Chapter 5: Go West Young Woman, Go West
“You can kiss my tail and hope I don’t move it,” I said beneath my breath, but Dorothy heard me, as did the witch.
“Toto, bad dog! Bad,” said Dorothy as she poked my nose harshly. “Any more of that and the first bar of soap I find will be used to clean the soot from your tongue!”
I was glad when the witch refused to come with us, and I did not care who bad-dogged me.
“Dogs will be dogs, my dear,” said the witch with a knowing smile and shake of her ancient head. “I know little of them as they’re rare in Oz, but it’s said that they’re long on bark and short on brains and that they spend too much time licking places where polite society won’t go.”
That comment really twisted my tail. Before I could reply, a terrible irritation demanded my attention and my words were suffocated as I chewed to relieve the itch on the underside of my back leg.
The Witch turned to Dorothy, held her cheeks gently, and kissed my little girl lightly on the forehead. I caught the scent of burning flesh and where her lips landed, a perfect red lipstick-like imprint of her kiss remained.
“Ow-w-w…,” Dorothy exclaimed. She jerked her head from the hands of the Witch and gingerly poked at the spot that the witch kissed.
William looked up when Dorothy howled and said, “…it’s red…and pulsing.”
“Such is the price you must pay for my protection. Your safety is worth more than your vanity, my dear. All will know by Kiss of the good Good Northern Witch that I stand beside you. Like a beacon in the night, by its radiant charm you shall know friend from foe and be safe beneath its umbrella of protection.…. Now you asked how to get to Oz.” Hot Lips continued, "The road to the City of Emeralds is paved with yellow brick. When you come before Oz, don’t be afraid of him, but tell your story and ask him to help you."
Dorothy held her bangs aside and rubbed her head gingerly. With a frown she said, “I’ve no idea how your…your…kiss will help me.”
“You will in time,” replied Dilibus with narrowed eyes and a toothy smile. “You will in time!” She gave Dorothy a friendly little nod, whirled about like a dust devil, and disappeared.
“Good riddance,” I whispered…in case she was still in earshot. “Now, let us get some gizzards.”
Dorothy was hungry and returned to the cabin to collect what food she could while a pack of Munchkins milled about gawking at us.
“Don’t you Munchkins have jobs or families that miss you?” I asked.
“That we do, Mr. Toto, and we’ve taken leave. I for one have called for my family to join us. Never before have we been visited by aliens from Kansas…and one of them being a sorceress at that.”
“Toto,” Dorothy said as she called me into the cabin. She held her basket so I could see. “We’re out of food except for this little bit of bread.”
“Too bad that Witch had nothing practical to share, like food. However, we’ve William’s milk…, and fruit, look yonder.” I turned and nodded toward a thicket of fruit trees…but they were practically bare. William hung her head and looked sheepishly our way; nonetheless, she snatched another fruit that hung in easy reach above her.
“What’re you doing,” I hollered. “This place has more grass than you can eat in a lifetime. Yet you have eaten almost all of the fruit, what shall Dorothy eat?”
“Uh-oh,” William said. However, she had the gall to pluck another fruit from a nearby limb. “I’m all done…no more fruit for me…”
“There’s still plenty of fruit that William couldn’t reach. Fruit, milk, and bread will have to do, Toto,” With that Dorothy slipped the handle of the small basket between her teeth and easily climbed a tree with the remaining fruit.
“William, we’ve more fruit than we can eat or carry…if you want more,” Dorothy said as she tossed her basket full of pickings into the soft grass beneath the tree.
While Dorothy picked fruit and William ate, I went through the cabin to see what was worth salvaging. Fifteen minutes later, I had a fine collection of provisions: rope, matches, bowls, a knife, an ax, a blanket, pots, and the list went on.
“Who knows what we might need,” I said. “It seems a bit foolish to waltz off with nothing but bread and fruit.”
No one listened and no one cared.
When Dorothy had eaten and filled her basket, she said. “Are we ready to head to Oz?”
“Not quite yet,” I said with a wag of my tail and a nod toward my pile of supplies.
“Toto, Dorothy said with a shrug, “How are we going to carry all of this? The pile is three times your size, hmmm.” Then she frowned, brought her hands to her hips, turned to me with narrowed eyes, and said, “You neglected my stuff, Toto, my Sunday dress and makeup. I’ll fetch it.”
