A woman in an apron walked out the door of the diner, squeezed past the two men, and looked on.
Thats Captain and his lady, she said. Theyve been meeting there with the kids every morning for the last week. Ever since Violets babies got old enough to get around.
Whose babies? Edgars grandfather said.
Why, Violets. The woman looked at him as if he were an idiot. The mama dog. That dog right there.
Ive got a dog named Violet, he said. And she has a litter about that age right this moment back home.
Well, what do you know, the woman said, without the slightest note of interest.
I mean, dont you think thats sort of a coincidence? That Id run into a dog with my own dogs name, and with a litter the same age?
I couldnt say. Could be that sort of thing happens all the time.
Heres a coincidence happens every morning, his buddy interjected. I wake up, I get hungry, I eat breakfast. Amazing.
You go ahead, John Sawtelle said. Im not all that hungry anyway. And with that, he stepped into the dusty street and crossed to the town hall.
When he finally sat down for breakfast, the waitress appeared at their table with coffee. If youre so interested in those pups, Billy might sell you one, she said. He cant hardly give em away, theres so many dogs around here.
She turned and gestured in the direction of the sit-down counter. There, on one of the stools, sat Captains owner, drinking a cup of cof- fee and reading the Sentinel. Edgars grandfather invited the man to join them. When they were seated, he asked Billy if the pups were indeed his.
Some of them, Billy said. Cappy got old Violet in a fix. Ive got to find a place for half the litter. But what I really think Ill do is keep em. Cap dotes on em, and ever since my Scout ran off last summer Ive only had the one dog. He gets lonely.
Edgars grandfather explained about his own litter, and about Vi, ex- panding on her qualities, and then he offered to trade a pup for a pup. He told Billy he could have the pick of Vis litter, and furthermore could pick which of Captains litter hed trade for, though a male was prefer- able if it was all the same. Then he thought for a moment and revised his request: hed take the smartest pup Billy was willing to part with, and he didnt care if it was male or female.
Isnt the idea to reduce the total number of dogs at your place? his buddy said.
I said Id find the pups a home. Thats not exactly the same thing. I dont think Mary is going to see it that way. Just a guess there. Billy sipped his coffee and suggested that, while interested, he had reservations about traveling practically the length of Wisconsin just to pick out a pup. Their table was near the big front window and, from there, John Sawtelle could see Captain and his offspring rolling around on the grass. He watched them awhile, then turned to Billy and prom- ised hed pick out the best of Vis litter and drive it up - male or female, Billys choice. And if Billy didnt like it, then no trade, and that was a fair deal.
Which was how John Sawtelle found himself driving to Mellen that September with a pup in a box and a fishing rod in the back seat, whis- tling Shine On, Harvest Moon. Hed already decided to name the new pup Gus if the name fit.
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
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