Dot came to with a start, eyes blinking against the morning light as she tried to sit up, but Skinny Jake was there, and the other boys from the 3rd Street hook-n-ladder, paramedics who liked it when a rough-and-tumble and extremely cute girl waltzed in and laid down the law on poker night. They'd driven out from the fire house as soon as a bloodied young man had stumbled into the all-night wellness center missing an eye and screaming her name. They'd stayed a couple of hours, dressing Dot's scratches and checking her vitals, moving her to her bed - much better place than the floor - and they'd watched over her in shifts until she finally woke some time around six in the morning.
She was out of sorts, which was to be expected, ranting and raving about a storm, the house, a purple fog, a lion, a green witch and a wizard from Kansas, something about a scarecrow that would be king, rabbits, a crazed woman in a pink gown, and a man made of metal with an ax to grind. Oh, and she went on and on about a pair of ruby slippers. They took it in and looked knowingly at each other, and Jake remarked later that it was likely she had a mild concussion. He was the most experienced of the group, and said while she seemed okay, the brain worked in mysterious ways, especially when it had had a jolt. What else could explain what was coming out of her mouth? After all, she'd had a bad fall, she'd been nearly raped, and she'd been unattended for half the night before that little shit Andy had shown up at the clinic and spilled the beans. He'd be receiving a visit from the sheriff soon, and Old Man Diggs didn't care for funny business in his little town.
Shortly after seven, they packed up the truck and left, waving at Dot as she sat on her porch, her head still aching, partly from the pain of the hard knock and partly from the disappointment that she hadn't been gone for weeks, that everything she'd experienced was nothing more than a bad dream, and like so many dreams - Jake had explained - it had ended with a fall, which often jolts the dreamer awake.
But how could that be? How could it be true? Or was he wrong?
Dot spent the whole day in the rocking chair on the porch, the weather cool and breezy as the forecast storm pushed north of town. She sipped iced tea all day - Jake had warned her off beer or whiskey due to the head injury - and daydreamed, her feet curled up underneath her and hidden by the extra large AC/DC tank top she'd chosen from the hamper. Oz was on her mind, and nothing would make it go away.
She could see it all so clearly - the purple fog turning the Munchkins into zombies; the train wreck; the Tin Man's bloody ax; the way the sudden tornado had swept up the Scarecrow and whipped him away; the Grimmerie glowing in the dark next to a little black figure; Glinda's nasty snarl and quick wand; the Lion's tail between his legs...and so so much more. Had they all just been part of an elaborate, lucid dream? Was it just like the dream her grandmother had had when she'd fallen and hit her head? And everyone had thought the old woman was crazy because she'd told the story as if she'd actually been there - even though when she told it, you could feel how honest the tale was. And yet...
Dot closed her eyes after lunch, her naked legs still tucked underneath her, Toto sitting in her lap, locked and loaded, and she drifted off for a bit, her mind still focused on that one thing that wouldn't leave her be even for a second. It was still too fresh. And for a moment, she could see it all again, plain as the nose on her face, her grandmother would say: in the garden, Fiyero embraced his love, the little green girl who would grow up to be the Wicked Witch of the West and then the Crown Empress at his side. In the main hall, the Tin Man knelt over the bodies of hundreds of little fallen tik toks, tears falling freely from his rusting eyes, his heart broken but beating again. The Lion, however, was nowhere to be found; only at the top of the highest tower in the room where the magic mirror claimed a place of honor on the wall, a little lion cub gnawed on a pair of gleaming Ruby Slippers.
When she woke, she felt refreshed and smiled for the first time all day. Maybe, she thought to herself, that was exactly how the dream was supposed to end, or that was exactly what was happening now. Oz was safe again, and it had taken a girl from Kansas to straighten it all out.
What else could it be?
Just then, a little blue Pontiac pulled up the dirt driveway, and Dot smiled, recognizing it as belonging to one of the paramedics. It was Nick and Leo come back to check on her. She waived from the porch as they got out and shouted, "So, where's Jake then? We need a fourth for poker."
Leo laughed and pointed back to the car. "He'll be along. He's bringing the beer. Besides, not even a scarecrow like Jake can squeeze in when we're riding in Nick's little tin can Fiero."