Cypress boughs creaked in the dim; their pale green leaves danced with broken moonlight conducted by the insect ballad. The warm air lifted the smell of rot and damp wood. Montgomery sat at the edge of the buoyed pier, with his nose just above the opaque water. Behind him, orange lamp light pulsed from the porch of a wooden shack, white and grey with age; tied down here and patched there where the swamp had started to creep in. The sound of boots made Montgomery turn. A man in dripping knee high rubber boots crouched beside him and shook his collar with scratches.
The two fellows looked to the water and soon their breaths fell in sync and man and mutt waited together, silent and still. They looked and looked and at some point the man had to blink and rub his eye lids. “Too dark.”
Montgomery lied down and said nothing.
The man raked at his peppered beard. “It’s tonight old boy.”
“Thirteen dead.” He spit, “Jesus save their souls, countless others maimed, and tonight this som’bitch’s going to meet his match.”
Scrish! Montgomery’s tail rose, his nose worked faster, the man’s eyes tightened. “Shh…” They waited. Nothing but croaks and paper insects and rolling water and—
Inside the cabin, the man climbed a wood block and retrieved a rusted double-barrel from its mount above the front door. He held the lamp over a scaled bag and pulled out a handful of purple shells. The pockets on the man’s green canvas overalls bulged and jutted with lead weight as man and dog waded through the knee-high mud. Montgomery half swam to keep up. Soon they came to a pass between the knees of a bald cypress, which the man may have crashed into were it not for Montgomery colliding with them first, scrambling for a better foot hold. They both paused to breathe. The man shook the sweat from his eyes.
Cak-cak-cak! broke through the swamp song; Montgomery gave a short yelp.
The man tugged on his leash, “Don’t lose your nerve now boy! We never let one of these slimy beasts beat us; we can’t afford your nervousness, got it? It’s a woodpecker’s all. Keep it together.”
Montgomery lowered his chin and said nothing.
“Good. Good. This croc is near. Let’s give these city boys something to gab about. I can feel’im.”