The beginning of a story…
On the outskirts of the decaying Arkansas farm town of Brinkley, a solitary man walked purposefully along the edge of a frozen January field. He had walked a hundred miles, powered by the slow and consuming burn of revenge. Each step punctuated his commitment to teaching the ghosts of his past the error of the word ‘no.’
There would be no deviation this time. The limiting exoskeleton of his youth would no longer detain him and the harsh, silencing rebuke of the culpable police and impeached family held no further weight upon his shoulders. He had jettisoned his entire life in order to quiet the insistent voices that greeted him each morning as he rolled out of bed.
He had packed one knife, a weather-worn pistol and two bullets, weapons sufficient to pay it forward to the world, one rid of the cancerous anger that had allowed his brother’s murder to transpire without consequences to those involved.
Absent from this small corner of the world for fourteen years, he had forgotten the beauty of the encroaching winter sunset, the smells of distant wood smoke and the slowing of time in the rural community. As his boots found foothold on the broken stumps of last year’s crops, he felt as if he were reversing course in time, feeling the intervening years lost to adulthood slip away, leaving a white-hot ember of angry remembrance.
‘No,’ he whispered to himself without realizing he had done so aloud.
As he cleared the southern perimeter of the expansive field, he crossed under sagging power lines between leaning utility poles. The birds sitting impassively on the wires squawked with hellish surprise as he looked up at the reddish skyline and screamed, ‘No!’ This time, he felt his anger flow out of him as his scream echoed along the tree line. His hand subconsciously touched the outline of the knife tucked into the waistline along the back of his jeans.
As the birds above him flew away, his pace increased, taking him toward the inevitability of someone’s death. Whether it would be his or those who had unwittingly pushed him out of his hometown fourteen years ago would be up to fate. 1991 seemed more real to him than any time since his youthful innocence had been stolen from him. Like each of us, he walked forward, uncertain and determined.