52 Weeks – Week 2 -The Rifle

Art by Anna Loscotoff, 2022. Pen and Ink drawing. Close-up of a boy standing behind a fence. There is a forest behind him and the yard in overgrown in font of him.

Content warning–this story is grittier and the language may be rough. The words for the prompt lead to something darker and it may not be for you. You can read more about my thought process, concerns, and insecurities after the story. If you need more of a warning, skip down past the final full image of the boy in the yard to my notes.

2. Anonymous gifts start arriving at the doorstep

Include: teenager, camouflage, birch, harmony, rifle, screen door, wrinkle, dive, pick-up, sticker

Bridgette’s Tale for Week 2

The Rifle

The door bell rings.

The teenager sits in his grey underwear, scratching his crotch, a bottle of his parent’s vodka nestled in the cushions next to him. He’s staring at the screen, the dumb box, his fingers tapping on the remote in his hands, the figure on the screen shooting.

“Wha thu fuuu.” He wipes the wetness from his lips and stumbles to the door.

“Whoos there?” he calls out, leaning against the dirty paint, years of oily fingerprints have turned the frame black.

There is no response.

“Fuuuu…” the boy grumbles, the world spinning. He looks down at his almost nakedness and starts to laugh.

“Whatev.”

He opens the door fully, hoping to see a look of surprise at his skinny hairless chest and sees… no one.

“Anyone there? ANYONE THERE!”

A few birds take flight from the overgrown weedy land in front of the stoop, but everything else is silent. Beyond the yard there is a fence and beyond the fence there is a pitted dirt road. Beyond that are trees and forest and Frankie feels the weight of someone watching.

He throws up his middle finger and starts to shut the door when he spots a small square box on the step. There is a sticker on top. A sticker with his name. Frankie. He opens the tattered screen door and leans out, picking it up.

Only his name. No return address. No stamps. Just a plain brown box and a plain white sticker. His name is scrawled in permanent marker and the handwriting is familiar. His leg hairs prickle and he looks back up, into the woods, before turning and stumbling back into the house.

Sitting on the couch, the cushions stained and sunken, he takes a swig of the vodka and licks his lips. It burns going down, but he likes the burn. He rips off the top of the box and drops the torn cardboard to the floor. Inside are black binoculars. He picks them up, raising them to his eyes, delighting in how the images on the TV screen are suddenly close, pressing against his vision. He looks around the room and can see a fly sitting on the wall. The kitchen is behind him and he turns to look at the pile of dishes molding in the sink. Little bugs are swarming in the air above the faucet. He can’t make them out even through the binoculars, but he can see them moving. He looks down, fascinated at the idea of looking at the bulge beneath his underwear, but he’s distracted by a note laying folded next to the box.

He unfolds it. It’s torn from a lined notebook, it’s edges rough, dirty fingerprints on the paper.

“Keep watch” it says and the boy looks from it back to the binoculars.

Another knock at the door and this time the teen is curious.

Art by Anna Loscotoff, 2022. Pen and Ink
Art by Anna Loscotoff, 2022. Pen and Ink.

“Hello?” he calls to the door, slowly getting to his feet.

No response.

He peeks out again and this time there is a larger box, fat and square. He looks around, but sees no-one. He looks out into the trees, the white birch bark standing against the shadows of the denser evergreens.

This times he waves to no-one, to the forest, tentatively, as he opens the screen and picks up the cardboard box.

This box is thicker and the top is tacked together with a single strip of clear tape . He peels the tape and folds back the cardboard wings. Inside is a camouflage coat. Under that are camouflage pants. They are slick and waterproof and the boy immediately pull the pants over his dirty feet. They fit his waist perfectly, sitting comfortably at his hips. He puts on the jacket over his bare, hairless chest and buttons it up. It is cold on his skin.

He turns to a cracked mirror with flaking gold in it’s frame. The boy who looks back is dirty and his eyes are hollow. His dark brown hair is too long and tangled and his skin has turned sallow. He has grown tall and gangly in this last year, the shadow of a mustache on his thin upper lip. But the uniform looks good.

Another knock on the door pulls the boy from his reflection. Frankie wants to catch the person now, to know who they are.

He swings the door open wide, not pausing, knowing they can’t get away so quickly.

No one. Only a heavy shoe box with the image of boots printed on the top. He opens them right there on the stoop, glancing up at the trees, listening for some sign of his patron.

Military boots, camouflage beige, leather and nylon, triple stitched. He rotates them in his hands, his jaw slack. Stuffed in the top of the right boot are thick brown socks, ribbed and cushioned. He sits down, there on the threshold, the screen door propped open by his legs. He pulls on the socks. He’s never had new socks. His are always worn through the toes and the heel; hand-me-downs and yard sales and donations from Goodwill. Then he pulls on the boots, his feet feeling snug and soft. He laces them up.

“Thank you,” he mumbles to no-one in particular, to whoever is leaving him these gifts, unaccustomed to the way it feels on his lips.

He steps inside the door but chooses to wait, to hide just on the opposite side of the hollow core; fist holes through the surface showing the cardboard inside.

This time when the knock comes, he is ready. His hand is on the handle, ready to pull it open.

At the first knock, he throws the door open. The knock has not even finished, and yet there is no one standing on the stoop. No one running down the path to the forest. No one on the dirt road. He steps over a long narrow box on the ground and walks to the right of the porch, looking around the corner. He walks to the far left of the porch and looks around that corner. There is no one.

He walks down the steps, through the weeds to the broken fence, looking down the road through the trees. He sees nothing. He turns back to the house and for just a second, he thinks he sees someone looking out at him from the kitchen window. Someone who looks like him.

He runs back up the path, up the spongey stairs, jumping over the long box, pulling open the screen and feeling it tear even further. He pushes open the door, wanting to catch the intruder. There is no one in that main room or kitchen. Attached to the main room is a tiny hallway that leads to 3 doors; a bathroom which is open and the toilet running, no curtain on the shower, no place to hide, his bedroom and his mother’s. His door stands open, trash and dirty clothes lie heaped. His mattress is crooked on the floor. His closet doors were removed long ago; the closet is empty other than a few broken hangers.

Then he turns to the closed door across from his. It’s been months since he opened it, the smell has faded in time. Whoever he saw in his window, if they’ve gone to hide in there, will know what he’s done.

His stomach drops. It was only a matter of time.

He knocks.

“Hey mom, comin’ in.”

He cracks the door, unsure.

There is his mom, lying on the bed.

“Hi mom.” He’s quiet and looks at his feet. “You ain’t seen anyone, right?” He’s trying not to sway.

He doesn’t want to look at her and so he looks around her. No one in the corners. No one standing over her in horror. The closet door is still half off the hinges. The smell isn’t so bad anymore.

The bed is black in his peripheral vision. There are splatters on the wall and he can see a shadow of her humped form.

He turns on his heel and stumbles out the door, shutting it with a click before vomiting down the wall; mostly vodka.

He walks back to the front door, grabbing the bottle from the couch on his way. He drains what is left, perhaps a full quarter of the bottle, and throws it against the wall. It shatters, the glass pieces lay sparkling on the floor.

He remembers the box, the long narrow box, sitting on the front step. He opens the front door and there it sits with a tiny red bow on top; the self-stick kind from Christmas. It is flattened and creased. He bends to pick-up the box, but it is heavy. Surprisingly heavy.

He steps out, look around, still feeling the weight of someone watching, but not knowing where. He picks it up, the balance awkward, heavy at one end. He brings it in, setting it on the couch.

The pleasurable spin of the vodka has begun again, making him want to close his eyes, but the box comes first.

He slides off the top and when he sees what is inside, he gasps in pleasure.

A Winchester .44-40 rifle sits in that box, lever action. He caresses it as he has never been caressed. The steel barrel is old but clean. The wood of the stock is polished black walnut. He lifts it carefully, reverentially, never having seen something so beautiful in his life. On it’s right side is an indented area and he understands that this is where the bullets go.

Bullets. He wants to stick a bullet in that chamber. He wants to pull down on the trigger and hear the explosion. He wants to feel it kick back against his shoulder. He wants to pull the lever and feel the rush of the spent casing as it flies past his ear. There is nothing left in the box.

“Sonofabishhh,” he grunts, just as another single knock sounds on the front door.

When he opens it, he doesn’t look up for a person, he looks directly to the ground for the one treasure he has left. There they sit, a box of .44 caliber bullets.

On the top is a note, in the same corse handwriting, “Use them wisely.”

He grabs them greedily and pulls them inside, cackling drunkenly. He counts them.

20. Use them wisely.

He begins to slide the bullets into the chamber and only gets to number 6 when the shooting starts.

The window in the kitchen explodes inward and Frankie looks up from the gun dumbly and sees the broken glass spread out across the sink. He doesn’t feel afraid, not yet. He sets down the gun on the couch, when the TV behind him seems to explode backward into the wall. A hole punches through the front door blasting inward and he is showered with bits of wood and cardboard. He dives to the floor. Shocked and angry, but not afraid.

The shooting stops and he waits for a moment, spotting the binoculars now disappearing behind the flat cushions. He reaches up and grabs them, remembering the words, “keep watch.”

He crawls across the floor, low and on his forearms with the binoculars in his left hand, the right hand trying to stay away from broken glass. His goal is the door. Time has stopped as he waits for the next bullet.

The door still stands despite the large hole at the top. He reaches up to the handle and twists. It unlatches, but he does not open it. He waits, wondering if whoever is out there has seen the movement. Then he inches the door open, only enough for the lens of the binoculars to peek out sideways. Before looking through the lenses, he uses a single eye to peek between the crack, to see if he can find his foe.

A boy. Another teenager, like him, stands in the middle of the dirt road between the cracked wooden fence and the forest. He’s wearing camouflage and beige boots. He’s holding binoculars up to his eyes. He has a gun, a Winchester .44-40 strapped to his back.

Frankie presses his eyes to the turned binoculars and finds through them the boy who is holding him hostage. The outside boy lowers the binoculars and smiles. The smile is empty, just like his hollow eyes. The boy who looks back is dirty and his dark brown hair is too long and tangled and his skin has turned sallow. He is tall and gangly and the shadow of a mustache stands out on his thin upper lip. His uniform looks good.

The outside boy holds up his hand and moves it minutely, some sort of wave. Then, faster than Frankie could think possible, the boy grabs his gun and points it directly at him, firing.

Art by Anna Loscotoff, January 2022.  Pen and Ink. Drawing of a boy silhouetted in a doorframe, edges of the journal can be seen.
Art by Anna Loscotoff, January 2022. Pen and Ink.

Frankie flings himself backwards just as the door jamb bursts inward. He crawls backward frantically, not noticing the glass and shards of wood that are embedding into his palms. He grabs the Winchester .44-40 and uses the couch as his barricade.

“Hey yuh, Frankie! Whatcha doin’ in there?” The voice calls from outside, closer than the fence.

“Who-er you? And wha-the-fuck do you wan?” Frankie yells back.

“Don’t you recognize me, Frankie? Don’t you recognize your own handwriting?”

Through the haze of the alcohol and his bitter anger, Frankie suddenly realizes why the handwriting was familiar.

Now, finally, he feels afraid.

“Lea-me-ah-lone. LEA-ME. THU-FUCK. ALONE!”

“Are you scared, Frankie?” The voice is closer now, perhaps at the base of the steps. Perhaps on the porch.

“Donchoo come in here!” He is shaking and that pisses him off even more.

The door still hangs on it’s hinges despite the large hole at the top and the jamb missing below the knob. Frankie can see the edges of a shadow beyond the door. He positions the butt plate tightly against his right shoulder, holding the rifle steady with his left hand, his right hand trembling on the trigger.

“We are harmony, Frankie. You and I. Don’t you see it?”

The door slowly begins to creak open.

Frankie pulls the trigger without thinking and the bullet goes high; into the plaster above the door. Dust and plaster fall to the floor.

The boy outside laughs. Frankie wets himself, just a bit, the urine running down his leg. He knows that laugh. He hears it every day inside his own head. He pulls the lever down on the .44-40 and the spent shell flies back over his shoulder.

“I miss’d on purpose, ya-asshole! Don-come any closer.” He hears the shake in his voice.

Again, that laugh.

The door opens, and there the boy stands, framed in the outside light.

Frankie stands from behind the couch, knowing this is his only chance. He can not miss. He will not miss.

He pulls the trigger.

The gun throws itself back into his shoulder. The sound is sharp and quick. The boy in the doorway opens his arms to the bullet, he holds no gun now. He is only a teenager, with dark brown hair and sallow skin, grown too tall.

He is struck in the gut and Frankie sees the shape hunch over into a ball.

“I gotch-you! I gotch-you, you bassard!”

