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claims and seditious statements could really undermine him.”

In response to what he considered an annoyingly sophomoric defense—especially with its superfluous use of the word really and the tautological redundancy of the phrase of general opinion—the speaker’s mouth muscles managed to produce a smile that was at the same time sardonic and overly patient. Then, with a petulant wave of his hand, he glared with thinly veiled contempt at the interlocutor and retorted testily, “My ideas may not sound so heretical to you when I point out that while people are living in squalor, this profligate regularly expropriates prodigal sums from the City’s treasury for his personal pleasures—in spite of stringent measures that were designed to prevent that very thing! How do you suppose this egomaniac supports his sybaritic lavishness? His superannuated ideas and myopic fiscal policies raise the specter of omnipresent poverty for us and our posterity for generations! Is that what you advocate? If you want to foolishly embrace the tenets and ideology of autocracy, that’s your funeral; but don’t call me unfair. This is war! And in the throes of battle, as they say, all is fair!”

When, in his peroration, the malcontent inveighed against the Wizard’s promulgation of a policy of obscurantism, then called for a renascence of the pre-Ozian lifestyle, Dorothy’s mind became so befuddled, she rushed to the nearest exit. As she hurried out she just barely heard the firebrand remark, “And I’ve never known a man with such catholic tastes to possess so parochial an outlook!”

Back in her room under the bedclothes, Dorothy lay supine, staring at the ceiling. With her thoughts a farrago of hopes, doubts, and fears, the sleep she so needed was elusive. Disturbing images of the long day danced phantasmagorically across her mind’s eye. With a sickening revulsion she reviewed the river crossing that had gone awry, the virulent poppies and her near-fatal collapse, the vulgar group of laughing demimondaines, and finally the bombastic, proselytizing diatribe she had just heard.

The arrant pandering she had witnessed—first to the whims of the City’s nabobs in the pretentious, upscale restaurant, then to the prurient interests of those dissolute rakes and libertines who enjoyed exchanging dirty jokes in the Palace hallways—gave her nightmares of surreal scenes of Dionysian debauchery.

Chapter 13 “The Wizard”

Early the next morning, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Lion were summoned to the Throne Room. Dorothy, battling the lethargy of sleep deprivation, gathered her dwindling forces as best she could. For a moment she considered what to wear to this important meeting, but the question became moot when she remembered that her blue-and-white frock was all she had.

As they walked down the long passageway that led to the Wizard, the Lion, looking like a doddering old man, tried to control the violent shaking of his knees. At the end of the hallway, they walked through a door and beheld a big, round room with a high, arched ceiling. In the middle of the room stood a large, green, marble throne.

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