Mom said a special “movie musical” was going to be on TV and she thought I would really like watching it. Molly said that even her mom was telling her about it too, which was strange because Molly’s mom didn’t even like TV. Molly’s mom came over to our house this morning and she and mom were talking about it as they drank coffee in the kitchen. I spied on them, quietly climbing up the basement stairs and sitting near the top step where I could hear them but they couldn’t see me.
“Jane you know I think television is the anathema of true culture”, Molly’s mom said, “But this is different. This is real musical theater, done with all the storytelling magic of the cinema, and I think that it’s important that the kids are exposed to it.”
“Joan, I agree with you on exposing the kids to culture”, mom said, “It just kills me that Eric and I don’t have the money right now to take Coop to see some good live theater.”
“Oh dear, chin up”, Molly’s mom said, “Eric’s reaching for that brass ring, and you know how jealous I am.”
“I know Joan, I know”, mom said.
“You know, I actually met Harburg, who wrote the lyrics for the songs in The Wizard of Oz, when I saw his most recent musical, ‘Jamaica’, on Broadway”, Molly’s mom said, “I admire his politics. He is quite a committed socialist. You know he’s been blacklisted for a number of years!”
“Well”, mom said, “You know I’m not a big fan of socialism and communism, but I think McCarthy was dead wrong in what he did, and I was glad to see he got what was coming to him. I believe we all need to be free to speak our minds, and let the best ideas rise to the top.”
“Well I certainly agree with you there, Jane”, Molly’s mom said, “But remember that socialism and communism are two VERY different things.”
I was waiting for mom to say something about that, but she didn’t. After a pause, Molly’s mom continued talking, “So I was wondering if you, Eric and Cooper might like to come over Sunday evening to watch The Wizard of Oz on our big color television. The color is supposed to be spectacular. Jack spent good money on that damn box of his, we might as well get SOMETHING good out of it!”
“Well thanks for offering, Joan, that’s sweet of you”, mom said, “But Eric’s chained to his desk right now and I think I’ll just stay home and do stuff with David. Sometimes I worry I don’t give him all the attention I gave Coop when he was that age. But I imagine Coop will want to come over. He and Molly are inseparable.”
“They certainly are”, Molly’s mom said, “Ever since your son started going to Towsley’s, Molly has been lobbying me to go too.”
“It’s a great place”, mom said, “I’m sure she’d love it and get a lot out of it.”
There was a pause and Molly’s mom’s voice got quieter but fiercer when she finally spoke. “I would send her in a minute, but Jack is dead set against it, and insists we send her to the nursery school program at Saint Francis. You know I’m not one to back down!”
“I know”, mom said.
“I’ve never seen him so inflexible before”, Molly’s mom said, “Between you and me Jane, it’s getting me worried if we have a future together.”
“Oh Joan, really? Over nursery school?” mom said.
“Well that’s just the tip of the iceberg”, Molly’s mom said, “There’s a laundry list of things that I don’t want to go into now. Maybe when I’ve had a couple of stiff martinis in me!”
“Anyway I should go”, she said, “Jack and Molly will be back from church and expecting lunch.”
“Joan. Sorry to hear but thanks for letting me know”, mom said, “And I’ll of course be discreet, and I won’t even tell Eric. If you EVER need to talk I’m always here. And also thank you for inviting Coop over to watch the show. I appreciate that, and I’m sure he’ll be thrilled. You just send him home when it’s over.”
“Thanks Jane, will do. And thanks for listening!”, and I heard the front door open and then close.
I figured if I was going to be a good “detective”, like those older girls that I played with sometimes in the park who pretended to be Nancy Drew, I didn’t want to get caught. So I quietly walked down the basement stairs. But by the time I got to the bottom I heard mom’s voice up at the top.
“Did you hear me talking with Molly’s mom?”
I was afraid to look at her because I knew she would figure out that I had. I kind of shook my head but just a little bit.
“You and your dad”, she said, “You hold your cards close. You don’t reveal your hand.” I wasn’t sure what she meant, but I kind of liked when she talked to me like she’d talk to another grownup, though it was scary too.
“I don’t know about you and other kids”, she said, sitting down at the top of the stairs, “But we adults have private things that we might tell one person, a good friend, but we may not be comfortable telling everybody, even another good friend.” I did a small nod.
“So we learn that when a friend tells us something like that, we learn that we need to respect their wishes to keep it private if we want to keep them as a friend.” This time I did a bigger nod.
“All couples… all moms and dads that is… fight about things, have disagreements. Molly’s mom and dad do. Your dad and I do too, and I’m sure you hear a lot of them”, she said, then looking up at the ceiling, “There’s very little privacy in this house.”
“Most of the things your dad and I argue about are just about him and me and our relationship. They don’t have ANYTHING to do with you. We BOTH love you and your brother more than anything else in the world, got it?” I nodded again.
“But if it DID affect you”, she said, “You’d want me or your dad to tell you about it and explain it to you, and answer any questions you might be worried about. Right?”
I nodded and said, “I guess so”.
“Since Molly is your friend, please let her parents be the ones to tell her if something they are arguing about affects her, okay?”
I nodded and even looked at her this time.
Her eyes got big and she made a big smile. “Coolie, I know you’re pretty smart and you figure things out and do the right thing. I’m really proud of you for that. And though I also figure there are things you DON’T tell me, since everybody has their secrets, I’m also confident that you do the right thing with your secrets too. But all that said, you should also know that you can come to me and tell me ANYTHING you are thinking about or even worrying about that you want to share with someone else. Okay?”
I nodded and even said, “Okay”, but I still wasn’t sure about it. There was a lot of stuff I wasn’t going to tell her about. Stuff that other kids said to me, since I never wanted to tell on other kids. Also stuff I was feeling and thinking about girls and boys, whether they were different, and how they were different. Stuff about my own body and being naked. But maybe there were some things I could tell her or at least ask her about, because it seemed like the more I asked and told her, the more stuff she would tell me, and the more stuff she’d let me do.