As he says these words, the boy in the doorway looks up. He is smiling. He straightens and Frankie see that boy who is him is whole and unharmed. His eyes are not so hollow after all, they have a gleam.

“I diddin’t miss,” Frankie states. “I diddin’t miss!”

And he was right. He didn’t miss. He feels something wet around his mouth, wiping it with the back of his hand. It is red and bright. He can not feel his legs. He looks down and sees his life puddling on the floor. Puddling the way his mother did when he killed her with his knife. Puddling the way the animals did, when he was curious how they looked on the inside.

Sobriety comes a moment too late as Frankie realizes his stomach is plastered on the wall behind him. The boy in the doorway smiles.

“We are harmony,” he says, “just a little wrinkle in this beautiful world.”

Art by Anna Loscotoff, January 2022.  Pen and Ink.
Art by Anna Loscotoff, January 2022

Notes

Growing up, I was a huge Stephen King fan. I still am. I read my first Stephen King in 4th grade when I snuck “Pet Sematary” off my parent’s book shelf. It terrified me and I loved it, hiding under the sheets with a flashlight. I wanted to be a writer like him.

Recently, I reread his short story collection “Skeleton Crew” and I was struck by his story, “Cain Rose Up” which was originally published in 1968 for Ubris magazine. It is the story of a college student who starts shooting from his dorm room. I kept thinking, I don’t think he could write this story anymore. I think this story would be problematic in today’s world.

Then I got these words for Week 2, and it brought up all these questions about what can I write about? What is allowed? Stephen King never had a content warning, do I? Can I make this as graphic as I’d like to? The answer was no and I held back certain parts of the story because I was afraid of going too far. What does that say about me as a writer that I don’t feel safe telling the story I’m pulled to tell? Does it make me too cautious or does it make me realistic in today’s world?

How free can we really be? When do we cross the line? Can Stephen King be more honest with the words he wants to use because of his reader’s dedication? Yes, I think he can. And he’s earned it. Can I? It’s a great question and I don’t know the answer yet. Maybe I won’t ever.

Notes on Possible Endings

I had a hard time finding the end of this story. I had a hard time figuring out who the shooter was. I had no idea that the mom was dead and he had killed her until I wrote it.

One thought was that we never find out, that the bullets always just come from the forest and it remains a mystery. That felt a bit cheap though, like an easy out.

Then I considered, what if the shooter was the ghosts of all the other children he had tortured in his life. What if they surrounded his house and he had no escape from all the pain he had caused. Then I thought about all the pain he must have as this tortured soul, and that lead to the story you read here.

Once I decided and was headed in this direction, I found another ending that I may try in the future. I was very temped to change but wanted to find where this current narrative would lead me. In the other ending, instead of the gifts he receives here, the gifts are all items carried by soldiers in Vietnam (or WW1 or WW2 or Afghanistan). When the shooting starts, Frankie runs from the back of the house into the forest. As he runs, the environment begins to change, the sounds begin to change. I was considering Vietnam, so we hear the sounds of a helicopter and the air becomes humid. He starts seeing other soldiers through the tropical plants. I liked this possibility, in theory, but it felt too big for a week’s short story. Plus, it brought up the issue I had above… how does it end? This ending felt more Twilight Zone than King.

About the 52 Week Challenge

In case you are stumbling upon this and wondering what the 52 challenge is, please read about it here and here! (First link is mine, second link is my writing comrade Bridgette.)

We are using “Write the Story” by Piccadilly Inc. for our prompts.

Our words for next week…

Week 3 – Mash up two classic fairy tales into one story

Include: fireplace, sword, grove, stroke, underbrush, mourn, seven, friendship, cardboard, giver

Please join us and share! We’d love to read your stories.

52 weeks – Week 1 – Returning Home

52 Weeks – Week 1 – Avalon

A girl in a white dress stands in a ring of stones surrounded by mist. Photo by Anna Loscotoff, 2022.
  1. A new take on the Arthurian legends

Include: Avalon, crossbow, orphan, list, comrade, corruption, lake, enfold, disgraceful, grass

What is 52 weeks?

Bridgette’s Tale of Week 1 (my writing partner, and collaborator on this project.)

Returning Home

The fog swirls around my feet as I walk along the edge of the lake. There are shadows, swirling in the mist, light that moves and fades.

It has been so many years since I have seen the shores of my home, of Avalon.  I was made priestess here; the blue woad has faded from my brow and I no longer remember how to call the little men on the barge.  I don’t remember how to lift the fog.  

When I came to the water’s edge, I thought, perhaps,I would find the words to lift the veil.  I have only gotten myself further lost among the grasses and the reeds. Perhaps Avalon itself will take pity on me and allow me to slip, unnoticed, into the village of the maidens where I can sleep among them one more time in this life.

I am no longer a maiden.  My hands are swollen and can no longer weave or embroider.  I rub them together, trying to bring some warmth into my red and angry flesh.  My fingers have become tight and brittle, crone hands. I have lost those I loved, made an orphan through my own anger and stubbornness.  

The mist moves before me and I see the shadow of a boy standing at the edge of the lake.  His hair is golden and there is a glint of excitement in his eyes.  He turns to run back into the fog and I call out to him, trying to run after him, but my feet are slowly being suckled by the mud.

“Wait, boy!  I am lost!”

The boy stops.  I can see him just on the edge of vision.  As he turns back to me, I see that he is not a boy at all.  He is tall and strong and wears the antlers of the stag upon his head.

“Arthur,” I whisper.  

Arthur, my brother, grown young again.  Arthur as he came to me when we knew each other not.  When we performed the rites of the ancient people.  When he was made King.  Arthur, the son of my mother who was dedicated in her love to Uther, not her children.  So I was his mother.  His mother until we were each taken to be raised as our position dictated;  me in the land of Avalon as a priestess and Arthur as a foster in a trusted vassal’s home. Arthur was the only child of a contested King, his life lay in a delicate balance, and even he was not told who he was.  He was light and I was dark; him the son of the Pendragon, me the daughter of Roman rule and the old bloodlines.  

His tunic is covered in blood.  Is it that of the great stag or of my maidenhood?  I stagger towards him and when I am within reach, I see that there is a deep gash across his forehead and the blood on his tunic is coming from him.  His stomach has been laid open.

“Why did you kill me, Morgaine?”

“Oh my brother!” I cry and stumble forward, falling at his feet.

“Forgive me,” I say, “Forgive me the sin we committed.”

I look up at my brother but he is no longer the stag, no longer the youth I loved as both brother and partner in the great marriage to the earth.  Now he is King.  His eyes are lined and his hair has gone grey. The great sword of Avalon hangs in the scabbard I fashioned for him long ago.  I worked magic into that scabbard; magic that kept him from ever losing more than a drop of blood. And then I took it from him, took it when he refused to keep his promise.  Took it when he put the Christian god before the Mother, whom he had sworn to protect in all things.  

“How,” I asked, scrambling away from him, cowering.  The mud squished between my fingers through bundles of grass, wrapping around my hands like wool on the wheel. “I took the magic back!  I threw the sword into the lake; gave it back to the lady.”

Arthur pulled the sword from the scabbard and held it to the sky.  I heard the bells of Glastonbury, the Christian bells, coming though the mist.  I was blinded by the sound and when I opened my eyes again, the sword was melting away in the swirling white.  Arther clasped the wound in his side, blood pouring like a fountain between his fingers.  He fell to his knees and reached out to me, his blood mixing with the earth.  

“Why did you kill me, Sister?”

His words fill my head as his human form begins to dissipate, translucent and non-permanent.  My brother, the great King of the land, the King of legend.  The father of my only child was but dew on the grass. 

The silence of the fog surrounds me, deafens me, pressing inward.  I find my feet and stumble, straighten, and continue along the edge of the lake.  I am lost in the swirling silence of the fog, hoping to perhaps hear those bells again—the Christian bells—to know that I  am still of this world; to know that I have not wandered into the world of the fairy as I did so many years ago.  

Something is laying ahead of me, half buried in the mud, peeking out between the rushes, faint in the fog.  It is a crossbow, broken at the lathe, the cord unraveling.  There are muffled sobs echoing in the dense air.

“Who’s there?” I ask.  

The cries go quiet.  There is no response.

I step over the crossbow, tentatively, wondering what the mist is hiding from me.  

The shape appears from the fog; a form huddled on the ground, laying over something large.  A shuddering cry fills the air and I see the shadow shaking.  A man, bent protectively over a giant deer.  I see it’s antlers, a massive stag.  The stag is struggling to breathe but an arrow pierces it’s chest and it’s life blood is puddling around the knees of the figure.  

The man wails, the sound haunting as it seems to come from everywhere at once.  I feel his grief and begin to shake.  I want to give him his peace and turn to walk away.  I want to comfort him and so take no steps at all.  I am afraid to go back to where I have been.  I am afraid to leave the shore and never find my way from the fog. More, I am afraid, terrified, of this man crying over the stag.  I take a single step away and he hears the sound of my feet pulling from the mud.  

“Mother?”

I turn back to look at the man on the ground. My son, my Mordred. 

He turned his face to me, rage written around his eyes and mouth.

“Why didn’t you love me, Mother?”

In that moment, everything else disappears.  There is no fog, no lake, no stag.  There is only me, my son, and his utter hatred. 

Tears run down his face and drip to the stag as it takes it’s last shuttering breath.

My son.  The child I almost died in birthing.  The child I should have given to the fairy folk.  The child I saw as my own corruption, lets out a wail and my heart shatters.

“Why did you make me kill him, Mother? Why did you birth me if my only role was to kill my father?  Why did you refuse to raise me?  Were you so disgraced, Mother?  My comrades trusted me and I betrayed them, because of you.”

I reach out to him, the words stuck in my throat.  I wish I had been able to love him.  Perhaps, if I had, it would have made the difference.  Perhaps I would have had a voice in Arthur’s ear instead of that insipid Guinevere; always speaking of their Jesus and their piety.  How she looked at me.  How she punished Arthur when she learned of our sin. 

Sin!  What is sin?  Was I such the silly child that I could not see how the Goddess had placed me on a path to keep Her in Arthur’s court?  It was not sin, only the Great Marriage.  I did not know Arthur to be my brother then, only that he was the King of the land by the rites old and new.  

“Mordred,” I whisper as he cries over the flesh.  His body swirls in the mist and he is wrapped in a shifting white shroud; he and the stag disappear before me.  

I lower my arm, not knowing if these are the ghosts of Avalon or only the tricks of the mist on my ancient eyes, now cloudy and grey. 

I begin to walk again, my old legs trembling, past what has been my son, now only shadow.  I hear a bird’s call echo from the lake to my right. 

“Morgaine.” 

The voice is lilting, feminine, haunting.  It fills me.  I look for it’s source, but see nothing through the dense white air.  It is etherial and forever.  It brings a memory from my youth, one that I cannot quite grasp.

“Morgaine, have you finally come to the land of the fairy?  Have you come to your home?”

I am overcome with exhaustion and slowly feel my legs give way beneath me, collapsing into the mud.  

“Is that you, Lady?  The Land of Fairy was never my home.  Why should you say it is so?”

“You have always known you are of us, Morgan le Fay.”

“But I am of Avalon as well, and of this earth, while you have gone beyond the mists.”

“Perhaps it is so,” answers the Lady.  “It has been many years since you have come to our land.”

“Long ago, you asked to take my unborn son and when I refused, you told me to cast him out, for he would cause only hurt and harm.  I should have listened to you, but the fates intervened.”  I see a flash of her blue-dyed tunic through the shifting light. 

“Dear Morgaine, do you wish to join us here?  The sun shines on this side of the veil.  And while time does not run backward, you will have no pain.  The well is sweet and you will be treated as a queen.  When your death comes, it will be an easy one.  But it will not come soon, for you know the time in fairy runs long.”

I see her then, before me on the path, as she steps toward me extending her hand.  She is still young and blindingly beautiful.  Her hair is long and dark, her face unlined. 

I think about life with her, life in the land of fairy, life full of pleasures.  I think about my death, how I would simply fade away like winter, the snow of my life to water the fields.  

“No, Lady,” I say.  My voice is cracked and ancient and it hurts my throat to speak.  “My home was never in the Land of Fairy.  I will find my way to Avalon, or I will die in the fog along these shores.  It will be soon.  I know that now.  I do not want to simply wait in your world for it to come.”

She steps forward and touches the spot between my eyes where I once wore the blue sickle. 

“Bless you child, may you find what you are looking for.”

She steps back into the fog, leaving me crumpled and old in the wet mist. 

The cold moisture sinks deeply into my knees; the wet mud saturating the wool of my overdress.  Sleep is calling me and I lay my head on a pillow of reeds, looking up at the swirling white above my head.  I can see light shimmering through the fog and slowly, the shape of the full moon appears, bathing me in it’s silver light.  She calls to me; mother, goddess.

