Hosea felt a stinging numbness as he laid bleeding on the cobblestone path. His vision was blurry and was grateful for that. He could not bear to witness the heartbroken expressions of his sons. Arthur and John were strong, but they weren’t heartless. He worried for them. He taught them everything they needed to know but he didn’t want to be ripped away from them.
They’ve come so far since he’s found them both. Like drenched starving rats he and Dutch had taken pity on and adopted into their strange little family.
Arthur had been so quiet, not much had change, but Hosea had noticed a surge in confidence with enough praise and guidance. He’s such a talented artist. He remembered how scared he was when he caught him scribbling on the back of bounty poster. He had flinched and it broke Hosea’s heart. Wanted to shoot the person responsible right between the eyes for making his boy feel ashamed for doing something he loved.
He harnessed that talented. The next day, Hosea went into the nearest town with Dutch and Arthur in tow on a supply run and let Arthur pick out an empty leather-bound book along with 2 pencils. The look on Arthur’s face, his smile with a few teeth missing made him swell with pride.
“T-Thank you, Hosea!”
He said and looked at him as if he hung the moon and stars in the sky. There was so much gratitude from a few sheets of paper. Hosea had promised himself that he would try his damndest to protect Arthur from the cruelty of the outside world. He would give Arthur the necessary tools to survive.
He looked back fondly on warm breezy mornings where Hosea would teach Arthur how to read. They would sound out the letters together and count each syllable. It started with the bounty posters, signs in the general store and then progressively moved to thin dime novels. Before he knew it, Arthur was reading with so much confidence and Hosea challenged him to write some things of his own.
“I can do that?” he asked him, his voice sounding so small and uncertain.
“I don’t see why not . ” He shrugged
Arthur gave him a pensive look as he looked down at the blank sheet of paper. Then back at Hosea saying he needed some privacy. Hosea chuckled and ruffled his hair before leaving to go giving Arthur his requested space.
Hosea wanted to remember that toothy smile, full of joy and gratitude. He didn’t want to see his boy’s face twisted in agony and rage. He didn’t want his last moments on Earth to be worrying about Arthur’s heartache. Or Dutch’s for that matter.
Oh, Dutch. Loving someone and following them blindly had never been so easy. Those eyes. He’s stared at them for so long throughout his life, enamored by the way they looked at him. There was always a fire lit behind them. A fire that was so captivating he could swallow it whole but has to be careful to not be engulfed by the flames. Trusting Dutch so much, believing in his grand plans, his honeyed promises of living a quiet life in Tahiti, where they could be free to love as they do, that was his downfall.
‘How very Icarus and the Sun.’ he mentally told himself. He could have laughed at how ironic it was. To know exactly how his life would pan out, and still having the courage of moving forward with it with the knowledge that this is how it would end.
He held a profound admiration for Dutch van der Linde. His grandiose speeches that filled anyone with an intense passion and hope. His voice that cracked through a crowd like a whip. He had loved the man so fiercely and unconditionally it burned.
Dutch was always one for painting beautiful stories of farming mangoes on a small island where they were safe and cared for. Where they would never want for anything. Hosea was too tired to resist his charm. The way he spoke to him in hushed whispers when they went on one of their ‘fishing trips’. They’d lay in an empty field curled up against each other as the sun set. Hosea took in the smell of mid-range cigars and pomade as Dutch told him stories of their future together.
Hosea was afraid. Afraid that Arthur and John would follow in his footsteps and cling onto Dutch’s every word and end up like him. Dead on the street and still believing in the fantasy Dutch had written for them. He’s read many stories like this before and they always end in tragedy.
He wished he could tell them to just pave their own lives. That ‘just one more job’ meant anything but, that Dutch’s mindset hadn’t been as stable as it had once been. Hosea was there to keep him tethered to reality, but well, that wasn’t an option anymore.
Despite all this, Hosea still loved Dutch more than breathing. The feeling of intoxication he’d get from just kissing the man. How he wished he didn’t need to breathe so they didn’t need to part for air.
His breath wheezed as he found it difficult to suck air in. His eyes felt heavy with the fatigue that had gathered his whole life. He could finally sleep. He hoped the afterlife would be as beautiful as the future Dutch had planned for them. A small plot of land, no law or rival gangs after them. John and his family wouldn’t live too far, and neither would Arthur. They’d live off the fat of the land, cook together and spend their nights reading and reminiscing about the old days. Off they’d sleep in the same bed pressed up against one another and falling asleep to the sound of each other’s breathing and the crickets outside.
He couldn’t wait.