Posted on July 24, 2011 by


A 4×4 truck, no doubt the possession of my ex’s current husband, hulked in the driveway at the home of my daughter and ex-wife in Wamego, Kansas, a small town on the outskirts of Manhattan. A rattletrap Focus sitting beside it must’ve been my daughter’s car.

I could understand why she didn’t want to drive herself to Colorado in that thing. I reproached the owner of the truck for not getting my daughter a better car. I reproached myself for not getting her a car at all.

My feelings as I surveyed the little domestic scene in the driveway were complex, to say the least. I also felt a little jealous of the two vehicles, side by side, the Chevy truck looming protectively over the diminutive Ford.

I may have surreptitiously keyed similar trucks, looming, sight-blocking behemoths, when I walked by in the parking lot. I never fail to give them the stink eye when the gas-guzzling, pay-no-heed-to-global-warming dinosaurs pass me on the highway. I noted a remaining corner of a McCain/Palin bumper sticker, hastily torn off the truck, to conclude that the new husband was probably a Republican, and definitely an asshole who doesn’t care how much he consumes, how much space he takes up, and how little no one else can see.

Either that or he was a general contractor and needed the truck to haul shingles.

They being a three-car family necessitated continuous jostling and re-arranging of vehicles in the driveway whenever the blocked-in one needed access to the street. That there were no tire tracks on the lawn, indicating that a driver had grown impatient, was evidence that the three in the cozy little family were still talking to one another.

As well exercised my Sherlockian deductions were, I wished I had x-ray vision to add to my superpowers. I wanted to see into the garage to tell if my ex-wife’s car was there, whether she was home. Because the two vehicles were in the driveway, I supposed that the two-car garage was at least half full of junk and my ex’s car was sitting in the other half. Joy would’ve insisted that she have a space in the garage, I knew that.

Of course, if I had x-ray vision, I could’ve seen directly into the house to tell if she was home. I could also determine it by going the door and ringing the bell and saying hello, but I didn’t want to see her. I couldn’t risk falling in love all over again. I laid out a scheme of arriving when she was gone, snatching up Natalie, and whisking her away. I contemplated sitting in my parked car, conducting surveillance until her presence or absence became evident, but it was a quiet, residential street and I knew I would be noticed. A worried neighbor might even send a police cruiser over to check up on me. I decided to drive around Wamego and see the sights.

About all there is to see in Wamego is the Oz Museum. The Chamber of Commerce had decided that it would be a good thing to claim that Wamego was Dorothy’s home town. The curator was closing up shop, but she was so glad to have a visitor, she opened it again when she saw me walk up. She talked continuously as I paced through the exhibits. I was so preoccupied I didn’t hear a word and didn’t see a thing until I came across a still of Dorothy, captive in the Wicked Witch’s castle. Somehow, that made me think of my daughter. I told the curator I had to go.

“But you haven’t seen the ruby slippers, yet. They’re the very ones Judy Garland wore when they made the movie.”

No witch’s guards menaced me at the drawbridge when I returned to ring the door bell, but I had to contend with fear. All my observations and deductions, all my feelings, all my opinionated ramblings and political positions, they all could be put under one heading: fear. These were just the Winged Monkeys of fear. Now I had to deal with the supreme, exalted commander of fear; raw, naked fear.

I treaded by the 4X4 and the Focus, reciting from ancient memory files I didn’t know I had:

What makes a king out of a slave? Courage. What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage. What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk?! Courage.

What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage. What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage. What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the “ape” in apricot? What have they got that I ain’t got? Courage.

Just like the Cowardly Lion, I was just about to bolt shamelessly from the door when an old woman answered it. Old woman? I thought. Who is this old woman with a 4X4 and a Focus?

I asked for Natalie. “I’m her father,” I said.

“Oh, you must mean Joyce’s daughter,” she said. “So you’re her father. They don’t live here, honey. They live next door.”

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