Chapter 10: Let's Make a Deal or A Girl and Her Shoes
“Excuse me…excuse me…,” we awoke to a band of Munchkins rather than a sunrise.
“Sorry to awaken you,” said an elder with a long speckled-perch of a beard, “but we’ve a good day’s travel ahead…, saw you had a cow, and were hoping you’d share some milk.”
Dorothy was ready to give it all away, but I interrupted her. “Can you give us a minute or two, Kind Sir?”
I trotted over to William and whispered. “William, do you mind sharing?”
“I put you in charge of distributing my milk when we first met. But by the looks of your belly, I do believe you’re keeping most of it to yourself, Toto.”
I returned to the Munchkins and said, “Perhaps, Kind Sirs, we can work out a trade. Scrobins needs a shirt and pants. His frequent falls on the cobble road and encounter with briars on the roadsides have damaged his clothes. As you can see, he is leaking straw. This distracts William and slows our travel. If you’ll provide him clothes, and do the milking, we have a deal.”
The Munchkins whispered among themselves and the Elder replied. “Kind Sirs, we only have the clothes on our backs.”
“Excellent,” I replied…, “the pants on the tall man over there and his shirt…will fit Scrobins perfectly..”
After the scarecrow donned his new threads, he smoothed out his striped vest, shook the dust from his cloak, folded them neatly, and placed them in one of the sacks. Scobins would not part with his hat. However, it suited him in that it made him look brainless.
“Keep your vest and coat, but give me the rest of your damaged clothes,” I demanded. But Scrobins clung to them and turned from me.. After a bit of arguing, I got them from him so I could trade them back to the naked Munchkin in exchange for a hearty breakfast. Before I completed the trade, I made the mistake of asking if they had gizzards to trade for the scarecrow’s torn clothes. This I regretted immediately. Like Boq, these kind folk never ate chicken, and, therefore, had no gizzards to share. As did the others, these Munchkins, too, rubbed their stomachs, smacked their lips, and unleashed their great curiosity….
“The comb of the rooster,” said one, “bright red as it is, must be as sweet and flavorful as the best strawberry in the patch.”
“…sheer pleasure it must be to one’s throat to know the tickle of their feet,” said another. “What say you, Mr. Toto?”
“I’ve little to say with regards to the flavor of fowl feet as I savor only the succulent taste of gizzards. While I know of none who’ve eaten claw of chicken, my Kansas family is so poor that Aunt Em collects the feet of butchered fowl. When she deems their number adequate, she binds several feet of the rooster, which become hairbrushes. Those of the smaller hens are used as toothbrushes and picks.”
After some more lip smacking and jawing, I sadly bid the party of Munchkins adieu as I was glad for their company. If one had no gizzards to feast upon, talking about them was the next best thing.
“Wait…wait…yes, no…the young lady,” a slack jawed Dorothy hollered at the retreating group of Munchkins. “I just noticed your shoes, they’re beautiful,” she said as her eyes consumed the bright fuzzy shoes of a young Munchkin maiden named Preeka.
“Thank you,” Preeka said, “They’re made from the molting of the great blue and yellow Exalted Elephantine Caterpillar from the grand butterfly garden in the Emerald City.”
“I simply must have a pair; will you trade them for more milk?”
“No,” laughed Preeka, “William has been most generous.”
“Hmmm,” said Dorothy as she eyed the sacks William was carrying. “You’re most beautiful, Preeka, but I can show you how to set yourself apart. I’m from Kansas and our women are sublime and exotic. Give me a few minutes with a bit of blush and eyeliner and your satin cheeks will rival the dew on a petal of a rose and your eyes will stand out like fireflies at midnight. Your beauty will set you apart. Or if you’re simple lass, as Aunt Em would say, you’ll be the cat’s meow in the Land of Oz.”
An hour later…maybe more, Dorothy walked toward us wearing her most beautiful smile and her bright blue and yellow iridescent Exalted Elephantine Caterpillar shoes.
