Liz came into the living room from the hall, holding a framed photo of Jack from his rodeo days. "Forgot this one," she said.
Ennis was standing by the sideboard with a stack of photos that pictured Jack, slowly picking each one up and looking at it before putting it in an empty drawer. The look on his face was heartbreaking. He took the photo from Liz and smiled as he examined it, then sighed as he put it with the others. "I fuckin hate this, Lizzie," he said quietly.
"I know," she said, putting a hand on his arm. "It's only for a few days."
Ennis held up the photo of the two of them with one of the workhorses, out by the stable. "I'm gonna leave this one up. Ain't too suspicious fer a man ta have a picture with a buddy, is it?" he said, meeting Liz's eyes.
"No, of course not."
Ennis smiled and nodded, then set the picture on the sideboard. "I think that's everything, then."
"What about…" Liz hesitated, despising the fact that she even had to bring it up. "What about Bobby's jersey?"
Ennis shook his head, a quick and decisive denial that told her he'd already thought of that. "No, I ain't takin that down. No way. If he asks about it…I'll jus make somethin up."
"I could say it's my brother or something," Liz offered.
"Maybe. He'll be staying down the other hall so I guess he might not even see it. No call ta go down that way."
"This is hard for you, I know," Liz said.
"Yeah. Feel like I'm s'posed ta erase Jack from my life." He snorted. "Tried ta do that before and it didn't take, no reason it ought ta do so now. At least the most important thing can stay up."
He grinned and nodded past her head to the fireplace, and the photograph of Brokeback hanging over it. "That, a course. Ain't nothin suspicious about a nice picture a some mountain, is there?"
"Sure isn't," Liz said, smiling back at him.
There was a knock at the door; both of them turned to see Lars standing on the porch peering through the window. Ennis raised a hand and waved him in. "Well hey, Lars," he said as the man entered. "Ain't seen you in a coupla days."
"Yeah, I been kinda busy over at Rod's place. Had a buncha stuff broken and no time to fix it what with the calving and the twins teething and all." He walked up, smiling broadly. "How are you all getting along?"
"Well, we got a matter a some import goin down today. My brother's comin ta visit."
"Huh. I didn't know you had one."
"I ain't seen him or talked ta him in near twenty years. Called me up outta the blue."
Lars was watching Ennis's hands, his brow furrowing. "And…what do you think you're doing, there? What are those, pictures of Jack?" He lifted his head and stared at Ennis. "You're not…oh, damn, Ennis. I thought better of you than this."
"It's jus temporary, Lars. I wanted ta tell him straight out but Jack thought it'd be best if I waited a coupla days. Let him get ta know me a bit before I hit em with the news that his kid brother lives with a man."
"This was Jack's idea?" Lars said, looking dubious. "That's pretty hard to believe."
Ennis cocked an eyebrow. "Well now, Lars, it's nice ta hear yer such an expert on Jack seein as y'ain't never even met him. And yeah, it was his idea, and I was kinda surprised myself, but there's some sense to it."
"Really? I don't see how there's any sense to covering up your relationship and denying it to your own brother! If he's going to accept it he'll do so today or three days from now, and if he's not going to accept it then having spent time with him will just make it harder when he finds out!"
Ennis was clenching his jaw now. Liz watched him for the telltale signs that he was losing his temper. If that vein in the middle of his forehead started throbbing she'd advise Lars to beat a strategic withdrawal. "I ain't sayin yer necessarily wrong about that," he said. "But Jack thinks, and I tend t'agree with him, that Ken might be more inclined ta listen ta me and be a little open-minded if he's gotten ta know me and seen the life I live."
"The life you live with another man."
"I know that, Lars! And ya know what, I don't believe it's any a yer business anyhow!"
Lars hung his head and seemed chastised. "I know it isn't. I'm just…I admit I've gotten a tad attached to you and yours, Ennis. I hate to see those pictures going in a drawer."
