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VIII. Ie’ello

 

Ie’ello’s home was located in a small neighborhood on the outskirts of town. His house stood on a corner.

 

When Saguaro expressed concern about his family’s reaction to her being there, Ie’ello went in first to talk to his father. As she waited for him, Saguaro took the opportunity to appraise the neighborhood. Each lemon-colored house had a thatched roof, a small front yard, and a stone path leading to the front door. It was strange being in a world of identical houses when in Cascadia, no two places were alike.

 

At last, the door opened. Ie’ello stood behind his father, a man even taller than he. His skin was lighter than Ie’ello’s, and his hair was the same shade of sandy brown. He smiled at Saguaro.

 

“Well, it looks like we have a guest for dinner. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Please come in.”

 

She followed father and son into the house, her worries beginning to ease.

 

The first thing she noticed was how messy the sitting room was. True, her own home was nothing to brag about, but this floor was tracked with a set of dirty footprints, and pillows were scattered about. Aside from a few paintings on the cream colored walls, the room had only one upholstered chair and a sofa. That was all.

 

Ie’ello’s father grimaced. “I’m sorry. Neither Ie’ello nor I are very good about housekeeping. We’ll tidy things up and make up the sofa before you go to sleep.”

 

Saguaro’s ears perked up. “Oh, no, I wasn’t going to stay overnight. I was planning to be on my way after dinner. I won’t inconvenience you any further.”

 

Mr. Tennay shook his head. “My son is right; you are an independent one. But no, I’m afraid you will stay overnight. By the time dinner’s done, it will be almost dark, and I’m not going to risk one of Ie’ello’s friends getting a hold of you. We’ll pack you some food to take along, and you can be on your way first thing tomorrow. Assuming you insist on doing that by yourself, too.” His look suggested that he would not let this happen without serious discussion.

 

“That’s very kind of you,” said Saguaro, unable to resist the prospect of sleeping indoors for a night. “Do you want any help with dinner? I don’t know how to cook, but I can chop vegetables. I should probably warn you that I’m a vegetarian. I’m sorry if that throws off your plans.”

 

Ie’ello laughed. He shook his head when she frowned at him. “Nothing, it’s just…there aren’t any carnivores here. At least any legal ones, that is. Listen, why don’t you come in and help chop mushrooms? We’re making a soup.”

 

“Go ahead,” said Mr. Tennay. He motioned to a newspaper lying on the floor. “I’ll join you after I finish an article I started.”

 

The small kitchen was better kept than the living room. A worn wooden table stood in the center of the room.

 

Ie’ello handed her a knife and a bowl of mushrooms, and Saguaro sat at the table and began slicing them. He worked at the stove, adding ingredients to the soup.

 

“So, what were you saying about everyone in Oz being a vegetarian?” Saguaro asked after a few mushrooms. “Is it really a requirement here?”

 

Ie’ello nodded. “Glinda the Good passed a law about five years ago called the Animal Alternative Act. It prohibits eating animals and encourages using other protein sources instead. Glinda’s reasoning is that as careful as we are, we can never be sure we’re eating an animal and not an Animal by mistake.”

 

The more Saguaro heard about Glinda, the more confused she was about why others didn’t like her. “That seems like a good law.”

 

“Yes, but people around here don’t follow it. They’re still upset about one of her other laws that bans hunting here in the Thousand Year Grasslands. My dad and I like Glinda, at least.”

 

“I wish we had a law like that where I’m from,” said Saguaro. “Animals and humans are treated the same, but there aren’t many people who stop to think about eating Animal relatives. That kind of law would make my mother happy; she’s very pro-Animal. I sometimes think she prefers Animals to humans.”

 

She did not notice Ie’ello’s raised eyebrows until it was too late. “I mean…she was pro-Animal. It happened so recently that it’s still very new.” She tried her best to place a somber expression on her face.

 

Ie’ello nodded, but did not press further. “You mentioned that your parents were from Oz. Do you know which Land they were from?”

 

She put down the knife. “Truthfully, I’m not sure.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Well, I’m almost certain that my father was a Winkie, but I have no idea about my mother. She could be half Quadling, for all I know.”

 

“What about your father?” said Ie’ello. “Why do you think he was a Winkie?”

 

“You’re going to think I’m being ridiculous.”

 

“Hey, I told you the truth about being more of a follower than a leader, and you didn’t judge me. Now, tell me. What’s behind this Winkie theory?”