And about Molly’s mom and dad getting mad at each other, it seemed like all grownups got mad at each other all the time, and at kids sometimes too. Why would I tell Molly about that, since she already knew that stuff happened.
Dad came home at lunchtime. He said he’d been working at the “frat house” cleaning up the “garage”. We didn’t have a garage, but Molly’s house and other houses did. Some garages I’d see walking or riding my tricycle had cars in them, but others, like Molly’s, had other stuff that her dad was working on. It kind of looked like the Professor’s laboratory in the Felix cartoons.
Dad said he did another “trade” with the woman who ran the frat house, and she said he could take the sled in their garage if he gave her “more help with her writing”. Mom was worried that he didn’t have time to help her because he had to spend more time working on his “dissertation”. But I think he really liked helping her, even though he didn’t say that.
I made my own baloney sandwich for lunch. Mom had put the baloney “package” in the fridge where I could reach it, and also that “wonder” bread that came in that plastic bag with the red, blue and yellow circles on it. The “mercials” on TV were always telling me and mom to get it, so I guess that’s why she did. You could take a piece of that bread, eat off just the brown edge part, and then mush up the rest of the piece into a very small white square. But you wouldn’t do that for making a sandwich because then the baloney wouldn’t fit inside. I could even squirt the mustard on by myself, which was my favorite part. Seeing those lines of yellow mustard on the baloney circle, which was kind of a strange pink color. Mom and dad used a knife to “spread” the mustard over the baloney, or over the bread to make it more “even”, so that every bite of the sandwich had the same mustard taste. But I liked it not spread, because it made each bite taste different. Some had no mustard taste and others had a lot, so it was more of a surprise and more fun.
Mom told dad that Molly’s mom said we could all come over tonight to watch “The Wizard of Oz” on their “color television”, but mom said that dad would be working in his office and she would be doing stuff with David, but I could still go. Dad thought that was a good plan, and said that he figured I’d like the movie. He said he saw it the first time it was on TV and that it had some good songs in it, and that maybe some that would be fun to sing at bedtime.
I WAS a bit worried. Why did all the grownups want Molly and I to watch this thing? The other stuff I watched on TV were things that I decided by myself to watch. And when I played, I ALWAYS decided what kind of playing I was going to do. Mom or dad almost never had ideas for what I should do, and I didn’t want them to. Mom had the idea that I would want to go to that nursery school and I didn’t like that place at all!
After dinner that night, where mom made that “Roberts Spaghetti” stuff again, she watched from the front door as I walked across the street to Molly’s house. I made sure to look both ways before I crossed the street, even though there were no cars that were driving around. I turned my head each way so mom could see that I was doing it, because I wanted her to know I could do stuff, like cross the street, by myself. If I could only tie my “damn” shoes, I thought to myself, using that swear word at least talking in my mind where nobody else could hear me.
When I got to Molly’s front door I pushed the button that made that buzzing sound inside their house so they knew someone wanted to come in. I heard feet running inside and then the door opened and it was Molly standing there smiling.
“I knew it was you”, she said, her eyes sparkling. I could hear her breathing. I liked it when she was standing close to me because I could feel the energy of her body.
“C’mon downstairs”, she said, and then she just ran into her living room and I ran after her. We both ran down the stairs into that “dining” room part and then through the kitchen and then down the stairs into the basement.
“Molly slow down”, I heard her mom say as Molly ran down the basement stairs in front of me, “You’re going to fall and break your neck!”
I wasn’t sure if I should run down too, since that’s what Molly did and I would usually do, or walk down, which is what Molly’s mom wanted. So I kind of did in between.
Molly’s mom and dad were sitting on their big shiny brown “couch” thing, with a big bowl of popcorn between them.
“There he is”, said Molly’s mom.
“Your date”, said Molly’s dad.
“Jack”, said Molly’s mom, sounding like she was a little bit mad, “Please… they’re just kids!”
Molly’s dad did that laugh through his nose and nodded.
There were a bunch of pillows on the floor in front of the couch and Molly let her body fall into them, then turned quickly to look up at me.
“This is where WE get to sit”, she said, smiling again. She banged her hand on the big pillow next to her, like I’d seen her dad do with her when he wanted her to sit next to him on that couch when they watched Sky King.
I was a little worried about sitting right next to her with her mom and dad right behind watching us, so I sat on the pillow but left some space between us. But as soon as I did Molly moved over so she was next to me and our bodies were touching. Her dad did that nose laugh again.
The TV was already on in front of us. It was a lot bigger than ours and kind of looked more like a table with the screen part under the table part. There was also this big fuzzy part next to the screen that the sounds came out of, but there was no sound now. That Roy O’brien “mercial” again was showing on the screen but you couldn’t hear the song, except I still could hear it playing in my head, because I had heard it so many times on TV and the radio…
Roy O’brien’s got them buying and buying
They come from many miles away
You save yourself a lot of dollars, dollars
By driving out his way today
“I’ve got the sound turned down until the show starts”, Molly’s mom said, “At least we don’t have to LISTEN to those infernal commercials!”
“I like the commercials”, Molly said, looking at the TV, but not at her mom behind her. “They’re telling us the things that they want us to get.” Then she looked at me. “Coob likes them too but he calls them ‘mercials’.” I realized I was saying the word wrong but I didn’t say anything. There were a couple more “commercials” and then there was this picture of a lion in a circle.
“Oh here it is kids”, Molly’s mom said, going up to the TV to turn the knob to make the sound come out. “Finally, something on television worth watching!” Molly’s dad did that laugh through his nose again. There were music sounds and the lion opened his mouth and roared. Then there was a picture of clouds and then words in front of the clouds. I recognized the “the” word and “of” word. I figured the other words were “wizard” and “Oz”. Then there were other words in front of the picture and then the music changed and it was more fun music, like the kind in some cartoons.
