Labor of Love
By Kim McFarland
"Enter my reality,
Bend your mind with me."
-- From Bend Your Mind by Reflection Theory
1. The Joy of Mimicry
It was the evening after a bright and sunny day in the Winkie Country in the West of Oz. The weather was always fair; Oz was an enchanted land, and dark and stormy weather was not permitted in the civilized areas. Thus today, as every other day, sunlight turned the rippling fields of oats to gold and gleamed off the green corn stalks.
The Scarecrow, coming back from a walk through the fields with his frequent companion, Scraps the Patchwork Girl, saw that one corner of the cornfield was seething with crows. He approached it and said amiably, "Good evening. How is the corn today?"
One of the crows looked up from the ear it was pecking at and answered, "Ripening nicely. It'll all be ready for harvest in a few more days."
As they chatted Scraps picked up several of the clean, discarded cobs. She tossed one up and down in her hand, flipping it in midair, then began trying to juggle them. The nearby crows watched her curiously. They were on good terms with the Scarecrow, who, rather than try to keep them out of the cornfields, had set aside some corn for them. There was more than enough for everyone, so why be stingy? The Patchwork Girl, on the other hand, made them nervous with her startling colors and erratic behavior. She soon dropped the cobs; her hands - gloves padded with cotton - were fairly clumsy. Several of the crows laughed, and she did too.
The Scarecrow left the crows to their dinner. The Patchwork Girl looped her arm through his, and they returned to the corncob-shaped tower that served as the Scarecrow's palace.
They stopped at the palace entrance. It was getting late, time for Scraps to leave for her home in the Emerald City. More often than not, in the morning she came here - or he went to the Emerald City, or occasionally they met in the middle when they had the same idea simultaneously - to see each other. And every evening they parted. The Scarecrow sighed, "It always seems too soon."
She agreed, "And in the dark of night all the meat people in the Emerald City sleep. It gets so quiet and boring."
After a pause he suggested, "Well... you could stay here tonight...?"
She grinned, and the evening sunlight glittered on her silver button eyes. "Sure," she answered.
Relieved, he opened the door and escorted her in. She danced a few steps, then spun, her skirt flaring around herself. The Scarecrow said, "You're a regular Dervish today."
"I dance when I'm happy!" she answered.
Or when she was bored, or thinking, or on any other occasion, he thought. When her natural exuberance took over she was a blur of gorgeously colorful motion. He ventured, "You're happy to stay over...?"
"Of course!" She spun toward him. He tried to catch her, but she knocked him over and both fell in a heap. She laughed as she got up off of him, then held down a hand and helped him to his feet. He had only lost a few wisps of straw. Sometimes he needed to be restuffed afterward, but he didn't mind. It didn't hurt, and she always cheerfully repaired any damage she did.
"We wouldn't have to go back and forth every day if we were married," he said.
He was on his feet, but she did not release his hand. "What?"
Hesitantly he said, "Well, we love each other, and we're together almost all the time anyway... it's the next logical step, after all."
"You are worried, I can see,
'Bout seeming impropriety.
Well, I don't care and nor should you,
Still, I say yes, what do we do?"
He answered, "Well, marriage is when two people live together as a family. Some of them have children."
"Children?" She laughed; that thought had never occurred to her.
"Meat people do, that is," he corrected himself.
"What else do meat people do?"
He hadn't given that much consideration until recently; until he had journeyed with the Tin Woodman to find his old fiance, the Scarecrow had simply accepted that some people came in pairs. He wasn't sure where the children came into it; they just seemed to be there. Unwilling to reveal his ignorance, he said, "They're together most of the time, even when they sleep. Apparently that's important."
"But we can't sleep. Only meat people can." She released his hand and tapped her cloth chin thoughtfully, the continued brightly, "We can pretend. Who would know the difference?"
"Who would ask?" he responded, relieved.
"It's dark out. That's when meat people sleep. Where do we go?"
"My room doesn't have a bed. The guest rooms do, though."
They went to one of the palace's many guest rooms on the third floor of the tower. Some rooms were dedicated to special friends; that of the Tin Woodman was furnished with oil and polishing cream, and Dorothy's with comfortable furniture and a basket of fresh fruit on the table. There were others for anyone else who turned up - which was not uncommon, as the Scarecrow, who had briefly served as King of Oz before Ozma had been found - was well-liked as well as considered one of the wisest people in all of Oz.
She sat on the bed and smoothed down her skirt with her hands. "It's been a long time since this crazy-quilt was on a bed," she remarked.
He extinguished the candle with a long-stemmed candle-snuffer, as he was none too comfortable around naked flames. Then they lay down side by side.
Scraps glanced over, then raised herself on one elbow and asked, "How do you do that thing with your eyes?"
"What thing with my eyes?"
"How do you close them? They're painted on."
He opened his eyes and looked at her. "When I was first made I wasn't able to close my eyes. Then, one time when Jinjur touched up the paint on my face she added eyelids. I've been able to close them ever since."
"I can't close mine at all. They're buttons." She hopped off the bed and looked around the room, then found what she wanted on a table and got it. She tied a scarf over her eyes like a blindfold. "There! Perfect." She lay back down again.
It wasn't long before Scraps became restless. "How do people lie still like this all night?"
"Their brains shut off at night. Then they have no reason to do anything."
