“The Dot Sisters”

Christine Schutt

March 23, 2018 
The following is from Christine Schutt's story collection, Pure Hollywood. The 18 stories center around corrupt familial love, intimacy, longing, and danger. Christine Schutt's previous books include Florida, a National Book Award finalist, and All Souls, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

In the windy city they sway on a bridge and let the wind get under their dresses, Claire and Julia, happy. Let them be happy. They have suffered. Their father abandoned them years ago; their mother rages past, shrill ghost. Swipe her away; stay with the girls on the bridge in the high wind in the summer of 1970. How cheerful they appear against the passing scene in navy, gray, or khaki. The sisters wear matching dot dresses, green ground for Claire; for Julia, brown. The river beneath them is tan, not brown, and the sky overhead is true blue. Probably they have been happy together before, but Julia is often melancholy and Claire is pessimistic, so it has been a long time since—or never!


Don’t be ridiculous, Julia says. They are simply happier than they have been in a long, long time. They’ve sold the house; the estate is settled. They think they will not come back.

They should pack tonight, take the train tomorrow. The Palmetto sounds breezy. Travel to the Carolinas to a tall white inn, tippy as a cake with balconies, shutters, netting, and flutter, where crystal chandeliers bejewel every room and on the bedside table a swan carafe of water; on the pillow, chocolates in foil. Let them be comforted. Please. Let them sleep. Not in every dream, unpacked, undressed, shamed. Enough with the nakedness and shit and sick pets sick in corners.


From Pure Hollywood. Used with permission of Grove Press, an imprint of Grove Atlantic, Inc. Copyright © 2018 by Christine Schutt. This story originally appeared in Noon.

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