 

“You see, when I was a little girl, my dad told me stories about a Winkie Prince named Fyre,” Saguaro said. “Being in Winkie Country is eerie; it’s almost exactly as my dad described it. But even as a child, years before I came here, I realized that there was a reason he chose to set his stories here. I even thought he might be Fyre before he assured me that he wasn’t.”

 

“You never know,” Ie’ello said, teasing. “I could be standing here, making dinner for Princess Saguaro.”

 

“Very funny,” said Saguaro. “What about you? Are both of your parents from here?” She suddenly wondered whether she should have used the word “parents,” when it was clear that there was no mother in sight.

 

“Well, my mother always lived here,” Ie’ello said. “My father’s a Munchkin.”

 

Saguaro was dumbfounded. “What?”

 

“Just joking!” said Ie’ello. “There’s no way he’s a Munchkin. If a Munchkin has a child with a non-Munchkin, the child can grow to full size, but as far as I know, my dad doesn’t have any Munchkin blood. No, he grew up in the marshes of Quadling Country before he met my mother. Before he was born, my grandfather was a poor Gillikinese merchant, and he and my grandmother decided to try their luck in Quadling Country. So really, I’m half Winkie. That’s the reason I’m not dark-skinned like the rest of the people here.”

 

“Are all people from Winkie Country dark-skinned, then?” Saguaro asked.

 

“Didn’t you know that?”

 

Saguaro shook her head. She thought about her father’s skin.

 

“What was your father’s skin like?” Ie’ello said, as if reading her thoughts.

 

“I never really paid much attention to it before, but now that I’m here, I can see that he probably was a Winkie,” Saguaro said. “Your skin is actually similar to the way mine was before I turned myself green.”

 

Ie’ello gaped at her. “You turned yourself green?”

 

“Oh, don’t look at me like that, Master Ie’ello,” Saguaro said, enjoying his confusion. “You already told me that you joined Alo as a way to be accepted. What if you were the only ordinary person in a sea of people with extraordinary physical features? Wouldn’t you try to change your appearance to fit in?”

 

*****

 

After a superb meal of hearty mushroom soup and homemade bread, Ie’ello rejoined his friends for the nightshift. Though unenthusiastic about going, he did not want them to become suspicious by not showing up.

 

Saguaro was grateful when Ie’ello’s father told her that he had heated water for a bath, but she cringed when she saw herself in the mirror. Leaves and twigs laced her tangled hair, and her face was sunburnt and streaked with mud. Because of her green skin, the orange pinafore that had once looked pretty on her now made her look like a pumpkin. She did not want to think about how she had appeared to Ie’ello.

 

After a long soak, Saguaro returned to the living room. She noticed a portrait hanging on one of the walls. The woman in the painting had dark Winkie skin and the same long nose as Ie’ello. Thick black hair cascaded past her shoulders. Her wide smile brightened the room.

 

“She was beautiful, wasn’t she?”

 

She turned to find Mr. Tennay standing behind her, a wistful look in his eyes. “Very pretty,” Saguaro said. “Is this-?”

 

Mr. Tennay nodded. “Ie’ello’s mother. She’s been gone for six years now, but I think of her every day.”

 

He traced her oval face. Saguaro was taken by the tenderness in his gaze.

 

“This picture captures her perfectly.” His finger lingered on her smile. “I’ve never met anyone like her. She had this optimistic way of looking at things and seeing the best in people that I wish I could follow.” He sighed. “If only Ie’ello had gotten that from her. Sometimes I worry about the effect of losing a mother so young.”

 

“I don’t think he’s doing as badly as you think,” Saguaro said. “I don’t pretend to like his friends, but he was willing to take a chance on me when no one else was.”

 

“True. He does have his mother’s willingness to take chances on people. Though I really shouldn’t be going on about this. You didn’t lose just one parent; you lost two.”

 

Saguaro cleared her throat and tried to swallow the discomfort that had settled there. “Yes. That’s true.”

 

She studied the picture again and was surprised when she read the signature in the lower right corner: Ie’ello Tennay, 1914. “Wait just a clock tick. Ie’ello painted this?”

 

Mr. Tennay chuckled. “Oh, my son didn’t tell you? I can’t say I’m surprised. I don’t think any of his friends know about his art. But, yes. He painted it from an old photograph. He’s very talented. In some ways, I think this painting captures Knella’s likeness better than any photograph ever did.”

