But he didnt like the idea of a stranger neglecting one of Vis pups. The best thing would be if he could place them all in the neighborhood so he could keep tabs on them, watch them grow up, even if from a distance. Surely there were half a dozen kids within an easy walk who wanted a dog. People might think it peculiar, but they wouldnt mind if he asked to see the pups once in while.
Then he and a buddy had gone up to the Chequamegon, a long drive but worth it for the fishing. Plus, the Anti-Saloon League hadnt yet pen- etrated the north woods, and wasnt likely to, which was another thing he admired about the area. Theyd stopped at The Hollow, in Mellen, and ordered a beer, and as they talked a man walked in followed by a dog, a big dog, gray and white with brown patches, some mix of husky and shepherd or something of that kind, a deep-chested beast with a regal bearing and a joyful, jaunty carriage. Every person in the bar seemed to know the dog, who trotted around greeting the patrons.
Thats a fine looking animal, John Sawtelle remarked, watching it work the crowd for peanuts and jerky. He offered to buy the dogs owner a beer for the pleasure of an introduction.
Names Captain, the man said, flagging down the bartender to col- lect. With beer in hand he gave a quick whistle and the dog trotted over. Cappy, say hello to the man.
Captain looked up. He lifted a paw to shake.
That he was a massive dog was the first thing that impressed Edgars grandfather. The second thing was less tangible - something about his eyes, the way the dog met his gaze. And, gripping Captains paw, John Sawtelle was visited by an idea. A vision. Hed spent so much time with pups lately he imagined Captain himself as a pup. Then he thought about Vi - who was the best dog hed ever known until then - and about Captain and Vi combined into one dog, one pup, which was a crazy thought because he had far too many dogs on his hands already. He re- leased Captains paw and the dog trotted off and he turned back to the bar and tried to put that vision out of his mind by asking where to find muskie. They werent hitting out on Clam Lake. And there were so many little lakes around.
The next morning, they drove back into town for breakfast. The diner was situated across the street from the Mellen town hall, a large squarish build- ing with an unlikely looking cupola facing the road. In front stood a white, three-tiered drinking fountain with one bowl at person height, another lower, for horses, and a small dish near the ground whose purpose was not imme- diately clear. They were about to walk into the diner when a dog rounded the corner and trotted nonchalantly past. It was Captain. He was moving in a strangely light-footed way for such a solidly constructed dog, lifting and dropping his paws as if suspended by invisible strings and merely paddling along for steering. Edgars grandfather stopped in the diners doorway and watched. When Captain reached the front of the town hall, he veered to the fountain and lapped from the bowl nearest the ground.
Come on, his buddy said. Im starving.
From along the alley beside the town hall came another dog, trailing a half-dozen pups behind. She and Captain performed an elaborate sashay, sniffing backsides and pressing noses into ruffs, while the pups bumbled about their feet. Captain bent to the little ones and shoved his nose under their bellies and one by one rolled them. Then he dashed down the street and turned and barked. The pups scrambled after him. In a few minutes, hed coaxed them back to the fountain, spinning around in circles with the youngsters in hot pursuit while the mother dog stretched out on the lawn and watched, panting.
Excerpted from The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski Copyright © 2008 by David Wroblewski. Excerpted by permission of Ecco, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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