Patience Is A Virtue

OK, so a group of writers decided to do a book filled with...well, filled with some very weird stuff. The subject was fantasy but it had to be written in noir style. Think the Hobbit meets The Maltese Falcon. There should also be a bit of humor involved or people will think you're just off the edge...that you've proven to be a few sandwiches shy of a picnic. So in my mind, for no particular reason, the granddaddy of all fantasy stories popped in; The Wizard of Oz. Please don't hate me for taking this venerable tale and twisting it as I have.


2. Patience Is A Virtue

Patience Is A Virtue
Cornfields can be quiet at times. Too quiet. I've been patient though, been on the up and up and bided my time. I got the feeling that today might be the day for the big payola. The road splits right where I stand, making me the Joe to see. I get to direct the yokels to the big city or...well, lets just say the other road ain't too keen. I don't know why I do it. I just stand here and point the way.

The guy that started me wanted to be nice. He even stood here himself for a while. Then some dame came along and all of a sudden he didn't have the time to waste on directions. That's where I  come in. He had the right idea with me, but he was too far gone. When a jasper goes dizzy for a dame he forgets the important things. Like giving me a brain. That's right, I got no beans in the jar. It doesn't matter, I see my mark coming now.

She walks like a rube, but I know better. I been waiting for her for a long time. Now to play my stooge act and hook my fish.

“The road splits here Toto” she said to the scruffy mutt tagging along behind her. “I wonder which road goes to Oz?”

Soon as she ain't looking I point towards a road and mumble something about it being a good road. She looks at me kinda funny but I keep my straight face on. Then she looks away again. I change up and point the other way and mumble about how some people take that road too. “Did that scarecrow talk?” she asks the dog, snapping her peepers back on me.

The jig is up now, time to reel in my fish. I cross my arms now and point both ways and clear as a bell I tell her that some folks go both ways...but I'm not here to judge. She laughs. It was a deep laugh, the kind that turned straw to butter. Then those baby-blues fix on me.

“Can't you make up your mind?” she asks me.

“That's my problem” I say. “I haven't got a brain. No guest in the cabeza.”

She moves closer to the fence between us and leans on it. The blue checkered calico droops and doesn't leave much for the imagination. I stare at the cleavage for a minute and wish to God I had imagination.

“So if you have no brain” she says, “how can you talk?”

“I don't know” I answer after giving her the deer in headlights look. “But then again, a lot of people without brains do an awful lot of talking don't they?”

She laughs again and more straw butters up. I can see my scam is paying off. All that time waiting, keeping my patience is about to pay off.

“Oh dear” she says with a hint of coyness. “I shouldn't be talking to strangers. Even handsome ones like you. We haven't been properly introduced. I'm Dorothy Gale, but my fellas call me Dotty. How do you do?”

“What a lovely name” I counter with. “I think my name is Scarecrow. I'm not doing all that well. I've been stranded here for so long. Stuck here with this post up back.”

“We'll have to fix that, won't we” she giggled.

She lifted a leg over the fence and showed a set of world-class pins. The kind that started at her feet and went all the way up. She caught me in a stare for the second time and gave my the shy routine. She didn't fool me. Especially when she stood right in front of me, looking up with the baby-blues.

“Listen doll” I managed to say from a suddenly dry throat, "I'm not too smart about these operations, but if you can bend that nail in the back, I think I'll go down.”

“Promise?” she laughed as she walked around me.

I could feel her warm hands on the straw that made my back. She took her sweet time finding that nail but a few seconds more wouldn't be bad. I waited all this time after all. Then, just like that I got sprung. I could feel myself slipping off the hook that held me prisoner for so long. I hit the ground hard. Yeah, it rattled a few teeth but it was worth it. When I opened my eyes, I was staring into her crazy ruby shoes.

The way they glittered was like a shiny to a crow. I was caught. I was mesmerized. I couldn't take my eyes away from them until that sweet as syrup voice pulled me away.

“Are you alright?” she asked me.

She was holding a handful of straw and I knew just where it had come from. I grabbed it back and shoved it back into my pants.

“Yeah doll” I answered. “Sometimes it comes out but I just push it back in.”

“What a shame” she said with that tone in her voice again. “Well I guess I should be making tracks again. Which way is it to Oz?”

“What's a dish like you wasting time in Oz?” I said.

I was trying to make my hold on the fence look casual, but between being on my feet for the first time and watching her put that lipstick on those pouty lips, I was a goner.