"I hate it too," Ennis said, a little more calmly. "But this is how I'm handlin things and I'd appreciate it if ya played along. If ya cain't do that, then I'd ask ya ta kindly keep yer distance."
"Might jus do that," Lars said. "Don't know if I could sit by and listen to you spin tales about some wife you don't have."
"I don't plan ta spin no tales. My brother knows that my…spouse…is in Wyoming tending to a sick mamma and that's all I'm gonna say. Plan ta not talk about it as much as possible."
"You'll find that hard to do, I think. You let me know when you've told your brother the truth, because I'll surely look forward to meeting him."
"I'll do that."
Lars glanced from Ennis to Liz and back again, touched the brim of his hat and left. Ennis sighed. "I'm sorry, Ennis," Liz said. "You're right, it isn't any of his business."
"It's okay. He ain't sayin nothin worse'n I'm sayin ta myself."
Marianne came out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on a towel. "What time is your brother expected, Ennis?" she asked.
Ennis looked at his watch. "Oh, uh…I guess…around one?"
"Well, there's a pot of soup on the stove, and I baked you some bread. There's a lasagna for supper and a cheesecake on the porch."
"Damn," Ennis said. "You didn't hafta do all that."
Marianne just blinked, like Ennis's statement didn't compute. "We want to make a good impression, don't we? I'm sorry I can't stay to meet him, Kenny and I are taking the girls skating."
"You run along. I really appreciate ya comin down on a Saturday."
"You know I don't mind."
"I appreciate it anyways."
Marianne put on her coat and patted Ennis's arm as she passed. "Try and be yourself," she said.
Ennis sniffed. "I hardly know what that is without Jack around ta tell me when I'm gettin it wrong."
Jack sat on the floor, slumped against the bed in his hotel room, listening to the phone ring somewhere in Georgia. After five rings it was finally picked up. "Hello?" She sounded out of breath.
"Oh, Jack! Well, I'll be. I was jus thinkin a you earlier."
"You hafta run fer the phone or somethin?"
"Jus walked in the door with some groceries." He heard a rustle as she set down whatever she was carrying. "How're things goin out there in Gillette?"
Jack frowned. "How'd you know I was out here?"
"Oh, Junior filled me in."
"I called the ranch ta wish you a happy new year and she answered. Filled me in on what's goin on. Had a bit of a chat, actually. She's a real nice young lady."
"Yeah, she sure is. Don't know where she comes by it."
Lureen chuckled. "Good thing Ennis cain't hear ya say that."
"Ennis is many things I like, but charmin ain't exactly one of em."
"So how are things goin?"
"All right, I guess. Looks like my dad's gonna start working fer the Wyomin Bureau a Land Management. I gotta find a renter fer the ranch, and someplace fer him and Ma ta live."
"That's quite a to-do list ya got there."
"You ain't kiddin. Hard part's over, though. I still dunno how we managed ta actually get Dad t'agree ta move off the ranch. Had more ta do with Ennis than me, I reckon."
"Yeah, he come out ta see me last week. Damn near saved my life. I was at the end a my rope and I don't mind admittin it."
"That was nice a him."
"Nice ain't the word. Anyhow, Dad seems ta listen ta him more'n me. Ennis got a way a intimidatin even the bulliest a bullies. Before we knew it Dad was amenable ta talking about a new job and movin ta town so's Ma could be more comfortable."
"Is Ennis still out there with ya?"
"I wish. Naw, he hadta head back home few days ago. He's got plenty ta deal with on the ranch. New calves, and we've had some trouble in town a late, and now his brother, who he ain't seen in twenty years, is comin ta visit him."
"Know? Naw, he don't. Ennis wanted ta tell him right off but I told him ta hold off a few days. Give him and his brother a little time ta get reacquainted before he hits him with that."
"Maybe that's wise."
"I hope so." Jack cleared his throat. "So…how're things with you?"
"Jack, you wanna talk about why yer really callin?"
