THE FIRST WEREWOLF Flashfiction by Dennis Lowery

The First Werewolf (FLASHFICTION)

The Man in the Moon shone full and bright through the large bank of windows. At a long table of wood, discolored from the spills of countless nostrums and strewn with the implements of the alchemist—a dabbler in the dark—a man turned to look up at it. Its luminescence washed over his features, revealing their roundness. Other than a beard, barely a hair graced his head to break the near-perfect curve; a bit of shine gleamed from his pate as the rays through the glass draped him in the pale light.

The moon mocked him even more than the girls in the village. He’d learned to avoid them, but each night the moon was always there and once each month he felt its derision in fullness—as it was tonight.

Hating the lunar light, bitter but determined, he returned to his work. He was close.

He knew the elixir held in his hands would succeed where all the others had failed. He’d have a luxuriant mane of hair that would draw the ladies to him. They would not resist the urge to run their hands through it and toy with his locks. The first exhibition, he was sure, would lead to the fulfillment of his fancies and other, darker, fantasies.

Completed potion in hand, he turned again to the window, raising the vial—in more a challenge than a toast—he downed its contents in one swallow. The foul taste not enough to wipe the smirk off his face as he taunted the moon while standing bathed in its light.

It came on him. It coursed through his veins, permeating the cells of his being. A strange tingle, almost an itch, crawled from the top of his head, blooming down to his toes. Touching his scalp, he felt nubs of hair sprouting; he could feel them lengthen beneath his palm. In another minute, he was brushing his fingers through beautiful strands of hair that became fuller as they spread. They soon gave balance to his beard and proportion to his face—making him, dare he say it… “Quite handsome,” he laughed into the full-length mirror he’d placed near the window.

His laughter faded as he felt a strange tightening of his shirt and a hint of pain like a cramp that promised to worsen. Buttons now pulled tight, he fumbled to release them. The exposed flesh was no longer smooth and white as milk, nor as hairless as his head had been. The skin had thickened and dark, coarse, hair sprouted. As he watched, it flourished across his stomach and down into his trousers. His pants tightened drawing up and pinching his nethers; the constriction too much, he ripped them off with furred hands, and long fingers tipped with sharp nails. At the awful pain in his feet, he tore off his boots and now free of all binding cloth, he stood in the moonlight before the mirror.

His face distorted into an animal’s visage, teeth turned to fangs, and hairy ears twitched. He had scant time to think, “God, what have I done?” before the lust for blood and flesh triggered a flood of juices in his mouth. His ears caught the sound and nose the scent, of food living in the village below.

Little did he know that—as the mind of man gave way to the slavering beast—the ladies of the town, mostly, thought him not ugly but a lout. A most unbecoming man. It was more about him than his head, they found distasteful.

With a howl that tailed from lament to a shriek of hunger, the first werewolf raced to feed.

# # #

THE OLD TRUNK - A Vignette from Dennis Lowery

The Old Trunk (FREE SHORT NONFICTION)

“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees, and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen.” –Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

“Life was as delicate as the paper held in her hand.”

The above is a line from one of my stories, and I remember the flashback memory I had when I wrote it. And how true it is.

As a teen, one of my jobs was in an antique store. The owners bought things from estate sales all over, often in large lots and sometimes wouldn’t know if it was trash or treasure until they received and went through piece by piece. One day, unloading a new batch of things they had brought in, I found an old trunk.

THE OLD TRUNK - A Vignette from Dennis LoweryI needed something like that trunk and though old (don’t know how old) it was still sturdy with good hinges and even a lock with the key still in it. I asked the store owner if I could buy it or work off the purchase price if they didn’t want to keep it for resale. He checked it out and decided it was nothing special. All it had in it was old scrap newspapers. I think I bought it for $10 and worked an extra three or four hours to pay for it.

That evening, at home, as I cleaned it up and out, I saw the newspapers were from New Orleans, late 1918. The major news was still about the Armistice and the end of World War One. Wrapped inside a wad of newspaper I found a young woman’s French passport and several letters to her written in French. I kept them, and a couple of years later, when I studied French in high school, I brought them to my teacher, and she translated them. She had a hard time because they were on thin, brittle, paper and the ink had blotched and faded. They were love letters from a French soldier, the last dated 30 October 1918. On that letter’s envelope someone had written, so harshly there were little stabs and tears in the paper, “Il ne reviendra jamais…”

“He’ll never come back.”

When I wrote the line at the beginning, I flashed back to when I held those letters in my hand. Someone had written them out of love… and the slashing comment on the envelope was made out of bitterness… and in pain. But they couldn’t bear to throw the letters away. Maybe part of them couldn’t give up their love for the man. Though the man was lost, they couldn’t leave them and their love behind. Perhaps over the years they took them out and remembered him. Or possibly not… maybe they were merely something that ‘was’ but no longer ‘is’… stored in an old trunk.

Over the years, I’ve often thought about what I found that day, and what I learned from it. And when I reflect on my life, I think about all the things I have stored in my ‘old trunk.’ As with most people, there are many memories. Bits and pieces, large and small, of a life full of experiences, bad and good.

Down deep are: pain and misfortune experienced, opportunities squandered or lost, misplaced love or a sad facsimile because I’d yet to discover true love and anger with its life-eating ways. Those are the dusty, faded, cobwebby things at the bottom I rarely take out. Never to dislodge from their resting place but still part of what made me who I am.

Above that is the good stuff: joyful experiences; things I did right, true love found and a more even-keeled temperament.

And on the top, the things I take out to cherish that renew me and give me strength: thoughts of my wife, daughters, and appreciation for a life well-built despite all the poorer things at the bottom of the trunk.

I think about those letters I found decades ago in that old trunk; the love, loss, and pain they signify. They taught me a lesson about appreciation and that there are so many things for which I’m very thankful.

