Based upon the fantastical fourteen Oz children's books by the series' creator L. Frank Baum, Charles Shearer's "The Answer Lies in Oz" is a tale for young readers and old souls, detailing the endeavor of an utterly unsociable, exceptionally selfish ...and dutifully devoted... fellow who seeks an answer in Oz!
Originally crafting this story purely as a gift for a friend, Charles now opens it to one and all, in the hopes that new Oz enthusiasts will be as inspired as he was to dig deeper... to discover the timeless, enduring vision of L. Frank Baum for themselves.
A Neighborly Visit
2 A Borrowed Vehicle
3 A Journey Begun
4 A Telling Orchard
5 A Strange Desert
6 A River Underground
7 A New Companion
8 A Captain Unconvinced
9 A Request Granted
10 A Scarf Returned
11 A New Country
12 A Party Downsized
13 A Destination Arrived
14 A Musical Performance
15 A Gift Giving
16 A Learned Council
17 A Chosen Itinerary
18 An Epilogue
Eenk had a problem, and it was not that he could be a rather cantankerous fellow whom few others could tolerate. That was not the problem, for he was fine with that.
Rather, his problem was something entirely different: no matter how hard he tried, he could not get his trees to bear fruit at all. This was made all the worse by the fact that his neighbors' trees had always done well, and continued to do so, at the time our story took place.
"I can not help but wonder," Eenk said to himself one day, while he was poking and prodding around his uneventful orchard, "if there is not some deliberate mischief at the root of this problem. A gruesome poison planted into the soil, perhaps?"
But he quickly dismissed this notion, as he was often covered with a thin layer of the local dirt and had never noticed any ill effects from it.
"A malevolent incantation, then?" he wondered further, "Some kind of horticultural hex? What competitor, though, is there nearby who would cast a magical disadvantage upon my trees? Not any that I know."
Finally, in desperation, Eenk decided to visit one of his neighbors for advice, though it pained him to suffer the presence of another person, for Eenk lived quite alone and liked it that way, if it may be said that he liked anything at all.
To further describe Eenk, while we wait for him to pick a direction in which to walk, it can be said that he was not a tall fellow, nor a tactful one, nor even a well-groomed one, for he did not particularly give a pin what anyone else thought of him, nor did he give much regard to himself. Eenk was very rodent-like in appearance, and accordingly was sometimes prone to nibble on things.
He was walking toward the house of his nearest neighbor, and it had been so long since the two of them had met, that the neighbor's name was not immediately coming to Eenk's mind. But as Eenk was not a tactful creature, this lapse of memory did not bother him in the least.
Upon arriving at the neighbor's house, which was surrounded by fruit-bearing trees, Eenk knocked upon the front door of said house, and it was shortly answered by a tallish person. We might call this neighbor, who was named Foof, tallish only because he was noticeably more tallish than Eenk, but you or I would still be reluctant to call either of them much more than just shortish. Foof was known to have a wide, blank grin, and today was no exception. His skin was fuzzy like a peach, but the hairs were as sharp as splinters, and though he had no arms, he did wear a rather fetching scarf and sturdy galoshes, so was therefore not aesthetically lacking. All in all, he looked ready for the winter, and therefore out of place, because it was currently a picturesque morning in the springtime.
"You must know something about trees," Eenk said to him, "as yours currently have a healthy harvest. So tell me why my own will not bear fruit, despite all my best efforts."
"Is it not some toxic presence in the soil?" Foof speculated. "Or a curse placed upon it?"
"I have already considered those explanations, on my own!" he snapped.
Foof thought for a minute or longer, and then said: "Then I'm afraid I don't know, Eenk."
At that point, Eenk would have walked away, but then he might have had to walk even further, to find another neighbor, so he decided to save himself the footsteps and question Foof further.
"If you have no hypothesis which I myself can not imagine, then who can be of use in advising me on this matter?" asked Eenk.
"I have heard," answered Foof, "that in the far away land of Oz, which is even more of a fairyland than our country, there are wise and magical people who can do many wonderful things. Perhaps you could make a visit there."
"I have never heard of the land of Oz," said Eenk. "Surely there are people more close by who can help!"
"Surely," Foof replied, "but not so much as the great people of Oz."
"Well then," demanded Eenk, "since you know so much about that country, tell me how to get there."
Foof thought for a minute, then gravely responded: "a Deadly Desert lies all around the land of Oz, and no one can cross it on foot. If anyone tried, that person would turn into dust and be blown away."
"That is alright for you," Eenk said to his neighbor, "for I see that you walk on galoshes, rather than on foot, and therefore could carry me over the sand."
For the first time in the course of this conversation, Foof's blank grin turned into a slight frown, for he knew that his own closest neighbor, Eenk, really did not know him.
"I have no arms to carry you," Foof lamented, "and you could not ride upon me, for my hairs are sharp and would stab you like one thousand splinters!"
"Then some sort of vehicle is called for," Eenk mused.
Foof replied: "In that case, I know someone who can help."
The two neighbors were now walking together, further down the path that connected the different houses of the neighborhood. But to be more accurate, Eenk was walking ahead of Foof, being impatient for a solution, though Foof was rightfully the navigator of this trek, as he was the one among them who knew where their immediate destination was.
