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The Story of Edgar Sawtelle The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
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“You swam in a river of chance and coincidence. You clung to the happiest accidents—the rest you let float by.”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
“Life was a swarm of accidents waiting in the treetops, descending upon any living thing that passed, ready to eat them alive. You swam in a river of chance and coincidence. You clung to the happiest accidents- the rest you let float by.”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
tags: life
“Just when normal life felt almost possible - when the world held some kind of order, meaning, even loveliness (the prismatic spray of light through an icicle; the stillness of a sunrise), some small thing would go awry and the veil of optimism was torn away, the barren world revealed. They learned, somehow, to wait those times out. There was no cure, no answer, no reparation.”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
“Edgar, there's a difference between missing him and wanting nothing to change," she said. "They aren't the same things at all. And we can't do anything about either one. Things always change. Things would be changing right now if your father were alive, Edgar. That's just life. You can fight it or you accept it. The only difference is, if you accept it, you can get to do other things. If you fight it, you're stuck in the same spot forever. Does that make sense?"
But aren't some changes worth fighting?"
You know that's true."
So how do you know which is which?"
I don't know a way to tell for sure," she said. "You ask, 'Why am I really fighting this?' If the answer is 'Because I'm scared of what things will be like,' then, most times, you're fighting for the wrong reason."
And if that's not the answer?"
Then you dig in your heels and you fight and fight and fight. But you have to be absolutely sure you can handle a different kind of change, because in the end, things will change anyway, just not that way. In fact, if you get into a fight like that, it pretty much guarantees things are going to change.”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
“She had learned, in her life, that time lived inside you. You are time, you breathe time. When she'd been young, she'd had an insatiable hunger for more of it, though she hadn't understood why. Now she held inside her a cacophony of times and lately it drowned out the world. The apple tree was still nice to lie near. They peony, for its scent, also fine. When she walked through the woods (infrequently now) she picked her way along the path, making way for the boy inside to run along before her. It could be hard to choose the time outside over the time within.”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
tags: time
“That was how it was, sometimes. You put yourself in front of the thing and waited for whatever was going to happen and that was all. It scared you and it didn't matter. You stood and faced it. There was no outwitting anything. When Almondine had been playful, she had been playful in the face of that knowledge, as defiant as before the rabid thing. Sometimes you looked the thing in the eye and it turned away. Sometimes it didn't.”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
“You put yourself in front of the thing and waited for whatever was going to happen and that was all. It scared you and it didn't matter. You stood and faced it. There was no outwitting anything...it was not a morbid thought, just the world as it existed. Sometimes you looked the thing in the eye and it turned away. Sometimes it didn't.”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
“Edgar, do you actually think that how long a person grieves is a measure of how much they loved someone? There's no rule book that says how to do this." She laughed, bitterly. "Wouldn't that be great? No decisions to make. Everything laid right out for us. But there's no such thing. You want facts, don't you? Rules. Proof. You're like your father that way. Just because a thing can't be logged, charted, and summarized doesn't mean it isn't real. Half the time we walk around in love with the idea of a thing instead of the reality of it. But sometimes things don't turn out that way. You have to pay attentin to what's real, what's in the world. Not some imaginary alternative, as if it's a choice we could make.”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
“Do you think there is heaven or hell? he signed.
‘I don’t know. Not in the Christian way, if that’s what you mean. I think people have a right to believe in whatever they want. I just don’t.’…
If someone came in here and gave you positive proof, would you do anything different?
She shook her head. ‘I think it’s just as likely that someone could say that this place, right here, is heaven, hell and earth all at the same time. And we still wouldn’t know what to do differently. Everyone just muddles through, trying not to make too many mistakes.”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
“Nothing is going to happen to me, or you, for that matter.
Anything can happen, though.
Anything can happen. But most always, just normal things happen, and people have happy lives.”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
“That mirror, that's one I hate to let go, he said. That was my daughter's the whole time she was growing up. It probably seen her more than me--everything from a baby up to twenty years old. Sometimes I wonder if all that might still be inside it. Got to make an impression on a thing, reflecting the same person every day.”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
“...in that dilated moment after sunset when the sky holds all the light...”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
“Almondine

To her, the scent and the memory of him were one. Where it lay strongest, the distant past came to her as if that morning: Taking a dead sparrow from her jaws, before she knew to hide such things. Guiding her to the floor, bending her knee until the arthritis made it stick, his palm hotsided on her ribs to measure her breaths and know where the pain began. And to comfort her. That had been the week before he went away.

He was gone, she knew this, but something of him clung to the baseboards. At times the floor quivered under his footstep. She stood then and nosed into the kitchen and the bathroom and the bedroom-especially the closet-her intention to press her ruff against his hand, run it along his thigh, feel the heat of his body through the fabric.

Places, times, weather-all these drew him up inside her. Rain, especially, falling past the double doors of the kennel, where he’d waited through so many storms, each drop throwing a dozen replicas into the air as it struck the waterlogged earth. And where the rising and falling water met, something like an expectation formed, a place where he might appear and pass in long strides, silent and gestureless. For she was not without her own selfish desires: to hold things motionless, to measure herself against them and find herself present, to know that she was alive precisely because he needn’t acknowledge her in casual passing; that utter constancy might prevail if she attended the world so carefully. And if not constancy, then only those changes she desired, not those that sapped her, undefined her.

And so she searched. She’d watched his casket lowered into the ground, a box, man-made, no more like him than the trees that swayed under the winter wind. To assign him an identity outside the world was not in her thinking. The fence line where he walked and the bed where he slept-that was where he lived, and they remembered him.