Some reader comments:

“Dennis, you amaze me once again! You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but every story is better than the last! Thanks for the great reads!” –Cristie Brewer

“This really made me think about things… about my own ‘treasures.’ I believe we all have treasures of some sort if we look hard enough. The question we have to ask ourselves is which ones are really worth holding on to.” –Brenda Church

“Truly beautiful. I love it!” –Sherry Thompson

“I found this piece of written wisdom to be touching and beautiful.” –Margie Casados

“As usual your stories never disappoint.” –Bernice Joe

“A very enjoyable read and nicely put in words description of how we store away parts of life.” –Michael Koontz

“I love this, so, true! Life is not always wonderful for some. It’s ugly, brutal and unbearable. But, it’s always wise to count your blessings, over and over again!” –Susan Gabriel

“Awesome.” –Jennie Wilson

“Beautiful.” –Damian Trasler

Of a Death and a Life - A Vignette by Dennis Lowery

Of a Death… and a Life (FREE SHORT NONFICTION)

My mother called me the day before she killed herself.

I’d like to say I remember every word of our conversation.

I’d like to believe it was chiseled in my memory forever. The sound of her voice something to lessen the pain of how I still miss her. How I wish she had been a longer part of my oldest daughter’s life and could know my three daughters born after she died, could read the stories I’ve written of them and about being their father and how my life’s become so much more than I ever imagined.

I’ll always carry the sorrow of how my daughters will never know her.

When world-shaking events take place, and you see or hear of it the first time… you remember that day and details of where you were, who you were with and who said what. You remember. But that call from my mother didn’t come on a life-rattling day, and I don’t. It was just mom calling to chat, probably asking about my—then only—daughter, soon to be five-year-old Karen.

That Saturday, August 28, 1993, I didn’t know I would never talk to her again.

Two days later I got the call I remember.

Shock is too thin a word. The hardest hit to the most sensitive part of a man doesn’t come close to conveying how I felt when my brother called me at work and told me my mother had shot herself the day before.

She was only 61.

Of a Death and a Life - A Vignette by Dennis LoweryA death like that is a void that never fills. An emptiness that still hurts.

But it gives me context.

One of my clients told me something once that surprised me though I’ve heard similar statements before from those I work with. But not with the depth of meaning behind this one. It touched on something I feel about my mother’s death. She—my client—said, “You helped me fight my demons and win because you showed me the way with your kindness and patience and most of all, your compassion. How do I ever repay you for giving me a reason to appreciate what I have and look forward to what the future will bring?”

Moved, I replied, “I gave you only what you deserve… the people that care for you do so because of who you are. You’ve earned their love and respect because you’ve fought your inner battles, and while doing that you gave to and care about others. That’s not a character trait that appears… it’s something there all along. A strength that is a wonder to behold and you telling me you’ve ousted those demons… that’s the best ‘repayment’ I could ever hope for. The future is bright; brighter still because you will be part of it!”

You may ask yourself why am I sharing this with you.

This woman—my client—had dealt with challenges and adversity most people never face. And through it, all strived to provide for and take care of her family as best she could. Though in the twilight of her life she still cared for and gave to others.

The regrets and recriminations we heap on ourselves can sometimes be too much to bear. That sense of futility… that your life just does not matter… can overcome even the strongest of wills if they are fighting the battle alone (even when that is not reality). But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The past can be painful to write about. But I know it can also be cathartic and carries with it the power to heal and resolve lingering issues from the past.

In a TIME magazine article by Mary Pols titled:… The best memoirs of loss and tragedy teach us universal truths. The worst just teach us suffering. The article starts with a question, “At what point does an individual’s grief move from the chaos of misery to a vessel of wisdom worth passing along?”

It’s a question a writer of a memoir needs to ask as it pertains to the intent of the book It’s about context. There are lessons and those universal truths to pull from even the most tragic of lives. Crafted into a story that becomes redemption or healing for the person the book is about.

That is what I wanted my client to understand; I wanted her to know her life was not a waste and sharing her story was important.

A redeeming quality of humanity is there are those who work through challenges and adversity and never let them bring their life to a permanent stop. The beauty of the human spirit shines when people continue their lives—despite heartache—despite obstacles and tragedies, despite when their life takes a dangerous turn for whatever reason. Their stories resonate and can be the catalyst that enables someone they don’t even know, a reader, to carry on and not give up. That books have changed lives goes without saying. Most, if not all, of us, have been moved by something we read. Stories that lift those who need help and move them to take a step forward, then another, and another…. making their way to a better attitude, a better place, and better life. Countless books have done that for people.

My mother had a difficult life; it was hardscrabble for much of it. I never realized how dark her thoughts, how tired of it all she was. How I wish she had had someone that touched—reached—her… to convince her life was worth carrying on. I failed to do that as her son, but I’m blessed with her compassion and the spirit that existed in her before its final surrender lives on as part of me. And that spark has helped me with my writing and publishing, and those efforts sometimes make a difference in other lives. I think it helped save someone.

Life can be hard and is often a grand experiment. For those of you who have ever thought of someday telling your story, pursue that and make it happen. Don’t give up and never surrender.

Stories and books can make a real difference in people’s lives. If you have a story in you… write it, let it be told… it can make a difference.

My client who told me what I’d done for her, is living proof of what that means.

Of Regrets and Reunions - A Vignette from Dennis Lowery

Of Regrets and Reunions… (FREE SHORT NONFICTION)

Sometimes creation is spurred by a plan, a predetermined action. I’ve found it’s also triggered often by something random. A sound, smell… a picture or image… sometimes a place or setting. All of them have an effect. Music is intense for me. It, sometimes a specific song, transports me into a vivid memory. Songs figure in my writing. What they evoke. How they make me (or my characters) feel. And occasionally it strikes harder than others.

It happened one morning. A song came on my Pandora channel shuffle. The Commodore’s, Sail On. I hadn’t heard it in a while and thought, I’d like to mention it in a story. So, I went to YouTube to find a good quality clip to bookmark. There in the sidebar was listed another Commodore’s song; one I hadn’t heard in two decades, possibly three. The opening chords played, and I felt a rush of feelings. I’d forgotten how much I loved it.

It brought a bittersweet—hard—memory of something from long ago that taught me a valuable lesson about myself and life. I listened to the YouTube clip and wrote a little blog piece for my website. After replaying the clip twice, I went to Amazon, bought the song, and added to my music library. I then looked up the lyrics (I’ll paste a link to them below), if you get a chance, read them and you’ll see how they sparked what I’m writing now. As I sang along to the lyrics, I realized what I felt (about what I was writing) was much more profound than just recalling teenage love.

