Second Wind (Dorothy, the Sequel)

Submitted into Contest #196 in response to: Write a story involving a portal into a parallel universe.... view prompt


Adventure Fantasy Funny

Dorothy awakened early, as always, and took her place by the window with her coffee and pocket-sized Cairn terrier. Wistfully, she scanned the sky.

The cacophony of robins and mockingbirds in the old oak told her that today would not be the day. Everything was as it should be. “God’s in His heaven. All’s right with the world”, she thought to herself. And, yet, the longing persisted.

Some days, she could almost make out a foreboding hint of bile-green within the clouds. Then again, all her life she’d been accused of nurturing a vivid imagination and "rich inner life”. Some attributed it to loneliness, as most of Dorothy’s loved ones were long gone.

Yet, no one could talk her out of what she knew to be true. Truer than the face that faithfully returned her gaze in the mirror, familiar eyes that could never forget.

Sluggish from sleep, she rose to refill her cup. Toby stirred, softly snoring while four tiny paws squirmed dreamily. “Be right back, Tobe. Be sure and tell me what I missed,” she whispered, so as not to wake him.

Dorothy returned mere minutes later to find Toby restless and agitated, scratching at the windowpane and making a sound she’d never heard. “Unpleasant dream? It’s okay, Tobe. You’re safe. I’m here.”

Out of a clear, blue sky, clouds were gathering like fists punching one another. Some were dark and ominous, others varying shades of swirling smoke. An energy seemed to fight for dominance where, moments earlier, peace had prevailed.  The screen door swung on its hinges.

Dorothy’s heart raced with recognition.  “This is it”, she told herself. “Not a moment to lose.” Grabbing Toby’s basket, she ran to the closet where a freshly pressed blue gingham pinafore hung waiting on the door, as it had for countless decades. It still fit perfectly, as did the patent leather Mary Janes that were perfect for special occasions.

She tried her best to reassure Toby, who seemed to be spinning like a top at her feet. His fear and agitation generated a moment of doubt. She had made her choice years ago. A settled life. Security. No surprises. She had already experienced enough surprises to last a lifetime. Or so she thought.

Still, years of sameness and general contentment had not dimmed the ecstatic memory, that Technicolor thrill that never failed to send shivers throughout her body.

Over the years, Dorothy had chastised herself for her hasty decision, only to be reminded that she had been sorely missed at home. Her family deserved better than the slow sorrow of wondering, grieving a shadow. She had made the right choice.    

But now she was alone, save for her little dog. She was free to enjoy the life of her longing. She was a startlingly young sixty, her body lithe and fit even though she spent most of her time slumped at the window.

Suddenly, her life lay before her like a shiny kaleidoscope. She felt the colored pieces shifting as she scrambled for the picnic lunch she prepared every morning for just such a flight.  There was no time for indecision. She had harbored enough regrets! It was time to move. Now or never. Caution was not her friend.

Still, the words rang in her ears. Were they true? Was there really no place like home? She looked around the cozy room at a collection of black and white framed photos, bits of love frozen in time. Toby’s bowl sat in a corner of the kitchen. Good Morning America droned in the background.

What did she really have here? A couple of nice-enough neighbors? Distant relatives she’d never met? A comfy armchair with a front row view on anesthetizing status quo?

Dorothy’s spiraling mind mirrored the turbulent sky. Could she protect Toby? Could she protect herself? Would they, somehow, both be protected by the God who seems to have special affection for the straying sheep and all who throw caution, literally, to the wind?

It was a leap of faith. Her temerity was bolstered by her awareness that she would never forgive herself for passing on this second chance. How would she spend her days? Sitting by the window?

The house began to shake as howling, ferocious wind was replaced by an unearthly roar. The very engine of the universe seemed stuck in overdrive.

Hesitating, she stopped long enough to add a worn pair of gaudy red slippers to the pre-packed suitcase. Just in case. Insurance in the event a round trip was indicated. She laughed at the thought. “As if!”, she told herself.

Dorothy realized that, this time, she was going to have to take action. The house was not likely to go airborne after that mandatory retrofitting in the 70’s. Damn hippies! Where was their sense of adventure?

Clutching the wicker basket that held her precious Toby, a paisley suitcase and a picnic lunch, she headed for the front door. “Your great-great-grandpa, Toto, would be so proud of you today!” Toby looked skeptical.

The hardest part was navigating the porch, which seemed ready for lift-off. Once on the sidewalk, it was as though they were being picked up right on schedule by some invisible cosmic bus. Out of the corner of her eye, she glimpsed a shadowy figure on a vintage style bike, who paid her no mind. “You don’t scare me,” she muttered under her breath. “Been there, done that!”

Excitement mounted as they gained momentum. Looking down, she saw the town called home, although it was clearly not stationary. A 7-11 sign flew by, narrowly missing some golden arches. There was not a soul in sight.

Time seemed to stand still while everything else spun in motion. Dorothy couldn’t say how long it took to reach her destination. In truth, it seemed she had never left. Landing in a neon field, soft as chenille, the colors filled her very pores with an intensity she had almost forgotten.

The first to speak was the Tin Man. “I knew in my heart you’d return!”. “I thought so, too!” said the Scarecrow, “But, then, thinking has never been my strong suit”. “I was afraid to hope”, whispered the Lion. “You haven’t changed a bit! And who is this handsome young canine?”

“This is Toto’s noble heir. Toby, these are my lifelong friends! How I’ve dreamed of this reunion! In fact, I have built my life around the sheer anticipation of it!”, she squealed.

“I just hope you’re not disappointed,” the Lion said through tears. “Things are very different since the house fell on the witch. To be honest, it’s kinda boring here. No conflict.”

“You’re not kidding!”, the Scarecrow sighed. “Nary a crow to scare. I mean, what’s our motivation? Our raison d’etre, if you will? Even the Wizard seems at loose ends”. The Tin Man barely had the energy to nod his assent.

In Dorothy’s heart of hearts, she couldn’t help but notice a listlessness about the place. She looked down to see that Toby had fallen asleep.

“Will you excuse me for just a moment?”, she said. “I need to freshen up.” She held tight to her suitcase, wandering into a secluded meadow of impossibly tall dandelions without the strength to bend in the barely perceptible breeze.  

“Good thing I thought to bring these,” she said to no one. “Wake up, Toby, we can still make it home by dinner!”

And so they did.

May 02, 2023 00:13

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John K Adams
04:02 May 02, 2023

this wonderful story delivers beyond all expectations. Dorothy's yearning for return speaks to that sense of nostalgia we all have about things held dear, but slipped from our grasp and lost. And the line, 'The very engine of the universe seemed stuck in overdrive,' is the most perfect description of a tornado I ever read. Fantastic!


Cassandra Adams
16:48 May 03, 2023

I'm thrilled that you like it! Thanks!


John K Adams
17:59 May 03, 2023

Reading it was a thrill. You are a master!


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