"Why'm I really callin?"
"I had a hard time over the holidays, too. First time…without him."
Jack sighed. "Yeah. Was real tough."
"And I bet now yer mamma's wantin ta hear about him."
"All the time."
"This might sound weird, but at Christmas…I kinda wished you was here. Ain't nobody else understands what it feels like." Her voice was trembling.
Jack nodded. "I know what ya mean. I talk ta Ennis about it. He can imagine…he's got his girls, after all…but there's only so much he can understand. I almost called you a coupla times."
"Would that have made Ennis mad? I can see how it might, considerin what happened."
"No, he wouldn'ta minded, I don't think. Somethin held me back. Dunno what. But bein here…havin ta take care a my parents is doin somethin ta me. It's like, even when I didn't see em, I still had this feelin that they were the ones who took care a me, even if it weren't always the best care. Now I'm the one takin care, and it's turnin things topsy turvy in my head. Like I ain't got no parents no more, and I'm the parent, and that jus makes me think a Bobby more'n more, and how I coulda done better with him, and maybe…"
"We both coulda done better," Lureen said, quietly. "But it ain't no good thinkin like that now. It's too late."
The words struck through Jack's heart like a knife, and it came on him too suddenly for him to fight it back. He burst into tears, clutching the phone headset to his ear with white-knuckled fingers, hearing Lureen sniffling on the other end. "I miss him so fuckin much," he stammered.
"Me too," Lureen said, blowing her nose loudly.
"It never goes away," Jack said, wrestling back control of himself. "I can put on a face and go on about my life but it's always there, kinda hoverin over me, and I cain't make nobody else understand, but I know you do."
"I surely do, Jack. I tried movin hundreds a miles away ta get away from it but it came with me, turns out." She let out a shaky sigh. "At least you got somebody."
Jack played with the phone cord, feeling awkward all at once. "I hate ta think a you going through this all on yer own. I dunno what I woulda done without Ennis."
"I'm okay. I made some friends here, and my cousin's been real supportive."
"You openin that shop?"
"Not yet. I'm makin plans, though."
"Ya know yer welcome ta come up ta the ranch if ya need a break, or a change a scenery. Be nice ta see you," Jack said, meaning it.
"Oh, I dunno how that'd go over," she said with a nervous chuckle.
"You let me worry about that."
"Well. We'll see," she said, in a tone that said 'not in a million years.'
"You take care."
"You too, Jack. Nice ta hear yer voice."
"Bye now." Jack hung up, then stared at the silent phone for a moment. Go ahead and call him. He won't mind. Might even be glad ta hear from ya.
But his brother's arrivin any second and he's probly tearin out his hair. He don't need ta hand-hold me through another bout a missin Bobby on top a everythin else.
You'd do it fer him, wouldn't ya? Why shouldn't he do it fer you? That's what bein coupled up is all about, ain't it?
It's also about considerin yer partner and fendin fer yerself sometimes when he's got enough on his plate fer more'n two people. Besides, he's feelin bad that he ain't tellin his brother about us right off and hearin my voice right now might jus make him feel worse. I oughta leave him alone till he calls me tonight.
Yer feelin low n sad. Wouldn't ya want him ta call you if he was feelin low n sad? Wouldn't ya want him ta feel like he could, no matter what else you was dealin with?
I ain't sayin he'd be mad, or wouldn't want me ta call. I'm sayin I don't wanna burden him none just today. If it was yesterday or tomorrow, okay. Not today. I can wait. I'll jus go out and talk ta some more realtors and write some more ads and call some more farm supply stores and occupy myself. I'll go'n see my mother and she'll get me talkin about somethin nice and before I know it it'll be evenin and I'll be back here and my man'll be callin me ta tell me how the day went and what his brother's like and maybe then I'll tell him bout how I'm hearin my son's voice on the fuckin wind and how I wish he was here ta hold me and chase them monsters away like only he can do. Or maybe I won't, cause I'm a goddamned grown man and sometimes a man's gotta lean on somebody and sometimes he's gotta prop up his own damned self.
