* * *When I was in grade school, a conversation with my best friend led to the discovery that not every child makes up stories for at least thirty minutes every night in bed. I was honestly convinced I was normal until that conversation. But other kids, it seemed, did not make a point of going to bed at least a half hour before they needed to go to sleep, just for the purpose of fantasizing. Sometimes these stories lasted 45 minutes, an hour, and/or ran night after night like continuing soap operas.
As a busy adult I don’t spend quite that much time fantasizing before I fall asleep. And often, this is the time I use for planning for the fiction I’m writing. But sometimes I still do as I did as a little kid and just make up stuff for fun. What kind of stuff? Are you sure you want to know?
Okay, at the risk of revealing what a total weirdo I am, here you go.
I’ve been working on a really great 19th Century, Dickensian tale featuring my current fave celebrity crushes. In it, I’m a 16-year-old homeless orphan girl named Pip. I was living miserably on the streets until, cold and starving, I was found one night by a renowned hero of the “dodgy element” of London, a fellow called Mister House.
He has converted an old decrepit workhouse to a clothes making shop/dormitory for homeless kids like me. And instead of training us in pick pocketing like Fagin, Mister House operates the place as a legitimate business. The older kids sew simple clothes, the younger ones do mending jobs and make easy things like handkerchiefs. I happen to have learned from my deceased mom how to embroider, so they set me to work doing monograms.
Mister House is a stern, curmudgeonly taskmaster, but actually much more beneficent than his modern TV doctor equivalent. He uses the profits of the business not to get ahead, but to provide food and shelter to as many kids as he can. He may not show it, but we all know he loves us from his deeds. Naturally he’s just as humorously belligerent as the TV version. And, of course, I’m sweet on him in my girlish way.
All goes well until one day on the streets I encounter a new fellow--or at least, he’s new to me. Handsome, with dark, curly hair and a long black coat, this guy arouses my curiosity right away. He’s a storyteller, and goes around the neighborhood telling tales, mostly to crowds of children. I’m intrigued, but before I can check him out more closely, Mister House intervenes. This stranger is no stranger to him; he’s the Man in the Black Coat, and House’s urchins are forbidden to go near him. Why? No explanation, just orders!
Well, one day I’m out wistfully staring at a fairy tale book in a bookshop window, coveting it. Who should appear next to me but the Man in the Black Coat! Before I can escape, he engages me in a fascinating conversation about how I don’t need the book, I have fairy stories, complete with pictures, in my head. I’m enthralled. But then he tells me he knows I belong to Mister House, and understands why I can’t come hear him tell stories to kids in the street.
Which results, of course, in my sneaking out to hear him tell stories. And of course he’s incredible at it and I’m head over heels. Still, I don’t want to disobey Mister House and know there must be a good reason for his command. Oh the conflict! There’s nothing like a fantasy with two charismatic protagonists at odds!
So, after my surreptitious spying on the Man in the Black Coat telling stories, I end up lost, and he ends up finding me. You know where this is going...to his rooms, of course. Soon I’m fed, entertained with more tales, and bundled up in bed. Now the innocent Pip, so naïve and trusting, learns why the Man in the Black Coat has a bad rap with Mister House. But the thing is, I don’t mind doing what the Man suggests, because I think he’s super dreamy.
Meanwhile, back at House’s place, my having gone missing has become an issue. But just then, Doctor Wilson arrives, having seen me with the Man and suspecting where I ended up. Mister House expresses his vehemence not to go anywhere near “that vile Gaiman fellow” and recruits Wilson to rescue me.
In the morning he arrives chez Man, and demands my release into his care. The Man in the Black Coat complies in a most genial manner. I’m confused as heck. But the doctor seems very kind. He takes me to his office to make sure I’m okay and talk to me about what’s happened. With amazing candor for the 19th Century, we discuss the issue; I still don’t understand what I may have done wrong and Doctor Wilson tries to enlighten me about the inappropriate nature of the Man’s advances.
He takes me home. I get back to embroidering, musing all the while on my situation. Evening comes and with it our master, who has made an especially big profit on our wares and brought us a feast. Ham, bread, potatoes, carrots, etc. and even a lovely big almond cake--it’s like Christmas. All us kids party it up, but all the while Mister House ignores me. I’m afraid he’s really mad. At long last it’s lights out, and we all curl up on our little pallets. It’s only then that Mister House tells me to come to his study. What will he say? I’m so worried!
And there it is! Can’t you see why I’m eager to go back to bed?
I told my husband about this fantasy and he just shook his head in disbelief. Needless to say, nothing like this goes on in his brain at night.
Now you might say, this is just how it is with writers, we just write stories in bed. But I still think it’s all kind of weird. For example, here we are in London, and Mister House could legitimately speak with a British accent like Hugh Laurie actually does...but he’s American. Why? I have no clue! Meanwhile, it’s not so strange that the Man in the Black Coat has a British accent, on any count (all the years in Minnesota haven’t put a dent in how Gaiman speaks). But it’s really wack that Doctor Wilson is British too, not American.
And I really got excited about that almond cake. Why an almond cake? Who knows?
So truly I am not so deliberate with nocturnal fantasies as I am with story-writing. I would never, in a story, have a character that resembled Neil Gaiman in any way be possessed of a nefarious character like this guy; it’s really sick and wrong. But in large part this whole thing is happening to me, you understand--I’m not totally in control.
Sorry this entry was so long. I caught you up on like a week of stuff here. But yeah, this is what it’s like being me.
* * *Now, Blog, back to present day: I'm happy to report that this fantasy continued for many weeks thereafter. I was engaged to Doctor Wilson, ran away with the Man in the Black Coat for awhile, etc. But that's all neither here nor there....
I just want to know if there's anyone out there who can relate to my crazy brain! Click the "right-on" box if you can. Or comment, even better!