|Allen, R. A.
|Baker, J. D.
|Bartlett, Daniel C.
|Berriozabal, Luis Cuauhtemoc
|Burke, Wayne F.
|Campbell, J. J.
|Centorbi, David Calogero
|Crist, Kenneth James
|Davis, Michael D.
|De Neve, M. A.
|Dillon, John J.
|Dunham, T. Fox
|Fortier, M. L.
|Greenberg, KJ Hannah
|Larsen, Ted R.
|Le Due, Richard
|Lucas, Gregory E.
|Mannone, John C.
|Nielsen, Ayaz Daryl
|Owen, Deidre J.
|Reddick, Niles M.
|Slota, Richelle Lee
|Smith, Elena E.
|Snethen, Daniel G.
|Taylor, J. M.
|Traverso Jr., Dionisio "Don"
|Turner, Lamont A.
|Waldman, Dr. Mel
|Weil, Lester L.
|Williams, K. A.
by Pamela Ebel
Fear has a distinct odor. Visceral.
Invasive. That odor hung in the hot,
humid, October air of the Spice Island Swamp Game Reserve. The animals there
knew instinctively that in three weeks they would be hunted again by those carrying
guns as the season opened, and that produced fear.
Angie walked gingerly through the dried
leaves that covered the reserve’s
floor. She could smell the fear, looked carefully for the source of it, but saw
no animals. Steve moved quietly behind her. She stopped and turned around.
“Come up and walk with me. You
said we’d have a nice trail walk. So far
I’ve been alone up here.”
Steve stopped, the shotgun on his shoulder,
and considered his wife. He offered
her a smile that didn’t reach his eyes.
“I’m here to scope out where
the deer cross the stream. You just keep
walking and if you see something interesting, let me know.”
The smell of fear grew stronger as Angie
turned and started walking again.
Their conversations had become increasingly tense since her oil paintings had
found collectors who paid handsomely for her work.
“Guess you don’t need my
money anymore because some idiots are paying for
“That’s not true. You’re
a successful architect and I have always
appreciated your support. All of my earnings go into our joint account. It’s
Still, he spoke less, sulked more, and
bought more guns. Just a month
before, they had taken a trip to a barrier reef in the gulf. She had waded in
the cool water, enjoying the breeze.
Suddenly Steve had yelled, “Don’t
He fired his rifle into the water, bullets
just barely missing Angie.
“What are you doing?”
“Sharks! They’re all around
He stopped when a boat with fishermen
appeared. Neither Angie nor the
fishermen saw sharks. Steve shrugged and smiled.
Now as she walked, with Steve still
behind her, Angie realized that the
odor of fear was coming from herself. She started to tell him she was going
back to the car to get the picnic lunch ready.
Something heavy fell from the tree behind
her. Angie heard a rustling
sound on the ground and then:
The rustling grew closer, and the head
of the water moccasin appeared two
feet from her. It eyed her but kept moving toward the bank of the stream. She
heard Steve behind her, closer now. The snake paused and then leapt in the air
and cut in front of her.
The sound of the shotgun blast deafened
her hearing. Dirt and buckshot
swirled around and cut her skin. The odor of her fear made her nauseous. The moccasin
raced to stream and disappeared in the dark water.
“What are you doing? You could
have killed me! What were you thinking?”
Fear turned to anger as she stared into Steve’s eyes. “That snake was headed
for the water. He wasn’t any threat to me.”
“Only good snake is a dead snake.
And if I had wanted to kill you . . .”
He shrugged and smiled. “Come on, I think I see deer tracks on that bank where
the snake went in.”
He walked by her and sniffed the air.
“Strong odor. That’s what
hunted animals smell like, you know.”
Angie stayed rooted to the ground and
watched as her husband walked to the
bank, got down on all fours, laying the shotgun next to him, and looked for deer
A movement in the tree above him caught
her eye. The moccasin was moving
slowly and quietly down the trunk.
“When I come to kill that buck
next month, I’m bringing you with me so you
can paint something worthwhile. What do you think about that?”
