A Storm of the Century

Submitted into Contest #143 in response to: Write a story involving a friendship between two different species. ... view prompt

35 comments

Fiction Friendship Contemporary

Thunder cracked across the sky as the Honda Civic rolled to a stop, right at the foot of the bridge. Its wipers swacked back and forth in double time, and its two occupants stared wide-eyed at the rest of the bridge, just barely visible through the gloomy midday downpour.

“Holy hell,” Frank the Frog said, his voice an airy whisper. He was still gripping the steering wheel, and his foot kept sinking deeper into the brakes without his even thinking about it.

“Jesus,” Scott the Scorpion said, the word an airless pop. His iPhone fell from his suddenly limp pincer, thudding against the passenger-side rubber mat. He didn’t notice.

“Holy hell,” Frank repeated.

They both watched as the bridge – what was left of it – floated downriver, bobbing up and down with the tumultuous current. It had been one of those old country bridges, nice wood and all, and it had split almost right down the middle when it collapsed.

When it had floated beyond the torrential curtain, Scott said, “I think the bridge is out.”

Frank put the car into park and buried his face in his hands. He let out a rattled breath. “Holy hell. Scotty, we almost died.”

“Yeah,” Scott said. They looked at each other, and then a giddy chuckle rippled through them. Powered by the release of stress, it grew until they were both laughing, and continued until they were gasping for breath.

“Oh my god,” Frank said, when he recovered. He rested his head against his window, which was delightfully cool and uncomfortably hard. “They’re never going to believe this.”

“Yeah,” Scott said, a last giggle escaping him. He leaned back in his seat and looked at the ceiling.

“I guess we’re not getting across here. Um… what do we do? I guess we should, like… call someone?”

“Good idea,” Scott said. He patted his pockets, looking for his cellphone. When his foot hit it he leaned down and picked it up.

“Who you calling? Emergency?”

“Milly.” Scott dialed.

Frank rolled his eyes. Millicent the Millipede. Always, Millicent the Millipede. “Are you friggin’ kidding me?”

“I gotta call her,” Scott said, his face buried in his phone. He tapped it hard with his pincers. “I gotta tell her I’m going to be late.”

“Late? Buddy! The bridge is out! Call the cops or something.”

“Shh.” Scott tapped his phone again.

“The rain wiped out the bridge, Scott. I don’t think we’re getting there. You know, this might be a sign from above that you and Milly aren’t–”

“–Shh! Shut up a moment, man.” Scott raised his phone to the window, moved it around the car. “Damn it. I don’t have any bars. Quick, give me your phone.”

Frank blew a raspberry. “Piss off.”

“C’mon man, don’t be like that.”

Frank huffed, then dug his own phone out. Scott snatched it, started clacking on it. He moved it around the car, trying to angle it to… satellites? Towers? Other cellphones? Whatever it was supposed to connect to anyway. Finally he handed it back with a low hiss.

“Damn it. Yours is dead too.”

“Must be the storm, I guess,” Frank said.

Scott started snapping his pincers open and shut, alternating left and right. He made that scrunched up face that Frank recognized, the one where he was irritated, or worried, or stressed out. The Milly-face, he’d come to call it privately.

“I guess…” Frank said, slowly, testing the waters, “we should probably head back to that town we passed. They might have a phone, right? We can tell someone. And maybe they know another way across the river.”

“Maybe…” Scott said. “Hey, I have an idea. It’s not too far to the city from here. Like six klicks, right?”

“Um…”

“We can swim it!”

Frank didn’t respond. His jaw just moved up and down.

“It’s not that far across,” Scott continued, “and then we can hoof it the rest of the way. C’mon man, Milly’s waiting for me.”

“Are you out of your friggin’ mind? Swim!? You’re a scorpion, Scott! You’ll drown!”

“Yeah, but you’re a frog. You won’t drown. You can swim across just fine, and maybe… maybe I can, like, hitch a ride on your back?”

Frank let out an incredulous chortle. “What? On my back?

“Yeah, c’mon man, I really need to see her–”

“–out of the question! What a ridiculous idea!”

“C’mon man!” Scott said, voice girded by impotent anger. “Don’t make me beg.”

“Forget it!” Frank shook his head and they turned away from each other. Scott glowered and Frank muttered under his breath. “Oh my god,” he said, realizing something, not speaking at Scott but rather addressing the car, maybe just talking for his own benefit.