“Lyrics by E. Y. Harburg”, Molly’s mom said, “Jack, you remember I met Harburg in New York.”
“Yep”, he said, but he didn’t sound happy about it. Then the music changed and it sounded like grownups singing but they weren’t singing any words.
“This is the ‘overture’, kids”, Molly’s mom said, “In musicals they play a bit of the various melodies you’ll hear later in the show. I’ve only seen the stage version of the show so I’m looking forward to this!” She filled a smaller bowl with some of the popcorn and gave it to Molly, who put it between her legs by her stomach, and took a big handful and stuffed it in her mouth and started chewing, and then held the bowl in front of me so I could take some.
“Have some”, Molly mumbled, looking at me while she chewed, “Mom put butter on it, so it really tastes good.” I took some and ate it. It did taste really good. I noticed that Molly’s dad ate popcorn like Molly did, putting a whole bunch in his mouth, while her mom just ate one piece at a time.
Then the picture changed to an older girl kid running outside with a little dog running behind her, and it was all flat behind her with the sky like those “west” shows.
“I thought this was supposed to be in color”, Molly’s mom said to her dad.
“Not yet Joan”, he said, laughing through his nose again, “That part comes later, you’ll see.”
That girl running was called “Dorothy”, and she was really worried about “Toto”, who was that little dog with her. But all the grownups she talked to were doing other stuff and so she decided to be by herself with just Toto, and start singing instead, singing about pretending I figured…
Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
There’s a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby
Then when she finished singing there was this woman riding a bicycle and the music was different, scarier. That woman came into Dorothy’s house and said that she was going to take the dog Toto and “destroy” him because he did bad things, and the grownups let the woman take him.
I felt worried that something bad was going to happen to Toto, and I could tell Molly did too, because she put her thumb in her mouth. But then Toto got away, and ran back to Dorothy, who figured she and Toto needed to “run away” before that woman came back to get him again. So she put some stuff in one of those things we used to put our clothes in when we went on the train, and she and Toto left her house by themselves. Then she talked to this old guy who was trying to figure her out and finally he used this “crystal ball” to figure her out. But then Dorothy decided she had to go home and the wind was starting to blow and that old guy said it was a “storm” and was also a “whopper”.
I remembered the storm at the stadium after my birthday when I was three. Molly, dad and I watched it come in the sky above that giant school place. That was scary but also exciting, and dad never got scared so Molly and I only got a little scared. But this storm was scarier, because the clouds were black and there was this tube thing coming down from the sky and moving around, and all the grownups were REALLY scared.
“That’s a tornado”, her dad said, “We don’t get them around here, but they do have them in the plains, including Kansas, where Dorothy is supposed to live.”
“Remember, this is just a pretend story”, her mom said.
Molly and I nodded but kept our eyes watching the TV. All the grownups were really scared and ran around and let the horses run away, and that woman, “Auntie Em”, kept calling for Dorothy but then all the men made her go down in that place under the house.
“That’s the storm cellar”, her dad said, “They had those before they had basements like we have.”
“Basements are safe”, Molly said, “Right dad?”
“They sure are sweetheart”, he said, patting the top of her head and moving her hair around. I could tell Molly liked it when he did that.
“They certainly are”, said her mom, “And remember this is just a pretend story.”
Then Dorothy came back to the house with Toto, but she couldn’t find the grownups. She banged on the “storm cellar” door but the grownups didn’t open it.
“Why won’t they let her in?” Molly asked.
“They can’t hear her dear”, her mom said, “The storm is too loud. But don’t worry, she’ll be okay!”
“Honey”, said her dad to her mom, “You’re giving away the story!”
“Jack”, said her mom, sounding mad now, “I don’t want the kids to be traumatized.”
“They’re okay”, he said, and he sounded like my dad when he thought mom was wrong, “They know it’s just pretend, don’t ya guys?”
Molly and I nodded while we still stared at the TV. It was pretend, but it was still scary.
Dorothy ran into her room holding on to Toto and the storm made the window break and hit her on the head. She fell on the bed and then her eyes closed and her head fell down and she let go of Toto, like she was dead or something. Then there was a big picture of the side of her head slowly turning around.
“Is she dead?” Molly asked.
“No she’s just knocked out”, her mom said, “Now she’s just dr…”
“Honey”, her dad said, sounding mad, “Let the kids figure it out for themselves, or you’ll give away the whole twist at the end!”
“Jack”, said her mom, also sounding mad, “This movie is scarier than I thought it would be, certainly scarier than the stage version. I just feel the kids need to be assured everything is going to be okay. They’re just four years old.”
The picture on the TV had changed to a woman crawling on the floor of a kitchen with a big thing she was rubbing on the floor and she looked really sad and wiped her hand above her eyes.
A man’s voice said, “Tired of scrubbing the kitchen…”
“For god’s sake”, her mom said loudly, “Commercials already?” She jumped up and turned the TV knob so the voice stopped.
“Uh, language”, said her dad.
Molly’s mom puffed her cheeks and then blew air out of her mouth, something it seemed grownups did all the time, but I’d never seen a kid do.
“You’re right”, her mom said, putting her hands on her head above her eyes. Then she lifted her head up and put her hands together against her mouth with the fingers touching the bottom of her nose as she looked up at the ceiling.
“More popcorn?” her dad said, holding out the big bowl and pouring some in the smaller bowl that Molly had sitting on her that she and I were eating.
