When Dorothy was eight her father hit her mother as they fought in the kitchen, a swinging lamp with yellow light dampening the green linoleum floor where her mother stood, when she was building a fort from the cushions of the couch stained brown by coffee that morning when her father, who she never saw again until she was 12, spilled his early morning cup all over himself as the babysitter gave him a blow job after a booze-filled night out before she left the house.
Dorothy turned to watch the assault as the cushion fell in a heap in front of her, bouncing into her, and sending her crashing to the floor of the house they had just purchased. Her parents bought the place from a hippie couple, and the man wore a pink shirt unbuttoned down to his belly button and woman’s nipples poked out from the thin fabric of the peach dress with fainted magnolias the day her mother and father brought her to see the place. The hippie couple liked shag rug, this one a thick purple kind that looked like moss on the trees outside her school where the other kids went when they fooled around with each other.
When she turned her head to watch the way her mother’s face bent as her father slammed his hand into her cheek, she rubbed the thick shag against her face, her mouth opening like it does when she watches her favourite movie, The Wizard of Oz, that was playing on the television, muted though, because her mother told her to turn it down so she could talk with her father. Dorothy liked the way the soft thick bristles of the thing felt against her own cheek, and rubbing her face against it, she asked herself what it felt like when a person hit another person in the face. She was even more interested in knowing what it was like for her mother when her father hit her, and she thought about this when her mother fell to the floor and lay there sobbing as her father began to pick her up. Dorothy turned away then to watch as Dorothy, the lead character who shares her name and who she often looked up to like a mother when hers wasn’t around, inspect the magic ruby red slippers poking out from under her family’s Kansas home, the dreary leftover from her previous life on earth where everything was black and white.
She wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Up in Oz there were colours and Munchkins dancing, and later Dorothy would meet a Tin Man, a Scarecrow, and a Cowardly Lion who all searched for something like she did. Sometimes she imagined searching, like when she went up to the top balcony of the house and looked out her father’s telescope searching amongst the stars for the falling ones streaking across the sky. Or sometimes like when she took her little red wheel barrow, the little red ones they used to make but don’t no more, out to the road where there are rocks. She mined for gold as the cars and trucks passed her on the highway kind of like the highway she fantasied was in Kansas where the real Dorothy was from. The real Dorothy in the movie.
Her mother pushed her father away when he reached for her and he knocked his head against the kitchen light hanging from the ceiling and it swayed even more than before through the air, causing shadows to move across the green linoleum. Her mother collected Dorothy and they left. It wasn’t until she was twelve when she saw her father again. In fact it was on her birthday when he arrived in Australia, the real Land of Oz where her mother moved after she left her father.
Adrian Faulk glanced at her daughter as she sat in the passenger seat of the rental car he picked up at the airport when he flew into town the day before. They were in the country now, a flat sort of place in the sugarcane fields. She wore a red dress and crossed her legs toward the car door as she scooped out ice cream from a white plastic spoon that bent so bad it almost broke in two because the grape ice cream was so cold and hard even in the heat of the Australian summer north of Sydney somewhere. The red dress she wore was the kind little girls wear with white stockings and black-polished shoes. To Adrian, she looked as if she were dressed for church, like a child standing in the front row singing hymns with her rosy cheeks and quick glances out the window, wanting to escape the confines of the wood pews and stuffy Sunday church women who sold brownies afterward. He watched her slip quick glances at the sugarcane as a wind moved the stalks like her hand moved the grain when she passed her hand over the grain in the fields back home.
“It’s sugarcane, honey,” Adrian said.
“I know that daddy,” she replied, licking her spoon of grape ice cream.
“Grape. I didn’t know they even made that flavour.”
“They have every flavour, come one daddy. Every flavour.”
“Oh I’m sure they don’t have some flavours, honey.”
Dorothy jammed her spoon into her ice cream, rolled down the window, and threw it out, then turned to her father crossing her arms as the grape ice cream smeared across the white paint of the Camaro he picked up at the Budget counter at 6 a.m. after a red eye where the brunette who sat beside him leaned on him sometime in the night after too many glasses of chardonnay and asked he meet her in the washroom. Pressed up against her, his dark blue suit creasing against her black knee high business cut dress, his hands finding their way in between the buttons of her white blouse, he could taste the wine in her mouth before he forgot about the way things taste. Later, when she fell asleep she placed her head on his shoulder, and when they landed and she walked off the plane ignoring him, he tightened his light blue tie around his neck and took a swig from a solid silver flask he kept in his breast pocket.