She complained, "Well, mine don't, and I'm bored. Some people talk in their sleep. And," she said, abruptly sitting up and removing her blindfold, "some people sleepwalk, so that's what I'm going to do!"
"All right." He was relieved. He didn't mind lying beside her, but he didn't want her to be bored and unhappy. Hand in hand, they left the room.
They walked out into the field, which was silvered by a full moon. They talked, and watched the flight of the owls, and danced in the moonlight. The darkness, though it muted her festive colors, did nothing to dampen her exuberance. Her laughter enlivened the otherwise quiet farmland as they played. Scraps, spying a nest in one of the trees, climbed up to look at the sleeping crows, and was scolded by the birds for disturbing their rest.
Eventually the moon set and the sky began to lighten on the other side. Hand in hand, they watched the sunrise turn the clouds pink and purple. When the sun was fully above the horizon Scraps said, "There, it's morning. I'll wake up now."
"I will too," he agreed.
She looked around as if suddenly wondering where she was, then said "Good morning, dear! How was your night?"
"Just fine. And yours?"
"Wonderful. I can't remember being so well rested!" She stretched, bending her arms back far enough to threaten the integrity of her seams, then looped her arm through his. "Come on, let's tell all our friends!"
They set out on the path together.
If I were not a little mad and generally silly
I should give you my advice upon the subject, willy-nilly;
I should show you in a moment how to grapple with the question,
And you'd really be astonished at the force of my suggestion.
On the subject I shall write you a most valuable letter,
Full of excellent suggestions when I feel a little better,
But at present I'm afraid I am as mad as any hatter,
So I'll keep 'em to myself, for my opinion doesn't matter!- from My Eyes are Fully Open in Gilbert & Sullivan's Ruddigore
2. The Pumpkins and The Bees
A winding path defined by wagon wheel ruts led through grasslands and fields dotted with clumps of trees and the occasional house. All the wildflowers that bloomed along the road were bright yellow, and the houses were painted the same color.
The path then passed a graveyard, an unusual sight in Oz, where people were not subject to age or disease, and thus death was a very rare occurrence. From each of these graves grew thick, twisting vines, which led into the adjoining field. One grave - a very small one - was freshly dug and still empty.
The Scarecrow noted the open grave as he passed it. The Patchwork Girl didn't; she was more interested in the tangle of vines dotted with trumpetlike yellow flowers and pumpkins that ranged in size from small green balls to squash bigger than a man was tall. And bigger; the one in the center of the field had been hollowed out and dried, and now served as a house.
The house's door was open, and through it the couple saw a stick figure wearing gaudy, mismatched clothes that hung limply from its thin frame. It had no head; its neck ended in a sharpened wooden stake. When it noticed them it waved a greeting with a hand that held a long, sharp knife.
It was groping along the table in front of itself when the Scarecrow and Scraps entered. Two pumpkins sat on the table. One was carved like a jack o' lantern, and was verging on being overripe; the other was freshly-picked and its face was half finished. The Scarecrow picked up the older pumpkin and set it on top of the stake. Jack Pumpkinhead put down the knife and, with both hands, turned the head to point forward. "Thanks. I was just carving myself a new head. This one's getting soft, I'm afraid."
Scraps, who had never seen this before, asked, "How can you carve your own head?"
Jack explained, "I take my old head off and copy it."
"How can you see to do that?"
He stopped, a puzzled expression on his face. "I don't know. I never thought about it," he admitted, scratching one cheek with a twiglike finger.
"Don't think about it, then. Just do it!" she told him.
"All right, I will," Jack replied seriously, as if accepting valuable advice. "What brings you here? And where's the Tin Woodman?"
In the past the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow had often traveled together. The Scarecrow had recently realized that he had been neglecting his closest friend. "We're going to visit him today, actually. We stopped by since you're along the way."
"Well, welcome! If I knew you were coming I would have baked a pumpkin pie. Though," he said after a pause, "I don't know who would eat it."
It was definitely time for a new head, the Scarecrow thought. When he had a fresh pumpkin he could be fairly intelligent; as they went off he was less so. Scraps, who had had enough of small talk, said, "The Scarecrow and I are married now."
That surprised Jack. "Really? How did you do that?" he asked.
The Scarecrow answered, "It's something you do. If you raise crops you're a farmer and if you chop down trees you're a woodcutter."
Nodding his understanding, Jack said, "And if you scare crows, you're a scarecrow."
Scraps, who was testing the knife, laughed. The Scarecrow continued, "So, we started being married."
"How do you do that?"
The Scarecrow evaded the question by answering, "Hardly anyone we know is married, so it's hard to tell if it's working or not."
Scraps had turned the fresh pumpkin to face herself. She looked up and said, "Maybe we'll have children when we find out how that's done."
"They're just there, like everyone else, aren't they?" Jack asked.
As Scraps carved, holding the knife tightly with both hands, the Scarecrow explained, "All living things make other living things, otherwise eventually you run out of them. Billinia lays eggs, and they hatch chickens."
Scraps declared, "Anything meat people can do, we can do! Well, except sleep and eat and drink. And feel pain. And breathe."
Jack sat back thoughtfully. This was a deeply serious issue, judging from the Scarecrow's manner. Then his carved eyes widened. "I know something about that!"
That surprised the Scarecrow. "You do?"
"Sure!" Jack leaned forward and said, "It's all about flowers."
