ENNIS DEL MAR
Ennis Del Mar has a corral around him that he cannot cross over, cannot crawl under, and cannot pass through. There ain't no gate, and no way out. It's almost like a big rubberband. He can stretch the sides, pushing with all his might at times, but he cannot break through. And when he tires, it will snap him back, landing him on his ass, and there he would be, drunk or sober, but there he would be. Yeah, the pasture always looked greener, but was it really?
Jack could come into Ennis's corral at the drop of a hat, and leave just as quickly. But Ennis could not. He sort of envied Jack, his mobility, how things have changed for him. Wishing now don't make it no different now. He remembered him and Jack were sort of like a couple of stallions in Ennis's corral, the last time they were together, sort of fought, sort of wondered why, would it be any different?
And if the dog had not stopped to take a shit, he would have caught the rabbit. If only one or the other had known...well, Ennis knows, if he had known.
If what I know tomorrow I had known yesterday, I would have done something different today.
Ennis sometimes wished he could end his life. Almost did the other day, head-crazed thinking about Jack, head-on collision, but killing innocent folks just because you ain't happy is a hell of a way to go. Might leave a fourteen year old boy an orphan or something, and that bothered Ennis--no way to start living that way. But ninety and a tree could do the job.
Shit, well, Ennis has got a married daughter, and another one he suspects will be soon. They'll be needing help, and grandkids--but what the fuck will this old bastard do for them? And it wouldn't bring Jack back. Fuck.
He hadn't done right by Jack. But he's dead. He could have done better by Alma, and his kids. Somewhere along the line, he's gotta do it right.
Ennis's parents were killed in an auto accident when he was fourteen, and he never saw none of his grandparents, or other kin. Maybe an aunt and uncle had visited when he was four or five. Ennis knew you need family, or grow up alone and tough.
Ennis was now living with his daughter and her husband. It was an okay arrangement no one wanted to live with, and when Curt seemed a little growly, Alma Junior would say her husband has always been grouchy in the morning. Ennis knew better; one of these days Curt would punch him a good one, but Ennis wasn't sure if he would punch back, or not, or how hard.
Like last week. Ennis was having another bad dream, about Jack. Before dawn Ennis cried out "Why?" so loud that even the stars stopped shining for an instant.
A door opened and Alma Junior came to Ennis's door. She knocked, and her father pulled the covers over his nakedness, and whispered, "You want something?"
The door slowly opened and his daughter came in. She sat on the side of the bed, it was wet with sweat. Another nightmare, she asked, and Ennis guessed so. It was getting close to dawn and she retreated to the kitchen to start breakfast. Curt, well, as Alma Junior would say, he'll get over it.
Ennis knew he needed a place of his own. This wasn't going to work, no matter how much his daughter said it would.
Money came with work, and that was the problem; both hard to find and keep. He was cutting back on his drinking and smokes, but a man has got to live. An odd job here and there tided him over, and sometimes a little for his daughter--for the keep. But a tent would do Ennis just fine, at least until winter came.
It was time, Alma Junior decided, to corner her father, and get her father back on track. Curt had gone to work early in a stew and pissed; so he would not confront Ennis. Last night Ennis had another bad dream, as he called it, but most call a nightmare.
Breakfast, she called into his room, and he stirred, dressing and going to the kitchen. He sat while she poured coffee. No sense in offering food, he didn't eat much any more.
Daddy, she said, and yes darling, he replied. We are going to talk. About what? Jack! What do you know about Jack? Ennis began to rise from the chair, but Alma Junior grabbed the twelve inch butcher knife, and pressed it on his zipper. Ennis stopped, cold. He had just sharpened the knife the other day, and knew how sharp it was. And if it had been Alma Junior's mother holding that knife, he would be picking up the pieces off the floor right now.
He stood there, his butt just inches off the chair. He froze there, like taking a shit in the woods and the last turd taking its time to get out.
Junior, are you crazy? in a half-demanding tone.
Daddy, I love you, she answered and relaxed the knife from the zipper, and then on the table. Ennis reached for his cigarettes, and knowing the rules, smoke outside, rose.
Daddy, she spoke with her finger in his face, you get off that chair, and so help me I'll kick you in the ass so hard you'll find your asshole next Sunday on your way to church, and your balls the Saturday after going to the barber shop, and who knows if you'll ever find your cock.
Ennis wasn't sure what had happened to his daughter. She was a Christian woman, church-goer and all, and was this speaking in tongues, or something, he asked.
We are talking, or maybe you are just listening. Daddy, when Jack died, it tore you up, it's like a cancer in you, just eating away. I was so afraid my daddy was going to die too. Darling, I ain't going to die, yet, but think you shortened my years a little with your knife, and the tongue too. But, as she explained it to him, you sometimes got to use the language a man understands. Don't make it right, but Jesus will understand.
Alma Junior did most of the talking, and Ennis nodded, maybe agreeing, maybe not. And finally she said, we got to go to Texas, and you got to say good-bye to Jack Twist, the proper way, showing your respects, and to his widow.
I love my Daddy, and right or wrong, I still love him to pieces.
And one more little thing needed to be mentioned. Alma Junior had called Jack's wife, well, his widow, in Childress Texas, and she said we could come on down. You ain't going. She needed some help from Ennis to settle some matters. You ain't going. And Jack had left some things for Ennis.
I don't need nothing from Jack Twist. Daddy, they're small things, and we could go to his grave and put some flowers. You ain't going. And Daddy, you got to say good-bye the right way, in Texas, at the grave. You ain't going.
Alma Junior learned her horse trading from her daddy, but a good teacher never teaches their students everything. So, in this horse trade, Alma Junior was staying home. So was Ennis staying home, cause he didn't have the time or money or whatever.
Wait, she told Ennis, and left for her bedroom. She came back with a box, wrapped with paper and ribbons. Something Ennis seldom got, but she shoved it into his lap. She prodded, finally he began the slow process of removing the ribbons and paper, something he had seen his Ma do many times. Waste not.
Inside, I don't need none of this stuff. A new razor and blades--well can always use new blades, deodorant--never touched the stuff, tooth brush and paste--okay, pajamas--darling its been years, so take them back and get your money, maps, road maps, and opening one saw the heavy dark pencil marks showing the route. You ain't going.
And what's this? Money, shit girl, Ennis said then grabbed her hand, to see if the wedding band was still in place, but it weren't worth this kind of money.
He started counting it, but twenty dollar bills never added up the same way twice. Daddy, it's five hundred dollars, for the trip. And he knew this Christian girl wouldn't be selling it on the street.
The Lord provides, was all she said, and repeated it many, many times, for the disbeliever. But you ain't going. And why the hell didn't he provide a thousand?
Daddy, his widow needs your help. Help my eye. Jack always said, well never mind. She's a real nice lady, and we talked on the phone, she had been trying to get hold of you but couldn't find you. I called her and told her who I was, and she asked if the phone call was costing me money, and I said yes. And being a nice lady like she is, then took my phone number and called me back within seconds, and we must have talked an hour. On her phone bill.
And what was said? She needs your help to help settle some of Jack's affairs. And she wanted to meet Jack's good friend, fishing and hunting buddy. You ain't going and I ain't going...well, I'll think on it. I know, I am not going.
Alma Junior packed away the gift box, and the money, hoping that her father would change his mind, or think on, or just go.
Ennis found some work, but he kept wondering. Where she get that kind of money? And if Curt found out. Maybe its time he finds a place of his own, maybe New York City, shit...that will be the day.
That night he retired early after supper, and hoped for a good night's rest. But sleep did not come. Was it Jack that was punching his stomach every night, calling for him, or something, from the great beyond? Or, was it the guilt that Ennis felt. If he had known, but no one had known, or if they did, they didn't tell Ennis. Didn't tell Jack for that matter.
Well, Jack didn't get what he wanted, life, Ennis, the ranch, dreams come true. He didn't even get his ashes spread on Brokeback Mountain. Who the fuck should care where a little bit of ash goes?
Jack, if I promise you that I will go to Texas, can I get a good night's sleep tonight? But remember man, that's a big IF you're putting on my shoulders. The old truck may not make it, and price of gas today, yeah, I know...Alma Junior says the Lord will provide.
Ennis got a fair rest that night, and didn't wake no one with his restlessness in the night. No work today, but he had other plans. Darling, be home late tonight, but could you pack me a sandwich before I go. Yeah, I know baloney.
After breakfast and a quick shower he was off. To Brokeback Mountain. If Jack can't go to Brokeback, then Ennis would make sure some of Brokeback--maybe a bucket or so--would make it to Jack...in Texas, and also some to Lightning Flat, why the fuck did they divide him up?
He grabbed a shovel, and the only bucket about that was empty was a wash tub, that'll do, but instead grabbed a couple of canvas bags. Maybe a small lodgepole pine, but Jack said it was miserable hot down there, and dry at times, and some one would have to keep it watered. Or, maybe some mountain flowers, but most things don't live when they are taken away to strange places. Ennis, Jack, both should have known that.
He hitched the horse wagon and dumped the saddle in back. Then he went for the horse, and off to Brokeback. It's got to be done, a long time in the making. It was past noon when Ennis found one of their old camps. Nothing much left of the site, snow and wind and rain pretty much took everything away.