This was driven home by what I’ve learned over several years of social media observation and what I see there every day. It has shown me how much people (across all nationalities) yearn for certain things. One of them is paramount. It’s occasionally mentioned in jest or sarcastic humor. Sometimes in a too-revealing lament. Often quietly… the kind of statement where you get a sense of the undercurrent in their mind and heart. It’s those non-shouting, simple, words that make me think of what Thoreau said: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with their song still in them.” I have to modernize his thinking to include women. And change to say I’m not sure most humans live that way. I know many of us have felt that in our lives, and thankfully it passed. But I also know some feel this way every day. They want… and worry they’ll never receive or get… they search and hope… and despair and think they’ll never find. And their song is dying.

That’s what leads me to the little memory, the following vignette that came to mind as I heard, Sweet Love… for the first time in a long time:

My senior year of high school a friend and I double-dated to a concert. I got the driving duties but not with my ‘65 Impala. I drove one of the girl’s cars—a red ’72 Pontiac LeMans with a white top (if memory serves)—much nicer than my car. The venue was about an hour’s drive: Highway 70 East out of Hot Springs to I-30 North into Little Rock. On the way, we stopped around Benton to buy beer. This too fell to me as I was the oldest looking and had a proven ability to not get carded in the past. I went in smoking a Swisher Sweets cigarillo (you know it made you look older, right?) and came out with two six-packs of beer. About twenty minutes later we entered Little Rock and pulled into Casa Bonita, a Mexican restaurant, for dinner.

There I was with one of my best friends, and we’re with two pretty girls. I had scored beer for us, and we all had a buzz on. I was about to eat good Mexican food (I’d have to complement it afterward with a beer left in the car). We were headed to hear some awesome music. [That we were likely to be entirely out of place at the venue—four students from an all-white high school going to see The Emotions, Con Funk Shun, and The Commodores—hadn’t occurred  to us. We just wanted to hear and feel the music live.]

CONFUNKSHUN

What a perfect evening for an 18-year-old boy. I should have been happy.

And at first, I was but as the beer buzz had come on me… I wasn’t.

I liked the girl I was with; she was a sweet and lovely girl. But you see, I wasn’t with whom I wanted. My friend was.

We finished dinner and headed to Barton Coliseum. It was sold out… all the seats filled and a seething mass of people on the floor of the arena. At ground-level, midway to the stage, we were in the thick of it. The lights lowered and the music rose. Everyone was moving. You could see the ripple of rhythm spread over the crowd. No worries—the aroma of weed around us perfumed the air—everyone was grooving to the sounds.

My friend and I held our dates in front of us; arms around, holding them close, swaying on some songs and bump-moving on others.

I should have been in heaven. If I’d have let myself, I would have just enjoyed the moment and the feel of blue-jeaned female flesh pressed against me. Instead, I was in my own, self-inflicted, private torment. I watched my friend holding her—the other girl—the way I wished I was.

By the time it ended, I was cold-angry and when like that, I’m my quietest. My friends probably sensed it as we returned to Hot Springs. I picked up my car and drove my friend home as the girls continued on in hers. That night, because of how I let myself feel, was spoiled, and it was all my fault. The next school day I found the girl I’d taken and apologized; I owed her that for my stony silence after the concert.

Life moved on. That moment became long gone but not entirely forgotten. I had years more of living and learning about love. And about how we can control in life much of what we think is beyond our control.

That living and learning is why I write these vignettes; how I’ve learned from past events… from those memories. They are letters to my daughters. A way to show them I know what it feels like to love… to lose… to hurt. I want them to understand despite the pain, the times of despair… that life takes the perspective learned from those experiences to see things clearly. When you’re new to the hurt and lost feeling of being alone or have no one or nothing to shake you from the aching numbness… this can be hard to grasp.

I see so many people that seem to suffer in solitude. They need to know if something’s not working or they lack something or someone… to push through and beyond that circumstance… to find what they want. To believe they will find what they need. That’s what keeps you going. There’s a moment in my short story Wings that captures perfectly what I’ve learned about that from life. I will share it here because it’s apt and relevant:

Not wanting to give her pity that would hurt more than her cuts and abrasions, he said. “In my life,” stretching his legs he stood with a groan and a crackling of joints. “I thought I was trapped between what had happened and what could never be.”

He looked at her across the fire, the flames dance of light and shadow on the stone wall, as she sat with her head down. He turned his back to the fire and looked out into the night. “The road seems so much longer when we have no dreams to believe. And we have no destination… life has no purpose. He heard the steady sound of water running down the mountain and knew it would wear away more rock. “It stayed that way until I decided one day to walk and not stop until I found what I sought.”

Turning around he stepped back to the fire and could see she was now watching him.

“Have you found it?”

“Not yet.” He could hear the yearning in his own voice.

“Why do you go on then?”

“Because.” He smiled at her knowing what only comes from experience. “Because I deserve to find what I’m looking for.”

That thing—that subject I mentioned earlier that’s paramount to most of us—is love: someone to love that loves us back… and maybe to learn how to love ourselves. People look for love. Most deserve to find it.

I want whoever reads this to know everyone—at times—goes through hard shit and the feeling they’ll never find love or be loved. But if you close off that part of you—the belief that the love you want does not exist—you’ll never find it. Be willing to live, knowing love is out there, and you can find what you want. Only a little over four years after that night… at that concert… when I felt so angry and alone… I met the girl I’ve been with for over three and half decades (as of this writing).

I’ll close with this from the song… (link to the lyrics):

‘Cause I want you, and you, you, you, you, you, you, you you and you

To stand on up, yes sir

Put a little love in your heart

And little heart in your love

Together we can make a way…

Epilogue (to the vignette above):

Of Regrets and Reunions - A Vignette from Dennis LoweryTen years after my high school graduation I wasn’t able to attend our class reunion late summer of 1988. I sent a letter about it to one of my friends. Feeling nostalgic, in the message I shared things I’d never said to anyone. I told him about back then how much I was in love with one girl. The girl I had enrolled in French and Physics (not required to graduate, but I labored through them) just because she was in those classes. The girl I’d never asked out. I told him of how special the few moments of being close to her were. I recounted how I felt at a French Club event at the University of Arkansas (Little Rock campus) where she and I performed a skit, Reynard the Fox, in French. Again, something I would never have done but for an opportunity to be near her. After the skit, we watched Cocteau’s 1946 film Beauty and the Beast. There weren’t enough seats available, so I sat at a desk with her on the desktop leaning against me, my arms on either side of her thighs. The fragrance and the feel of her almost drove me wild. It was sublime; an exquisite, aching, eternity that ended too soon. I was so confused by it I left my father’s cane—a prop used in the skit—there and got my ass chewed out when I got home.

