The Tree and the Ravine | Oz – Day 13

Questions for Today

I have a gut feeling that Toto and the Lion could be the best of friends. I’d like to see that happen, so how do I make it grow? Also, how do we deal with the Woodman who is so sensitive to killing things? In the original, the Lion just goes to hunt on his own and never speaks of it. But it seems to me that Toto, while he can eat some of Dorothy’s food, would probably prefer a bit of what Lion catches.

Would Dorothy have much food left to share? What else could Scarecrow and Woodman help Dorothy find to eat in the forest? (The nuts are in the original story, just not quite like what I’ve written. While I’m catching glimpses of spots where Dorothy could have a bit of magic, I feel like adding magic may be something from a second edit. Almost like I need to feel the arc of what I write so that I can go back and create magic and possibly horror. I thought horror was going to be more prevalent, but so far I feel like I am just doing the basic retelling.

This is an ongoing NaNoWriMo project in which I retell The Wizard of Oz. You can read my project goals here and start at the first chapter here.

Chapter 8 – Raw Writing Day 13

Under the Tree and the First Ravine

The day stretched long before them and the forest sky was beginning to darken.  Dorothy’s stomach whined noisily.  

“What was that?” asked the Scarecrow, huddling closer to Dorothy. “It sounds like Lion is growling, but it does not seem to be coming from him.”

The Lion, walking ahead, stopped and turned around.  “I am not growling.  Perhaps it is the little Toto?”

Toto had stopped as well and gave a quick bark.

“It is not the Lion and it’s not Toto,” said Dorothy.  “It’s my stomach.  I’m hungry and that is what stomachs do when they are hungry.”

“I don’t have a stomach,” said the Scarecrow.  “Why does it talk?”

“Neither do I,” said the Woodman and tapped on his tin belly.  Dorothy could hear the echo through his body. “What is your stomach saying?”

“It is saying that I need to stop and eat soon.  Toto will be hungry too.  Lion, are you hungry as well?”

“Yes, but I will need to go and hunt.  I will catch something for you if you would like.  Would you like a deer for your supper?”

Dorothy thought about that for only a second before Woodman began to cry again.

“Woodman, please don’t cry.  The Lion is a lion and he must kill to eat.  But we do not want you to rust, so perhaps Lion can eat away from us?”  Dorothy looked at Lion as she wiped away Woodman’s tears with her apron.

“I just don’t want to hurt anything,” said the Woodman.

“For a man without a heart, you care very deeply.  The sky looks to be getting darker and I’m getting tired.  Could we look for a place to spend the night?  I have a bit of food left for Toto and myself. It will be enough for today.”

The group soon came upon an enormous tree, different than much of the pine forest that they had been walking through. It had huge broad leaves that stretched out on very long branches.  The land beneath the branches had tufts of grass and ferns and little flowers that had begun to disappear in the darkening light. The sky past the branches had turned a deep lavender and Dorothy could see stars beginning to sparkle.  

“Does this look like a good spot for you?” asked the Scarecrow.

“The ground looks soft,” said Dorothy. “And I think I will feel safe, knowing you are all around me. Lion, if you would like to go and hunt, we will wait here for you until you return.”

“I will be back before the sun rises!” He turned to leap into the forest, but Toto gave a single loud back.  The Lion turned back.  “What does Toto eat?” 

“He eats what I eat.  Well, for the most part.”  Dorothy thought about it for a moment, remembering the squirrel earlier today.  “Actually, Lion.  He likes meat too.”

“Can he go with me?” asked Lion and Dorothy thought she heard a bit of eager excitement in his voice. “I promise to keep him safe!”

Toto began to jump around at Lion’s feet, his tail wagging. He ran back to Dorothy and turned onto his back, wiggling, and then jumped back to his feet and ran to Lion.

Dorothy had to laugh to herself, thinking about how the two of them had met.  “You promise you won’t let him get hurt?” Dorothy asked seriously.

“I promise that I will protect him with my life.”

“Toto, come give me a kiss.”  Toto ran and licked Dorothy across the nose, his tail wagging frantically.  Bouncing and joyous, the two ran off into the forest.  Dorothy was reminded of a puppy and a very large kitten, heading off on an adventure.

Dorothy spread what was left from her lunch bucket onto her apron.  There was very little left, just a small bit of hard cheese, mostly rind, and a dry piece of brown bread.  She tried to make it last by nibbling slowly.  She would worry about Toto but was also grateful that he would have a good meal tonight.

“Dorothy,” said the Scarecrow, “is this food?”

The Scarecrow was standing away from the brick road at the farthest expanse of the enormous tree’s branches. The forest trees gathered there but they did not grow under the single tree’s canopy.

Dorothy walked to where the Scarecrow stood. Littered across the ground were round, hard-shelled balls. The Scarecrow held a few in his hand for her to see.