"Flowers?" both Scraps and the Scarecrow said.
"Yes! When the flowers open bees fly back and forth to carry the pollen between them." He moved a twig finger in the air, as if tracing a bumblebee's flight. Then he put both hands together to form a ball. "Then pumpkins grow, and when they ripen they're full of seeds. When you plant the seeds, pumpkin vines grow and make more flowers." He opened his hands, imitating a flower blooming. "It's one of those circle-of-life kind of things," he said, pleased with himself.
After a pause the Scarecrow said, "Jack, people aren't pumpkins!"
Cheerfully Jack replied "Some of us are."
"Speaking of which!" Scraps said, turning the pumpkin around to face Jack. She had finished the face he had begun. It was still patterned after his current head, but she had added a tilt to the eyes and mouth to change his normal wide-eyed smile into a quirky grin.
"Let me try that on." Jack removed his old head and set it on the table, then picked up the fresh one. He had to push down hard to impale it on the stake he used as a neck. When it was settled into place he said, "Thank you! I feel much better now. I was getting quite foolish, I'm afraid." He stood and picked up his old head. "I must inter this now."
The small group walked out to the graveyard by the road. The Scarecrow and Scraps watched silently as Jack set the pumpkin in the hole, then filled it back in and tamped the soil down with his shovel. "I suppose this seems sentimental, but I do get attached to my heads."
"Not too attached, though," Scraps observed.
After exchanging farewells, Scraps and the Scarecrow set out to continue on their way to the Tin Castle, and Jack went to attend to some things before he became soft-headed again.
Have you ever seen a day that don't turn to night?
Have you ever been wrong when you thought you were right?
Has it ever been said "You're a jolly good fellow"?
Have you ever been mellow?
-- From Mellow by Spacekats
3. Straw, Cloth, and Tin
The Tin Woodman's castle could be seen from miles away as a spark on the horizon. It was made of solid tin and kept well-polished, so it shone brightly during the day.
Inside the outer walls was a garden made of tin; the trees and flowers were all made of this bright metal, which never wilted or went to seed. Between the trees fluttered little mechanical birds whose piping calls sounded like the trills of pennywhistles.
Everyone has to have a hobby.
The Tin Woodman was sitting on his tin throne, for all appearances deep in thought. However, in reality he was simply bored. Being the Emperor of the Winkie Country was no taxing task; the people governed themselves fine, only occasionally needing their ruler's services, and when they did come to him he was always happy to oblige them. He would have been happier than usual lately, because the Scarecrow, who normally visited him frequently, had not come by in some time.
He knew why, and though he missed his friend, he could not find it in his heart to be jealous. Long ago, when he had been a Munchkin woodcutter named Nick Chopper made of meat instead of metal, he had been in love. He remembered it as a pleasant form of obsession. In his case it had not turned out well. He had been punished by the Witch of the East for his love of her servant girl: the witch had enchanted his axe, causing it to chop him up, and although his fiance had continued to love him after the tinsmith replaced the amputated parts with tin, he had rusted before they could elope. Believing herself abandoned, she had married another. As he had discovered her marriage years later, it had not wounded his heart, only his pride, and that not for long. By now it was only a vaguely melancholy memory.
He had not heard footsteps, but his head jerked up when he heard voices. He was at the door before his staff had a chance to open it from the other side. Not waiting for his guests to be officially announced, he threw open the door. "Scarecrow! Scraps! Come in!" He had guessed that they'd be together. He pulled the Scarecrow into an embrace and pounded his back, making his straw stuffing crackle.
Scraps, watching the typical demonstration of affection, laughed and said "You don't do that to the meat people, I hope!"
Releasing the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman answered, "Of course not. I might hurt them." He held out a hand to her. She ignored it, jumped forward, and hugged him. Startled, he glanced at the Scarecrow, who grinned and shrugged. Then he returned the embrace.
When she stepped back she flicked his metal exterior with a golden fingernail. It rang with a soft plink. "I know you can't help being stiff, but don't you dare be formal with me!"
"Is it even possible to be formal with you, Miss Scraps?" he replied.
"You can drop the 'Miss,'" she told him.
At his friend's expression of puzzlement the Scarecrow said, "Scraps and I have decided to be married."
"Oh! I... didn't expect that," the tin man replied, more surprised. "But perhaps I should have."
She said, "We wanted to tell you first. Well, we saw Jack along the way here, so we told him too."
She was stuffed with cotton, the Scarecrow with oat straw; neither one had a heart. Yet it was obvious that that had not presented an obstacle to their falling in love. The world was a strange place indeed, the tin man thought. "When do you plan to be married?"
"What do you mean?" the Scarecrow asked.
Scraps added, "We're already doing it, hadn't you noticed?" Before he could comment she said, "We've been thinking about having children, if we can ever find out how that's done."
The Tin Woodman's eyes widened. Had he heard right? Of course, he realized, both of them had been created, not born. They couldn't help their ignorance on the subject. No, not ignorance - innocence. He had no desire to embarrass the Scarecrow, who prided himself on his brain just as the Tin Woodman valued his heart, but better the news come from him than someone else, he judged. He paused, then began quietly, "I'm sorry to tell you that that isn't possible."
"Why not?" the Scarecrow asked.
