From a Distant Channel: We’re Off to See the Wizard of Ozzie & Harriet

The ramshackle house of Oliver Wendell Douglas landed with a clattering thud like heavy old venetian blinds.  Harriet was in the kitchen when it happened; Ozzie was right there in the yard on a chaise staring into space.

“Lisa!  Are you alright?”
“Just fine, Dahling! And you?”
“Where are we?” Oliver said dusting off his pinstripe vest and smoothing his hair with one hand.  The two stepped off of the now even more dilapidated porch and saw Ozzie (the ex-band leader who now had no job but sitting around, asking Harriet for explanations of almost everything, getting in goofball messes with his golf club chums, and apparently starring in a sitcom), who seemed almost awake.   He asked the unexplained visitors, “Well…a…who are you?”  

“We are the Douglases of Pixley-Hooterville.  I’m Oliver and this is my wife Lisa.”  The latter appeared dazed but also completely nonplussed by this recent relocation.  She was clad in her usual fluffy chiffon peignoir of palest pink, her hair piled in delightfully mussed curls.

“I’m Ozzie Nelson and this is my wife Harriet,” he croaked from the chaise.  Harriet had just arrived with glass of tomato juice for her husband.  Why do they drink so much tomato juice in the 50’s?

“Oh, we have guests!” she said.  “Would you like some juice?”  She patted Ozzie’s shoulder as if he were a mental patient and also indicated patio chairs for the two visitors.

“Love some, dahling!  Do you make it yourself?  May I have the recipe?  We are zo zorry to have dropped in on you like zis!”  chirped Lisa.  The two women went inside to seek more juice.

Oliver took the chair nearer Ozzie and began to tell him about the tornado that had swooped down on Pixley.  He also began to unfold completely unbidden his life story about the move to the farm from a New York penthouse to give up the lawyer’s life to plant seeds in the warm, rich earth and watch them shoot up towards the sun.   Somewhere a fife sounded and Ozzie dozed off.

Three more people now staggered out of the Douglas house,  all of whom had been at there when the giant wind blew them into the past on to a b&w show.   

“Well, I’ll be!  It’s so peaceful here without all that color!  I had forgotten that,” Sam Drucker from the General Store said.  He was still wearing his full bib apron, his bald pate shining in the California sun.  

Mr. Haney, the scam artist and obnoxious sole purveyor at exorbitant cost of whatever it is that one needed in the Tri-County area, brushed off his too small brown suit jacket and whistled in exclamation.  “Well, don’t this beat all, now?”  He was scanning the yard with an eye to making a buck.  “Lovely place, but it could use a bit of a color, doncha think?  I have just the thing on my truck.”  He looked around quizzically.

Standing behind the men, shaking her head was Ralph, the female half of Monroe Brothers Construction who were working on the Douglas house. Her painters cap was straight but her face was scrunched up with disbelief and confusion.  “If you were going to move you should have told us earlier.  I don’t do b&w.  It’ll be extra.”  

Ozzie awoke to find three more strangers in his yard.  “Harriet, what’s going on?  Honey?”  

Oliver was starting to get irked; he was swaying and turning red.  “How on earth did we all get wherever we are?” he shouted at no one in particular.   Ozzie shuddered and looked around for Harriet, who was coming out with juice on a tray.  She turned on her heel to go back in for more.  Lisa sat down on Oliver’s lap and said, “Oliver, be nice!  We’ve come a long way from wherever and we are guests!  Oh, look who’s here too!” she said smiling at the three other Pixleyites.

“Lisa!  for PETE’S SAKE!” barked Oliver.  Ralph began to weep.  “Oh, what is it, Ralph?” Oliver was now turning his classic hypertensive purple.

“Oliver!  She’s upset, poor dahling!”  Lisa rushes over to hug the overalled spinster with the hammer in her hand.

“Mrs. Douglas, he can’t help being grouchy.  People are always nicer to purty girls…like you.  I wish I were purty like you!”  Ralph continued to weep softly.

“And what about me?” asked Mr. Haney his voice ratcheting up and down with emotion. “Mr. Douglas is always crabby at me.  I work hard taking care of other people’s needs, selling ‘em whatever I can to make them happy!  I should be more appreciated and richer, and own all of Pixley by now!”

“Oh, BROTHER!” exhaled Oliver.  Ozzie winced and recrossed his legs on the chaise as Harriet emerged with a tray with six glasses of tomato juice.

“Now, don’t get all het up, Mr. Douglas.  I’m the most bedeviled here.  I’m an old buddy of Ozzie’s, for years right here on this exact set and he doesn’t even remember me. Ozzie, look at me! Don’t I look the least familiar?  I’m guess I’m just an old bald guy.” A light comes to Ozzie’s eyes and then wanes as he frowns in concentration and seems to be actually having a thought.  “Yes, yes, Doc Williams!  I didn’t recognize you with the apron and it’s been a while.  Ol’ Doc!”

“Well, Ozzie, don’t you think we should do something for our guests?”  Harriet says sweetly.  She brings a large bag not unlike Santa’s from the garage and hands it to her husband.  

“Yes, dear.  Well, Doc, it sure is good to see you again.  I think I can help you.  You know, people spend a lot of time and money on their hair.  What they enjoy though is not having the hair, styling the hair.  What they really want and crave are products.  You can have products…mustache wax for your little pushbroom!  Gel for the sides.  How about a ‘magic’ hat that grows hair if you wear it an hour every day?  The fun of hair is now yours.  Be groomed!”  He hands a few items to the confused Sam/Doc.

“Mr. Haney, you want money and power.  You want to be the big fish in any pond.  Well, you know what makes really big fish really big?  Debt!  Massive debt, especially to foreign banks and governments!  Secret numbers for offshore accounts.  Leveraging enormous IOU’s and wiping out little fish!  For you, passbooks, papers!  Be the Big Fish!”  Ozzie hands him a portmanteau with a combination lock on it and a chain for securing it to a wrist.

“Ralph, dear, you have lovely eyes.  You have thick hair.  The only thing you don’t have that pageant queens have is a sparkly tiara.  Be the regal beauty you are inside, a hammer for your scepter!”  Ralph replaces her cap with the flashy tiara and beams.

“You, Oliver, are uncomfortable, confused, and want your own show back.  Just simmer down and take Lisa home now.  Look at your Rolex three times and say ‘It’s time to plant and watch the tiny shoots reaching…’  Oh, heck.  Just say ‘time to plant’ three times.”  Oliver snorts sarcastically, but does the Rolex trick.

Suddenly there is a loud shrill noise like the testing of the Emergency Broadcast System.  They all shut their eyes and cover their ears, shoulders drawn up high.  The first to look when the sound dies away is Oliver, who cannot believe his eyes for a second time that day.  All five from Pixley have awakened in a very small b&w apartment where a Cuban musician is yelling at a red-headed woman that now she really has some ‘splainin’ to do.

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