The Scarecrow sat down in Dorothy's living room in a little chair by the window, far from the fireplace, though it was still out. The Scarecrow was sopping wet from the milk and water and juice thrown at him by the wretched monkeys. Dorothy went upstairs, came back down with several fresh towels, and put on a kettle for tea.
"How did you get here?" Dorothy asked, sitting down and gratefully propping her feet up on a little stool. She wished she had Toto to pet on her lap, but put the thought out of her mind for the moment.
"Not sure really," said the Scarecrow, wiping his face and hands with a towel. "One second I was chasing Toto down the road, and the next I was here. Rather disorienting."
"I would think so," said Dorothy.
She was staring at him rudely. The Scarecrow pretended not to notice, however, and continued to use the towel to soak up the moisture bleeding through his straw body and into the chair.
"How is it that you've lived so long?"
The Scarecrow raised his eyebrows at her. "Well," he said indignantly "for one thing straw always lasts the longest because no one expects it to. And I've been stuffed more than several times since you were last in the Emerald City."
"I'm sorry," said Dorothy, "I just didn't expect you to come marching up to my house when—"
"When the Tin Man could have come, or the Lion?" the Scarecrow interrupted. "Maybe they would have lived longer if they weren't so confident in their abilities…since the wizard gave them fake courage."
"Yes." The Scarecrow put down the towel neatly on the floor and picked up the fresher one. "They died in the fire that burnt the Emerald City to the ground."
Dorothy felt her heart sink and fought back tears forming as she thought of her friends burning, all of the citizens of city drowning in a jeweled oven. When she met the Scarecrow's gaze, she was ashamed. She could see how much he had loved his dear friends, how much he had suffered watching the city burn, and how much he still hurt.
"Scarecrow, I'm so sorry." She said gently, leaning forward putting her glittery feet on the floor again.
"It's alright." he said softly, brushing drops of juice and milk that had gotten caught in his hat. "No one expected it. She never gave a warning. A brush fire started in one of the gardens and then the spell fire spread. We could not do anything, except flee. I fled with as many of the children as possible, while Lion and the Tin Man stayed behind a little longer. Nothing helped, every time we threw water at the blaze, it sparked more heat. Shethought I was dead, I think, until today. She seemed surprised that I was still kicking."
"Yes, I think you put her straight for the first time in while," said Dorothy.
The Scarecrow seemed distant and distraught since mentioning the obvious fact that he was made of straw. Dorothy wished there was something to say to him, to make it a bit better, but there was nothing. She had lived a rather dull life since coming back to Kansas, thanks to the shoes. The kettle whistled high and clear in the kitchen and Dorothy hopped up to fetch tea.
When Dorothy returned with two cups of strong tea, she found the Scarecrow staring down at the fireplace, lit and crackling. He stood by the mantle, unafraid. Dorothy swallowed and sat down, gesturing at the tea on the coffee table.
The Scarecrow turned and slumped into his chair, taking his tea with a wry smile.
"I needed this, thank you." He said, taking a sip. After drinking a little more, he tilted his head back and rested his head, looking more tired and old than Dorothy had ever remembered.
"I think she meant for me to die in that fire," he said in almost a whisper. "I almost did. My legs caught on fire as I fled. I've never been so scared."
Dorothy touched his arm. "You are safe now."
The Scarecrow closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "I sure hope so."
"Those, however," he said turning his head to look at Dorothy fully and point at her shoes. "Those are the most painful looking things I have ever seen."
Dorothy laughed breathlessly. She would not admit it, but her feet hurt more than they ever did.
"You have not ever been able to get them off?" asked the Scarecrow.
Dorothy shook her head sadly.
"Dorothy," he started, then paused, "you have lived with those slippers on your feet for decades. You should not be limping around in someone's wonderful idea of a good curse. Haven't you tried anything to get them off?"
"Everything," Dorothy said.
The Scarecrow turned back to the fire.
"Have you tried burning them off?"
"Do you think that would work?"
The Scarecrow chuckled mirthlessly.
"You are desperate," he said.
"You would be too, if you were me," Dorothy replied bitterly.
They sat in silence for a long moment, watching the flames lick the inner brick walls of the fireplace, then the Scarecrow spoke again.
"Have you ever seen the Wizard?"
"He always did like to run away from his subjects."
"I'm not one of his subjects."
"You are a byproduct of his idea to get rid of the Witch of the East," said the Scarecrow, putting down his teacup with a solid clank.
"The tornado was his idea?"
"I hate him."
"Don't we all," said the Scarecrow more quietly, "but then I would not have met you."
"I am glad I met you. It's just—"
"He ruined your life didn't he?"
Dorothy hesitated. All this time she had blamed the Witch for her problems, for the curse, for the rejection and pain she felt, but now she began to see in her mind's eye a picture of her life, unfinished, unblemished by the horrors of OZ, untouched by its so-called Wizard. Perhaps the Wizard was to blame, partly, but her inaction had always been her own. The Wizard might be a dunce and blackheart but her life had always guided by her own choices.
"Maybe," she said, reluctantly. "Some of it was my fault too."
The Scarecrow stood up, putting his hands in his pockets. "I say we find him,' he said. "Perhaps he knows something about the shoes."
"Do I have to walk there?" Dorothy asked, dismayed.
The Scarecrow paused.
"Only if you want to walk 300 miles," he said finally, "through the thunderstorm."
Dorothy stood up, heading for the stairs to her bedroom to pack.
"I'll drive," she said.
A/N: Will Dorothy find the answers to her curse? Will she get Toto back? And is the Scarecrow really telling her everything about the Fire? (ooooh)
Find out on Monday with the next installment of Twisted.