Raw Writing Day 16
The Raft and Crossing the River
Dorothy awoke in the morning, still cuddling close in the mane of the Lion with Toto nestled next to her. She looked up at the canopy of leaves hanging around her with the light filtering through.
She crawled through the hanging branches and saw Scarecrow sitting on the shore, throwing stones into the water. Beside him sat a pile of the beautiful purple fruit.
“Where is the Woodman?” She asked.
“He told me to stay here and to keep watch. He went to check the raft and to make sure it was ready for us. I picked these for you.”
Dorothy sat next to Scarecrow and watched the water flow past. She began to eat the fruit, delighting in its sweetness in the morning sun.
A groan came from under the tree and Lion came out, stretching with Toto close at his heels.
Once Dorothy had finished eating, they all walked to meet the Woodman and found him adding more twine made from the thin flexible branches.
“I think the raft is ready for us,” he said when he saw them. He gave Scarecrow a long pole fashioned out of the main trunk of a tree and carried one himself.
Lion, the strongest of them, pushed the raft forward until it was mostly in the water at the edge of the river bank. Only the edge of the raft still rested on the solid ground. Scarecrow and Woodman boarded first and stood at the far corners, Woodman at the front left towards the center of the river, and Scarecrow at the back right. They used their wooden poles as anchors, stuck into the river mud, to stop the movement of the raft.
Toto leaped to the front of the raft and turned to watch Dorothy. Lion lay down so that Dorothy could climb upon his back. Once she was secure, the Lion stepped broadly to the center of the raft, trying to keep his weight balanced. He immediately lay on his haunches to keep the raft from rocking dramatically. His movement onto the raft allowed it to push away from the shore and Scarecrow and Woodman began to use the poles to navigate across the river to the other side, to where the yellow brick began again.
The Scarecrow and Woodman struggled with the setting poles, the current was fast and the closer they came to the center, the more force from the moving water fought them on their journey. As they came to the center, the river bed deepened dramatically and neither Scarecrow nor Woodman could reach the bottom. The raft began to flow with movement of the river, bumping and rolling. They all watched as the yellow brick road disappeared behind them, now setting their sights on the river ahead. They watched as they passed the fruit tree and the beautiful tree with the long narrow branches that had been their home for the night.
The river narrowed and became more violent. Dorothy held tightly to Lion and Toto moved back away from the front edge.
“Keep trying to grab the bottom with the pole,” yelled the Woodman over the roar of the water, for the river had narrowed and the speed of the rapids had increased.
“We must go back!” Cried Dorothy, thinking of all their plans lost, the movement of the river stronger than they were.
They were carried forward some distance before the river began to widen and slow and Scarecrow suddenly felt the river floor beneath his setting pole. He shoved the quant down and deep into the mud, trying to push them all in the direction of land. But the water was too quick and the mud deep, and Scarecrow found the raft pulled out from underneath him. He was holding the pole which stood upright in the middle of the river, watching his dearest friends float away.
“Scarecrow!” Dorothy screamed at him from the raft, but there was nothing that any of them could do as they rounded a bend and lost sight of Scarecrow.
Scarecrow clung to the setting pole in the middle of the expanse of river, wondering if he could possibly swim to either side. But he was only made of straw and could not swim. If he entered the water, he would probably float with the current until the water soaked through the dry grasses inside him and eventually he would sink or break apart into his thousand pieces. It was possible that he would float to where the others were, but he suspected that he would not find them again, so he clung more tightly to the pole, his legs wrapped around just above the water.
“I am certainly in a worse position than I have ever been,” Scarecrow said aloud. “When I sat in the field, I at least had the sunset to look at, and now I must watch the water move underneath me for eternity, lest I fall. But mostly, I have never had friends before, and now I will miss them the most. I will never know if Dorothy and Toto make it home to her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. I will never know if Woodman gets his heart. I will never know if Lion finds his courage. And I will never get my brain. I will always be a fool.”
There he hung, waiting, but he did know for what, only that he wasn’t ready to let the river take him.
Dorothy, Toto, the Woodman, and Lion continued down the river. The raft would move closer to one edge and then the other, but Woodman could not make the quant stick in the mud. When he tried, the raft would turn around him and threaten to pull him off the way it did Scarecrow.
Finally, the Lion said, “I think that I can swim to the edge, and Woodman, if you can hold onto my tail, I think that I can pull the raft with me.”
Dorothy slid from the Lion’s back and took Woodman’s setting pole, holding it in the water, hopeful she would be able to help the Lion as they came closer to shore.
Lion crawled to the front of the raft as Tin Man took hold of Lion’s tail. The lion slid into the water and began to swim. He was slow and fought heroically against the current, turning the raft toward the shore. Woodman sat on the raft, his tin feet pressed against the earthen twine, He held the Lion’s tail with all of his might, his axe lying on the wooden timber next to him. Dorothy continued to push the quant down into the water, trying to find purchase in the depths below. With each stroke, Dorothy saw Lion move deeper into the water, his head moving lower.
With one final grunt, Lion pushed with all his strength and he found the tips of his paws brushing the mud beneath him. Dorothy watched as the bobbing of his head became a solid movement forward as he walked them towards the shore. Dorothy found that the pole could finally reach the earth and she began to push with all of her strength. The Woodman continued holding tightly to the Lion’s tail as they finally made it to shore, the edge of the raft settling into the sand.
Lion collapsed on the grass, panting great heavy gulping gasps of breath, his wet fur matted to his skin. They all sat, waiting for Lion to find his breath. When his breathing became normal, he finally sat up.
“We have to find Scarecrow,” said Dorothy.
“We have to find the yellow brick road,” said the Woodman.
“We will find them both, but we need to start walking,” said the Lion.
Together they walked up the river, slowly in their exhaustion. This side of the river was dotted with fruit trees and Dorothy picked the fruit as they walked, nibbling on the different flavors, noticing the different textures. They turned around a bend in the river and Dorothy saw something in the distance. Something perched on a stick in the middle of the river. She dropped her fruit and forgot about her exhaustion and she began to run up the river’s edge, yelling, “Scarecrow! Scarecrow!” Toto ran at her side.
As she got closer, she could see his arms and legs wrapped around the setting pole. He was watching her as she ran closer. Finally, she stood at the river’s edge.
“Hello,” he responded and Dorothy could hear the deep sorrow in his voice. “I am afraid I will not get a brain after all. I am afraid that I will not be able to finish our journey.”
“What are you talking about? Of course, you are going to finish. You are going to ask the Wizard of Oz for a brain!”
The Woodman and Lion finally arrived, they had not run like Dorothy, for the Woodman could not run unless his knees were very freshly oiled, and even then, it was quite slow. The Lion walked at his side, working to build back his energy.
Dorothy turned to look at them both, whispering, “How are we to get him down?”