This prompt asks everyone to begin with a list of inanimate objects found in a home. After a few minutes of generating a list, I ask everyone to choose one object and write from the point of view (POV) of that object. When we enter the POV of an object, we are able to see details that humans might not notice. And what’s often surprising about this exercise is what we learn about the humans in that same space.
My list is below. What I wrote (from the POV of a land line phone) follows.
The bed on the floor
The bedside table, covered with dust
The stove downstairs
The desk in the window
The couch downstairs
The huge old hutch
The blue chair
The old console stereo
The ivory couch in the window
The blue dish rack
The little, flat, cheap phone from Walgreen’s
I’m not worried, really. I mean, nobody in this little house can do what I do. And certainly there’s no reason to worry about being replaced: I only cost $10.99 at Walgreen’s, and as far as the old man’s concerned, I work just fine.
“Pop,” his daughter says, holding me open, my dial tone humming right in her beautiful face, “why don’t you let me buy you a cordless phone? They’re so much more convenient.”
The old man is washing dishes at the sink, staring out the window at the fat, pink roses.
“Honey, that phone is just fine.”
“But Dad!” she exclaims, “all these cords!”
He rinses the dishes gently, rolling a pale blue plate under the running water, placing it carefully in the wire rack.
“I like the cords,” he says, turning off the water, drying his hands on a yellow towel. “They keep me in one place. When I was young, there was only one phone in the house, and it was in a nook in the hallway.”
I start beeping at her—she’s left me off the hook too long— so she presses a lavender acrylic nail into my belly and shuts me up.
“There’s a nook here,” she says thoughtfully. “The house was probably built in the ’40’s, right?”
“Back then, the phone didn’t move around. Call me nostalgic, but I like sitting there, at that nook, talking.”
After she leaves, he scoops two large balls of strawberry ice cream into a bowl, sits down at the table next to me, and reads the sports section of the newspaper. He often spends his weekend afternoons this way, and leaves me later for that obnoxious TV in the other room.
But tonight I can tell by the way he carefully rinses that bowl that he’s going to make a call. He’s lonely. And when he pulls the worn black vinyl book from our shelf, I feel a joint anticipation. He will turn the pages, squint behind his glasses, then pick me up gently and dial slowly. On the other end, a familiar ring. His closest friend. An old man, also lonely, on an old phone, with a cord, like me.
“Hello, Jack,” he’ll say. “Got some time to bat the breeze?”
His breath smells like milk and strawberries, and all four of us feel warm.