The worst smell in the world is the puff of smoke from the bullet that takes your life.
It must be true. I’ve killed a hundred men at point blank range. The ones that don’t die as soon as ballistic breaks bone tend to wear the same mix of shock and abstract wonder before the life leaves their eyes. The other feature they share: a crinkling beside the nasal bone, telling me that they recognize the scent of the gunpowder responsible for their deaths. And I wager that’s the odor no man wants to whiff.
A lot of things smell worse than gunsmoke. Sure, it gives you an acrid bite in the back of your nostrils. The sulfur is pungent enough to turn your bile. The charcoal can sting your eyes. But powder aroma is nothing compared to decay, rot, barns, turpentine, poor hygiene, cabbage, low tide, opium dens…the list goes on. I tell you what, though. I’d rather smell those things seven days a week than catch a hint of the billowing reek that snuffs me.
I’ll be honest: I’m bound to puff on that fog when the Reaper calls my name. One day I’ll draw steel on my mark, but he’ll be faster. Maybe he’ll have a spring gun up his sleeve, or a buckshooter under the table. Or maybe I’ll be a day older and a hair slower on the trigger. If that bullet doesn’t kill me on impact, I’ll get a face full of the yellowing smoke. And I’ll probably look off in the distance as my body starts to fail me, and screw up my nose like a rat sniffing a corpse.
I wonder if I’ll have time to think about that smell before the lights go out. Probably not.