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would ever discover what I really was—a dissembling little parvenu. Luckily, no one ever impugned my motives; in fact, everyone had an unassailable impression of me as some venerable patriarch—and who was I to tell them otherwise?

“But my stimulus was never avarice; it was fear. I was terrified of the powerful, evil Wicked Witches for many years, so you can imagine how pleased I was when I heard your house had fallen on the Wicked Witch of the East—the single most stupendous episode in the entire lexicon of Ozian events, and, I daresay, a historical watershed sure to secure you a top position in the pantheon of Ozian heroines!

“Now, normally I have no proclivity for prevarication, but when you came to me, I was so desperate to have that other hateful harridan killed that I was forced to tell you anything you wanted to hear. But now that you’ve liquidated her, so to speak, I’m ashamed to say I can’t keep my promises.” He paused, then said repentantly, “I know my duplicity was dastardly, and I’m truly sorry.” He forced a tiny, propitiating smile, but his eyes held a desperate appeal.

Chapter 19 “The Granting of Wishes”

“I think you’re a very bad man,” said Dorothy, as if upbraiding a naughty five-year-old.

The castigatory remark seemed to hurt Oz deeply, for he flinched as if struck by an invisible arrow. “Oh no, my dear,” he said compunctiously, “I’m really a very good man, just a very bad Wizard.”

“Can you give me brains?” asked the Scarecrow, still naïvely hopeful that the man possessed at least a modicum of wizardry. Oz thought for a while. He knew that these people probably considered him a venal villain, a mendacious miscreant. But in his own mind he was a pillar of probity.

Finally he said, “My dear Scarecrow, you think of yourself as nothing but agauche dunderhead. But from what I can see, your natural acumen and sagacity surpass that of many of the Emerald City’s so-called pedants and pundits. Why, you don’t need brains! A baby in swaddling clothes has brains, but it prattles inanely. Experience is the only thing that brings knowledge, and the longer you’re alive the more experience you’ll get.”

“That may be true,” said the Scarecrow, not sure if the rhetoric he’d just heard was gnostic truth or sententious drivel, “but I’ll be very unhappy unless you give me brains.”

The false Wizard looked at him empathetically. “Well, I’m not much of a Wizard, as I explained, but I’ll stuff your head with brains,” he said, feeling like a kindly country doctor prescribing a placebo to mollify a distraught hypochondriac. “I can’t tell you how to use them, however. You must find that out for yourself.”

“Oh, thank you, thank you!” cried the Scarecrow. “I’ll find a way to use them!”

“Okay, then sit down in that chair, please,” replied Oz. “You must excuse me for taking your head off, but I have to in order to put your brains in their proper place.”

Then the

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