The Hung Woman of Oz

The Hung Woman of Oz
by Laika Pupkino

The four travelling companions introduced themselves to the giantess, Dorothy and then the others all shaking her large hand. The woman smiled shyly, "I'm Joan Jones."

"That's a peculiar sort of name," said The Tin Woodsman.

Sheepishly, Joan removed the noose from around her neck and said, "To some around here I'm known as The Hung Woman."

Despite her gentle demeanor the Cowardly Lion felt intimidated by the sheer size of her. He stammered, "But whuh-why do they call you a hung woman if you h-haven't hung yourself yet?"

"And shouldn't that be 'hanged woman'?" asked the Scarecrow, scratching his head.

Big Joan sighed and lifted the front of her skirt for them.

"Arf!" said Toto.

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OR SO GOES ONE VERSION OF THAT FIRST MEETING WITH THE HUNG WOMAN. ACCOUNTS VARY WIDELY BETWEEN THE VARIOUS MEMOIRS WRITTEN BY DOROTHY AND THE OTHERS, AS WELL AS THE FOURTEEN BOOKS PENNED BY THE "OFFICIAL HISTORIAN OF OZ" MR. L FRANK BAUM, NOT TO MENTION THE CHARMING (IF HOPELESSLY SANITIZED) 1939 FILM VERSION. AND SO WHILE I AM HESITANT TO CALL ANYONE A LIAR, I SERIOUSLY DOUBT THAT JOAN WOULD HAVE SO READILY FLASHED THOSE ANATOMICAL BITS THAT WERE SUCH A SOURCE OF SHAME AND ANGUISH FOR HER.

MS. JONES WILL BE JOINING US SHORTLY, BUT LET'S START THIS TALE A FEW MILES BACK DOWN THE FAMOUS YELLOW ROAD, AT A PART THAT YOU'LL PROBABLY BE MORE FAMILIAR WITH...
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After the encounter with the fearsome Lion, who turned out to be not at all fearsome but in fact quite cowardly, it was resolved. He would join Dorothy and her two new friends on their journey to the Emerald City, in hopes that the mighty wizard who dwelled there would be able to provide him with some courage. Each of them had something to ask of the Great Oz- Dorothy needing some means of getting back home to Kansas, while the others each found themselves incomplete in some way, and were hoping that this wizard fellow could make them whole.

So with newfound hope in their hearts they all linked arms and took off skipping down the Yellow Brick Road, singing:

"Help I'm a rock!
Help I'm a rock!
Help I'm a rock!
Help I'm a rock!
Help I'm a rock!!
Help I'm a rock-"

(For by now they had tired of that 'Off to See the Wizard' song with all its annoying because, because, becauses and were working their way through the Frank Zappa Songbook...)

A few miles further down the road they stopped singing. They were all quite tired and out of breath, having discovered that skipping is not the most energy-efficient mode of travel there is.

Also their very surroundings seemed to discourage frivolty, for as forests in tales like this often will, the part of the woods they found themselves in had taken on a very dark and sinister cast, the trees all scowly and misshapen, the fake ravens stuck to their branches swivelling their their heads back and forth as if to say: "Poor bastards, they're done for now!" Even the benign enchantment of the road they travelled on---which would keep a traveller safe as long as they didn't step off of it---did little to assuage their fears as they made their way through The Big Scary Forest.

But presently the woods grew even more ominous. For while it was no longer dark---the grayish yellow sky overhead was now plainly visible---this was because every tree for as far as they could see had been demolished. Not chopped down neatly like a tin woodsman might do, but violently smashed, reduced to piles of branches and dry foliage, their dead jagged stumps sticking up like the remains of rotten teeth. What terrible mad beast had wreaked this carnage, and why?

"Maybe it's a tyrannosaurus," suggested the Tin Man, his metal knees clanging together loudly.

"Maybe it was a pack of deranged woodchucks," theorized The Scarecrow, "Trying to settle the eternal woodchuck question..."

"I h-hope it's not a chuh-chuh-chuh-chupacabra!" quailed the Cowardly Lion, glancing around in fright.

Whatever it was, they were about to find out. For from ahead of them came an immense CRACK! of shattering wood, followed by an unearthly anguished wail, and then a half minute later there was another terrible CRACK! And another scream.

The Lion decided that he didn't really need courage after all and wanted to go back the way they came, but the others got behind him---blocking his way---and started pushing him toward the source of the noise. They rounded the bend in the trail...

To see a rather ordinary woman in an old-fashioned calico dress. Ordinary, that is, except for the fact that she was by far the largest woman any of them had ever seen---she wouldn't fit inside an ordinary sized room without stooping over---and bore an uncanny resemblance to the actor John Goodman.

She was standing on a treestump. From the heavy branch of another tree right next to her dangled a rope with a hangman's noose at the end. Sighing miserably she stuck her head into the noose.

