The Path

by M. Earl Smith

The cicadas droned overhead, and the path smelled of bobcat urine and burnt tires. Of course, Mother wasn’t as familiar with those smells, but she knew they were there, as she mentioned them more than once.

Mentioned. Never complained.

Mother stared off into the distance, as if her cold blue eyes were searching for the shadow of a ghost long-dead. “Why do you think people do bad things?” I asked, my neck tense with stress as I turned to look at Mother’s slim figure.

Her eyes snapped to me, and the lost ghost was found. “Because they have to. It was what
destiny decided for us. People sin, people complain, and people stray further from God’s light because they are weak, decadent creatures.” We stopped, as if we were in lockstep. Mother put her lithe, ethereal hand on my shoulder and offered a sad smile.

“The strong use force to impose the will of the vengeful God of Abraham and Isaac, for good and justice.”

I nodded. Mother always had a way of explaining things – always in the abstract. The
punishment I had in mind was more literal.

“So does that mean I can construct a scaffold in the back yard?” I asked, my voice a little too eager.

Mother pursed her lips in disappointment. “Have I taught you nothing? A guillotine is far more efficient.”

“Sorry,” I muttered. We paced on, pushing against the sounds and smells of horror, ready to begin a terror all our own.


From works for children to the macabre, from academic research to sports journalism, and from opinion essays to the erotic, M. EARL SMITH is a writer that seeks to stretch the boundaries of genre and style. A native of Southeast Tennessee, M. Earl moved to Ohio at nineteen and, with success, reinvented himself as a writer after parting ways with his wife of eleven years. After graduating from Chatfield College (with highest honors) in 2015, M. Earl became the first student from Chatfield to matriculate at an Ivy League institution when he enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia. The proud father of two wonderful children (Nicholas and Leah), M. Earl studies creative writing and history at UPenn. When he’s not studying, M. Earl splits time between Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Chattanooga, with road trips to New York City, Wichita, Kansas, and Mystic, Connecticut in between.

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