Dorothy and her little dog, Toto, came back to the same spot on the very same day every summer, every
23rd day of July, to be exact. To the place where she had been born. Anyway, to the place where all memory began. Her earliest
memory being that of a fluffy little beast slurping greedily at her face. After taking one look at the friendly aggressor
she instantly knew that his name was Toto. She didn't know how she knew. She just did. When the first person she came upon
asked what her name was she just looked stunned. When he asked what her dog's name was she had replied, "Toto." The man had
said, then she must be Dorothy. So that is who she became.
Seven years had passed since her birth by the water. She wasn't sure how old that would make her. She
knew she was much younger than Gramma who had befriended her that first night in the alley. When Dorothy had asked the wrinkly
old lady wearing the purple stocking cap in the middle of summer what her name was, she had replied, "Just call me Gramma."
Dorothy knew that she was older than Billy who ended up stiff in the alley last year with needle marks on the soft inside
of his elbow. Once she had picked up a tiny blue object in the sand. When she accidentally dropped it into the surf, it had
billowed out and turned into a spongy monkey. Maybe she had been a tight little wad on the beach until the tide had come in
and that is when she had billowed into existence. She guessed her age didn't matter anyway so she didn't worry about it.
Gramma had watched over her until she had died from just being old three years earlier. Gramma had
owned the shiniest cart of all, stuffed with mysterious treasures. When she died it had become Dorothy's cart for by then
she was the nearest thing to next of kin. Dorothy had reverently went through Gramma's sacred stuff after she was gone. A
lot needed to be thrown out but in a Christmas cookie tin at the very bottom of Gramma's cart Dorothy found a photo of a young
family. Momma, Daddy and a rosy cheeked little boy. Dorothy realized that the woman in the picture was Gramma, Gramma with
bright auburn hair, twinkling green eyes and a contented smile. That treasure she kept.
She had made other friends over the years. William was ancient and shell shocked for he had fought
in some war long ago. He often thought he was under attack and would cower and cry. Henry heard voices that told him he was
bad but Dorothy had always tried to convince him otherwise. Jenny was young and sad and Dorothy had tried to talk her into
going home because Jenny knew where home was. But Jenny said they wouldn't want her back anymore. One scrawny young man constantly
insisted his name was Baggins and that he was hiding from the Orks. Dorothy didn't know what an Ork was, only that they must
be scary creatures.
Dorothy's brown hair had grown long, tangled and thick past her waist. The clothing she wore on that
July 23rd she had found in a dumpster behind a dilapidated apartment building two winters before. Dark gray coveralls that
had a patch on the left breast pocket that read "Gary's Radiator Shop, The Best Place to Take a Leak." Not exactly poetic,
but they had been almost new and had held up well. Her boots had come from the same dumpster a week later. She had accumulated
her own storehouse in Gramma's cart which wasn't so shiny anymore. Dorothy still wore the Betty Boop watch that she had been
wearing when she woke up that first morning. The battery had long ago died but she kept on wearing it anyway. It gave her
some comfort. It was the watch that had told her that the date was "Jul 23" when she woke up for the first time. Now she had
to ask strangers on the street what day it was when the sun began to blaze down on the sand and the ocean water turned warm.
Dorothy began pushing her cart down the street towards the beach right before dawn. She parked her
mobile storage unit behind a dumpster in the nearest alley. She knew that there was a good chance that someone would claim
her belongings for their own but the cart was impossible to push in the sand. She had no other choice but to leave it behind.
As she walked onto the beach a brilliant sunrise fanned out where the sky met the sea. The beauty of it nearly broke her heart.
Every year on July 23rd she stayed on the beach until the sun set in the west over the city.
On that particular July afternoon, as Dorothy walked the beach she stepped on something hard and looked
down. A rotting dog collar was trapped beneath a piece of driftwood and almost buried in the sand. She had stepped on the
buckle which had a name tag attached. Her face froze when she picked it up and read the name on the rusted, heart-shaped metal.
"TOTO" was spelled in capital letters. And below was a toll free number.
Her heart almost bursting from her chest, Dorothy walked in a daze across the sand up to the old fashioned
phone booth next to the hot dog stand, stepped inside and dialed the number. A woman answered, "Hello." Not knowing exactly
what to say next Dorothy said, "I found your dog, Toto."
The woman on the phone gasped, "Dotty! Dotty, is that you?" The woman then started to cry. "Where are
you? Where are you, sweetheart? Dotty, don't hang up. I'll come get you. Oh, Dottie!"
As Dorothy felt Toto's tongue tickling her toes she realized that truly, there's no place like home.