The Tin Woodman paused, his eyes closed. He never imagined this subject would come up, but he couldn't be less than honest with his dearest friend. "Only meat people and animals can have children. People such as us aren't made for... that task, any more than we're made to eat or sleep. And even meat people no longer have new children, because when Oz was enchanted its inhabitants were made immortal. Nobody dies, nobody ages - and nobody is born."
"What? Who decided that?" Scraps demanded.
The Scarecrow knew this part of the story, although he hadn't recognized its ramifications. "The queen of a band of fairies. She liked the land, so she enchanted it, making it immortal, and left Ozma to rule it before passing on."
She exclaimed, outraged,
"Fairies dictate Oz-landers' fate,
They do as they please with their powers so great.
If ever I find one of their kind
I'll give her a generous piece of my mind!"
She whirled on her heel and stamped away angrily.
Both men watched her go, startled by her outburst. She was usually cheerful to the point of distraction; it was strange to see her angry. The Scarecrow glanced at the Tin Woodman, then followed Scraps.
The Patchwork Girl was trying to stomp, but she was so light her footsteps made little sound, even on the tin floor. But the attempt made her cotton stuffing pack down, so that by the time she reached the outside garden she was squat and dumpy. When the Scarecrow caught up with her she had to look up to meet his eyes. He asked gently, "Can I give you a hand?"
She nodded without speaking, then lay down on the garden path. The Scarecrow rolled her back and forth a few times like a rolling pin to make her stuffing resume its normal shape. Then he gave her a hand up again.
The sunlight glittered on her silver button eyes; for a moment it almost looked like tears. "What gives them the right!" she growled.
He answered softly, "I feel foolish. For all my wisdom, I find I actually know very little about the subject of marriage. I'm sure Nick has more to tell us."
She nodded grudgingly.
The Tin Woodman had watched the scene only briefly, then he had left them alone. A sudden inspiration had led him to the treasury wing of the palace. The tinsmiths of the Winkie country offered some of their best crafts as a point of pride; he was not the only one who knew that the honest glitter of tin was more pure and beautiful than the gleam of gold or silver.
He only had a general idea of what he was looking for, but it took him very little time to find it.
When he returned to his throne room Scraps and the Scarecrow were already there. Uncomfortably the Scarecrow said, "I'm afraid I've been a fool-"
The Tin Woodman held up a hand, stopping him to save his pride. "No, there's no way you could have known. And it's a small error, easily corrected."
He explained, "Marriage begins with a ceremony. It's a ritual which officially declares that you're a couple. They can be large and elaborate, or small, according to your wishes. Traditionally they can be performed by any ruler."
Scraps and the Scarecrow glanced at each other. This was all new and strange to them. Celebrations were held regularly in the Emerald City, and he guessed that the wedding of its former king would be one of those "large and elaborate" occasions... and, somehow, that didn't seem right to the Scarecrow. This was a personal matter between himself and Scraps.
Scraps looked equally thoughtful. Then she grinned widely. "'Any ruler?' Like the Emperor of the Winkies?"
The Scarecrow turned to the Tin Man. "Could you marry us?"
He smiled. He had been hoping they would ask. "I would be honored."
"Well, get started then!" Scraps said, all trace of her previous frustration vanished.
He had never performed a marriage before, but he had attended some, and almost been in a participant in one; he knew that the words were less important than the fact of the ceremony itself. "Very well. First-" He handed the Scarecrow something he had held concealed in the palm of one hand.
"What's this for?" the Scarecrow asked, looking at the thin metal band topped by a single clear stone.
"You'll see in a moment. For now, just take it." He put a hand to his mouth and blew, making a sound like a pea whistle. The doors opened and a pair of tin-mailed Winkie guards looked in. He beckoned them over. "We need witnesses."
The guards came over and stood near the party. He held out his metal hand. "Lay your right hands on mine, one above the other," he instructed. They did so, and he began in a solemn tone, "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the presence of these witnesses to join The Scarecrow and The Patchwork Girl in matrimony. This is a lifelong bond, and is not to be entered into lightly. Does anyone here know of any reason this marriage should not take place?"
He paused formally. Scraps said, "Of course not. Go on!"
He continued, "Do you, Scarecrow, take Scraps, the Patchwork Girl, to be your wife and companion; to love her and cherish her in good times and bad, from this day forward?"
The Scarecrow answered in a low voice, "Yes."
Looking at Scraps, the Tin Woodman continued, "Do you, Scraps, take the Scarecrow to be your husband and companion; to love him and cherish him in good times and bad, from this day forward?"
"Scarecrow, put the ring on her finger."
"Left hand, next to last finger."
The Scarecrow and Scraps tried to accomplish this without removing their right hands from the Tin Man's hand, and since their cotton-stuffed gloves were fairly clumsy, this took a few tries. Once on, the clear stone picked up the colors of her patchwork and reflected them like a tiny prism. And then the ring slipped; the had to curl her fingers quickly to keep it from dropping off. She said, "Hold it a minute," and, taking her right hand from underneath the Scarecrow's, tied a knot in her finger just below the ring. Saying "That'll hold it until I sew it on," she put her right hand back in place.
The Tin Woodman had to fight for a moment to regain a serious expression. Then he placed his left hand on top of theirs and said, "By the authority vested in me by the Winkie Country in the Nation of Oz, I present you to each other as man and wife. You may kiss each other."
Neither the Scarecrow nor the Patchwork Girl had lips, but they could embrace and bump noses affectionately.