Ennis found a cigarette butt, and could have been his or Jack's. Nothing left on it to smoke. He shoveled the earth into the bags, and looked about for some plants that might make the journey. But he changed his mind on everything living, but did gather up some stones from the fire ring. There him and Jack, and who knows who else, had spent the best time of the summer--that and the tent as well.
He got home late, and Alma Junior had kept some meatloaf and potatoes warm in the oven for him. He ate. And darling, I guess I'm going to Texas, and I'll pay back every dime of that money the Lord has provided...just as soon as I can. She shook her head, Daddy, the Lord don't need it back. It's a gift, not a loan. Whatever!
But first, I'll need to get a couple of used tires for the truck. Don't know if these will make it or not. And some oil and brake, tranny fluid. Lets see, quart oil every couple hundred miles, and how far you say this is? A thousand, then lets see, two hundred into a thousand goes...goes...goes. Five times Daddy. Okay, five times, make it six for good measure, and about the same coming back.
The next day Ennis and the banker went shopping. He got what he needed, and felt he got a real good deal on the used tires, even if the tread didn't match. Alma Junior said she would make sandwiches and Ennis wanted popcorn to eat, and a cooler of Coke and ice, but no whiskey. Promise me daddy, no whiskey. Okay a promise...at least until I get back.
That night he went to bed early, but sleep came late. How many times, he asked himself, had he started to Texas, or Lightning Flat for that matter, had he started the journey, and after a mile or so, turned back. Except for that one trip to Lightning Flat, he never went back, and guessed he never would.
Fourteen hours, Jack use to say. Course he had a truck that would go faster, and with less checks for oil and water, and he drove crazy. But lets see, if I leave at six, and fourteen hours, that would be ... yeah that would be. Leave this figuring to the banker. Then he went to sleep.
That morning a real good shower, breakfast, and simple directions, make it to Cheyenne, which he had done a few times, then south past Denver, which he never had done before, and go until you hit New Mexico, but don't get that confused with Old Mexico, cause that ain't even in the United States, or at least old Miss Wilson use to say. Once in New Mexico, head east into Texas and find Childress. Simple.
Alma Junior gave her daddy the maps and sandwiches and popcorn, and the money, and keep it in a safe place. And the address and phone number of Jack's widow's place, and directions to get there. Love you, miss you. And kisses and hugs and miss you some mores. And it's not too late, I can still go, and no, darling, I got to do it by myself.
With a deep breath, off he went, Alma watching til the truck disappeared, and praying as he went.
Ennis wanted to think about meeting the widow, and Texas, and Jack's grave. And then he didn't want to think about it. Just have good manners, he told himself, and that's something you can do if you set your mind to. But basically, keep your mouth shut, and no beans.
Alma Junior had the trip all planned out--on paper at least. Should thank Thelma, her trucking friends did most of this. Should've hitched a ride with one of them. Nah. The turns were simple...just hundreds of miles apart.
The interstate to Colorado was busy. Everyone rushing to get somewhere, maybe hell at the rate some went. Ennis kept a close eye on the gauges, and hoped they were close to being right. He would stop every so often and do the oil and fluid checks, and let the old truck rest, like he would a horse, but not for too long. Tires were holding out okay.
WELCOME TO NEW MEXICO, the sign read. Ennis was getting a little scared, and made sure it said NEW and not OLD. He didn't like the territory too much, and the people weren't bad. Just kind of dark skinned, and at that one place all the guy said was "see", and darned if Ennis knew what there was to see. And all the signs had this writing on them it must have been some sort of secret language.
And the land, didn't look good at all. Not Jack's kind of land. Didn't look like good farming land at all. Lightning Flat didn't have much to offer, but what the fuck, what lives around here. Saw a lot of little lizards when he stopped for the checks, and a leak. Different kind of bugs, and hot. Water might be scarce, so he knew he had better take it easy on that.
Then that road to Texas, sign as big as it could be, and a sigh of relief...and headed East, with the sun shining behind him, he knew he had it right. And things better start looking up better...awful poor land. Hell, a steer would starve on grass like this.
A tire blew out, and the old truck was braked, and came to the side of the road. Telling me something? he asked. But he was glad he had made it this far on that tire, and had a used one in the back to change. Damn lizards, get the fuck out of here.
Has to be more than fourteen hours or more on the road, Ennis figured. May not make it before dark, but looking at the sun, sure give it a try.
As he traveled along the signs began to announce Childress was just up the way. Fifty miles, then less and less. He rustled through the papers for the exact directions, streets, he would need.
Finally there--at least to Childress. Now the house. The directions were good, but the houses, well, no poor people lived in them. And then the street. Yeah! He drove down the road, and found the house--Jack Twist on the mail box and all. No mistake about it.
Ennis was confused. Jack always said Lureen's old man had money--serious money--but he didn't say nothing about no fucking Fort Knox. Ennis looked at his clothes. Won't do. And smelled his underarms. Nothing too dangerous there. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea.
There were lights on in the house, but he didn't see no one stirring about. Maybe she ain't home. Better come back some other time. He put the truck in gear and drove off.
The temptation was to head back to Wyoming. But if Alma Junior got wind of it, she'd have him by the ear and dragging him back. Nothing no one had done since his Ma had done. Jack, what the fuck should I do?
I need a drink. Shit. Alma Junior what kind of a promise was that? He followed the bread crumbs back the way he came. On the poor side of town he spotted a motel--just like that old Motel Siesta in Riverton--where Jack and him had their thing a time or two. He swung in and parked.
Decision time. Shit or get off the pot. Getting late, tired, long drive, Jack how the hell did you drive it so many times? At last, he checked in, unloaded the truck and flopped on the bed.
He needed some grub, and had eaten most of the sandwiches and popcorn Alma Junior had sent. He found a cafe, ate what he could, but they sure did have strange food down here. Then back to the motel.
It took a while--a long while of wrestling with his ideas. But he came to the conclusions it had to be done. But he needed better clothes than this, and shit everything. Dumbshit...since when has Ennis Del Mar ever put on airs? Go as you are; Jack, well at times I reckon, weren't dressed no better off than I am.
Ennis made up his game-plan. Don't put on airs. Ennis is Ennis, and she don't like it, she don't need my fucking help. He knew with money like this, they may have come by it honest, but they play harder, and for keeps. Jack once said if he sat down to play cards with her, she'd have him cleaned out nothing flat. And he would be getting up not knowing if the table was round or square.
But Ennis's old man had told him, always tell the truth. If they figure you're lying, let them. The more they figure, the less they know...or at least for sure.
All kinds of advice came to him. Jack, what the fuck did you come to Texas for? After bed-wrestling, Ennis fell to sleep. In the morning he showered, and cleaned places on his hide that probably had never been cleaned before--save falling in the river. Shaved. Brush teeth and all. Deodorant, just like the can said. Unhappy, but proud about his clothes. Unhappy, but proud of just about everything. Worked hard and honest for it...maybe not smart, but honest.
He ate breakfast, and fidgeted endless, or so it seemed. Well, bull by the horns time, he jabbered then downed the last cup of coffee. He drove to Jack's house, and went to the door, and hard to do, but pushed the doorbell button.
Golly, she's beautiful, Ennis thought, surprised, shocked. Ain't never saw a woman good looking like this. Jack, you old son-of-a-gun.
"Ennis DelMar?" she asked. "Jack talked of you frequently, I feel I have known you for years."
"Please come in, sit, something to drink?"
"Well, ma'am I thought maybe I'd go to the cemetery first, daughter made up some flowers for the grave, pay respects and all."
"Jack is not at the cemetery," her eyes fluttered.
"Well, ma'am, I know that. Alma Junior keeps telling me he's in heaven."
"No, he's not there either."
Puzzled, Ennis was not sure what to say. There weren't many other options, and though Ennis would have said it himself, it just didn't seem right that his widow should be saying it.
She laughed, then with her gentle hands, escorted Ennis into the house. Pretty house. Gee, Jack, you did pretty god damned well. "Ennis, may I call you Ennis?"
"Yeah, it's the only name I know."
"The reason I said that, and I did not mean to shock you, was that I had Jack removed. He's home, on the mantle, for now."
She escorted Ennis to the fireplace, and reached up and brought down the metal box. She offered it to Ennis, but he'd never been keen on touching dead people, and no way in hell could Jack fit in such a little box.
"His ashes," she said.
Ennis teared up. A sniffle, then wiped his eyes and runny nose on his sleeve. "Sorry," he said, remembering it wasn't polite to wipe your nose just anywheres.
"Like my Grandmother always told me," Lureen spoke, "Grown men don't cry; but grown up men do."
Not sure what she said, Ennis said, "I reckon."
Ennis took deep breaths, and held back the tears the best he could. But reckoning had come, and no turning back. She knew it was bothering Ennis, hell a grown man crying, not many do that in Texas, or anywhere for that matter.
She placed the metal box back on the mantle. "Cowboy, you need a drink."
"Ma'am, could use one, but I sort of promised my daughter. I can't."
"My name is Lureen, not ma'am."
It took a while, like a fish that swallowed the hook deep to get it out, but finally, "Lureen."
