by Frank Dutkiewicz
“Good morning Mary Ann,” the Wicked Witch of the East said to
the crow sitting on her windowsill. “What are the servants up to this morning?”
“Is that so?” She stepped up to the ledge and looked out at her lands from the top spire of her mansion. Laborers were bent over cultivating the crops in the fields. Workers dug and set bricks into the road that connected it to the YBR in the distance. Far off she could see a black cloud from the miners dismantling a mountain to get to the coal within. The sight of the peasants of Oz toiling for her own gains made her smile. “There always has to be at least one slacker, right Mary Ann?”
The witch slipped on her silver slippers.
“Breakfast does sound like a good idea.”
She closed her eyes and clicked her heels together.
“There’s no place like the kitchen. There’s no place like the kitchen.”
Her sudden appearance caused the cook to scream, once again.
I will never get tired of that.
The gardener, who was seated at the table, spat the orange segment out of his mouth and fell backwards in the chair, landing hard on the stone floor. He quickly rose to his feet, bent on one knee and bowed his head in submission.
The witch stepped up to him and pointed an index finger toward the ceiling inches from his face. An invisible force latched onto his chin and lifted him to his feet. The gardener’s wide eyes stared down at the witch. The tips of his toes balanced on the stone floor. An unmistakable, delightful look of terror spread across his face.
“What makes you think you can help yourself to my pantry?”
“I’m sorry,” he replied through clenched teeth. “It will not happen again.”
“You did not answer my question.” She withdrew her hand.
The gardener dropped to his heels and stumbled back, rubbing his chin. “Most of the fruit rots before it is touched, your Witchiness.”
“I like my fruit rotten. It taste best when fur grows on it.”
“I know you do Ma’am, but I have such a large family and I do not make enough to feed us all. Most of your fruit is used as fertilizer. I did not think you would miss one.”
She was about to say more when the gardener started to sob.
“You have so much and I am so hungry. I will never do it again.”
She paused for a second and began to stroke his tear streaming cheek.
“You poor thing. I had no idea you were so famished.”
The witch’s uncharacteristic soft tone got the gardener to stop. He looked at her with uncertainty in his face. She grabbed the largest orange in the fruit bowl and balanced it on the tip of her thick, long index-fingernail. The orange levitated an inch above the sharpened tip and spun slowly.
“I can’t bear to see you go hungry.” She waved her free hand over the orange. The gardener blinked when it vanished. The witch showed him her bare palm, closed her hand then opened it quickly in his face.
The gardener grunted. Fear flared on his face. Through the open gap of his mouth the orange skin of the fruit shown brightly behind his teeth. The witch grinned seeing the realization hit him. The ripe fruit, too big to bite down on, was now wedged in his mouth.
“You can have that one,” she said and cackled in his face. Streams of spit bathe the stricken man.
The witch spun to face the cook. The pretty, young lady gasped and held her breath, her eyes darting from the gardener and back to the witch.
“I want breakfast,” the witch snarled. “The usual.”
The cook swallowed. She glanced at the gardener who fell to the floor and could be heard struggling to dislodge the orange.
“Eggs and ham, ma’am?”
“Yes. Burn the ham and make sure the eggs are green.” The witch started to turn then stopped, keeping one eye on the cook. “You did see to making the eggs green, didn’t you?”
The thrashing gardener’s kicking feet knocked over a chair. The witch kept her eye locked onto the cook’s, daring her to look away.
“Yes, ma’am,” the paled faced woman replied. “They have been sitting in the sun for the last three days, but it wasn’t easy.”
Mary Ann fluttered in and landed on the kitchen table. The cook pointed a trembling finger at the crow.
“Mary Ann has been trying to steal them.”
The witch set her hands on her hips and glared at the crow. “Mary-Ann.”
“O-Kay.” The witch walked over to where the rotting eggs were and grabbed one. “But this is the only one.” She shouted toward the cook. “I will be back in twenty minutes. I expect a warm plate of food on this table!”
The witch watched the cook swallow a large lump.
“Yes, ma’am,” she managed to say.
The witch then crouched down and locked eyes with the gardener. The man was clawing at the lodged orange. With each labored breath orange pulp came out of his nostrils. His color was changing from a bright red into a dark blue.
“I will expect that you will be finished with your breakfast by then.” Then smiling brightly she added, “Or shall I say, I expect your breakfast should be finished with you by then?”
