October 26: “Wolverine Grudge” by Nancy Lord

Greetings, Story366! In case you haven’t tuned in yet, the Cubs did not pull off an epic comeback after I posted yesterday’s entry, meaning they’re down in the Series 1-0. No need to panic, as Cleveland got a legendary pitching performance from their ace, a guy who can’t pitch tonight. I feel confident going into tonight’s game, that the Cubs will even up the Series behind a great performance from Jake Arrieta and some revived bats. I’m also trying to get ahead on my posts this week, as I’ll be traveling all day on Friday, driving straight from Springfield to Wrigley, most likely, not enough time to read or blog. So, no game updates as I write, as I’m writing this in the morning and to keep on track, will work on tomorrow’s post right after the game. It’s maybe for the best, as writing during the game didn’t work, and while I’m not superstitious or anything, that might be why the Cubs lost.

For today, I’ve read from Nancy Lord’s collection The Man Who Swam With Beavers, out from Coffee House Press. I …

Okay, scratch all that. Jump ahead about twelve hours and here I am, post-game, absolutely flying because the Cubs just won 5-1 to tie the Series at a game apiece. I got a great start on this post early this morning and thought I would finish, but then this came up and that came up and the next thing I knew, it was time to come home, watch the pre-game. I decided not to write during the game—that didn’t work yesterday—so here I am, a knotted series, a post to write, a trip to the World Series coming in a couple of days.

But as I was saying, I read from Nancy Lord’s book The Man Who Swam With Beavers and I really enjoyed all the stories I read. Lord is from Alaska and sets a lot of her stories there, in the natural world in general. She also has a sly, wry sense of humor, making me enjoy Lord’s work as much as admire it. I could have written about any of the stories I’ve read, including the title story, which is about a guy who, well, swims with beavers, as well as builds with them, fishes with them, and lives with them, but I like “Wolverine Grudge” even more, so here we go.

“Wolverine Grudge” is about Julia, a woman who grew up thinking that wolverines were just female wolves. She offers justification, like how Pauline is the feminine form of Paul, and it’s not until she an adult that she finds out the truth. This truth comes in the form of her boyfriend, Peter, who not only informs her of her mistake, but embarrasses her, laughing at her as hard as someone can laugh. The two eventually marry, but Paul never lets her forget that moment, that misconception, rubbing it in her face whenever he can.

The ridicule is something that Julia lives with, at least until Peter starts cheating on her, as then, all bets are off. She envisions all forms of revenge, including both murdering and castrating Peter, but instead sets on ruining him. The idea she has? Find a public phone, call Peter’s office, disguise her voice, and tell the receptionist to have Peter call Candy, indicating that he has her number … and that Candy’s some sort of prostitute with some sort of nasty venereal disease. It’s an interesting plan, one that could, in theory, cause Peter some distress. However, since Julia is not in Peter’s office, we can’t find out. We just know what Julia knows (the story’s told in a tight third person), and she has no idea if her plot is working. That’s okay, though, as she keeps at it. She makes Candy—last name “Barr”—more and more irritated, more persistent, more disgusting, every time she calls Peter’s office. She even finds the phone number of an escort service in the back of a men’s magazine and leaves that number in case Peter or his superiors call Candy back, almost as if that would verify her story in and of itself.

Whether or not Julia’s plan works, or has ever worked, isn’t as relative as what the plan is doing to Julia. Her thirst for revenge consumes her so much, she starts losing track of reality, not eating, not washing, not changing her clothes. She gets a warning at her job for missing days, eventually getting fired for her behavior and her appearance. Julia is a mess.

What’s cool about Julia’s decline is not only the severity and speed in which she disintegrates, but also what she becomes. Julia not only starts to stink, but starts taking on animalistic traits; she’s devolving. Lord masterly transcribes this transformation, starting with a scorned woman and turning her into a feral animal, one feral animal in particular, the one that in a way was the origin of all her distress.

Nancy Lord’s stories are whimsical, and all of them that I’ve read so far include people interacting with, or becoming, animals. “The Woman Who Would Marry a Bear,” for another example, is exactly what it sounds like, and the title story delivers on what it’s promised. Today’s focus story, “Wolverine Grudge,” sees a woman, in essence, become an animal. I’m not sure of all of the stories in “The Man Who Swam With Beavers” have this kind of human-animal convergence, but I hope to find out. This is a really enjoyable book.

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One thought on “October 26: “Wolverine Grudge” by Nancy Lord

  1. Pingback: October 30: “Darling?” by Heidi Jon Schmidt – Story366

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