She escorted Ennis to a chair and got him sat. He wanted to sit on the edge, but it made her nervous just as much as he was. But she coaxed him back, Jack's favorite chair, and with those words Ennis was about to jump out like it were the electric chair. But with coaxing of her eyes, he settled back.
"I was expecting you last night."
"Had a bit of trouble--flat tire and all."
She nodded knowing Jack had mentioned things like that happening all the time. "Please excuse me while I make a phone call," she said and picked up the phone. She noted the number on the paper and dialed. "This is Lureen Twist. Your father is here, safe sound, a flat tire was all that it was...yes... would you like to talk to him?"
Ennis waved his hands. Nope, no phone talking for him. Bad news the last time--heard Jack was dead. "Oh, I think he is a bit shy, but sends his love."
"Miss you darling," Ennis called out.
"Good-bye, and you're welcome" Lureen said then hung the phone up. "Your daughter sounds like such a sweet girl."
"Oh, she's my baby."
Lureen excused herself again and left and came back with some lemonade. Ennis rose from the chair, and with his glass, toasted Jack. "To Jack, one hell of a good man, hunting and fishing buddy and all. Miss you." Ennis downed the lemonade like whiskey, and felt better. But lemonade just ain't got the same toasting power as whiskey. Then he sat back down.
"Are you sure you wouldn't want some thing a bit stronger to toast Jack?"
"Well, sort of promised Alma Junior about drinking, and all, sometimes can get carried away."
"A promise," Lureen said and again picked up the phone and dialed. "Lureen again. Yes. Your father, I think needs a drink, but he made a promise, he says... he did? Very well," then the woman handed the phone to Ennis, and there was no refusing.
"Hi honey, miss you...yeah, all the way down. Sure. Well, okay, I hear you," then Ennis hung up the phone. "One won't hurt."
"Help yourself, the liquor is over there." She rose and escorted Ennis to the bottles waiting for him. Scotch? Nah, don't like the stuff. Bourbon? Sounds okay, hey Jack's and my kind. I forgot I still had that bottle, there are better brands. No, this one will suit me real fine.
She poured a shot glass for Ennis, and some wine for herself. "Here's to Jack, one hell of a good fishing and hunting buddy." He took it like a man, she sipped hers.
They began to talk. Ennis tried to relax, and did a little. We miss Jack, they both said. Lureen said she accepted Jack's death, not at first, but in time, okay. Then it began to bother her, could not sleep, and Ennis said he knew that feeling. Something was wrong. She knew Jack was not a Texas boy. Texas did not want him, and he did not want Texas. Jack belonged back in Wyoming, or Brokeback.
Ennis told her the old man didn't give him the ashes, and Jack would be buried in Lightning Flat--the family plot--instead. She asked where Lighting Flat was, as she never found it on any map. Ennis told her there probably weren't a map made that had it on, but was in the northeast corner of Wyoming, so close to Montana you could spit across the line, but she replied, Jack said you could always piss across the line too, and they agreed Jack was right.
"You know, Ennis," Lureen spoke, remembering the past, hoping for a future. "There are days I keep wanting Jack to come through that door, and say, as he must have a hundred times, 'There ain't no baloney in this house. I'm hungry for a baloney sandwich, and there ain't no baloney. How can I eat a baloney sandwich with no baloney, and that's no baloney.'" Lureen finally paused, a smile to her face to hide a tear. "Ennis, I have finally realized that even if I had a ton of baloney in the refrigerator, Jack is NOT coming back. I must move on, but still hold the past dear. Ennis, you have to move on."
"Yes ma'am. Wished him and me were going fishing or hunting. Good times with a good man."
"And do you like baloney too?"
"Well, yeah, for breakfast I like it fried, sandwich with mustard. On the range, same but cold, not fried. Daughter, if she makes it, I usually pick off the lettuce, and she uses mayo."
The conversation went back to why Ennis had made the trip. "So, Alma Junior told me you needed my help?" Ennis spoke. Would you honor me, she asked, and take the rest of Jack's ashes back to Wyoming? She said Jack was not a Texas boy, and she was a Texas girl, and oil and water. He did not belong down here, and though they did have their good times, and bad times, Jack needed a special peace, and go home. He always had this dream of a ranch up there, but I would hear nothing of it. Ennis nodded in agreement.
She asked Ennis if there was anything of Jack's that he wanted, and he said no, couldn't think of a thing. Perhaps his clothes, Ennis would look good in them, she told him. And they should fit you very well, about the same build and all. Some were hardly worn if any, as he always wore the same jeans.
"Well," Ennis finally said, "Jack would give just about anyone the shirt off his back, the good hunting and fishing buddy that he was."
"And the jeans off his ass," Lureen added.
She had not the heart to give them to just anyone. I once tried to get rid of Jack's old hat, and I thought he would kill me. The red marks on my throat lasted for days. And Ennis said Jack put big store on that hat.
Do you mind used clothes? she asked in a polite way, not wanting to offend, not wanting to say anything wrong.
Well, once, on Brokeback, there was a question about whose blue shirt it was--mine or Jack's, but its been settled now. Ennis nodded that used clothes were fine. Hell, from day one he only had hand-me-downs, from diapers--they were cloth back then--to anything that K.E. outgrew, and were patchable. Even shops today that way, new clothes cost more, and used, most still got good use in them. Besides, Ennis would know whose crotch stinkers they were, and being Jack's, that would work out fine.
"K.E. Who is that," she asked.
"Oh, my brother. Ain't seen in years."
"And may I ask what K.E. is for?"
Ennis thought. "Ma'am, not sure. Always been K.E. for all I know. Must stand for something."
"I will take you to Jack's room, and please, whatever you want, do not be bashful. I have finally realized Jack is NOT coming back, and I am sure he will want his clothes, anything, used by those he loved."
Ennis followed Lureen back to the bedroom. A man's room Ennis thought. Almost smelled of Jack, some cigarette butts and ashes still in the tray.
"This is Jack's room", Lureen spoke, "I will get some moving boxes, and we can do the job." And she left.
It was a man's room. Jack's room. Big bed, lots of fun there Ennis thought. A quilt that some country woman had made, maybe his Ma. Big pillows...not a touch of a woman here. Paintings of mountains and cattle, cowboys and horses. Kerosene lamp that hadn't been used for quite some time. No golf clubs for Jack. That fucking harmonica Jack played on Brokeback. A pack of cigarettes, a lighter. Picture of his folks.
She returned a few moments later with the flattened boxes. Ennis assembled, and together they taped the box to hold its shape.
Lureen opened the closet doors, and boy, more clothes than he had seen before. She took a shirt from the hanger and held it against Ennis, then remarked, you do look handsome in it. Ennis replied that Jack always looked better.
Ennis was finding it hard to refuse, but did on occasion. Suits were not his thing, but could have used one though when Alma Junior got married, and him being the father of the bride and all. One suit for Ennis, the others, to some charity then.
They spent the morning till one or so, and Ennis said it might be a hundred years, but eventually he'd wear the clothes. Mostly the jeans and work shirts, but there would be a time or two for the fancy stuff. Then Ennis became concerned that there were no woman's clothes here, and maybe, just maybe she would use the money--sell Jack's and get some money--and clothes for herself.
She must have sensed Ennis's puzzlement.
"Ennis," she began. "for the last few years, Jack and I did not sleep together. He had his room, and I have mine; therefore my clothes are not here."
Ennis was quiet.
"And to set the record straight, one of us, if we were so inclined would call or whistle out, and the other might answer, and depending upon whose will was the weakest, would go to the other's room."
Ennis was stunned. "Yeah, sounds sort of like Alma and me before we divorced, except we shared the same bed."
"Alma? That is your daughter's name?"
"Oh, shit ma'am. Alma is, was my wife, and Alma Junior is our daughter, sort of like John and John Junior, except its Alma and Alma Junior."
No matter, Ennis shrugged his shoulders. Don't know if you don't ask, I guess.
"Guns?" Lureen asked.
"Jack had some pretty nice ones."
"I can't. Say, don't you have a boy? Maybe he wants the clothes and guns, shit, I'm taking about everything."
"My son and my husband did not, never did, see eye to eye. I should blame that on my daddy, the way the old fart spoiled my son." She went to a gun cabinet and opened it. "Do you see anything wrong?" she asked.
Ennis looked. Three rifles. Just like, well, almost like Jack would have them. "I see one needs a little cleaning."
"Jack bought this rifle, it's only a .22, for his son. And this is how our son treated it. Well, I guess I should blame my daddy. Bobby dropped the gun, in some mud, I wasn't there. Story goes that daddy told Bobby to get it real dirty, and the piss ant, meaning Jack, would clean it. So, Bobby, to please his grandfather, and I suppose himself, well, you can see the mud everywhere. Bobby called his dad, Jack, a piss ant. I don't think Jack said a word. Brought the rifle home, and there it is to this day, after all these years. Jack was so disappointed in Bobby. I am afraid if you shot it, it would blow up in your face."
"Ma'am, just a little dirt, and some good cleaning, like the others, and be shooting in no time."
"Take them all. I have my .45 pistol by my bedside, for my protection, and that is all the guns I want in this house."
A .45, Ennis thought, makes a pretty big hole.