“What?” Scott said, a bite to the word.

“This is just like that fable.”

“What the hell are you talking about? What fable? Like, Noah’s Ark?”

“No,” Frank said. “I mean the other one, the one about the frog and the scorpion.”

Scott arched an eyebrow.

“Yeah, you know the one,” Frank said. “A frog and a scorpion. They come to a river, right? And the scorpion wants to get across. Only, he can’t, ’cause he’ll drown. So he asks if he can hitch a ride on the frog’s back. Now, the frog says, But you’re a scorpion, dude. You’ll sting me and I’ll die. And the scorpion says, No way, buddy! If I sting you and you die, then I’ll die too. I promise I won’t sting you. And then the frog goes, Okay. So the scorpion gets on the frog’s back, and the frog starts swimming. Everything is fine at first, but then midway through the scorpion stings him. The frog starts dying and asks Why’d you do it? And the scorpion says, Sorry mate. I didn’t mean it. It’s just my nature. And then they both died.”

Scott was silent for the whole story, and silent for a while after. A long, increasingly uncomfortable while. Finally he raised his chin, unbuckled his seat, and left the car. He slammed the door hard enough the whole thing rocked, and quickly disappeared into a grey blur in the rain.

“Jesus!” Frank hissed. He switched gears and reversed away from the bridge. With the high beams on he could see Scott stalking back down the road to town. Frank pulled up beside him and rolled down the passenger window.

“Scott!” Scott ignored him, staring directly ahead as he marched through the deluge. “Scott! Damn it, what did I say? I’m sorry, whatever it was. Scott! SCOTT! Get in the car man, there’s way too much rain out there! Scott!”

Scott continued marching down a bend in the road and Frank kept pace, little faster than the roll of the engine. Rain was pelting the insides of his Civic but he gritted his teeth through it. The car would dry out eventually, after all.

“Scott! Please! Just – Scott! Listen to me! Look at me! Please, just get in the car. What did I do? What did I do?”

Scott stopped, bunched up his shoulders. Then he wheeled on Frank, pointing directly at him with his pincer. “You’re a real asshole, Frank!”

Frank recoiled, eyes wide. “I’m sorry–”

“That’s a racist story!” Scott leaned through the window, his pincer clicking to accentuate each word. “And you’re a racist asshole!”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know–”

“Didn’t know!? How many times have I killed you, Frank? How many times have I murdered you with my stinger? How many times have you ever seen a scorpion kill anyone?

Frank covered his mouth, his eyes wide. “Oh my god, I’m so sorry Scott. I wasn’t thinking. I swear, I didn’t mean it. Please, I’m so sorry.”

Another silence filled the gap between the two friends, the only sounds their laboured breathing, the drumming of the water, and the rhythmic swishing of the blades. Scott was the first to move. He opened the door, sat back down in the car, and rolled up the window. Above them, another wave of thunder roiled across the sky.

“I’m sorry,” Frank said, very quiet.

“Just drive,” Scott said, just as quiet. Resigned.

Frank drove. “I think it’s getting worse out. I don’t know if we’ll make it to the city…”

“Yeah,” Scott said, staring directly ahead.

“Maybe we should just head back to that town. Hunker down in that motel until this thing passes. I think I saw a bar there.” No reply. “Hey, first round’s on me.”

Scott snapped his attention to Frank and glared.

Frank raised his hands. “All right, all right! All the beer’s on me.”

A smile tugged at Scott’s chelicerae.

***

Alana the Alligator set down two pints. “Enjoy, boys.” She was the only waitress on shift at the Fiddler’s Green, which was fine since it was a pretty quiet evening. Just Frank, Scott, a handful of other guests staying at Larry’s Motel, and the storm raging outside.

Frank and Scott raised their mugs and started on the first round, right as thunder cracked somewhere far overhead. The rustle of the rain was muted in the bar, drowned out by the radio, but you could still hear it if you tried.

Frank burped, and the lights flickered. “It’s just getting shittier out there.”

“Yeah,” Scott said. He ate a nacho.

Frank looked around, drummed on the table tunelessly. Sighed. “Look, sorry we missed the show.”

Scott took a big gulp of beer, then spun his glass around on the coaster. “Nah, don’t worry about it.”

“Yeah?”