 

Saguaro, unsure of how to respond, bit her lip. She suddenly felt incredibly naïve for never experiencing loss before.

 

Saguaro’s mother had been only eighteen months old when her own mother died. Though she never talked about it, Saguaro knew that she still missed her. She knew it from every faraway glance, every frown, and every look into the distance. Forty years of life had not changed how much her mother wished she’d had the chance to know her own mother.

 

Saguaro imagined how her grandmother might react if she were here. She would probably chastise her for running away, when she was lucky enough to have a mother in the first place. Still, Saguaro resented the possibility that she had been wrong to run away. Just because she had a mother did not mean her life was perfect.

 

Saguaro shook her head and banished these thoughts. “Does Ie’ello have any other paintings?” she asked, determined to change the subject. “I’d love to see them.”

 

Mr. Tennay smiled. He pointed to the opposite side of the room, where a ladder was leaning against the wall. “Go on up. You’re in for a surprise.”

*****

 

Within seconds of entering Ie’ello’s bedroom, Saguaro came to a conclusion: it was easily the most amazing room she had ever been in.

 

For one thing, it was a loft. Ie’ello’s small bedroom was like a haven away from the rest of the house, and being here gave her access to his own private world. His bookcases were packed with books and art supplies, and an entire shelf was dedicated to a collection of rocks and fossils.

 

But what made it most extraordinary were the murals painted on the walls. Ie’ello had designed the room so that each wall resembled a Land of Oz. On the wall to her left were the Winkie Country grasslands; before her was the snowy tundra of Gillikin Country; and to her right were the cornfields of Munchkinland. Behind her, on the wall across from Gillikin Country, were the marshes of Quadling Country. Ie’ello had blurred his images in a style that was reflective of the Ozpressionist movement. As good as the portrait of his mother had been, Saguaro knew that Ie’ello’s true calling was painting nature.

 

She sat on Ie’ello’s rug and flipped through a book that contained photographs of Oz. While Ie’ello had not included Oz’s largest city in his mural, she could tell from the book that the green bedspread and rug in the center of the room were meant to suggest the Emerald City.

 

Ie’ello came in a few minutes later. She noticed how tired and disheveled he looked.

 

“What happened?” she said. “Did they find out?”

 

Ie’ello sighed. “No, but they did question me about what happened. I told them that you’d managed to get away, but I’m not sure Fycity believed me. I just hated having to lie.”

 

Saguaro clenched her teeth. This was not a conversation she wanted to have right now.

 

For the first time, Ie’ello seemed to get a good look at her. His eyes widened as he took in her appearance.

 

“I’m sorry,” Saguaro said, uncomfortable with the way he was staring. “Is it all right that I’m here? I saw the painting of your mother, and your dad told me to come up here if I wanted to see more of your art. You’re an amazing artist.”

 

Ie’ello shook his head. “No, it’s fine. I don’t mind at all. It’s just-” He grinned a little sheepishly. “I didn’t realize your hair was so curly. You clean up really well.”

 

Saguaro looked down at her hands. “Uh, thanks, I guess. My hair tends to curl more after it’s washed.” Dear Oz, could she have sounded any more foolish? “What I mean is…thanks. Would you mind helping me now? You said earlier that you could tell me about the trails.”

 

Ie’ello looked dazed for a moment, then shook his head. “Oh, sure. Of course.” He then grinned again, and a hint of the old Ie’ello shone through. “It would be my pleasure.”

 

Saguaro took out her map and handed it to I’ello. He traced the various locations. “Interesting. This looks like it predates Wogglebug and Dillamond.”

 

“Who?”

 

“They’re two of Oz’s most contemporary cartographers. Wogglebug created the basic Oz map in 1904, and Dillamond updated it a few years later. I’ll get out my copy of the one edited by Dillamond. It might be helpful for us to use a more recent version.”

 

He walked over to a bookshelf and returned with a map. Unlike Saguaro’s map, which was printed with black ink on parchment, this one was printed in color. She noticed a few other differences between the two maps, as well. In contrast to her map, where her mother had penned in the words, “Time Dragon Clock,” this cartographer had also included a drawing of a dragon wrapped around a clock. In addition, he had added Oogaboo, a small, independent monarchy outside the Scalps of Winkie Country, which Saguaro had heard of in her father’s stories. On the border of the Thousand Year Grasslands was a town called “Flax,” which was where she was currently.