They had chicken salad sandwiches for lunch, potato salad and relish tray, and lemonade. There was a one whiskey drink limit for today.
Ennis wanted to help with dishes, but she would hear nothing of it--that's what dishwashers are for. Their work was about done. The boxes were full, sealed, ready to be hauled to the truck, later, as there was more business to take care of.
Ennis sat at the dining room table while Lureen left for a few minutes, then returned with papers.
"Ennis, let me explain this. A few days after Jack died, a bank in New Mexico called and said Jack had a box there, and if I brought in the key, they would open it for me. Well, I looked for that key, and after a few days, I could not find it, and I became consumed in other affairs. I figured Jack wouldn't have anything important in New Mexico. Then two months ago the bank called, and wanted their box rent, or they could drill it open for me if I could not find the key. I went, they drilled, and inside the box were all the papers we are going to go over now."
"Ma'am none of my business."
"This letter is addressed to you. There must be a dozen different addresses on the envelope. Now you know why I had a hard time finding you."
"Yes, ma'am moved around a bit. Think he missed a few though."
"I have not read the letter, and I will leave you to read it now, if you like."
"Guess I can read it later. Jack was always talking about his ranch, or this or that." Ennis shoved the letter into his back pocket, giving it an extra shove to secure it.
"Jack," she said "has a will. It is handwritten, and I do not need a lawyer to tell me, they are easy to break, or I could take a match to it, and it never existed, or I can honor it. Let me read it to you."
"I, Jack Twist, leave everything I have, or will have, to my best god damned hunting and fishing buddy, Ennis DelMar. Signed Jack Twist, and dated in 1967."
"Ma'am I don't think it's right. What's his, is yours. Won't hear nothing of it. Give me a match and end it now."
"Actually, you are mostly right. Most everything you see was owned (a) either by myself outright, or (b) jointly, with rights of survivorship. But, he did have some things in his name only."
"Ma'am give me a pencil and I will sign them over right now."
"No, I plan to honor Jack's wishes. It is his dream, not mine. Listen, and I will not hear another peep from you."
Ennis nodded, and Lureen began the presentation. Years ago Jack had purchased his Uncle Harold's ranch in Lightning Flat. He had to borrow the money, from me. When he got his commission checks for selling some equipment, and maybe he got some kickbacks too, but that's his business. Month by month, he paid it back. I knew he spent his money on trips to Lightning Flat, said he would stop and see you along the way. Gone a week or two or three, then show up. Helped his parents a lot, money and all, and worked some there too.
Jack must have lived on five dollars a day to make the payments, but that he did.
Ennis told her that both Jack and me grew up poor, and many a day we lived on less than a penny a day, and he guessed every time Jack went to see the folks, he would stop and see him, along the way you know.
She added, I did not charge him interest, husband and all, and against all her daddy's bitching, but Jack kept his bargain, and I kept mine. Daddy would keep telling me I'd end up foreclosing, and own a worthless piece of crap, in Y-hell-hole.
She handed the deed to Ennis. He read, as owners, Jack Twist or Ennis DelMar, joint owners with right of survivorship.
Yeah, Jack always wanted a ranch, but didn't think Jack would ever get it. Blowing gas out his ass.
"I can't take this."
"And I do not want it. Maybe if I did, Jack would still be alive. I am not leaving Texas, and it was Jack's dream, and he said your dream as well."
"Yeah, dream, but like wishing for a trip to the moon."
"And let me continue. What really surprised me was these." Lureen handed Ennis a large stack of documents looking more like money than a paper wrapper off a bean can, but were rubberbanded together. "These, these are U.S. Government Series E savings bonds, and you are the beneficiary on each and every one of them."
"Ma'am I can't. Give me a pencil and they are yours."
"No, Mr. DelMar, they are yours. Afterall, what would I do with more money...buy happiness?"
A pushing and shoving match began, Ennis pushing the deed and bonds to her, and Lureen pushing them back. Finally she relaxed the grip, and took them back.
She ignored him. "When I was at the bank, I must have dropped one of the bonds on the floor, and a day later they called and said they had found it. The mousy woman who called, wanted to know who Ennis DelMar was, cause that was the beneficiary, and not his wife. Is she a sister? she asked, and a voice in the background said it was a man's name. I told her that Jack had a half-brother. I do not need this 'situation' to go any farther. Do you understand me Mister Ennis DelMar?"
"Not sure what there is to understand? I guess I can be a half-brother or something for a while and sign the bonds over to you."
"You do not understand. You are leaving here with this deed, and these bonds, and I can (a) ASK you to make Jack's dream of a ranch come true, or (b) I can TELL you, or (c) you ARE. May I ask which one this will be?"
"I don't take no fucking charity."
"Then consider it a loan. You can make payments to me, like Jack did, no interest, and I must laugh, getting paid twice for land will make my sweet daddy roll in his grave. And the bonds, they can go into an account. Buy equipment and stock as needed, and replace when income comes in. Draw on it as needed in hard times, and replace what you take in good times, plus a healthy measure more. Maybe put back, when good times, two or three times what you have taken out. Then when the times are really bad, a bank account will separate the men from the boys."
"I can't. I'll think on it. Well, should have thought of this sooner. Give them to his folks. Can do that, can't I?"
"Yes and no."
"Yes? or No?"
"Jack had a life insurance policy on himself that named his parents as beneficiaries, just in case he should die first, I think they needed his help."
"Colburn, the insurance agent, sent them their check, and they promptly sent it back. No charity, I think he said. So he sent it to them again with a better explanation, and back it came again."
"Folks, think they like cash money."
"No, they knew what it was. Just did not want it. No charity for them either."
"Stubborn old man."
"Perhaps, but I believe the check went back and forth a few times more. Finally Colburn called them and talked with them. After he said they could give it to a church, as a memorial to Jack, they took it."
"Well, charity begins at home."
"How many churches do you know, Ennis, that you'd like to give these bonds too?"
"Well, lots of churches out there, not been in very many, don't know exactly. Would have to think real hard on that one."
"So, now you know about Jack's folks a little better. May need the money, but wouldn't take it. Now, changing the subject, Jack always said a foreman ain't much more than a regular hand, except gives the orders. Can you give orders, Mister Ennis Delmar? Or Just take them?"
"Don't know, never done."
"You will, won't you, for Jack? His dream? If you have the problem with the money, sometimes I just do not understand men. Consider yourself the foreman. Does that make it easier?"
"I'll think on it."
"Look at this. Jack drew the plans for his home, well I suppose it is a cabin. One big room, except for a bathroom here," she pointed out. "At least there was none of those dreadful outhouses."
"They do come in handy."
"But it's hardly bigger than a garage, or small barn at the most."
"Well, sometimes a fella don't need much--just an area to sleep, and eat or cook, maybe do some business."
"And these papers Jack lingered over the hardest. See, what he wrote."
Ennis looked. J&E Ranch; E&J Ranch; T&D Ranch; D&T Ranch; E Ranch.
"This one," Lureen pointed out, "A&L--you said your wife's name was Alma, so finally I have these figured out."
"Well, we've been divorced for quite a spell."
"These are Jack's dreams, plans, whatever you might want to call them, and I am sure they are, or could be yours as well."
She left Ennis to his lemonade.
Jack, god damn it. What the fuck? Me and your fucking dream. Kill me Lord and get it over with. Ennis thought about just slipping out quietly, or if he had to push his way out, or run like hell, and leave everything. Well, nothing to leave that was his, anyways. Jack.
Lureen would probably let the land go, or sell it, but since it was Ennis's name on the deed, maybe he would try to pay the taxes. But those bonds. Cash them, I guess, send a check back or something. If she don't cash it, not my fucking problem.
The idea of a ranch. Okay, Jack, you had it a little easier, hell of a lot easier then me, but that's me, and you is you, and this damn crawling in the sack together. Like crawling in with a woman, gets you nothing but trouble. But what does a man live for, other than to dream? Try for something better. Jack, old buddy, get out of Hell and come help me...or I'll change places with you, and you can have your dream.
Like the preacher always says, Jesus came to earth for the sinners, and he didn't want to go to the cross or nothing like that, but He did. Damn preacher says its cause He loves us. Jack, I love you, you know, we are the best god damned hunting and fishing buddies God ever made. More than that, hunting and fishing, but buddies, all kind of buddies, thick and thin.
Ennis wished for, needed, a drink. But he had promised Alma Junior. If only he had promised Jack, then there would be no gut wrenching now.
No sense crying, no sense escaping.
Dusk was coming. Lureen left Ennis alone. Hell, she could have left the house for all Ennis knew. Didn't hear no gunshot, so she ain't using the .45.
"Well, cowboy, Mister Ennis DelMar?" came the voice and Ennis looked up to see her.
"Don't know. Ain't easy."
"Mister Del Mar, who has been the best, the worst, the meanest, the dumbest, the smartest, the laziest and hardest worker on any job? Who is the one first to start work, and the last to stop work. Any of that sound like anyone you have worked with?"
"Hmmm," he wondered. "Well, they're either smart or dumb, hard workers or laggards, some never show. No one I ever seen. Guess they all take the cake one way or the other."
"No, Mister Del Mar, it is when YOU are the owner, the BOSS, and only YOU."
