There was an escaped circus bear named Lazlo who lived in the forest and who sometimes stole our mountain bikes and rode them around before throwing them into the quarry. Most people thought Lazlo was absolutely wonderful, that he gave our sleepy town a bit of character. Some people, mostly me, who kept getting their mountain bikes chucked into the quarry, thought Lazlo was a fucking menace.
One day I was riding my mountain bike when I found Lazlo in the middle of the road, blocking my way. I tried to get around him, but he was a large and agile bear with long claws and when he wanted to stop you he stopped you.
“You’re not getting my bike today,” I told Lazlo. “I’m on my way to a third date with a woman named Carrie who usually likes to have sex on third dates.”
Lazlo reared up on his hind legs, let out a piercing growl. I told him to go to hell. I told him no way. He growled again, his breath full of anger and salmon. Soon his bear patience grew thin and he charged at me. I got in an uppercut to his snout and a body blow to his gut but then he clubbed me to the ground, grabbed onto my right leg and ripped it from my body. While I screamed in agony, he folded my leg into my messenger bag and hopped on my mountain bike. Soon my favorite mountain bike, my favorite messenger bag and my favorite leg had all been chucked into the quarry.
Lucky for me, I was found quickly and rushed to the hospital. Lucky for me, the quarry was filled with ice cold water and my leg was recovered fast enough that it could be reattached. Lucky for me, I was still alive. Be grateful, everyone at the hospital kept telling me. Fine, sure, okay, I told them.
A few days after I’d arrived at the hospital one of my doctors asked me why I’d messed with Lazlo.
“If you just would’ve complied with his demands in a reasonable and respectful manner he never would’ve ripped off your leg,” she said.
I was so sick of all the people in my town brushing aside Lazlo’s bad behavior because he was a bear and because tourists often came to our town to see him steal mountain bikes and chuck them into the quarry. I was tired of no one calling Lazlo on his shit because tourists who came to see him kept our schools well-funded and streets un-potholed and made us the envy of all the nearby towns with their crappy schools and bumpy ass streets.
“Fuck Lazlo!” I told her.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” the doctor said holding up her hands, backing away. “No need to use that kind of language or tone.”
I was about to go on a long rant about Lazlo, but I could tell the doctor thought Lazlo was a treasure and that my thoughts were vengeful thoughts of an unhinged person. Instead of trying to convince her I nodded solemnly, closed my eyes, and pretended to sleep. The butterscotch pudding that always came with dinner never came again.
Two days later Carrie came to the hospital for a visit.
“Would you consider this our third date?” I asked her.
“I guess I could,” she said. We started to kiss and then Carrie slid on top of me. Before she brushed aside my hospital gown she paused.
“Why didn’t you just give him your bike?” she asked.
I sighed very deeply, so tired of having to explain my actions. Because of that deep sighing and the weight of Carrie’s body on my hips, my sutures suddenly ruptured and my leg fell off onto the hospital floor. I screamed and Carrie screamed and then everyone who’d been denying me my God-given right to butterscotch pudding rushed me off to the emergency room.
This time I was not so lucky. My leg could not be reattached. The doctors said that it was too damaged from the original bear attack and from the deep sighing and the almost sex. I stayed in the hospital a couple more months and then I was fitted with a prosthetic leg and sent home to heal.
I knew I couldn’t ride a mountain bike any longer so I bought one of those bikes you pedal with your arms. Everyone in town knew all the shit I’d been talking about Lazlo so whenever I arm biked everyone called me names or threatened me. Unfortunately I heard every single one of these insults because I could not cover my ears with my hands because I was using my hands to pedal my bike.
After a couple of months I met a woman named Leslie online. She lived a few towns over and did not care about my fake leg or my views on Lazlo. One day after a couple of dates with her I decided to arm bike over to her house to surprise her. After a mile or so, I came upon Lazlo standing in the middle of the road, blocking my way.
“Jesus Christ!” I said. “What now?”
I didn’t have the energy to fight him any longer so I shoved my arm bike toward him. I thought that he’d just take it and ride off to the quarry but he picked it up and threw it into the ditch and moved toward me.
“No,” I yelled, holding my ground. “Stop!”
But he wouldn’t listen, he kept on moving toward me, walking upright, drooling and growling, his claws slashing the air in anger, he kept on coming, didn’t stop, wouldn’t ever stop.
John Jodzio’s work has been featured in a variety of places including This American Life, McSweeney’s, and One Story. He’s the author of the short story collections, Knockout, Get In If You Want To Live, and If You Lived Here You’d Already Be Home. He lives in Minneapolis.