Jack sighed, got to his feet, put on his coat and went out to face the world again, not sure if he felt better or worse.
Ennis couldn't sit still. He and Lizzie and Junior had eaten lunch in near silence, despite Junior's attempts to draw him out by asking him questions about K.E., very few of which he knew the answers to. Now that his brother was due to arrive any minute, he felt jittery and nervous. Liz was in the office working, Junior was curled up on the couch with a book; neither of them seemed particularly anxious. He, on the other hand, couldn't remember feeling this jumpy since the day he'd paced that little apartment above the laundromat, waiting to see Jack again after four years.
"Daddy, will you please relax?" Junior finally said. "You're making me nervous with all your wandering around."
"I cain't sit still."
"I can see that. Why don't we play cards or something? Checkers, maybe? Take your mind off waiting?"
Ennis opened his mouth to respond but before he could get a word out, a movement caught his eyes. There was an unfamiliar truck coming down the driveway, slowly. "Oh Lord, he's here," Ennis muttered.
Junior jumped up and came to his side, grasping his arm. "Now Daddy, it's gonna be just fine, you'll see. Uncle Ken wanted to see you. I'm sure he didn't come here to get up in your face or condemn you for anything."
"That might change once he finds out what there is ta condemn me for."
"It's like Jack said, let's not go looking for trouble, right?"
"And it's like I been sayin. We don't look, but it keeps findin us." The truck pulled up to the house and stopped in the circular drive. Ennis went to the window; he couldn't see much of his brother but a vague shape through the sun's glare on the truck's windshield.
Liz came into the living room, having seen the truck through the office window. "Here we go," she said. "Ennis, would you rather I stayed in the office so you and Junior can meet him?"
"No!" he exclaimed. "No, Lizzie…you stay here. I need all the help I can get."
Outside, Ennis watched as a tall, strongly-built man got out of the truck, peering up at the house through the familiar squint of someone who'd worked a long time in the outdoors. He didn't look much different than Ennis remembered him; namely, a slightly taller, slightly thicker-chested version of himself. He still had his hair, as Ennis did, although it was at least half gray.
Ennis jerked himself into action as Ken climbed the porch stairs. He opened the front door and met his older brother's eyes for the first time in twenty years.
Ken hesitated, then stepped onto the porch. He stood staring for a moment, plain amazement on his weatherbeaten features. "Ennis?" he said, although surely he knew that it could be no one else.
Ennis managed a half-smile. "Hey there, Ken."
Ken nodded and stepped forward, hand extended. Ennis shook it and Ken grasped Ennis's hand in both of his own, pumping it vigorously. "Well, I'll be goddamned. Yer really standing here in front a me."
"I surely am," Ennis said, his smile broadening a little in response to his brother's greeting. "Welcome. Come on in now, it's colder'n penguin shit out here." He stood aside to let his brother enter. Ken looked around at the house.
"Sure is a nice place ya got here," he said.
"Uh…where're yer things?" Ennis asked, looking around. Ken wasn't carrying anything.
"Aw hell…they're in the truck."
"Well, we best bring em on in, then," Ennis said, grateful for a task. He hurried out the door coatless, Ken right behind him. Ken opened up the truck's passenger door and hauled out a suitcase and a knapsack. Ennis took the suitcase and they went back to the house. "Lemme show ya where yer gonna sleep," Ennis said.
"Mighty nice a you ta let me stay. I'da been fine in a hotel."
"Hush now. Yer family," Ennis muttered, hoping he wouldn't be asked to elaborate further. He led Ken down the hall past his and Jack's bedroom. He shot a regretful glance at the closed door and continued on to the guest room where Junior had always slept. "Here ya go." He set down the suitcase. Ken set his knapsack on a chair and looked around at the bed, the bureau, the slightly frayed easy chair in the corner.
"Real homey," he said.
