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Husband, father, and writer working on a short story project and submitting my novel, The Windsmith, to agents.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Tale of Toto

Bark! Ah-hem. Excuse me, old habits I’m afraid. I know that for quite some time, I have remained silent. And though many other animals in this wondrous land do speak, this has caused many of our readers have questioned this over the years. Also, I have recently received some fan mail indicating that many would like me to tell my side of the story. The original story, that started it all. Oh, yes, you’ve heard this story before. Hundreds of times, no doubt. But, as a member of Dorothy’s companions whose tale has yet to be told, it is high time I tell it. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Toto, the dog.

It started pretty much like you’ve already heard. Dorothy and I lived on the farm in Kansas with her Aunt and Uncle. I never quite knew what happened to her parents, except that she was an orphan. See, I was a gift to her from her Uncle. He’s a good man. And Dorothy and I fell in love right away and have been close ever since. I suppose I should start by explaining my relation to Dorothy. Let me start by saying that I am not her “pet.” I am her companion. She and I have a deep love and respect for one another.

Understand that when I say I love her, it is not the love one feels for a close friend, but it is also not anything close to a “owner/pet” relationship either. Yes, it is true that she took care of me, fed me and such. But it’s not like it’s possible for a dog to do that on his own on a farm. I could hunt, I suppose, but I’d get in serious trouble if I took a chicken. Also, there’s something you have to understand. Dogs view the world in terms of packs. We’re social animals that need that structure to operate. Dorothy is my pack. There’s not really a human equivalent for it. It’s kind of like family, except stronger. Or at least, a more loyal bond that most humans seem to have for their family.

At any rate, life was nice on the farm. True, the humans struggled. Kansas was going through a dry spell, both in terms of farming and economically, and Dorothy’s aunt and uncle were doing everything they could just to keep the farm. Sadly, while Dorothy and I were about to go on the adventure of a life time, things were going to get bad for them.

The storm wasn’t really a surprise; it had been building up for days. At least, I could tell this. There was just something in the air, a sent that’s hard to describe. But, it smelled like a storm, and a big nasty one too. But, all I could do was bark and point my noise in the direction the storm was coming from. None of the humans understood me. So, when the storm finally hit, they were unprepared. Dorothy’s aunt and uncle rushed outside to get the animals to safety while Dorothy and I stayed in the little farmhouse that was our home.

That’s when I became surprised. I could smell something on the air, something different from the storm. It was a sent I had never smelled before, but one I would later come to associate with Oz. I started barking again, but this time Dorothy listened to me. She saw the tornado form outside our window. By then, however, it was too late. There was no place to go. The giant twister had ripped the whole house right out of the ground by the time she and I even reached the front door.

It was an odd sensation, traveling inside the farmhouse being carried a tornado. Everything was spinning and the scents and sounds were beyond my comprehension. Neither of us could stay standing, and he feeling of dizziness was causing my stomach to do flip flops. Then, just as suddenly, it stopped. And that’s when we fell.

As Dorothy and I reached a window to look out, we saw the sky fly by as we fell towards the ground. I started to think that I wanted to be back in the tornado. When we finally hit ground, a process that seemed to take hours, the landing was rough, but by far gentler that I had expected. We were tossed about, but not hurt. It did take us a few minutes to recover from the whole ordeal, but at some point, I went over to Dorothy, who appeared to have passed out, and licked her face to wake her up.

I needed her help. The scents and sounds that were assaulting my senses were new and strange to me. Everything seemed sharper, somehow, more vivid. And there was still the smell of the strange tornado, though it was fading into a background scent. Dorothy woke up and started to get her bearings. She was always a headstrong girl, and it didn’t take long before she just threw open the door. Outside, the site that greeted us was amazing. The gray, bleak landscape of Kansas had been replaced with a bright panorama of greens and blues; a full, lush field of grass and flowers.

It wasn’t long after that we realized we were in some sort of village or town. People started coming out of their houses to see what had happened. The scent of these people! Mostly, they smelled like any other people I had ever met, but overlaid with that was the same smell the storm had, plus something unique to them, a scent I can only describe as “blue.” Most of them were rather short, about Dorothy’s height. Other’s were of normal human height, and in all other respects seemed to be normal people.

One of them pointed to the house, shouting something. When I looked where he was point, I was able to determine that source of a particularly sour smell I had noticed inside. It was the remains of a person, but all we could see were her feet and the fine silver shoes she wore. The people, who I saw now wore the color I had associated to their scent earlier, all rushed up and crowded the farmhouse. They looked from the house to the feet and back again, and then, they started to look at us.