“Look, I’m not… I’m not stupid. I know it probably wasn’t going to work out with Milly. I was just… you know. I was hoping.”

“Yeah.”

“Like, I was remembering back when it was good.”

“But it’s not anymore.”

“Yeah, but it used to be. Long ago.”

“Yeah,” Frank said, “but then we all learned she’s a massive bitch and she’s just using you.”

“Right, I know.”

“And every other guy she comes across, like that stupid Aardvark, Aaron. Or that Gorilla, Gordon. Or I even heard that Titmouse intern of hers – what’s her name? Tina?”

“Yeah, I know. I guess… I guess I’ve known for a long time, actually. I just didn’t want to, you know, admit it. To myself.”

They took another drink.

“But you can, now?” Frank said.

“Yeah,” Scott said. He nodded for emphasis. “It wasn’t ever going to work out, was it?”

“Nope.”

Scott sighed. Frank clinked his mug and they took another drink. “Well, it’s for the best then,” Scott said.

“That’s right, buddy.”

“Time to move on.”

“You know it.”

“But damn, I am going to miss those legs.”

Frank stifled another burp. “Stop it. You’re going to make me sick.” They laughed.

“Hey, listen,” Scott said. “Thanks for driving me out here.”

“No problem, buddy. What are friends for?”

“No, really. It’s a hell of a road trip.”

“Yeah, well,” Frank said. “You’d have done the same for me. If you had a car and if I had terrible taste in women.”

“Screw you.” They both laughed again.

“And besides,” Frank said, his voice drenched in sarcasm, “I just love pretentious hot cotter fashion shows put on by my friends’ nasty exes.”

“What?” Scott said. He cocked his head. “You mean haute couture?

“Yeah, that too.”

Scott laughed hard enough to snort, and they downed the rest of their pints. Alana the waitress was already coming by with the next round.

Outside thunder boomed again, and the hiss of the rain suddenly drowned out the radio when the Fiddler’s doors opened. A pair of women ran through, shrieking and giggling. One was a crow, the other an armadillo, and they both held drenched newspapers over their heads. The papers disintegrated from wet, and they hadn’t done much to protect their charges either. The girls found a booth right by Frank and Scott.

Frank nudged Scott with his elbow and wiggled his eyebrows with no trace of tact or subtlety. Then he turned to Alana. “Miss, could you send a round to the ladies?”

Alana winked at him. “You got it.” She went to the bar.

“Future’s already looking brighter, isn’t it?” Frank said.

Before Scott could reply, the radio cut out and a voice came out of the speakers.

“Hey everyone, this is your bartender, Nelson.” Everyone looked to a newt standing on the bar, holding a microphone. “It’s looking like the weather man was right, so in honour of the ‘storm of the century,’ we’re extending happy hour all night long.”

The whole bar cheered.

Nelson chuckled. “If we’re going to get soaked, we might as well enjoy it, right? And hey, what do you guys say to some karaoke?”

Another cheer. Frank and Scott high-fived each other, at the same time the crow and armadillo high-fived each other.

“Yeah, future’s looking bright,” Scott said, smiling as the intro to Sweet Caroline started playing.

April 28, 2022 01:00

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35 comments

Zack Powell
07:23 May 07, 2022

SO much fun! I was flying through this story and the moment I got to the end I was like "Wait, no, I need more!" I could literally read a whole novella of this. The characters were wildly endearing, and the situation you put them in was quite fun. Confession: I 100% thought, when I got to the middle of the story, that they were going to try to cross the water and you were going to end this with Scott actually killing Frank for real, LOL. I was like "Ok, that's a bold message to send to readers, but it's Michał, so maybe he can pull that off....

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Michał Przywara
20:39 May 07, 2022

Thanks for the awesome feedback! I'm thrilled you enjoyed it :D I did have a couple ideas on how to expand it, but it didn't feel right. Like it was too small a package and I'd be trying to shove way too much new stuff into it. Some vague idea for a new scene the day after, where they decide to spend the rest of the weekend going to Vegas, since they were on the road anyway. I think the point was underscoring friendship, but that was already the theme of the whole piece so it didn't really add anything. Oh, and setting up a joke that Frank ...

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Mike Panasitti
17:53 May 05, 2022

Aside from the interspecies bickering, a cheerful story. Earnest the eagle would have been acceptably alliterative, but there can always be too much of good thing. The narrative style allowed me to suspend belief in reality. And I agree with Rachel Smith, when Scott accused Frank of racism, I was tickled. Given the limitations of the fable-form, a valiant effort.