Now there was a different commercial with a box with a picture of a cake on it and then a woman talking and smiling and then her bringing a cake to a table where a man, a girl and a boy were watching her and also smiling. And then there was that Roy O’brien commercial again. Even though we couldn’t hear the singing, I couldn’t stop it from singing in my head…
Roy O’brien’s got them buying and buying
They come from many miles away
You save yourself a lot of dollars, dollars
By driving out his way today
Then the TV was showing the movie again and Molly’s mom turned the button so the music came out of the TV again, sounding like the music on some of the cartoons I watched. A house was spinning and going up into the sky, I guess from the “tornado” thing, but you could also see Dorothy’s head at the same time. I had seen that kind of thing on Captain Kangaroo when he was thinking about something and then the TV showed what he was thinking. Then there was Dorothy lying on her bed like she was sleeping while stuff flew by outside the window. She finally woke up and looked out the window but couldn’t figure out what was happening. A woman flew by sitting in a rocking chair and waved at her and she waved back. Then a cow went by and made that “moo” sound. Then two men in a tiny boat waved at her too.
With that cartoon music it all seemed like it was supposed to be kind of silly. I had never seen anything that changed from being really scary to really silly. Molly and I looked at each other and I made a silly face, and then she made one back at me. Molly’s mom stopped telling us stuff and started eating popcorn.
Then Dorothy went to the window and looked down at the storm part.
Dorothy: (Looking down) We must be up inside the cyclone!
Then the music changed to that scary music when that woman took Toto, and that same woman was in the sky outside the window riding her bicycle and getting closer to the window. Then she smiled at Dorothy and she turned into one of those “witches” that I’d seen in cartoons and some girls pretended to be at Halloween when they came to our door to get candy. The bicycle she was riding turned into a broom, which is what “witches” fly around on. The music got noisier and scarier and the woman did a loud kind of laugh that sounded like a scream.
“You two okay?” Molly’s mom asked. We both nodded, still staring at the TV. I don’t know if we were really okay, but we were so worried we had to keep looking to see what happened next.
Then the house started to fall down and was spinning around and Dorothy screamed. The music got crazier and then the house landed on the ground and didn’t get wrecked, and everything was quiet and it looked like it was sunny outside. I noticed Molly’s shoulders drop down like she was less worried. Dorothy was still holding Toto and she stood up and went to the front door of her house to open it to see where she was.
“Okay”, said Molly’s dad, “This is the key part where watching this on a color TV is important!” Molly, who had been just looking at the TV, turned her head to look back at her dad.
“Jack”, Molly’s mom said, “You’re ruining the surprise!”
“This is movie technology history”, he said, “In 1939 this was one of the very first movies to incorporate color and they introduced it in this very dramatic way!”
Molly turned her head back to the screen as Dorothy opened the door. Everything outside was different. It wasn’t brown and gray anymore. It was blue and green and things were clean and shiny. There were trees and big flowers. I noticed the music had changed and sounded friendlier and nicer.
Molly’s dad held out his hands to the TV and shook his head. “There it is”, he said. I looked back at him and he had this look on his face more like he was a kid than a grownup.
I looked back at the TV. Dorothy looked like she couldn’t figure out what this new place was, but instead of being worried about that, she looked happy. That didn’t make sense to me. If all that happened to me, and I was all by myself and I went outside and everything was different, I’D be worried! But I liked where I lived, and I guess Dorothy didn’t like where SHE lived and the grownups she lived with.
Dorothy: (Looking around) Toto. I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore! We must be over the rainbow!
There were people hiding in the plants around her that looked like kids but they had funny things on their heads. Then this strange ball of light came and the music changed again, like it was something to worry about. It was scary, but I didn’t really know why. I could tell Dorothy was scared too. The ball got closer and bigger and changed color and turned into this woman in a giant pink dress carrying a stick thing with a star on the end and wearing one of those special hats that the queens and kings wear in those cards you play with.
Dorothy: (Looking worried) Now I know we’re not in Kansas!
Glynda: Are you a good witch or a bad witch?
Dorothy: I’m not a witch at all. I’m Dorothy Gail, from Kansas.
Glynda: (Pointing at Toto) Well is THAT the witch?
Dorothy: Toto? Toto’s my dog!
Glynda: Well, I’m a little muddled. The Munchkins called me because a new witch has dropped a house on the wicked witch of the east. And there’s the house, and here you are, and there’s all that’s left of the wicked witch of the east.
The TV showed two feet in striped socks and shiny red shoes sticking out from under Dorothy’s house.
Glynda: So what the Munchkins want to know is are you a GOOD witch or a BAD witch?
Dorothy: But I’ve already told you, I’m not a witch at all. Witches are old and ugly! (Unseen voices giggle) What was that?
Glynda: The Munchkins. They’re laughing because I AM a witch. I’m Glynda, the witch of the north.
Dorothy: (Surprised) You are? Oh I beg your pardon (Curtseying), but I’ve never heard of a BEAUTIFUL witch before!
Glynda: The Munchkins are happy because you have freed them from the wicked witch of the east.
Dorothy: Oh. But if you please, what are Munchkins? (Unseen voices giggle)
Glynda: The little people that live in this land. It’s Munchkinland, and you are their national heroine my dear. (Looking around) It’s alright, you may all come out and thank her!
And then the woman began to sing and all the Munchkins came out from where they were hiding in the plants and started to sing too. They looked shorter like kids, but they had faces more like grownups and their voices sounded more like grownups too. But the good witch talked to them like they were kids and she was in charge of them, even though she was really friendly and nice.
And then Dorothy was singing too, to tell the Munchkins what happened to her. There was a whole bunch of singing, different songs even, and talking and marching. And when there was marching there was that noisy honking marching music with no singing. It was all getting kind of silly.
Then there was this thing of red smoke and all the Munchkins got scared. Out of the smoke came another witch, with a green face, that looked like a regular bad witch, like that other one Dorothy saw up in the tornado. She tried to get those special red shoes, but they disappeared from the dead witch’s feet and appeared on Dorothy’s feet.
Wicked Witch: Give them back to me! Give them back!
Glynda: (Aside to Dorothy) Stay tight inside of them! Their magic must be very powerful or she wouldn’t want them so badly!
