The Perfect First Line

Written by Carol Teltschick, an Honorary TinHatter

They whispered it to her as she rounded the corner of Rose and Thornton at thirty-five miles an hour, careening downhill out of control, as usual.  It was the perfect first sentence.  Absolutely perfect – every word, the nuance, the flow.  Shaking badly she pulled off to the side of the road to try to trap it.

Damn!  She snarled.  She had nothing in the pockets of her spandex outfit with which to capture the wicked little beast. No pencil, no pen, no lipstick. And so she tore a twig from a nearby aspen tree and wrote the line in the mud by the side of the road.  She would come back for it later; after the biopsy.  

All these months (and money) I’ve wasted attending seminars and work shops, she thought as she peddled towards home.   And there it was, all this time, on the corner of Rose and Thornton.  I’ll be damned.  All the blurbing and pitching sessions, the lectures from the agents and established writers all saying the same thing:  you have to write the perfect first sentence otherwise your book will not sell.  Like a maniac, spending hours in the saddle, whipping the poor first sentence like a tired old mule until it keeled over and died on the page.

They neglected to tell her that you cannot write the perfect first sentence – you must glide through it on your way to someplace else.

Last night I dreamt of ManderlyThe first sentence can’t be too strained but must flow into the story like a stream.
Whenever it is a cold November in my soul…The first sentence must set the tone for the rest of your book.

I round the corner of Rose and Thornton and I am flying. 

 “I’d like to take your hand and throw it across the room.  That’s what I’d like to do,” She screamed at the radiologist, after he explained he’d have to reinsert the needle at least five more times.  She was laying face-down on a table with her boobs dangling through two holes like udders.  The pain, indescribable.  Remember, the words lying in the mud waiting for you to return.  See them in your mind, she thought and then the needle broke through her skin again and she screamed.

Afterwards it was children she craved.  Minds uncluttered by sympathy or guilt.  She would be their auntie; take them when their parents had to work on long hikes or to the seashore.  Bake cookies, read stories or just listen. 

She forgot the perfect first line in the mud.


John’s Motorcycle Storage and Rare Book Disposal
published Carol’s first book of short stories shortly before her death on Feb. 2nd.

5 thoughts on “The Perfect First Line

  1. Thanks Jan. I dare say Carol will haunt us for a long time. Like I said, she was an outsized woman, with big plans and big hopes. I suppose she was the sort of person, even with the ups and downs, who made life worth living. Love. Duke

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You’re right about that. So much energy and love of life. I was surprised to find this piece from way back in 2008. I hope I told her at the time how good it was but she had just gotten the diagnosis and so I can’t be sure.

      Liked by 3 people

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