojourn for all sea-drained travelers

Its base, a dozen vessels strong;
Its peak, a half score of stacked masts

Those at shore stand and marvel

The brilliance of the bay
The uncompromising grandeur and enchantment of Morro Rock

(P. 2006)


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