“That wasn’t very nice, honey,” he said.
“Mom doesn’t like it you’re here. You should’ve phoned,” Dorothy said.
“Right. Sorry about that sweetheart. Last minute business trip. I thought, you know, I thought it would be a good time to see you. It’s been what, three, four years. Long time. I missed you. You miss me?”
“Not really? Come on, you can’t really mean that.”
“Yes I do. I mean it.”
Australia was good to Dorothy. On her first day in Oz she woke up in the middle of the night hot as the heat of the place crossed her body like a finger slipping along her skin. Her sheets were wet and at first she thought she was just sweating. Then feeling around the sheets in the darkness she thought she peed herself so she stood up and rushed over to switch on the light. Looking down, cupping her night gown, she realized she was bleeding between her legs, light almost transparent blood dripping from her body as sweat poured down her face and tears welled in her eyes. She looked over to her bed, the sheets covered in blood from her fumbling around in the dark, where she spread her blood everywhere across the linens. She glanced at the floor, long wood cedar planks, blood smearing across where she had walked, dragging her feet the way she does, to where she stood at the light switch. She turned the light back off and went back to bed soaked in her own blood. The next day she meet her first boyfriend after waking up that morning almost a full hour earlier to clean up the bloody mess in her bedroom.
It happened in the morning before second period when she had gym class. The teachers made the girls change out of their clothes in the change rooms and if you didn’t you weren’t allowed to participate and if you weren’t allowed to participate you weren’t allowed to pass. It was there Dorothy looked at the other girls as they undressed, their bodies bunched up together in the small locker room as they swam out of their dresses and jeans into their shorts and shirts. Walking to the gym she bumped into him and he smiled at her and said sorry. She fell in love and she thought about him as she undressed. She thought about him when the other girls pressed in around her when they played volleyball, running plays as they held each other, their arms stretched over each other’s shoulders, and again when they squirmed their dresses and jeans back on in the locker room, and yet again at her desk in English class as they passed notes to one another when the teacher’s back was turned away from them, writing on the chalkboard as the minutes on the clock above the door wore on and on.
She saw him the first time when he invited her to his place when his parents were gone after he walked up to her while she stood at her locker. He made her wet when he groped her in his parents’ basement, and she almost took off her clothes when he asked but she left because she was scared. She shivered when she walked home.
“I missed you. Four years. That’s a long time. You’re all grown up. I don’t even recognize you anymore,” Adrian said, taking a corner too fast as he looked on his daughter, crashing into the sugarcane, tearing a hole in the clean beauty, unspoiled until he drove the Camaro into the 12 metre tall plants, trying to gain control of the car as it careened deeper into the field. Dorothy screamed when her head hit the window, falling silent as the Camaro slid to a stop somewhere deep in the sugarcane. Adrian looked on her again as a thin streak of blood slipped down her forehead onto her cheek and then down her neck to where her red dress covered her breasts.
He didn’t want the blood to touch her dress. Touch her little red dress, but it did, it stained her: deepening the colour from light red to crimson along the top edge as she tried to awaken from the bad dream she was having in the middle of the sugarcane field her father had plowed into when he wasn’t looking. She stooped down beside the dead witch beside the house from Kansas, beside the legs that stuck out from under that house, and took the ruby red slippers from the Wicked Witch of the East. She took off her own black polished shoes and slipped the ruby red slippers onto her own feet, claiming title of witch.
“Dorothy? Dorothy. Please honey. Wake up. Please wake up” Adrian said, reaching toward his daughter’s face as the blood smeared down her cheek from the deep gash along her hairline where the pale grey white bone of her skull appeared through the flesh as a flap of skin dipped down along her forehead. He touched her cheek where the blood flowed down onto the edge of her dress, and wiped it across her cheek before pulling away when she moaned.
“Dorothy? Dorothy? Honey. Wake up,” he said.
Dorothy stood up after placing the ruby red slippers on her feet and smiled as she looked up at a Munchkin staring at her, wearing a little green suit with red cuffs. In his hand he held a black gun, a Glock 26 Gen4 as walked to toward her.