"What comes next?" the Scarecrow asked, turning back to the Tin Woodman.
"That's up to you," he answered.
The three friends stayed together for the rest of the day, until late in the evening when the Scarecrow and Scraps departed for their home. The Tin Woodman, not needing to sleep and thus having no bed to retire to, seated himself on his throne to wait for morning. It seemed quieter than usual in the tin castle after the staff had left for their homes and he was the only one remaining. But he did not feel lonely now. His friends' happiness warmed him, and that was enough to keep him content.
There's a radish 'cause you kept repeating that your love was true
A beetroot for the time I said that I'd beetroot to you
Some shallots for the time I said I love you such shallot
Some capers to remind me of what up to which we got
- from Broken-Hearted Lover's Stew by Benny Hill
4. Sewing Notions
"I need a needle and thread."
That had come out of the blue, but then The Patchwork Girl could act so random, the only surprising thing was the serious tone of her voice. "Do you need to be repaired?" the Scarecrow asked.
"No, silly. For one thing-" She waved her left hand; there was still a knot tied in one of her fingers to keep the ring above it from slipping off. "I need to sew this on. And if anyone in the world ought to have a sewing kit, a girl made of patchwork should!"
The Scarecrow agreed. "True. And that shouldn't be difficult. Many people sew."
"That's right," she mused, then said suddenly, "And I know someone who does! Why don't you go visit Nick? I'll be gone a while." She bumped noses with him, then swept out the door.
She had not told the Scarecrow, because she had not thought to, that she would be crossing Oz into the Munchkin Country. She detoured around the Emerald City because, although she normally would have taken the opportunity to visit her friends there, she was on a mission and did not want to be delayed. She would see them later.
Although on foot, she still made good time because, not being made of flesh, she did not need to rest along the way, and the wild animals along that path had already learned that she was not good to eat. If any still tried to harass her, she ran at them, shouting and flapping her gaudy skirt, and they fled in bewilderment.
A man looked up when he heard an odd sound. It sounded like a stick tapping on his door. He closed his book, then went over and opened the door.
Scraps tossed aside the fallen branch she had been using because her hands were too soft to knock. "Hi!"
"Scraps? Come in," Dr. Pipt said, surprised. "I didn't expect to see you here."
She grinned. "I'm always doing the unexpected. Even I don't know what I'm going to do from minute to minute!"
Hearing the voices, Margolotte, his wife, wiped her hands on her apron and came out of the kitchen. She was startled to see her husband sitting and talking with their crazy-quilt creation. She had originally constructed the Patchwork Girl to be a domestic servant, but she had gone her own way as soon as they had brought her to life. As she now lived mostly in the Winkie country and their home was in the back country of Munchkin land, on the other side of Oz, they had not seen her here since.
Scraps, seeing her, turned and waved. "Hi, mother!"
"Mother?" Margolotte repeated, surprised.
"You sewed me. If I have a mother, you're her," Scraps explained cheerfully.
Margolotte did not know whether to be flattered or taken aback. Swinging her feet, Scraps continued, "I have a favor to ask of you. I want to borrow your sewing basket."
"My sewing basket? What for?"
Scraps raised her left hand. One finger was still tied in a knot, holding on a ring. "I need to sew this on. And I want to do some patchwork of my own."
Looking at the stone, which glimmered as it reflected the firelight, Dr. Pipt asked, "What kind of ring is that?"
She turned back to him. "It's a wedding ring. I married the Scarecrow. You remember him - he was the King of Oz for a little while. I suppose that makes me the former queen of Oz," she said with a laugh.
"Well - congratulations, my dear," said Pipt.
Margolotte was in shock. How could an animated doll be married? Two animated dolls, if you thought about how a scarecrow was made. Not that she had anything against them; people came in all kinds. It was just so strange. What would they need to marry for? She said carefully, "An - Scraps, what do you know about being a wife?"
Scraps turned to her. "Not a lot, I guess. I'm figuring it out as I go."
Margolotte shook her head. "There are things that every woman must know if she's to be a good wife."
"Well, like how to clean house."
Scraps shrugged. "The Scarecrow's staff keeps things squeaky."
"And how to darn socks."
"Our shoes are attached to us. We don't wear socks."
Margolotte insisted, "Every woman should be able to cook, at least."
Irked, Scraps jumped up and answered, "So I ought to cook? Is that the kitchen there?"
"Yes. I was just beginning dinner when you came up."
"Then I'll show you how I cook!" Scraps declared, and danced into the kitchen.
In the kitchen, Scraps glanced around. A selection of vegetables were sitting on a cutting board, and a medium-sized pot was hanging over the fire, the water inside bubbling energetically. On the table was a box with bottles of spices and things. This would be easy! She began humming as she picked up the cutting knife, then sang as she worked.
"The gauntlet has been dropped, I must compose a meal that's proper,
The pot's upon the fire, the rest is lying on the chopper.
Cut 'em, slice 'em, dice 'em up, and then julienne-fries 'em
Throw 'em in the water, add some spices to surprise 'em.
Now the makings for the dumplings, flour, eggs and milk and whatnot
They'll be eaten at the same time; throw 'em all into the stewpot!
Stir it up and let it boil until the batter starts to spatter
Let it cool and dump it out and serve it up upon a platter."