From within the cabin she exclaimed, “Ahhh, there you are!” Dorothy peeked through the door, her face alight with the prettiest smile. She gently placed the makeup case on my pile of provisions and danced around, waving her dress. The dress was gingham, with checks of white and blue; and although the blue was somewhat faded from much washing, it was still pretty. “I’m going to put this on. Give a girl a bit of privacy please...,” Dorothy said as I followed her into the cabin.
“What…,” I said.
“Dressing in front of you…” she tossed out the rest of her sentence, “it’s different now that you can speak!”
I was waiting by the cabin door when she opened it. “You sure look fresh and pretty.” I wagged my tail vigorously and added. “With your basket in hand, you look like a blue Red Riding Hood and you smell better than a Sunday dinner!”
“Cute Toto,” Dorothy said with a curtsy as she tossed her worn trousers on top of my provisions. “I am bringing my denims of course; now start packing!” She tossed two potato sacks toward me.
While I thought about how I was going to get my supplies packed without any hands, Dorothy admired her dress, but stopped dead when she noticed her shoes.
“My Sunday shoes are pretty, but they won’t work for the long walk before us, Toto.”
I looked up at her sweet little face, and forgot about everything…. I even forgot about my gizzards. “I surely love you Dorothy!”
Dorothy was fifteen now and I have been part of her life for six of them.
“I love you too, Toto, and this quaint little cabin that holds so many memories for me.” Like the cabin had ears, she spoke to it, “I have lived in you for..., for as long as I remember; I’m not sure I’ll ever see you again.”
“I too will miss our home, Dorothy, but our memories…, these we shall never leave behind,” I said.
William paused her eating to say, “I miss my barn and stall, and I miss Jim, but…I’ve never eaten this well in Nebraska.”
As Dorothy was shutting the door, I first squeezed through and trotted to the corner where she threw the dead witch’s shoes. Returning with them, I dropped them at her feet. “Those silver shoes would look perfect with your beautiful dress...and the right make up, of course.”
"Those nasty things…,” Dorothy said as she nudged at them with the well-worn toe of her old Sunday shoe. “What proper lady would wear the shoes of a dead person…, even worse, the shoes of a dead witch?”
Dorothy stared with a wrinkled nose at the shoes for several seconds. Knowing Dorothy, I was certain her feet would be snug in those shoes in no time, but in silence, I waited for her to decide.
“Hmmm, Toto…I wonder if they’ll fit me?" Dorothy lifted them gingerly. Her wrinkled nose twitched. Her upper lip curled. "These are nasty, Toto. However, a lady must make do and if you promise to cross your little doggie heart and never to tell a soul, I’ll give them a try."
“I promise,” I said. Dorothy amused me greatly. I stood on two legs and pawed the air. I loved it when Dorothy…got excited and acted…well like Dorothy. “But take your old shoes too, Dorothy, in case these hurt your feet.”
Dorothy admired her witch shoes with mixed emotions as I called upon the Munchkins to assist in packing my provisions into the potato sacks. They were thrilled. So much so that they poked and pushed at one another to help to the point that I feared they would break our belongings.
“Take turns,” I said. “And you,” I pointed to a pouty faced Munchkin. “You hold the bag open. The rest of you get in line. Here is the rule. Those of you in line may only put one thing into the potato sack. You must get back in line for another turn. Heavy stuff goes on the bottom, please. No…that is Dorothy’s case, put it in last…thank you.”
“He cut in line,” said a beady-eyed Munchkin. His face was menacing and his voice quivered with ire.
“You,” I shouted to the line breaker. “Your beard marks you as an adult and by the length of it; you have been an adult for many years. Act like one and quit cheating. Now get back to the end of the line.”
“When can I hold the sack?” shouted another.
“You shall, I replied, “the next time we’re in town.”
When one sack was full, Dorothy gave it a great heave and said, “No way Toto. I can’t lift even one and you can’t pull them. What’s the plan?”
I considered asking the Munchkins to carry them to the Emerald City for us, but the idea of babysitting them and listening to them squabble made me think that there must be a better way.