“I think these are nuts,” said Dorothy.  “Woodman, you live in this forest. Do you know if I can eat these?”

“Oh yes!  My mother put these into our porridge.  The shell can be tough to open, but the meat inside is tender and sweet.”  The Woodman brought a broken yellow brick to where Dorothy and Scarecrow stood. He laid one of the round balls on the broken brick and tapped it with the back flat edge of his axe.  He handed it back to Dorothy.  “You must take off the hard outer edges.”

Dorothy picked the tender flesh out from the inside.  “It’s wonderful!” she exclaimed. “I’ve never tasted anything quite like it.” The taste was earthy and warm and slightly sweet on the front of her tongue. It was bitter as she swallowed, but the bitterness was mild.

“The ground is covered with them!” exclaimed the Scarecrow, bending to pick them up. Dorothy tried, but it was hard for her to see in the deep shadows.

“I’m sorry, Scarecrow, but I can barely see them,” said Dorothy.

“That’s okay!” said Scarecrow, “I can pick them up all night if I need to.”

“I don’t think you need to do that, but perhaps you could bring them to me and I can crack them until I go to sleep?  I’m still very hungry, and this would help my stomach to stop talking.”

Dorothy returned to the soft grass nearer to the road.  The Woodman brought her two broken yellow bricks.  He showed her how to use one brick to smash the nut against the other so that she could remove the meat.

Scarecrow removed the oil can from the lunch bucket, set it near the tree, and began to fill the pail with the nuts, his gloved hands were clumsy and slow, but he was persistent in his dedication.

The Tin Woodman began to cut and gather wood and built a small fire close to the road so that Dorothy could be warm in the cold night.  She worked at breaking the nuts until her eyes grew so tired she could not keep them open a moment longer.  She fell asleep in the tufts of grass, the heat of the flames making her feel warm and safe.

Scarecrow kept gathering, but he kept a good distance from the fire.  He shook, being so close to the flames. He kept imagining a single spark landing on his dry clothes and how the grass inside him would explode into flames. Dorothy needed food for the next day and he continued to collect, making a large pile at the base of the trunk.  When he saw Dorothy start to shiver, he ventured closer to the flames, bringing handfuls of leaves and laying them over her like a blanket.  

As Dorothy awoke the next morning, she found herself cuddled deeply into a very soft, very warm fur blanket.  She cuddled closer, but suddenly jumped, her eyes jerking open.  She felt disoriented.  The light floated between the branches above her and dust glinted in the air. Toto lay wrapped in her arms, his back turned to the fire, now only hot red coals.  Her back lay nestled into the Lion’s mane.  He lay on his side, facing away from her, a rhythmic snore filled the air as his chest rose and sank.  

She gently slid her arms out from under Toto and sat up, rubbing her eyes.  She remembered where she was.  The yellow brick road lay on the opposite side of the fire that the Woodman had tended through the night.  The Woodman himself was standing against a tree, his eyes were closed.  Scarecrow sat at the base of the truck of their canopy tree. He was using the yellow bricks to break the nuts.  To his side sat a large pile of shells and Dorothy saw that he had completely filled her bucket.

“Good morning Scarecrow,” she whispered.  The Woodman opened his eyes, “Good morning Woodman.”

“Good morning Dorothy,” said Scarecrow.  “I cracked the nuts all night and filled your lunch bucket!”

“Thank you Scarecrow!  Where should we carry the oilcan though?”

“Last night, the Woodman showed me that if we fill the spout with leaves, the oil will not spill and I can keep it safely tucked in the straw in my chest!”

“Well, that is very smart indeed.  Do you mind carrying it?”

“No, it will make me happy to carry it.  And then I can help the Woodman if he begins to cry again.”

“I will not cry again,” said the Woodman, “…or I hope not to.”

Lion began to stretch next to Dorothy.  He yawned, and his yawn sounded like a quiet roar.

“Hello Lion,” said Dorothy, scratching the back of his mane, between his shoulder blades.

His leg began to kick as Dorothy scratched, just as Toto’s often did.

“Oh, that is the spot!  Please don’t stop,” purred the Lion, his leg kicking into the grass and dirt. Toto rolled onto his back, not wanting to be left out.  

Dorothy rubbed Toto’s belly. Looking at them both, she good-naturedly said, “You two are a spoiled lot!  It is time to get moving.” Then she whispered into the Lion’s ear so that the Woodman couldn’t hear, “Did you both get enough to eat?”

The Lion gave a slight nod to his head and a happy purr.

“Thank you, Lion, for keeping Toto safe.”

“Always, Dorothy.”

The Lion stood and stretched, “I need a drink of water.”

Dorothy had not realized how thirsty she was, but at the mention of water, her mouth felt parched.

“Please Lion, will you show me the way?”