Ennis had to think on it. Never owned much. Never had that problem.
"Well, ma'am, you need a foreman. Ain't the best, ain't the worse. For Jack, I guess."
"Jack always said you were the best cook, next to his mother."
"Yeah, not too many complaints."
"Jack said you made a can of beans taste like manna from heaven."
"Wouldn't go that far. Potatoes and beans were about all we had on Brokeback. Guess there was that elk, and beer and whiskey, but I didn't make none of that."
Lureen left, going to the kitchen and came back. A platter in her hand showed two big, and Ennis does mean big, steaks. "The grill is outside. You should have no trouble making a hot fire in the grill, and when its ready, let me know and I will bring these out. Salad, potato?"
"Well, no beans."
They laughed. Ennis went to the patio, as they call it, found what he needed and built a good charcoal fire. Black at the beginning, but growing white with age, and when the hand couldn't be held for more than Two Mississippi, it were ready.
"Rare," Lureen said.
Ennis did the job well, and so did the microwave on the potatoes, and a salad, bowl almost as big as a washtub. And Texas toast of course. Candles lit, table cloth, china and silver. They dined, and yeah, a little bit of red wine ain't like whiskey. But warms a guy, and a girl.
Short of picking up the bone and gnawing on it, he was stuffed, and amazed that Lureen could pack it away better than him. Better not, thought he, get into a drinking match with this lady, or he may be the one under the table.
"Cherry cake?" she asked.
"Don't know where I will put it."
"Jack's favorite. His mother's recipe. Seems like I would make one, and Jack would eat it all up in a day or so. Did you know cherry cake was Jack's favorite?"
"Well, his Ma offered me some when I was up there," Ennis answered, but too ashamed to tell her he had not eaten any. Then again, if he had known it were Jack's favorite, he'd have had a big piece. But he didn't know. Just like he didn't know Jack would be dead.
Lureen cut Ennis a slice, half the size that Jack would take, and he ate it. Good. But there is a limit to what the stomach will take. And that fancy dishwasher did its job again.
They rested in the living room. Not saying much, but Ennis was doing his thinking. He finally breathed a heavy sigh and said, "You know, ma'am, Jack was always talking about his ranch and, well, me sort of helping, like that foreman you said, and if I had said yes, old Jack would still be alive."
"Ennis, it is like my grandmother told me a long time ago. When you play the IF game, you will win lots of IF's, and get real good at the game. But when you go to cash all those IF's in, all you're going to get is more regrets than you can spend in a lifetime. I have or had a lot of IF's with Jack, more than you, but it is sometimes wise to listen to your grandmother."
The meal was setting in, the sun had been down for a while. Could have almost used a fire, but it was hot enough.
"Well, ma'am," Ennis finally decided and rose from Jack's chair. "Should be going?"
"It's late. You are not driving in the night?"
"No, ma'am, maybe a while and get a motel, I guess."
"Would you honor me, and stay a night, in Jack's room, I've kept it his way since..."
Ennis breathed heavy. Maybe ain't proper, you know, a widow, a strange man, hell she sleeps with a .45. "Please, breakfast in the morning, Texas style, Texas hospitality. Jack, I think never really liked Texas, but I cannot have you leaving without knowing what Texas is really like."
"What will, you know, the neighbors, think and all?"
"Let them think."
"Well, ma'am, I guess. Ain't got nothing to get back to--right away that is."
It was settled. Ennis, sort of glad to save the money, not really wanting to leave Jack's house, well Lureen's, he guessed, would be the last time here. He went to his truck, got the bag Alma Junior had prepared for him ... and sure glad he had it.
They retired to separate rooms, Lureen to hers, Ennis, well, to Jack's. Doors were closed, and in time, her light went out.
Ennis sat down in the chair. It rocked a bit. Maybe sleep in the chair, he thought. Jack's letter was poking him in the back, and he thought better get the reading over. Ennis opened the envelope, and took out the pages.
PAGE 1. Hey good buddy. Its ranch time.
PAGE 2. Ennis, if you're reading this, then I am dead, or you are dead and found your way into my bank box. We can have a good life together, on OUR ranch. Of course, to make it succeed we need to have a Joe Aguirre, to run things, and keep them running smooth. Congratulations old buddy. Grow a mustache, or grow some boobs and call yourself Lureen. Kick my ass when needed, cause I plan to be the ranch stiff--never been anything but. And if there comes a time that YOU need a Joe Aguirre on your fucking ass, then I am the man to do it, and buddy, I kick ass real good...and you know I can do it!
PAGE 3. Ennis, maybe some family history is in order. My granddad killed all the Indians and took their land, if you care to believe that. He had two kids, and everyone knew when he died, Uncle Harold got half, and my Ma got half. Brother and Sister. She told me her half would be mine some day, and when some day comes, Ennis, it will be OURS. There have been times we have been welded together--our cocks and balls--(goddamnit Jack, who the fuck might read this).
At any rate, a single woman who would someday inherit lots of land was a handsome prize back then. So, Pa shows up, and marries her. And I come along. Asked Ma one time if he was my real Pa, and she wouldn't answer me. Didn't say yes, didn't say no. And she didn't knock me silly for asking the question either. Probably the reason the old man hates me so is because I ain't. Just as well, I wouldn't want to be none of him no how.
But Ma is a shrewd woman, don't let her fool you. Fools a lot of folks, its easy for her to do. But she never put the old man's name on the deed, and the lawyer she uses made sure her will won't never be broke. So the old man is stuck, and hating every minute of it.
PAGE 4. Ennis I kept my plans on paper, and they are back home, folks house, my room upstairs, in the closet. Jesus, Ennis, do I have to draw you a map. If you can find your shirt, sorry about stealing it back on Brokeback, but hey, man, thought I would never see you again, (goddamnit Jack, who the fuck might read this shit?) At any rate, find my/your shirt, and you can find my diaries and plans and all. P.S. Ma knows where they are at, just in case. Ask her. Nothing hid there.
PAGE 5. Well, good buddy, sign this. I, Ennis DelMar, a good man, promises a good life, on the ranch. (There was a place for Ennis to sign, an X and a line struck.)
Ennis you are a man of your word, just getting it out of you is the problem. Make OUR, well, Ennis, it is our dream, ain't it, come true. Show them all, we ain't no ranch stiffs. Jack.
PAGE 6. Ennis, I want so bad to go back to Wyoming, where I belong, and you too. Dig me up if have to. Jack.
P.S. Always liked Brokeback Mountain, mainly because it was OUR FIRST (goddamnit Jack, watch what you're writing). But wherever, as long as it ain't Texas. I'll be happy. Lightning Flat ain't bad. Its home, for me. Could be yours too!
PAGE 7. And Ennis, twin, we both come from the same mother's womb. I came first, I guess. I had to coax you out, though, telling you it ain't a bad world out here, but it's tough, and got its rules.
And there ain't one goddamn thing I can do to help you. You gotta do it all by yourself. Ennis, get borned.
And I know that damn umbilical cord is still attached. Its tugs on you, most constantly I suspects, yanks now and then to remind you. Think it may have also yanked you right back into that damn womb many times, but you came out, nonetheless.
Twin...we're from the same cloth, as they say, though not sure what they really mean by it. Love."
Jack ain't no can of beans where you enjoy the good part, and throw the can away like trash.
Enough reading for one night. He put the letter into the bottom of the bag, and figured it could stay there for a long while. Ennis did the pajama thing, guess that's what you're suppose to do, then lifted the blankets and slowly entered the bed. Hell, if Jack were for real there, Ennis would have had his clothes off and before lightning could hit, next to that warm sonofagun. Ennis looked at the bed, though, well, I've slept with Jack a hundred times. Sure, his bed, but sure as hell, won't be here tonight. Goddamnit.
Ennis weren't no bloodhound, but he could smell Jack. Jack's smells, and it relaxed him. He held the sheets over his nose and breathed. Ain't no finer smell, he thought. He slept, but in the night was sure he felt a warm hand on his back, his thighs, his ass. But no one was there, just memories.
In the morning he woke, but heard no sounds in the house, and felt Lureen was still sleeping. Wouldn't be right to just pack up and leave, without saying a proper good-bye and all. But in time, she began to stir.
She knocked on the door.
"Woke," he responded.
"There are towels in the bathroom. Then breakfast."
"Thank you ma'am."
Ennis showered, brushed teeth and shaved, even though not the proverbial Saturday night. Even some deodorant, and clean clothes...his, not Jack's, save them for better times.
Breakfast was eggs and toast, bacon and sausage and ham, jelly, coffee, strong black rich.
"Ennis, I do want to thank you for coming. I really appreciate it."
"Ma'am, Lureen, my pleasure."
"I have not had a good night's rest since Jack passed. But when your daughter called, it was almost like an answer to prayers. I didn't need the pills any more. I think Jack had been trying to tell me something all along."
"Well, ma'am, Lureen, I know what you mean."
"I am happy Jack is going back to Wyoming, where he belongs. I am so glad to have met you, Jack's good hunting and fishing buddy."
"Ma'am, if ever you need a thing, I am no more than a holler away."
"And one more thing I forgot," Lureen said as she sipped her coffee. "After Jack died, they brought his truck home. It has sat there ever since, and I have not moved it, been in it. Ennis, please take it."