“Dorothy,” I cast a discrete glance at William. In a whisper I said, “I believe William will want to carry our sacks for you. While you were talking to the witch woman, I had a discussion with William. She said, ‘Life is about give and take’”
“She explained it so beautifully, using elegant words that only a well-bred cow befitting her linage might. However, I shall share her words as best I can. ‘Life is a circle of give and take…and…the sum of the parts becomes part of the sum’.”
“William went on to say, ‘Toto, you’re blessed with a sharp mind, a quick wit, great charm, and contribute insightful and wise leadership. I, on the other hand, bring patience, a methodical mind, and awesome milk. Dorothy offers care, kindness, and…I’d do almost anything if only she’d agree to be my milkmaid twice a day.’”
“Without hands,” I said with a brief wag of my tail, “I am of no use when it comes to milking William. So…”
“My dear little Toto,” Dorothy said as she gazed lovingly upon me. She clasped her hands, added a slight tilt to her chin, and her face crinkled in a mischievous expression that made her look older and wiser. “Horse manure, Toto! William never said any of that. You made all of that up. If you want William to carry all of this stuff,” she said with a wave toward my piles, “you ask her! And if I was you, I’d ask nicely! Because you sure acted the bully when you met her and started off poorly telling her to jump over the moon and such.”
“I shall ask her now.” With my head hung low and my tail hung lower, I drug myself toward William. I felt as though I had been whipped soundly. Before I could speak, William said with her toothy grin, “I heard it all…Dorothy wasn’t picked from the watermelon patch yesterday.”
“I know. And she said I owe you an apology too,” I said with a sigh.
“I’m ready, but only if it’s one of many words, from the heart, and doesn’t interrupt me while I graze.”
“William, I could use some advice. I am scared. I’m scared for me and very scared for Dorothy.”
William stopped chewing and looked at me, “scared of what?”
“I am scared of being responsible for Dorothy and getting her home. Before the tornado, I lived to make Dorothy happy, to keep her company, to rat for Uncle Henry, and for the divine taste of gizzards. Before the tornado, I had no responsibility. It was a pleasure to share my days with Dorothy and that was not work. As a ratter, I was pitiable. The first rat I ever bit squeaked terribly. I apologized profusely as the poor thing limped off. Often when there were no rats, I barked, twirled in circles, and pointed. This always got me a back scratching and fine praise. Uncle Henry rocked me in his arms and scratched behind my ears as he bragged to the neighbors. When Toto is done with a rat, you won’t even find a hair, not a single hair…just gobbles ‘em down.”
Before the tornado, my life was that of royalty. I never had to protect or lead anyone; Uncle Henry did that. I never cooked food nor carried water, Aunt Em was there for that. Now our world is gone and it is Dorothy and I against the world. This sudden and enormous weight of my little girl’s safety is a terrible burden. However, I grasp it without hesitation. So when you came to our cabin, I am certain it was my fear that caused my rudeness.”
“Why do you feel responsible for her?” said William.
“I’m a dog. Dogs protect the ones they love,” I said. “…And, I am much older than Dorothy…in dog years according to Uncle Henry. And wherever there are youngsters, it is the elders that provide for their care and protection.”
William’s big bright brown eyes stared upward as she chewed; her right ear twitched when she hesitated between chews as if she were thinking. “When we met, you were quite the furry little cow patty. It started with your welcoming speech, which rambled on and on. I thought: Toto is nothing more than another angry little black dog. But, now I see you through different eyes. So if this is your apology, I accept it. What can I do to help?”
“Perhaps you should lead,” I said
William let loose with her choked-chicken chuckle, “You’ll do just fine Toto, you’re already smart enough to worry and consider your weaknesses. If I led, milking and eating would be my only concerns. We wouldn’t leave this spot until I tasted every blade of grass. Your life would be one of discontentment as I moved from never-ending fields of luscious greenery in search of the ultimate pasture. You’ll grow into a fine leader and if your choices prove to be foolish, rest assured that I’m large enough to encourage you to make wiser choices.”
“If you will not lead us William,” I perked my ears and wagged my tail vigorously. “Will you carry the potato sacks of supplies from the cabin…pretty please?”
William dropped her ears, lowered her huge head until her nose practically touched mine, and blasted out a bellow that shook me to the core along with apparently everyone and everything else in earshot. The birds that were singing, the Munchkins that were arguing, and even the sweet gentle breeze that tickled my whiskers, stopped!