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Emma Sees Red

NYC Midnight Flash Fiction 2018 - Round Two 1000 Word Max - 1st Place

Prompts: Fairytale, Corn Field, Poodle

The “story behind the story” of Dorothy’s magical trip to Oz as seen by her sister Emma (who no one ever talks about).

Once upon a time there was a girl named Dorothy who was whisked away to a magical land called Oz. No doubt you have heard her story. But did you know that Dorothy had a sister named Emma who was as different from her as oil is to vinegar? Dorothy was a happy child, challenging those around her, whereas Emma was a sullen and quiet girl with a disapproving look. Things came easy for Dorothy and her accomplishments were well documented; Emma was routinely overlooked. The summer that Dorothy’s dog Toto, a mutt with no particular breeding, received a blue ribbon in the county fair for his amusing tricks, Emma’s champion poodle Molly, didn’t receive so much as an honorable mention.

On the morning Dorothy was carried away by a tornado, Emma had grabbed Molly and crept down to the corn field hoping to avoid the early morning milking chores. Nestled in the middle of the field, shielded from the sun’s heat by the long stalks of corn, she would hide for hours. But then again, no one was ever really looking for her. She had missed that morning’s upset caused by Miss Gulch once again trying to have Toto turned into the authorities. Even though Emma didn’t much like Miss Gulch, each time she tried to remove Toto, Emma felt a satisfaction that maybe Dorothy and her dog weren’t so perfect after all.

On that fateful day, when the wind grew strong enough to disturb the corn stalks, Emma looked up to notice the sky filled with ominous clouds. Recognizing tornado weather, she ran for the house. By the time she reached the edge of the corn field, she was being struck by garden trowels, chicken feed and laundry from the clothesline. She ducked into the old barn and hunkered down behind the hay bales wondering if Auntie Em would worry about her when she noticed that Emma was not in the storm cellar. She had no idea that Dorothy had grabbed Toto and ridden off on her bike just before the storm hit and was currently the cause of concern for the rest of the family.

As the tornado passed overhead, the roaring wind sounded like a freight train headed right for Emma. She worried that it would bring the old barn down on top of her. She sulked as she envisioned the rest of her family safe in the cellar laughing at some lively story Dorothy would tell to pass the time. She imagined days going by before they found Emma crushed under a barn beam. But eventually the winds died down and the storm lifted.

All was quiet as Emma crossed the trash strewn yard. “No one is even looking for me”, she thought angrily as she marched into the kitchen. As Auntie Em rose to hug her, Emma noticed the town sheriff sitting at the kitchen table. She thought for a moment that they HAD been worried about her, until Auntie Em began sobbing and going on about “poor Dorothy” out there somewhere when the storm hit.

That evening as a search party was out combing the area for Dorothy, Emma, who loved to cook, worked in the kitchen preparing food for the volunteers. “Thank you, Emma. I don’t know what I would do without your help right now” said Auntie Em. Emma glowed with pride from the unexpected compliment. As different townspeople stopped in for updates, she overheard them saying “what a blessing it was that Auntie Em had such a thoughtful namesake like Emma to help out”. A persistent thought swam around in Emma’s head. “What if Dorothy was never found?

As days passed with no sign of Dorothy, Emma woke each morning with a sense that anything was possible. Humming, she would grab a dress from Dorothy’s closet, twirling in front of the mirror and picturing her hair pinned up with one of the pretty butterfly ribbons Dorothy had always worn.

Emma had begun to come out of her shell with each new visit from the neighbors asking for news; adding details as she perfected her story of “just how much she missed her sister” and ending with a dramatic pause before reaching up to wipe her eyes. Eventually Dorothy’s name rarely came up in her conversations. It’s as if Dorothy had never existed.

In the evenings, Emma often found herself in the kitchen concocting new dishes to delight the family. As she served, she would entertain them with stories of her day. Her smile grew large as they praised the food and laughed at her antics. Emma was coming into her own.

One day she gathered the mail and was delighted to see an envelope containing an invitation to enter Molly into the local dog show. She was daydreaming about parading Molly around with a blue ribbon on her collar when she heard a familiar voice call her name. “No! It can’t be”, she thought in dismay! Stunned, she turned slowly, feeling her happiness dissolving away as she watched Auntie Em and the family rush past her each trying to hug Dorothy at the same time.

As the happy reunion moved into the house, Auntie Em started firing questions. “Where have you been Dorothy? Are you ok? Why did it take so long for you to return?” Dorothy began to tell the tale that you all know so well of her travels down the yellow brick road. At the end she pointed to the magic ruby slippers on her feet and explained how they had returned her home. Not one time during the conversation did anyone turn to Emma.

Late that night Emma had crept into Dorothy’s room and stared at the slippers a long time. In the morning when the family woke, both the slippers and Emma were gone. Emma was never heard from again, but those who knew her, speculated that she had found another whimsical land in which to spend her days.

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