This is the difficult part. Up until this part, I had something typed, or at least something handwritten. Now I’m working with only a general idea of where the story is going. And I realized, after I finished last night’s section, that I wrote an Oswald into the story. I have no idea who Oswald is, but because of the way I write, in which ends are neatly tucked in, Oswald has to show up later. I think he may be one of the people trying to defeat the dragon. (Yes, there’s a dragon. He’ll show up eventually.)
Ivan was used to waking up at dawn, so wake up at dawn he did. He found a small bathroom under the stairs, splashed water on his face, got dressed, and went downstairs. Blanchefleur was sitting on the table, staring at the kettle still set on it, with a look of disdain on her face.
“What is that mess?” she asked.
“I think it’s porridge,” he said, after looking into the kettle. It smelled inviting, but then anything would have at that hour. Next to the kettle were a wooden bowl and spoon, as well as a napkin. “Did you put these here?” he asked Blanchefleur.
“Why would I do such a stupid thing?” she asked, and turned her back to him. She began licking her fur, as though washing herself were the most important thing in the world.
Ivan shrugged, spooned some of the porridge into the bowl, and had a plain but filling breakfast. Afterward, he washed the bowl and spoon. As soon as he had finished eating, the kettle had emptied again – evidently, it did not need washing. Then he sat down at the table and pulled the first of Professor Owl’s notes toward him.
It was tedious work. First, he would read through Professor Owl’s notes, which were written in a cramped, slanting hand. Then, he would try to add an entry to the file, as neatly and succinctly as he could. He had never paid attention in school, and writing did not come easily to him. After the first botched attempt, he learned to compose his additions on the backs of Professor Owl’s notes, so when he went to write the entries, he was not fumbling for words. By noon, he had finished additions to the entries on Justice, Rose, Darwin, Theosophy, Venus, Armadillo, Badminton, and Indochina. His lunch was chicken soup with noodles. He thought about having nothing but soup, every noon and night for an entire year, and longed for a sandwich.
He sat down at the table and picked up the pen, but his back and hand hurt. He put the pen down. The sunlight out the window looked so inviting. Perhaps he should go out and wander around the tower, just for a little while? Where had Blanchefleur gone anyway? He had not seen her since breakfast. He got up, stretched, and walked out.
It had been his habit, as long as he remembered, to wander around as he wished. That was what he did now, walking around the tower, then heading toward the scrubby pines on the hillsides, looking idly for Blanchefleur and finding only lizards. He wandered without thinking about where he was going or how long he had been gone. The sun began to sink behind the mountains.
That was when he realized that he had been gone for hours. Well, it would not matter, would it? He could always catch up with any work he did not finish tomorrow. He walked back in the direction of the tower, only becoming lost once. It was dark when he reached it again. He opened the door and walked in.
There were Professor Owl and Blanchefleur. The Professor was sitting in the chair Ivan had occupied earlier that day, scribbling furiously. Blanchefleur was saying, “What did you expect of someone named Idiot? I told you he would be useless.”
“Oh, hello, boy,” said Professor Owl, looking up. “I noticed that you went out for a walk, so I finished all of the notes for today, except Orion. I’ll have that done in just a moment, and then you can sit down for dinner. I don’t think I told you that each day’s entries need to be filed by the end of the day, or the Encyclopedia will be incomplete. And it has never been incomplete since I started working on it, five hundred years ago.”
“I’ll do it,” said Ivan.
“Do what?” said Blanchefleur. “Go wandering around again?”
“I’ll do the entry on Orion.”
“That’s very kind of you,” said Professor Owl. “I’m sure you must be tired.” But he handed Ivan the pen and hopped onto the table. It was a lopsided hop: Ivan could tell that the owl’s right foot was hurting. He sat and finished the entry, conscious of Blanchefleur’s eyes on him. When he was finished, Professor Owl read it over. “Yes, very nice,” he said. “You have a clear and logical mind. Well done, boy.”
Ivan looked up, startled. It was the first compliment he ever remembered receiving.
“Well, go on then, have some dinner,” said Professor Owl. “And you’ll be up at dawn tomorrow?”
“I’ll be up at dawn,” said Ivan. He knew that the next day, he would not go wandering around, at least until after the entries were finished. He did not want Blanchefleur calling him Idiot again in that tone of voice.