Chapter 21 – Gitchy’s Gobble

 

"My idea for crossing…crossing this gobble…I haven’t the faintest idea," said the Metal Woodman, “I’m not built for climbing.”

 

The Manticore shook his shaggy mane, cocked his head, and sighed.

 

“I’ve appraised the situation and in that none of us can fly, that methodology is out of the question.” Scrobins said. "Thus, I’ve concluded my assessment and I await the next contribution of equally meaningful dialog.”

 

In rapid fire, Manticore’s eyes darted between the ledge he stood upon and the far side of the gorge. "I think I could jump over it," he said.

 

 "But,” I asked, "Can you carry us over on your back while you jump?"

 

 "Well, I'll try it," said the Manticore. "Who’ll go first?"

 

 "I will," Scrobins said. "If you fail and fall to the rocks below, only you will be hurt. If that works…I’m game.”

 

 "I’m terribly afraid of falling," said the Cowardly Manticore, "but I’d rather die trying, than to die a coward. So get on my back, Scrobins and we shall see what we shall see."

 

The great beast walked to the edge of the gobble and crouched down.

 

Well seated on the Manticore's back, the scarecrow slapped with a straw hand at the great cat’s flank. “Gid yap, gid yap cat and why don't you run and jump?"

 

"Because that isn't the way we Manticores do these things," he replied shifting his weight repeatedly as he prepared to spring. With a great bound outward, Manticore landed safely on the other side. We cheered the courage and strength of the great beast. After Scrobins dismounted, the Manticore returned with a bound to our side of the gobble.

 

Dorothy wanted to go next. She took me in her arms and climbed on the Manticore's back, holding tightly to his mane with one hand. Before I could worry, we too, were safe on the other side.

 

The Manticore readied himself to go back a third time for the Metal Woodman, stopped and said, “What was I thinking? There is no way I can carry William or that man of metal. Their weight exceeds mine.”  

 

Dorothy gasped and hid her astonished lips with trembling fingers, “we can’t just leave them.”

 

We murmured among ourselves and the best we could come up with was…perhaps they could find a place to cross.

 

“The woodman could clear a path easily. Besides, the ravine may end soon; and they could join us later,” suggested Scrobins.

 

The thought of leaving them behind upset me greatly, but the Manticore risked his life for us. What could we accomplish by asking him to carry us back? My acquaintance with Chip Chopper was recent. I liked and respected him, but we hadn’t formed a strong bond like that which William and I shared. I could not bear to look across the ravine for fear that William’s great bovine eyes would draw tears from mine. My eyes, like my heart, were heavy with sadness. I could not face her.

 

A howl cut through the woods like a knife…perhaps it was more of a screech or scream. Whatever, it seemed angry and I dog sensed that it oozed hatred… We turned at once to the source of that cry – was it on William’s side of the gobble or ours?  Frantically looking hither and yon, “Where are William and the metal man,” Dorothy asked in surprise, “They’re gone.”

 

“There, she was there, pulling a mouthful of leaves off that tree yonder, the tree with the red bark,” said the Manticore using his great black nose as a pointer, “and the woodman was with her.”

 

 “William…William…,” Dorothy hollered repeatedly. “We must go back and find her.”

 

 “How will that help? I can’t carry her,” said the Manticore. “And she can’t jump across the ravine, it’s too wide. Besides, what if the creature with that terrible scream was responsible for their disappearance?  If it was a dalialama, you may find pieces of your friends, but little else.”

 

With my tail between my legs and my ears hung low, I quietly said, “I refuse to believe that. I think they left knowing that we might not have gone on without them.” Nonetheless, I hollered anyway, “William…William…I know you can hear us…talk to me! William….Chip…”

 

Dorothy also cried out several more times. Her voice quivered. A minute later, I thought she would choke on her sobs as she could not seem to catch her breath. Shortly thereafter, she cried her heart out. A wave of relief swept over me. At least now it was evident she was breathing.

 

“First Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, now the woodman and William, why do I keep losing the ones I love?”

 

Dorothy snatched me up, held me close, and said, “How could I come to love someone so much in such a short time, Toto?”

 

I responded to Dorothy from my heart and in the only way, I knew…I licked her hand. Too often, I forgot that Dorothy was young in years and tender in life.

 

“I wish them safety. …And plenty of green grass for William to eat. …And someone to milk her…and love her. And Chip needs someone to care for him, especially when he rusts. If only they could continue with us to Oz,” Dorothy dabbed at her tears with her skirt. “If, if, if…Aunt Em always said, If wishes were horses than beggars might ride. But Uncle Henry always said, it doesn’t cost a plug nickel to wish, so wish away, and so I shall.”

 

The Kiss of the Northern Witch awakened. “It’s hot to my touch,” she said as she poked at it gingerly with a forefinger.

 

As we gazed upon it with great curiosity, another of those devilish cries snapped us back to reality and we looked about, unsure of the origin of that fearful racket. Despite this unknown threat, I could not keep my mind off the kiss. When the Kiss of the Northern Witch awakened, I was unable to find the descriptive words that the kiss deserved. Radiance, glow, or pulse, worked some of the time and well enough, except for those times that burn, blush, and aura seemed more appropriate. Regardless, the awakening of the witch’s mark carried meaning, a meaning thus far that lie hidden in mystery. As she planted it upon Dorothy’s brow, the witch said something about warning and protection. Perhaps the stress of Dorothy’s grief awakened the kiss. Perhaps, its radiance forewarned us of the beast with the devilish cry…perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…

 

My hackles rippled like a quick current in a rocky creek, but despite this danger, I could not quit thinking about that kiss. If a warning, was it a warning of any value? That terrifying howl was ample warning on its own. I tried to remember what happened to the Kiss when the Manticore attacked, but I could not.I sighed and concluded my assessment: the Kiss is but one more great mystery to add to this land of curiosities, this land called Oz.

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Toto says, "Let the Truth be Known; I Was There!"

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