The old man limped, ducked and stood behind a two hundred year old tree. Taking in the lay of the land he had to decide whether to keep walking or to surrender…he kept on walking.

He walked upon the path created by people? Horses? God?

The sounds of faraway life, the sights of Hawks soaring, diving and soaring once again, preying for their next meal.

Behind him he sensed movement, turned to see horses in the distance.

“Fuckin sheriff and his posse.” The pursuers were once his friends and family, in another time when it was simple to be friends and call each other family.

He walked off the path through the bushes and the tall grass and the shrubbery. He rested on the root of a giant tree and was hidden by a branch which hung filled with leaves waiting for October to be set free from all attachments.

The sounds of horses’ hooves grew louder and the smoke began to rise from the soft dusty soil.

He lay flat on the ground to be totally concealed and he fell into a dream.

He was standing outside the bank on the main street, one shotgun in his right hand and another in his left pants holster. He didn’t even bother to cover his face, just waltzed and walked up to Percy handing him a sack.

“Fill this with all the money you can fit. No games my friend, and I won’t hurt you.”

“No games.” Percy said.

Grabbing the sack, he looked quickly inside and was satisfied. 

Percy pulled out his colt and went to shoot, but Robert was quicker and shot the hand that held the gun and Percy was down.

The sheriff’s men stormed inside and he emptied out the bullets, turned around, ran out and jumped on his horse… felt a piercing hot bullet in his back… 

He suddenly woke up, sweating and his heart beating hard. It was dark out now and he figured the search was halted for the night. He began to walk, the sack tied around him and took a short sip of water from his flask.

The sun was gone now so the cool air provided relief. He thought about Tara and her Spanish eyes and hot skin. He wondered if she had been told about what he did. Part of him wanted her to know just so she would be impressed for even a second. She always felt he was timid and frightened.

He knows it’s not fear that has stopped him, it’s simply ignorance of the right and wrongs. Hope and naivete cocktails, faith and blind trust in people and the powers who control people’s fate as if they are on strings. 

He thought about the sheriff’s daughter, she could see through his eyes and he held her for a little while but decided she was best off without him. 

Rolling stones, strong gusts shaking the trees and waking up the clouds who decided to congregate and are planning a storm.

Take shelter from a storm that’s coming, but where?

Purple sky and white cotton clouds, a slice of the moon bringing some light to these dark woods.

He sits below a tree and closes his eyes. “What did I do, what can I do and what will I do?”

He wakes in the morning to the sounds of birds talking way too loud, he is wet and covered by his soaked money sack shaking and cold.

He hears dogs barking and the sound of hoofbeats, voices and birds scattering from the tree above him.

He thinks to hide, to run or to surrender. His gun still has some lead… but he can’t see himself shooting another human, again.

Walked towards an open area and he saw a pond. He looked into the water and saw his reflection…”How did I get here…”

For the first 50 years of his life he walked the line; with not a penny in his pocket he found himself walking a tightrope between right and wrong. 

Facing his demons he stuttered out some words and fell on his knees. He could not continue to hold off the inevitable. Could not remember the prayers he had been taught…it was on that Saturday morning that he crossed the thin line between good and bad. 

His world had been a series of high hopes and steep falls. The tavern by the roadside had fallen apart and the train he had been riding had no room for him to even stand so he had to get off. The gold rush was just a rumor for him, although others struck it rich. He felt as if he had been cursed to never succeed. 

Since the line had been crossed,  he had been inside too many saloons and been with too many women, he couldn’t even fathom himself confessing anymore. Who would he confess to even if he wanted to? Lord knows the leaders in the churches have been soiled more than he could soil himself in three lifetimes. Being a drunkard and a womanizer is nothing compared to lying and taking money from people to falsely absolve them of sins.

Saloon rooms, hookers and booze; crossroads and unstable bridges, ain’t no maps to find the secret ingredients to a smile.

Now, he was too old for this situation he found himself in. Too old and way too tired. With no kin to turn to and only a faded memory of love he had no destination.

A lone hawk is diving and then soaring. The hoof beats are getting louder and then just as suddenly they are gone.

He stands up, soaked and starved, 

There is a long lonesome road up ahead, he is hoping for salvation. Up ahead, about a mile or so, he sees a train huffing and he smiles. He begins to walk when echoes of a single bullet is heard, the birds scatter, the dogs bark and an old man falls onto the ground.