"OH NO!!!" cried the four friends, and went running to stop her as she stepped off the tree stump and dropped, the noose pulling tight around her neck.

But as with her previous 513 attempts, the stout branch above her snapped---CRACK!!---and she landed on her rear end on the ground.

"Oh my gosh!" cried Dorothy, "What are you DOING?!"

"What does it look like I'm doing, genius? Now go away and let me kill myself!"

"Oh no, you mustn't talk like that! Killing yourself is stupid. Life is too precious to just throw away," crowed Dorothy (At which the lion, the scarecrow and the tin man exchanged knowing and uncomfortable glances...).

The Lion asked the woman, "What could possibly be so bad that you'd want to do that?"

"Believe me, you don't want to know..."

"Yes we do," said the Tin Woodsman, "Maybe we can help."

"I seriously doubt that," sighed the big woman as they all helped her to her feet, "But do you really want to hear it?"

Dorothy said, "Of course we do! And maybe you'll feel better if you talk about whatever's wrong. Sometimes it helps to share your problems with friends."

The giantess removed the noose from around her neck, and said skeptically, "You're my friends, huh?"

"We'd like to be," declared Dorothy, and the others made noises of agreement.

"That's sweet, but I've heard that before, from people that when they find out who- what I am, suddenly they're not so friendly. But sure, I'll tell you. And then maybe you won't feel so helpful, and will leave me alone and let me finish this. Or let me try to. I'm such a screw up, I can't even seem to kill myself ........ Although I sure did a number on these poor trees," she sighed, waving a hand at the demolished forest around them.

"Whatever it is, it can't possibly be that bad," said the Kansas farm girl and stuck out her hand, which the woman shook, "I'm Dorothy..."

"And we're all friends of Dorothy," smiled the Tin Woodsman.

"I'll bet you are," said the giantess, and shook hands with the Tin Man, the Lion and the Scarecrow as each introduced himself.

"And this little fellow is Toto," said Dorothy as her dog trotted boldly up to the woman.

"Hello Toto! Oh you're so cute," tittered Joan, who despite her determination to be suicidally depressed found herself being won over by the friendly pup, who was doing a frenetic little dance, sort of curling himself around her lowered hand and luxuriating in the feel of her long nails sliding down his furry side...

He knew it was petty, but the Cowardly Lion felt a pang of jealousy. Why didn't anyone ever pet him like that? Why couldn't he just be a housecat that some nice lady would feed and take care of? He'd bring her the occasional mouse (if it wasn't a particularly fearsome one) and spend his days curled up in her lap as they listened to The Green Hornet and Fibber McGee & Molly on the Philco, instead of all this 'Monarch of the Forest' nonsense, to which he felt so ill-suited and was only attempting to please his rather tyrannical and prone-to-roar father. He asked her, "And do you have a name?"

"Oh yes, my name. With me even that's a problem ........ The Vegemites and the Fingerlings call me The Hung Woman, but I'd prefer you call me Joan. Joan Jones."

"That's a peculiar sort of name," said The Tin Woodsman.

"My family would agree with you. My father Jack, my mother Jill, my brothers Jimbo, Jack Jr. and Jumbo Jack, they all still insist on calling me John. Or at least they did the last time I saw them, quite a few years ago..."

"Why did they call you that?"

"Because that was the name they gave me at birth. You see, I was born-" there was a drumroll as the travellers all looked at her expectantly for several seconds, and when it ended she announced, "a boy!"

Instead of the gasps Joan was expecting, her new friends seemed to take this in stride; the Scarecrow saying, "Oh is that all? You mean a witch changed you into a girl? I've heard about that happening. It's nothing to be ashamed of..."

"Oh I wish a witch would do that! I've wished it all my life. I went to every witch and leprechaun and two-bit shaman I could find around my village. They either couldn't help me or ask for way too much money to turn me into a real girl. And then when my family found out their son was seeking out these magicians, and that I had this terrible ...... this wish, they kicked me out, exiled me to live out here in The Big Scary Forest," she said, and indicated the dress she was wearing, "It's some small comfort that I can dress the way I want, the way that feels right, but this isn't real. I'm stuck like this. A fake, a fraud, a humbug woman..."

"But you have boobies." said the Scarecrow, "Nice ones!"

"These? You like them?" said Joan, smiling a bit vainly despite herself, "They're really mushrooms of a very special sort. According to my Wogglebug friend, who is both thoroughly educated and highly magnified, they are of the species Brestiformis Decupus, which grow way down in the Upsidasium mines. They stick right on and never come off, splicing right into your circulatory and nervous systems..."

"Like a parasite," said the Scarecrow with distaste.