And so, my friend, as all good friends will do… read that letter to my classmates the night of the reunion. That evening I got a call. It was my friends, half-drunk. “Man, who knew you could write like that,” they said. Then, “Someone wants to talk to you…” I heard the pay phone drop to swing and bang against the wall. The next voice was hers.

“I heard what you wrote. Why didn’t you ever ask me out?”

I told her the truth. I was scared she wouldn’t go with me… and instead of risking that pain, I loved her silently. Then it got old-phone-line quiet… the kind with just a hint of background hiss and noise.

“I wish you had,” she said.

You know screwing up hurts. We pay for our mistakes and move beyond them. But there’s something I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older… and it’s like a snowball growing and rolling downhill as you hit your 50s. Regrets, God how they hurt most of all. Thankfully I have very, very few. But on the phone, so long ago, I felt it pierce me and decades later—still remembering it’s sting—used that as the reason behind my short story, Ask for the Dance. So, I’ve learned that pain too, can inspire creativity.

Like my writing? Follow it here.

Dennis Lowery is a writer, ghostwriter, author and founder and president of Adducent, Inc. (established in 2000). Adducent is a creative company that provides writing, story and book development and publishing services. It assists individuals and organizations with their writing needs and finds, develops, writes, ghostwrites and publishes stories and books with compelling and positive messages that are entertaining, enlightening, informative and enjoyable to read. Adducent and its founder believe in Cause-Based™ stories and not just nonfiction, fiction stories work equally well—sometimes even better—to present a compelling message. Adducent works with clients internationally, and several have appeared on PBS NewsHour, 60 Minutes and MSNBC (not to mention other TV and radio shows nationally and in their local markets).

The Center That Holds by Dennis Lowery

The Center That Holds (FREE NONFICTION ARTICLE)

I answered the phone, and after the “Hi, how’re you doing,” he had started the conversation: “I believe many of these students have already formed the way they view life. If they don’t have basic honesty as part of who they are…” It was Tom Faught, one of my clients on the phone; he’d emailed me on what he would call about. “How will what I say have any meaning to them?”

Tom—who sadly passed away last year—was a veteran (a Marine) and Harvard-educated former Assistant Secretary of the Navy and university professor. He had also been the CEO of a global company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. His book focused on corporate ethics and integrity; core values that define the responsibility of business executives as stewards and leaders of companies: a comprehensive guide on how young executives can be ethical and still achieve success in their careers. That was the topic he’d been invited to speak on by a major college. His question—an excellent one—was something I’ve given thought to and written on. We talked and I gave him my perspective, which seemed to help with his speech. After hanging up, I continued to think and looked at my notes jotted as I talked to Tom. One was a quote I had recalled and put at the top of the sheet of paper:

 “Everything is figured out, except how to live,” attributed to Jean-Paul Sartre (1905—1980)

I’m a writer and that entails a strong inclination for introspection and thought—often on the ‘Why’ of things and to see the truth and sometimes perplexity of human behavior—on cause and effect. I’m in my late 50s now… an age which includes reflecting on life so far and the first tinge of wonder about how much of it is left. It’s sobering. So, I understand what Sartre meant.

I’m also a publisher who sees that often big-name biographies and memoirs—representing success—are testimonies to a celebrity without talent, wealth without earning it, positions of power and authority without knowledge and experience as the foundation for judgment (many of our political leaders are stellar examples). The hypocrisy of them is overwhelming. Many are pages and pages of that and the books sell because of their celebrity, notoriety or money to fuel a well-oiled hype machine. While other books and memoirs—much more valuable to the reader (and to our society and nation)—stay undiscovered. I’ll share here something about such a memoir from another of my clients. It’s an email from one reader of his book:

From: Mark Faulkner
To: Richard Neal
Subject: “WHAT NOW, LIEUTENANT”—THOUGHTS

Sir,

I just finished reading your book and thoroughly enjoyed it. More importantly than being easy to read and hard to put down, it is packed full of lessons for success in life and service. What I found most impressive in your writing style was that the lessons were not delivered in an “in your face” fashion with lessons as titles of chapters or words bolded or underlined. Rather, they were delivered as part of one of your many life experiences, which, in my humble opinion, made them even more relevant and digestible. I just told Col. Woodbridge that I think this is a book that needs to get in front of CMC [Commandant of the US Marine Corps] for his consideration to be added to his professional reading list. I think it would be beneficial to our Corps’ younger officers for a number of reasons (discussion of importance of family, courage (and fright) in combat, jointness, etc.).

Semper Fidelis,
Mark
William M. Faulkner
LtGen, USMC (Ret.)

I’ll pull things from that email to touch on because I see them as the cornerstones of life. The messages within Butch (Richard) Neal’s memoir are a direct reflection of who he is: no self-aggrandizing bullshit. Not a pretentious word or phrase. No ‘secrets of leadership’ hype; it’s straightforward lessons learned from experience. It’s teaching leadership real-time by example. The thread throughout of what’s important: Family doesn’t need elaboration or explanation, we know the benefits of having family in our lives; when there are mutual respect and love… they’re our anchor. How earned and given loyalty makes for a sense of ‘family.’ Courage in the face of consequences (such as combat, when not all come out alive or unscathed)… that’s doing the right thing when it’s needed. It’s the innate fulfillment of responsibility and accountability, two things all should live by and expect of others. The precepts of jointness when different service (military) branches work together to support and fulfill specific missions. The working together to achieve a common goal (for the public good).

