A faint breeze rustled across a field of standing dry corn. Row after row of dead stalks swayed gently, their crisp leaves crackling. A choir of grasshoppers chirped their never-ending song, filling the Kansas countryside with a static buzz.
The sun, which had long since passed its pinnacle, cast long shadows behind two weary travelers whose feet plodded, step after flagging step, on a seemingly endless journey along a stretch of the Kansas Pacific.
“Wait a minute.” A dark-haired youth stopped to sit on a rail, unlacing and removing his left boot. “Picked up a pebble,” he explained, shaking no small amount of gravel from the boot before placing his foot back inside.
His sullen partner joined him on the rail and sighed in exasperation.
“You got something to say, you might as well come out and say it.” The boy finished tying his boot and waited.
“’We’ll be back before mornin’,’ you said. ‘No one’ll even miss us,’ you said. ‘Have a little faith,’ you said. I should’ve known better than to go along with you and your stupid plan!”
The boy sniffed and bit his lip at the rebuke from his best friend. “It was a good plan, Jed,” he defended.
“Exactly which part of your plan was the good part, Heyes? The gettin’ in a fight part, or the gettin’ arrested and thrown in jail part?”
There was a long pause. “The part about making a killing at the poker tables worked pretty well, didn’t it?” Heyes beamed and waited.
“You sure were winnin’ alright,” Jed agreed, “right up to the point that fella with the beady eyes hustled you out of everything you had and then some.”
“So you told him.” Jed rubbed at his swollen jaw. “In case you forgot, that’s when the fight started.”
Heyes caught his partner’s gaze and gave him a penitent grin. “You got a pretty good shiner forming.” He took off his bandanna, and reached toward Jed’s face.
Jed flinched and pushed his partner’s hand away. “Don’t.”
“No need to get proddy; I’m just trying to help.”
“A little spit ‘n’ polish ain’t gonna fix things this time!”
Startled grasshoppers ceased their chirping. As if foreshadowing the altering course of two human lives, a dark cloud overtook the sun, and the wind shifted.
Heyes shivered and pulled his jacket more closely around his shoulders.
“We’re in trouble, Heyes. Big trouble.” Jed Curry’s voice sounded small against the vast openness of Kansas. “We can’t go back to the Home now, and I for dang sure wouldn’t want to. You know the beatin’ that’d be waitin’ for us. We’re runaways, least to the headmaster’s way of thinkin’. We been in trouble with the law. He might even make us join the Cavalry or somethin’.”
“So what do you want to do?”
A train’s whistle blew and in the distance, thunder rumbled.
“You don’t suppose that train is going our way, do you, Jed?”
“No matter which way it’s goin’, I’m pretty sure it’s goin’ our way.”
And so, into the West they headed–Right into the storm.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.