"I doubt we'll see a finer literary debut this year than "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle." David Wroblewski's got storytelling talent to burn and a big, generous heart to go with it."
—Richard Russo, author of Bridge of Sighs

Almondine

Eventually, she understood the house was keeping a secret from her.

All that winter and all through the spring Almondine had known something was going to happen, but no matter where she looked she couldn’t find it. Sometimes, when she entered a room, there was the feeling that the thing that was going to happen had just been there, and she would stop and pant and peer around while the feeling seeped away as mysteriously as it had arrived. Weeks might pass without a sign, and then a night would come, when, lying nose to tail beneath the window in the kitchen corner, listening to the murmur of conversation and the slosh and clink of dishes being washed, she felt it in the house again and she whisked her tail in long, pensive strokes across the baseboards and silently collected her feet beneath her and waited. When half an hour passed and nothing appeared, she groaned and sighed and rolled onto her back and waited to see if it was somewhere in her sleep.

She began investigating unlikely crevices: behind the refrigerator, where age-old layers of dust whirled into frantic life under her breath; within the tangle of chair legs and living feet beneath the kitchen table; inside the boots and shoes sagging in a line beside the back porch door—none with any success, though freshly baited mousetraps began to appear behind the appliances, beyond the reach of her delicate, inquisitive nose.

Once, when Edgar's parents left their closet door open, she’d spent an entire morning crouched on the bedroom floor, certain she’d finally cornered the thing among that jumble of shoes and drapes of cloth. She lost patience after a while and walked to the threshold, scenting the musty darkness, and she would have begun her search in earnest, but Trudy called from the yard and she was forced to leave it be. By the time she remembered the closet later that day the thing was gone and there was no telling where it might have gotten to.

Sometimes, after she’d searched and failed to find the thing that was going to happen, she stood beside Edgar’s mother or father and waited for them to call it out. But they’d forgotten about it—or more likely, had never known in the first place. There were things like that, she’d learned, obvious things they didn’t know. The way they ran their hands down her sides and scratched along her backbone consoled her, but the fact was, she wanted a job to do. By then she’d been in the house for almost a year, away from her littermates, away from the sounds and smells of the kennel, with only the daily training work to occupy her. Now even that had become routine, and she was not the kind of dog who could be idle for long without growing unhappy. If they didn’t know about this thing, it was all that much more important she find it and show them.

In April she began to wake in the night and wander the house, pausing beside the vacant couch and the blowing furnace registers to ask what they knew, but they never answered. Or knew but couldn't say. Always, at the end of those moonlight prowls, she found herself standing in the room with the crib (where, at odd moments, she might discover Trudy rearranging the chest of drawers or brushing her hand through the mobile suspended over it.) From the doorway her gaze was drawn to the rocking chair, bathed in the pale night light that filtered through the curtained window. She recalled a time when she’d slept beside that chair while Trudy rocked in the dark. She approached and dropped her nose below the seat and lifted it an inch, encouraging it to remember and tell her what more it knew, but it only tilted back and forth in silence.

It was clear that the bed positively knew the secret, but it wasn’t saying no matter how many times she asked; Edgar’s parents awoke one night to find her dragging away the blanket in a moment of spite. In the mornings she poked her nose at the truck—the traveler, as she thought of it—sitting petrified in the driveway, but it too kept all secrets close, and made no reply.

And so, near the end of that time, she could only commiserate with Trudy, who now obviously longed to find the thing as much as Almondine, and who had, for some reason, begun to spend her time lying in bed instead of going to the kennel. The idea, it seemed, was to stop hunting for the thing entirely and let the house yield up its secret on its own.

There came a morning when they woke while it was dark outside and Gar began to rush around the house, stopping only long enough to make two quick phone calls. He threw some things into a suitcase and carried it out to the truck and then carried it back in again, threw some more things inside, and all the while he did this, Almondine watched Trudy dress slowly and deliberately. When she finished she sat on the edge of the bed and said, “Relax, Gar, there’s plenty of time.” They walked down the steps together, and Almondine escorted the two of them to the truck. When Trudy was seated in the cab, Almondine circled back and waited for the tailgate to open, but instead Gar led her to the kennel and opened the door to an empty run.

She stood in the aisle and looked at him, incredulous.

“Go on,” he said.

She considered the temptation of the open barn door. Morning light poured in from behind Gar, casting his shadow along the dry, dusty cement floor and over her. But in the end she let him take her collar and lead her into the pen, which was the best she could do. Then there was the sound of the truck starting and tires on gravel. Some of the dogs barked out of habit at the noise, but Almondine was too stunned to do anything but stand in the straw and wait for the truck to return and Gar to rush back inside to get her. When she finally lay down, it was so near the door that tufts of her fur pressed through the squares of wire...