The moccasin continued down the tree
and onto a branch hanging directly
over Steve’s neck. It turned to look at her, nodded, then turned back, opened
its huge cotton mouth and let the fangs slip forward.
“Aren’t you going to say
As the moccasin started to drop, Angie
Sheepshead Island, California
quiet down. We have one more storyteller to hear from. Maggie Bodean, welcome to the 45th
Annual Sheepshead Island Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo. You all know Maggie’s uncle was
Tommie ‘Tank’ Bodean. He passed away a few months ago and left her his fishing
camp. Maggie, we are really pleased you joined us today and we want to hear your fish tale
entry for the ‘Liars’ Contest’. Jack Casper smiled at Maggie and handed
her the microphone.
Casper and thanks to all of you for the warm welcome. I spent every summer from the time
I was six to seventeen at Uncle Tank’s camp. I’ve been busy cleaning it up
which, if you knew Uncle Tank, you would know is a serious challenge.”
Lots of laughter
“I wanted to be here to honor him as a founder who never missed a rodeo in 44 years.
More importantly, he was a frequent winner of the ‘Liars’ Contest’ and
while cleaning out his desk I found a letter he left me. He asked me to read it at the
next ‘Liar’s Contest’ after he was gone. So, here it goes, in Uncle Tank’s
want to thank my niece Maggie for agreeing to do this last favor for me. You all know the
Legend of Big White. The story goes that the Great White Shark got separated from his school
during a migration down to Mexico. Bad weather drove him into Shark Fin Cove and he took
up residence there. Those of us who grew up on the island know that many people were supposed
to have tried to catch Big White and disappeared without a trace. And most of the
islanders just say that the shark doesn’t exist except in the over-active and booze-filled
imaginations of the local fishermen.”
More laughter and raised beer cans in response to this.
friends, I am going to share a story with you because I
didn’t want to leave without clearing up two mysteries. First, remember back in 1985
when Carl Magnus went missing? There were rumors that he might have left the country because
the Feds were investigating him for money laundering. That might have been true, but it
wasn’t what caused Magnus to disappear. No, he disappeared because of his love of
‘dirty laundry’. See, Carl was quite the ‘Ladies Man’. He’d
have affairs with the wives of prominent men and then blackmail them for his silence. One
of those husbands got in a fight with Magnus, hit him with a baseball bat and killed him.’
The crowd was completely silent and leaning toward the stage as Maggie looked out at them.
‘That husband was a longtime friend of mine, and came to my camp that night with
Magnus’ body in his car trunk asking for help. I never cared for Magnus and didn’t
think anyone else did either. I waited to midnight, then took Magnus to my boat, Ole Snake
Eyes, and cruised to Shark Fin Cove. I put two life jackets on the body so it would float
on top of the water like a large fish, wrapped a rope around it and hooked a Tarpon Fishing
Spoon to it.
I lowered Magnus into the water and watched
him float out behind the boat. Then I started trolling slowly and chumming the water with
dead fish parts and blood and waited. Soon I saw a large fin appear and circle the boat
slowly. Then the fin got close to the wheelhouse and a head rose to the surface. Finally,
I was eye to eye with Big White. He swam around Ole Snake Eyes again, slowing to look at
me. He was huge, about 17 feet long and several hundred pounds.
disappeared briefly and I was afraid he might hit the boat. All of a sudden, I saw the
fin move back and then Big White rose up behind Magnus’s body. His huge mouth opened,
and his teeth sparkled in the moonlight. Then he picked up speed. In two quick bites Carl
Magnus disappeared forever. The only thing left was the Pet Spoon dangling from the rope.
I watched Big White circle the boat once more and eye me, then he sank back into the water.
waited a while then went back to my camp. I never saw the husband again and never shared
the story until now since everyone concerned has moved on. I went back to Shark Fin Cove
a few times later. I’d see the fin once in a while, but Big White never surfaced.
I decided his purpose was to dispose of all the bad things in life. The second mystery
I wanted to clear up, is that Big White is not a legend. He exists and I wanted you to
know how to get rid of a bad situation once and for all.’”
Maggie folded the letter and placed it in her pocket and looked out
at the crowd. There were a few minutes of silence and then the laughing and clapping began.
Mr. Casper announced that Tank Bodean had won the ‘Liars’ Contest’ in
Taking the trophy, Maggie walked to the dock and boarded Ole Snake
Eyes. Thirty minutes later she cruised into Shark Fin Cove, set the engine on idle and
listened to the radio news that convicted serial killer Tipp Torres remained on the run
after escaping from a van taking prisoners for medical treatment. Authorities had been
looking in the Sheepshead Island area where Torres grew up, but hadn’t found him
yet. Maggie, however, knew just where Torres could be found. A half mile from Uncle Tank’s
camp was an abandoned fort where all of the island children played growing up.
Now she opened the tarp lying at her feet. Tipp Torres stared back
at her with a shocked look. She was grimly satisfied that the last thing he saw before
her bullet landed right between his eyes was the face of his sixth victim, her twin sister,
She took Uncle Tank’s letter out of her pocket and placed it in
Torres’ mouth and lowered his body, with the two life jackets firmly in place, into
the water and secured the Tarpon Spoon to the rope. She watched as the body floated silently
out behind the boat. Grabbing the bucket
of fish guts, parts and blood Maggie chummed the water as she started trolling slowly.
After thirty minutes a huge fin appeared and circled the boat once.
Then near the wheelhouse the huge head rose out of the water and Big White smiled a toothy
grin at Maggie, drifted back and lined up behind Torres’ body. He picked up speed
as his giant mouth opened.
she pulled the fishing spoon and rope in, Maggie looked at the moon and smiled.
“Thanks for sharing
the Legend of Big White, Uncle Tank. Sometimes the only revenge to be had when bad things
happen is ‘Sleeping with Sharks."
Men Don’t Text!
Julia sipped her second cup of coffee and
studied her appointment book. Three new clients wished to schedule events through her company,
and she needed to finish her proposals. A sharp knock brought her to the front door of
her apartment. Standing in the hallway were two men dressed in business suits.
I’m Julia Frazer.”
Detective Clark Dillon and this is Detective Carl Ellis. We would like to ask you a few
questions, if you don’t mind.”
Julia looked at the credentials the two
men offered and handed them back.
“Questions about what, gentlemen?”
Dillon, clearly the point man, opened a note pad.
have received a ‘Missing Person’ report about a Travers Muller.
His roommate says he has not seen or heard from Mr. Muller in five days. We are contacting
anyone listed in Muller’s Appointments Book and your name appears several times.
Do you know Travers Muller?”
“Yes, I know Travers.”
long have you known him, and have you seen him recently?”
met about three months ago at an investment club meeting that
my event company catered. He was giving a speech about investment opportunities.”
detectives looked at each other and Dillon made a note.
went for coffee afterward and since then, we have gone out
several times. Nothing serious on my part, although I thought he wanted more commitment.
I haven’t seen Travers in several days because of my work schedule. You said he’s
“That’s what his roommate claims. He
has tried calling and texting Muller’s cell phone and had no response.”
walked to her desk and picked up her phone.
“That’s odd, because Travers
texted me yesterday morning. He said, “Happy Valentine’s Day. Will you meet
me at The Landing tonight at 7:00 and be my Valentine?”
showed the text message to the detectives.
had nothing better to do, and The Landing is one of my favorite restaurants so, I texted
yes. I arrived a little before 7:00 and there was a reservation in Travers’s name.
I ordered a drink and waited about 30 minutes. Then I received this text from him: ‘Had
an emergency. Can’t come. Explain later. Sorry, Travers.’ I explained to the
hostess, paid for my drink and came home. When I got here, there were that dozen red roses,
a bottle of champagne, and a box of chocolates by the door with a card—‘Sorry
Valentine but more later.’”
“No information on a florist? Anything
on who delivered these?”
“Nothing. Anyone can enter the building.
I haven’t heard from him since last night. I wish I could be of more help.”
we appreciate your time and information. I’ll leave my card
in case you hear anything.”
“Of course. I certainly hope he’s
“Well, we have information that the FBI is
also looking for Muller as a suspect in an investment fraud scheme that preys on retirees.
He probably got wind of that and took off. I mean dead men don’t text, do they?”
Julia shared a laugh with the detectives as they
heard an approaching trash truck.
“Oh, I didn’t get this out to
the curb. Would you mind just giving it to the man? It’s full of cat litter.”
took the bag gingerly, and she watched from the window as
the trashman threw it into the truck obliterating the litter and the pieces of Travers’s
destroyed cell phone. Taking a sip of the champagne she had saved, along with the flowers
and candy, from one of her events, Julia read one final time, the note her parents had
mailed her six months earlier. After being swindled out of their life savings in another
retirement town, they had taken their own lives.
stood and tossed the note into her fireplace. The paper turned
to ashes, like those of her parents, now sprinkled in a lake near their home. She stared
out at the lake near her apartment with a grim nod to another watery grave and raised her
“To You Mom and Dad. Dead Men Don’t Text
and They Don’t Steal Anymore, Either!”
Happy Hour at the Grown Folks Bar
“Do you need some ice?”
Cliff Simms leaned over the bar and
held a scoop of ice cubes out to Robin Carter, who sat staring at her glass of Old Overholt on the
thanks Cliff. I have enough ice to smooth the rye a bit.” She smiled and held the glass up.
didn’t mean ice for your drink. It might help with the…” He reached his hand toward
the egg sized bruise on Robin’s cheek that wasn’t quite hidden by her auburn hair. She
backed away with a flinch and Cliff pulled his hand back quickly.
“It’s okay Cliff. I’ll put some
ice on it when I get home. Thanks for the thought though.”
clock on the wall behind the bar came to life suddenly as an ancient Cuckoo
appeared and announced that it was 4:00 p.m. Across the room a sign in the window lit up in red,
white and blue neon with a flashing message that “It’s Happy Hour at the Grown Folks
a loud cheer from the crowd standing at the other end of the bar room. Sticks and balls were flying
around the pool table and the sticks and balls attached to the men in their red ball caps grew larger
every time another round of drinks appeared.
“You got him Slim!”
“Yeah, Slim go ahead and sink the 8 ball
so we can start on the Happy Hour specials.”
laughing and comments and then, total silence as the man leaning over the pool table called the
pocket and the 8 ball rolled down the table and disappeared. Then a great cheer as the
tall man slapped the back of his losing competitor and took three hundred-dollar bills off the rail.
“First Happy Hour Round is on
Slim Carter emerged from the sea of red ball caps, pulling his off to smooth a thick mane of black
hair. He looked down the bar at Robin who had turned her attention back to her drink.
sure to give my wife a fresh drink too. Maybe it will improve her mood. What do you think, Robin?”
to her side and yanked Robin’s shoulder toward him.
“You need to fix your hair better.
That little bruise is showing. Wouldn’t want the gang to get the wrong idea.”
Robin winced as Slim pushed his
fingers into her shoulder.
with a fresh rye on the rocks, even though she had barely touched the first one, and a bourbon and
coke for Slim, who smiled broadly as the front door opened.
“Just the man I’ve been waiting for. Derek,
how you been? Cliff, get Derek whatever he wants. Do you have something for me?”
“Sure, do Slim. Right here!”
Derek handed over a small paper bag.
Happy Hour Pills! Robin, put this bag in your purse. Derek, we can all go over to Carol’s.
She’s having her usual Friday Open House and there is always plenty of booze and new faces,
if you know what I mean. Robin here, usually just sits and nurses one drink all
night. Maybe tonight you can do something besides sit like a stump!”
Slim pushed Robin’s shoulder sharply, causing
her to slip off the bar stool. The two men laughed as she struggled to get back up.
“Let me do
one thing and then we can leave. I got a hundred-dollar bill here says I can clear the table in
under two minutes. Any takers?”
of the men stepped up and placed two fifties on the rail and everyone
made a space for Slim. He picked a cue stick and then let the challenger break the balls. With a
timer selected everyone grew quiet, all eyes on the table.