A new voice, grounded and strong, come through the mist.  A voice of my youth, of my soul.  

“Morgaine,” he says, and I see the man that I have loved in this life and the next, Lancelot.  He slips through the mist with assurance and kneels at my side, lifting me into his arms.  He is grey and lined but still beautiful.  He holds me in his arms like a baby.

“You have always been like a tiny bird, Morgaine.”

I lay my head against his chest and hear the living beat of his heart, strong and confident.  

“Will you take me to Avalon,” I say.  My voice is no longer my own, it is the voice of time; of unused memories.  

“I am taking you home,” he says.

He carries me along the bank, the fog beginning to thin.  A large white crane watches us from the edge; there is a splash as a frog leaps into the still water.  Pink light begins to replace the silver light of the moon in the mist.  

I feel stronger now, and when I try to speak, my voice is clearer. 

“I can walk now, Lance.”

“You were the only one to ever call me that.”  

Gently, he sets me on my feet and it is true, I can walk.  My legs feel strong. He keeps his hand in mine and I feel it’s power.  I feel his calluses against the palm of my hand. I feel his warmth moving up my arm.  

We are no longer at the shore, we are climbing.  

I remember.  I remember this place and they day we climbed the Tor.  I remember how I had wanted to give myself to him, give him my maidenhood.  Had he asked, I would have, even though I had sworn myself to the Mother, to wait until it was asked of me for divine purpose.  

If only I had given of myself freely, I would not have been used as a pawn in Lady Vivianne’s game of chess.   I could have ruled next to Arthur as the Lady of the Lake instead of hiding my face in disgrace in that oh-so-Christian court.  The list of my life would have followed a new path. 

My legs are stronger now and Lancelot turns to look at me.  He is once again the boy I remember, his eyes laughing.  My hand in his is no longer knotted and my hair which hangs about my waist is no longer grey and brittle; it shimmers like black silk.  

I meet Lancelot at his side and surpass him, laughing joyously, letting go of his hand as I run up the hill. It is still misty, but I see the predawn light in the east.  

He runs to keep up with me and when we reached the tor, he pulls me down into the grass, pulls me down at his side, and covers my face in his kisses.

This time, I choose to kiss him back with full longing; longing to finally make the choice that had been taken from me so long ago.  He buries his face in my hair and I feel his tears on my forehead.  I feel his body, strong, against mine.  This time, I do not shy away. 

I give of myself freely, opening to him, the merging of the Goddess and the God.  I give myself to the earth, to the mother, to my fate. 

After, enfolded in each other’s arms, we watch the sun as it lingers on the horizon and then begins to rise over the tor. The tattooed snakes of a time long before, wind about his arms, wind about mine, as I have only seen in vision.

It is as if we sit at the edge of time, the edge of existence, looking out over our fates.

“Will we have to do it all again?” he asked.

I smile, kissing him deeply.

“Yes, I suppose we will. Until we get it right.”

Notes

I was working on my story, unsure on what to use as a photo, hoping to get a drawing done, when the fog slowly enveloped the hills, swallowing our home. I ran to my daughter’s room and bribed her to put on this vintage Gunne Sax dress from my college years. The fog was biting and the wind was whipping through her.

Avalon – Avalon, for me, is directly connected to “The Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It is, and will always be, one of my favorite books. For me, Avalon is a place that centers of the wisdom of the early pagan beliefs. It is woman centered, it is focused on not losing the early religions to the mists, not losing the pagan traditions to the rising tides of Christianity. It is magic, but not in a fairy tale way. It is magic the way the moon is magic, the way fog seems to make things closer yet further, it is intuition and connecting with the inner self, it is maiden, mother, and crone.

Crossbow – War and hunting are what come to mind. To me, the crossbow feels more masculine. It’s not the act of archery, archery has a long history in use by women, but rather how the crossbow was manipulated to make it stronger, faster, and more deadly. It is more of a war machine. I am also influenced by the 2011 film, “We Need to Talk About Kevin” in which the crossbow become an important character of the film.

Orphan – To be alone. To lose everything you love at some point in your life. We often think of children losing their parents, but I think it goes deeper to times when we people have no one to turn to, they’ve lost their support systems.

List – Ordered, numbered, sequence, things we need to remember.

Comrade -Often reflected on as Russian, or fellow soldiers, but also friends and companions, those you have a bond with.

Corruption – Illegal, dishonest, especially in positions of power where the behavior is used to put others at a disadvantage while raising their own interests and giving themselves the benefit.

Lake – A still body of water, a place that is peaceful for me, although tension is under the water in that there are things we can not see or know. Symbolically, it is emotion.

Enfold – To wrap, to surround.

Disgraceful – Something which has brought shame upon someone.

Grass – Growth. I pulled an oracle card just this morning, and the message was growth and the image and word it used was grass. The card and the word seem to be working in my direction around my writing. I love a beautiful field of grass, the tenderness of the growth.

Initial thoughts–The body of Arthur lies beneath the lake, holding on to the sword of the lady. He lies in his chainmail and Morgain finds herself orphaned, wandering the shores of the lake, his ghost in the fog. She is visited by Lancelot, a ghost himself. Perhaps she will enfold him in her arms as she chooses to go to her own death? Enfolded by the fog?

Facts and History of Crossbows

Next Week’s Prompt

Week 2 –

Anonymous gifts start arriving at the doorstep

Include: teenager, camouflage, birch, harmony, rifle, screen door, wrinkle, dive, pick-up, sticker

Prompts from  “Write the Story” by Piccadilly Inc. 

About me…

The 52 Week Writing Challenge

My daughter and myself in a house of cardboard, Little Houses, 2012

Back some 15+ years ago, when my daughter was little, I met another mom at a mother’s support network. We became friends, casually at first, then closer, then many years when we didn’t hear from each other at all. We both believed in magic and mothering and nature and raising our children gently, surrounded by love.

In the last few years, we’ve found each other again. Through the start of the pandemic, we discovered our shared interests in writing and began to cheer each other on. In time, we’ve become writing partners and close friends. We decided this year to take on a challenge; 52 weeks, 52 short stories.

We are using the story prompts from the book “Write the Story” by Piccadilly Inc. and will be sharing each of our stories on our blogs as well as sharing each other’s work. You can find Bridgette at bridgettetales.com and I will link her version of each story with mine; same prompt that diverges in a wood, both of us beating our way through the branches and forging our own paths.

There are words we must use in our stories, weaving them in as naturally as possible. We agreed that we could change the tense of the word, if needed. I will keep my introductions simple, giving only the prompt, the words, and a link to Bridgette. Any thoughts I have on the words or experiences they bring up will be shared after the story itself.

If this sounds like a fun challenge and you’d like to join, I will post the next week’s prompt at the end of the current week’s challenge.

, Bridgette and I, summer 2021.

Oz – day 15

Day 15 progress, 2021, traveling through Oz.

So the Woodman took his axe and began to chop down small trees to make a raft, and while he was busy at this the Scarecrow found on the river bank a tree full of fine fruit.

L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Thoughts

This chapter is really more of a transition chapter where not a lot happens. It’s the calm before the storm. That honestly made it a lot harder for me to write–I fought my way through this chapter. In the original book, the transition from the Kalidah’s to the Poison Poppies is only half a page. A half a page! I just couldn’t leave it at that. It felt like nothing was explained, building the raft was glossed over, and nothing happened in those few paragraphs other than they prepare to cross the river. But these characters have souls and I wanted to honor that in whatever way I could.

On a personal note, this raw writing took place on November 15th, 2021, day 15 of NaNoWriMo. It is now the beginning of January as I prepare to post this blog. I used the end of November to finish NaNo and was successful in my 50,000 words. I didn’t finish rewriting Oz (and didn’t expect that I would in that time) and I am certainly not up to date on sharing the chapters I did write; there was just too much to tell. December moved quickly, as it so often does, amidst family and holidays and bringing things to a close for the cycle of the year.

I will continue posting the raw writing from NaNo 2021 through the coming months. I hope you will join me as we get to know Dorothy and her friends; one of my favorite chapters is coming up and doesn’t resemble the original story at all. I will be working on finishing the story–Dorothy has been locked in her room in Oz, dressed in green silk, since the end of November. I think she’s waited long enough. Happy 2022.

Day 15 – Coming to the River

Dorothy began to shake as they continued through the forest.  She felt so tired and could hear the echo of the Kalidah’s screams behind her.  She had seen them fall to their deaths; she knew they were dead, and yet their voices rattled through her memory. She had almost lost the Lion and the Woodman at the first divide. She had almost lost all of her friends at the second.  She kept seeing the Kalidah’s as they fell and the tears on the Woodman’s face, wishing that he did not have to kill.  She began to weep quietly as they walked, looking only at the ground.  Her pace slowed amongst the giant dark trees of the forest.

“Dorothy?”

Dorothy opened her eyes and found that she was at the edge of the yellow brick road, the tips of her silver shoes in the dirt, trees just before her eyes. The Scarecrow, the Woodman, and the Lion had all stopped and were staring at her.  Toto sat at her feet looking up at her with devotion.  Dorothy realized that she had been walking half asleep, lost in her visions of the day.

“I’m so tired,” said Dorothy, turning back to her friends.  “I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going.”

The Lion laid down upon his haunches.  “Get on my back and I will carry you.”

“No, I can walk!  Really I can.  I don’t want you to have to carry me.”

Lion gave a little growl that was almost a purr. “Get on my back, Dorothy.”

Dorothy relented and climbed upon his back; the Scarecrow and Woodman helping her from each side.  She wrapped her hands into the Lion’s mane and laid forward on her belly.  Feeling safe and warm, she fell fast asleep.

She awoke when the pace of the Lion slowed.  Opening her eyes she saw that the trees had thinned and there were blue skies stretching to the horizon.  There was a large and swift river which roared before them. The yellow brick road traveled down to the river’s edge and disappeared beneath the swirling currents, reappearing at the far side.  

On the other side of the river were open rolling hills covered thickly with deep scarlet flowers.  The brick road on that side was lined with fruit trees; the fruit dripping like jewels in deep sapphire and ruby and gold.

“It’s so beautiful!” said Dorothy, sitting up on the lion’s back. “I can walk now, Lion.”

 The Lion stopped and lay on his haunches and she slid to the ground.  The trees were tall and willowy here and the Woodman and the Scarecrow stood back among them, talking quietly and looking at the river before them. Dorothy watched as the Lion and Toto lapped up water from the river’s edge and she realized how dry her throat was. She carefully made her way to the edge and cupped the water into her mouth, delighted at the cold as it wet her parched throat.

When her thirst was somewhat satisfied, although not completely quenched, Dorothy felt the grumble of hunger coming from her empty belly. She found a grassy spot near the edge and began to snack on the nuts from her pail.  Soon, a gloved hand came to rest on her shoulder and Dorothy looked up into the Scarecrow’s torn face.

“The Woodman can’t cross without rusting,” he said. “How ever will we get across?”

Dorothy realized that she had given no thought to how they would actually cross the river. She stood and turned to look at her companions; the Woodman looked mournfully at the water.

“Do you think that he could ride on your back, Lion?” asked Dorothy.

“Let me see how deep it is,” responded the Lion and began to wade into the water.  A few steps in and they could all see that the water deepened quickly, the current wrapping around his shoulders and pulling at his mane. He seemed to stumble as he turned back to the shore.

“It is possible that I could swim it, but it would pull me downstream some distance.  The water is much faster deep under the surface, even near the edge, and it pulls the river bottom out from under my feet. Anyone on my back would have to hold on tightly, and even then, I am not sure that I could keep them above water.”

Again, they all looked at the river as it tumbled past.

The Scarecrow turned to look at the tall, narrow trees around them, dotting the landscape. If Dorothy hadn’t known that the Scarecrow lacked a brain, she would have been sure that he was contemplating something. Finally the Scarecrow said, “Woodman, can you build us a raft?”

The Woodman looked at the thinning trees around them, many of them were young and narrow.  

“I can cut them down and perhaps make a raft of these, but I will need something to help tie them together. Vines or long grasses that can be braided.”

The Woodman began to chop. Scarecrow walked down the river as the water flowed, looking for anything that might help bind the logs.  Dorothy and Toto walked up the river, seeing what they could find to tie their raft. Lion stayed with the Woodman and carried the logs in his mouth, lining them up side-by-side on the shore. 

Dorothy found beautiful stones and delicate trees, but nothing like the Woodman described.  Toto sniffed and dug and jumped and played, but discovered nothing that would hold the logs together.

By the time she and the little dog returned, she found Scarecrow sitting next to the cut logs, braiding together long vine-like branches that were soft and pliable. The Woodman was at his side, twisting the braids around the logs, weaving the strips in and out. Sitting where she had left her bucket of nuts was a pile of fruit in various shades of purple.  

