by Leanna Ellis
Wizard of Oz meets Cinderella
When Dottie Meyers loses her ‘no place like home’ during a Kansas tornado, she wakes up to find a pair of ruby slippers left by her father who abandoned his family thirty years ago. With her sister hot on her trail to find the treasured ruby slippers, Dottie travels a yellow brick road with three friends to find her father. No wizard can solve her problems. Only the love of a heavenly father can heal her wounds and give her the desires of her heart.
There’s no place like … the heart for God’s healing touch.
Some people wish on candles, others on stars. When I was a girl, nose pressed against the passenger window of our Vista Cruiser, I watched truckloads of hay bales rumbling down the highway near our Kansas farm. Weather-beaten farmers driving thirty miles an hour (or slower), traffic piling up a mile behind them. Momma would ease the station wagon into the left lane to pass the snaking line and say, “Make a wish, girls, and don’t look back.”
My younger sister, Abby, always made a production out of her wishes. She squeezed her eyes closed, pursed her lips toward heaven, and proclaimed to all who were within hearing, “I’m gonna . . .” She leaned forward, her hand on Mama’s shoulder. “Can I wish on every hay bale?”
“Why not?” Mama shook her head with bewilderment as if my sister was a novelty act in the circus. To me, she was.
Puckering up again, Abby rattled off her litany of wishes. “I’m gonna be famous! I’m gonna be on the big screen! I’m gonna fly around the world.”
Like any good big sister, I rolled my eyes and let out a long, loud huff of irritation. Looking back on it now, I realize I was jealous that Abby knew what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to throw her dreams out there for all the world to see.
Cynical, even at age nine, I never wished on candles, stars, or hay bales. Maybe I’ve always been looking back rather than forward. Nowadays, I’ve become a moderately healthy realist at age thirty-five. But sometimes, in the dark of a lonely night, I do imagine wishes coming true.
Otto’s barking first signals something amiss on this damp, overcast afternoon. He’s my loyal, scruffy black dog, not more than ten or twelve pounds soaking wet. He follows me everywhere and will defend me if so much as a crow flies too near. Crouched on my knees in the garden, holding a prickly weed, I watch a strange sedan clip along the forlorn drive at an unsafe pace and feel a catch in my chest.
Squinting against the afternoon glare, I shield my eyes and push to my feet. Hope overrides any childhood cynicism. I decided long ago to hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
Ever since I was small, I’ve kept watch on the drive to our small Kansas farm. “Momma,” I would shout, “somebody’s comin’!” She would stop whatever chore was occupying her—folding laundry, drying dishes, balancing the checkbook—and we’d stand on the porch, my hand in hers, tracking the approaching vehicle. “Do you think it’s—”
“No, Dottie.” Momma named the truck as some neighbor’s. “Don’t say anything to Abby, all right?”
Ever the protective big sister, I nodded, keeping my disappointment to myself. My little sister by two years tended to be more emotional than Momma and me.
Momma never acted sad, and I took my cue from her. But she never hesitated when I called out again, “Visitors!” Hope would crest, soon to be dashed by disappointment. Still, even after all these years, when Momma is no longer here to stand beside me, there’s that smidgen of hope at the sight of a strange vehicle coming up the drive.
Rolling my shoulder forward, I swipe my face with my sleeve, wiping away bits of dirt and sweat, and blink at the pale-gray four-door as it stirs up a whirlwind of dust in its wake. None of my neighbors drive this type of car. Craig Hanson, my lawyer and friend, drives a conservative dark-blue 4-Runner. Rhonda Cox, the preacher’s wife, drives a white Expedition to haul her three children along with Pampered Chef wares to parties in the adjoining counties. Homer Davies, from the feed store, drives a battered and weary Chevy truck he’s had since the seventies. Most come to drop off donations for the annual Easter egg hunt I’m organizing again this year, or if their kid needs help with math, or if they’re in need of a third on yet another church committee.
The darkened windows of the strange sedan veil the driver’s identity as it comes to a screeching halt in front of my house. I dust my hands off on the back of my overalls. My muddy Crocs leave a depression in the soft earth. Otto prances around me, yipping and barking. “Easy now. Let’s go see who it is.” I lift Otto over a chicken- wire fence I strung up last summer to keep out a family of rabbits that had been nibbling on my beets and sugar snap peas. The sedan hasn’t moved. No door opens. No window slides downward. Is the driver lost or confused? Reconsidering? My footsteps quicken.
The driver’s door swings open and a tall, shapely woman in a form-fitting white dress emerges. I keep my head upright as Momma always did, my footsteps steady. This woman is definitely lost, like she’s looking for the pages of a Vogue magazine to crawl into. She has long black hair and dark sunglasses that make her eyes as big as a grasshopper’s. It isn’t until she swings her hair over her shoulder in a familiar way that recognition causes a whoosh of air to escape me.
“Abby!” I holler.
She turns, raises her sunglasses to the top of her head and spots me.
“Come on, boy!” I slap the side of my leg. “Abby’s home!”
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Winner of the National Readers’ Choice Award, Leanna Ellis writes quirky women’s fiction. When she’s not busy writing, taxiing her kids to and from dance and fencing, or taking the dogs in and out, then she’s contemplating some new weird plot. Visit her website at http://leannaellis.