Someone shouted that the Wicked Witch of the East was dead, and that somehow this made all of them free. In moments, a raucous celebration was underway, and we were the guests of honor. Throughout the chaos that followed, Dorothy was able to determine that we were in the Land of Oz, and more specifically, Munchkin Country. These people, being citizens of the eastern Land of Oz, were Munchkins. None of them had ever heard of Kansas, or knew how to get back.

The party went on around us, and it wasn’t long before long tables appeared, and food appeared on top of those. We were invited into the home of a rather wealthy Munchkin, named Boq, who smelled mostly of greed, but also did not smell dangerous. We dined with him, and Dorothy told him our tale, which seemed to delight him, and he declared Dorothy a Witch, because who else could have killed the Wicked Witch of the East.

Everything was moving very quickly during this time. A new guest appeared, a tall woman wearing all white and appearing somewhat like one of the fairies in Dorothy’s books back home. She introduced herself to us as the Good Witch of the North, and also declared that Dorothy had to be a witch. She claimed that the Wicked Witch was far more powerful than she, or she would have killed her herself long ago. She was grateful to us for freeing the Munchkins, and offered us the silver shoes worn by the Wicked Witch as a gift.

The shoes smelled of magic and that same scent that the tornado had. The Witch smelled like it too. I suspected that the shoes had some power in them, but was unable to determine what that might be. Just as quickly as she arrived, the Good Witch of the North disappeared without any further instructions or aid. It was Boq that told us if we wanted to find a way home we should travel to the Emerald City, in the center of Oz, to talk to the Wizard. He would know how to send us home.

He pointed us towards the Yellow Brick Road that lead directly to the Emerald City. So, without so much as a second thought, Dorothy gathered up the basked of supplies provided us by the Munchkins, placed me in it, and set of down the road towards our destiny. At this part of the story, there is not much different from my perspective than the story told by Dorothy. The facts are mostly the same.

It wasn’t long after leaving the Munchkin village that we ran into the Scarecrow. The strange thing to me was the he smelled just like a scarecrow from the farms in Kansas. It surprised me as much as Dorothy when he started talking to us. He was stuck on a pole and Dorothy helped him down. He stated that he wanted a brain, and Dorothy said that if the Wizard of Oz could get her and I back to Kansas, he could surly give the Scarecrow a brain. So, he came with us.

A short time later, we ran into Nick Chopper, the Tin Woodsman. He was another that didn’t smell like a person, just tin and oil. He had apparently stayed outside during a rainstorm, and had rusted in place, unable to move. Thankfully, he had an oilcan in his hands, and we were able to release him from this bondage. He told us a story about wanting a heart, and so Dorothy told him the same thing she had said to the Scarecrow. If the Wizard of Oz can return us to Kansas, maybe he can give the Tin Woodsman a heart. So, we had another companion.

I really have to say that, during these journeys to Oz with Dorothy, Nick Chopper was my favorite after Dorothy. He and I became fast friends, even this early into our adventurers. He would scratch behind my ears, and the two of us would stay up late after Dorothy and the others had gone to sleep. It was at this time I learned I could talk, and Nick and I would stay up and discuss all kinds of things we had learned in life. How to hunt, using the stars to navigate and even on love. I learned of Nick’s true origins and his Munchkin love. And he promised not to tell Dorothy that I could speak, and I was yet unsure how she would react. In fact, it wasn’t until a much later adventure that anyone else would come to know I could speak. Just Nick. I always appreciated that about him.

Next on our journey, we discovered someone that I related to far more than anyone else we ever traveled with. The Lion. I refuse still to call him Cowardly, even though he uses that name himself. Lion, being the hunter that he is, managed to keep his sent largely hidden from me, though I did sense his coming just before he jumped out of the woods at us. He roared and growled and tried to make it appear as he wanted to attack us. I, however, could smell the fear in him, and started barking at him. Dorothy, seeing that I was unafraid, was also unafraid, and stood back up. She whacked the Lion on his nose, causing his surrender. He admitted that he was cowardly to us, and that what he wanted most was to be brave. It’s hard to be the king of beasts when you’re not brave. So, Dorothy once again offered the services of the Wizard of Oz to this strange creature. I began to wonder if the Wizard would be grateful for all this work Dorothy was promising of him.