It was interesting that there were pretend stories with science, like Tom Swift and Felix, and others like this one, with magic. And even Felix sometimes had his “magic bag”, and the Professor tried to use science to figure the bag out but couldn’t. A lot of the grownups said that the pretend science stuff might be real some day in the “future”, but they didn’t say that about magic stuff. I was thinking it might be fun to play in the basement with a science team against a magic team.
Wicked Witch: You stay out of this Glynda or I’ll fix you as well!
Glynda: (Laughing) Oh rubbish! You have no power here! Now be gone, before someone drops a house on you!
I liked the way the good witch talked to the bad witch, didn’t even have to get mad at her, and was not afraid of her at all.
Wicked Witch: (Worried and looking up at the sky) Very well, I’ll bide my time. (Pointing at Dorothy) And as to you my fine lady, true I can’t attend to you as I’d like, but just try and stay out of my way. Just Try! I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too!
So the bad witch disappeared in more red smoke and with all the Munchkins gathered around, the good witch said that Dorothy was in trouble…
Glynda: I’m afraid you’ve made rather a bad enemy of the wicked witch of the west. The sooner you get out of Oz altogether the safer you’ll sleep my dear!
I had never heard a story like this before, where you were in a place that you wanted to get away from but couldn’t figure out how to get back home. It wasn’t that the bad guys had captured you and wouldn’t let you go, but that you were in a whole different place and you had to figure out how to get back to your regular place, and even smart grownups, like that good witch, didn’t know how you could get there.
Glynda: The only person who might know is the great and powerful Wizard of Oz himself.
Dorothy: The Wizard of Oz? Is he good or is he wicked?
Glynda: Oh very good, but very mysterious. He lives in the Emerald City, and that’s a long journey from here. Did you bring your broomstick with you?
Dorothy: No, I’m afraid I didn’t.
Glynda: Then I’m afraid you’ll have to walk.
It was interesting that witches used brooms like grownups used cars and older kids used bicycles. So the good witch told Dorothy what to do to walk to find the Wizard…
Glynda: It’s always best to start at the beginning, and all you do is follow the yellow brick road.
Then the good witch turned into that bubble thing again and floated away. Dorothy started walking on that yellow road which started off in a circle, and all the Munchkins started singing for her to “follow the yellow brick road”, and then “you’re off to see the Wizard”, and Dorothy was now happy and dancing as she walked with Toto and left the place where the Munchkins were and they waved goodbye. Then there was a picture of a small square shaped glass bottle with words on it and clear liquid in it.
Man’s voice: Give her the gift that says you love her even more than the day you met her…
Molly’s mom made kind of a snorting noise, got up and turned the knob on the TV so you couldn’t hear the rest of what the man was saying. “The way big business commercializes Christmas, it’s disgusting!” she said.
After the commercials, Dorothy got to the place where the yellow brick road went different directions and she couldn’t figure out which way to go. But there was this “scarecrow” guy hanging on a post who could talk but didn’t know which way to go either. I guess “scarecrows” aren’t supposed to talk, at least in that “Kansas” place that she came from. The scarecrow said he couldn’t figure out which way for her to go because he didn’t have a brain…
Dorothy: How can you talk if you haven’t got a brain?
Scarecrow: I don’t know. But some people without brains do an awful lot of talking!
I heard both Molly’s mom and dad do that laugh through their noses. It surprised me, because I was watching so hard I forgot they were behind us on the couch. I couldn’t figure out what they were laughing about, but I remembered in other stories that were read to me, mom or dad would do that laugh at something that I couldn’t figure out either. There was some secret stuff that grownups thought was funny that kids didn’t know about. That was why we needed our own secret team too.
So the scarecrow started singing this song about what he’d do if he had a brain, and Dorothy sang too. I remembered that this was one of those “musical” stories, where people did singing when they get really worried or mad or wanted stuff. Regular people only sang when they were happy, or when it was bedtime for kids.
At the end of the song he went with Dorothy because maybe the Wizard could give him a brain. They figured out which way to go, but I couldn’t figure out how they knew the right way.
Then they found these apple trees, and the witch was hiding so they couldn’t see her. When Dorothy picked an apple to eat it, the tree got mad at her…
Apple Tree: How would you like to have someone come along and pick something off of you?
Dorothy: Oh dear, I keep forgetting I’m not in Kansas.
Mom said trees were “living things”, like animals or even people. I knew these were just pretend trees that were part of the story, like pretend stuff in cartoons. I wondered if real trees did thinking like people or animals did. They couldn’t talk or move, but maybe they could think. They weren’t like toys or bicycles or cars even, that only did stuff if people played with them or rode them or drove them. They did change by themselves from having leaves to not having leaves, it wasn’t people that took their leaves off.
So when they were picking up the apples that the trees threw at them, Dorothy found a “Tinman”. He was made of metal and kind of like a robot, but when they put oil in his mouth so he could talk, he talked more like a regular person, not with a robot voice like Master Cylinder. But he was sad…
Tinman: The tinsmith forgot to give me a heart.
Dorothy and Scarecrow: No heart?
Tinman: No heart, all hollow! (Banging on his metal chest)
So because this was a musical and he was sad, he started to sing about being sad and wanting to have a heart. Then when they gave him enough oil he could kind of dance around in a noisy clanging way. And he decided to come with them to see if the Wizard could give him a heart. But then the witch came and was up on top of a house…
Wicked Witch: Helping the little lady along, are you my fine gentleman? Well stay away from her!
She threw a ball of fire at the Scarecrow, but the Tinman helped him and put it out and the witch did that screaming laugh and went away in her orange smoke. Since they were happy that the witch went away and they were all going to go to see the Wizard, they started singing the “off to see the Wizard” song again and walked and danced down the road.
It was interesting, like in other stories, that it was better to find a team to help you do things. The bad witch figured that out, so that was why she was trying to make them not be part of Dorothy’s team anymore.
