The Curfew by Jesse Ball

From Part 1

There was a great deal of shouting and then a shot. The window was wide open, for the weather was often quite fine and delicate during late summers in the city of C. Yes, the window was wide open and so the noise of the shot was loud, almost as though it had been fired in the room itself, as though one of the two people in the room had decided to shoot a gun into the body of the other.

This was not the case, however. And because no one in the room itself had been shot, the man, William Drysdale, twenty-nine, once-violinist, at present, epitaphorist, and his daughter, Molly, eight, schoolchild, slept on.

Those were their methods of employment. Daily, Drysdale went about to appointments while Molly went to school and was told repeatedly to repeat things. She could not, and didn’t.

In the street beyond the window, it was very shady and pleasant. An old woman was bleeding, hunched over a bench. Two men were standing fifty feet away, one holding a gun. Some ten feet from the bench, a man was lying underneath the wheels of a truck, which seemed to have injured him, perhaps irreparably. The driver was kneeling and saying something. He stood up and waved to the two men. The one with the pistol was putting it away. Another, smaller truck arrived for the bodies. The man who had had the pistol, but no longer showed it— he was directing people to go away. People were going away.

One minute after the gunshot, the street was empty. This was often the case. I shall introduce this city to you as a city of empty streets—empty only when something occurred, momentarily empty and soon full again, but empty nonetheless.

I shall introduce this city and its occupants as a series of objects whose relationship cannot be told with any certainty. Though violence may connect them, though pity, compassion, hope may marry one thing to another, still all that is in process cannot be judged, and that which has passed has gone beyond judgment, which leaves us again, with lives and belongings, places, shuttling here and there, hapless, benighted, discordant.

Excerpted from The Curfew by Jesse Ball. Copyright © 2011 by Jesse Ball. Excerpted by permission of Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc.