Must be nice
It had started with a simple question. What did amnesty mean? Kid Curry had wanted to know.
Never mind that he knew what big words, robbery-words, like remuneration meant, he didn’t know a word like amnesty.
So Heyes explained it to him. He told Kid what it meant, and forgot about it.
But Kid didn’t forget about it.
“Sure would be nice not to be wanted, Heyes,” said Kid, while they were riding hard to get away from a posse.
“Sure would,” agreed Heyes, the first time.
The second time, Kid was shaking out his bedroll. He kicked a few rocks aside to make a smoother place to put it down. “Think of all those regular folks who don’t have a bounty on their heads. Must sleep real good at night.”
“Probably do,” agreed Heyes, “but then again, maybe they don’t. They don’t get nearly as much fresh air as we do.” He tried to cover a jaw-cracking yawn.
He thought that would be the end of it.
But it wasn’t. Kid started up again over a campfire the next day. He drained the last of his mud-like coffee. “Must be nice, be able to put down roots, have somewhere to stay.” Kid glanced at Heyes.
“Yep,” agreed Heyes, easy-going and dense, smiling blandly, not giving in an inch.
Now Kid looked at his face, with a question in his expression that he seemed too shy to say aloud.
Heyes drained his coffee as well. “Ah, Kid, it ain’t for the likes of us.”
Kid’s jaw tightened—that stubborn look—and he shifted away so he was staring out at the desert, not meeting Heyes eyes. “Must be nice,” he repeated, quieter than ever, wistful-sounding.
It would be nice. But Heyes knew better. He knew not to get their hopes up, when the rotten old world wouldn’t give you anything, just take, so you had to take as well.
They’d learned that lesson early, hadn’t they? Now Kid wanted another path? Wanted them to stick their necks out, probably get shot up taking that risk, laughed out of town just for asking.
Heyes stood up, sighed, stretched, and kicked dirt into the fire. He felt like he was kicking dirt into Kid’s dreams, too. But somebody had to take things seriously, and not go around believing in pipe dreams.
Kid had a faraway look in his eyes all afternoon, and all evening, and the next day, and the next.
At last, Heyes had enough. Sitting at their camp site, eating a cold supper because they didn’t dare light a fire tonight, he took off his hat and thumped it down on his knee. “Kid, if we talk to Lom about it, and he says it won’t work for us, will you let it go?”
Kid looked up, startled for an instant, and then his smooth, young-looking face relaxed into a smile. “Yeah, I guess we can trust Lom.”
“Sure can, Kid.” Heyes found he was smiling, too. The plan must’ve occurred to him in his sleep; he’d never consciously set out to think up something to get Kid’s mind off this amnesty thing.
Now—through Lom—he was calling Kid’s bluff. The two of them couldn’t get out of this life. It was too late.
But if it weren’t—
Well, it just was, that was all.
For a second, his mind dwelled there, on that impossibility. He pulled himself sharply back from that going-soft place. There was none of that kind of hope for them, none at all. They couldn’t have normal lives. It was just too late, and Kid needed to accept that.
“Don’t get your hopes up, Kid,” he counseled.
“I ain’t,” said Kid Curry.
But he had a cheerful light in his eyes, like he was feeling hopeful.
And the next day, they rode out with purpose to find Lom.
After all, it couldn’t hurt to ask. And it sure would be nice....