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.
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.
and walk with me. You said we’d have a nice trail walk. So far
I’ve been alone up here.”
the shotgun on his shoulder, and considered his wife. He offered
her a smile that didn’t reach his eyes.
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.
you don’t need my money anymore because some idiots are paying for
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.
had yelled, “Don’t move!”
He fired his
rifle into the water, bullets just barely missing Angie.
They’re all around you.”
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.
fell from the tree behind her. Angie heard a rustling
sound on the ground and then:
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.
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.”
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.
odor. That’s what hunted animals smell like, you know.”
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.
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?”
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.
you going to say something?”
As the moccasin
started to drop, Angie whispered,
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.
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.
Ann Marie Rhiel is the
Assistant Art Director for Yellow Mama Webzine. She was born and raised in
Bronx, New York, presently living in New Jersey. She reconnected with her
passion for art in 2016 and has had her work exhibited in art galleries around northern
New Jersey ever since. She is a commissioned painting artist, who also enjoys photography.
Her work has also appeared in Black Petals and Megazine Official.