"My daughter always used this room."
Ken turned to him, looking alarmed. "I ain't turnin her outta her room, am I?"
"No, no," Ennis said, quickly. "When she moved out here ta stay we built a little bungalow out back so she could have her own place."
Ken blinked, and Ennis regretted having brought it up. He could see the monetary calculations going on behind his brother's eyes. He and Jack weren't millionaires but they were well off, and the last thing he wanted was to seem like he was lording it over anybody or putting on airs. "It's nice you could do that fer her," Ken said, his tone neutral.
"I'da done more. Means a lot ta me ta have her here."
"How long's she been?"
"Bout six months now." Ennis led him back to the hall. "But I guess you'd like ta meet her, huh?" They came back into the living room where Junior and Liz were waiting patiently. "Junior, this here's yer uncle Ken. This is my daughter, Alma Junior."
She came forward, smiling. "Nice to meet you, Mr. Del Mar," she said.
Ken made a face, grasping her hands. "None a that, now. You call me Ken, or Uncle Ken if ya like, okay?"
"Okay," she said, grinning.
Ennis motioned to Liz. "And this here's our friend Liz Baskerville, she manages the ranch office fer us and she lives here too, down in the bungalow with Junior."
"Nice ta meet you, ma'am," Ken said, shaking Liz's hand.
"Please, call me Liz. It's a pleasure to have you here."
The introductions over, Ennis had no idea what came next. He stood there silent, an uncomfortable smile pasted on his face, and might have done so for hours but Junior came to his rescue. "Daddy, why don't we go get some coffee or something? Marianne left us a cheesecake."
"Good idea," Ennis said, pouncing on it. "C'mon, then." They all trooped into the kitchen, Ken looking around with a slightly amazed look on his face, and took seats at the kitchen table. Ennis got out some mugs for the coffee while Liz fetched the cheesecake from the chilly porch.
"Who's Marianne, then?" Ken asked, watching Liz cut the cake. "That yer wife, Ennis?"
"Oh no," Ennis said, glad to have a clear answer. "She's our housekeeper." Liz shot him an alarmed glance, but he didn't see the problem. That was a safe truth, wasn't it?
Ken chuckled, a puzzled frown on his face. "Ya got a housekeeper? What for? Yer wife ain't the lazy type, is she?"
Ennis's stomach dropped down to his knees. He wanted to look to Liz for help but it surely wouldn't be fitting for her or Junior to answer a question about Ennis's own nonexistent wife. He'd have to come up with something himself. "Uh…no, a course she ain't," he said, coughing. "Fact is she's real…active. Helps on the ranch a lot, spends most a her days out on the land with me. Marianne minds the house and cooks fer us." He tried to put on a rueful chuckle, hoping it sounded like this was something of a joke between them. "Better fer everybody, anyhow…she cain't cook fer shit." That, at least, was the truth.
"Huh," Ken said, accepting a cup of coffee. "I guess I'm jus old-fashioned. Seems ta me a wife's job is in the house."
Ennis sat down and handed around the cheesecake. "Yep, I guess you are old-fashioned." He chucked Ken awkwardly on the arm, trying to keep things light.
"So, what is yer wife's name, anyhow?"
Ennis had thought about this and decided what he'd say already. "Jackie," he said. Junior choked a little on her coffee and coughed a few times, waving away Liz's hand on her back.
"That's a nice name," Ken said. "Like that Mrs. Kennedy. She was a real purty lady, real classy."
For God's sake, change the subject.He didn't have another one handy, was the problem. He and Ken had many things they could discuss, but surely none that could be brought up here, on their first half hour's reacquaintance, with Junior and Liz here. Now was the time for small talk. For what he imagined would be the first of several thousand times, he wished for Jack to help him through this.
Thankfully, Liz was ready to fill Jack's conversational shoes. "So, Ken. What do you think of the ranch?"