“I'm trying to hitch a ride back home” she said. “Kansas. Yeah, it's dullsville, but I got an Aunty Em there who runs a swinging dance club. She needs my help. This crazy dame named Glenda told me to go to Oz and lay my tale on the wizard.”

Glenda. Now it was starting to make sense. Glenda was the kind of doll that lit fires to see the lights on the engines. The kind that gave wedgies to stuffy professors. Real bad news. I had to know more.

“How is it that you know Glenda doll?” I asked.

“It's all a freak chance” she said. “I got caught in a storm. A window blew in and conked me on the head. One minute I was cruising and the next, my headlights went dim. When I woke up I was in some kind of circus town with all these midgets and Glenda. They were all dancing and calling me a hero for killing a witch.”

“But you don't remember killing her?” I asked.

“No, I swear it” she said.

The tears were starting to fill her eyes. I offered her my scarf...I never liked it anyway. I was beginning to see the story here. I urged her to go on with it all the same.

“Anyway, I just wanted to go home” she continued. “Glenda was telling me how to get to Oz when there was a crazy poof of smoke and some dreadful looking woman was yelling at me. She was real gone. The kind that haunts memories, you know?”

“I know ho you mean” I told her. “She lives in the forest. She's not really bad, just a little screwy from all the solitude.”

“Well she goes on about the other witch” she says, “saying she was her sister and I was gonna pay for what I did. Then Glenda says something about shoes and she gets all doe-eyed. She turns for the shoes but they ain't on the stiff anymore...I don't know how they got there, but I'm wearing them.”

“The red shoes you have on now?” I asked.

She lifts her skirt again and nods. She knows her gams are the best and she keeps using them like a bullfighter uses a red cape.

“So now this green lady starts with the threats” Dotty says. “She's telling me that she's gonna line me up for the big sleep. She's gonna outfit me for a calico box. I'm scared Scarecrow. I don't know what this dame is gonna do. You have to help me.”

She melts into my chest, bawling like a baby. Her hands are holding on to me like I was a subway strap in Manhattan. I can feel her warm skin under the too-big gloves I got on.

“Relax doll” I says to her. “I'll get you to Oz.”

“You will?” she says all surprised. “But I'd hate to see that cute face all mushed up. Maybe you better just stay here. I'm bad news now.”

“Ahh your screwy” I shot back. “I ain't afraid of no spooks. Besides, maybe this wizard jasper can set me up with some brains. It's worth a shot to me.”

She settles in, using my straw for a pillow. All the while she's holding me, not letting go. I got no problems with that since I'm using her to keep my balance anyway. The smell of her perfume is getting to me and I can feel some straw moving around. Maybe she feels it too cause she pulls away real quick. She looks at me all serious for a second and then leans back in.

“Glenda told me something else” she says all low. “She told me the wizard might ask me for a favor before he gets me a ride home. She said that since I put the first witch to the long dirt nap, that he might want me to ice her sister too.”

There it was, plain as the drawn nose on my face. She was a cool one, no doubt about that. She was on a contract and she needed a couple of brunos to help handle the load. I was the lucky first pick. But it didn't matter to me. I don't know why. Maybe it was because I was so patient in waiting for her to come along that I used it all up. I was ready to rush into things now. I didn't care about consequences. I was foot-loose and fancy free with a hot dish on my chest.

“Will you help me out with this?” she asks, cool as the other side of the pillow.

“You can count on me doll” I said. “But we're gonna need more muscle than this. I know a couple mugs that might be able to help out.”

“Are they far from here?” she says.

“Not too far” I answer. “We can be at the first mug's hideout in a couple of hours. There's no rush. He lives next to an apple orchard. Says it gives him an excuse for the axe he always carries around.”

She sort of giggles, a nervous laugh this time. She figured out that patience is my virtue, but it don't pay the piper. She wants me to fill an order for her, lay someone down in the big sleep. That costs and she knows the currency I want. She cuddles in closer.

“What can we do to pass the time?” she says. “I'm new to this game.”

“I can think of a few things” I answer. “The funny thing about straw is that it's so versatile. It can be soft, but when it bales up, it's stiff as a board."

Her hand wandered down to the johnsonhood regions and a smile crossed her red, pouty lips. She relaxed a minute and then whispered in my ear.

“I think I've been patient myself” she said. “I see the baler has been through. Isn't it time for the harvest?”

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