Sunday, September 29, 2019

This Week's Oz Short Story

We wrap up this little diversion into short stories published in The Baum Bugle with what I believe is the final one, another complete-the-story contest, "Scraps and the Magic Box" by Fred M. Meyer, published in the Winter 1979 issue. Scraps is put out that Ozma has asked her to fetch the Magic Belt, taking away from her time to have fun. Before she can bring the Belt to Ozma, she tries it on and wishes for a way to avoid running errands. Sure enough, just outside Ozma's room, Scraps stumbles over the Choice Box, a box that temporarily grants wishes when you press the red button, and harmlessly undoes them when you press the black button. So Scraps wishes to be Queen! Sure enough, everyone bows to her and follows her wishes, and she lives it up for a bit. But then, during an event in the throne room, Scraps drops the box and Tik-Tok crushes it! Uh-oh! Who can write their way out of this situation?

Fortunately, Camilla Townsend has the perfect solution, and her conclusion was published in the Autumn 1980 issue. Scraps quickly realizes that she's not cut out to be Queen, and of course she misses Ozma. After several weeks, she finally discovers someone else who remembers her—the Gump's head! He was in the hall where Scraps found the Choice Box, so since he saw it and knew about it, he concludes that he is immune to its effects. The Gump begrudgingly mentions the Wishing Pills that got lost in the jackdaws' nest in The Marvelous Land of Oz and how Tip had wished he hadn't swallowed one of them, which he hadn't. So Scraps plans an expedition to the jackdaws' nest, taking the Woozy with her because he's tough and can swallow. The Wizard transports them there, and after a day of searching they find the box. Scraps drops one pill, but the Woozy manages to swallow the last pill just as the jackdaws are returning! As he counts to seventeen by ones and makes his wish, the jackdaws spring upon them and try to carry them away&ellips;

&ellips;and then Scraps is back in the hall, having never found the Choice Box just as the Woozy wished. It's a great conclusion, making a lot of use of Oz history and established characters and bringing everything to a satisfying end.

I also found in my copy of the latter issue another ending, submitted by my friend Robin Hess. Clearly he mist have given me a copy nearly forty years ago. While his is good, I can see why it didn't rise to the top. His take involved Ozma becoming aware of what was happening, and disguising herself as an old woman to find out what's happening. She observes that Scraps has learned her lesson, and forgives her. (Interestingly, both conclusions appear to presume that Ozma has the Magic Belt. In fact, it plays a central role in Hess's version. But I can't figure out when Scraps gave it to Ozma, and it would therefore follow logically that Scraps would have the Magic Belt. But that would probably make for an extremely easy and unsatisfying wrap-up.)

Next week, back to Oziana!

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