The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

by David Wroblewski

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Part 5, Chapters 13-14 Summary

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Edgar is frustrated with himself that he did not think of using a wheelbarrow before. The smoke is getting thicker, so he must drop to the floor to get a breath of fresh air. He rises and continues shoveling files into the wheelbarrow. He glances up when Claude enters but keeps on removing files. Claude’s expression is blank. Edgar cannot forget what he saw in the mow. He did not return with a plan in mind just to reveal the truth about Claude’s implication in Gar’s death.

Claude continues to unload the last file cabinet, causing the wheelbarrow to quickly become overloaded. Edgar wheels it out and dumps the files before returning to the milk house. Trudy calls out to him to let it go, but he cannot. He cannot see any fire but the smoke is becoming overpowering. As he re-enters the workshop, he knows Claude is not really there to help him, but he figures that every file Claude rescues is one more record saved. He can no longer split himself between the choices of whether to fight or turn away. Edgar sees that there are two more cabinets, including the letters from Congressman Brooks, that need to be rescued. He believes that he can finish within five minutes. If not, he has an idea that might clear out some of the smoke to give them more time.

When Edgar leaves the workshop, Claude retrieves the bottle from the drawer. He had placed a syringe with it and wrapped them both in a rag. He carefully loosens the stopper and unwraps the syringe. He is moving so quickly that he jabs his hand with the needle. He inserts the syringe into the bottle, and the poison creeps up into the barrel. He shoots all but a fraction back into the bottle. Claude leaves the bottle uncorked, then he waits. Claude plans to leave the barn if things begin to feel unsafe and Edgar does not come back. He smells roasting meat in the smoke and realizes there must have been mice or birds in the barn.

Edgar reappears and begins unloading the oldest cabinet. Claude remembers when he got the poison in South Korea and recalls that the old man had used a reed. Claude’s hand begins to tremble, but he inserts the syringe into Edgar without his even noticing. All Claude needs to do is sit back and wait. Abruptly, Edgar stops unloading files and looks around. He finds a pitchfork and jabs it up into the smoke overhead.

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