The family bonds we forge are the anchors that tie us to this earth but they are often the hardest to understand.
LIVING WITH THE GRAY TONES is a complex story that investigates how a single, barely remembered event can occur in the lives of four siblings, that alters the paths they choose and their perception of the people they have become. The story of Charlene Gardner as she returns to her home town after 25 years. She visits the grave of the brother she barely remembers only to find out the towns people believe he raped and killed three young girls. In a quest to know the truth, she enlists the help of the friends she grew up with. Together they discover a web of family lies and untold truths that has shaped the paths of the remaining Gardner siblings. She expected to find gray tones but found blood on her family name instead.
The first thing he was going to do was remove that tongue. It wasn’t what she said or did with it. He understood that. She had a job to do. It was the gum she was chomping on, like a cow chewing her cud.
Such a dirty habit, he thought to himself, far too few of those wads end up in a garbage can.
His family didn’t know about his mission, but he was fulfilling his destiny. People could sense his greatness. He saw the respect in their eyes as he walked down the streets of his hometown.
“I’m working for a better world.”
He would remind himself of this simple fact on a regular basis. Someday his name would be in the history books and his ancestors would bask in his triumph. He believed he was doing the right thing. He knew it was something he did well.
“That’s an important distinction.”
This was his third trip to this particular street and this corner. It was like any other street of this type, except for the fact that he chose it. This showered it with a noble light.
She walked along the side with his car now, the youngest he’d seen yet. It did seem like an uphill battle at times. New ones came along everyday. He often wondered what the others thought, the ones he left standing on the corner. They certainly didn’t get the message he intended for them. If they had, they wouldn’t still be there when he came back.
This one was particularly brazen, dressed in an alluring top. Something a woman would probably call a halter. Even in the dark, he could see her young breasts clearly defined as she leaned over and looked into his car. A tool to get business, not much different from the advertisements a local store would run.
“She is the one this time, and I am a warrior,” he whispered.
He had a destiny to fulfill. He stopped the car and rolled down the passenger side window.
“Hi baby, you're looking for a date?” She asked, smiling and licking her painted lips.
“Yeah…get in,” he answered in a tight voice.
I’ve picked you and your gum chewing tongue. Of course, he didn’t say that to her. She would never get in the car if he did. He spoke directly to the warrior within himself.
She opened the door and sat down, never bothering to give her tiny skirt a tug. Consequently, it rode up her thighs. He pushed his foot on the accelerator and moved the car away from the curb into the traffic.
“You drive good,” she commented. “You a cop?”
“No, I’m not a cop,” he answered. He always wondered when they asked him this. Perhaps it’s a road he should have traveled. It would have been a good way to serve his hometown.
The town meant everything to him. He killed there a few times but it always felt wrong, like burying garbage in your own backyard. He developed better focus since then. Now he took his work out of state when possible. He grew up in Nebraska and tried to show it respect.
“Don’t you want to know how much it costs?” she asked in her tiny, squeaky voice. She moved her hand over to rest on his thigh. As they passed under a streetlight, he could see the small track marks on the inside of her arm glisten.
A drug addict too, he thought to himself. This one was going to be a righteous kill, double trouble. He started laughing aloud at his own joke.
“What you laughing at?” she asked.
“Nothing, it’s a private joke. Trust me you wouldn’t get it. I don’t care how much it costs. I think you will be worth it,” he answered.
He turned right at the corner, heading towards the local park. He always worked in the park. It was where the tradition started. He received his calling there. It would come to define him.
He pulled into a spot and shut off the car. She moved her hand and caressed his thigh, smiling. He looked out the window, making sure he’d picked the right type of area. He would need some privacy.
He looked down at her hand. Her nails were long but not painted red. He was about to change that.
“So…you got another piece of gum?”