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horbuncle - (noun) the coarse, pungent, and crusty fecal stench characteristic of a dead horseshoe crab (water arthropod).

       I remember being at the beach in South Carolina and encountering this smell. Once I identified the source, I spread my towel outside the radius of its odor, recommending to everyone in my party that they do the same (how could they enjoy the day at the beach under such an oppressive air, especially one that reminds us all of our mortality?). After a few minutes of sunbathing I once again caught a whiff of horbuncle. I wondered if the breeze had changed direction, but no. As I sat up I saw with dismay that a blonde child had picked up the body and was carrying it around. Apparently she wasn't put off by holding what must have been the overpowering scent of death within inches of her face. When I pointed this out to my group, they seemed as uninterested in discussing why she wasn't repulsed as they were in honoring my requests that they try to describe the fragrance. Meanwhile, a man who seemed to be her father told her to put it down and Leave It Alone! Experiencing enough dégoûtisea and doldeath, I gathered up my towel to try to distance myself now from two points: the horseshoe crab and the girl, whose movements, unlike the sea creature's, were unpredictable. I'm sure the man saw my annoyance. He quite possibly overheard my commentary. Looking apologetic, he retrieved the dead animal and moved it away and down the beach. No matter: his daughter was unstoppable, irresistibly attracted to the corpse, and unwilling to let it decompose without interference.

Photo: monarch caterpillar in the garden last summer.

© 2021, Abby Hinsman for Wild Veil Perfume.