"It seems symbiotic enough to me," grinned Joan Jones, looking down at her chest, then she sighed, "But unfortunately it seems that nowhere in this four-color realm is there anything that can help someone like me ......... down below. Below the waist I'm stuck with what nature inflicted on me. I suppose the gods and goddesses of Oz have their reasons, and perhaps the agony of this false existence---and the scorn I face from my family and nearly everyone I meet---is meant to to teach me something. But I wish ......... I just wish..."

And as the orchestra swelled behind her she began to sing:
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"I oft lay awake nights thinkin',
How my life wouldn't be so stinkin,
if I only had a womb...
My depression and my sorrow,
might all be gone tomorrow,
If I only had a womb!

"Though I'm quite female in spirit,
there are those who just won't hear it
Since I haven't got a womb...
They're far meaner than they'd have to be
And won't let me use the proper lava'try
Cause I haven't got a womb!

"I'd be Sabina and not Sporus,
With that labia and clitoris
at the entrance to my womb...
Should my "outtie" become an "innie",
I could proudly shout, "C'est fini!"
If I only had a womb!

"My mood would be the chipperest
If I by chance became viviparous,
Like a wombat or racoon;
And should I ever find a lover,
I know I'd make the finest mother-"

"Yes, well," interrupted Dorothy, bringing the unseen orchestra to a sudden halt, "We're kind of in a hurry here. We want to get out of the Big Scary Forest by nightfall. We're headed to the Emerald City to see the mighty Wizard who lives there."

"Wizard?" asked Joan.

"Yes, I'm going to see if there's any way he can get me back home to Kansas. Or Cancun, I haven't quite decided..."

"And I'm going to ask him about getting me a heart!"

"And some cuh-cuh-cuh-courage."

"And a brain for me," the Scarecrow added, then he had an idea, "Say, maybe you can come along with us. I'll bet the Wizard can give you your womb!"

"By golly, that's a swell idea!" said the Tin Woodsman brightly, "He seems to have all kinds of spare body parts laying around."

"Hmmmmm," mused Joan, "Yes I'd heard of this great Wizard. But I figured it was just a story."

"Oh it's no story," said Dorothy earnestly, "Honest Injun! Glinda the Good herself told me he's for real."

"She did? Glinda said that?"

Dorothy's friends all chimed in with things like "Yes, Ma'am!" and "Absotively posilutely!", apparently forgetting that none of them had been there with Dorothy at the outset of her journey. What was important to them was that they believed her story...

"Well heck," shrugged Joan, "Who am I to argue with a grown woman dressed as a schoolgirl, a Batman villian, a thing like a steampunk cyborg and a bipedal lion with a zipper down his back? All right, let's go!"

And they all set off skipping, singing:

"A little green rosetta...
A little green rosetta...
A little green rosetta...
A little green rosetta...
A little green rosetta...
A little green rosetta...
A little green rosetta...
A little green rosetta...
A little green rosetta-"

When suddenly, just around the next bend, Joan Jones cried out, "Look! It's the Wizard!"

They all skidded to a stop. There across a small field stood a fiberglass tree with a small store built into a hollow in its base. A rather seedy looking old man with a long beard leaned in there in its open door, dressed in what seemed to be a tattered bathrobe. A crudely painted wooden sign above the shop's doorway read: SPELLS Я US.

The Scarecrow smirked, "What's he the wizard of, dyslexia? The R is backward!"

"Looks like a humbug wizard to me," added the Tin Woodsman.

The supposed wizard removed the toothpick he'd been chewing on and called out, "Hello Joan, I've been expecting you..."

That's all it took. She went running across the grass toward the establishment.

"But that's not the Wizard! The Wizard lives in the Emerald City," shouted Dorothy.

Joan called back to them, "You go to your wizard, I'll go to mine..."

The Lion called out that he might be dangerous and offered her his can of pepper spray, but she either didn't hear or was ignoring him.

And maybe for her this really was the Wizard, and the solution to all her woes. For you can generally trust the background music in these situations, and as she ran from out of nowhere a chorus of optimistic female voices began singing perkily, all sweetness, joy and hope:

"Youre out of the woods you're out of the dark you're out of the night,
Step into the sun, step into the light;
Keep straight ahead for the most glorious place on the face of the earth or the sky!
Hold onto your breath hold onto your heart hold onto your hope...
March up to that gate and tell it open, Open! OPEN!"

Then she and the old coot in the bathrobe disappeared into the shop, and Dorothy and her companions trucked off into their next adventure...
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The SRU Wizard appears courtesy of Bill Hart's SPELLS R US universe...
If you liked this be sure to read Matti's excellent Oz story that was posted today,
and without which I might never have finished & posted this one.
~~~hugs, Laika

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HELP I'M A ROCK by The Mothers of Invention:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nsjbKd-H4Y
A LITTLE GREEN ROSETTA (song starts around 1:18), Frank Zappa:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFMbLXvgXnA
OPTIMISTIC VOICES from The Wizard of Oz:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esrrpIU-nT8



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