"Ma'am, I got my own truck, and you can always use a truck, and maybe your boy wants it, or ..."
"I've already made out the title."
"Got my truck here, no way to get both of them home."
"Have you ever used a tow bar?"
"Ma'am, I don't go home without one, truck likes to break down a lot."
"Problem solved." She put the keys into his hand and closed the palm for him. "And I've packed the deed and bonds, and copies of the death certificate, you will need that to record the deed and cash the bonds."
"Ma'am, how the hell do you know I won't cheat you."
"Daddy always said the coyotes are a rich man's best friend, when it comes to the tax man, but not his partner. And if you want to drink it up, go ahead, and answer to Jack; not to me or anyone else, save yourself, of course."
"This was settled yesterday."
Was it charity? Was it doing a friend a good deed? Was it being a friend? Was it more than Jack's dream; was it more than a dream?
"Please, for once, call me Lureen."
"Okay, Lureen, could I get a picture of you, Alma Junior will want to see what you look like, and all, and Junior says I should take a picture of the grave, and all, have something to remember by, and all."
They road in Jack's truck...Ennis's new truck, I guess. Ennis did not have air conditioning in his, and even at this time of day, it was getting hot.
He drove and she directed him to the cemetery. Ennis knew he was going to tear up, but held it back. Grown men and their crying. Names Twist, Jack and Lureen, dates--well most of them, one still empty.
"I'll never marry again. Sort of given up on men."
"Well, Jack will be hard to replace, I know that."
Pictures were taken. The stone. The stone and Lureen. The stone and Ennis. An old woman drove by, and she took a couple of pictures of the stone, Lureen and Ennis, all together. Should have enough to keep Junior happy.
They returned to the house. They loaded the boxes of Jack's clothes, guns, and affects that they both agreed Jack would want Ennis to have. It was getting time to leave, parting is such sorrow. Ennis hooked the tow bar up, and at Lureen's insistence, the new truck was in front, and Ennis's in the rear.
Then Jack was taken down from the mantle. She cried and Ennis held her, tight like he would have held Jack. But finally, with a kiss on the box, handed it to Ennis.
"Trusting you to do the right things," she said.
"Don't worry, ma'am. I will."
"Maybe whatever Jack's parents will want?"
"Well, ma'am, Lureen, I reckon Jack's folks will want him buried, Christian-like. But I'll find something of Jack's to take up to Brokeback. Climb a lodgepole pine, and tack it up there. Maybe his hat? It'll be like him looking all over the mountains."
"Ennis, I want to go with you when you do. Leave something of mine as well."
"Ma'am, Lureen, kind of rugged, and we'll have to camp out, and ride horses."
"There's not a horse that can throw this girl. I am from Texas."
"Yes, ma'am, heard that said more than once."
Jack was placed on the seat, next to Ennis, and time was running out. Late, and fourteen hours, or more, towing a truck all the way home.
She kissed Ennis, on the cheek, holding him, he holding her, bonding. A few tears ran, from both, she wiping his, and he wiping hers.
"Be good to Jack."
"I know, or I'll get punched in the stomach."
She remained outside, looking down the road, until Ennis, the trucks, Jack was gone. One hurdle down, and many to go.
Ennis drove, curious about some of the buttons on the dash, kept looking at the metal box, thinking, hoping, praying, Jack would be there. Guess this is the right thing.
He had gone only ten miles or so, and knew something was not right. Jack was leaving Texas, that was for sure, but a piece of Brokeback Mountain, in the canvas sacks he had brought, was with him. He went for a sack, opened it, and sat the metal box in the warm moist earth. Ennis felt better.
Come the sign, WELCOME TO NEW MEXICO, Ennis looked over, for the blink of an eye, really saw Jack, smiling, eyes twinkling, smoking his cigarette, and the last sip of whiskey from the bottle, and sure as hell, well, maybe not so sure, fling the bottle out the window. Damn air conditioning.
Jack ain't no can of beans, where Ennis enjoyed the best part, and threw the can in the trash. How many times on the trip home did he say that to himself? Well, Ennis DelMar, you ain't no can of beans either, that Jack Twist enjoys, and then tosses the remains in the trash. WELCOME TO COLORADO. Getting closer buddy.
Ennis did his stops for gas, but no oil and fluid checks needed. Jack's truck nearly new. Tow bar still in check, lets go home.
Good and bad feelings mixed in Ennis's gut, like trying to put a fire out with gasoline sometimes, and other times vinegar, and sometimes water.
It was getting towards evening, and he knew he wouldn't make it home before dark. Maybe three or four in the morning, or later when Curt would be getting up for work.
Ennis knew he was getting close to the Wyoming line, and the last stop before, he pulled off and found a deserted resting spot.
"Jack," he said, didn't matter if Jack heard or not. Things gotta be said. Ennis reached over to the canvas sack and removed the metal box that contained Jack's ashes. Ennis leaned back, his back resting on the on the door, his boots on the opposite door. "Jack, I miss you so much, there are times I just want to cry, and have you hold me, rub my hair, or my tummy, like you always did, play with the little beggar or whatever. I could talk, spill my guts outs, cry, laugh, speak my mind, you knew what I was saying, what I was feeling. Sometimes I think it hurt you worse than me, the way I felt." Ennis caressed the box, the hidden remains of Jack. Tears came to Ennis's eyes, runny nose, a hard dick, and itching in his asshole.
"Jack, its about time I get to be a man about this thing. I love you, from the bottom of my heart. Just wish you were here to hear them words."
"Jack, we gotta talk. You've been punching me in the gut, guess since you went on, and I'm a getting a little sick and tired of it. No more punching. And you know I'll fight dirty, if I have to, but I ain't keen on it, man's gotta play fair. But remember those times, we'd be rassling, and then get to grabbing ass, and wouldn't be long we would be grabbing nuts and cocks, and having one hell of a great time."
"Jack, I kept telling you that two guys, well fucking around all, you'd get killed. Wouldn't believe me, and look, I knew, it would happen. Jack, listen to me the next time."
"Goddamnit, Jack, I know we're a couple of horny bastards, but this is serious, and I mean it. No more punching me in the stomach. You want something, say so, or give me a sign, something easy on the old cuss."
"Now, why the hell didn't you tell me about the ranch. Thought you were just blowing gas out the ass every time you said it, didn't know it was for real. Making payments to Lureen, well, you did. Not holding against you. Not much different than a bank. Could have helped; you, well maybe I mean we, could have had it a lot sooner."
"I got a divorce, well, Alma divorced me and dumped my ass, but you stayed married, and you kept saying we could have a good life together. Didn't see you waving no divorce papers like a red flag waved at a bull. It wouldn't be right, shacking up, and you not divorced. Hell, what would that make me? What's fair for one should be fair for the other."
"Yeah, I know, that fucking child support. Wouldn't be no ranch for sure then. I had child support, and well, there couldn't be a ranch and child support too. I know that.
Could've helped some. Or I could have worked the ranch some, lived in a tent and shit in the woods. Then when the ducks lined up, well, maybe it could have been. Hate promising; hate breaking promises too."
"It were like you were the prize fish in the river, and Lureen on one side fishing, and me the other. You'd swim back and forth, take a nibble of her worm, take a nibble of mine. Yeah, Jack, we nibbled on each other's worm quite a bit, and hell, I gotta admit it, enjoyed it one hell of a lot, either way it were done."
"Gotta look at things from my window Jack. Saw a few things different than you. I wouldn't take no charity, but you could have told me you were buying your uncle's ranch, and crap like that. Shit, I didn't know when we got together, you also went to your folks afterwards."
"And paybacks. Took your clothes, yeah we both know I can use them. Nice stuff...and I'll take good care of them, and use them proudly. Sort of a payback. You stole, well took, my shirt back 1963 when we left Brokeback Mountain. Thought I left it there, but didn't know how. Then when I was up to your folk's place, saw it in the closet, and took it, but showed your Ma first I was taking it, and she packed it up for me real nice. Guess your clothes makes us even, now, back then I only had three shirts, and losing one was a big loss. But you figured we wouldn't see the other, and needed something to remember me by, I guess, and I will admit it too, feels real good having your clothes next to my hide, and guess my clothes next to your hide felt real good too."
"And Lureen, did she know about us, you know. I guess my Alma did, the way she talked, calling you Jack Nasty and all. But down there in Texas she didn't let on anything like that was between us, well, not real sure. I think she's a crafty one. Not crafty enough to get the land and bonds away from you, well, yeah, you--and what your dreams were. Guess she got outsmarted by some dumb ranch stiff, and took her lumps like a man."
"Jack, thought I might have got hooked to that good life too, just like maybe you were, but now I know you were just playing your cards like a dumb ranch stiff, and coming home with the pot. Now, I am sitting here in your truck--well the title now says mine--a deed and bonds in my pocket, and wondering if I am hooked, or just got paid off. She didn't want no business of your name and my name heard in Texas. Had a story all made up that I was your half-brother, or shit like that. Nice bribe, if that's what it is. Maybe honoring your will, like she said she would do--although what options did she have?"
