The Scarecrow in Kansas

This story is paired with Chapter 4 of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. For best experience, download the LithoReader for your iPhone or iPad and get NonBinary Review for free. 

Because this is Kansas, the scarecrow can’t dismount, can’t test the strength of straw, bundled and bound. His pole-stiffened spine traps him while the rabbits browse the lettuce and taste-test the hanging peas. He has never seen beyond the house and its garden, or watched the sun set. He imagines a sunrise in reverse and, because this is Kansas, fields of wheat, thick and yellow.

The scarecrow doesn’t have a brain, but on windy nights his shirt ripples and the straw in his chest expands like a heartbeat. In the dark, a girl in a blue and white checked dress, a stranger, builds mounds of grass against the garden’s border, fragile hillocks puffed with air. The scarecrow wants to ask if she knows about the wheat beyond the house, and if she does, if she has seen it, and if she hasn’t seen it, how she knows the wheat is there. But his mouth is a painted smile and before he can split the cloth of his face into a mouth-like gash, a flashlight shines across the hillocks and the garden. An angry woman calls. The girl tilts her head back, turning like a sunflower toward the scarecrow’s painted-on face. “Bye,” she says. Later, there is another flashlight and the same woman yelling for the girl. But she’s gone. The rabbits nibble the lettuce down to the soil.

Because this is Kansas, the scarecrow recognizes the howling when the sunrise turns a lurid green. He worries about the girl, but there’s nothing he can do on his pole in the garden. His straw shifts, unsettled, and then the winds lift him off his cross, his legs and arms swinging, the fields a picnic blanket below, checked like the girl’s dress. He searches the ground without seeing her, only small dots that may be rabbits running from torn-up holes. The winds claw at him, his straw leaking out through holes in his arms and legs, and he thinks that no one—no one—has felt such a heartbeat as this.

NBR3-WattSessily Watt is a regular contributor to Bookslut