no place like oz Page 13

As the people of Munchkin Country began to cheer my name, I knew that no matter what Oz had in store for me this time, one thing was clear:

I was home.

Seven

“Couldn’t we have at least stayed for the banquet?” Aunt Em asked as we made our way from the Munchkin village, toward where Cos had told us the Road of Yellow Brick began. “I’m getting a touch hungry.”

“I’m not sure I’d want to see the food those strange little folks serve,” Uncle Henry said, raising his eyebrow skeptically. “Back in the war, they forced us to eat monkey brains and lizard tongues for breakfast, you know, and I didn’t care for that one bit.”

Uncle Henry was always talking about his days in the war, but sometimes it seemed hard to believe that he’d ever left Kansas at all. Some of his stories seemed much more bizarre than anything Oz could dream up.

Then again there had never been a Gale who was a liar, so who was I to doubt him?

“Henry Gale,” Aunt Em admonished him. “They did no such thing. Anyway, I’m sure the food here is just fine.”

“They could serve me Lobster Newburg and Baked Alaska and it would still be time to get on home,” he replied.

“Oh, don’t you see?” I exclaimed, trying to make him understand. “Don’t you see? We’re in Oz now! You don’t need to worry about the cows, or the crops, or the pigs, or anything like that anymore. Life here is so much better—can’t you see already how beautiful it is? In Oz, you won’t need to wake up at dawn to milk the cows ever again!”

Aunt Em touched my shoulder gently, calming me down. I hadn’t even realized how worked up I’d gotten. “Now, Dorothy,” she said. “It is lovely here. And we’re so proud of your statue and all we’ve learned about you today. But your uncle is right. We can’t stay here. This is no place for us.”

“Anyway, I like milking the cows,” Uncle Henry said.

I stopped dead in my tracks, right there on the yellow bricks. For all of Henry’s griping and Aunt Em’s nervousness, it had never occurred to me that they would still want to go home once they got a taste of Oz. How could anyone want to go back to a dry, dusty field and a few irritable pigs when there were fantastic things around every corner here?

“Of course we’re going to stay,” I said. “Why in the world would we go home?”

My uncle looked downright aghast. “Because it’s our home and that’s where we all belong,” Uncle Henry said. “I’m glad the people love you here, but that doesn’t change who you are, missy.”

“Don’t lose your temper, Henry,” Aunt Em cautioned him. “But I do have sewing circle next week, and the house is still a mess from your party, Dorothy. If we don’t go home soon, I’ll never have time to clean up all the dishes.”

Suddenly I wanted to scream. They had to be joking. I had wished so hard to have a second chance here, never expecting it would actually happen. And now it had happened, and we were walking happily through Munchkin Country on a day more beautiful than Kansas had ever seen or would ever see. They wanted to give it all up so that Aunt Em could go do the dishes for her sewing circle?

At least I had one foolproof ace up my sleeve. I didn’t even have to lie. Well, not exactly.

“I don’t know how to get home,” I said irritably, fighting back anger. “I don’t even know how we got here in the first place! The only one who can send us back to Kansas is Glinda, and she needs our help. Once we find her, we can all talk it over.”

As I spoke, I felt my shoes pulsing against my feet with a warm, tingling feeling, as if I’d just dipped them in a whirlpool of warm water. So maybe it was a tiny lie after all—the shoes had brought us here, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they could bring us home, too. But Uncle Henry and Aunt Em didn’t need to know that.

Neither of them looked too thrilled with my plan, but it’s not like they had a choice. So Toto and I stomped ahead and we all moved on.

The first signs that we were nearing the road were some scattered bricks here and there—they almost looked like they were growing out of the dirt. After a few more minutes of walking, there were more and more of them, and then the road sprung up in the middle of a wide, overgrown field, unfurling itself into the horizon like a golden ribbon.

Aunt Em was so surprised when she saw it that she let out a squeak and jumped back on her heels. Uncle Henry shook his head as if he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

I’d spent my share of time on this road, but even I was taken aback by how radiant it was in the afternoon sunlight, at the dazzling golden contrast against the blue-green of the grass and the cornfields and the sky, at the way it twisted and spiraled through the fields and hills, winding out into the distance like it would lead us anywhere we could possibly imagine, if only we could name the place.

Toto was already a few paces ahead of us, panting and wagging his tail in excitement. He barked three times, ready to lead the way.

“Well, I suppose it won’t hurt to explore just a bit,” Uncle Henry said. “Now that we’re here anyway.”

Aunt Em didn’t say anything at all. She just stepped forward and set a foot onto the road. She looked back at us with a small, playful smile. “I guess the dishes can wait,” she said. “For now at least.”

The thing about the yellow road is that it’s enchanted. It wants you to follow it—not for any devious reason, but just because it likes to have a purpose. It’s very hard to resist a road with such infectious enthusiasm. I knew from experience.