After another bunch of commercials, they found the Lion that roared at them like a regular lion but also talked like a person. He scared the Tinman and then the Scarecrow, but when he tried to scare Toto, Dorothy got mad at him and hit him on the face, which made him cry and they figured out that he wasn’t really brave.
Dorothy: Why, you’re nothing but a great big coward!
Lion: You’re right, I am a coward! I haven’t any courage at all! I even scare myself!
So he sang a song about wanting to have courage, which he called “nerve”. And they told him to come with them to see the Wizard to help him too.
So then the wicked witch was in her place making some poison and using her giant crystal ball and magic to poison the “poppies”, which were these tiny flowers. When Dorothy and the others on her new “team” came out of the trees, there was this giant place full of poppies that they had to walk through to get to the Emerald City that they could see on the other side. Since they wanted to get there quickly they decided to run, but the poppies made Dorothy, Toto and the Lion fall asleep. The Scarecrow and Tinman didn’t fall asleep because I guess they couldn’t smell things so they yelled for help, and the good witch used her magic to make it snow, which woke up Dorothy, Toto and the Lion again, but made the Tinman rust, until they gave him more oil.
So they finally got to the Emerald City, and the guy who looked out the hole in the door wouldn’t let them in until Dorothy said the good witch of the north sent her and showed him the “ruby slippers” she was wearing. Inside the Emerald city, everybody wore green clothes, which was my favorite color, and were happy, so they were singing. Then the people that helped fix Dorothy and her team up were singing too.
But when they all started to get silly and laugh while they sang, the witch flew over the city on her broom and made smoke to write letters in the sky that said “surrender Dorothy”. All the people in the city got scared and ran to the door of the place where the Wizard was, but the guy at the door said the Wizard wouldn’t talk to them. But when he found out she was Dorothy, he finally said he’d go see if the Wizard would talk to them. While they waited, the Lion sang a song about wanting to be king of the forest, and then the others pretended he was king and made him a pretend robe and crown.
The door guy came back and said that the Wizard wouldn’t talk to them, but Dorothy started to cry and the door guy started crying too and finally let them in. As the four of them walked down the long room to where the Wizard was, they all got really scared, and the Lion got super scared.
The wizard WAS pretty scary. He was just a face without a body, in a green circle between two green curtains above these things that shot out fire, and Dorothy and her team were shaking because they were so scared, and the Tinman made clanking noises when he shook.
Wizard: I am Oz, the great and powerful! Who are you? WHO ARE YOU?
Dorothy: (Tentatively stepping forward) If you please, I am Dorothy the small and meek. We’ve come to ask…
Wizard: SILENCE! The great and powerful Oz knows why you have come!
Even though he was scary, I knew this was all pretending stuff. But he was also pretty neat, and I liked the way the puffs of fire made his talking even scarier. He made all the other three say who they were. The Lion got so scared he just closed his eyes and dropped on the floor. I was thinking about asking Molly’s mom what happened to him, but I was too busy watching what happened next.
Wizard: The beneficent Oz has every intention of granting your request. But first you must prove yourselves worthy by performing a very small task. Bring me the broomstick of the witch of the west!
Tinman: (Stuttering) But if we do that, we’ll have to KILL her to get it!
Wizard: Bring me her broomstick and I will grant your request. Now go!
Lion: But what if she kills us first?
Wizard: I SAID GO!!
The Lion got so scared he ran away from the Wizard and jumped through a window and broke it.
I guess he was okay, because after the commercials, including that Roy O’Brien one again, the next thing they showed was the four of them walking through this very dark scary place with twisted trees and scary birds in the trees with eyes that lighted up. There were words written that they looked at and Molly’s mom told us what they were.
“The sign reads, ‘Haunted forest, witches castle one mile. I’d turn back if I were you.” We both nodded, not taking our eyes off what the TV was showing. The four of them had extra stuff with them to get the witch, like a net and a giant hammer and other things.
Scarecrow: I believe there’s spooks around here.
Tinman: That’s ridiculous, SPOOKS! That’s silly.
Lion: (Stuttering) Don’t you believe in spooks?
Tinman: NO! Why… (For no apparent reason, he rises up into the air and then crashes back to the ground with a loud noise of clanking metal)
Lion: (Scared) I do believe in spooks! I do believe in spooks! I do, I do, I do, I do!
Witch: (In her castle, looking at them in her crystal ball with flying monkeys around her) Ha ha! You’ll believe in more than that when I get finished with you! (To the leader of the flying monkeys) Take your army to the forest and bring me that girl and her dog. Do what you like with the others, but I want her alive and unharmed!
There was that scary music and she looked out the window of her castle and you could see all these black things with wings flying in the dark gray sky. The monkeys with wings that were with her started going out the window and flying too.
Witch: Now fly! Fly! Fly!
Though I knew this was a pretend story, the flying monkeys were the scariest thing I had ever seen, the way they filled the sky and the way they were like giant bees or hornets buzzing around something, and not like regular nice animals. They came out of the sky and Dorothy and her team tried to run away, but each of them went a different way so they couldn’t help each other. The monkeys weren’t like regular badguys that at least did thinking, even if it was bad thinking, they just wanted to buzz around you and get you, the way it felt like bees and hornets did.
Molly’s and my hands touched each other and then we grabbed hold of each others’ hand, without even thinking about it first. The monkeys carried Dorothy and Toto off to the witches castle and left her team behind. The Scarecrow was all ripped open, and most of his straw was gone, but the Tinman and the Lion found the straw and put it back inside him.
At the witch’s castle, the witch told Dorothy she’d have the monkeys kill Toto if Dorothy didn’t give her the shoes. She tried to take the shoes off Dorothy’s feet, but this lightning stuff came out of them and stopped her, so the witch figured she had to kill Dorothy to get the shoes. Then Toto escaped from the castle but now Dorothy was all alone and a prisoner of the witch, who was figuring out the best way to kill her. Molly squeezed my hand even more while we watched Dorothy cry.