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Michał Przywara
21:15 May 05, 2022

Ah, Earnest! Yes, that's a good one. Something to keep in mind for next time. Thanks for reading and for the feedback!

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Susanne Perry
14:22 May 05, 2022

Nice twist on the old fable. Moves along quickly. I enjoyed it.

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Michał Przywara
21:11 May 05, 2022

Thanks! I'm glad to hear that :)

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Howard Halsall
03:10 May 04, 2022

Hello Michal, I loved the idea for this story and the way your characters leapt off the page with their unique voices. Frank driving the car reminded me of Toad in ‘Wind in the Willows’, so it conjured up a whole world of childhood memories. One thought that lingered throughout your story was the notion that your characters would revert to type and I had a terrible feeling there would be a disturbing conclusion. In the end they resolved their differences like mature animals, although a bar room brawl with the assembled actors would have bee...

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Michał Przywara
21:07 May 04, 2022

Thanks for reading! Wind in the Willows also crossed my mind while writing it, for the same reason. Toad and his cars seems just so iconic. I didn't know how this one would end when I started it. It kind of just naturally flowed into this accepting-things-over-beers arc. A brawl would have been fun too, but I think you're right, a little one sided :)

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Howard Halsall
21:16 May 04, 2022

Good fun none the less :)

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L.M. Lydon
00:52 May 04, 2022

Fun story! I liked how meta the reference to the old fable was :) I was just thinking "wait a second, what about..." when you went there!

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Michał Przywara
21:09 May 04, 2022

Thanks! I'm glad you caught that. I've always been fascinated by the lessons folk tales give us, and how they might relate to real world situations. And about how we might subvert them :)

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A.G. Scott
22:57 May 03, 2022

Making something that's this goofy on its face work and feel so natural shows your command of all the little interpersonal details. The prose was very clear and charming. I loved the little things, like "A smile tugged at Scott’s chelicerae." There's this tension between human drama and silly animal mannerisms that makes you ask, which part is the absurd part?

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Michał Przywara
21:13 May 04, 2022

Thank you very much! I appreciate the feedback. Goofy on its face but still believable is what I was aiming for :)

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15:20 May 03, 2022

Creative and fun. I needed a smile this morning, so thank you for a great read :)

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Michał Przywara
21:37 May 03, 2022

Thanks! Always happy for a smile :)

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L. Maddison
06:24 May 02, 2022

I’m in awe of how natural the discourse is between these guys. Details like: “his pincer clicking to accentuate each word” for example, are just brilliant. And my new word for the day: chelicerae.

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Michał Przywara
05:18 May 05, 2022

I liked that pincer line too. Very happy it landed. Thanks for reading!

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J.C. Lovero
17:00 Apr 30, 2022

Hi Michał, What a fun, wholesome story. I loved the friendship between the frog and the scorpion. The whole pincer bit with the cell phone was absolutely adorable. You nailed the dialogue in here. It felt very natural, and there was enough context in there for us to figure out what was going on with Milly without being over the top. As others have already commented, the alliteration with names was really cute. It almost read like a children's story (except sub out the beer for milk LOLOL). Thanks for sharing this. It was so fun to read!

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Michał Przywara
17:03 May 01, 2022

Happy to hear the Milly stuff was reasonably clear. There's always a risk with indirect info like that, something I've been working on improving. When I was younger I definitely erred on the side of encyclopedic exposition dumps, which read about as well as they sound. Thanks for the feedback!

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Cindy Strube
06:36 Apr 30, 2022

Fun ride! Animal alliterations are deliciously diverting. My brain informed me, “Oh! Oh, that fable!” Just before it clicked for Frank. I’m glad this one had a happier ending for them. For the record, I saw a normal size Honda Civic, but it is cute to think of them riding in a toy version!

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Michał Przywara
16:41 May 01, 2022

Heh, I'm glad you picked up on the fable. I have no idea how well known it is, and honestly I don't recall where/when I first heard it, or why it stuck. Very useful for this prompt though. Thanks for reading!

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Cindy Strube
17:52 May 02, 2022

🤔 Same here. I’ve always been a voracious reader, including fables, folk tales, “Just So Stories”, and I don’t know where or when I read that one. Maybe even heard it on “Messed Up Origins” (YouTube). Just looked it up, and it seems to be of Russian origin.

