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to the country resorts, I took a position with a fledgling circus company. It was my job to go up in a balloon on circus day to draw a crowd so I could sell them tickets. Then—sometimes with the help of a shill—I would mulct them out of everything they had. Of course, I’m not proud to admit that, but the remuneration I received for my services was so paltry that I was forced to cadge almost all of my meals—and if you’ve ever been in that position, you know how embarrassing it can be. And besides, the scuttlebutt was that our company’s president was experiencing pecuniary difficulties and was about to retrench by eliminating half the workers, including me—even though those stories about my pilfering the elephant’s peanuts and purloining clown costumes were proven to be nothing but outrageous canards when a cache of various stolen items turned up in the suitcase of one of the transient laborers. Of course, I was completely exculpated and all mention of those incidents was expunged from my record.

“Anyway, one day I went up in the balloon and the ropes got twisted so that I couldn’t come back down.” Oz used his fingers to approximate the idea of twisted ropes. “It floated vertiginously upward until it was above the clouds, and there a current of air carried it many miles away.” Again he demonstrated all this with his fingers. “For a day and a night I traveled through the sky, and on the morning of the second day I awoke and found the balloon hovering over a strange and beautiful land.

“It came down gradually, and I wasn’t hurt a bit. But I found myself in the midst of a strange people, who, seeing me come from the clouds, thought I was a great Wizard and made me their ruler! And there wasn’t a single gainsayer among them! Because they promised to do anything I wished, and because a little streak of cupidity got the best of me, instead of admitting I was just a simple rube who didn’t even know how to handle a balloon, I allowed this travesty to persist.

Then, just to amuse myself and to keep the penurious peons busy and off the dole, I ordered them to build this City and my Palace. After that, at my behest, they refurbished all the outlying buildings and roads. I paid the hirelings a small but fair wage, and though the ingrates never went so far as to thank me for my innovative policies or my largess, they at least never complained. But why should they? Since I levied only a nominal income tax, it was I who saved their impecunious hides from destitution! And besides, now they—not to mention all their precious progeny—had this beautiful City and all its amenities—a more than munificent gift—to enjoy for generations to come.

“Because I didn’t really possess any of the magical powers imputed to me, I kept myself hidden in the Palace so no one

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