The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug. Mark Twain

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Shades of Gray - Preface

"Write what you know" is one of the more common pieces of advice given to authors of all stripes.  Here is the opening preface to a short novel about a small town many folks will recognize, and a cast of characters lots of you will find familiar.  More posts to come as the story unfolds.  I look forward to reactions and critiques in the comments section on this site.  Please enjoy.

Shades of Gray

May 1997

            It was a warm spring afternoon when Ted Gray came back to Stockbridge.  There was no one at the Amtrak station to meet his train, as he had told no one he was coming.  Donning dark glasses against the May sun and shouldering his duffel bag, Ted set off down Lincoln Street.  He passed Stockbridge High School, where five years ago he had graduated valedictorian and class president, star quarterback of the only team in school history ever to make it to the state finals.  Turning onto Front Street, Ted paused only briefly in front of the bookstore where he had worked summers during high school, indulging a love of history and books that had led to a full academic scholarship at Yale.  He did not pause at all as he passed the Congregational Church graveyard where he’d laid his parents to rest nearly two years before.
            Ted finally came to a stop before the Bandstand Inn where Front intersected with Water Street.  Facing the imposing brick Town Hall, the Bandstand Inn was a cramped colonial bed and breakfast, squeezed between Charlie’s Yangtze Taste Chinese restaurant and the latest in a line of coffee shops.  The Inn drew its name from the quaint white bandstand in the middle of the road where the brass band played on Monday nights in July.  Ted climbed the wooden steps to the front door, which was open to allow the warm spring breeze into the front hall.  Dropping his bag on the porch, Ted knocked twice on the screen door.
            “Coming!” emerged a muffled, familiar voice.  Ted smiled, picturing the skinny figure now making its way between overstuffed chairs and cases full of old books, heading that way.  A moment later Arthur Brewster came into view, immaculately dressed, reading glasses perched on his bald head, salt-and-pepper beard neatly square.  He squinted for a moment at the brightness beyond the porch and opened the screen door.  Ted removed his sunglasses.
            “Mr. Brewster,” greeted Ted.  The innkeeper grinned in genuine pleasure and pride, shaking hands into a brief but sincere embrace.
            “Ted Gray!” Arthur laughed.  “I should have known you’d be by here round about now, what with the end of the school year again.  Tell, me how is Columbia Law?  Trembling before the intellect of the great and powerful…?”  Arthur’s voice trailed off as he saw the expression on Ted’s face.  “What is it, son?”
            Arthur Brewster had been one of Ted’s father’s closest friends.  He’d been the one to call Ted at New Haven with the news that his parents were dead, victims of a rain-soaked car crash.  Ted had laughed at first on the phone, refusing to believe the world that had given him everything he wanted could take in equal measure.  He’d raged, called Arthur a liar, and wept in the older man’s arms the next day when he arrived home.  This was different.  This Ted Gray wasn’t full of rage, or sorrow, or limitless promise.  This Ted Gray was empty.
            “What happened?” Arthur asked again.  Ted raised his gaze from his shoes.
            “I left school.  And I’m not going back.”


  1. This is interesting and I love the reflection of home.

  2. Great opening! Definitely makes me want to keep reading. I am already intrigued by both of these characters, so that's a plus, too. Favorite line: "Ted had laughed at first on the phone, refusing to believe the world that had given him everything he wanted could take in equal measure." Nicely worded.