I know I’m not the wizard that you were expecting,

but I might just be the wizard that you need.

-from Oz the Great and Powerful

When I was a freshman in college

my mom left my dad for good

and moved to a faraway painted desert

so she could no longer turn back

in a momentary cyclone of panic

My dad moved into the empty house

of his childhood, where black and white photos

of his older, more successful siblings

hung beside the staircase he struggled to climb

each night after drinking

When he couldn’t sleep, he would call to say

his life was just a movie, that the end

of the reel was near, and my heart would pound

inside its tin box until I again convinced him to stay

in this world of gray

The next summer I was required to vacate the dorm

and had nowhere to go except

that house, where my dad and I would fight

over everything, from why my mom left

to his love of mashed potatoes from a box

One day, I took refuge in Filene’s Basement

and came home wearing a new

black mini-dress, fishnet stockings

and a pair of red high-heels I found

in the bargain bin

My dad was sitting at the formica table

with a stack of empties and a road atlas

and when he saw me, he told me

I looked like a hooker, then asked me

what the hell I had on my feet

I told him they were pumps

but he called them hooker pumps

and demanded I take them off,

so I cried

and ran away

Later that night, I stumbled in, drunk,

still wearing the red pumps

but holding the heel of one of them—

click clump click clump click clump I went

over to the kitchen trash bucket

where I took them off

one by one, and tossed them,

trying not to fall over

before passing out

on the newspaper-littered sofa

When I woke the next morning

I tip-toed upstairs and found my dad

asleep, looking somehow small

and powerless

in his parents’ four-poster bed

I backed away, then made my way to the kitchen

where I was surprised to see my red pumps

sitting upright on the table,

the heel nailed back in place,

both shoes polished of all scuff marks

shining like ruby slippers

that could take me anywhere—

even home

Elisabeth Harrahy

Elisabeth Harrahy’s work has appeared in Zone 3, Paterson Literary Review, Blue Heron Review, The Café Review, Passengers Journal, Ghost City Review, I-70 Review, Wisconsin People & Ideas, and elsewhere, and has been nominated for Best of the Net. She is an associate professor of biology at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

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