Yet he was gone. She knew it most keenly in the diminishment of her own self. In her life, she’d been nourished and sustained by certain things, him being one of them, Trudy another, and Edgar, the third and most important, but it was really the three of them together, intersecting in her, for each of them powered her heart a different way. Each of them bore different responsibilities to her and with her and required different things from her, and her day was the fulfillment of those responsibilities. She could not imagine that portion of her would never return. With her it was not hope, or wistful thoughts-it was her sense of being alive that thinned by the proportion of her spirit devoted to him.

"ory of Edgar Sawtelle"

As spring came on, his scent about the place began to fade. She stopped looking for him. Whole days she slept beside his chair, as the sunlight drifted from eastern-slant to western-slant, moving only to ease the weight of her bones against the floor.

And Trudy and Edgar, encapsulated in mourning, somehow forgot to care for one another, let alone her. Or if they knew, their grief and heartache overwhelmed them. Anyway, there was so little they might have done, save to bring out a shirt of his to lie on, perhaps walk with her along the fence line, where fragments of time had snagged and hung. But if they noticed her grief, they hardly knew to do those things. And she without the language to ask.”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
tags: death
“Anything can happen. But almost always, just normal things happen and people have happy lives.”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
tags: fate
“You couldn't change a river into a sea, but you could trace a new channel for it to follow.”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
“ It is as true for the writer as for the reader that any novel worth its ink should be an experience first and foremost—not an essay, not a statement, not an orderly rollout of themes and propositions. All of which is to say: stories, too, are wild things. ”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
“It was one thing to live in a world where death stood a distant figure, quite another to hold it in your hands.”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
tags: death
“We'll know we've got it right when they choose for themselves," he used to say.
That doesn't make sense.
'That's what I thought too. I asked him what he meant, but he just shrugged. I don't think he knew himself. But I keep thinking maybe that stray is making exactly the kind of choice he talked about. We're talking about an adult dog, a dog that's been out in the woods for a long time, trying to decide whether or not we can be trusted. Whether this is his place. And it matters to him - he'd rather starve than make the wrong decision.”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
“When she walked through the woods (infrequently now) she picked her way along the path, making way for the boy inside to run along before her. It could be hard to choose the time outside over the time within.”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
“The strangest kind of curse had been laid upon him: knowledge without hope of evidence.”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
“...do you actually think that how long a person grieves is a measure of how much they loved someone?”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
“A person could stop a specific thing, but they couldn’t stop change in general. Rivers can’t run backward. Yet, he felt there must be an alternative, neither willfulness nor resignation. He couldn’t put words to it. All he knew was, neither of them had changed their minds and neither of them could find anything more to say.”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
“In her life, she'd been nourished and sustained by certain things, him being one of them, Trudy another, and Edgar, the third and most important, but it was really the three of them together, intersecting in her, for each of them powered her heart in a different way.”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
“He had not opened his eyes in the moment. Her touch had released some tiny increment of the poison bound up in him that would, days to come, ripen into sorrow. And by the time he thought all this he could no longer tell if her caress had truly happened or whether he'd manufactured it out of necessity.”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
“I think it's just as likely that someone could say that this place, right here, is heaven, hell and earth all at the same time. And we still wouldn't know what to do differently. Everyone just muddles through, trying not to make too many mistakes [...] Half the time we walk around in love with the idea of a thing instead of the reality of it. But sometimes things don't turn out that way. You have to pay attention to what's real, what's in the world. Not some imaginary alternative, as if it's a choice we could make.”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
“No one can say if you are that person who, given good paint, good brushes, and a fine canvas, can produce something better than the factory man. That is, and has always been, beyond the realm of science. You do have the attitude of the dreamer about you. For that reason, I haven't the heart to argue anymore about this - it is a hopeless talk. And for a simple factory man like me, an effort must be abandoned once its hopelessness is exposed. Only the artist perseveres in such circumstances.”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
“If you didn't like it, why didn't you quit?"
To do what? Wasn't anything I knew better than farming. I was cursed, that was the problem. Just because I didn't like it didn't mean I wasn't good at it... It's a curse all right, you're just too young to know about that sort of thing. To be good at something you don't care about?”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
“He woke one morning tantalized by an idea: if he could catch the orchard trees motionless for one second -- for half of one second -- then none of it would have happened. The kitchen door would bang open and in his father would walk, red-faced and slapping his hands and exclaiming about some newly whelped pup. Childish, Edgar knew, but he didn't care. The trick was to not focus on any single part of any tree, but to look through them all toward a point in the air. But how insidious a bargain he'd made. Even in the quietest moment some small thing quivered and the tableau was destroyed.

How many afternoons slipped away like that? How many midnights standing in the spare room, watching the trees shiver in the moonlight? Still he watched, transfixed. Then, blushing because it was futile and silly, he forced himself to walk away.

When he blinked, an afterimage of perfect stillness.

To think it might happen when he wasn't watching.

He turned back before he reached the door. Through the window glass, a dozen trees strummed by the winter wind, skeletons dancing pair-wise, fingers raised to heaven.

Stop it, he told himself. Just stop.

And watched some more.”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
“She needed to recover. His father had died in January; it was only the end of May. They needed to stick to the routine they'd established during the intervening months. in that way, their life would return to its original shape, like a spring stretched in bad times but contracting eventually into happiness. That the world could come permanently unsprung had never occurred to him.”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
“It was one of the many rules in the kennel, rules that didn't always make sense, or even seem important, until some situation drew the lesson out.”
David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
tags: rules

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