“Witch,” he said, pulling the trigger.
Adrian reached again toward her face, brushed his index and middle fingers against her lips, a bit moist from the cherry lip balm she put on before seeing her daddy, then he pushed her lower jaw down and reached in close to her, his seat belt pressing against his suit, creating a crease against his jacket that stayed there until he would undress and leave the suit in a motel on the coast. He leaned in and looked at her lower teeth, slipping his fingers along her incisors, canines, before reaching his fingers deeper to feel her molars as he pushed her lower jaw down further, taking his free hand to tip her upper jaw to inspect her top side, then he used both hands to open her jaw as far as he could. He sat back in his seat and watched his daughter’s mouth shut slow, listened to her teeth click shut, and checked for a pulse, her heart still beating slow and irregular – a staccato that reminded him of the way she knocked on his hotel room in Sydney, two knocks then one tap followed by three swats.
Adrian had taken her to the doctor’s office when she was just five, and the man opened the door to the examination room, wearing a black suit under his lab coat with a black tie, they heard the voices of the nurses in the hallway, and he was scared for her when looking at the physician’s file of chest X-rays of his daughter’s heart. The doctor sat down on the chair as he and Dorothy remained sitting on the physician’s bench, and they looked down on him as he fished for his reading glasses. Adrian admired the way the doctor parted his hair, it reminded him of a young Dick Clark, and his smile was like his father’s, a slight upward tick on the left side of the mouth with a thin wrinkle just above the edge of his upper lip below a smooth clean-shaven face. Putting on his reading glasses, the doctor opened the file and looked through the X-rays, every so often holding one or another up to the light to ponder his daughter’s heart, humming and hawing until he put all the X-rays back into the folder, shut it, and smiled that left-leaning tick of his.
Adrian rolled down the Camaro’s driver side window, watching the sugarcane rustle as the wind moving through the tall stalks sounded like the rush of spectators at the ballpark after a home run. He pulled out his pack of cigarettes and lit a smoke, the dry smoke making him cough from the stale cigarettes he carried with him since he left for Oz, the Chinese clerk at the Canadian duty free shop smelling of lavender frowning as he slid the pack of Camels across the plastic top.
“You go now,” she told him. He had stretched out his arm to take a look at the time from his Richard Mille Tourbillon Skull wrist watch, a gift from a secret admire who sent the watch in a box chiseled from elephant ivory. The watch laughs back at its wearer with a skull whose mouth remains open in an eternal gesture of damnation, and that day in the Canadian airport, the watch glinted in the light as the Chinese clerk picked up his cigarette pack to take a look at the somewhat gaunt-looking camel standing in between two pyramids against a stained yellow palette.
“Soon. Real soon,” Adrian replied.
“You go now,” the Chinese clerk repeated ringing the cash register. “$12.50,” she said. “You pay now.”
“$12.50. Sure,” he said, reaching into his pocket for some bills and change. He handed the money and watched the Chinese clerk collect it from him, his eyes never leaving hers as they exchanged the money.
“Red eye, eh?” she said.
“Looks like it.”
“Better not sleep. Stay awake. Red eye.”
“Sure. Sure thing. I will stay awake. Thanks.”
“You go now.”
He left the Chinese clerk and walked down the long hallway to the departure gate and left Canada holding the Camel pack in his left hand, tightening his grip around his smokes as he walked down the jet bridge to the airplane, Qantas flight ZC-34T56 headed for Sydney. At the door two blonde female airline attendants greeted him and told him where to sit down. He walked along the right side aisle to the first class seat he booked earlier that day by fluke after searching for a seat all morning and found one after someone cancelled. He sat down and stared out the window as a baggage handler drove a train of suitcases to the side of the plane.
Adrian finished his cigarette as he opened the door. Outside, he bent down and with a little trouble lit several stalks of sugarcane on fire with the butt end of the cigarette, walked around to the passenger’s side of the Camaro, opened the door, reached down to his daughter, took her neck in his hands and snapped it, listening to her spine break with a pop. He walked away as the sugarcane burned around the Camaro, their water-saturated stalks dampening the flames as the Camaro’s gasoline caught flame.
Dorothy exploded behind him. He had hugged her in the examination room after the doctor left, her little body rigid with fear, heart pounding irregular and fluttering against his own as he bent down to hold her.