She picked up the longest implement handy - the fireplace poker - and, standing as far back as she could from the flames, began stirring the now-sluggishly-bubbling pot.
Some time later the Pipts heard a cheerful "Soup's on!"
Scraps was carrying in a covered bowl. She had forgotten to use potholders, but then mere heat didn't bother her, so long as she didn't catch fire. She set it on the table. Margolotte lifted the lid - and stared.
Dr. Pipt asked her, "Scraps... what do you call this?"
"Soup with dumplings. That's what you were making, isn't it?"
It looked as though Scraps had tossed everything she found into the pot, making sludge instead of soup. And from the smell of it, she had used every spice on the rack in for good measure. Not just a pinch, either. Dr. Pipt had his hand over his mouth, trying not to laugh. Margolotte said in a tight voice, "That's... not how to make soup. Or dumplings."
"It isn't? I guess I'd do better if I had recipe cards sewn into my head along with my brains," Scraps replied innocently.
Pipt said, "Neither she nor the Scarecrow eat. How would she know how to cook?"
Margolotte had no answer for this. Instead she turned and left the room, then returned a moment later with a large wicker basket. Holding it out to Scraps, she said, "Here's my sewing basket, the one I used when making you. You may keep it. Think of it as a wedding present."
Scraps accepted it. "Thanks!"
Dr. Pipt said to his wife, "Never mind this. We can pick some fruit from the orchard."
"I suppose we'll have to," his wife answered with a sigh.
Everybody went outside. Scraps started on the road back, swinging the basket at arm's length. She glanced back, and saw Dr. Pipt pulling one of the tree branches down into reach with a hook so his wife could pick the fruit.
Scraps stopped and watched. There was a lot of ripe fruit on the trees, but not much within easy reach. They had already picked most of that. And, she thought, she had spoiled their dinner. She hadn't exactly meant to - but she had been annoyed, and hadn't tried to avoid it either. It was easy to forget that meat people had to eat frequently, and became uncomfortable and unhappy if they didn't.
She set down the basket and walked back to them. She tapped Dr. Pipt on the shoulder and, pointing to the top of the tree, told him, "Throw me up there."
Puzzled, he asked "What for?"
"I'm light enough to get the fruit up there. Toss me up and I'll toss it down."
He picked her up around the waist - she was light - and gently threw her upward. She caught a branch, swung up, and scrambled into the foliage. Then her head popped out close to the top. "Look out below!" she cried, and began dropping ripe peaches, one by one, down to them.
Soon they had several bushels of various kinds of fruit, and the Pipts called a halt, as more fruit would be ripe long before they had used all Scraps had picked. Then Mrs. Pipt untied Scraps's finger and carefully sewed her ring on, looping the thread around the metal to hold it securely.
When Scraps returned she displayed the basket triumphantly to the Scarecrow. "I got it!"
"Good," he answered. He believed that during her absence he had figured out what she wanted it for; the next few minutes would prove him right or wrong. "Do you need some help sewing up your back?"
"No, Margolotte said I was holding together fine after she sewed my ring on." She showed it to him; it was a neatly-done job. She sat down and inspected the front of her skirt for a moment. Then she opened the basket, took out a pair of scissors, and began cutting one of the patches out.
The Scarecrow nodded and smiled to himself. He had guessed right.
With a beautiful rhythm.
With the array of colors in light.
-- From Don't Promise Me by Reflection Theory
5. ...Then Comes Scraps with a Sewing Basket
Some people were announced to the Royal Court of Oz with great pomp and circumstance. Others just walked on in.
The Scarecrow and Scraps, arm in arm, entered the great hall room where Ozma, Dorothy, Tiktok, the Woozy, the Cowardly Lion, and the Hungry Tiger were amusing themselves. "Hi, did you miss us?" Scraps called to her friends. The Tin Woodman, brightly polished, walked in behind them.
Dorothy jumped up. "Scarecrow! Scraps! We were wond'ring why you haven't come to the Emerald City in so long. And what happened to your skirt? Are you all right?" she added when she saw that the formerly-neat hem had been cut away and many of her patches removed.
The Scarecrow let Scraps answer; he knew that she had been looking forward to this. She said, "We've been busy since Nick married us."
That got everyone's attention. The Lion raised his head and said reproachfully, "You didn't invite any of us to the wedding?"
The Scarecrow replied, "Actually, I suppose we eloped. We didn't have time to issue invitations."
"Then what happened to your skirt?" Dorothy asked again.
Scraps grinned widely. She held up the basket she had been carrying. "This did."
It was a sewing basket. "You're mending your skirt?" Dorothy asked, puzzled.
"Take a look," Scraps said. She opened the basket, revealing a bundle of bright patchwork similar to her own. Dorothy had drawn in a breath to speak when it moved, turning blue button eyes toward her.
She stared for a moment, wide-eyed. Then she beckoned to Ozma. "Ozma! Come look!"
The Queen of Oz left her throne. As she approached Scraps set the basket down and lifted her masterpiece out. It was a patchwork baby. Proudly she said, "Its name is Pip. I made it out of my own cloth and stuffed it with some of the Scarecrow's straw. I couldn't give it any brains, so it'll just have to grow its own like everybody else."