“Scarecrow!  Did you find these for me?”

“Yes, Dorothy. They are just beyond the curve of the river, and it seemed that you would like something after only eating the dry nuts all day.”

Dorothy took a deep bite and her taste buds prickled as the sweet juice ran down her chin.  She hadn’t realized how hungry she was for something fresh.  She ate three of the round, plump fruit, choosing those that were the deepest colors. They were soft to her touch, neither too hard nor bruised nor squishy.

Lion was laying away from the rest in tall grass, his head upon his paws.  

“Lion,” said Dorothy, “while Woodman finishes the raft, would you like to take Toto to find some food?”

Toto jumped up, having heard his name and ran to the Lion, running in circles around him.  The Lion stretched longly and said, “Thank you, Dorothy.  I believe I smelled deer not far from here.” Then he bounded back into the trees with the little dog at his side.

“What are you doing?” asked Dorothy and came to look over the Woodman’s shoulder.

“Scarecrow found us these branches and stripped them of their leaves. I showed him how to braid them and now I am tying the logs together. ”

Dorothy saw that the branches were very thin and had tiny curved diamond leaves.  Scarecrow had made a pile of the leaves and was twisting the branches together to form long ropes.  

“Where did you find these?” she asked the Scarecrow.

“The tree sat right on the edge of the river, just past the fruit tree. You could see it’s roots stretching out into the water.  The branches curved up to the sky before bending down and hanging like hair.  Under the branches, it was like being in a little house.”

“Is it far from here?” asked Dorothy.

“No,” answered the Scarecrow, pausing for a moment. “It is only a little past the fruit tree.  Would you like to see it?” 

“Yes, when you are finished doing what you are doing, I would.”

Scarecrow continued his rope making and Woodman continued to weave the ropes through the logs. Dorothy lay on her back and watched the clouds pass overhead.  She ate a bit more fruit and daydreamed of crossing the river.  She imagined Oz welcoming her with a hug, his arms wide to her and her friends, happy to grant each of them their wishes.

The sun was low in the sky and the clouds were beginning to take on reds and yellows on the edge of the horizon when Scarecrow told Dorothy that he could show her the tree. The walk was much shorter than she expected and soon they were passing a tree thickly draped in fruit. Just beyond, at a curve ahead in the river, Dorothy saw the silhouette, sitting along the edge of the water. It appeared to be crying, hunched over the river, it’s roots stretching into the water as it’s leaves draped to the ground.  

Scarecrow and Dorothy crawled through the outer branches and underneath was, as Scarecrow described, like a little house.  The side which faced the river protected a calm little shallow, where fish darted amongst the long branches.

Dorothy lay on the ground away from the water and said, “Scarecrow, do you think that we could sleep here tonight?  I think that it would be warmer than out in the open.  What do you think?”

Scarecrow seemed to think for a moment, pausing in his response, and finally he looked down at her and said, “I think that that would be a very good idea.”

They returned to the Woodman to tell them their plan, only a deep purple filled the sky.  The stars had begun to blink and twinkle, and Lion was back with Toto at his side.  Toto ran excitedly up to Dorothy, happy to see her, wagging his tail and telling her all about their adventure in his way of barks and yips.  

The raft lay beautifully fashioned on the ground, tied with the ropes made of the thin branches.  It was large enough to hold even the Lion. 

“I have almost finished,” said the Woodman, “but because it is dark, I will wait until morning.”

“The tree that Scarecrow found seems like a good place to sleep, ” said Dorothy.  “It is covered and it seems warmer under the branches.  Would that be okay with all of you?  It’s not far from here.” Dorothy’s voice was hopeful.

They left the raft on the ground, for it was far too heavy to carry, and walked together to the weeping tree. 

Under it’s branches, the Lion laid down and Dorothy cuddled close into his thick mane.  Toto cuddled into her chest and fell fast asleep.  The Woodman stood guard outside of the tree with his axe held ready.  Scarecrow sat next to Woodman and watched the river flow, listening for any sounds that might mean danger.  

The night passed and Dorothy began to feel like she was home. 

Oz – Day 14

“They are monstrous beasts with bodies like bears and heads like tigers,” replied the Lion; “and with claws so long and sharp that they could tear me in two as easily as I could kill Toto.”

L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Thoughts and Questions

This part of the chapter discusses a creature called the Kalidah; part bear, part tiger. On day 7, I created a type of bird that isn’t in the original book and I called them “Keliemas”. I named it this by merging two prehistoric predatory birds, the Kelenken and the Seriemas (Kel-iemas). Was it synchronicity that these two animal names are so close or was the Kalidah name already bouncing around in my head? I did research that day into ancient birds, it felt authentic.

I wonder if, at the time, Baum didn’t have a lot of mythical creature experience to pull from. The Kalidah’s in the original manuscript feels almost introductory to the idea of a mythical hybrid creature. While they may have been scary at the turn of the century, how can I make them scarier? Also, the name “Kalidah” is a known aspect of Oz, and one thing I committed to is keeping the authenticity of the book. So perhaps I will go back and change the name of the birds? I considered creating new creatures in the place of the Kalidah, perhaps the combo of a Kalidah and a Tarasque? Kalasque (Kal-asque)? (A Tarasque has the head of a lion, body of an ox, a turtleshell, 6 bear legs, and the scaled tail of a scorpion.) But when I looked up Kalidah images, so many wonderful things come up through history, that I just don’t feel I can change it and only need to make it more dramatic.

These are all thoughts for the next draft, as the first draft is really just about discovering the story.

Day 14 – The Kalidahs

The lion laid on his side panting.  They did not want to rush him, and having come so close to losing both the Lion and the Woodman in that moment, Dorothy felt it best that they all rest.

The forest on this side of the chasm was thicker.  The trees appeared older and the branches looked like claws, stretching down to the yellow brick road.  Dorothy sat with her back to a tree looking over the divide and began to snack on the nuts that Scarecrow had collected.  Toto curled up next to Dorothy and took a little nap. Soon his feet were twitching and he made little yipping noises.  The Woodman leaned against a tree, his eyes closed.  Scarecrow hummed a tune quietly as he watched over the others.

When the Lion’s breathing finally slowed, he got to his feet and stretched.  

“Are we ready?” he asked in his low growl.

Toto woke at the Lion’s voice and imitated the Lion’s stretch. He wagged his tail and began down the road into the deep darkness of the forest.  The Lion followed the little dog while the Scarecrow helped Dorothy to her feet.  She linked her arm on one side with Scarecrow and on the other with the Woodman and together they followed the Lion.

The thick trees above them blotted out the daylight and the branches seemed tangled and bare under a high dark canopy.  They began to hear sounds deep in the forest, sounds of trees echoing as they fell and crashed.  The sounds of snarls and growls.  Dorothy pulled her two companions closer and they began to follow the lion more closely.  Toto stopped running ahead and walked only a step in front of the great Lion’s legs. 

“This is the land of the Kalidahs,” said the Lion in a whisper.  

“What are they,” asked Dorothy.

“They are terrible creatures,” he said and a shiver went through his body.  “They have long claws that are so sharp, they can cut even though the Woodman’s body.  And their teeth are stronger than mine.  They will kill me if they find me in their forest.  They will kill all of us.”

“Perhaps we should move more quickly?” asked Dorothy.

“I will move behind you all,” said the Lion. “Then I will remember that you are here if I get too terribly afraid. I don’t want to run away and forget.”

Toto moved close in front of Dorothy.  Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Woodman, began to walk more quickly.  Behind them walked the Lion, watching all sides and listening for sounds that meant the Kalidah were close.  

Up ahead, they saw a break in the trees and light filtering into the dark forest.  Once again they found themselves at a deep divide. The trees went right to the edge, their roots exposed in the walls of the cliff. It was a much further distance than the last chasm and Lion had almost not made that final leap.

“Do you want to try to make the jump, Lion?” asked Dorothy.

“I do not think I can make the jump alone, and I know that I can not make it with each of you on my back.”

They all stood and stared at the space between where they were and where they needed to be; the yellow brick road trailing off past the cliff and between the trees ahead.  

They heard a loud yowl come from the forest, answered by a deep and throaty growl. They turned to look at each other.  The scarecrow began to shake.

“We need to figure something out quickly,” said Dorothy.  “I think the Kalidahs will know we are here very soon, if they don’t already.”

Again they were silent and still, trying to figure out the puzzle of crossing the divide.

Scarecrow began to scratch his head, “I wonder…” he said quietly. They all watched as he walked to a tree which was set back several feet from the edge. No other trees stood in front of it.

“What do you wonder?” asked Dorothy.

“Woodman, when you chop down a tree, can you make it fall in any direction you want?” asked Scarecrow.

“Yes,” said the Woodman, and they all watched as he moved to the opposite side of the tree and then began to walk around it.

“Do you think,” said the Scarecrow, “that you could make it fall over the gorge?”

“Scarecrow!  That is a wonderful idea!” exclaimed Dorothy.

The Lion looked from Dorothy to the Scarecrow and then to the Woodman.  “I do not understand how the tree falling will help us?”

“If the Woodman can make the tree fall, it will make a bridge for us to cross; it will stretch from this side to the other.  Do you think that you can cross on the log Lion?” asked Dorothy.

“I am willing to try! If I did not know there was only straw in your head, I would think that you had brains!” he said to the Scarecrow.

The Woodman began to chop the side facing the gorge.  While the tree was quite thick, he worked quickly and the wood rapidly chipped away.  There was a cracking sound as the tree started to lean.  With a final chop, the Woodman stepped back and they all watched the tree fall, it’s top easily spanning the distance. A great cloud of dust rose from the other side.

“Quickly, Toto!  You’re first!” said Dorothy and Toto ran easily across the wide bridge.  

There was a low growling sound coming from the forest behind them.

“Quickly Dorothy,” said the Lion.  “They have seen us.  I will go last and keep them away as long as I can.”

The log was quite wide for Dorothy to walk on, but the curve where she walked and the wrinkled bark made her feel unsteady.  She balanced with her arms sticking straight out and focused only on Toto standing at the other side.  He stood growling and barking, his eyes focused on something behind her.

There was the sound of a wild scream from the forest behind them, but she did not turn to look.  She heard the lion begin to growl, a low tremble that seemed to shake the log itself.  Finally reaching the other side, she leapt from the log and scooped Toto into her arms.  Turning, she saw that the Woodman was right behind her, using his axe like a cane.  Behind him stood the Scarecrow, shaking , crawling on his hands and knees.

The Woodman stepped from the end of the log so that only Scarecrow was left in the middle.

“Look at me, Scarecrow,” Dorothy said and the Scarecrow’s eye’s snapped up and met hers.  “You can do this, just move slowly and keep looking at me.”  The Scarecrow did move slowly, but his shaking slowed and he looked more confident. 

Beyond the end of the log, the Lion paced back and forth, never taking his eyes from the two shadows approaching in the darkness of the old forest. He continued to growl. 

The Scarecrow finally made it to the end of the log and fell to the ground, scooting back, away from the break in the earth.

“We are all across Lion!  You must come now!” called Dorothy.

“I can not turn my back on them,” the Lion roared.  “They will kill me if I do!” He continued to pace.

Dorothy could see glowing in the darkness of two sets of green eyes as they moved closer to Lion.  

“The log is just behind you Lion, do you think that you can walk backward over it?” yelled Dorothy.

The Lion did not take his eyes from the approaching creatures, he turned to face them head on.  Then Dorothy saw that he took a step back, his hind foot feeling for the tree.  Once his foot was on it, Dorothy saw the claws of his back foot extend deeply into the bark.

The deep shadows of the Kalidah’s moved from the dark of the forest and Dorothy could see that their eyes were set in the face of what looked to be a giant cat.  Their faces were striped black and orange and they had great white whiskers that twisted and turned as their eyes followed Lion’s movement. Dorothy saw Lion put his second foot on the log behind him. 

The bodies of the Kalidahs emerged from the forest. The one on the right was smaller than the other but even still stood several heads taller than Lion

They had smalll, alert, rounded ears on the tops of their heads. Their noses were broad like the lions, but they had no mane and their stripes extended down their face and into a coarse bushy hair that hung from the rest of their bodies. 

“You are doing it!” yelled Dorothy as the Lion continued to move backward, both back feet digging into the tree.  He was not completely on the log when the Kalidah on the right let out scream and the other began to hunch, as if it were preparing to pounce. The Lion extended his strong front paw and swung at the creatures, snarling as he did.

The larger of the Kalidahs moved back a step and began to pace, watching the Lion.  Their great burly bodies did not match their catlike heads.  Their chests were broad and their legs were heavily muscled.  Their bellies were full and round and heavy. Their deep brown hair hung off of them in a shag and stood at attention along their spine.  