"So, Jack, I guess what I am trying to say, I'll be your fucking foreman, ranch stiff, whatever. Should have happened years ago, I guess. Now, I just need a sign, let me know you're hearing me, what I am doing is right/wrong/fucked up."
The siren broke the evening air, a short blast to announce the officer's presence. The blue and red lights flashed, and fucker, turn off your brights. Ennis rose to the occasion, putting Jack back into the canvas bag, and positioning himself upright, and a quick zipper check to make sure nothing was out, or hard, or noticeable.
The officer came to Ennis, and from the side of the window, "Something wrong?"
"Officer, feeling a little pukey sick so pulled over for a minute."
"Well, you look okay now. Better move on, boy, back to Wyoming."
"Yes sir, will do."
Ennis breathed a quick sigh, then in gear and back to the road, and Wyoming. Jack, you son-of-a-bitch, get me tossed in jail yet.
The WELCOME TO WYOMING sign sure looked good. Then the long, well maybe not so long trip, home. Would be getting close to daybreak when he pulled into the drive. Dark in the house. Maybe he'd sleep a while in the truck; no sense in waking the house.
He slept, but was wakened by Curt, who was just going to work, and one smiling daughter. Ennis got out of truck, hugged his daughter, said farewells to Curt who was off to work.
"Daddy, what happened."
"Long and short, Jack's ranch needs a foreman."
"And I'm thinking on it."
"Daddy, it would be permanent, and you can put down roots, and you'd make the goddamndest best foreman in the world."
"Language darling. I'm thinking on it. Breakfast sure would sound good. Oh, manners, by the way, say high to Jack. He's in the metal box there in the canvas sack."
"Tell me everything."
Ennis had breakfast, rested. He thought a while about calling Jack's folks, talking it over with them. Didn't know what for. Spects he knew the answer before he asked it.
And after the phone call was made, Ennis thought it was more Jack's father that felt that way, but then Jack's Ma had leanings that way too. You're suppose to bury the dead, not cremate them. But the fire had been done to old Jack, and Jesus, what the hell will He do when He comes back a second time, and all there is, is a bunch of ashes. Jesus will have his work cut out for him getting Jack back together.
But the folks wanted a funeral. A traditional funeral as Jack's mother said. Well, Ennis could only scratch his head. Told him he would be up in three or four days, bringing the rest of Jack with him. Then have their funeral.
He also told them the wife wanted Jack's ranch to come true--that'll be the day the old man grumbled. Ennis would be the foreman, and again the old man's stomach turned with piss and vinegar.
The three days passed quickly, Ennis loaded up Jack's truck, might as well make the old man have a heart attack or something. And went to Lightning Flat, like Jack had driven many times, Childress to Ennis to Lightning Flat. Except, for Jack, that would be the last time.
He arrived, and was welcomed in.
"You're more then welcome to use the boy's room," Jack's mother said, with eyes that said she did not want to hear the word 'no'. Ennis followed her up the stairs, second time to make that journey. The room was the same as he had left it before.
In the room, she touched Ennis on the back. "Pa said you wouldn't be back, said you would though, and I knew you would."
"Well, ma'am, took a while, maybe too long."
"Like Jack, would come back, but never stayed more than a week or so. But he's home, for good, now."
"Yes. ma'am, pains me to say, for good; but that's what the good Lord ... ".
"Last time you here, you didn't take everything. Don't you want the diaries?"
"Truth. Didn't know they were there."
She went to the closet and pointed to the hiding place. "Jack is my boy, and love him dearly. Knows he loved you as much. And I can love you too, as much, as much you are of Jack as me, I reckon. Putting a big burden on you, almost being my Jack. Won't hold it against you if you don't want to. Room is yours. Stay as long as you like. I mean forever, if a mind. Good to hear a young man's footsteps on the stairs again. Though, if you want a place of your own, I will understand. Jack wanted his own place too. Mothers always understand. Just don't be a stranger."
"Jack has a ranch to be built, run."
"I know. And do read Jack's diaries. Lot about you. Loved you. Don't burn them, but keep them safe."
"Keep them till the day I can't read no more. Promise."
"Thank you. Memories may fade, but words don't."
She left. Ennis moved in, but didn't know if he would settle in. Thunder downstairs, and all.
The funeral plans came to order. A man came with the makings for a coffin, wood, pine, cut to order and mitered, just needing to be nailed together. A coffin, pine, like he had seen other folks buried in. Cowboy style, simple, wood, nothing fancy, as these were not fancy folks, and neither was Jack. The man stayed, and together the man, Mr. Kozinski, and Ennis assembled the coffin, showing Ennis where to hide the nails where they won't show, but make it a strong vessel. With care, love, perfection, nothing too good for Jack, but keep it simple.
Jack's old man found some place else to be. And Ennis was told by Mr. Kozinski, a friend talking to a friend, to let the old man be. That was the way he was all his life, will be after death too, I guess. But never to take your eye off of a mean dog.
The coffin was brought inside, placed on sawhorses in the parlor, like maybe had been done for a hundred years or more.
Jack's ma and some ladies took over the job of laying Jack out. Ennis wanted to, but when it came to pretending it was Jack there, he had a hard time with it.
The coffin had a bed of Brokeback Mountain spread about the floor, and a new quilt, something his Ma had made, put in it, and a pillow that Jack's mother had crocheted as well.
Jack's boots were placed first, then a pair of jeans, fresh laundered, belt was put through the loops, and the bull riding buckle Jack was so proud of. And a shirt and vest Ennis had seen Jack wear a dozen times or more. Ennis played a quick short note on Jack's harmonica, then placed it in the shirt pocket. A copy of a face picture of Jack was placed for the face. The two canisters that held Jack's ashes were placed under the shirt and vest where his shoulders would be. Made a fine looking man with some muscle, but the rest of him was flat.
The ladies adorned the inside of the coffin with wild flowers, maybe the kind Jack himself would have chosen. Some pine boughs, and Ennis, when they were not looking, managed to slip in a bottle of whiskey and a pack of smokes, and a can of beans. Can't go nowhere without beans. Ennis wasn't sure there was an afterlife, not like those Egypt people thought, but what's a man to do? What's right? What's wrong? Maybe Jack's 30/30? Well, when Ennis suggested it, his Ma said maybe enough. The Lord will provide.
Jack's mother added a Bible, Jack's from when he was small, placing it where his folded hands would be. Another lady added a cross. Strangers would come, each adding something. Something that reminded them of Jack, though it maybe been thirty some years since they had last seen him.
Except for the body, Jack looked pretty good.
The old man looked at Ennis. "Well," he said, "make yourself useful." Ennis followed the old man to the tool shed, and a shovel was slapped into Ennis's hand. The old man drove Ennis to the cemetery, and walked to the gravesite.
Here, the old man more motioned than said, then with a stick scratched some lines in the grass, about three by eight. Keep the walls straight, if you can, he said, then went back to his truck and left.
Ennis teared up. Yeah, a grave needed to be dug, he didn't know if he had the stomach to do it or not. Why didn't the old man just take a shovel and whomp Ennis on the backside?
The first shovelful was the roughest. Its Jack's time to be laid to rest.
Ennis dug about a foot of the grave, when Mr. Kozinski showed up with a backhoe. "We ain't dug one by hand in years. Ennis, you're a good man. Our community needs good men like you."
One bucket on the backhoe, full at a time, made quick work of it. Dirt piled to the side. Ennis searched the piles and found the rocks he tossed in another pile, and roots in another. The rocks, well, they ain't seen the light of day, well, since when God put them there. They'll make a good border around the three by eight. In time the sod will lose the grave, but the rocks, they will make it easy to find.
The machine was stopped, and Mr. Kozinski jumped into the bottom of the grave. With the shovel he began to finish the work that the backhoe could not do. Ennis approached the grave and was about to leap.
"Whoa, there, Ennis, one of us will have to help the other out."
"I should be doing it," Ennis said. He helped Mr. Kozinski out, then jumped into the grave. Nice sides, color changes in the earth as it went deep. Cool, nice, under the shade of a tree.
Ennis completed the chore, and both men were satisfied it was level, and a good grave. The concrete vault was installed, ready and all for Jack. Mr. Kozinski lowered the bucket on the backhoe, and brought Ennis up.
"Hey daddy," came the woman's familiar voice.
"Junior, what are you doing here?"
"See who I brought?"
Ennis looked about and saw Lureen. Jesus, supposed he would never see her again, or at least here. Make some happy she be here, others, like that old fart, not sure.
"Got up here quick," Ennis said.
"She flew up. Once I talked to her on the phone, she said she had to be here, and I picked her up at the airport, and here we are."
"I can see that."
Junior drove them to the house. Introductions were made, coffee served. Lureen, well, these are poor folks, and haven't got much, almost nothing better way to say it. Not like the big house and furniture and all she has down in Texas, that other world.
But Lureen, sort of a surprise to Ennis, fit in like a glove. Didn't seem shocked or nothing. Maybe a better way to understand of where Jack came from, who Jack was, who Jack is, and will always be. Jack.
Lureen had a locket for Mrs. Twist. Silver, and inside, some hair from Jack. The old woman cherished it, and Lureen showed the locket she wore around her neck as well.