“Thank you for waiting so patiently, everyone. Girls and shoes are like dogs and bones,” she said with a smile and a quick wink my way. “Let me tuck these tacky witch’s shoes and my makeup back in the sack and we can go. Perhaps I should just leave them. Even Preeka said she’d rather walk back barefoot than wear old dead witch shoes.”
William paused, tucked a full mouthful behind a cheek, and said, “I’m a girl too and I’ve never had a pair of shoes. Would you mind terribly if I gave the witch’s shoes a try?”
“Gosh no, William, you’ve been such a dear. These shoes seem to be of one size that will fit all. Perhaps that’s their enchantment. None of the Munchkins nor the Good Witch know what their enchantment is…so, if you like them, just keep them. Hind or forelegs?”
“A lot can be said for a best first impression.”
“You’re so right, William…front legs it is. Now shift, lift, and bend that pretty hoof back…”
The sun marked our day as early morning when we left the company of the Munchkins. I dreaded the sling-swing. Seasickness is a terrible thing. So much so that I almost promised to trot rather than give the sling-swing another chance. However, Dorothy lifted me into it and by her narrowed gaze and raised brow, I realized that the matter was out of my paws.
With each step, William’s belly swung like pendulum, but her udder, moved with a mind of its own. I tried looking up, but the figure-eight motion of her udder upset my balance. I looked down, but that that side-to-side elliptical orbit of my sling was equally nauseating. So, I closed my eyes and prayed through the rest of the morning and into late afternoon.
As I lay incapacitated with closed eyes and in prayer, Dorothy led our troop with great skips and hops. Her fascination and infatuation with her new shoes was all consuming. “Preeka said that they’ll repel dust and water. Look,” she jumped nimbly and clicked her heels. “Preeka said they won’t wear out. Preeka said they’ll fit me like a glove…Preeka said…, Preeka said…, Preeka said…”
When Dorothy grew tired of talking about her blue shoes, she still pranced, hopped, and skipped about like a pixie. So unusual was her behavior that she became the center of our attention. So much so, that now and again, I’d crack an eyelid to watch her antics.
Before Dorothy traded for her shoes, Scrobins was the center of amusement and attention as we journeyed. He had mastered the art of the fall, the trip, as well as the forward and backward slip. Though he played the clown incessantly, we never tired of his tomfoolery. However, as I said, Dorothy’s infatuation with her blue caterpillar shoes was so over the edge that for the remainder of much of the day, we watched her and ignored poor Scrobins.
Earlier it became apparent that this road was not being well cared for; now I wondered if it was being maintained at all.
“How can this be?” said William said, “This road is the only route to the Emerald City. As it is, who’d bother to walk it?”
“No one is walking it but us,” Dorothy replied. “I’ve seen no one for the last couple of hours.”
As we navigated the perils of potholes, Scrobins unknowingly recaptured our attention. William caught on first and with a sly wink of the eye got my attention. The scarecrow kicked at loose cobbles, balled his grassy fists, swung at invisible enemies, and vacillated between heavy sighs and angry growls. The scarecrow’s annoyance at losing center stage to Dorothy’s admiration of her shoes was funnier than his playing the clown.
However, despite the condition of the road, with the addition of the sling-swing, our progress improved greatly. We traveled thrice the distance that day than the two days before. That night we rested by the roadside peacefully and I awoke feeling better.
I felt better the next day, but I was not enjoying the ride. The yellow brick road had pot holes and loose cobbles. That slowed us down considerably.
“What the devil was Boq talking about – enjoy the scenery?” Dorothy asked. “…When this road has been trashed.”
Despite the ride, I fell asleep and awoke toward the end of the day. As the sun bid us ado, the yellow brick road cut toward a great wilderness of thick mossy-bearded old man oaks. Minutes later, a midnight canopy of twisted limbs and blackened leaves hovered over us and a sign welcomed us to the Twilight Forest:
Ye That Dare,
Travel at Night,
Be Swift of Foot.
Be Ready for Flight
I felt like a Christian walking into a lion’s den.