The Woodman whispered, “When Lion makes it here, they will simply follow him over and kill us all.”

Dorothy saw that he was right; they could not outrun these creatures, and Lion could not fight them off forever. 

Lion was now almost halfway over, walking backward, watching the Kalidahs and snarling every time they began to step upon the tree trunk.  They continues to hiss and growl, but they did not seem to want to fight on the log itself. They watched Lion closely and paced about the edge.  

Beyond their heavily muscled bodies and dark wired fur, orange and black stripes seemed to grow from their haunches and extended onto a long, feline tail.  Their tails swished back and forth in rapid succession.  It was not the joyful wag of Toto, but an irritated focus in it’s movement. 

The Lion was closer now, his back legs only a few steps from Dorothy.

As one of Lion’s feet settled onto solid ground, the larger Kalidah stepped onto the log.  Dorothy saw it’s razor sharp claws reflect the light as they extended into the wood.

Dorothy heard Lion speak.  “You must all to run into the forest.  I will fight them for as long as I can, but you must do what you can to get away.”

“We won’t leave you Lion,” said Dorothy.

“Then we will all die,” answered the Lion.

As Lion’s second foot stepped on land, Scarecrow suddenly exclaimed, “Woodman!  When Lion is off, you must chop the branch so that this end falls into the ravine.”

“But that will kill them!” exclaimed the Woodman.

“Then they will kill us,” growled the Lion, as he finally stepped completely from the log.

The second Kalidah had begun to cross and the first was almost half way, growing and snarling.

The Woodman began to chop.  He chopped just beyond where the log met the earth.  He chopped frantically and without break.

The Kalidahs moved closer, their eyes focused intently on the Woodman.

There was the sound of wood splintering and just as the log began to break, the second Kalidah crouched as if to jump.

The closest of the beasts clung desperately to the log as it fell, tumbling over and over–a yowl of outrage and anger as it crashed to the rocks below.  The second of the beasts, the smaller of the two, jumped just as the tree broke and it seemed to fly at Dorothy from across the divide.  The distance was too far and, while it reached it’s long claws to the edge, it missed and followed it’s companion to it’s death.

They all stood staring into the canyon for a long time.  When Dorothy finally looked up, she saw that the Woodman’s face was frozen in rusty tears.  She asked Scarecrow for the oil can, and together they rubbed the rust away.

“I didn’t want to kill them,” said the Woodman, when he could finally speak again.

“You saved our lives,” said Dorothy.

“I wish that I could save you without hurting anyone else.”  The Woodman hung his head and they all continued along the yellow brick road. 

Curiosity Research

How to Fell a Tree

List of Hybrid Creatures in Folklore

Mythical Creatures: 15 Of The Strangest ‘Hybrids’ From Around The World

Deviant Art – Kalidahs

All the Chapters so far


NaNoWriMo Goals 2021

Day 1 – How Uncle Henry and Aunt Em find Dorothy

Day 2 – The tornado

Day 3 – Arriving in Munchkinland

Day 4 – The Munchkins and the good witch of the North

Day 5 – The Shoes and preparing for a journey

Day 6 – The Yellow Brick Road

Day 7 – Boq and the Birds

Day 8 – Helping the Scarecrow Down

Day 9 – Scarecrow’s Story

Day 10 – Meeting the Tin Woodman

Day 11 – How the Woodman became Tin

Day 12 – Meeting the Cowardly Lion

Day 13 – The First 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. Plus, would Dorothy have much 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.

Chapter 8 – 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 if 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 into 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 theses?”

“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, setting 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 feel 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 imaging 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 stretches 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 it 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, wiggled his bottom, his tail flicking frantically.  His muscles tensed and it was 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 had 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 gently 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 leapt.

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 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. 

Research

3 Edible Wild Mushrooms (and 5 to Avoid)

The Taste Bud Map You Learned in School is All Wrong

Oz – day 12

Questions

Baum never gives the Cowardly Lion a back story. Do I want to create one for him? The others have back stories based on the the original works. What would make Lion so fearful? Would he be born fearful and then be rejected by his pride? Or was he a completely normal lion cub and then something happened to make him fearful?

Chapter 7 – Meeting the Cowardly Lion

“How far is it to the Emerald City?  Do you know, Woodman?”  asked Dorothy.

They had been walking for many hours and the forest stayed thick and dark.  The yellow road was uncared for and trees grew right to the edges of the bricks, lifting the bricks with their roots.  Scarecrow was falling less and was becoming more aware of the dangers in the road ahead of him.

“I don’t know.  My father went once when I was a little boy, but I have never been to the other side of the forest.  I remember that he was gone for a very long time.  He told me that the  land was dangerous but that it was beautiful when he got close to the Emerald City.”

A screech came from the trees to their right and they all jumped and looked in that direction.  Toto, who had been walking ahead, slowed and walked just in front of Dorothy.  Soon, a low growl came from their left.

“Dorothy, you should walk between Scarecrow and I,” said the Woodman.

Dorothy moved in-between them, Toto now close to her feet.  

In the distance the sounds of a long howl echoed, it seemed to bounce between the trees and each of them looked in a different direction.  They moved closer together.  Dorothy wound her arms between those of her companions.   

“I’m afraid,” said Dorothy quietly.

“Don’t be afraid, Dorothy.  You have the mark of the good witch on your forehead.  No one will hurt you.  The scarecrow doesn’t feel pain and can be put together again.  And as long as I have my oil can, nothing will hurt me.”

“But what about Toto!” Dorothy exclaimed, looking up at the Woodman.  She let go of their arms and bent, scooping Toto up to carry him against her chest.  

Suddenly there was commotion just ahead of them in the trees; loud crashing and limbs falling to the ground.  The air shook with a roar and an enormous golden blonde lion leapt onto the bricks in front of them.  Dorothy stumbled backward with Toto in her arms, but neither the Scarecrow or the Woodman were fast enough.

A huge paw swept through the air, it’s claws outstretched. The Scarecrow went rolling to the edge of the road, straw filling the air.  There was a loud metal ringing as the Woodman was knocked from his feet and slammed into a tree at the edge of the road.

Toto squirmed in Dorothy’s arms, growling, and suddenly broke free, running at the giant beast.  The Lion roared again but took a step backward as the little dog ran at him. Toto bit deeply into the Lion’s paw.

“Ouch!” The Lion exclaimed and jumped backward, pulling his leg away from the snapping dog .  “You hurt me!” And then, to Dorothy’s surprise, the lion began to cry.  Huge, thundering sobs.  He held his paw in the air.  Toto stood growling in front of the lion, protecting all of his friends.

Dorothy saw her poor friend the Scarecrow huddled at the edge of the road, shaking. His coat appeared to be torn and he was surrounded by hay.  She saw the Woodman, lying on the ground against a tree, his eyes closed.  She saw her little dog barking at the great crying creature and she was suddenly filled with rage.  

Walking forward, she scooped up Toto and slapped the nose of the Lion.  “How dare you scare us like that!”

“What was that for?” came his mournful response and he began to cry even more loudly as enormous tears fell from his eyes.

“You knocked down my friends!”

“I didn’t know they were your friends,” the lion said shamefully.

“Of course you did!  You apologize.”

The lion began to tremble and looked as if he were going to run back into the forest.

“You stay right there and apologize to my friends.”

Finally, with tears streaming down his face, the Lion said, “I’m sorry that I scared you.”

“That’s better,” said Dorothy, “Toto, you watch the lion and don’t let him go anywhere.” Toto gave a bark and turned to face the lion, a constant grown in his throat. 

The lion sobbed as Dorothy went to help up the scarecrow.  “Are you okay, Scarecrow?”

“I’ve lost a bit of straw is all,” said the scarecrow, his voice shaky. The lion’s claws had torn a bit from the bottom of his coat and knocked a button from his shirt. Hay lay about his feet. She helped the Scarecrow up and together they gathered the lost hay and stuffed it back into his shirt.

The Tin Woodman has now sitting up next to a tree, his hands pressed into his head. He was turning his head to the right and the left. 

“Are you okay Woodman?” asked Dorothy.

“I suppose it is lucky that I don’t have a brain, my head is ringing.”

Dorothy and the scarecrow helped the Woodman into a standing position, and Dorothy saw that the claws had dented the Woodman’s arm.  

Dorothy turned to the Lion.  “Look what you’ve done!  You have damaged his arm with your claws!”

“I didn’t mean to,” said the Lion, his sobs had quieted and he was licking his paw.

“Well of course you meant to!”

“I only meant to scare you,” responded the Lion, petulantly.

“Are you so big and brave that you need to scare a little girl and her companions?”

“No!” roared the lion.  “I am not brave at all!” With this, he sunk to the ground and began to weep again.  “I have never been brave.  I am always afraid.  I am afraid of the forest and I was afraid of you.  You have the silver shoes of the witch.”

“Then why didn’t  you just leave us alone?” asked Dorothy.

“Because I wanted you to go away. And I thought if I scared you, you would go back to where you came from.”

“We can’t go back from where we came from, we are going to the Emerald City.”

“Why are you going there?” asked the Lion, looking up from his injured paw.  

“Because I want to go home and I need the wizard’s help to get me there.  The Scarecrow needs a brain, and the Woodman needs a heart.”

“Can I come with you?” asked the Lion shyly.

“Why?” asked Dorothy.

“Because I am afraid of everything.”  The great lion then tucked his eyes beneath his paw so that Dorothy could not see his face.  A moan escaped his body.  

Dorothy looked at the Scarecrow who shrugged his shoulders.  She looked at Woodman who nodded his head. 

“Toto,” said Dorothy, “you can stop your growling at him.” Toto stopped and wagged his tail. He ran back to the Scarecrow and sat at his side. Dorothy walked up to the Lion and sat next to him, stroking his giant mane.  He began to quiet.

“What made you so afraid?” asked Dorothy.

“I don’t know,” said the Lion.  “I have always been afraid, for as long as I can remember.”

“Did you always live in the forest?”

“No. When I was a cub I lived with my mom and our pride in the west lands, not as far as the witch, but where the land is dry. The witch wanted to control us, to make us work for her, but the Lionesses refused and decided to leave the land. It is only little things that I remember. The dryness. The way that my mother was warm. Her smell. I remember other cubs. I remember us walking and searching for a new home.”

“I remember the day that the flying monkey’s came…”

“Flying monkey’s?” asked Dorothy.

“Oh, yes, they are the minions of the witch!” said the Woodman.

“Terrible creatures,” said the Scarecrow.

“There were so many of them,” said the Lion, “that the sun went dark and the air was filled with the flapping of their wings. My mother picked me up and hid me under a pile of rocks. I remember her telling me not to move until she returned for me.”

“I heard the monkeys screeching and screaming and I heard the Lionesses roar. I heard the flapping of their wings until there was no sound left. The sound of them fighting scared me, but the quiet scared me even more. I waited there, under the rocks, for my mother to come back, but she never came back. I was afraid to leave. I hid until my throat felt like it was filled with sand. I was hungry and I was thirsty, but mostly I was afraid.”

“Finally snuck out from the safety of the rocks. There was my mother, lying among the other Lionesses and their cubs. I tried to wake her, but she refused to move. They were all dead, lying in dried puddle of their own blood.”

Lion had begun to quietly cry again as Dorothy stroked his thick fur. “Poor Lion. What did you do then?”

“I tried to cuddle underneath her for a bit, but she was cold and she smelled different. So I walked in the direction that we had been heading. Every sound scared me and I hid every chance that I got. I didn’t know how to hunt, but I was so hungry that I learned to catch mice and bugs and sometimes even birds. The mice scared me, they were so small and fast, but they were easy to find. Finally, I found a spring of water. It grew and led me to the forest, where I hid.”

“I remember my first roar, and even it scared me.  But all the animals of the forest ran and hid from me.  For the first time, I did not feel so afraid.  When any of the animals came near me, all I needed to do was roar, and they would leave me alone.  So I began to roar more and more, but inside I only felt afraid.”  The Lion began to cry in great huffing sobs.  “I am a coward.”

“Lion,” said Dorothy gently, “would you really like to come with us to the Emerald City? It might be a very scary trip.”

“Really?” He peeked out between his paw.

“Yes, really.  It would be nice to have someone as big and strong as you to help us on our journey.  And if we need something to leave us alone, I think your roar would do very nicely.”

“Do you think that I can ask the wizard for something?” asked the Lion.

“What will you ask him?” asked Dorothy.

“I will ask him for courage.  I am tired of being scared.  All that I want is to be brave.”

“Yes, Lion,  I think that if Oz will grant us our wishes, then he will grant you yours as well. Now, let me see your paw and make sure that Toto has not hurt you too badly.”

The Lion lifted his paw and saw that Toto’s tiny teeth had not broken the skin.