This was something Ozma had never expected. Since the fairies had enchanted Oz and left her behind to rule it, no children had been born - but this one had not been born. The sorcery which could give life to unliving things was forbidden, and though she would not put it past Scraps to ignore a law she thought unreasonable, she could not believe that the wise Scarecrow would consent to such unlawful actions. She held her hands out, and Scraps gave the child to her. Its straw stuffing crinkled as its slight weight settled into her arms. It put a mitten hand in its mouth and stared at her with its unblinking button eyes. Ozma asked, "How did he come to life?"
"All by itself! Since I'm made of living cloth, and nothing can die in Oz even if it's cut to pieces, if I cut some bits off of myself they're still alive. So I did, and then I sewed them together again, and here Pip is. What do you think of that?" the Patchwork Girl answered proudly.
Then no laws had been broken after all, Ozma thought with relief, and no censure would be needed. She smiled and said, "I think you always know how to surprise us."
By now the others had crowded around to look at Pip, the first new baby in Oz in uncounted years. Ozma, on second glance, noticed that the seams were clumsily sewn, allowing occasional wisps of straw to poke through. She guessed the reason at once: Scraps's boneless hands would of course barely be able to handle a needle. No wonder she had been absent for as long as she had. This small sewing project must have been, for her, a true labor of love.
Scraps noticed that the Lion and the Tiger had hung back. She retrieved Pip and went over to them. "Don't worry, Pip doesn't bite. I haven't sewn in any teeth yet."
The Lion edged back. "Are you sure I won't frighten him? I know what it's like to be frightened," he said uneasily.
"Let's just see," she said cheerfully, and set the child on the floor. It looked at the two cats, one tawny and one striped, that towered over it. Then it crawled with jerky motions toward the Hungry Tiger. It reached out with tiny mitten hands and ruffled his striped fur, giggling. "Oh, Pip's terrified."
The Hungry Tiger looked up at Scraps and said mournfully, "How cruel. The one time somebody brings me a fat baby, it's inedible."
"Pip's not fat, just stuffed," Scraps laughed. The Lion worked up his nerve and, crouching low, licked Pip as if it were a cub, bowling it over. Unhurt but startled, Pip flailed its arms and legs about for a few moments before righting itself. Then it crawled over to the Lion and licked him back.
As everyone laughed Dorothy asked, "Is Pip a boy or a girl?"
Scraps answered, "Neither one. Pip's just a baby."
"But everyone's either a boy or a girl, even if they're made people like you," Dorothy asserted.
Scraps responded, "And when Pip's grown up enough it'll decide what it wants to be. Maybe it'll be a lion!" she said, grinning as Pip buried its face in the Lion's thick mane.
That evening there was a celebration in honor of Scraps and the Scarecrow's union, and the creation of their child. Truthfully, very little reason was needed for festivities in the Emerald City - they seemed to hold banquets at the drop of a hat, it was such a relentlessly happy place - so when a real occasion to celebrate presented itself they went all out. All of their friends from the city arrived to congratulate the new family and generally make merry.
The celebration began, as usual, with a banquet. Many of the guests, including Scraps and the Scarecrow, were not able to eat, but attended for the companionship. Scraps, holding Pip in her lap, chattered with others, getting up to date with the latest adventures.
At one point Pip began fussing. When she looked down she saw that the baby was staring up at her, opening and closing its mouth in imitation of the people who were eating. Scraps took a roll from a basket on the table, broke off a small piece, and handed it to Pip, who stuffed it in its mouth. The Tin Woodman noticed and, surprised, asked, "How can Pip eat that?"
"It can't, but let it try. I did the same thing when I was new," Scraps replied.
The child opened and shut its toothless mouth, studiously trying to chew the bread for several minutes. Then it looked up at Scraps with an expression of discomfort on its face. "Doesn't work if you can't swallow, does it?" she said, and cleared the crumbs from its mouth. It wiped its mouth with a mitten, considered the rest of the roll on Scraps's plate, then, deciding it wasn't worth its attention, began looking around at all the strange people again.
The banquet segued into a dance. People began pairing off. Scraps nudged the Scarecrow. "Come on."
"No," he answered. "I can't dance."
"Yes you can. We've danced lots of times."
"This isn't a waltz in a cornfield," he told her. Being stuffed with straw, he was clumsy, and could not imagine himself on a dance floor. When it was just the two of them, it didn't matter. Scraps, who was stuffed with cotton, was also fairly unsteady, but somehow she stayed on her feet. Sometimes he wondered if she had harnessed the force that keeps gyroscopes upright.
The Tin Woodman, on her other side, asked, "In that case, may I have this dance?"
The Scarecrow flashed his friend a look of gratitude, then said to Scraps, "Here, I'll hold Pip."
Scraps gave the child to him. It nestled against his chest, pleased by the familiar sound of crinkling straw. The Tin Woodman took Scraps's hand and gallantly led her to the dance floor. Or tried to; she was eager and ended up leading him.
Jellia Jamb, Ozma's chief servant and the Scarecrow's onetime translator, leaned over the Scarecrow's shoulder and asked, "May I see him?"
"Of course," he answered, and handed Pip to her.
She cradled the living doll as gently as she would a human baby. "He's beautiful! I mean - it? I don't know what to call him."
The Scarecrow answered, "Sometimes people call the Sawhorse 'it' as well, and the Sawhorse doesn't mind."
In a low, concerned tone of voice Jellia said, "I heard that Scraps said she'll make him - it - a boy or a girl when it's grown enough to decide." He nodded. "But people don't grow in Oz."