It was at the point that we reached the Emerald City that my account of things differs significantly from Dorothy’s. Not long after entering the city, with the aid of some of it’s more cosmopolitan citizens, the two of us started to be come aware of the complex political situation in Oz. Specifically, we became aware that the Wizard, ruler of the city, had a political rival in the Wicked Witch of the West, who ruled a land called Winkie Country. Apparently, the Wizard never entered Winkie Country, and that appeared to be out of fear of the Witch and her flying monkey army. Nick and I devised a plan.

Dorothy was granted an audience with the Wizard, but not until the next day. He was a busy monarch, after all. So, that night, the Tin Man and I snuck into the Wizard’s palace, and made our way to his secret chamber. Nick was unable to make it in, but I was small enough to get through the airshaft into the private chambers of the Wizard himself. It was there that I first discovered a truth that my companions wouldn’t discover for some time. The Wizard was a human, one from Earth, from the smell of him. Not Kansas, but some place very similar. When I confronted him, he seemed startled, and afraid of how that knowledge could ruin his rule over Oz.

I presented him with a proposal. If he truly did possess the power to send Dorothy home, and aid my friends as well, we would do something for him. He assured me that he, as the Wizard of Oz, did, indeed, possess the power to help us all. So, I suggested that Dorothy, as a powerful Witch her self that had already eliminated one Witch, could be possibly kill the Wicked Witch of the West for the Wizard. She would eliminate a political rival and return Winkie Country to the control of Emerald City. The Wizard mulled on this for a bit, and then agreed. One final condition he put on his agreement was that when Dorothy approached to him tomorrow, the idea appear as his own. I agreed immediately.

I returned through the vent back to Nick, and we rejoined our fiends in sleep. The next day, everything went just as planned. The Wizard played his part perfectly, though I thought the show of the images of a giant head and a ball of flame were a little much. However, there was no doubt in any of my companion’s minds that the price for their requests was the elimination of the Wicked Witch of the West. Dorothy, as bull headed as always, agreed without even thinking of what she was saying. The Tin Man, who felt that it was his job to protect Dorothy, a trait I loved in him, and so he agreed to join her. The others soon fell in step behind him, and so the five of us were off to Winkie Country.

Winkie Country proved to be far more dangerous than I expected. The Wicked Witch, apparently, was expecting us. She sent a plethora of foes after us, including wild animals and bees. But I believe it was her Winkie soldiers that scared me the most. Like the Munchkin Country, where everyone wore blue, and the Emerald City where green was predominantly on display, the people of Winkie Country had a chosen color as well. Theirs was yellow. And the shock troopers of the Wicked Witch had these yellow uniforms that made them appear fearsome to my eyes. Maybe it was my diminutive size, but I swear, if it weren’t for the Tin Woodsman, I wouldn’t have been able to face them.

But, face them I did. One of the not spoken of incidents with said soldiers was during a camp out in Winkie Country, before we arrived at the Witch’s castle. It was late at night, and once again Nick Chopper and I were conversing about highbrow matters. I specifically think we were discussing the flavors of various rabbits. My scent of smell kicked in just then. Winkie soldiers have a unique smell to them, one that distinguishes them even from common Winkie citizens. I don’t know what causes it, but it’s a sour sort smell. Very subtle, but you start to pick up on it after you’ve been smelling it for some time. And that was the smell I was experiencing right then. I informed my companion, who took up his axe. It wasn’t much of a fight, believe me. The Winkie’s were driven back my the large, tin man in front of them waiving a very sharp axe. It bolstered my courage that I also joined in the quick fight. I bit one of the soldiers in the leg. I started to spit it out almost right away because there was blood, but I felt proud of myself for over coming fears.

But, for all that I thought the soldiers were scary, the winged monkeys were terrifying. They came down out of the sky, hardly making a sound until they were right on top of us. Even their smell was just that of normal monkeys. I never once thought of the scent as dangerous until it was too late. They captured all five of us and brought us straight to the Witch’s castle.

Terror is the only word I can use to describe their attack. The Scarecrow and my good friend, the Tin Woodsman, were brutally torn apart by the monkeys. Their parts were scattered across the countryside. I was taken with Dorothy and the Lion to the Witch’s Castle. I was in a lot of shock. Two members of my pack, one I considered a close friend, were to all appearances dead. However, the grief didn’t last long. The Witch desired the silver shoes Dorothy had been wearing this whole time. The ones that used to belong to the Wicked Witch of the East. So, she decided to just kill her and take the shoes. Lion and I were powerless to stop her, despite our best efforts, which included me biting her. Oddly, she didn’t bleed, even though my bite on her was definitely deeper and more vicious than the one on the Winkie soldier. However, it turned out we needn’t have bothered. Dorothy was under the protection of the Good Witch of the North, and thus could not be killed by the Witch of the West.