“I think you will be okay,” said Dorothy, “perhaps a bit of a bruise under your fur, but I don’t think that he cut you.”

Together, Dorothy and the Lion stood, and they all began to walk again down the yellow brick road.  The Lion padded ahead, and while Toto occasionally grumbled and growled, in time Toto began to walk at the Lion’s side.  It seemed to Dorothy as if the Lion and the dog were having their own conversation as they walked.  

As they walked the trees slowly began to open, with more space to see the sky.  The trees began to move a bit father back from the road.  The Woodman slowly fell back and when Dorothy turned to see why, she saw that rust had formed in streaks down the Woodman’s face.

“Woodman, why are you crying?”

But the Woodman only shook his head.

Scarecrow quickly reached into the lunch bucket and removed the oil can.  He poured oil at the Woodman’s eyes and jaw and mouth.  He gently rubbed the Woodman’s face with his glove.

Finally the Woodman said, “When we began walking again, there was a little red beetle walking in the road.  I didn’t mean to, but I saw it too late.   I stepped on the poor little thing and I killed it.  I rusted myself with crying.” 

“Oh, Woodman, you should have said something before you rusted yourself!  There are many bugs in the road and there will be many more before we arrive in Oz.  You must not be so hard on yourself.”

“No, I must be harder on myself,” the Woodman responded.  “I have no heart and I don’t know when I am being mean.  I don’t know if I am doing hurtful things to others.  I do not wish to be cruel, and so I must pay even closer attention to every step that I take.  You, you have a heart Dorothy.  Your heart will guide you to do what’s right.  But I must work to be good.”

The Woodman continued to walk, but he was very careful with every step that he took.

Photo by Arleen Wiese @krummel courtesy of Unsplash.com

Rabbit Hole of Research

Dissecting a Lion’s Jump

12 Amazing Facts About Lions

Dynasties: Lions with Pride

Understanding Lion Infanticide

Oz – Day 11

“After this the enchanted axe cut off my arms, one after the other; but, nothing daunted, I had them replaced with tin ones.”

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum

Thoughts for today

I think the Tin Woodman’s story in Baum’s original story is just about the most heartbreaking story in the book. It is also one of the most problematic. It’s never discussed in the film, and rightfully so, it’s gruesome. Essentially, the Woodman falls in love with a Munchkin girl but SHE only promises to marry HIM if he’ll build her a better house. (Male authors, males authors at the 20th century,… are these the views we have on women?) Reading this automatically bothers me; why can’t it be that the Woodman is so in love that he wants to show his affection by building her a house? Why can’t she be the one who doesn’t care about such things. Baum’s story goes on to tell us that the girl lives with an awful old woman who is SO LAZY (really???) that she goes to the Wicked Witch of the East because she’ll do anything to have this girl continue to do the cooking and the housework. (Getting a better feel of Baum’s feelings about women yet?) So the old women gives the witch two sheep and a cow, because witches care about these things? The Witch enchants the Woodman’s axe and it systematically begins to chop off his limps. But Woodman is honestly like, “This at first seemed a great misfortune, for I knew a one-legged man could not do very well as a wood-chopper.” Yep, that’s his response to getting a leg chopped off which he has replaced with a tin one. Finally, all of his limbs are chopped off and then his head and eventually his body is chopped in half. He no longer has a heart, could care less for the girl and her tortured life as a slave to a selfish old woman, and egocentrically is in love with his tin body that can no longer be hurt by an axe, plus, you know, it shines in the sunlight.

Yeah, that’s the story of the Woodman. I just have to do better. Let me know what you think of the Woodman’s story in the comments below.

Chapter 6 continued – The Woodman’s Story

“Of course you can come to the Emerald city with us!” said Dorothy.

“We would be grateful for your company,” said the Scarecrow.  

Toto barked and hung back, hiding behind the trees.  He was not as comfortable with the man made of tin, but he had not seemed comfortable with the scarecrow at first either.  

They all walked back to the cabin, Toto trailing far behind.  Dorothy picked up the funnel lying next to the stream and repacked the little bit that was left of her breakfast.   

Once near the cabin, the Woodman said, “I will need to bring the oil can, in case we meet a storm.  I would like to fill it before we leave, with your help?”

Inside, the Woodman looked around at his cabin and the trees growing through the walls.  “It was not like this when I left the last time.  It used to be a home, and now it is a forest.”  His voice was low and regretful and Dorothy could feel his sadness.  “I guess I will not need this place anymore, and should I someday come back, I will build another.”  The Tin Woodman walked to what looked to Dorothy like a dairy can in the corner.  She hadn’t noticed it earlier as a tree had grown in front of it and it appeared to be lodged in place. 

“What is that?” asked Dorothy.

“It is all the oil I own in the world.” It took some time for the Woodman to free it and then walked to the cook stove, looking at the shelf that hung above it.

“I wonder where my funnel has gone?”

“Oh!  I have it here,” said Dorothy, pulling it from her lunch pail.

Scarecrow held the small oilcan still on the floor while Dorothy held the funnel in place over its opening.  The Woodman lifted and poured the oil until the can was full.

“This will have to do until we reach the Emerald City,” he said.  He closed the large oil can and placed it near the wall. Dorthy closed the small oil can, so that it would not spill.  She took the food out of her lunch pail, there was so little of it now, and placed the oil can in the bottom where it sat crookedly, tight against the sides. She rewrapped the food and set it on top.

“I will carry the lunch pail for you Dorothy,” said the Scarecrow.

“And I will hold the axe, in case we have need of it,” said the Tin Man.

They walked back to the yellow brick road and the brick eye of Oz showed them their way. Dorothy, Scarecrow, and the Woodman walked side by side while Toto ran ahead.  The road was rough and the trees grew between the bricks.  The further they walked, the closer the forest came to surround them and the thinner the path became; it’s outer bricks now scattered among the plants.   Toto had a easy time navigating the spaces as they narrowed but Dorothy found herself squeezing between trees and helping Scarecrow over branches.  Finally they came to a place in the road that was impassable.  The Woodman held up his axe and began to chop.  He cleared the branches and logs, giving them a new path, walking ahead of them to clear the forest. The bricks were so thick with dirt that only an occasional glint of yellow showed the way.  For some time, the Woodman continued ahead of them. He never spoke, the only sounds were of his chopping blade.

In time, the trees began to recede from the center of the path and their way became clear again, although still worn and dirty and damaged. Dorothy became less attentive to the Scarecrow, watching Toto ahead as he leapt at a brilliant blue dragonfly.

Suddenly, with a great crash and a yelp, the Scarecrow went tumbling and rolling to the side of the road.  He sat there, rubbing his head, a bit of old hay falling from his mouth.

“I’m sorry Scarecrow!  I was distracted watching Toto.”

“It’s okay Dorothy. I think that I am starting to figure it out, but I was watching Toto too and was wishing that I could run and jump the way he does.”

“Why do you fall?” asked the Tin Woodman.  

“Because I don’t have a brain and I am a fool,” said Scarecrow sadly.  “That is why I am going to see Oz.”

“I had a brain once,” said the Tin Man, “but it is my heart that I miss.  That is why I wish to go to the Emerald City.  Do you think Oz will give me a heart?”

“It’s hard to know,” said Dorothy, “but if he will give Scarecrow a brain, I don’t know why he would not give you a heart.  What happened to you?”

“Many years ago, I do not know how many because I do not know how long I’ve laid in the forest with my face in the mud and my head buried in leaves, I fell in love with a Munchkin woman.  I had been raised in the forest, flesh and blood, like you Dorothy. My father was a woodsman and sold the wood to the Munchkin people.  He taught me his trade and as a teen, I worked at his side.  Before I hit my 20th birthday, my father died.  I promised my mother that I would care for her for as long as she lived.  After my father died, her sadness was so deep, there was nothing I could do to bring her out of it.  She wasted away, and in a year, she joined my father in death.

I was lonely in the forest, and so began spending more time with the Munchkin people.  I continued to chop the wood for them and traded for food.  I never starved and the Munchkin people became my friends. They brought me into their homes and told me their stories.  There was a young woman of the flower fields, they called her Iris.  Her eyes were lavender and her hair was a pale red sunrise.  

I fell in love. Deeply in love, and she loved me.  I wanted to marry her, but I wanted to build her a beautiful home first.  She told me it didn’t matter, that she would come live in the small cottage.  But I didn’t want to make her live in the one room and I didn’t want to isolate her deep in the darkness of the forest.  I began to build her a home on the edges of Munchkin Land, so that I could return to the forest for wood and she would be close to her people.

Her father, his name was Lox, wanted her to marry one of their own kind. Not someone like me. He was powerful, serving on the Council of the Munchkins.  He dealt directly with the Witch of the East.  She was cruel and she stole from the Munchkins, but there were those on the council who worked with her, willing to sacrifice whatever she asked so that she would leave them in relative peace. They did not want war with the witch.

Lox so desperately wanted me away from his daughter that he went to the witch and, in exchange for her killing me, he would give her the secrets of the council. She agreed and he became her spy.  In return, she put a spell on my axe.

One day, I was out chopping wood to build the house for my Iris and the axe acted as if it had a life of it’s own. I swung it at a tree and it turned back on me, opening my right thigh.  I fell to the ground in agony and watched my blood soak into the ground. I wrapped my leg in my coat and pulled myself back to the cabin. Iris came and found me after I didn’t return to the land of the Munchkins, delirious with fever. Pus and blood had soaked through the wrappings. Infection had set in and I was close to death. She found herbs in the forest that kept me on the edge of life, neither in this world or the next. She brought the Munchkin doctor, but there was nothing that could be done. He took my leg.

She found me a small, one roomed house just outside of town and cared for me while I healed, never staying too long for fear of retribution from her father. She knew that he did not want us to marry, but she didn’t not suspect how much he hated me. She had other healers care for me when she couldn’t. My dear Iris brought in a tin smith who created me a leg of metal.  In time I healed and returned to the forest to chop wood.

She begged me to marry her. She said she would come with me to the forest, or we could live in the small house outside of town. But I was stubborn and wanted to build her a house with my own hands.

Iris’s father was angry that I had not died.  He watched as she cared for me and when I lived, he went back to the Witch and threatened that he would stop giving her the secrets of the council.  The Witch told him that her magic continued to work in me and that magic, dark magic, often took time.

When I went back to the forest, my axe again turned on me. This time it chopped deep into my left hip.  Unknowingly, Iris had sent a very small Munchkin man who hid within the trees to watch over me. She gave him herbs and instructions on how to care for me, should I be hurt again. He was able to move me to the cabin and give me the herbs that kept me alive. Then, riding his pony which had been left to graze just beyond the trees, he rode to Iris who again brought the doctor. I did not get an infection, but the wound was too deep and the Munchkin doctor took my left leg and hip. 

Again, Iris took me to the small home outside of town and cared for me. The tinsmith made for me my left leg. The little Munchkin who had watched over me in the forest told Iris that it was as if my axe had been bewitched, that it had flown from my hands. She pleaded with me to find another axe, but this one had been my father’s. I did not believe in bewitchment and though that perhaps I had been clumsy.

Her father, angrier than before, went back to the witch and the witch told him to wait. That the spell was working it’s magic and it was only a matter of time.

Iris begged for me to marry her so that she could be with me always. She wanted to live in the cabin in the woods.  She wanted to leave Munchkinland. Still I was stubborn.

Again, the axe turned on me, chopping off my left arm in a single stroke.  Iris, by this time, had begun to follow me into the forest and she heard my cries.  She took me to the cabin and cared for me there, not caring that the Munchkin people would spread gossip about us, alone together in the forest.  She brought her medicines and in time, the tinsmith created for me an arm.

Iris begged me to go away, to go with her to the Emerald City.  I believe that she had begun to suspect her father, but she did not know how he had bewitched the blade.  He never spoke kindly of me and told her that he did not wish for her life to be difficult, that he only wanted for her to marry someone like them.  He told her that her life would be hard, much harder, if she married a man outside of the Munchkin tradition.

Still, I believed that I could change his mind.  But I would not change his mind if I took her away, and so I begged that she stay with her family until our house was finished.  She, afraid of what would happen to me, but also trying to keep peace with her family, sent a Munchkin to watch over me through the days.

When I swung my axe once again, the axe took my right arm.  I watched it fall to the ground as if in a dream.  The little Munchkin carried me back to the cottage.  I begged him not to tell Iris of my arm, and to please bring the tinsmith.  Instead he brought Lox, Iris’s father.

“Haven’t you had enough?” her father asked me.

“All I want is to build your daughter a home.”

He grew suddenly angry, “I do not want my daughter to marry you!  You are not her equal.”

He did not know that Iris was standing outside the door.  When she heard his words, she no longer cared what the world thought.  She came into the cabin and told her father, ‘This is the one that I love.  Why can you not understand?’

