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25 March 2016 @ 12:54 pm
LJ Idol Friends & Rivals: "It Could've Happened To Anyone"  
It Could've Happened To Anyone
idol friends and rivals | week 15 | 1350 words
Stop laughing


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.


If you enjoyed this story, you can vote for it along with many other fine entries here. All stories for this week are here.

adoptedwriteradoptedwriter on March 25th, 2016 10:02 pm (UTC)
I like the "voice" in this. Great job! AW
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Birthdayhalfshellvenus on March 25th, 2016 10:37 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Say, how was the birthday? I've been trying to get online for days, and I thought maybe LJ was undergoing maintenance. But it turns out that it's just my work computer, which is now refusing to talk to LJ in any way. Took almost an hour to get this story posted on my mini PC. :(

Nice day with the kids?
cindy: misc fictsuki_no_bara on March 26th, 2016 03:26 am (UTC)
this is so ridiculous and kind of fun. "honey? how do you feel about kentucky?" heee!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 26th, 2016 05:10 am (UTC)
I've never understood why people who live in the north don't just move to someplace with a nicer climate! Let alone go out in the winter on purpose and sit around fishing. Skiing would be different, because moving keeps you warm. But sitting? I hadn't realized that you can put heaters in those sheds, though, without melting the ice.

Still... o_O
rayasorayaso on March 26th, 2016 03:38 pm (UTC)
This was fantastic! You have a wonderful ear for dialog, and the events/actions leading up to a move to Kentucky were hilarious. It starts out like a joke ("two friends, a truck and a wolverine . . .) and just gets funnier. Everything just compounds, one disaster on top of another, and then Kentucky! I loved it!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 27th, 2016 08:20 pm (UTC)
With that opening, which I really liked, I had to think how wolverines could come into it AND how Minnesota might not be the kind of place the narrator would regularly be.

And as the story evolved, I started to think about where that kind of encounter might drive you-- someplace close by where the winter is SO much less "winter" than Minnesota or Iowa, and where you would never be tempted to ice-fish again.

Wolverines... I'm so glad the West really isn't their region.

bleodsweanbleodswean on March 27th, 2016 01:32 pm (UTC)
Hee!! I just KNEW what this was with your brilliant opening. What a great first line and then you just pull the string on this word-top and let it spin! Too funny, K! Poor Roy, too! But that wolverine would have to take precedence over a fishing buddy. *snort*
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 27th, 2016 08:22 pm (UTC)
You rarely know where phobias start, but wow. I would need to get as far away from that experience as necessary, not to mention what must have felt like a cursed, exploding ice-fishing shed.

It's not every day that an opening like that comes to you, and then you find yourself thinking, "Wait. I need to justify that wolverine now. And Minnesota."

And the next thing you know, you're researching ice-fishing on the Internet. But hey, who could turn down a wolverine as inspiration?
Murielle: I'm Melting...murielle on March 27th, 2016 09:28 pm (UTC)
This is beautifully written. I was hooked from the get-go.

P.S. I love wolverines.

The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 28th, 2016 06:37 am (UTC)
You like wolverines? Are they in your area? They can get largish (up to 55 pounds) and can be fairly vicious. Probably best admired from a distance. ;)

If you start googling "wolverine," one of the things that comes up is a comparison of the fierceness of wolverines vs. badgers, and the inevitable question of which would win in a fight: wolverine or honey badger? :D
Murielle: I'm Melting...murielle on March 28th, 2016 07:49 am (UTC)
As a child I lived pretty close to "the wilds" and the wolverine was respected as one of the cleverest animals. They caused no end of frustration to trappers because they could work their way out of most traps, and seemed to delight in ransacking the trappers cabins while they were away.

PBS did a special on them about a year ago. They are wonderful parents. The males have something of a harem spread out over their territory and go from "wife" to "wife" taking care of them and their offspring. Fascinating creatures.

Their pelts were very valuable as their fur is regarded as the warmest and most protective from the wind. This is why wolverine fur is always worn around the face.

I do kind of love them. :-)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 28th, 2016 06:37 pm (UTC)
As far as mischief is concerned, they sound as if they have the cleverness of raccoons while being far more dangerous. Yikes!

But I can see why their quirks and tenacity would appeal. :D
Raised by Wolvessinnamongirl on March 27th, 2016 10:07 pm (UTC)
I laughed :) I almost felt worse for the wolverine than the humans, to be honest. How awful would it be if you woke up being kidnapped by humans going who knows where? Very amusing story!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 28th, 2016 06:39 am (UTC)
That's true-- I can see how the wolverine might find the whole experience bizarre and overwhelming. One minute you're sneaking out of the woods and into a nice hollow tree trunk (or whatever you think that thing is), and the next you're bouncing around, and then an invader comes at you!

Though OTOH, if you're the wolverine then a rabid human is unlikely to bite you. And don't fierce animals always seem like they might be rabid? I've seen few pictures of possums where they don't look like giant, rabid rats, just waiting to infect you. :O
Raised by Wolvessinnamongirl on March 28th, 2016 07:46 pm (UTC)
Excellent point. I've never seen a wolverine in real life, but I have seen possums, and they just look completely awful and freak me out so bad.
prog_schlockprog_schlock on March 28th, 2016 06:24 am (UTC)
This is one of the funniest stories I've read this season. What I especially love about it is your main character's reaction to everything. Its almost as if he's just accepted that inevitable fate has chosen today to unleash cupcakes, wolverines and tickets on him and he just has to accept them. I've only spent a little time in Minnesota, but holy cats this is such a Minnesota story.

I kept thinking of the sound of the band Camper Van Beethoven as I was reading this but couldn't figure out which song. This isn't quite the right song, but its the right sound:

The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 28th, 2016 06:45 am (UTC)
I'm so glad you enjoyed this!

You know, people from the frigid climates of the U.S. seem much less prone to getting worked up about things. Maybe it's that the cold makes them sluggish, or maybe that so much of the weather is harsh and draining that... eh. Things'll either sort themselves out or maybe get worse, but why not wait and see which way it goes? It definitely means a big part of the point of this came across, which is being the straight man in your own comedic story and not really seeing it for what it is. ;)

I'm not really familiar with Camper Van Beethoven, but the style of this song is kind of laid-back and folksy (especially with the fiddle), and the sound seems to suit this story very well!
fodschwazzle on March 28th, 2016 08:14 pm (UTC)
Maybe people stay where its colder because things like this could happen, and we're always just a little hungry for good stories. Just watching the devastation post-wolverine was amazing and gut wrenching. Excellent narrator!

Edited at 2016-03-28 08:15 pm (UTC)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 28th, 2016 08:16 pm (UTC)
I hadn't thought of it that way! The three years I was in Illinois were plenty for me, and that was nowhere near as cold as Minnesota or North Dakota.

Maybe it's all a balance-- there's cabin fever on the one hand, and on the other, any form of excitement means free entertainment. :D