After a time, they came upon a ramshackle hut with an equally ramshackle shed attached to it. In the orchard attached to these structures were only a few trees. Though they appeared wild and neglected, they bore healthy fruit.
"Oh, I'd forgotten," said Foof. "It won't do us any good to knock on this front door, just now."
"Why is that?" asked Eenk, to which Foof replied: "Because this is the house of a musician named Quaver. He is not particularly famous in this secluded part of our country, but in other lands, he is apparently very well known for his talents. But we must not bother him now, because he is always asleep during the daytime, and awake at night. It is a habit of exceptional individuals to not do things in normal ways."
Irritated, Eenk fussed and griped, but Foof continued: "I have never actually seen him before, but I have, a few times, happened to walk past here at night, and heard, wafting out from the holes in his house, sonorous rotundity the likes of which I can not adequately describe."
"That bad, eh?" Eenk asked.
At that moment, Eenk and Foof both heard a sonorous rotundity issue forth from inside the hut, but they were both able to confidently identify it as nothing more than snoring.
"But then where is this vehicle you mentioned?" Eenk demanded.
"It's in the shed," Foof simply replied, at which point Eenk stormed to it and unceremoniously opened its door. There, the sunlight fell upon what looked like a small boat, with its bow facing him.
"A boat?!" Eenk exclaimed. "What can I do with a boat, with no water around?!"
Foof stepped forward and explained: "It is not only a boat, Eenk. One night, when I walked by and heard music playing from inside the hut, I saw the vehicle out in the open, and it had four wheels on it."
Sure enough, Eenk then peered inside the small boat, and saw four wheels among the items upon its deck. Feeling better about this vehicle, he pulled out the four wheels and attached them to the outside of the hull, where there were already pegs installed for this purpose, and then pulled the entire vehicle out of the shed, by the bow.
In full sunlight, Eenk could see words engraved on the wheels.
"A circle of fifths," he read from one of the wheels, completely puzzled. "Certainly a wheel is a kind of circle, but there are only four of them! This won't do, at all!"
But as he started to push the vehicle back into the shed in reverse, he noticed, to his amazement, that the engraved words on the wheels had changed.
He read aloud: "A circle of fourths!"
"Musical magic?" Foof wondered aloud.
"This makes much more sense, now," Eenk exclaimed, "but it looks like I'll have to ride this contraption in reverse, or else this poor thing will not know how many wheels it has, and being so confused, might lead me astray."
Foof looked anxious, and asked: "You mean that you're going to ride it? But you can't ask Quaver's permission right now, for he is asleep."
Eenk became irritated at this, but was not discouraged even in the slightest.
"You told me that this musician fellow is asleep during the daytime," he said, "and as it is still morning, he will not wake up for quite some time, and if the supposed land of Oz is far from our own country, then a round trip will take a great while, thus I might as well make imminent departure. Furthermore, look at the state of this hut and shed! They have apparently received no care for quite some time, so perhaps this Quaver fellow is not one to come outside at night, either."
Pausing here, to let his overwhelming logic settle into Foof's mind, Eenk then concluded: "Therefore, I might borrow this vehicle for a span of several days, and by the time the musician ever realizes what's happened, my orchard will be the envy of him, and you, and everyone else, for that matter! ...and I suppose his boat will be returned by then, as well."
Foof thought this plan questionable, for it certainly was, and would have said so, but he knew that Eenk could not be persuaded so easily.
Eenk turned the vehicle around, so that its stern was facing away from the shed, and hopped into the hull. There was only a small deck, to speak of, for it was a small boat, and left lying upon this deck were several items that may or may not have been related to sailing; Eenk could not really tell. But he was more concerned with how this vehicle operates on land, than with how it does on water.
Searching among the items on deck, he found a steering wheel, and then attached it to a peg on the bow. He then found a speed lever among the other items, and attached it to a hole on the bow, below the steering wheel. But he realized that if he were to operate the steering wheel and the speed lever himself, he would have to drive facing the bow, as would normally be proper, but would in this case confuse the four wheels into thinking that they were fifths, instead of fourths. But still, he was not discouraged.
"Neighbor," he said to Foof, because he still did not remember his splintery neighbor's name, "since you are the one who knows the way to Oz, I have appointed you first mate, so that you may steer. I, meanwhile, shall be the captain, and face where we are going, as to not crash into anything."
"You mean for me to go with you?" Foof asked. "I think I could perhaps direct you to the land of Oz, but first let us wait until night, so that we may ask Quaver's permission to borrow the boat."
"If we wait until night," Eenk replied, "then we, ourselves, should be asleep, and will be in no position to make a journey. Besides, if you do not come with me, the wheels will be confused again and might never take me to Oz, nor bring the boat back here to Quaver at all, and he might become quite angry with you."
This put Foof into a tricky position, but after thinking it over for a one or two minutes, he reasoned that it would be best for him to contain the damage by accompanying Captain Eenk on the journey, as first mate.
"Very well," Foof reluctantly replied, climbing into the boat with much difficulty, for we must remember that Foof had no arms. Eenk might have assisted him in this, if not for remembering Foof's sharp hairs.