Selected Work

“Snake Sniffing”

Originally printed in Vine Leaves Literary Journal


I haven’t spent my life sniffing snakes. I have people who will attest to that. Hell, I’ve never even held one. I certainly haven’t been crawling around trying to catch a sniff of one slithering past. Quite an image though.

I keep getting flashes of odors that are not present. While writing the other day, all of a sudden, with still no obvious connection, I smelled trout sauteing in butter in a cast iron pan. I’m not certain about the pan, but I sure did smell trout and sizzling butter. Lilacs—I can catch a whiff of them out of season. A colleague in a writing workshop read an essay including the memory of getting a Toni permanent. (Young readers, Google it.) I smelled that Toni. I smelled it in my eyes. Smells can be as pungent in the eyes as the nose, the olfactory in through the optical—hair dyes, undiluted bleach, even gyms during basketball games with all that charged-up sweat.

Perhaps the presence of absent odors brought a scent-memory of snakes. Garter snakes at least, all the little non-threatening garter snakes I inadvertently sliced and diced with a lawn mower while performing a childhood task. I’d go inside with minced snake covering the front of my legs. In my alleged youthful innocence I didn’t acknowledge how much carnage I was committing, bringing whirling death to creatures who couldn’t protect themselves. Perhaps I’m smelling death as much as snake—dusty, funky death.

I finished off god some weeks ago. I had been trying to create one, having been inspired by Socrates with his personal daimon. After weeks of writing toward creation, I wrote myself right out of a desire for or a belief in a deity.

How does one get from snake sniffing to the death of god? Snakes are a symbol of rebirth, rejuvenation, resurrection. Snakes shed skin and keep moving on. Like a snake I grew, wiggled around and slipped out of a too-tight-skin. My killing of innocent snakes makes me sad. Doing away with god does not. I can smell absent snakes. I never smelled god. Maybe that is why he had to go.

The End

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