The farmer walked to the back of the crowd

on

The band was wrapping up, and a tall man with a black bandana over his
forehead stood up and began to shout orders. He shouted over the band’s music,
“No more beers! No more shots! Everyone have a seat!”

The farmer turned around.

The man was holding a knife. His eyes were black.

The man shoved the knife toward the farmer’s throat.

The crowd turned.

The knife blade slid across the man’s throat.

The band began the finale and the crowd screamed. The farmer fell to the
ground, screaming.

“No. No, no, no.” He stumbled to his feet, grabbed his knife, and ran toward
the man. The crowd roared as the man stumbled toward the farmer, who stabbed
him, blade still held in hand.

His breath rasped through his throat as the knife cut through the air into his
heart.

The crowd cheered wildly as the man’s body fell to the ground.

The farmer walked toward his car, hands shaking, and tried to think. He couldn’t
remember much of the events of the previous night. The only thing he could be
certain of was that he had stabbed a man in the back. He looked around. His
crowd was scattered. He turned on his heel and walked with purpose back to the
market.

This was the beginning of the end.

* * *

The farmer felt himself begin to shake. He grabbed his hand-rolled cigarettes
and took a puff. He opened his car door, got in, and slammed it shut. He took
a deep inhalation, and exhaled the smoke. He smoked until he had a full lung.
Then took another pull at his cigarette. He lit it up, and the smoke billowed
up all around him. He tossed the butt out the window and drove off.

The farmer began to search his car. He saw the small black knife handle
lying on the dashboard. “There’s no way I’m touching that thing,” he muttered.

He was out of cigarettes. He drove down the street, the smoke billowing out of
the car, and he parked.

The farmer walked up and down the streets of town, searching. He found no one
with a weapon of any kind. He saw two men running in the distance.

He felt a pang of fear. “Is it over, then?”

He walked toward one of the men, his hands at his sides, his eyes locked with
the man’s.

The man stopped and looked up.

“Hey,” laughed the man.

“You!” shouted the other man, but there was no joy to it.

“Where’s the knife?” shouted the farmer.

“You know me. Look, I’ve been a good man. I’m here to help.”

“You’ve been a good man, but I didn’t stab you.”

“Hey, you did. Hey! Do you know that?”

“I know my rights. You assaulted a human being when I was coming to you in
the market, and now you’re here, bleeding me to death.”

“Look, I’ve done nothing wrong.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong just because you didn’t stab me.”

“I’m an American citizen.”

“You know the rules, man. Are you going to let me in?”

The man pulled the knife from his wallet.

“I know you want the knife, but I ain’t playing. Let me in! Let me help!”

“Okay, okay. I’ll tell you.”

“Just relax. I’ll tell you. Don’t shoot. Don’t shoot me!”

He put the knife on the ground, and the man picked it up.

“You know who I am?”

He nodded

“I’ve been looking for you for three years. I’ve been to everyone in town.”

“I’ve never stolen anything in my life.”

“You stole a woman’s heart last night.”

He shook his head.

“We’re not going to have a discussion about your personal life, son. It’s time
to pay the piper. It’s time to pay the piper.”

The man walked over to the farmer and leaned down.

The farmer pushed the knife into the dirt.

“You’re about to die. You’re about to kill someone.”

“I’ll fight to the death.”

“No.”

“This is the first time a man has died. You’re not going to kill me.”

The man looked at the farmer, tears in his eyes.

“You can’t save yourself. I can’t. I’m only one man, and you’ve killed too many
men for me to save you.”

“I can save you, or I can die.”

“I’ll go to Hell. You’ll see.”

“I don’t care.” He picked up his knife from the ground.

The farmer walked over and put his hand on the man’s shoulder. The man shook
it off.

“You’ll be fine,” said the farmer.

“You’re probably right, but I don’t want to die. I’m going to protect you.”

“I don’t want to hear that. I want to hear about you. I want to learn all about
you.”

“You’ve been gone all three years?”

“I just got here, man. I’ve never even been on a airplane.”

“You’re a good man. I can tell. I’ve learned a lot about you. You probably have
a good job working in agriculture or someplace.”

“I have a good job working in agriculture, but that’s over. I’m tired of seeing
the bad people. I’m done. I’m out of that.”

“I bet.”

“Why did you kill that man?”

“I never killed anybody in my life.”

“What do you think is going to happen to me?”

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