So, instead, she threw Lion into a prison cell and tried to starve him, while she made Dorothy her personal slave, hoping to steal the shoes off her. I was largely over looked, being thought of as nothing more than a simple family pet. This was to my benefit. As Dorothy was sneaking food to the Lion, I was studying the Witch. I noticed several things. The first was that she was afraid of the dark. I never saw her venture out of her chambers when the sun went down. It made it easier to guard Dorothy, let me tell you, as I didn’t need to worry about the Witch trying to steal the shoes while Dorothy slept.

The second thing I noticed was that she was very, very dry. Even her scent lacked any trace of water. Apparently, her own wickedness had dried her up, like a prune. It made me wonder what would happen if she got any water, having been dry for so long. So, I arranged things. Dorothy would have you think this plan was the doings of the Wicked Witch herself, but that is not true. It was all me.

One day, while Dorothy was taking a bucket of water someplace for the Witch, I placed an invisible pole in front of her path. Why the Witch had such strange devices in her castle, I still don’t understand, but as I found them via scent, I decided to put them to good use. With Dorothy splayed on her stomach after tripping over the pole, the Witch took advantage and stole one of the slippers right off Dorothy’s food while she lay there on the ground. The Witch cackled with glee while Dorothy quickly stood up, preventing the Witch from taking the other shoe.

But, I know my Dorothy, and she reacted just like I had predicted. Anger took over the spunky little girl, and she started to throw a fit right in the Witch’s face. And that wasn’t all she threw. A few seconds into the temper tantrum, she lifted up the water bucket and tossed the water in it right onto the Wicked Witch of the West.

Now, I fell that I should explain something about what happened here. My goal was, in fact, to have Dorothy throw water onto the Witch. I wanted to see what happened when she was connected with water. What did happen was not at all what I was expecting. Watching a person melt is not a pleasant site, believe you me. So, I will dispense with any details. Needless to say that when all was said and done, we had completed our task, and the people of Winkie Country were free. In fact, they were as overjoyed as the Munchkins to be free of their Witch overlord. In gratitude, they gathered up all the pieces of the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodsman and put them back together again. Nick was returned to us, and I couldn’t have been happier.

In fact, a special note should be made of Nick and the Winkies. So impressed were they with his abilities in combat, that they asked him to be their King, now that the Witch was gone. Nick, of course, agreed. However, he declared that he would only do so after finishing his quest to aid Dorothy, and help her find a way home. This seemed to please the Winkies, and they agreed.

So it was that we returned to the Emerald City, brought there through the gratitude of the Flying Monkeys, who were also under the Witch’s spell. Even the citizens of the green metropolis were cheering us as heroes when we returned. Apparently, the Wicked Witch of the West was more of a threat than the Witch of the East. Immediately, we were taken to the Wizard. I was sure that, having fulfilled our end of the bargain he would now fulfill his. All of us would get our wishes granted, and Dorothy and I would go home. To be honest with you, though, I wasn’t sure I wanted to return home. I very much liked Oz, and was feeling a strong desire to stay here. But, Dorothy had this notion in her head that her Aunt and Uncle would need her, so she was determined to go back to Kansas.

Little did I know, however, that the so-called Wizard of Oz was a sham artist, and had no intention of ever helping us. Oh, not out of a lack of desire, but more out of a lack of ability. When the five of us confronted him, he hemmed and hawed, and tried his best to back out of the bargain. I was furious. I took this as a breach of the agreement that he and I had reached, and no longer felt any need to keep his secret. So it was that I opened the curtain and revealed the man that the Wizard of Oz really was.

He slumped deafened, and even cringed when Dorothy shook her fist at him. And really, who could blame him. She had killed two Witches since her arrival in Oz. This made her a power to be reckoned with, even at her young age. He told everyone his story. He was a circus magician, used to using smoke and mirrors to appear to be something he wasn’t. One day, he created a hot air balloon with the words OZ, his initials it turns out, as promotion. A wind caught it and took him to Oz, to the Emerald City. At the time, he explained, the Witches had usurped the four lands of Oz for themselves from the King, who had gone missing. So, without a ruler, and impressed by his obvious mighty powers, the citizens of the Emerald City made him ruler.