 

“So, how did you get here, anyway?” I’ello said. “I’ve never met anyone from outside Oz before.”

 

Saguaro picked up a fountain pen that was lying on the floor. “Mind if I draw it in?”

 

“Go ahead.”

 

She found a blank spot to the west of the Nonestic Ocean and made a rough sketch of Cascadia. She explained how she’d taken a balloon from Cascadia to the Badlands and then marked the places where her balloon had landed and where the Crows had dropped her off.

 

Ie’ello was very curious about her journey. When she tried to ask him for directions to the Emerald City, he interrupted her by asking more about her travels. With only freshwater lakes and no oceans in Oz, Ie’ello was fascinated by the idea of saltwater.

 

He was also intrigued by the way she had passed the Time Dragon. “Didn’t that dragon scare you? The Wizard put it there to protect Oz from trespassers.”

 

Saguaro had to laugh. “It was just a clock with a mechanical dragon perched above it. Honestly, I found it more fascinating than anything else.”

 

“There are some very strange rumors surrounding that clock. I don’t doubt that it’s only mechanical, but people say that if you pass the clock, it magicks you. You’re forever cursed with bad luck.”

 

“But that’s ridiculous,” Saguaro said. “My parents-before they died, I mean-would’ve had to pass that clock…and nothing happened to them-besides dying, I guess.” She brushed this aside, realizing how foolish she sounded. “I mean, it’s only a superstition. It’s not as though my parents died because they passed some clock sixteen years before their deaths.”

 

“It wasn’t always stationary like that. It was only put there about forty years ago. Before that, it was some sort of traveling act that toured all around Oz. People would travel miles and miles to see it.”

 

“So, what’s wrong with that?”

 

“Let’s just say it wasn’t the kind of act your parents would have wanted you to see.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“A lot of people regard the Time Dragon as some sort of joke, but it’s not. Not at all. Some people have even pledged to bring it back; they still worship it.”

 

Saguaro could not help thinking that this all sounded very convenient. By placing the Time Dragon on the border of Winkie Country and the Badlands, the Wizard had put an end to a perverted charade and turned the clock into a national symbol. She decided that it had been a very clever and devious decision.

 

Ie’ello appraised her expression. “You remind me of my mother. She didn’t believe any of the superstitions, either. She used to say that one day, the two of us would go to the Impassable Desert in the South to see if it really was impassable.”

 

Saguaro was startled from her thoughts by this more serious change of subject. “How did she die? If you don’t mind me asking, that is.”

 

“She got very sick. There aren’t good doctors here, and she got too weak to travel to a town with better care. I was about ten when it happened.”

 

Saguaro tried to imagine losing her own mother at ten and found that she could not. She wondered what would be easier: losing a parent as an infant like her mother had or losing one after getting the chance to know her.

 

“It’s funny,” Ie’ello said. “You’re the first person I’ve ever met who has also lost a parent. Alo and the others teased me about how hard I took her death whenever I cried in school. Actually, that’s how I knew you weren’t dangerous. When you told us that you were an orphan, I knew right then that I wanted to get to know you.”

 

Saguaro’s heart sank. Ie’ello was the first person her age with whom she had ever connected, and she was disappointed to learn that his interest in her was based on a lie. He was interested in getting to know the Saguaro who was an orphan, a girl who did not truly exist.

 

A part of Saguaro was tempted to continue lying. She liked Ie’ello and knew that his knowledge of Oz would be valuable for her journey. A larger part of her, however, was not comfortable with this idea. Even if she risked losing Ie’ello, she was not comfortable building her first friendship on a lie.

 

So she took a deep breath and forced herself to meet Ie’ello’s eyes. “Would you still like me if that wasn’t true? If I wasn’t an orphan, I mean.”

 

“What are you talking about?” said Ie’ello.

 

“The truth is that I haven’t been entirely honest with you,” Saguaro said. “My parents aren’t really dead.”

 

« Chapter Seven Chapter Nine »

 

2 Comments ↓

2 Responses to “VIII. Ie’ello”

  1. avatar
    Lee Jaffe September 11, 2012 at 8:50 pm #

    I’m worried. Is Saguaro asking for trouble by being honest? After all, a friend is still a friend. She needs him to help her get around.
    Oh well, I guess that I will have to wait for the next chapter.

  2. avatar
    Impy September 13, 2012 at 9:34 am #

    Oooh, you just HAD to have a cliffhanger, didn’t you!

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