Blood. It was everywhere. He'd never before contemplated how much blood might be in a human body. It was a lot, it turned out.

He looked dispassionately at the pools of red growing larger and overtaking the floor. That was not his concern. There was blood spattered on the front of him as well. Across his face. That would not do. He went out to the pump and stripped right there. Who was there to see anymore? Who was there to care if he washed in his all together?

He stood stark naked in the yard for a moment turning things over in his head. He should feel something. Fear or remorse. Maybe even relief or joy. Possibly vindication. But he felt nothing. Nothing at all.

He walked back into the house and past the body on the floor. The pools of blood were no longer expanding. They seemed to be congealing where they were. The metallic smell of the blood filled the house which was eerily quiet. He'd been there alone for long enough that quiet shouldn't catch his notice. But inside the house right then…there was just nothing. Usually there were the sounds of outside. Wind in the trees, frogs croaking, bugs buzzing. Everything was still. As if when he pulled the trigger he had killed everything. Maybe he had killed himself and death was just wandering the world with no one but a bloody corpse to keep you company.

He entered his room. It hadn't always been his room. He had shared the other room once but then when everyone left—one way or another—he took over the largest bedroom. It had the softest bed too. But if he was to be the only one here, the only one not abandoning the land, the only one who felt any debt at all to it, then he deserved the comfortable bed.

He looked over his clothes. Honestly it had never mattered what he wore. Not to him and he doubted to anyone else. Well, since ma…she had cared from time to time when she was alive. He would humor her. Not much made her smile but if he could by spiffing himself up a little then he would.

Now he pulled the set of clothes she had insisted he get once. He could have thought of a hundred things they needed to spend their little money on besides this but it seemed so important to her. He was still glad he had done it.

"My sweet boy," she said as she patted his cheek. "You are such a handsome young man to always hide in rags. How are the young ladies ever to notice you at all?"

He had brushed aside the compliment. She was his mother. She had to think he was nice looking. She had to think a girl would care for him. None would though. He had nothing to offer. He had loved once, or something close to it. She had said she was willing to live however they had to in order to be together. But her father had other ideas and frankly he agreed with her father. She deserved better than he could manage.

He pulled on the clothes and studied himself in the cloudy mirror. Not too bad. His hair still needed combing so he did. He looked darned near to respectable. Then he pulled on his boots. For the first time he thought with dread of walking past the body in the front room. He had planned this but then hadn't planned the after. Maybe this hadn't even been so much a plan as a fantasy. He wanted the man dead. He dreamt of seeking his revenge with a gun. Of seeing that smug, superior smile wiped from the man's face.

This land. It was worth more than any of them…more than all of them put together. Maybe not to the greedy bastard dead in the other room but to him. That greedy son of a…well, it didn't matter the names he could be called. They had been happy before that man came along. They had little but that didn't matter. It was the pressure that so-called man had brought on them that caused his father to fall apart. He loved his things, his money, his possessions far more than anything else. Things he lied, cheated, stole to get.

It all left his father feeling less a man. He had been a good man, his father. He had been kind and would make them small trinkets he carved from wood for Christmas. But faced with the starving faces of his family and knowing how powerless he was to change it. A man took his worth from seeing his family taken care of. A man who could not feel that would do anything to gain power. Every ugly thought about the newly killed man came out and was taken out on Ma.

Every bit of his family's destruction was caused by that man. And now he came to put the final nail in the coffin of what had been their happy life. He came to take the place. To take the land. He had driven one off and caused the death of two.

Sighing he walked past the crumpled form on the floor. Somehow he managed to avoid stepping in any of the splattered blood. Maybe one shot would have been sufficient. But he hadn't stopped at that. He had kept shooting. He guessed it was anger that did it. Must've been. It wasn't rational to keep shooting a man who was already dead. But he'd done it anyway. It made him wonder about himself. It made him wonder if he was as capable of breaking as his father had been. Probably. Most men probably were. Maybe women too.

It was time to go. This place had always been his world but if he didn't walk away now then he would find a new world of chains and cells. He stood on the porch and allowed a tear or two. He hadn't allowed many when his mother had died or his father. He'd been left alone and never mourned for it. He had his home, had this land. The land had given him his very life. Looking everywhere there was a memory to be seen.