Why those are meaningful requires a slight digression. There is a line from W. B. Yeats’s poem ‘The Second Coming’ (written in 1919 in the aftermath of the First World War), that has always fascinated (and concerned) me:

“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold…”

I’ve never felt more than now, how important that is as a warning… how much I hope it’s not a near-century-old prophesy coming true.

I wrote the following years ago. One of the countless things (some in pieces, some sewn whole) that I’ve kept for the right time and place to use. Perhaps now is the time and this article is the place:

A husk. The thing that seems to surround nothing but space. That facade that everyone sees as being the substance.

A seed. That self-contained promise that if there’s soil… if it can get enough water and light… it will grow.

Then soil, water, and light work leading to what’s next.

A push. In two directions, first downward… feeling, then setting the roots of who you are, and strengthening them. Then upward… reaching for more light… more sky… more life.

When we—humans—come upon something like that in the forest do we wonder how it happens? It’s nature. Don’t question… just believe.

A whisper. A sound… an articulation of a word. Even if barely past your lips, it breaks the silence, more compelling than a shout. Sometimes the start of a conversation. Even if it’s just saying to yourself, “I am good and can fill any void… can grow and be strong. I am the center that holds.”

Don’t dismiss Butch’s book as a mere military memoir. It’s a story about a man—once a small-town boy—whose personal philosophy and belief, his sense of loyalty to the deserving, is a center that holds. What LtGen Faulkner mentioned and what I wrote above as cornerstones… are what can keep a person, even a nation, together.

I’m not naïve. There is no easy solution to the issues we face in life. Reading a memoir as good as Butch’s won’t solve problems. And what I’ve written here won’t be of much import to people stuck in their ways or are non-receptive, but it’s not for them. This and Butch’s memoir is for those who might read and realign their thinking and for those who agree with the message and do things in their own way to further the principle. I think that is who Butch hopes to reach, too. Especially those young officers in our military who bear such tremendous responsibilities and may become senior officers shaping policy at a national level.

Mostly, what I write here is for my children to read and think about what I try to teach them… to be a responsible person… to believe in the principles of family, courage, equality, and togetherness. Those go a long way—are perhaps the only way—to create a better life and build a better world. To answer Sartre, that’s how we should live… and to Yeats I’ll say, that is the center that holds.

What Now Lieutenant - front cover 10-6-2016

# # #

Richard ‘Butch’ Neal’s book is What Now, Lieutenant? Leadership Forged from Events in Vietnam, Desert Storm and Beyond. He is a retired 4-star general (USMC) and former Assistant Commandant of the US Marine Corps.

Dennis Lowery is a writer, ghostwriter, author and founder and president of Adducent, Inc. (established in 2000). Adducent is a creative company that provides writing, story and book development and publishing services. It assists individuals and organizations with their writing needs and finds, develops, writes, ghostwrites and publishes stories and books with compelling and positive messages that are entertaining, enlightening, informative and enjoyable to read. Adducent and its founder believe in Cause-Based™ stories and not just nonfiction, fiction stories work equally well—sometimes even better—to present a compelling message. Adducent works with clients internationally, and several have appeared on PBS NewsHour, 60 Minutes and MSNBC (not to mention other TV and radio shows nationally and in their local markets).

BOX SCORE by Jack Carpenter With Dennis Lowery

BOX SCORE (NONFICTION: Booknology)

BUY NOW

Order Now (click bookseller logo above)

BOX SCORE Cover ConceptAbout the Book

Ladies, it’s time to gear up. To step onto the pitcher’s mound or better yet, into the batter’s box in the game of relationship improvement.

BOX SCORE—What Husbands and Boyfriends Really Want is your turn with 10 ideas of how women can make their husbands and boyfriends happier.

WISHBOOK (front) by Jack Carpenter With Dennis Lowery

Available Now

In his debut title, WISHBOOK—What Wives and Girlfriends Really Want, author Jack Carpenter offered men 10 suggestions to improve their lives with their women, and a call to action. Game two of this double-header, BOX SCORE is the companion book for women. After you read it and make your 3 For 3 choices, your happiness with your man will significantly increase, guaranteed.

So, strap your cleats on, get your grip but be loose and be ready for a fast-paced and entertaining read. You’ll be glad you did. Hey batter, batter!

Click here to read about this book’s title and its AFTERWORD.

And if you want to follow my writing, click here.

The Sign of Fools and Sages - An Alpha and Beta Story from Dennis Lowery

The Sign of Fools & Sages (NONFICTION, FREE SHORT STORY)

‘Dream On’ started playing. I was at the kitchen counter making sandwiches.

“Do you like this song?” I asked my two youngest—twin—daughters. Alpha and Beta [not their real names] nodded at the same time; Beta with her spoon still in her mouth.

“Do you know the words?” Beta asked wiping milk from her chin.

“I do, it’s one of my favorite songs to sing.”

It’s a thing with me—to sing at times—especially as they eat breakfast while I make their lunches for school. It’s also good talk time (with topics ranging from silly to serious). We discuss school, what they’re studying, they ask me about stories I’m working on… and we talk about travel, places we’ve been and where we want to go. And I find ways to talk about life (often my stories are a good segue for that).

I had my Kindle Fire HDX, sitting on the kitchen table Bluetoothed to our home music system. [I really enjoy the rich sound from the speakers set in the high ceilings and bass thrum from the subwoofer on the floor in the corner.] We enjoy new music but do play a lot of oldies: 60s and 70s (era of my youth) mostly with some from the 50s to take it way, way, back. My twins are probably the only kids in their grade that know all the words to Zager & Evans ‘In The Year 2525.’ And a whole slew of songs from The Temptations (you should hear them sing ‘Ball of Confusion’), Johnny Rivers and Bad Company and other greats from back then. We were recently on a Styx kick, pre-Mr. Roboto songs).

I walked over and turned the Kindle so Alpha and Beta could see the lyrics scroll. A favorite line was coming up, and I sang along. “… live and learn from fools and from sages.” Beta stopped me with a question—I hate to stop when rolling—but it was a good one. The kind of question a parent needs to consider and answer thoughtfully.

“How do you learn from fools, dad?”

I turned the volume down (sorry, Steven Tyler). “Well,” I sat at the end of the table. “It’s important to pay attention to all kinds of people around you. But mostly those close to you that you might listen to or think you can learn from. You have to watch to see how they act and interact; what they say and do, especially the impression they give you. And then compare that to reality.”