“Are you two all right?” Molly’s mom asked, “I know this is pretty scary stuff.” We both nodded our heads but didn’t look at her and kept looking at the TV.
Toto found the Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion, and all of them snuck up on the witches castle. When the castle guards came marching out, three of the guards found them, and there was a fight, but the Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion won and they used the guards uniforms to look like guards and they got into the castle with Toto and found Dorothy. When they tried to get back out of the castle, the witch and her guards finally caught them and said she would kill each one of them, one at a time.
Witch: (To Dorothy) The last to go will see the first three go before her! And your mangy little dog too!
The witch set her broom on fire and then touched the scarecrow’s arm with it and made it on fire. Dorothy screamed and grabbed a bucket of water and threw it on the Scarecrow’s arm, but it also splashed on the witch, who screamed and started to melt…
Witch: (As she melts into the floor) You cursed rat! Look what you’ve done! I’m melting! Melting! Oh what a world, what a world! Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness!
“I tell you”, Molly’s dad said, laughing through his nose, “You’d think that if a little water splashing on you could make you melt like that, you’d be a little more careful about leaving buckets of water around your castle!”
“Oh my word Jack”, Molly’s mom said, sounding mad, “You’re ruining a cathartic moment!”
Dorothy thought she was in even more trouble now, because she killed the witch, but the guards were HAPPY that the witch was dead. I guess they didn’t really like her either. That was interesting, that maybe badguy helpers might not really like the main badguys they helped, but just did those things because they werre afraid of those main badguys. So they gave Dorothy the witch’s broom, and then there were a bunch more commercials. After that, Dorothy and her friends took the broom back to the Wizard. But he told them to go away and come back tomorrow.
“He’s welshing on his deal”, her dad said.
“You know Jack”, her mom said, “That characterization is offensive to people from Wales!”
“You know what?” her dad said, “I have to hit the head. Tell me what I’ve missed when I get back.” Her mom didn’t say anything. I couldn’t figure out why he wanted to hit his head, but grownups said stuff like that sometimes.
I liked it when Dorothy was brave and got mad at the Wizard, and then so did her team too. And when the Wizard got even more mad back at them, Toto accidentally pulled this curtain open, and it showed an old man running a machine pretending to be the Wizard. When he saw them looking at him he closed the curtain and the big ball with the face said…
Wizard: Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain! The great Oz has spoken!
But Dorothy went and opened the curtain again and got really mad at the man for pretending that he was that giant ball Wizard.
Dorothy: You’re a very bad man!
Wizard: Oh no my dear, I’m a very GOOD man, I’m just a very bad wizard.
So the man said he would help them. He gave the Scarecrow a piece of paper called a “diploma” and then the Scarecrow was thinking better. He gave the Lion a “medal” and the lion felt braver. And he gave the Tinman a “testimonial” which was a clock shaped like a heart that was “ticking”. But then the three of them wanted him to help Dorothy too, but she didn’t think he could.
But the Wizard had this giant thing which Molly said her dad told her was a “flying balloon”. The Wizard said he was going to fly Dorothy back to Kansas. But Toto jumped out of the balloon to chase a cat and Dorothy went after him and the balloon and the Wizard floated away without them. Dorothy got really sad, but then that ball of light came and it was that good witch again.
Dorothy: Oh will you help me? CAN you help me?
Glynda: You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas!
Scarecrow: So why didn’t you tell her before?
Glynda: Because she wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.
Tinman: What have you learned Dorothy?
Dorothy: Well… I think that it wasn’t enough just to want to see uncle Henry and auntie Em. If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard, because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with! Is that right?
Glynda: (Nodding) That’s all it is!
“Well”, said her mom, “A bit of an oversimplification of things…”
Before she finished talking her dad said, “Well dear, who’s undermining the catharsis now!”
“Well”, said her mom, “This isn’t technically a catharsis, it’s more of an epiphany!”
The story was still going on the TV and Molly turned to look at her mom and dad. “Mom! Dad! It’s still going!”
The good witch had Dorothy click her heels together and say “there’s no place like home”, over and over again, and there was this strange music and magic circle stuff happening and Dorothy was back in her bed, in Kansas I guess, because it was all brown and gray again and not all the colors. It was like that “changer” thing that General Clang invented to help Master Cylinder capture Poindexter, except Dorothy had been lying in her bed the whole time but she thought she was in Oz.
Uncle Henry: Yeah, she got quite a bump on the head. For a moment there we thought she was going to leave us!
Dorothy: (Excited) But I did leave you Uncle Henry and that’s just the trouble, and I tried to get back for days and days!
Aunt Em: There, there, lie quiet now. You just had a bad dream.
That old guy from the beginning who had the crystal ball was at the window and the three other grownup men who helped on the farm came into the room.
Dorothy: It wasn’t a dream, it was a place. And you, and you, and you, and you were there! (Looking at each of them)
The four of them laughed, like grownups did when they didn’t believe what a kid was saying.
Dorothy: But you couldn’t have been, could you?
Aunt Em: We dream a lot of silly things when we sleep.
Dorothy: No Aunt Em, this was a real, truly live place, and I remember that some of it wasn’t very nice, but most of it was beautiful! But just the same, all I kept saying to everybody was I want to go home! And they sent me home! (The grownup men chuckle)
Dorothy: Doesn’t anyone believe me?
Uncle Henry: Of course we believe you Dorothy!
But I didn’t think he really did.
Dorothy: (Hugging Toto) But anyway Toto, we’re home! Home! And this is my room, and you’re all here, and I’m not going to leave here ever, ever again, because I love you all, and… oh Auntie Em… there’s no place like home!
Then the picture went away and the loud music started and there was a new picture of clouds and they put lots of words and dots in front of them.
