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Fiction

Return from Oz

by Kait Heacock

There was once a girl who went to the Emerald City (no, Linnea, they told you it’s called Seattle, stop talking like it’s that kind of Emerald City). She went there once, when she was a younger woman, a girl really. It shined green, but more like a reflection of the ocean, like the Puget Sound and its seaweed coloring, than any precious stone. But then she met a farm boy (don’t make it sound so pastoral—he works in agriculture; that’s a big business in this part of the state) and left the sparkling city behind, like something you only remember reflected back in the rearview mirror.

She missed her friends, missed learning, missed working, missed the colors, and missed the world like a whirlwind, like a tornado of people and movement and life. Things slowed down here, in this dusty, dry desert. The Technicolor world she inhabited, however briefly, seemed more like a dream lately than a reality. It was like in those movies when the protagonist experiences these wild adventures only to wake up at the end and discover it was all a dream. It wasn’t a dream; in this reality it was called “the past.”

But she missed the past, and that’s why she disappeared for a while early in the marriage. Back to Oz. She made so many friends there—tin men mostly. She met them at night at clubs that never seemed to close, places with flashing lights that made the world look like a series of stop-motion animations. They found her in the nights, placed tiny Technicolor candies in her palm—“I’ll get you my pretty,” they snickered in her ear. They never seemed to stick around in the mornings—no hearts, that was the problem. There’s no place like home there’s no place like home there’s no place like home.

Farm boy said he’d forgive her, baby. She was just running scared and he knew she’d come back. Want anything enough and you can have it. “Home” was an incantation and suddenly she was awake and domesticated. She popped babies out like it was her job, like she was a factory and business was booming. Farm boy bought her a dog even. She had it all, safe and sound. It’s easy to get used to black and white (stop complaining, Linnea, this is the life you always wanted. This is the life mother promised you when you were a girl. Grow up, get married, have babies. That’s the list. Easy).

Sometimes it’s hard to stay in a loop. You wake up, you make the bed, you make the lunches, you kiss your husband goodbye, you clean the house, you do and you make and you go until the sun sets and you sink your heavy body into a familiar bed next to a familiar man in a familiar house. It’s like a curse, a spell: you are doomed to repeat this monotony every day. Every day (You can be so melodramatic, Linnea. Do you know how good you have it? You know how many people would kill, kill, for this life? You should count your blessings).

In the darkness of her still, sleepless bedroom, she lifted the covers and climbed out of bed. She returned to Oz once again, in the middle of the night, leaving her husband, their sleeping children, and this black and white world behind. She boarded a Greyhound, met a veteran and they talked all the way over the jagged mountain pass, the evergreens welcoming her back with spindly fingers, a forbidden forest waving her onward. “This way to the Emerald City.” She wandered through the city streets alone at night—lost in the yellow twinkle and searching for green, seeking out the places she remembered. Where were her friends? Had they left too? The laughter had dissipated, the streets emptied.

The road was not made of yellow bricks, only asphalt. Is this what it was like before? The remembering felt like a headache, like a stabbing sensation to her frontal lobe. The vet held her hand, had a tattoo of a lion’s face on his chest that stared down at her from above. He asked her to pee on him in the alley behind the bar off Highway 99. “Follow the yellow brick road, follow the yellow brick road.”

She returned from Oz again. This time farm boy said she needed to do something about this little problem. For the children’s sake.

They gave her a rainbow of pills. This pill gives you a brain. This pill gives you a heart. This pill gives you courage. Some days her pills took her over the rainbow; other days she found herself under it (it takes time for prescriptions to balance out. Don’t forget what the doctor told you, Linnea. Take your pills at the same time every day. Routine is key. Order is necessity).

At night when farm boy reached across the bed to touch her she said, “Stay away from me, Scarecrow. You never had a brain. It’s funny, I thought that’s what I loved about you at first.”

“If I’m the scarecrow, you’re the Wicked Bitch.”

“You didn’t even get the name right,” she corrected him. He didn’t reply. She turned over in bed (that one was pretty low, Linnea. Even you should know that). 

She watched the children grow, watched herself age, all through the nagging numbness a cocktail of pills can give to you. They named her “condition” after her: Dorothy Complex. Farm boy stopped listening when she pleaded for him to take her back. “I’ll tell you where they’re going to take you if you keep this up.”

She learned to like the pills; farm boy even stopped checking her mouth to make sure she swallowed them. If she took them like she was supposed to, she could watch the color drain from everything around her. Holding her hand up to her face, she watched the peachiness of her skin drain to black and white. She looked around and saw the color recede like the tide. “Mommy’s taking her meds now, sweetheart. Leave Mommy alone for a little while.”

But she didn’t like it this way, so some days she mixed up all the pills to see what fireworks went off in her head. Two pills, three pills, four pills. Funny how something that could change the world one way could do something so much different with just a little tweak. The blue pill plus the yellow pill turned her head green. A couple of pills and she was emerald.



Kait Heacock' photo

Kait Heacock is a fiction writer originating from Washington State. She recently relocated to Brooklyn to focus on a career in publishing and writing. Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals and websites including Portland Review, Tin House‘s Open Bar blog, and Housefire. Her short story ”Upstairs,” published by Vol. 1 Brooklyn, was chosen by The Atlantic Cities as a “2013 Best of City Reads” and will be reprinted in the April 2014 issue of Esquire Russia. Her website is kaitgetslit.com