Alpha’s bagel kicked up in the toaster. I got it for her and brought it and the not-really-butter spread she likes to the table. [I’m a butter believer so look down on such pretenders, but she loves it.] I explained what I meant. “Does what they say and do make sense.”

Alpha raised her hand and looked at Beta before speaking—it seems twins do that; I think its telepathy—and at the same time, they said, “Martin.” [Name changed to protect the not so innocent. I’ve heard tales about Martin; heaven help his parents.]

I nodded and continued. “You see, really odd and unusual people are easy to spot. You learn to avoid them and not take them seriously. But Fools can be hard to identify. They often sound like they know what they’re talking about.”

Alpha had not-really-buttered her fingers, and I handed her a napkin. She asked, “How can you tell?”

“If they tell you about things they can do… but they never do them. Or when they do, it never works out like they said and they always want to blame someone else… they never take responsibility. People like that and those full of excuses are not the ones you should listen to… chances are they are Fools or delusional.”

“Does delusional mean crazy?” Alpha asked.

“No.” Though in my mind I thought of people I’d met and known who seemed at odds with reality and could qualify as bughouse bizarre. “Not exactly. It means the world inside their head is not the same world normal, rational, people live in. No matter what reality shows them, they still believe in their own version of things. Stay far away from people like that… they’re Fools.”

Beta looked at me. “But Sages are wise; smart people. Right?”

Back at the counter gathering their lunch stuff, I sipped my coffee, nodding. “Supposed to be.” I took another drink.

I didn’t (don’t) want to make my daughters grow up paranoid or suspicious of things and people in the world, now and in the future. But I think it’s crucial to learn to not automatically place faith in anyone or anything because of a label, position, a title, or perception that they are an authority. And certainly not because the media covers them extensively. That does not confirm, nor is it evidence of, their value. My girls need to know to verify and validate that for themselves. I told them. “People who get things done and are right more times than wrong… who have real experience and produce actual results aligned with doing what’s right. People who when they talk, make sense and show intelligence and compassion… and you can match it to accomplishments and action. They are the ones worth listening to.”

I gave them the line again from the song. Yes, I sang it. “Live and learn from fools and from sages…” I want them to learn to acknowledge labels or reputations but—and this is a big but and I cannot lie—I want them to define people and assess situations based on their own relevant criteria. I continued. “Something to understand that’s important in life.” That’s not the first or hundredth time they’ve heard me say that. I got a bit of eye-roll from them but kept going. “You can learn from both types of people. The way to do that is judge by actions… results, and not words. Listen to what people say but… it’s more important to see what they do. If a person proves to be a Sage; an intelligent person with good, moral, ethical, judgment… then their words have weight.”

Beta raised her hand. “What does weight mean—you know—how you just said it?”

“It means to take them seriously and listen. They have value and merit attention.” I went to the pantry for napkins and came out with their allotment. [I tend to harp a bit on being wasteful… my ‘don’t use more than you really need’ thing. I know if they have five they’ll use five… if they have one… they know that’s it… and will use it wisely. On pudding or fruit cup days, they get an extra napkin. I’m not unsympathetic on this issue.] “But don’t give people’s words power over you. Only you can—rationally, logically and contextually—decide what’s right and wrong for you.”

Alpha poured more milk; adding some to Beta’s glass, too. “But what can you learn from fools?” She brought me back around to the original question.

“Simply, what not to do… and how not to be. We don’t live in a perfect world, and humans are imperfect, too. We all have flaws. The thing to do is to not just understand our own flaws but also see them in others because that can be a factor in gauging the value of what they’re telling you and more importantly any advice they give you.” I put a drink-box, chocolate milk today, snack bag of carrots, fudge brownie and their sandwiches (Alpha’s turkey with mayonnaise and Beta’s peanut butter—not spread too thick—with grape jelly) into their lunch bags.

I made my ‘wind it up’ motion, twirling my index finger and hand clockwise to speed them up; an eat-your-cereal signal. “So, Fools can talk a lot and have very little, if anything, worth listening to. Sages may not say much but when they do… you listen. And the most important thing is to think about what they say and decide what it means to you. That’s called giving it context.”

It was time to finish so they could read a while before walking to the bus stop. They brought their bowls to the sink. Murphy—our Irish Terrier, my only boy—had discovered a couple of Cheerios under Alpha’s chair and was underfoot exploring for more. While they wiped down the kitchen table and counters, another song came to mind; another favorite of mine. I switched my Kindle from Pandora to my music library; found ‘Simple Man’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd and pressed play. It got to the line I wanted before they finished cleaning up. I put my hand on their shoulders, and they looked up at me. I sang a slightly changed version of a line from that song:

“Your father’s telling you… while you’re young. Come sit beside me my lovely ones. And listen closely to what I say. If you do this… It will help you in many ways.”

They smiled at me—used to this sort of thing—and gave me a hug. As they headed to their bathroom to brush teeth and hair, I told them, “We’ll talk more about this….”

And we will….

Follow my writing here.

SONGS MENTIONED:

Dream On – Aerosmith

http://youtu.be/yyfNHlqymP8

In The Year 2525 – Zager and Evans

http://youtu.be/izQB2-Kmiic

Ball of Confusion – The Temptations

http://youtu.be/-9poCAuYT-s

Simple Man – Lynyrd Skynyrad

http://youtu.be/sMmTkKz60W8

LEAVING TAOS Short Fiction by Dennis Lowery

LEAVING TAOS [M] (FREE SHORT FICTION STORY)

“They think,” Henry nodded in the direction of the cop at the sidewalk, “the killer’s headed to Santa Fe.”

“Nah, I bet he went north.” Joe drew hard on his cigarette, taking the smoke deep then letting it out in plumes. “Folks on the radio are warning people to watch out… whoever he is, he’s a dangerous man.”

Henry shook his head slightly. Joe was one of those men who sounded, with dead-solid certainty, like he was right. But was always mostly wrong, and sensationalized everything when he passed it on to others. “What makes you think it’s a man, Joe?” He wanted to wind him up a bit and see where he spun.

