Pages 159-174 Summary
Wallace Pfef has never been married, but he has a photograph and other items commemorating a woman the town refers to as his “poor dead sweetheart.” Pfef found the photograph and the memorabilia in a box he bought for five dollars at an auction. Because of his apparent undying allegiance to a non-existent dead girlfriend, Pfef has “never had to marry.”
Pfef is brings “beets to the valley,” an unfailing crop which produces refined white sugar, despite considerable resistance. He lives far outside of town in a fine house which he built; his nearest neighbors are Celestine and her daughter. Two things happened at a 1952 convention in Minneapolis: he discovered beets and he discovered he “was queer.”
Karl Adare was the best salesman at the convention, and everything was fine between the two men until Karl landed on his back while jumping wildly on the bed. Karl clearly disdained Pfef’s sympathy, and eventually Pfef returned to Argus, assuming he would never see Karl again. For his own protection, has managed to forget about Karl most of the time. Karl is “good at hiding facts for [his] own self-protection.” After his encounter with Karl, Pfef wanted to tell Mary about her brother to “disrupt her smugness,” but Pfef knows Mary Adare’s reputation for being ruthless, able to work on people’s “nerves like a string in a blanket.” In fact, Mary is the cause of Sita’s mental unraveling.
One day Karl calls and says he is coming through Argus. Pfef spends hours cleaning his house but finally gives up waiting when Karl does not come when he promised. Eventually he arrives and Pfef finally feels as if his life makes sense. He wishes for things to last forever, but two weeks later Karl leaves without note or warning. What disturbs Pfef most is where Karl went.
One night Pfef follows a stray dog out of concern and discovers Karl is in a relationship with Celestine. Pfef makes sure Karl sees him, and Karl is shocked when Pfef appears. Months later, everyone in town speculates about who the father of Celestine’s baby might be, but Pfef knows.
During a January blizzard, Celestine goes into labor and begins walking to the hospital. Luckily Pfef heeds the stray dog’s whining and sees her, or in the morning he would have found her and her baby frozen in his yard. Celestine is about to give birth, and she gives Pfef terse instructions between her contractions. Pfef and Celestine manage the birth and have to wait for the hospital jeep until morning. Celestine names her daughter Wallacette Darlene, but Mary quickly nicknames her Dot.
Right after Dot was born, Celestine and Karl get married. Mary and Pfef are Dot’s sponsors when she is baptized. On the infant’s behalf, they renounce Satan and all his works and displays. Pfef speaks for Dot and says she wants to be baptized with the white cloth of purity. Dot just screams unceasingly.