Seminar in Getting Quickly to the Trouble: First Sentences from Christine Schutt’s Nightwork
1. She brought him what she had promised, and they did it in his car, on the top floor of the car park, looking down onto the black flat roofs of buildings, and she said, or thought she said, “I like your skin,” when what she really liked was the color of her father’s skin, the mottled white of his arms and the clay color at the roots of the hairs along his arms.
2. I once saw a man hook a walking stick around a woman’s neck.
3. She was out of practice, and he wanted practice, so they started kissing each other, and they called it practicing, this kissing that occused him.
4. I date an old man, a man so old, I am afraid to see what he is like under his clothes.
5. We woke in the parked car aslant in the field Cory’s grandma had found for us to sleep in, turned earth in front of us, almost houses behind, frames and unpoured sidewalks, abandoned machines and wheelbarrows left anywhere in the thin light that was the afternoon light we knew for spring in the country.
6. There is a man on top of her up on the top of the bed, and there is a man under her down under the bed, but the man down there is dead.
7. We enter the attic at the same time, which makes it all the more some awful heaven here, cottony hot and burnished and oddly bare except for her appliances, the parts our mother used to raise herself from the bed.
8. My son is coughing in his sleep next to me in my bed, where he has come to spend what is left of this night.
9. Someone else was in the room, I think–the second wife.
10. The things my son may see living with me–the way the windows darken suddenly in our apartment, the night tipping shut, a lid, such things as have happened with me and men–shame me.
11. I have accidents in the Fifth Avenue kitchen–cuts, falls, scaldings.
12. She wanted to touch the sister’s back as she saw it in the light beyond the door where she stood, breathing through her mouth, a spy on the sister in the sister’s house–yet waited for, welcome.
13. I walk around to the other side of the bed we are sharing, and I put my face up close to hers and say, “Ann, please. Please,” I say, and her eyes open, and Ann sees me, I think, and she says, “Sorry,” in a loud, steady voice, and she knows.
14. She told her daughter as she might a love such things her lover said were best kept secret from a girl.
15. More than any other, you belong here, but what is there to say but what I meant to say and never did?
16. The girls had their own versions of course, which they told, calling her by his name for her, Margaret, saying, “Margaret, we knew your brother. He wasn’t bad.”
17. Oh, that these fervent thoughts we have of our dead would sift into their spirit world and warm them with the truth of how they matter to us still, how they are missed.