He replied, "According to Scraps they do. A few patches at a time."
It took a moment for his meaning to set in. Then impressed, she said, "That was her idea, wasn't it?"
"Of course. The Wizard may have given me the best brains in Oz, but Scraps looks at everything sideways and upside-down, then thinks of things that nobody else would," he answered in an admiring tone.
"Wouldn't it hurt, though? To be taken apart and sewed up again? I'd think it would frighten the poor thing."
He explained, "Not at all. We stuffed people have no nerves to feel pain. I do have to hold Pip still while she sews, though, because it wants to play with the thread. Do you see the buttons in front? Originally she put an opening there so we could restuff Pip easily. She sewed it closed and put another opening in back after the second time Pip got it open and half unstuffed itself for fun."
He said it like it was the most normal thing in the world, and, for him, perhaps it was, she thought. She noticed that the child's knees and shins matched, unlike the rest of it. Both were faded blue, and a thicker material than the rest of it, almost like canvas. Of course a crawling patchwork baby would wear through its knees quickly. It looked as if the Scarecrow had donated his pants pockets to the cause.
After several dances Scraps and the Tin Woodman returned to the table. Indignantly she told the Scarecrow, "This gentleman has begin to squeak. Where's the oil can?" The Scarecrow produced it - he usually carried an oil can when he and the Tin Woodman were together - and Scraps deftly squirted his arm and leg joints with oil. As she did so the Scarecrow recovered Pip from Jellia, who went off to confer with Dorothy and Ozma. Scraps turned to him and said, "It's your turn now. I'll lead."
"But someone has to hold Pip," he answered.
She put her hands on her hips and tossed her head in exasperation. "Is that right? Well then-" She lifted Pip out of the startled Scarecrow's arms. Then she proceeded to the floor and begin dancing with her child.
The Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman exchanged glances. The tin man said, "I wonder if she'll ever stop surprising you."
"I hope she never does," the Scarecrow answered sincerely.
The next morning the Scarecrow, the Patchwork Girl, and the Patchwork Baby were to set out for their homes in the west; the Tin Woodman had decided to remain in the Emerald City a little longer to catch up with other friends. The Red Wagon had been hitched up to the Sawhorse to ease their trip. Before they left, they said their farewells to their friends. Ozma, accompanied by a white swan wearing a thin chain around its neck, told them, "Glinda could not be here, but she read about your - innovation - in her Great Book of Records, and sent her messenger to offer her congratulations."
The swan lifted its chain with its bill, revealing a small cloth pouch in place of a pendant, and held it up to them. The Scarecrow opened it. Inside was a piece of paper with a single sewing needle stuck through it. On one side, in neat, flowing script, were written the words, "This is a magic needle which cannot sew a false stitch. Use it well."
Scraps exclaimed, "That's perfect! I must have sewed through my own fingers a thousand times when I made Pip." She took the needle out of the paper and stuck it through the yarn knot from which her braided hair hung. "There, now it'll always be with me."
Dorothy stepped forward with a basket that was much larger than Scraps's sewing basket, and, from the way she was holding it, heavier. "This is from the seamstresses and tailors of the Emerald City. Jellia was up 'most all night collecting it all." The Scarecrow tried to accept the basket, but it was heavier than he expected and he stumbled, almost dropping it. He set it on the ground and opened it; inside were many neatly folded pieces of cloth in a wide variety of fabrics and colors.
Ozma said, "So you need never run out of material for your patchwork."
Scraps handed Pip to the Scarecrow, then rummaged through the fabric excitedly. There must have been years' worth of leftover bits of all kinds of fabric in there. Then she closed it, and, her button eyes gleaming brightly in the morning light, she said, "Thanks!"
That was the first time the Scarecrow had seen her speechless, or close to it. He resolved to remember it, as it was a phenomenon he doubted he would witness again any time soon.
The Sawhorse drew the Red Wagon and its passengers out the gate of the Emerald City. Just after it passed through the Scarecrow suddenly called, "Whoa!"
The Sawhorse halted and looked back questioningly. Scraps asked, "What's the holdup?"
"I'd like to wait here for a few minutes," he told them.
The Sawhorse pulled the wagon over to the side of the road. Scraps sat on the ground, legs in front of herself, and set Pip on her skirt to play. The baby quickly crawled onto the grass. The Scarecrow leaned against one side of the gate, watching them.
After the second time Scraps herded Pip away from a clover patch she asked the Scarecrow, "What do you want to wait here for?"
"I just had a thought." He glanced up at the gate's arch.
Scraps followed his eyes. There, on the keystone, was the Love Magnet. It had been hung over the gate to bring out the best feelings in all who passed in and out of the city. She plucked a purple clover flower and waved it in front of Pip's face; it squealed and grabbed for it. She said, "I don't feel any different. We don't have hearts, so maybe it doesn't work on us."
"Maybe it doesn't need to," he said with a contented smile.
All characters except Pip were created by L. Frank Baum for his series of Oz books. They are now in public domain, so technically I can't acknowledge copyrights, but I can give credit and a whole lot of respect. Pip is copyright (c) Kim McFarland (negaduck9 at aol dot com), as is the overall story. Permission is given by the author to copy this story for personal use only.
If you like this story, please check out my website, "The Negapage," where you can find lots more.