loury, lowery

This is another word picture.

loury also spelled lowery. /laʊ(ə)ri/. adjective. Frowning, scowling, threatening, dull, gloomy; especially used of weather. From lour, lower, noun and verb, meaning ‘frown, scowl’.


It’s such a beautiful scene, such a fine picture: the sea-swell of the field, still early-summer green, smudged with sunlight, cut off at the top in an unsteady line to meet the blue and white and filthy grey of the sky. At the bottom it is fringed by ruffs of cattails and tickling prairie grass, and then a gravel road. Wind is coming, and everything tingles waiting to bend in it. Rain is coming, and all this will shine five shades darker.

Will this man walking along the edge of the road be in it when it comes?

He’s wandering in interplanetary space here, hours’ drive from any city, a day’s walk from any town. Up the road one way at the hill crest, half an hour by foot, is a house and a silo and I’m not sure what else, but I’m sure some of what’s there is rusty because that house needs new paint, you can see it in the sun. Down the road the other way you can’t see anything but more field, but eventually over the next roll as you head into the cloudy shadow you get to another farmstead, and I can tell you that it has blue and white vinyl siding on it and an eight-year-old Volvo parked outside it and a neat row of trees and a large corrugated metal barn nearby with a large sliding door nearly closed. Between here and there another side road T-bones this one and scoots downward towards a distant valley. You can’t see any dust cloud that would broadcast the movement of a car or truck on the gravel and dirt. It’s pretty quiet here.

Except for one thing.

This man here, in his yellowing jeans, his vest that looked smart when he bought it 20 years ago, his beard that looked tidy when he trimmed it 8 years back, his work boots that are collecting unemployment, this man has something to say, and every time he says it he assaults the dirt a bit harder with his step.


Or is it “Lowery.”

Is he speaking of the sky? The imminent theft of sunshine? The promise of blowing dust hammered back down by pelting water beads? He’s walking towards what’s coming. He squeezes his hands in his vest’s side pockets as though imagining a chill, but it’s not cold out and the breeze is still just on the way.

His face looks like it could use a good storm. It’s cracked from a long dry spell. The crops look good this year so far, but you can’t sell them without harvesting them first, and we don’t always reap what we sow.

But this time someone will reap what has been sown. A promise was made and it should be kept. If one person has the need and the other has the means, what should stand in the way?

He could carry a sickle, this man. But what good would that do, one man and one blade and such a large field? One man and one blade can only cut so many things, so they had better be the right things.

“Lowry.” Is that it? A name? He’s not looking at the sky. His eyes are pulling him forward, as if his sight were ropes attached to a tractor on the horizon. “Loury!” He stamps a puff. In his right hand, gripped in white knuckles, punched into his pocket, is a lock-blade knife. His thumb rubs the top of it. In his left is a piece of paper that doesn’t seem to be worth much now but it’s soaking his palm sweat into it.

“Lowery!” he almost shouts, and for a moment lifts his grim eyes to the sky. He can’t see the blue-and-white house yet but he can see the hair of the sky brushing down and he can smell what’s coming. He knows that the first soft marbles of rain are slapping down now on that hard metal barn. He’s walking towards it and he’s going to be in it. What’s coming is coming.

A rain sky is not an angry sky. It is dark but it is a sweet blessing. The clouds give a rest from the sun; the water falls and refreshes and feeds. A rain sky dims the lights so it can make love to the earth.

But this man is not walking to meet the rain. His pace quickens as he comes to the hillbend.

Inside that barn over the rise, water now knocks on the roof.

Knocks too hard. These marbles are not soft.

The grey tarp of clouds has torn open. Hailstones clatter, thrash the sweet green stems, crack the windshield of the Volvo. Inside the barn, a man named Lauri walks to the tall slit of the door and looks out, and his face drains.

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