Her father left, he was full of anger.  He went to the witch, threatening to expose her to the people of Oz, threatening to expose the council for working with her.

The witch of the East was not used to his anger. She held her tongue and told him, “the time is coming.”

Iris stayed with me in the cottage and begged me not to go out.  She sent a crow to bring the tinsmith and he once again created for me an arm. She begged me to leave with her as soon as possible, to leave the land of the Munchkins.  But I was stubborn. I did not want to prove to her father that I was not worthy of her.  

I told her that there was nothing left that the axe could do to me.  It had already taken my legs and my arms.   I told her that I was quite safe.  But I was wrong.

The witch’s spell continued to work upon my axe and as I raised it to chop down a tree, the axe turned on me and I watched as my head fell from my body.  My head lay in the leaves and I watched my body fall to the ground.  I should have been dead, but Iris had begged Locasta, the good witch of the North to put a spell over me.  Locasta was not as strong as the witch of the North, but her spell allowed Iris to keep a small part of me alive until the tinsmith could build me a head.  The spell of the Good Witch kept my spirit around me, so that even though I was mostly made of tin, I could still remember all that Iris and I had shared.

Oh, how I still loved her, even though I no longer had a brain.  For it was my heart that belonged to her.  My recovery was long and she cared for me everyday.  She made me her medicines and they were full of love. I believe it was the love she put in her medicines that truly kept me alive, more than the spells of the Good Witch would.

One day she could not find the exact plant she needed and so she returned to the village, knowing it grew along the river there. While there, people turned and whispered. Finally, she overhead someone speaking that her father had made a deal with the witch and that I would continue to die, bit-by-bit, until there was nothing left of me.  She tried to get back to me, tried sending a message with the crows, but she was too late.

I had gone into the forest.  The only thing left of me was my chest and deep inside, my heart, so full of love for her.  She was all I could see of my future, this woman.  I was blinded to the evil nature of the witch, blind to my own stubborn nature. I never understood why her father hated me so much. I knew I was a good man.

I raised my axe and when I swung it, it cut through the tree in a single stroke. Through the tree, it turned on me, cutting me open.  It left my heart exposed and the corner of the axe nicked my beating heart. I lay on the ground, feeling the love beat out of me, listening to my heart slow.  When it stopped, I had become so much Tin Man, that I did not die.  But I no longer felt anything.  

The crows that Iris had sent gathered around me. They sang a song of sadness as I lay in a world of nothing.

Iris followed their song and found me, falling to her knees.  She screamed at the world around us, wailed in grief.  I felt nothing.  The tinsmith came and built me a chest, but it was hollow.  He attached my head and my arms and my legs, but I was empty.  

Iris tried to make me love her again, but I could feel nothing for her.  I told her to return home where she would find someone else to love.  She begged me to let me stay, but I was indifferent.  In time she returned to the Munchkin people.  I have never seen her again.

In the years that I laid in the forest, unable to move, I thought about Iris.  I realized what a great loss it was, to have no heart.  It made me wish to to love again, to not feel this emptiness inside.  Perhaps, if Oz sees fit to give me a heart, perhaps I will find Iris again.  Perhaps she will forgive me.  I expect that she is married now. Perhaps she has grown old. I wish to tell her how I felt and that I am sorry that I was a stubborn man. I should have done as she asked and married her. I should have taken her away. But how was I to know?”

Dorothy found that she had tears running down her cheeks.  Their walking had slowed as the Tin Woodman told his story.  Now they stopped and Dorothy turned to look at him, “You are a great man,” she said.  “It is my dearest wish that Oz gives you a heart.”

Scarecrow, not having the capacity to think before he spoke, said, “I don’t know what I would do with a heart if I did not have a brain to understand love.”

To this, the Tin Woodman responded, “Having had both, I know that it is our hearts and not our brains that make us happy.”

Dorothy stood and thought about what each had just said.  She wasn’t sure if either of them was right or if either of them was wrong.  Was it the ability to think that allowed someone to love?  If she did not have a brain and only had a heart, could she live a truly happy life?  What she did know was that she was feeling very hungry and that the tiny bit of food left in her pail would not last long.  

Chapters so far


NaNoWriMo Goals 2021

Day 1 – How Uncle Henry and Aunt Em find Dorothy

Day 2 – The tornado

Day 3 – Arriving in Munchkinland

Day 4 – The Munchkins and the good witch of the North

Day 5 – The Shoes and preparing for a journey

Day 6 – The Yellow Brick Road

Day 7 – Boq and the Birds

Day 8 – Helping the Scarecrow Down

Day 9 – Scarecrow’s Story

Day 10 – Meeting the Tin Woodman

No Research Today…

Just my feelings about the original that you read at the top.

Oz – Day 10

One of the big trees had been partly chopped through, and standing beside it, with an uplifted axe in his hands, was a man made entirely of tin. His head and arms and legs were jointed upon his body, but he stood perfectly motionless, as if he could not stir at all.

L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Questions I had for today

What would the cabin look like in the daylight? Does it hint to the passage of time for the Woodman? In the book, the Woodman can already talk and can ask for oil, but if he has rusted, wouldn’t his mouth also be shut? How can Dorothy find the oil can without the Woodman’s help? In the original, the Woodman is standing. Would he still be standing after the passage of time, especially if he was chopping wood as he rusted?

Day 10 – Meeting the Woodman

When Dorothy awoke in the morning, she saw that an old and tattered blanket had been laid over her.  Light was streaming through the holes in the roof.  There were ferns growing through the floor and trees were pushing between the wall boards, branches growing in and out of the windows.  In the corner sat an old bed, the mattress rotten and collapsed to the floor.  A mouse stood on the edge of the blackened mattress, rubbing it’s little black eyes, and then darted back into a fabric hole.  In the other corner stood a rusted cookstove with an iron soup pot and a wooden spoon leaning against the inside. Above the stove was a shelf with an old metal funnel and a can with a handle and a spout.   The can seemed familiar to her, something from Kansas, but she could not place it.

“Where is Toto?” Dorothy asked, sitting up and rubbing her eyes.

“Toto woke with the sunrise and has been in and out checking on you while you sleep.  I saw him, through the window, chasing a squirrel.”

“Did you find this blanket?”

“Yes, it was laying over the end of this bed.  I hope you don’t mind, you were shaking and I thought perhaps you were cold.”

“That was very thoughtful of you” said Dorothy as she stood up, brushing the leaves from her hair and her dress.  She folded the mouse eaten blanket and laid it over the end of the bed.  Walking to the old stove, she looked in the pot and saw that whatever had once been in it had long dried to the bottom, the spoon appeared stuck.  She couldn’t reach the shelf.  

“Scarecrow, can you reach that can with the handle?”

Scarecrow brought the can down and Dorothy could hear liquid sloshing about inside.  She opened the top and smelled it.  The smell was also familiar, but she wasn’t sure why.  Closing it up again, she poured a tiny bit from the spout onto the top of the stove.  It was a dark brown color.  She rubbed a tiny bit between two fingers. It was slippery and did not come off easily.  She wiped her fingers on the corner of the torn blanket.

“What is it?” asked the Scarecrow.

“I’m not sure?  I think it may be some type of oil, but I don’t know what it’s for.”  She set it on the the cookstove.  “Scarecrow, can you reach that funnel for me?”

“What is a funnel?” he asked.

“The metal cup that is large at the top, but skinny and open at the bottom.”

The scarecrow reached up, taking it from the shelf, and gave it to her.  Dorothy rubbed her finger on the inside. Whatever had run through it had become sticky and could not be wiped away. She set it back on the cookstove and turned back to Scarecrow. 

“We need to find water.”

“Why?”

“I’m thirsty, and I’d like to wash my face.  I feel the dust from the leaves all over me.  I’d like to try to wash this funnel too, it may be helpful to us later.”

As they left the small cabin in the woods, Toto ran up to Dorothy.  He carried a rat in his mouth, his tail wagging. 
“I see that you have caught yourself breakfast.”

Toto dropped it at her feet.

“No, you caught that yourself, you can eat it.  I have a bit of bread and cheese left”

Toto picked up the rat and followed them proudly as they walked back behind the cabin.  Soon, Dorothy heard the trickle of water and, following the sound, led them all to a little creek.  Dorothy wondered if it was an extension of the creek they sat at last night.  

Toto sat next to a tree and ate his catch while Dorothy splashed the cold water over her face.  She unbraided her hair and using her fingers, did her best to comb the tangles back into place.  She tried scrubbing the funnel, but whatever had once run through it was mixed with dirt and it was unyielding.  Finally she sat to eat.  She had only bread and cheese and a bit of dried fruit left and was grateful that the scarecrow didn’t need food and that Toto had found his own meal.

“It seems a hassle to be human,” the scarecrow said.  He was standing near the tree where Toto was eating.

“What do you mean?” asked Dorothy, between bites.

“You must eat, and sleep, and drink, and wash, all while having thoughts in your head.”

Dorothy started to laugh, “I suppose you are right.  It is quite a lot of work.  Perhaps you  are lucky after all, to made of straw.”  

As she said the words, she thought she heard a groan coming from behind her.  The scarecrow gave a little jump and Toto began to bark.

“What do you think that was?” she asked quietly.

“I don’t know, I have never heard a sound like that before.”

Dorothy stood, leaving her pail and the funnel on the creek bank.

“There is is again!” she said.  It was louder this time.

Dorothy turned and began to walk slowly towards the sound.  Toto growled at her feet and the Scarecrow followed a few steps behind.

As she moved deeper into the forest, she thought she saw a glint of something on the ground.  It was covered in leaves and a heavy branch lay over it, but the sun was hitting it and she could see it glimmer in the morning light. Again she heard a moan, this time coming from the drift of leaves.

Toto ran up to it sniffing and growling, but then he began to dig and Dorothy saw more metal.

“What is it?” asked the Scarecrow.

“I’m not sure, can you move the branch?” 

While the Scarecrow lifted the wood, Dorothy knelt at the side of the pile and began brushing off the dirt and leaves. Underneath the leaves, she found an oddly shaped pile of metal.  It appeared to be a man made of tin, his body turned onto his left side, his face twisted into the dirt, his left arm twisted underneath him and buried in the ground.  Dorothy could see the shape of an axe extending from his hand.  

The man grunted a long moan, his mouth unmoving.  “Hlllllllmmmm Mmmmmm.”

Suddenly Dorothy remembered the strange can with the spout and the oil inside.  

“Oh!” She exclaimed, knowing now where she had seen it before.  Uncle Henry had one like it that he kept to keep the hitch on the wagon moving smoothly.  “I’ll be right back!”  She leapt to her feel and ran back to the cabin, grabbing the oil can from the stovetop and the thin blanket from the edge of the bed.

When she returned, she found that the scarecrow had removed the rest of the leaves.  The tin man was tarnished and covered in brown-orange rust. The man continued to groan, the words inside his mouth stretching out insistently. 

“Hllllmmmmm Mmmmm!”

“I’m going to help.  Is this what you need?” She asked and held the can up.

“MmmmHmmmm”

Dorothy poured a bit of oil on the tattered edges of the blanket and began to rub it into the corners of tin man’s mouth.  Rust rubbed off on the blanket, but in time the tin man’s lips began to open and close.  Dorothy poured more oil directly onto the joints at the jaw and rubbed with the blanket until the tin was shiny and smooth.

“Ahhhh, my mouth moves.” The tin man let out a great sigh of relief as he lay there on the ground.  “Will you oil my eyes?  They have sat open for so long.”

Dorothy careful ran the oil over the man’s eyelids and massaged with her cloth until they could close on their own.  

“Please, will you oil my neck?  I would like to turn my head again.”

Dorothy poured the oil at the base of the skull and around the jawline.  She poured the oil down the man’s spine.

“Scarecrow, I will rub the oil in with the cloth, but can you try to loosen the joints by moving them?”

And so while Dorothy went to oiling the man’s neck, Scarecrow gently tried to turn the head back and forth.  The rust and dirt was thick and, at first, the metal was frozen solid.  Scarecrow continued to work the metal as it began to squeak in protest.  Finally the Tin Woodman was able to turn his neck on his own.

As Dorothy began to oil the man’s shoulder, she asked him, “How ever did this happen to you?”

“I was chopping wood to keep the cabin warm when a storm came in from nowhere.  It was very cold and I was moving slowly.  It began to snow and suddenly, I was frozen in place from the ice.  I could not lift my axe. I could not take a single step.  I stood there while the rust took the place of the ice, growing thicker.  I waited for someone to come along, but no one ever did.  And then one day, I began to lean.  There was nothing I could do but wait.  Finally I fell over, my face pressed into the dirt.  I have watched the seasons pass as the leaves and dirt pile up around me.  I could not close my eyes.  I could only watch the passing of time.