Lion led her to a stream and Scarecrow followed with the pail full of nuts.  Soon Woodman arrived, “I found these mushrooms growing from a fallen tree.  You must be careful, Dorothy, not all mushrooms are safe to eat, but my mother used to cook these in a stew.”

They sat together at the brook. Dorothy ate her feast of nuts and mushrooms and washed it all down with fresh, clean, water.  Scarecrow sat at her side while Woodman stood back amongst the trees.  Toto and Lion played and drank, chasing each other in a silly sort of tag. 

When Dorothy had eaten her fill, she washed her face in the cold water and tried to rebraid her hair.  

They all made their way back to the yellow brick and began their day of walking.  The forest was still dense but did not penetrate the center of the road the way it had earlier in their journey.  Dappled light danced upon their path.  

They had only walked for a few hours when the trees abruptly stopped.  Stretched before them was a deep chasm, the edges raw and broken.  It stretched for as far as they could see to their left and to their right.  The yellow brick road abruptly ended, but far on the other side, Dorothy could see that it began again.  Deep below them, they could see a river.  They could not tell if it was big or little, only that there was no way across.

“Well, now what?” asked Dorothy.

They were all silent, staring at the deep cut in the earth before them.  

The Woodman walked up to the edge and stood looking down into the canyon.  “Perhaps we could go around?” he said after some time.

“The cut in the lands looks to go on forever,” said Dorothy.

“Perhaps there is a path to the bottom and we can climb our way back up?” suggested the Lion.

“I don’t see any paths on either side, the walls look too steep,” said Dorothy.

“If only we could fly,” said the Scarecrow. He sunk, defeated on the ground, his head resting on his fists. 

The Lion looked at him and began to pace along the edge of the divide. “I must not be afraid,” he said, repeating it over and over again.  Suddenly, he turned to the chasm and wiggled his bottom, his tail flicking frantically.  His muscles tensed and it was as if the Lion were flying.  He soared over the canyon, landing softly on the other side.  The air was filled with a roar of triumph.

“I was afraid, but Scarecrow, you reminded me that I could fly in my own way!” Easily he leapt from the far side and was back standing next to them. “I will take you each over, one at a time.  Who will go first?”

“I will,” said Dorothy, feeling unsure but trusting the lion.

“No,” said the Scarecrow, “I will go first.  Lion can make the jump, but he has not made it with someone on his back.  If I go first and he does not make the jump or if I fall off, then I will not be hurt.  I will fall to the river below but I will still be alive.  If Woodman were to go first and if he fell, his body would be badly damaged by the water and the rocks below.”

Scarecrow climbed up onto the Lion’s back.  “Let me carry the lunch pail,” he said.  “I am the lightest and the extra weight will not make such a big difference.”  He tucked the pail under his coat, with the oil can buried deeply inside the straw of his chest.  

The Lion leapt. 

Dorothy watched but was filled with fear as the Scarecrow appeared to wobble at the height of the jump.  They landed lightly on the other side. 

Dorothy was next.  On the Lion’s return, the Woodman lifted Dorothy to the Lion’s back. She wrapped Toto snuggly in her apron, folding up the cloth and tying it around her back to make a large, secure pocket.  She wrapped her right hand in the lion’s mane, and wrapped her left arm around the little dog, afraid that no matter how securely she had tied her apron, Toto would fall out.  “You stay still,” she whispered to Toto.

The lion paced for just a moment, paused, and jumped.  Dorothy had never thought about what it would be like to fly, but for just a moment, she imagined what it would be like to be a bird, soaring over the canyon below.  With a gentle thump, they landed.  Lion lay down so that Dorothy could slide off.

Now there was only the Woodman.  The Lion was tired and panting but he quickly sprang to the other side.

“Please rest,” called Dorothy to the Lion.  “We don’t have to hurry. Scarecrow and I will wait here.”

But the Lion was anxious to have everyone on the same side of the divide, and so the Woodman climbed upon his back. The Lion paced, turned, wiggled his tail, and he leaped.

Dorothy saw on his face that he looked tired and pained. She watched as he flew over the ravine, a strange bird.  His front feet landed firmly, but in his exhaustion, he had not traveled as far.  His back legs landed just at the edge and Dorothy watched as dirt began to tumble to the river below.  The Lion’s eyes grew wide as his front claws grabbed at the dirt, his back legs scrambling against the decaying edge. 

It all happened quite quickly, when the Lion’s back legs were no longer visible, and the Lion, with Woodman on his back, began to slide over the edge.

Dorothy screamed, “Stop!” It was as if the world went into slow motion.  The Lion stopped sliding and his back feet caught on a tree root sticking out from the edge of the cliff. Slowly, he clawed his way back to the flat land.  The Woodman slid from his back and sat on the ground.  Lion collapsed on his side, his breathing labored. 


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