Title: South of Okeechobee
Author: Daniel Powell
Publication Date: January 6, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary, Historical
Length: 16 pages
Source: I received a free copy from the author
Rating: 5 Stars
Somewhere in the River of Grass lives a sad and solitary creature. Once a man, this cursed monster now haunts the margins of human imagination, forever searching for his murdered love…
A rip-roaring slice of Florida Folklore, “South of Okeechobee” is an origin story of one of the American South’s great mythological creatures: the Florida Skunk Ape. Blending prohibition, cryptozoology, southern magic, and a little bit of moonshinin’, “South of Okeechobee” is pure, high-octane Florida gothic…
This short story (4500 words) originally appeared in the collection The Silver Coast and Other Stories.
Content Warning: Prohibition, bootlegging, mild violence, and murder.
Not every feud is a harmless one.
I wasn’t aware of the legend of the Florida Skunk Ape before reading this story, but no prior knowledge is necessary in order to enjoy it. The characters share everything important early on, and the last few details can be picked up by the final scene or by looking this creature up online if you must know everything about it in advance. There’s something to be said for folklore that makes so few assumptions about the audience already knows, and I was glad I could walk into this without needing to do any homework in advance.
Sixteen pages was the perfect length for this story. There was exactly enough plot and character development to keep all of them interesting, and I was left feeling satisfied with where everything had ended up by the time I read the final scene. It can be hard to write a story that fits the parameters so perfectly, so I must tip my cap to Mr. Powell for pulling it off. There’s not a single thing I would have changed about what he wrote. He did everything perfectly here in my opinion and I will definitely be keeping an eye out for what he comes up with next.
There were a few gems here for those of us who have lived in small towns and know how important social standing can be there. When you see the same people every day, little things can snowball into big conflicts easily if anyone involved chooses to make a big deal out of someone breaking a social norm for that community in even the tiniest way. None of those moments were strictly necessary in order to understand the main storyline, but they sure added some nice depth to the plot and gave readers who understand this experience something to chuckle about.
South of Okeechobee was a wild ride.