“Bud Carson’s my wife’s nephew… he works with Tom Flint’s cousin. Tom’s the deputy who found the man on Old Mill Road night before last, just as he rattled out his last breath. Tom told his cousin the killer caved the man’s ribs in—someone beat the shit out of him. And get this,” he took a last drag from the cigarette butt in in his hand and flipped it to the ground, “the head had been twisted, so it was turned around backward.” He shook his head. “The poor bastard was belly down but looking up at Tom when he died. Musta happened not long before Tom rolled up.” He pinched a piece of tobacco off his tongue and spat. “Ain’t no woman strong enough to do that.”

“You haven’t been here but a year, Joe. And haven’t seen Bill Stoudemire’s wife, Maggie, then.” Henry shook his head and winced remembering his single date with her when they were young. “She’d go 200 pounds… and none of it fat.” He shuddered again at the thought of when he told her he wouldn’t go out with her again. “And she’s a mean bitch. That’s probably why Bill ran off a couple of years ago.” He looked thoughtful. “Maggie, she doesn’t come to town much… stays on her place east of town.”

“Well, I don’t think no woman could do it.” Joe turned away. “See you later.”

Henry watched him walk toward Mabel’s Diner and thought, Old Mill Road runs east-west…. right by Maggie’s land. He let the idle thought slip away. It was time to pick up that load of lumber from Granger’s and get to work.

The hatless man near the bus depot window stood shoulders hunched and faced away from the others waiting for the bus. They never should have come to Taos, he thought. But they’d heard there might be work. There was. But he and Johnny never should have taken that laborer job. Poor Johnny. He had to flirt with that woman that hired them… and then actually tap it. He’d grinned and said, “In the dark, there’s more of her to grab. And man, she can squeeze that thing tight.” But something about her had bothered him. The way she looked at them. He had slept in the barn, but after the first night, Johnny was in the farmhouse with her. The fourth day, yesterday, he had come to breakfast to find that Johnny was gone. She had smiled at him—a big-toothed invitation—and came close enough to brush his shoulder with the largest set of tits he’d ever seen. “Your friend took off… you can sleep in the house tonight.” She had put her hand on his shoulder and given it a crushing pinch. “Come supper time, I’ll pay you your wages,” she waved a five-spot in her other hand.

He had nodded and gone out to the stretch of fence he and Johnny had been mending the day before. They both needed money and Johnny wouldn’t have run for no reason, but he hadn’t wanted the kind of trouble this woman seemed capable of dishing. He had decided to finish the job and get the Hell away from her, but with that fiver.

At sundown, she had called him to dinner, “Come and get it…” He couldn’t help but hear the emphasis she had put on her call to eat… and to something else.

At the table, he had wiped his plate clean. She had looked from it to him, an up and down run of her eyes. “You eat like a starved man…” she had gotten up from the chair at the end and moved to sit next to him, putting a hand on his forearm. “I do love me a man who has a hunger,” she squeezed and let go to hand him the five-dollar bill. “I’m the hungry kind, too….” She had then—as she got up—leaned forward to drag the tips of her chest across his arm and stood looking toward the room where she’d taken Johnny last time he’d seen him.

He had stuffed the money in his pants pocket, “I left your tools out, gotta go put them away…” the look on her face had hardened into something he’d never seen before on a woman. He had met her glare, managed to work up a smile and squinted at the darkened entry to her bedroom and back, “I’ll be quick… for some of that dessert.” The smile had come back, and she showed the edges of her teeth behind the curl of lips. “I’ll get it ready,” she had walked to the bedroom as he headed outside.

When he was nearly to the fence line, he had shifted from a walk to a sprint. On the dirt road, he had slowed for the long run to town. He had spent the night hiding in a patch of woods just outside it, walked in at daylight and waited. The morning bus for Santa Fe was late. He had heard from the newsboy working the corner with a stack of papers at his feet, ink so fresh the kid’s hands were smeared with it, that a body had been found the day before just off the road near to town. And now a cop was checking people at the depot. Maybe I should tell the police what happened, he thought, maybe Johnny did run from her but was hurt bad and didn’t make it. But that arrest warrant for him in Los Angeles was waiting to land like a ton of brick. They’d send him away for a long time on that one. Where was that bus?

* * *

Twenty Years Later

The article from The Taos Recorder 10-10-1954

# # #

LEAVING TAOS Short Fiction by Dennis LoweryNOTE FROM DENNIS

This story resulted from my looking through a collection of Depression Era public domain photos and spotting one that sparked some thoughts: What were the two men on the left talking about and what about the man by the depot window with hunched shoulders, what’s up with him? That picture became the story’s cover.

Enjoy my writing? Follow me here.

Til-the-End-A-Novel-by-Joseph-Patrick-With-Dennis-Lowery

‘Til the End… (Lexie)

“Not that I dislike the sport, but I’m not really a football fan and I was surprised at how I enjoyed the story. I felt for the characters and though sad and tragic at points it was a good read.” –Karen McCall

“When I came across this book, I was interested in the suspense that was described, although I have no liking for football what so ever. I decided to give this a try based on the reviews and I am so glad that I did. This book is a very simple read and it’s written in a lax style that allows me to enjoy this book without too much concentration. The writer wastes no time introducing the key stars in this book, Ryan, Tyler, Avery, and Jacob. I like that I knew exactly who each of the boys were right from the beginning of the book, and I was able to gauge their character and have a better understanding of their actions as the book progressed. The football scenes in the book were tolerable for me and I was continuously engaged and kept wanting to read more, especially when the action begins in the story.” –Ashlie Walton, from her Amazon review

About the story:

Ryan, Tyler, Avery, and Jacob are high school football stars. Everyone looks up to them. They’re living the life that young boys and men dream of and are right at the point of having it all: a state championship, college paid for, a chance for big money and even more glory in the NFL. It’s all there in front of them; the future they and everyone expects.

Then something happens that could bring it all crashing down. And they can’t tell the truth because it’s even worse than having to keep the secret for the rest of their lives. They make a pact to cover it up and never tell.

Hiding the truth fuels their escalating addictions and pushes them in different directions as they try to erase the past, deal with the present and hope for the future.

But at some point, in some way, there’s always a price paid for lies told.