Everyone, including, Cliff was looking at
Slim or staring at watches. Everyone except Robin. Suddenly a cheer went up as the
pool table was cleared in a minute and thirty seconds.
round of Happy Hour Drinks was ordered and Slim downed another bourbon and coke at the pool table.
Returning to where Robin sat, he pulled the paper bag out of her purse, placed it in his
jacket pocket and downed his remaining bourbon and coke.
to go to Carol’s. Get your coat.”
“I don’t feel well. I want to go home,
please. You can just drop me off and then go on over.”
“Taking you home is going to take me twenty
minutes out of the way. Either come with me to Carol’s or find you own way home.” He
grew loud and sneered at her.
I’ll get a taxi. I just don’t feel well. I’m sorry.”
“Yeah, you’ll be really
sorry later tonight, Bitch. But I need to get going. I’ll see you guys in a while.”
He saluted the
sea of red ball caps, shot Robin one more threatening sneer and went out the door.
She heard his Harley fire up and
watched through the window as he screeched out of the parking lot. She turned back just as the bartender
picked up Slim’s empty glass, rinsed it out and placed it in the dishwasher.
“I am going to the Ladies Room,
Cliff. Back in a moment.”
walked down the hallway to the bathroom and looked backed to see that no one else was coming. She
entered and locked the door behind her. Inside the stall she took out a tissue
containing two empty pill capsules, dropped it into the toilet, pushed the handle and watched as
it swirled rapidly downward and disappeared.
Back at her seat at the bar Robin looked at the
clock again as Cliff offered to give her a ride home.
“In twenty minutes, it will be 6:00 p.m.
and another Happy Hour will be over for another Friday night and my shift will be over, too. I would
be glad to give you a ride and spare you the cost of a taxi.”
“Thanks Cliff. That would be
next Friday Robin entered the bar just as the Cuckoo made his appearance and announced it was 4
p.m. The red, white and blue neon sign blinked to life indicating that it was once again Friday
night “It’s Happy Hour at the Grown Folks Bar.”
The room grew silent as the pool players
and their audience of red ball caps stared at her. Finally, one man stepped out, removed his cap
and offered her the group’s condolences for the death of her husband.
The paper had reported that on
Friday evening a week ago, Jeff Slim Carter had lost control of his motorcycle and crashed into
Tillman’s Gorge dying instantly. An autopsy report indicated that he had ingested a lethal
dose of barbiturates along with alcohol a half hour or so before the accident, causing him to lose
consciousness. The police traced his movements to a local bar, where the bartender confirmed that
he had consumed four bourbon and cokes before leaving. The article noted that his wife
did not leave with her husband because she was ill. Funeral arrangements were pending.
Robin pulled Slim’s red ball
cap out of her purse and handed it to the man. Then she took out a hundred-dollar
bill and placed it on the bar.
know Slim would have wanted his cap retired here and I know he would want to leave you with good
memories. So, Cliff, please give a Happy Hour round to the house in honor of my husband.”
Everyone cheered and raced to
place their order. The man who had accepted the ball cap hung it high on the cue rack and everyone
toasted Jeff Slim Carter.
Robin her rye on rocks. She took a couple of sips and looked at the Cuckoo Clock.
“I have to get going. I have
a pot roast in the oven and I don’t want it to burn.”
She stood, raised her glass to the
red ball cap hanging on the cue rack, took a quick sip of rye, set it on the bar and walked to the
front door, taking one more look at the neon sign announcing “It’s Happy Hour at the
Grown Folks Bar.”
called out, “Pot Roast is my favorite.”
“I know. I’ll see you about 6:30.”
Then Robin opened the door and
disappeared into the night.
Pamela Ebel has been published in Shotgun Honey,
The BOULD AWARDS 2020 Anthology, as well other venues. Her poetry has appeared in the Delta
Poetry Review. A native of California, she now concentrates on tales from her original home
state and tales from the highways of the South. She also knows, like the
Ancient Greeks and the Irish, that as a southern writer you can’t outrun your blood.
She has turned to writing
full time as of 2020, obviously either perfect or bizarre timing, and this will be her fifth
career. She lives in Metairie, Louisiana, with her husband and two cats.
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