Thursday, July 1, 2010

To Each Their Own Oz

cue annoying background music reminiscent of A Perfect Circle’s “The Outsider” except without the weird funky wiggling while singing...

cue scene: Old rickety house. Ol’ fogey Michelle is pushing her rocking chair, humming to herself and stroking her silvery beard. Occasionally, she scribbles on a notepad in her lap, rips off the paper, and crumples it into a ball. Four children walk along the pathway and sit upon her steps...

“Hi, Miss Michelle,” Dennis, Lucy, Orphan Annie, and Opie greet me.

“Keep ya’ll shoes off my lawn,” I grump. The pen scratches across the paper as I write another note. “And where’s ya’ll pit bull today?”

“Timmy has him.” Opie swats at a fly buzzing near his greasy moussed hair. “He wants to open up his own dog race down at the track. Said he could make some real cash if he races my dog against Lassie. Something about odds and fixing the game.”

“I'll have to set aside my chunk change to get into that action.” I crumble the note and rest it in my lap with the growing pile. From the table at my elbow, I pick up a slingshot and load it with the paper ammo. I shoot a ball across the yard into the bushes on the neighboring property.

Lucy clears her throat while fixing the wrinkles in her dress. “Miss Michelle, why are you shooting paper balls onto that yard? Isn’t that where the new neighbor’s live?”

“A-yah. That’s where them newies live.” I go quiet as the door opens. The man strolls out, whistling to himself while taking a stroll around his lawn. As the kids watch, he reaches the bush, pulls off the note, and hurriedly shoves it into his pocket as if nobody had seen him do the action. Then he casually strolls back inside his house without a word spoken. A few minutes later, talking ensues inside as occasionally the window blind pulls back. The occupants take glances out.

“He’s weird. What did you write on the paper?” Dennis scratches his ear.

I grin. “Why’s I only wrote one sentence: 'Even Dorothy knew her path and stuck to it.' That's all.”

“I don’t get it?” Orphan Annie retrieves a misfired ball and hands it back.

“Thankee, and stay off my lawn.” I take better aim the second time. The paper smacks against the front door. The neighbor’s door cracks open as fingers reach out to snatch at the ball. I turn my attention back to the kids as I set the slingshot down to rest sore fingers. “Why, ya’ll heard of the movie, ‘Wizard of Oz,’ right?”

The kids nod enthusiastically. I take a sip of lemonade, stroking at my beard to get rid of any stray droplets. “Well, ya’ll know how Dorothy took that yellow path to get to the Emerald City. Wanted to get back home to her family. It was her quest along with that lion and man of tin and scarecrow. Each had their own reason on that brick road. Each had something going on in their own lives.”

“But the Wicked Witch of the West tried to stop them,” Dennis quips up. I smile and hand him the notepad and pencil. He carefully forms his letters, showing me the message as I give the thumbs up. He rips the page off the pad and writes another line.

“A-yah. That witch. She got into their business where she didn’t belong. Wanted those ruby slippers the Good Witch Glinda gave to Dorothy after that tornado dropped the house on the Wicked Witch of the East. So the other Wicked Witch, she gone put obstacles in Dorothy’s path, getting all up in her business for them slippers.”

“But what does that have to do with the new neighbors?” Lucy asks.

I point one finger at the tool shed on my yard. “Why’s I caught the fool man trying to do a sneakity-sneak into my property some nights ago. Trying to take things that didn’t belong to him. Silly enough to announce his robbery plans beforehand and loud enough for even my old ears to hear him. I let the newie off the hook by not calling Deputy Fife on him, just left a note on the shed door letting him know that I know of his plans. But he got all angry about it. Now, I find him all up in my business, finding out my name, keeping tabs on when I leave my house, trying to listen in on my calls.”

“He’s like the Wicked Witch of the West.” Opie claps his hands happily, realizing the metaphor. Annie, Lucy, and Dennis nod.

“Ya’ll kids are getting quick! Can’t possibly be from the tales I’m telling.” I give a wink and they giggle. The rocking chair creaks as I push feet against the porch floor. “Ya’ll right. He’s like the Witch in not minding his own business. Instead, he’s all obsessed in someone else’s life, trying to make things miserable for them until he gets his way - like the Witch sending all her nasty minions after Dorothy for those ruby shoes. Will go so far as telling folks ‘round here lies about my life just so he feels he’s gotten the upper hand ‘cause I stopped him from doing something criminal against me.”

Suddenly I lean forward and throw the kids a mysterious wink. “But what he doesn’t realize is that I don’t care about his business. I don’t care on what he says about me and who might mistakenly believe him. All I care about is my own life and how I live that. Even Dorothy knew her path and stuck to it.”

“But, then why shoot the paper? Doesn’t that mean you’re getting into his life?” Lucy takes out a slingshot from her pocket as I hand her some of the ball pile. The kids take turns slinging paper into the air, raining message mayhem on the neighbor’s house.

I wave one hand as a gnat tries to land on my lemonade glass. “Nah. I’m just shooting at the flies. Sometimes it takes time for a smart thought to form in people’s minds, like it taking a flower to grow in fertilizer. And we all know how bugs like to circle around crap. Have to keep my own yard clean from the infestation until that fertilizer over there buds into something better.”

The kids snicker and unleash another folly of paper missiles.


  1. You have a beard in your old age?! I think I'd die if I woke up with a beard! Cute and funny story! I loved it :)

  2. Obviously we're not in Kansas any more

  3. Aubrie: Satire calls for a beard when it comes to my Miss Michelle Chronicles. You'll find a link in my sidebar with the rest of the adventures.

    IT: Ah, but what fun would we find if we were there?

  4. You know these wonderful adventures you're going through is great characterization examples for that novel you're penning :)

    Great post as always, my friend.

  5. Eric: If the novel you're referring to is The Big M, that's been finished for some time now. Completely written, although not in memoir format. All I've been doing is fitting the pieces together.

    If you're referring to that novel you want me to pen about taking all these tidbit blog stories together and putting them into a book, that's still under consideration.

    Characterizations... nothing better than to write a fiction story based on fact. Really brings the plot out. These "wonderful adventures" (and I use this term very loosely) has been grand fodder for a writer.

  6. First, I love Miss Michelle. But you knew that.

    Second - Way to integrate your feelings about real life into a tale that entertains. Great job!

  7. Suldog: Thanks! I believe this theme is what the Surly Writer is all about: expressing myself through characters. I enjoy these chronicles, although the beard might get too itchy :-)


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