idol friends and rivals | week 15 | 1350 words
It started in Minnesota, and wolverines were involved, which—
Hey, quit looking at me like I'm making this up. I'm just tellin' it how it happened. Do you want to hear this story or not?
So, wolverines. Whose idea was that, anyway? Those're way overpowered for their size—it's like packing a tornado into an ice chest.
I got off work early, so I went over to the school to pick up my daughter, Sally. The missus was home sick, so I was helping out. Sally's teacher met our car out in front of the school.
"Don't forget, Sally needs to bring thirty cupcakes to school tomorrow," she said.
Forget? That seemed more on the order of, "Guess what I decided to volunteer your family for?" The missus didn't like baking—no idea why, but there it was. So, I was betting that wasn't her idea. I looked at Sally and she looked at me. Cute kid, but she was six. She wasn't exactly building rockets for NASA, now was she?
"Did Mommy sign up for cupcakes?"
Sally got this look on her face like I'd asked her to explain how a transmission works.
"Okay," I told the teacher. It wasn't yes and it wasn't no, but we'd see how it went. I took Sally over to her grandma's house and dropped her off until six. Then I stopped off at the grocery store to pick up cupcake stuff on the way over to Roy Biggs' house.
Roy had a pickup truck and a trailer, and ice-fishing season was ending that week. We had to haul my shed off the lake before the deadline, and that afternoon was our best chance. Roy was a good guy, always ready to help out, and he'd spent a lot of timing fishing in that shed himself. We headed over the border and got to the lake by four thirty. With a little effort—okay, a lot, because that thing was darned heavy and getting it on the trailer was awkward—we were on the road again by five.
We stopped off at a gas station at the edge of the woods, mainly so I could hit the can and Roy could buy a six-pack. I could've sworn we had that shed tied down hard, but it had tipped back into the parking lot by the time we got back outside.
"Sonofabitch," I muttered.
Roy just looked at it and shrugged. "Guess we can just load it back on and tie it again." Roy never got worked up much about anything.
We heaved the shed back up with the help of a farmer from Truman, and soon we were on our way back home.
"Don'tcha think it'd be easier just to keep this thing local?" Roy asked, like we hadn't talked about that before.
"I like the fishing better up north," I said.
"Uh huh," Roy muttered.
And really, Iowa lakes were just a little too close to home. I loved my wife, but sometimes I just needed some distance, you know? Roy'd never been married, he didn't understand. Libby did, though—it was the same reason she and her girlfriends went off to Chicago from time to time.
"Hey, did you hear something?" Roy asked.
There was a thud from the trailer behind us. "Like that!" he said.
"Better pull over."
Roy eased onto the shoulder of the highway, and we got out to see what was going on. There was another thud and the shed rocked a little, then a scrabbling sound.
"Uh…" Roy said.
Yeah. It didn't sound good.
"It's been locked since we left the lake," I said. "The lock's still on now."
"Well, you know," Roy said. "There's that hole at the bottom. Maybe something got in."
I wanted to flip a coin to see which of us would open the door, but it was my shed, my problem. Though Roy didn't have to stand quite so far back.
"Here goes." I put the key in the padlock and opened it, then slowly pulled the door back.
A snarling mound of fur erupted out of the shed and charged right at me. "Whoa!"
I threw out my arms to defend myself, and it sank its teeth into my parka, getting a mouthful of feathers instead of me, thank God.
"Jesus, a wolverine!" Roy gasped.
The little monster was heavy, and I had only a second to stare at its evil, rabid-looking little face before I backhanded it against the shed. It let go, dropping onto the trailer bed and skittering over the edge and under the truck.
"Great, how're we going to get it out from under there?" Roy asked, but I was looking at the shed.
A gust of wind had come up just as I knocked the wolverine against the side, and now the shed was tipping, tipping—
"Grab it!" I lunged toward it, but I was too slow. It went over the side, taking the trailer with it and cracking against the pavement. A camp chair and my best fishing rod tumbled into the slow lane, where they went right under the wheels of a Greyhound bus.
The wolverine took that opportunity to shoot out from under the truck and run across the highway, narrowly evading a semi. The driver swerved, causing the Lincoln behind him to break and skid toward the shoulder, where it slowly crunched into a snow bank. I could swear I saw the wolverine flipping its tail off at all of us as it disappeared into a field.
Roy seemed kind of dazed. "What the hell just happened?"
I waved my arm at the mess on the road. "Nothing. I've decided I’m dreaming." Feathers wafted down from my sleeve like giant flakes of snow.
"Well, I guess we'd better—"
A minivan ran over what was left of the camp chair, sending a big chunk of it flying into my leg. "Ow!"
Then we heard a siren behind us, and a state police car pulled up.
"Aw, geez!" I said. That was the last thing I needed.
The state police officer looked at the broken fishing shed, the camp chair, and the car stuck in the snow bank on the other side of the freeway. "License and registration," he droned.
Needless to say, I was late picking up Sally. By the time I got to her grandma's house, my shed was at a tow lot and I was the proud owner of a road-hazard ticket and a gash on my leg. "Sally's not here," Libby's mother said. "Libby drove her home an hour ago. What took you so long?"
I shook my head. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you," I said.
I went home then, worn out and bruised and hoping Roy wouldn't be too mad at me for bleeding in his truck.
"Daddy!" Sally said, when I opened the door. "Are you making cupcakes after dinner?"
"I don't think anyone's making cupcakes tonight, Peanut, not after the day I've had."
"Can you get your mother, sweetie?"
Libby was wearing her bathrobe and looking like the flu she'd had all day was still winning. "What happened to your coat? And your leg!"
"Honey," I said, "how do you feel about Kentucky?"
So, that's the story. Can you believe it? One minute, I'm this guy with a harmless hobby just moving my fishing shed around, and the next I'm a menace to the roadways. Not to mention getting saddled with a phobia about large, vicious mammals.
Some people might think moving to a whole new state is kind of extreme, but I was done with ice and snow after that. Libby and Sally really like it here, and the fishing's good all year long.
I do feel bad about Roy, and I was kind of wishing he'd move here too. But even a friend as good as Roy is gonna lose out in a fight against the memory of that damned wolverine.
Roy's the kind of guy I like to think would understand that.
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