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Suma Jayachandar
03:58 Apr 30, 2022

I read this story earlier and reread it now, just to be sure I wasn't missing out on any of the metaphors and allegories you weave into your stories so effortlessly! It was a crazy fun ride(as usual). But what caught my attention is the personalities you have transposed onto these species and took a swipe at the worst of the species inhabiting the planet. Bravo! But that doesn't take away from the fuzzy warmth of the friendship Scott and Frank enjoy. So, a lot of layers and a jolly good read. What more can a reader ask for :-)

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Michał Przywara
16:39 May 01, 2022

Thanks! I'm very happy it was worth a re-read.

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Riel Rosehill
21:36 Apr 28, 2022

Awww I loved this!! It's always a pleasure to read your stories. The "damn, I'm going to miss those legs" line cracked me up xD Love the humour, and loved the character dynamics. Also, I'm here for the names-species alliterations! Amazing start, as soon as you said a frog was driving the car I was like.. wow. This is my bedtime story 👌 I adore how you can tell a story through the eyes of frog & scorpion friends and make it so real and relatable! Excellent work, truly. Tiny line edit I picked up (if you've not fixed it yet) I think this line...

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Michał Przywara
03:42 Apr 29, 2022

Thanks! Alliterations are fun for sure. I really wanted an eagle in this story, but I couldn't come up with a name that starts with "Ea." I found some online, but they looked very archaic or obscure, like "Erin" spelled "Earin." Then I wanted an earwig, but... same problem. Oh well. Frank and Scott were good though, nice and easy. Thanks for pointing out that line! Maybe this is a dialect thing (Canadian for me), but I've seen this pattern before, i.e. "his thinking", "his knowing", etc. I've seen it the other way too, "him seeing", "him be...

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Riel Rosehill
07:11 Apr 29, 2022

E... Ed... Eddie? Haha. On that line edit, I might be wrong then, Also I've no clue about Canadian English, so ignore me there 😅

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Cindy Strube
06:48 Apr 30, 2022

I’ll put in my 2 cents with US English viewpoint: I think it’s correct that the differences are dialectical. I’d have written it the same way. That’s part of the charm of a platform like this, isn’t it? We can see the similarities and differences by region. And Canada is unique, in a way, for having some characteristics in common with UK English, others with US, and some of its own!

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21:34 Apr 28, 2022

I really enjoyed this story! The friendship felt real, the pace and tone really worked well. The dialogue was funny (I laughed out loud and scared my cat). Overall, great story! I can’t wait to read more stories of yours!

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Michał Przywara
21:38 Apr 29, 2022

Thanks for reading! I love when people laugh out loud :D

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Aeris Walker
17:18 Apr 28, 2022

I was picturing these two zipping around in a mini, toy-sized Honda the whole time and it just made me smile. Their dialogue was so believable and true to how friends, especially men, seem to rag on each other but work through their conflict relatively quickly. The line about loving the legs on his millipede ex cracked me up. Keep up the good work!

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Michał Przywara
21:06 Apr 28, 2022

Thanks! I'm glad you liked it. I'm very happy the dialogue came through too, that's exactly what I was gunning for. I was picturing a regular size car, and I guess human-sized animals, but now that you mention a toy... Yeah, I can see that too! That opens the door to all sorts of interesting size-appropriate things.

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Aeris Walker
21:11 Apr 28, 2022

The way that you communicated lent itself more to a full-size vehicle, especially since everything else in the world was regular human architecture or restaurants, but in my mind I just thought that would be an hilarious visual. ;) kind of like Stuart little in his red convertible, but with a frog and scorpion instead.

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Zelda C. Thorne
08:10 Apr 28, 2022

Hahahha loved it. I immediately thought Ah I know what's going on (because I know that fable) and then it changed. When the scorpion called the frog racist I laughed! Wonderful. Snappy dialogue that kept the story hopping along nicely 😉

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Michał Przywara
21:01 Apr 28, 2022

"kept the story hopping along nicely" Heh :) I'm glad you think so, and that the funny bits came through. When I initially saw the prompts, this one was actually the one I discarded out of hand. But then we got a crap tonne of rain here recently, and I remembered that fable, and one thing just led to another. Thanks for reading!

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