The autumn sun filtered through the canopy of the forest, providing warmth to his body of tin, but it was little consolation to his falling tears, which were again rusting his tired joints. Where was Dorothy when you needed her? The fact was, she had been absent for almost one hundred years. The year was now 2022. All of his friends, from that time, long gone, but no surprise, flesh and straw never lasted as long as metal. Curses to the tinsmith; his life continued, along with an unbearable emptiness inside. A hollow echo of despair cursed him whenever he put a hand to his chest.
As he walked down the wooded path, he nodded to the birds and bowed to the squirrels. He quickened his pace, in a search of that elusive oil can. Soon, he came to a clearing. Beyond it, he set his gaze on a modern society. A gas station was in view, with people coming and going in their cars. It was a flurry of activity, a swarm of humanity that actually made him much sadder. They all looked rushed; oblivious to the real purpose of life. “Why can’t they rust for a while, like me?” The tin man sat on a nearby log and contemplated his life. Tears continued to fall. “I’m just a man in a tin can. An empty soul, who still longs for a heart; not one like the Wizard gave me, but a real one. I just want to be loved.” The tin man bowed his head, letting sorrow flow through him. Weeks passed, and he cried until he couldn’t move his legs. His knees were rusting from his tears. “I haven’t cried like this in years.” he said. He was resigning himself to an inevitable fate. The rust would take him and one day he would wither away; gone like all of his friends, to a happier place, he prayed.
One hundred and thirty-one days passed as one thunderstorm and several snowstorms impacted the life of the man of tin. His memories still existed within him, so they helped to comfort him as he pulled up those long-ago times in the land of Oz. Despite those cerebral visits back to a happier time, the corrosion continued to eat at the edges of his metal skin, causing him a great deal of pain. “How long will it take?” he wondered. “Before I finally go away?” Fate had other plans.
It was a bright blue sky, cold winter day; a three-foot drift covered him as he peered out at the snowy landscape. Peace reigned, and then a voice broke the silence. “Over there! The sun is reflecting off some metal.” An hour later, the tin man was free from the blanket of snow, and a man and a little girl were staring at him. He tried to speak, but his jaw was frozen. “Daddy, he looks… human.” The man nodded in awe. “He sure does, Karen.” Then it finally dawned on the girl. “Daddy, he looks like the tin man in the movie The Wizard Of Oz.” “Stay right here, Karen. Going to get a can of oil.”
“Why save me and bring me back to life?” Tears still flowed, but now he was in a large shed behind a beautiful home. Karen’s dad repaired and oiled him and shined him up like new. Karen and he were alone. Tears welled up in her eyes. “Why? Because you’re the Tin Man.” He sniffled. “But I have no heart. I’m empty inside.” Karen wrapped her arms around him and squeezed him tight, surprising him. “You can have my heart, Mr. Tin Man.” She smiled up at him and if he had had a heart, it would have melted. He smiled. “The Wizard told me, ‘A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others’. He was right, but I’ve been ignored these many years since I left the land of Oz. It’s a different place here; there are no witches or evil flying monkeys, but the people here can be just as cruel. They are blessed with technologies that could never have been imagined in Oz, yet they abuse what they have. I have heard of the internet, where people share ideas and the many things they do in their lives, but they also bully and bruise innocent people with their words. Their hatred is thick. If I have a heart to give, and if it rests inside of the soul of this tin can of a body, how can I ever trust it with another? I’m lost, Karen. What do I do with a heart, if I even have one to give?”
Karen thought for a moment and said, “Adults can be mean like the wicked witch was, but maybe if we gave her our hearts, she wouldn’t have melted away like she did. Maybe she could have been good, if only she felt loved. She wanted revenge and those ruby slippers. Sad that she didn’t want someone’s heart. Tin Man, you have to decide what to do with your heart. It’s always a risk to give of yourself to another. But Dad says it’s what life is all about.”
A single tear rolled down the tin man’s cheek; but this one came from happiness, not sadness. He knelt down and hugged Karen and smiled. His long, lonely walks in the forest were over. It was time to live again.