Til the End - Amazon Review 7-31-2016 (1)

 

THE CALL -- Short Fiction by Dennis Lowery

THE CALL (FREE SHORT FICTION STORY)

THE CALL delivers a compelling message for parents and their teenage or young adult children. In it, we find that love—even with the challenges the relationship presents—is what’s important… it can heal and if you’re ‘lost‘… it can bring you home.

The Story

Jolted awake by the buzzing and vibrating on the nightstand next to me, I focused on the numbers from my clock projected on the ceiling above: 02:18. I had to be up in less than three hours and at work in four. I blinked, shook my early-Monday sleep-muddled head and then reached for my phone. “Hello?”

“Daddy?” I could barely hear the whisper over the static. That line hiss something I’d not heard in years. When the frantic sound of a young voice crying became clearer, my heart pounded. I gripped the phone and glanced over at my wife who was turning on her side to face me.

“Daddy, I know it’s late, but don’t… please, don’t say anything, until I finish. And before you ask. Yes, I’ve been drinking. I ran off the road a couple of miles back, and…”

I drew in a sharp, shallow breath, pressed my hand against my forehead, then rubbed my eyes. Sleep still fogged my mind, something was wrong.

“I got so scared, and all I could think about was how it would hurt you and mom if the police came to your door and told you I’d been killed. I want…” I heard her take a deep breath. “I want to come home. I know running away was wrong. I know you’ve been worried sick. I should have called you before now, but I was afraid… so afraid…”

Her sharp cries pierced me. Immediately, I pictured my daughter’s face, and then my senses cleared. “I think you–”

“No! Please let me finish! Please,” she pleaded. I paused to think what to say. Before I could go on, she continued, “I know I shouldn’t be drinking… especially now, I’m sorry Daddy, but I’m pregnant and… and… I’m scared, Daddy. Really scared!”

The voice broke again, and I bit my lip, hard. I looked at my wife now sitting up, as she silently mouthed, “Who is it?” I shook my head, and she shifted closer to me, putting her head next to the phone held to my ear.

“Are you still there?” Worried at my silence, the faint voice continued, “Please don’t hang up! I need you. I’m so alone.”

I squeezed the phone tight in my hand. “I’m here, I won’t hang up,” I said.

“I know I should have told you. But when we talk, you just keep telling me what to do. You read all that stuff on how to talk about sex and all, but all you do is talk. You don’t listen and won’t let me say how I feel. It’s as if it’s not—my feelings aren’t—important. Because you’re my father, you think you have all the answers. Sometimes I don’t need them; I need to figure things out first and not jump into an argument where we both get mad. I love you Daddy, but I just want you to understand.”

I choked down the rising lump in my throat and thought about all the how-to-talk-to-your-kids information I’d read. “I’m listening,” I whispered.

THE CALL -- Short Fiction by Dennis Lowery“You know, back there sitting in my car on the side of the road, I started thinking about the baby—I made the mistake, it’s my fault—and how I had to take care of my child. I couldn’t get a cell phone signal, it’s a cheap one, so I started walking. Then I saw this phone booth, and in my head, I could hear you going on about how people shouldn’t drink and drive. So, I called a taxi.” The shuddering of a racking cry came through the phone. “And then I had to call you.” I heard her voice thicken with sobs, stronger now, “I want to come home.”

“That’s good, Honey,” I said and let out a breath I didn’t know was held. “Come home.” My wife laced her fingers through mine.

“I think I can drive now. I’m going to–”

“No!” I snapped and squeezed my wife’s hand. “Please, wait for the taxi. Don’t hang up on me until it gets there.”

The line crackled and hissed. “I just want to come home, Daddy. I love you and mom.”

“I know. Come home, but do this for your Daddy. Wait for the taxi, please.”

I listened, in fear, to the white noise on the line. When I didn’t hear her answer, I closed my eyes and prayed she wouldn’t go—hadn’t gone—back to her car. “Honey!” Then the static stopped, and I could hear her clearly.

“I think this is my ride.” I heard a car engine coming closer in the background. It slowed to an idle. A tick-tick-ticking sound. Someone—a man’s voice—called out, “Hey, you call for a cab?”

I felt the taut muscles across my chest and shoulders release. I took a deep breath and let it out.

“Hang on just a second,” I heard her reply to the driver and then to me, her voice still shaky but not as unsettled, “I’m coming home, Daddy.”

With a click my phone went silent, its display dimming and then going dark in the moment I sat there staring at it. Releasing my wife’s hand, I put my phone back on the night-table and moved from the bed with tears spilling from my eyes. I walked out into the hall and down it to stand in my sixteen-year-old daughter’s room. The darkness was still but for the soft sound of the turning blades of her ceiling fan. I could hear my breathing and felt my heart thumping in my chest. My wife came from behind, wrapped her arms around me and tilting it up, rested her chin on the top of my shoulder.

I wiped tears from my cheeks with the palm of my hand. “We… I… have to learn to listen.”

She turned me around to face her. “We will. You’re a good father.” She hugged me tightly, and I buried my head at the nape of her neck in her long hair, and we held each other for an armful of heartbeats. Then I pulled away, turned and watched my daughter asleep in her bed.

My wife’s hand stroked the side of my face and rested there for a second. It felt warm in the cool air. “Do you think she—the girl on the phone—will ever know she dialed the wrong number?”

I looked at our sleeping daughter, then back at her. “When she gets home, she will… and maybe it wasn’t really a wrong number.” I leaned down and kissed my wife on the forehead and then straightened, “At least not for me, and I hope not for her.”

“Mom, Dad, what are you doing?” The voice came from under the covers. I walked over to my daughter, who had sat up and was staring at me, the phone in her hand—as a nightlight—shining on her face. “We’re practicing,” I replied as I sat on the edge of her bed.

“Practicing what?”

“Listening,” I whispered and brushed the hair away from her face. “Listening, Honey.”

NOTE FROM DENNIS

A few years ago, I read different—shorter, rough—versions of this premise in the public domain without attribution: one of those things online with a string of dated (old) ‘shares.’ Being the father of four daughters, I thought its message moving and compelling, but its premise as a story deserved improvement. So, I rewrote the story and think this version is worth sharing.

Enjoy my writing? Follow me here.