The exercise today comes from Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich:
Choose a fantasy figure…and convince us of his physical reality by using mundane details.
After what seemed like many hours of lying, sleepless, on the soft mattress, the big man rolled onto his side. As he pulled off the heavy quilt, he carefully tucked it around his sleeping wife, so that she would not be awakened by his absence. He sat up, then, and gingerly let his bare feet rest on the icy cold floor. The fire must’ve gone out; a good thing he was awake then.
The room was black as pitch. From the small table beside the bed, he felt for his eyeglasses, pocket watch and notebook. No matter how long he’d been at this work, he always felt the need to have his notes nearby. He found, by feel, the sheepskin scuffs, dragged them out from under the bed with his toes, and slid them onto his feet. In one hundred infinitesimal movements, so that no sound or shifting of weight would disturb the sleeper beside him, he slowly rose from the bed.
Perhaps such care was not necessary. Her sleep was rarely restless, even in this tortuous time of the year. Still, he was a thoughtful man. She worked too hard (she said the same of him!) and he worried about her. He made his way quietly across the room and retrieved his flannel robe from a rustic hook on the door. Great caution, again, was used in turning the knob and pulling the door open. He silently moved through the passage, gently closed the door behind him, and stepped softly down the hall.
The kitchen, unlike the bedroom, was not equipped with black out blinds and heavy curtains. It was as light as midday. He opened the heavy watch and looked at the time. One AM! It had been less than two hours, then, that he’d been laying there trying to sleep. Even if he could count it as rest, it was hardly enough. He looked, next, at the thermometer. Inside, barely fifty degrees; outside, just below zero. He pulled on his robe.
He turned the damper on the stovepipe to the vertical position, then opened the cast iron door of the coal stove. Good embers, still. He pulled on gloves and fed the fire from the lidded metal container in the corner of the room. It would warm up quickly. He put the kettle on to heat; a cup of tea might relax him. Then, he pulled out the chair, sat down, and opened up the notebook.
It would be easy, this time of year, to get lazy. There was plenty of time…or so it seemed. This infernal brightness that made sleep nearly impossible (he knew it was daylight, behind those heavy curtains!) also made winter seem very far away. It would be several months before the letters started coming in. If he waited for the letters, though, he”d never be ready in time! Only six months until Christmas Eve…