Ken shook his head. "I gotta say, I cain't hardly believe it. Nobody in our family amounted ta shit, Ennis, and here ya are master a this place. How many acres is it?"
"Home ranch is 2000 acres," Ennis said. "I know that don't sound like much by Wyomin standards, but we're in Vermont."
"Sounds like a lot ta me, considerin I ain't never had so much's one." Ennis met Ken's eyes, the same brown eyes he saw in the mirror every day, the same ones he remembered from when he was a kid, but now something was different. Ken was looking at him like he was man, Ennis realized, and not just his burdensome kid brother.
Will he still think I'm a man when he finds out the truth?
"Sounds like yer doin all right now," Ennis said.
"Yeah, okay. But nothin like yer success. Damn, how'd you come by all this?"
Ennis had thought about this ahead of time, too, and decided upon a slightly massaged version of the truth. "Well…Jackie was married before, like me. Her first husband was real rich and his family didn't like her at all. When they split up she got a bunch a money in the divorce, on the condition that she don't never come back."
Ken blinked. "Damn. That's cold."
"Was just as well. Anyhow, we moved out here and used the money ta start up this place. Got real lucky, met the right buyers, got inta the right markets. Jackie's got a real eye fer cattle breedin. It's her doin that we're even in the black." Ennis had to stop the and take a sip of coffee so he wouldn't choke to death on all those wrong pronouns. I'm so sorry, Jack. I don't wanna do this. I don't wanna unmake you like yer a story wrote on a chalkboard that I can go back n change what I don't like or even erase entire like it never was.
"She have any kids before?" Ken asked. Ennis sighed inwardly. He sure was curious about "Jackie." A course he is, he's tryin ta make small talk and show interest in something he thinks you wouldn't mind talkin about, and it's natural ta think that you might like talking about yer wife, he don't know that it's the subject you most want t'avoid. So play the fuck along and act casual.
"No, she didn't," Ennis said, saying another silent apology to Jack for erasing something else about him. He just didn't think it was necessary to either invent kids for his invented wife or tell the truth about Bobby.
"Well, that's a blessin. Splittin up's hardest on the kids. I guess I got kinda lucky there…we split up when the kids was damn near grown, so they was able t'understand some how it was." Ken stopped talking suddenly, colored and glanced at Junior, seeming to realize that he was talking indirectly about Ennis's own divorce in the presence of the daughter who'd lived through it.
"It's okay," Junior said with a smile. "I'm over it."
"So, yer dad says yer goin ta school?" Ken said.
"Sure am," Junior said. "I'm learning business and such so I can help run the ranch."
"That what you want? Purty girl like you, could be a model or an actress or somethin." Junior laughed, blushing, and Ennis gladly let the conversation slide away from the land-mine-filled topics of house and home and marriage. He glanced down at his wedding ring, twirling it on his finger. This ain't right. The deeper I dig it, the harder it's gonna be ta climb outta the hole. The more tales I spin, the more he's gonna feel deceived. I thought I could just avoid talkin about it but there ain't no way.
But this was the plan they'd agreed on, and he wasn't going to just start veering off at the first sign of discomfort. He'd talk to Jack about it first.
The afternoon and evening passed uneventfully. Ennis came up with excuses about why they shouldn't go into town; the truth was he was terrified of running into some of their friends and having one of them inadvertently spill the beans. He showed Ken the house, then they bundled up and took horses out so he could see the land. Ken showed Ennis some pictures of his kids he'd brought along, and Ennis showed Ken some photo albums that Liz, in her foresight, had doctored so they were only of Junior and Francie and neutral pictures of the ranch's humble beginnings.
As the evening wore on, Ennis found himself relaxing. Ken hadn't asked any more questions about Jackie, and he seemed to have mellowed with age. As a young man, K.E. Del Mar had been hotheaded, opinionated and impatient; quick to anger and fast with his fists. He was still opinionated, but the anger and impatience seemed to have been wrung out of him by life. Ennis wondered if the drinking problems he'd alluded to had anything to do with that.
