(Part 4 of Hidden in this Picture)
A trudge and a trudge as he walks along fallen flakes in the wood - boots up to his knees, pack on back - but he walks with confidence. The sound of the warden's voice still stung in his ears but he pushed on through the snow. An old con job got him his clothes, cash in hand at the grocers, then next door for supplies. "Could you tell me how to reach the state line?" He looked up as he slipped on his boots. "Which way you going? North or south?" South held more sirens and sniffing hounds so he headed up to the border cross - ten miles of snow and forest. "Men like you try it everyday." Salted pork from the grocer and a scarf from the supply shop. The snow didn't flake, only landed as dust on his head and pounded his ears while the wind tunneled up and of the coming trees. This was the end of the clearing but the trees were the path out.
The cold ached in his bones. He wished he had a hat instead of a fist full of green that he scattered at the foot of the forest trees. The money was supposed to get him somewhere warm but now it wasn't worth it. He thought of getting out, walking through deserted streets of town - a bank, a bakery, and finally some lodge to stop into for a drink. Empty of all but an untouched barmaid, just taller than he with soft shoulders, first harsh against his advances, then warmed by his weary story. He thought of the covers of periodicals at the grocers and the women he loved more than anybody and imagined all the stood between them - miles, money, producers and agents, family and the law. He pushed branch against branch, snapping the small in his swollen hands and fought the cold by trying to breathe only warmth by catching the breath that came before it.
He came to the edge of the wood, frosted tear in the corner of each eye, waiting. He could see the town - shop after shop, snow covered street and snowmen stacked around each other. Smoke poured out of a saloon on the closest corner to him. Snow started to fall light on his back as he crouched along the last living shrubs and dumped charred firewood before the clearing. His tongue felt cold against his teeth and he wondered what bar food tasted like. Was it too far back to fish for the singles he had thrown on the forest floor? The snow would have likely salted over them by now. His eyes felt too dry to see them anyways. First, the saloon, then if no one was waiting for him, the deli next door. He twisted against the earth. Sounds of hooves and swears filled the trees silence. He knew the warden and his fleet sat right behind and he could almost feel the cold barrel of the gun against his neck. He stood, stepped out to the street and spilt his blood out onto the ice. It felt warm on his face and his fingers as strangers peeked out of buildings and the gallops grew louder and he was unable to breathe in the warmth from his gasps.