“Jack”, Molly’s mom said, “Why don’t you turn it off before we get besieged with ads again!” Molly’s dad turned the knob until there was a click sound and the TV picture disappeared into a little dot, which faded away, and there was just the shiny brown screen.
“Well, Cooper and Molly”, Molly’s mom said, clapping her hands together, “I’m interested in your thoughts on the movie?”
“Hey kids, I’m interested TOO”, her dad said, raising his hand and waving it.
Her mom made a funny face and nodded and said, “Yes of course, Jack!” Then she looked at both of us again and smiled.
Molly turned over on her stomach, put her elbows on the floor and lifted her head and held it in her hands and looked at her mom and dad sitting on the couch. She lifted each of her feet and then banged them back down on the rug we were lying on but couldn’t think what to say. I couldn’t either.
“Do you think it was really a dream?”, her mom asked.
Molly scrunched her face and made a silly look and then looked up at the ceiling. “Hmm”, she said, “That was a lot of things to be in one dream. And if Dorothy was pretending it, that’s a lot of things to pretend. But if it WAS a real place, how could she be there and in her bed at the same time.”
“Interesting thoughts”, her mom said, and then turning her eyes toward me, “How about you Cooper?”
I turned on my stomach and put my elbows down and my head in my hands just like Molly had. She looked at me right next to her and I could tell she liked it that I was doing the same thing. She always wanted us to be the same, so sometimes she did what I was doing, but she also liked it when I did what she was doing.
“If she was pretending all that stuff, she was really good at it and knew a lot of stuff”, I said. “I pretend from stories mom or dad read me, or my friends tell me, or I see on TV.”
Her mom nodded, “Also interesting thoughts.”
“How about the scary parts?” her dad asked, “What was the scariest?”
At the same time we both said, “The flying monkeys!”
Both Molly’s mom and dad made a laugh with their mouths instead of their noses, then Molly’s mom looked mad for a second and then smiled again. “Sorry”, she said, “So the flying monkeys were the scariest for both of you!”
We both nodded.
“Scarier than the wicked witch?” her dad asked.
We both nodded again, and Molly said, “The witch was scary, but she talked and worried about things, and only did bad things to get them to do what she wanted.”
Since I knew what Molly was thinking, I said the next thing. “The flying monkeys didn’t care about anything, and just did what the witch told them to do, but also liked doing bad stuff just for fun.”
“Like Zombies”, Molly said. I didn’t know what “Zombies” were.
“Who told you about Zombies?” her mom asked.
“R…”, Molly said, stopping before she said the rest of the name and looked at me, and I could tell she had remembered that we didn’t tell on other kids. “Some older kid”, she said instead. I figured it was probably Ricky.
Her mom nodded and raised her eyebrows and said, “I bet.”
She clapped her hands together again. “Now you know you two, Zombies and witches and flying monkeys are NOT real, they are just pretend creatures that make our stories scarier and more exciting. And if there ever were a tornado here in Ann Arbor, we’d just go down in the basement and we’d be safe.”
We both nodded, and then Molly said, “Those flying monkeys are still really scary! If they were real I’d be SUPER scared to death and want to even blow them up with those nuclear bombs!”
Molly’s mom looked surprised and then very worried. “So you and your friends are talking about nuclear bombs?” She looked at me, and I nodded. She looked at Molly’s dad and shook her head slowly.
“Dear lord Jack!” she said, “What sort of world are we passing on to our children?”
They asked us more questions about the movie, like which of the good guys in the movie we liked best. Molly said that she liked the Tinman best, because he didn’t get scared like the Lion or get ripped apart like the Scarecrow. I actually liked the Scarecrow best, though I couldn’t figure out why, so I said the Tinman was good too.
They wondered what we thought about the Wizard. I was thinking he was like a regular grownup, pretending to be in charge of everything, but maybe actually nice if he stopped pretending. But I figured I better not say that to her mom and dad, because they WERE grownups, even if right now they weren’t really pretending to be in charge.
Molly’s dad said he would walk with me across the street back to my house since it was “late” and also really dark. Molly put on her jacket and came too. Molly’s dad pressed our button on the door, and we waited for mom or dad to open it. Dad finally did, wearing his bathrobe and kind of shivering in the cold air, saying that he and mom had “dozed off”. Molly’s dad smiled, raised his eyebrow and nodded and said, “Fair enough! Joan sends your lady our love.”
Her dad looked down at Molly, rubbed her hair, and said, “You going to say goodnight to your best pal?”
She looked at him and then at me, her eyes twinkling, and said, trying to sound like a Munchkin, “Follow the yellow brick road!”
Dad and Molly’s dad laughed, and dad rubbed my head in the same kind of way and took me into the house after saying thank you to Molly’s dad and good night to him and Molly.
Dad said I didn’t have to take a bath and I should get right into my pajamas quietly and in bed, because David was already asleep. He did the laugh through his nose and told me that David kept saying “Coo”, wondering where I was. Dad said we could even sing a couple songs as long as we sang really quietly. He said he had watched the first part of the movie and typed the words to the “Over the Rainbow” song so we could sing it together. I quickly got in my pajamas and under my covers. He sang the words looking at the piece of paper and I sang along as best I could.
Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high
There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true
Once dad had wiggled my big toe and said goodnight, I thought more about the whole Wizard of Oz story. It seemed like the grownups won against Dorothy and her team, getting her to come home and even like it at home. I wondered if that was why mom and dad, and Molly’s mom and dad wanted Molly and I to see it so much! I also wondered what if Dorothy had stayed in Oz and maybe become a witch herself, or maybe the new Wizard if the old Wizard didn’t come back.
Per usual with your narratives, I love the grownups’ stories peeking around the edges. You handle dialog well and, interestingly, your adults are all animated by principle regardless of what principle. Makes me wonder if that was a product of the time or of your point of view.