The path to the swimming hole where he had played as a younger boy. The mulberry bush under which he had gotten his first kiss. Fields he had worked. It was all here and it was all gone. He'd never be able to come back now. But then he wouldn't have anyway. If he hadn't done what he did, he still wouldn't have been able to bear seeing whatever would have happened to this place.

With one last heavy sigh he began to walk. He had no idea where to go so he just went west. It was less a true decision of any future than a thought that there would be fewer people and the ones he met wouldn't hear of how he was a wanted man. How he had killed a fine upstanding member of the community. Fine and upstanding…it was enough to make him want to hit something. Hard working families trying to claw an existence from the land were not fine or upstanding or even marginally respected. That thieving liar though…he was respectable and defensible. And mortal, he thought with a wicked grin. It seemed all the money, possessions and power still didn't make a man bulletproof. That was useful knowledge there.

He walked on working where he could. Often he found nothing more than the chance to do farm chores in exchange for a meal and night in the straw of the barn. He lost track of how long he had walked, where he was, who he was. Everyone he met got a different story, a different name. There were times he felt guilt. More than once as he suffered through a cold and hungry night he knew this to be his punishment. Other times when he was granted the sight of a colorful sunrise or the changing of the autumn leaves, the snow covering the ground as icing on a fancy wedding cake or flowers pushing their way through that snow to signal spring—he knew that there was a righteousness to what he had done. Or at least a rightness. He wandered long. Maybe a year, maybe two. It didn't matter. He had not only forgotten his name but the name of where he'd come from. The murder he once had known full well he had committed had faded to a story he heard about someone else. He had even told people he'd worked alongside about it, about a good kid who had turned bad out of a need to avenge all that had been taken from him. He made the young man out a hero. It was alright. The young man was long gone.

Eventually he chanced enough to venture into towns, to be among people again. No one knew him from Adam and that was fine because neither did he.

In such a nameless town where he was just as nameless, he happened on the poster. The poster described him as if they actually had him in mind when they wrote it. He could ride, he didn't care if he died, he had no one in the whole world. He signed on and went where he was told.

It felt weird to be around people so closely again. But then it felt good too. There was something familiar in how the red-haired lady looked at him, the smiles she gave, even the frowns. Then it happened. They asked his name. He didn't know. He honestly didn't anymore. He could make something up but would he even remember that tomorrow? Finally he did all he could.

"People just call me Kid."

This story was written in response to a challenge at the luminous Ranch...the challenge was to write a story where one of our boys was a criminal. I actually have another I was working on for this that will be published at a later date but this wanted to be written like right now and was inspired by the incomperable Marcus Mumford.

As always, I welcome feedback. I am particularly interested in when it became clear who the young man was...and if it surprised anyone that it was Kid. Love you my dearies.-J

Dust Bowl Dance – Mumford and Sons (Marcus Mumford)

The young man stands on the edge of his porch,
The days were short and the father was gone,
There was no one in the town and no one in the field,
This dusty barren land had given all it could yield.

I've been kicked off my land at the age of sixteen,
And I have no idea where else my heart could have been,
I placed all my trust at the foot of this hill,
And now I am sure my heart can never be still,
So collect your courage and collect your horse,
And pray you never feel this same kind of remorse.

Seal my heart and break my pride,
I've nowhere to stand and now nowhere to hide,
Align my heart, my body, my mind,
To face what I've done and do my time.

Well you are my accuser, now look in my face,
Your opression reeks of your greed and disgrace,
So one man has and another has not,
How can you love what it is you have got,
When you took it all from the weak hands of the poor?
Liars and thieves you know not what is in store.

There will come a time I will look in your eye,
You will pray to the God that you always denied,
The I'll go out back and I'll get my gun,
I'll say, "You haven't met me, I am the only son".

Seal my heart and break my pride,
I've nowhere to stand and now nowhere to hide,
Align my heart, my body, my mind,
To face what I've done and do my time.

Seal my heart and break my pride,
I've nowhere to stand and now nowhere to hide,
Align my heart, my body, my mind,
To face what I've done and do my time.

Well yes sir, yes sir, yes it was me,
I know what I've done, cause I know what I've seen,
I went out back and I got my gun,
I said, "You haven't met me, I am the only son".