He then provided our companions with tokens. Focuses, he called them. He later explained to me that they were otherwise useless items that in the hands of these men, would be focuses for their beliefs, and thus be what they thought they were. Brains for the Scarecrow, a heart for my friend the Tin Woodsman and courage for the Lion. I was very happy for my friends, especially for Nick. I knew his true story, and what it meant for him to get that heart.

The Wizard revealed that he still had the balloon that had taken him to Oz, and that he could use it to return he and Dorothy back to Kansas. Now, as I said before, I was in no hurry to leave. I had a fondness for this land, and wasn’t sure I wanted to return to the life of an average pet, even one who was as well loved as I was. In Oz, I had friends, a real pack, and I wanted to stay with them.

So it was that just as the balloon was getting ready to take off, I leaped out. I choose a random cat at my target, and chased after it, making it appear that I was just the average dog. Dorothy, ever the one to stay at my side, jumped out of the balloon after me. I stopped then. I realized right away, as the line snapped and the balloon left without Dorothy in it, that in my selfishness, I had trapped Dorothy in Oz. Dorothy, who had cared for and loved me all these years. Dorothy, who had a earnest desire to return to her family back in Kansas. I had ruined her one chance to get home.

But not so, she was told. A Soldier of the Emerald City, one that we had seen briefly before, with a long, bright green beard, told us of Glinda the Good Witch of the South. Apparently, she was the most powerful of all the Witches, and that if anyone could send Dorothy home, she could. I sighed. It meant that once again, we would have to travel on a great journey across Oz, this time into Quadling Country. Here, the people mostly wore read. I also noticed that the majority of the flowers here were red. Oz was a strange place, in regards to color. Still, Dorothy, determined to get home, and me feeling guilty for trapping her here, set off to go see Glinda. Our three companions agreed to travel with us once more.

I will not bore you all with the details of this journey. For the most part, things are as Dorothy has described to the Royal Historian of Oz before. The most notable part of the journey was when we discovered the wild animals of the forest there, where Lion kills the king of the Spiders that have been terrorizing the animals. In gratitude, the animals make Lion their king. He agreed, but like Nick, felt that he needed to finish his quest first, and would take up this honored position after he had helped Dorothy get home.

Eventually, we made it to Glinda the Good Witch of the South. Like the Wicked Witch of the East, she lived in a castle. Glinda’s palace, however, looked like something out of a fairy tale. And the scent! It smelled like magic, but sweeter, as if someone had coated the whole castle in cinnamon and sugar. Glinda was waiting for us, and greeted us with kindness and open arms. She even gave me a pat on the head and a knowing wink. I think she knew I could talk and was keeping it a secret.

Glinda was a straight shooter who told us up front the most important thing we needed to hear. The shoes that Dorothy was wearing, the silver ones she got off the body of the Wicked Witch of the East, were magical. They were enchanted shoes that allowed one to travel anywhere simply by thinking about their destination. All you had to do was click your heels together three times. Magic. I couldn’t tell you how angry I was to hear this. We could have gone home at any time? That ridiculous Witch of the North. What, was she just scatter brained? She gave us these shoes, but didn’t bother to explain what they did.

At any rate, this was the end of our journey. At least, this time around. We said our good byes to everyone. Dorothy gave them all hugs, and I said a private good bye to Nick. I wished him luck as King of the Winkies, and he thanked me. He said he hoped Dorothy and I both made it back to Oz one day. I told him that I sincerely hoped that one day we could return and stay. Of course, we would, but it would be quite some time before we did.

And so, Dorothy took me up, clicked her heels and wished us back to Kansas. It was not a bumpy ride, either, let me tell you. We shot off into the sky like a rocket. Apparently, the journey from Oz to the normal world took all the magic of the shoes, because by the time we returned home, they were gone. We arrived to find that Dorothy’s Uncle and Aunt had been looking every where for her, and that they feared she had died in the tornado. Dorothy, for her part, worried about the farm, but they waved down that protest. The farm could be rebuilt. Dorothy, on the other hand, was precious. I, of course, agreed.

I have to admit, it felt good to be home. But, still, I longed to be back in Oz. It would take some time for my return, though Dorothy would go back several times without me. But, my return to Oz is another story.

The End

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