They sat on the porch with the firepit going, toasty under the branches and some blankets, while Ken smoked a cigar. "I looked around," he said out of a surprisingly comfortable silence, "but I cain't seem ta find one single picture a yer wife."
Ennis tried not to read suspicion into the statement. "Well…she's a bit shy a the camera."
"Oh yeah? She a big girl, is she?"
"No. Jus…camera shy." He suddenly thought of a better explanation. "Besides, she's usually the one takin the pictures."
Ken chuckled. "Yeah, that's why I ain't in none a the family photos neither." He fell silent for a moment. "How long she been gone?"
"Since just after Christmas."
Ken grunted. "Hard havin yer woman away. I never knew what ta do with myself when Barbara'd go visit her sister in Denver."
Ennis nodded. "Yeah."
He snorted. "Well, leastways ya still got a damned housekeeper ta look after ya. I swear, next you'll be havin a butler and somebody ta wipe yer ass for ya!" He cackled laughter. "Never thought I'd have no rich man in the family."
"I ain't rich," Ennis said quickly. That little voice warning him of relatives showing up out of the blue with their hand out put its arm up and asked to speak, but he shushed it fast.
"You say so, but compared ta 99% a the folks I know, includin me, you sure are."
Ennis sighed. "Ya got somethin ta say, go ahead."
"I ain't got nothin ta say. It's a helluva place ya got here, and it sounds like ya worked hard ta make it inta somethin. If it were me I wouldn't be easy knowin it got started on my wife's get-lost money, is all I'm sayin."
Ennis turned his head to watch Ken's profile outlined in the firelight. Funny how he was able to put his finger on the very thing that still bothered Ennis about their success. "We paid all that money back," he said, voicing his own reassurance to himself on this subject. "Not that it's any a yer call ta ask about such things."
"No, a course not. Yer money ain't none a my affair." He turned and met Ennis's eyes. "And I know yer wonderin, but I ain't lookin fer no handout or no charity. I'm doin okay, I don't need no help from the kid who I hadta teach ta jerk off."
Ennis shook his head. "I ain't offerin you no charity."
"Good. All I'm lookin fer is…" He hesitated, then settled a little deeper into his chair. "I dunno what the fuck I'm lookin fer, tell ya the truth."
"Well," Ennis said slowly, "ya split up with yer wife, yer kids grown and gone…maybe yer jus lookin fer some family."
Ken considered this, puffing on his cigar, then nodded. "Reckon yer right, little brother." He stubbed out the cigar and tossed the butt into the fire. "Well…guess I oughta turn in. I was up early this morning, and I'll bet you gotta be up with the sun tomorrow."
"Ranch work never ends." They rose and headed into the house.
"Hey, uh…if ya could use a hand…I'd be glad," Ken said, sounding hesitant.
Ennis stopped and looked at him. "Really? Don't ya wanna sleep and relax? Yer on vacation, ain'tcha?"
Ken flapped a hand. "Wouldn't know how ta relax if ya told me to with a gun ta my head. You get me up when yer getting up and we'll head out together. Like old times, huh?"
"Yeah. Old times."
"You headin ta sleep, then?"
"Well…I'll be callin Jackie first."
"Ya call her before bed?"
Ken nodded, looking a little bit wistful. "Guess ya must miss her, then?"
Ennis sighed. "Awful bad, yeah."
Ken clapped him on the shoulder. "It's a lucky man who blesses his wife's presence and curses her absence, instead a the other way around."
"Guess I'm lucky, then."
"Guess so." Ken glanced at him one more time. "Night, then."
"Night." Ennis opened the door to his bedroom but turned back when Ken said his name from his own bedroom doorway. "What?"
Ken hesitated. "It's damn good ta see you."
Ennis nodded. "Yeah, you too." Ken disappeared into his room and shut the door. Ennis stood there for a moment and considered whether he'd meant that, and was glad to find that he did.