Because of how he had fallen, Dorothy could only oil the tin man’s right side, and so she moved from his shoulder and arm, down to his hip, and finally his knee and ankle.  Scarecrow worked, bending each of the joints until the Woodman could do it on his own.  

“I’m not able to oil the parts of you against the ground, but once Scarecrow has your right side working, we will try to roll you on your back so that I can do the rest.”

Soon, Dorothy was working on the man’s left hip, and the man could sit.  And then he could stand.  Finally all of his joints had been oiled and the man, with the Scarecrow’s help, was able to stand.  

“I would have laid there forever if you hadn’t come along.  I am eternally grateful.  What has brought you to this forest?”

“We are going to see the Great Oz who lives in the Emerald City.  We were told to follow the yellow brick road and we came across your cabin.  It was dark and so we stayed the night.”

“Why are you going to see Oz?” asked the tin man.

“I am going to ask him to help me find my way home to Kansas.  And Scarecrow is going to ask him for a brain.”

The Tin Man stood silent for a moment and then asked, “Would it be possible that I come along?”

Chapters so far


NaNoWriMo Goals 2021

Day 1 – How Uncle Henry and Aunt Em find Dorothy

Day 2 – The tornado

Day 3 – Arriving in Munchkinland

Day 4 – The Munchkins and the good witch of the North

Day 5 – The Shoes and preparing for a journey

Day 6 – The Yellow Brick Road

Day 7 – Boq and the Birds

Day 8 – Helping the Scarecrow Down

Day 9 – Scarecrow’s Story

Today’s Curiosities

Vintage Oil Can Images

What Dogs Eat in the Wild

Oz- Day 9

“If your heads were stuffed with straw, like mine, you would probably all live in the beautiful places, and then Kansas would have no people at all. It is fortunate for Kansas that you have brains.”

L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Today’s Questions

Today I really began to wonder, what would it feel like to become aware as the Scarecrow was built? What sensations would he have and in what order would they awaken? The original “Oz” describes an order (which I have followed) but it doesn’t explain how this felt to Scarecrow. I also wondered, how would it feel for Scarecrow to just be left. How does this affect him? If his mouth and eyes were painted, what happened that they became gaping holes and a torn mouth? In the original, his mouth is painted on and so I (perhaps too logically, given the source material) wonder how he makes words. (I once had a teenager ask me what dinosaur I would own if I could own any. I told him a Brontosaurus and he reprimanded me, saying it was unrealistic due to the amount of food it would need. My concern over how a scarecrow talks with his painted on mouth is a bit like that.) I also wanted to know how he learned to talk and how he developed such good aim.

Chapter – Scarecrow’s Story and the Forest

Dorothy and Toto and the Scarecrow walked for hours along the yellow brick road.  In the land of the Munchkins, the road had been cared for.  It was smooth and clean and the bricks were in their proper places.  But as they walked, the edges of the road were no longer straight and the bricks began to show signs of wear.  The fruit trees had broken branches and the fields were overcome with weeds. Holes began to appear in the road where the bricks were missing and mud was splashed over their surface. 

There was no longer any fencing along the yellow road and the farms were set further and further back.  The homes looked worn and Dorothy did not see any Munchkins working in the fields.  The doors may have once been painted blue, but now the paint peeled.  Some doors were broken from their hinges and there were roofs that had caved in.  Dorothy sensed that they were being watched, but could never see any eyes looking out at them. 

The scarecrow, always walking in a straight line, began to fall.

“Scarecrow, do you see how Toto goes around the holes?”  Dorothy asked. 

“I am trying, Dorothy,” he would say, before tripping and falling again.

“Scarecrow, do you see how I am able to go around the holes?”

“I am trying, Dorothy.”  It was as if he could not see the danger.  

“Scarecrow, stop! There is hole in front of you,”  Dorothy warned. Scarecrow would stop but he did not seem to know how to go around the hole, and so Dorothy would move him into a safe position.

Toto ran ahead, not bothered at all by the rough road.  He seemed to take it as a game, jumping and leaping and wagging his tail.  Dorothy was watching Toto when the Scarecrow fell once again and landed directly on his face.

Dorothy caught her breath as she watched him hit the ground with a thump.  “Scarecrow, are you all right?” 

Scarecrow lay with his face on the ground.  Dorothy heard his muffled voice say, “I’m okay.”

She rolled him over and said, rather sharply, “Scarecrow, you must be more careful!  You scared me.”

“I’m sorry Dorothy. I see the spots in the road but it does not even occur to me that I might fall.  It is one of the problems with not having a brain, I suppose. I am sorry if I am slowing you down.”  He looked so sad that Dorothy promised herself that she would try to be more patient.

“You are not slowing me down, Scarecrow.  I just don’t want you to be hurt.”

“But I told you Dorothy, I can not get hurt.”

Once again, Dorothy picked Scarecrow up and put him to his feet.  Being made of straw and a broom, he was quite light.  

“Perhaps we should stop and have some supper.  I think I see a creek ahead, where the thicket of trees start,” said Dorothy.  

Dorothy took Scarecrow’s hand and guided him around the rough road.  

The creek was small but the water was clear and fresh.  Toto was waiting for them there, drinking deeply.  Dorothy unpacked the food, giving Toto a bit of meat and setting out cheese, bread, and fruit for herself.

The land was changing, it no longer seemed like farmland.  The trees were taller and the branches thicker.  Dorothy could see on the horizon very thick trees pressed together into a forest.  It appeared dark there, as though the sun, now moving lower in the sky, could not penetrate the leaves.  

“Would you like some bread or some cheese, Scarecrow?”

“I am made of straw, I do not feel hunger.  The food would have no where to go.  Tell me of your home Dorothy.”

“It is called Kansas,” and she began to tell him about the pale blue sky and how the earth was often dry.  She told him how the brightness of the colors here made everything seem gray there.  She told him of the storms that came suddenly and turned the sky green, and how it was one of those storms that picked her up and brought her here.  She told him of the grasshoppers that liked to eat their plants and how she did not have any friends there, because they lived so far from town and their neighbors.

Scarecrow asked, “If the land is grey, and the storms are fierce, and there are bugs, and you have no friends, why do you want to go back?”

“Because I haven’t told you about Uncle Henry or Auntie Em.  I haven’t told you of our horses, Shy and Brash.  I haven’t told you of the pigs and how the hens sing a song after they lay their eggs.”

“But why do those things matter?” asked the Scarecrow.

“Because I love them.”

“What is love?” 

“How do you…,” Dorothy had begun to ask how he could not know what love was, but caught herself, realizing that the Scarecrow had never known love.  He had never known anything but hanging from a post.  She started again, “Love is a feeling that you have inside of you.  It doesn’t matter what the world looks like around you. It doesn’t matter if the world is gray or if your home is small.  If you are with the people that you love, you feel like you are home.  And that is why I need to find my way back to Kansas.”

“What does it feel like when you feel love?” asked the scarecrow. 

“It makes you warm inside, and it makes your heart feel safe.  It makes you feel like you would do anything for that person.”

“Well then Dorothy, I love you.”

Dorothy smiled, “You don’t know me yet, we only met a few hours ago.”

“It doesn’t matter,” said the scarecrow.  “I feel warm inside when I am around you.  I feel like I would do anything to keep you safe.”

Dorothy reached over and squeezed the scarecrow’s hand. “Will you tell me the story of how you came to be hanging in the corn field?”

The scarecrow looked off into the distance. Finally, he started, “The first thing that I remember was pressure.  I think that this was when the man stuffed my head with straw and stuck the broomstick inside it to hold my head up.  All I could feel was a tightness that I couldn’t describe, only that I existed.  

Then, there was sound.  I couldn’t see, but I could hear.  I heard the voice of a man talking about fields and corn and birds.  You see, the first thing the man painted on my head was ears. I didn’t know what the words were, only that they sounded like music and they filled my head and I was happy.  

The next thing that the man gave me were eyes.  Suddenly the world wasn’t dark.  I saw a yellow light, but everything was blurry.  I saw the brush as it’s tip dotted my face.  As the paint dried, I saw the man.  I watched his mouth move as the sounds filled my head and I understood that the music was his voice.  We were in a room surrounded with brown boards and there were piles of hay against the wall.

Then he painted me a nose, and I began to smell the warm dust and the hay that was stacked around me.  I’ve come to know it as the smell of the land.  

Finally, he gave me a mouth, but it was only painted with red stain.  I did not know how to talk yet, only how to hear and see and smell.  I already had the pole in my head and I could see as he stuffed the pants with hay and wrapped the coat around me.  I watched as he put old boots on my feet and gloves on my hands.  

I could not move yet, I could only watch.  He sang to me the song that I sang to you.  Finally, he said, ‘Well, I think that you will scare the crows well enough.”  I felt proud; proud that I would do something well and proud to be in a body.  

Then he lifted me and carried me into the field. It was a far walk to where you found me.  He used a ladder leaning against the post and slid the wood up my back until I hung there, looking out at the waves of corn.  He filled my pockets with rocks.  “That is so that you don’t blow away in a storm,” he said.

And then he left.  I felt afraid and alone, surrounded by green in every direction.  I tried to get down from the pole, to run after him, but my arms only twitched a bit and my legs hung sadly.  I tried to call out to him, but my mouth was only painted on.  I managed to tear the fabric just a tiny bit, but I did not know how to speak. I could only groan through the hole.

The first sunset was beautiful, and I was grateful that he had left me facing that direction, but I was lonely.

In the beginning, the crows and the ravens left me alone, cawing from above.  They thought that I was a man, and they did not want me to chase them.  But in time, they knew that there was nothing I could do to them.  And so they began to eat the corn around me.”

“Were these the birds that tried to steal my food?” asked Dorothy.

“No.  Those are the Kaliemas.  They came later, after the crows.  The crows began to keep me company, but I felt guilty that I was not doing my job and keeping them from the corn.    One would sit on my shoulder and talk to me but I could only groan in response.  The more the crow spoke to me, the more I tried to speak in return. The more I tried to talk, the more my mouth tore open.  My voice became stronger with practice.  I practiced waving my hands and kicking my feet.  In the beginning the movements were tiny.  

The crows cheered my efforts and in their way, they were my friends.  But they were free and could fly away.  They told me what it was to think, to have a brain.  They told me that I was not much different than most men. They said that most men who have brains do not use them.  

You are lucky that you have a brain, Dorothy.  It is a terrible thing to have nothing in your head.

In time, the Kaliemas came.  They chased away the crows that were my friends.  They pecked away the paint at my eyes, but I could see more clearly, even in the dark.  I learned to throw the rocks in my pockets and was able to knock them out of the sky.  They left me alone, but again I was lonely.  Staring only at the sunsets.  

And then you came along.  And I am grateful that I was strong enough to throw the stones. I do hope that Oz will give me a brain.  I feel empty without one.”

“Even if Oz does not give you a brain, you are no longer stuck in the field. You can go anywhere that you want to.”

Dorothy packed up their food and they decided to continue on their way.  She was careful to guide the scarecrow away from the holes while Toto walked ahead. The trees thickened and soon they came to the dark forest.  The sun was low in the sky, but in the trees it was even darker.  

“Scarecrow, it’s starting to be too dark for me to see and we need to find a place to sleep.  You said that you can see in the dark. Will you look for a sheltered place for us to spend the night?”

“I will look,” he said.

She wrapped her right arm through the Scarecrows and felt Toto move next to her left ankle. 

“Scarecrow, I can not keep us from falling if we come to more holes in the ground.  You must tell me if you see something in the road.”

The scarecrow did his best to tell Dorothy what he saw.  Toto, who could see well in the dark, would stop and bark if anything was in their path.  In this way, they continued to move slowly through the dark forest.

“Dorothy,” said the Scarecrow, “There is a house on the side of the road.  It is set back a bit, covered in branches with trees growing up against it’s sides.  Do you want to go there?”

“Yes, please.  I am very tired.”

Scarecrow and Toto guided her to the door.  It was broken and hung from it’s hinges.  They went inside and the Scarecrow showed her to a corner that was covered with thick leaves.  Dorothy curled up and immediately fell fast asleep with Toto in her arms.  The Scarecrow stood nearby, watching over them as they slept, waiting for the sun to rise.

Chapters Up Until Now


NaNoWriMo Goals 2021

Day 1 – How Uncle Henry and Aunt Em find Dorothy

Day 2 – The tornado

Day 3 – Arriving in Munchkinland

Day 4 – The Munchkins and the good witch of the North

Day 5 – The Shoes and preparing for a journey

Day 6 – The Yellow Brick Road

Day 7 – Boq and the Birds

Day 8 – Helping the Scarecrow Down

Random Research

The Murderous 10-Foot-Tall Bird With a Beak Like a Pickax