Monday, February 10, 2014

The Characters of Oz — Aunt Em and Uncle Henry

I've written about Aunt Em and Uncle Henry before in 2009. As that blog still works quite well, I'll take a different approach to this one.
A gentle knock was heard on the door of Aunt Em and Uncle Henry's room in the palace.

"I wonder who that could be?" asked Em, who was comfortably dressed in a night dress and robe.

Henry, dressed in slippers and pajamas (he would have to ask Jellia about getting a night shirt the next day), got up from the love seat and answered the door to find the Wizard of Oz and the Shaggy Man standing in the hall.

"Pardon me," said the Wizard, "but I thought you might like to get a little more acquainted on your first night in Oz."

"Well, come on in," replied Henry.

The two men entered the room and sat down on a couple of chairs. The Shaggy Man had brought a bottle of Gillikin wine and poured a few glasses.

"We didn't get much company in Kansas," admitted Em after a sip. "The last visitor we had was that man from the bank, and it wasn't such a happy visit."

"You're from America, right?" Henry asked the Wizard.

"That's right," the Wizard replied. "Omaha born and bred, until I ran off with the circus. By the way, you can call me Oscar. It's my real name, after all. I could go on with my whole name, but it's late."

"I just go by Shaggy," added the Shaggy Man.

"Well," said Uncle Henry, "my name is Henry Carpenter, and my sister Matilda was Dorothy's mother."

"I'm sure she was a delightful sister," commented Oscar.

"Oh, she was such a dear," said Em. "A little wistful, I'd say, but very much a dear."

"She was a dreamer," Henry replied. "I thought Dorothy was, with all her tales about the Land of Oz, but now I see she really wasn't."

"It certainly is a delightful place," the Shaggy Man said. "I'm sure you'll grow to love it."

"I hope so," Em said.

"How did you two meet?" asked Oscar.

"Oh, dear," chuckled Em. "My family had just moved in near Henry's family's farm, and he came home from the war between the states, and decided to pay his new neighbors a visit."

"What's so funny about it?" the Shaggy Man wondered.

"Well," Henry grinned, sipping from his glass, "Emily was the prettiest girl I'd ever seen. I thought she was their maid!"

"We started courting and then we got engaged," Em added. "Then we got married and spent our honeymoon at the Topeka Hotel!"

"Yes," Henry added. "I'd come down with scarlet fever, and she would come by and check on me every day. After the doctor said I'd recovered, I offered to make her go from Emily Marie Stanton—"

"—to Emily Marie Carpenter!" finished Em. "After the honeymoon, we stayed with our folks until the Spring when we loaded up a wagon and built our little house on the Kansas prairie to start our farm."

"Did you have any children?" asked the Shaggy Man. "I heard Dorothy had a cousin."

"I think you mean Zeb, her second cousin," commented Henry. "No, we never had any children. We almost did, though."

Em suddenly looked a little sad and uncomfortable.

"I'm sorry," said Oscar. "We didn't mean to pry."

"I was pregnant once," explained Em, "but I lost the baby."

"Well," interjected the Shaggy Man, attempting to change the subject, "how did Dorothy come to live with you?"

"Matilda married almost thirteen years after Em and I did!" explained Uncle Henry. "Married a fine chap named Charles Gale. About a year later, Dorothy was born."

"Charles was a military man," Em added. "He and Matilda and Dorothy lived in town, but when he had to be away for awhile, Matilda and Dorothy would often come out to the farm and live with us."

"Where was Charles stationed?" asked Oscar, curiously.

"The USS Maine," Henry answered.

Oscar and the Shaggy Man looked at Em and Henry in shock.

"That was how Dorothy lost her father," Em replied. "The ship was sunk and Charles went down with it. We tried to help Matilda stay strong, and she tried, but in a couple years, she'd gone too."

There was a moment of sad silence in the room.

"There was no question about who should take in Dorothy," Henry continued. "She'd already learned to love us, and even though she'd lost her parents, she was still such a merry thing. Quite a wonder."

"No," interrupted Em. "Dorothy was very sad for quite some time after Matilda died. Lucky for us, a friend gave her a puppy to play with."

"Toto?" asked Oscar.

Em nodded.

"It gave me such a start to hear her laugh when she first got him," Em remembered. "And that's really most of our story. A few years later, the cyclone blew away our old house with Dorothy and Toto inside."

"That was when I realized how much Dorothy meant to me," remarked Henry. "I stayed quiet and somber for years, feeling much worse over Dorothy's losses than she was herself. But it took losing her and getting her back again to make me realize how much we really cared for each other."

"And then your health broke down," Em said. "That was when we had to get another mortgage so we could send you and Dorothy to Australia so you could get better again."

"And as we know now," Oscar commented, "Dorothy visited Oz twice during that trip."

"And then she disappeared again during last August!" Em exclaimed. "That girl has had such a knack for slipping away and then coming back with the most outlandish tales. But as outlandish as they might have been, they were true!"

"So they were," commented the Shaggy Man, standing and collecting the bottle and the now empty glasses.

"Well, you're part of the Land of Oz now," said Oscar, likewise standing. "And you're among friends. I'm very glad Ozma brought you to live with us."

"I'm glad as well, though we're still getting used to things," admitted Henry. "Still, in a land like this, I'm sure our best years are yet to come!"

4 comments:

Glenn Ingersoll said...

That's a sweet scene.

Did you make up Dorothy's parentage all by yourself?

Jared said...

Yes, but I've had these ideas in mind since 2007. The bit about Aunt Em being mistaken for a maid was actually taken straight from my grandparents' story of how they met. Names are often either from Baum history (Stanton and Matilda are obvious, Charles after Baum's favorite author Charles Dickens, Carpenter from a noted couple near Aberdeen, South Dakota) or my grandparents again. (Marie was my grandmother's name.)

Glenn Ingersoll said...

thanks

:-)

Joe Bongiorno said...

Well done, Jared! One issue, however, is that the USS Maine went down in 1898 which I believe is when Dorothy went to Oz. It means that she just arrived at Em and Henry's when the tornado came and took her to Oz.

Other stories indicate that Dorothy was with them for a bit longer before that first adventure (e.g., The Witch Queen of Oz has Dorothy with them from the age of four).

Also, I think Dorothy is Henry's niece by blood.

Continuity-quibbles aside, I think it's a very well written tale.