She cackled then spun away, stepping into the middle of the kitchen while calling to her pet.
“Mary Ann! Home.”
The crow launched itself off the table and flew through the open window. The witch closed her eyes and clicked her heels together.
“There’s no place like my bedroom. There’s no place like my bedroom.”
She reappeared in the isolated room set inside the top spire of her mansion. The tower rose a hundred feet above the base of the building and set on a hill overlooking a wide valley. Three windows were spaced evenly apart giving her a clear view in all directions. No stairs led to the room. Only creatures that could fly, or someone that had the lone pair of slippers that could magically transport the wearer to anywhere they wished to go, could reach it.
“It’s about time you showed up.”
She turned toward the voice. The Wicked Witch of the West grimaced from inside the crystal ball that sat on a three-legged table position between two windows. Over her left shoulder on a pillar perched a flying monkey. The sounds of her Winkie soldiers marching and chanting boomed in background.
The Wicked Witch of the East took two steps toward the ball and crossed her arms. Her sister would only contact her for one of two reasons, when she needed something or to gloat. Figuring out which could take up to a half an hour at times.
“What is it this time, dear sister?”
The Wicked Witch of the West stuck out her lower lip, as if the question hurt.
“Can’t I check on how my little sister is doing? It has been so long after all.”
A squad of Winkie soldiers marched into the room, stomping and chanting in their monotoned, but loudly timed, style.
“OH-DEE-OH. OH-OOOOH-OH. OH-DEE-OH. OH-OOOOH-OH.”
The western witch turned around and shouted.
“Shut up a minute! Can’t you see that I’m on the ball?”
Mary Ann glided through an open window and landed on her master’s shoulder. The western witch scowled at the crow when she saw her.
“I would have bet that feather-brain would have been stew by now.”
The west witch stabbed a finger at the bird from the other side of the crystal ball.
“You mind your own beak, you busy-bodied buzzard.”
“Maybe she should,” said the eastern witch. She set the rotten egg on a plate for her pet then reached for a cup of old tea sitting on a davenport nearby. She held the cup up with her left hand and flicked her right index finger. A flame flickered from the appendage. The eastern witch began to warm her tea and scrunched her eyebrows at her sister. “But she is correct. You need something from me. Spit it out because time is something I am short of at this moment and you are wasting it with your pitiful pleasantries.”
The west witch scrunched her nose.
“For once, you pain-in-the-ass, I have something to offer you. I see that your Munchkin project is making strides but they could use some extra encouragement. I could lend you a few Winkie’s to keep them in line and a flying monkey or two to transport that candy.”
The east witch arched an eyebrow.
“A nice offer but I have the shrimps under control.”
“Are you sure?” her sister purred. “I know how hard you worked to change their adorable nature. It would be a pity for them to regress and go on one of their ding-dong rampages.”
The east witch blew out her finger and took a sip before answering.
“I’m not worried about that. I drilled it into their tiny brains that the rest of Oz was getting ready to wipe them off the map for ding-donging the countryside. I banned the use of that archaic-Munchkin language and adjusted their diet to compensate. As far as the monkeys go, I’ll pass. Those fur balls will eat most of the stuff they don’t drop and I have the transportation problem solved. That isolated village is now connected to the Yellow Brick Road. Civilization has reached Munchkin land.”
The west witch barred her teeth and growled.
“What the hell happened to you? You used to be evil with a capital E. Now you provide jobs, build houses, and encourage commerce. We’re supposed to be the Wicked Witches. You know, conquer the land, subjugate people, and stamp out good, that kind of thing. Instead of helping me drive the Good Witch of the South into the sea and laying siege to Emerald City you’re trading with them both. What kind of ally are you anyway?”
“Officially, I am neutral in your war with Glinda, as is Emerald City. I only sell food to our good second cousin; at a higher price than I do to you, mind you. The wizard’s people I have a closer relationship with, they have deeper pockets after all. Trading with them both is my way of spreading my brand of wicked, evil older sister. As our darling mother used to say, curse her soul, ‘the ends will justify the means’.”
“I think you missed her point, little sister. I believe she would be appalled on how merciful you have become to your subjects.”
“Perhaps.” She took another sip then continued. “But I think she would be surprised on how well my tactics have worked. Let’s compare our results.