Chapter 19 – Another Tag Along...a “Poor Pitiful Me”
"Very well, then, you’ve convinced me to accompany you," said the Manticore, "I can no longer bear this burden of shame."
"You are most welcome,” Dorothy blurted as she bad-dogged me with her evil eye. "You’ll be a big help in keeping away the other wild beasts, especially since your roar scares them so easily. Now, what is your name?"
“Name…?” replied the Manticore. “I am me and nothing more.”
Dorthy scrunched her eyes and popped a forefinger to her lips as she studied the Manticore. “You’ll need a name if you are to travel with us.”
“Perhaps if you do not call him,” I said with a great sigh, “he will not follow us to Oz.”
Scrobins ignored me and blurted, “Call him “Lion.”
“But only part of him looks like a lion,” Dorothy said as she stretched her neck to see more of the strange creature’s backside.
“Just don’t look at the other part of him then,” barked the scarecrow sharply.
Dorothy evil-eyed the scarecrow before she turned to the manticore and asked, “Until and unless we find another name more fitting, Manticore it is…if that meets with your approval, Kind Sir.”
“As long as I am a coward, you may call me what you like.” The manticore hung his head and sighed. “Perhaps, once I am not, I will change my name, but for now “Manticore” will do just fine.”
The rest of the day was uneventful, even peaceful except for an incident with the Metal Man. He stepped upon a beetle that was crawling along the road, and killed the poor little thing. This made the Metal Woodman very unhappy.
“I’ve come to value life above all else,” he said as he wept alligator tears of sorrow and regret. “If nothing else, my appreciation for life is the one good thing that came from my encounter with the wicked witch.”
He held the tiny crushed beetle gently with his great and powerful claw. Grief contorted his countenance to such an extreme, that we who gazed upon his troubled brow, also shared in his tears. After a bit, we tired of our grief, but not the Woodman.
“Woodman,” Dorothy walked beside the gentle giant and placed her hand on his forearm. “What can we do to ease your distress?”
The Woodman could open his mouth, but not utter a word; but not one of us knew that. In swallowing his tears, he had rusted his vocal cords together. Because panic and fear gripped him, Chip motioned with a variety of gestures, which we later understood were pleas for our help. Nevertheless, at the time, we believed his gestures had something to do with the crushed beetle he held in his magnificent pincher.
“What fun,” cried Scrobins? “Metal Man challenges us to a game of charades.”
“Keep your silence, Mr. Metal,” Dorothy said with a wag of her finger. “No word hints whatsoever; to speak is to cheat.”
The man of metal moved quicker than I believed possible, but each gesture was more frenzied and inarticulate than the last.
“A bird.” queried the scarecrow.
“Alligator,” Dorothy said when the metal man snapped his claw and pawed at his face.
“He’s hungry; see how he points to his jaw,” William said.
“But eat…he cannot,” I replied, “He is metal.”
“There are many times that I can’t eat, Toto, yet my hunger is great!” William said.
Unfortunately, Chip Chopper recalled that he had butter in his oilcan, squirted it down his throat, and in a matter of minutes, he regained his speech.
“See,” William said in an I-told-you-so tone, “The Woodman was hungry.”
“William wins,” shouted the scarecrow as he spread his arms wide and bowed graciously to acknowledge the cow’s victory. “That was great fun the few seconds it lasted.”
To my dismay, after a few moments, Chip Chopper could talk as well as the rest of us and set himself to the task of doing so with a rapacious diligence. I prepared my ears for the worst. So once more, we set off upon the journey with the Manticore walking with stately strides at William's side. I strove not to approve of this new comrade at first as I was still quite annoyed at the Manticore for threatening and comparing me to loud-mouthed baby alligators. In time, however, like William, the Cowardly Manticore and I became good friends. As we walked, I had time to think. Once Uncle Henry told Dorothy that when he was a young man, the army forced the Indians from their homelands and the road they traveled against their will, the Trail of Tears was its name. Perhaps every country has such a trail, and in the Land of Oz, it must surely be this Yellow Brick Road. Every creature we encountered was strangely unhappy and incredibly needy.
Dorothy craved reunion with her family; and Wizard or not, I still craved gizzards. But, the Woodman...crying when he stepped on a bug…seemed to me he has a heart already. Scrobins was the smartest among us, second only to me of course, so why he thinks he needs brains is beyond me. Now we have another tagalong…a great Manticore who claims to be a coward. None of it made any sense to me, but perhaps “nonsensical” defines very nature of the Land of Oz.