I stood to the side of the door, listening to the goings-on in the room. A thief was stealing my supplies, I knew it. I loaded a round in my revolver and pulled back the hammer. I soon heard footsteps approaching the door. I leapt out and aimed my pistol, completely prepared to end this man's life, just as I had many others before. The sight I was confronted by caught me totally off-guard. I was not prepared to end a man's life in front of his child.
Standing before me were a man in old jeans and a t-shirt with a motorcycle on it and a young boy with camouflage pants and a grey sweater on. They were both filthy, covered with dust and grime and the man with a bit of blood, as if he'd been wounded. The boy reminded me of my son. The son they stole from me.
"What are you doing here?" I asked plainly.
"We needed some supplies and we saw the car out front, and figured there must be someone around," said the man. "we were looking for someone and we came across these supplies here. You seem to be pretty well of. Can't we just have -"
"No, you can not have the food," I said coolly. "I'm sorry, but look somewhere else. There are some wild vegetables out back. I'll pick a few and give them to you. Then you leave."
"Okay," said the man. "We don't want any trouble." Then, seemingly out of desperation, the man added, "Can you please do something about my leg? I'm walking on a piece of mattress padding and a stick running halfway up my leg right now. I was shot with a hunting rifle, right through the ankle."
"Sure," I said. "I can wrap it up and stop some of the bleeding and maybe I can get you walking unaided again. It won't be pleasant," i added quickly, before he got the wrong idea.
"What're you, a doctor?"
"It doesn't matter what I am anymore," I said bitterly. Then I softened a bit and added, "But if it interests you, I was once a medic in the army."
"Really," said the man, appearing to consider the piece of information.
"Yes," I said. "Really."
I walked around behind the house, pulled up a few potatoes and handed them to the man. I had wrapped his leg from the foot to just above his shin with toilet paper, several layers thick. It wasn't the ideal material, I told him, but it was the only thing I could really spare. I warned him that he would have to be careful not to get it torn; It wouldn't hold together on rough terrain or with extended running. "Thank you," he said. "You're very generous."
"You're welcome," I answered. "Just next time don't welcome yourself onto someone's property. There are less decent people out there."
"I know," he said. He patted the boy's head, putting his arm around his shoulders, and began to walk away. The boy was little, probably not much more than about six or seven. Maybe eight. He looked up at me with a twinkle in his eye, and I knew the reality of his situation had not yet even begun to sink in. If he survived the next six years, he might begin to comprehend it.
"Thanks," the boy said, still walking.
I walked back into the farmhouse and glared at the dog, who had been asleep on her small pillow bed the entire time. "Thanks," I said sarcastically. "Good to see you've got my back." She barked once and put her head back down. She must have been exhausted. I was exhausted.