She visited the coffin, and though some would think hicksville, she touched Jack's clothes like he was there, and just sleeping. From an envelope she took some hairs, Jack's, and placed them as they should be. A token, but a good thought.
Then she excused herself while she adorned her lips with some red lipstick, and that opened some eyes real wide. Then she kissed her handkerchief, leaving her lip print, and folding so the print showed, placed it in Jack's pocket. She excused herself again, and removed the excess paint. And they appreciated it.
Slowly the crowd left. Supper was good food the neighbors had brought in, just like they would when any family had a loss. All tried to smile, and they did. Some talk about Jack liked this or that, the weather, the trip Lureen had made, Jack's ranch, the new foreman, and quiet times, save the eating of food, sounds of dishes and silverware.
Ten o'clock tomorrow would be here soon enough. They retired. Ennis went to Jack's room, well, maybe he should think of it as his room, not Jack's. The bed was small, a boy's bed, but Jack could sleep there, so could Ennis. And Ennis sure did wish Jack was in the sack with him, well, maybe not with folk so close by.
"And Jack, I'll be reading the diaries later, so let me get some sleep."
It was a good day for a funeral. Ennis dressed in some of Jack's, well his finer clothes. Lureen saw him, smiled, said he was a spiffy man. Sun, a royal blue sky with big white clouds in the sky, the kind angels could sit on and look down, and if it rained, it was cause the angels were crying. Folks again came, and so did ten o'clock.
In fact, too many folks come, well, too many for the house to hold that is. Never enough folks at a man's funeral. The pall bearer's Ennis in the lead, took the coffin outside, and on the saw horses, sat it under the cool of the big shade tree. Older folks took chairs to sit; younger ones to stand, or maybe a blanket on the grass, or men sitting on their haunches.
The preacher, he said his words, from the book, and diverting with the promises of our Lord Jesus Christ, and days of reckoning soon at hand.
"Would anyone like to speak?" the preacher asked.
His ma stood, "Jack was a boy this mother is proud of. A good boy, a good man."
"I taught him his letters, when he was little."
"We had some fights, he'd lick me good, and I guess the better guy won."
"He is my daddy's best friend. I only met him a few times, and I thought he was real cute."
"Yeah, Jack, he is, was, is my best fishing and hunting buddy I know. Been twenty years, wished it could be a hundred more."
"He helped me fix a flat tire once."
"Learned his lesson well about eating too many green apples."
"Jack is my husband, and will be forever. I love him, I miss him, as we all do. Yes, we had our ups and downs, but I remember Jack best for all the ups. I could spend hours, but Jack knows what is in our hearts. His dream was to have a ranch here in Lightning Flat. He worked on it for years, buying the property, and making plans. And I am now proud to say the ranch will become a reality. Mr. Del Mar has agreed to be the foreman, and I am sure he will make Jack happy."
"I think I loaned him a dime once, and he never paid it back. But he can keep it; I don't need it."
"It's good he is home, and with the Lord."
"He was good at finding Indian arrowheads."
"Never shared any of his Ma's cherry cake."
"Caught him and my boy with matches once, in the barn. Tanned both their hides real good."
"Could always bum a cigarette from him, if he had one."
"He got my tractor stuck in the mud once, all the way up to the axles. I think I learned him a few words he had never heard before, but by himself, took him three days I remember, he dug it out of the mud."
"Helped when my man was sick, broke his arm."
"We stole some watermelons once, and skinny dipped."
"Seem to always have a smile, and a smoke and a ... well guess I better shut-up and sit down."
"Would have had a good life here."
"I'm only five years old."
"Always talked about the pay before the job, and drove a hard bargain, but I always got my money's worth. And he made sure his Ma got some for his keep, times being what they were, and are."
"I thank the kids who have stayed here, rather than going away. But Jack, he came back for visits, more than most of our kids that have moved away. And I'll bet a million dollars, he was the only kid that came back and did some hard work, just didn't visit for a hour or so, bored, and have to leave."
"Time to get him in the ground."
Everyone had something to say. Truth, frosted over maybe, but nonetheless, true. Overall, Jack was a good good good man.
Each person rose and filed past the coffin, and one last time for respects, a tear, a God Bless, prayer, or whatever. Outside they waited, six men, Ennis one of them, to be pall bearers. Ennis heard the hammer hitting the nails, like the nails being pounded into Christ's hands, and the lid held in place.
The bearers went to the coffin, and three on a side, Ennis in the lead, to the truck. He could have almost carried the coffin by himself, light as it was, but there were a couple of stumbles the other bearers took in stride. Ennis didn't look for the old fart, but knew now was no time to make a ruckus--that's what people would always remember.
The procession was slow, maybe five or ten miles an hour. Again the pall bearers took the coffin to the grave side, and placed it on the bier.
Final words from the Word from the preacher.
The first song was Amazing Grace. Ennis didn't know the words, but had heard the song before, and nodded along. Just a Closer Walk with Me; Swing Low, Sweet Chariot; The Old Rugged Cross; It is Well With My Soul; Water-Walking Jesus.
Ennis's mind went back to Brokeback Mountain, and Jack singing that song--Water-Walking Jesus. Tears clouded his eyes, and only a strong man could hold back the pain.
At the end of the second chorus, Ennis cried out, "Jack," and fell to his knees, holding back the sobbing. The song stopped, a grown man crying.
Jack's mother went to Ennis, and to her knees and she and Ennis were face to face, and eye to eye, and she embraced him like she would her own child, or her own son.
"Do you believe?" her voice echoed in the trees. Ennis cried, and again her voice, "Do you believe?"
Ennis dried his eyes, but were still cloudy, and cheeks wet with tears.
"Believe," he finally said, then smiled. She kissed him. Hands came from the folks, the believers, and were placed on Ennis's shoulders, head, any place on Ennis that another hand was not at.
"Believe," Ennis repeated. Then he stood, the best he could, like a wobble-legged new born calf, or a man just going through the baptism.
"Let us pray, The Lord's Prayer," the preacher said. The unison began and went through the words, felt in most hearts. Ennis just followed along.
The six pall bearers took the ropes in hand, and began a slow steady lowering of the coffin into the grave. A seventh hand came and steadied Ennis's hand, lest his rope would not go down equally with the others. Then bottom, the ropes retrieved.
Jack's mother lifted a handful of Brokeback Mountain, and with determination, said a final good-bye. She stepped back, and others came and showed their final respects, a toss of the rich clean earth, and walked away, whispering amongst themselves, not looking back.
Jack's mother took Ennis's hand and filled the palm with Brokeback Mountain. "Time," she said. Ennis nodded, tears still in his eyes, "Jack, good buddy, have a good life." And let the earth fall through his fingers, and from his palm. He too, walked back a step or two, and with arm in arm, whom steadying whom, woman and man left the cemetery.
The gathering was good. Food, talk in low tones, but in time, the level and clarity of voices rose. Alma Junior encouraged Ennis to eat, but instead went outside, to be alone. Some of the men passed a bottle, but Ennis shook it off and took none. Thought about giving it up.
Men patted him on the shoulder, "Okay, son," some would say, knowing a good man said good-bye to another good man.
Ennis found a cool space, almost concealed, under a shade tree, and wanted to bawl, but could not. Folks said a lot of nice words, kind words, hope most of it was the truth, about Jack. A Jack Ennis never knew. Then again, the trip to Texas opened Ennis's eyes a lot, and now, even more.
Ennis stared at Jack's old GMC, growing over with weeds and rust, having finally given up the ghost years ago, like Jack had given up his ghost as well. Well, good buddy, its over, I guess. Wonder if maybe I had said you and I had the best man-sex two men could have, wonder what the good folks would be saying about you. me. now? Some might know, suspects, other. Maybe old Jack, you had a few of these old boys, or maybe they had you.
Just know, I had you, and you had me, I lost you, and you lost me. Lost a good life.
"Shall we talk?" came the voice beside him.
Ennis, stirred and looked up and saw the preacher. "Oh, preacher, minister, reverend."
"Father, rabbi, and the others," he laughed. "No, keep seated," he said, and then sat down on the ground next to Ennis. "Dan," he said offering his hand.
"Dan? Dan? Dan, oh, Dan." They shook. The preacher had a firm grip, and Ennis knew he weren't going nowhere until the preacher said he could go.
"Ennis. Relax. Would like to talk to you for a few minutes, if I may."
"Ennis, its okay to use words like shit, fuck, goddamnit, piss, cunt, whatever you are comfortable with. Me, well, the parishioners won't let me. But if that is your normal way of speaking, say it. I know what the words mean, and if you had to stop and think about every word you said, a sentence would take an hour or so to say."
"Call me Dan. Would like to see you in church, but I have to warn you. If I see a parishioner nodding off to sleep, I will whistle a lot one, and point at the sleeper. I have a trained squirrel that sees where I am pointing, and will run to the sleeper. And up their leg lickity split, the squirrel will go, and you should see the commotion then. You would think it was the Holy Spirit that had grabbed their balls, or in the case of a lady ..."
Ennis laughed, and between chortles, "Preacher, usually I don't wear no underwear."
"I'll try to remember that," he said patting Ennis on the shoulder. "But what I came here to say, noticed maybe you have a little problem with death, and the beyond?"
"Oh, I know Jack's in a better place. Just wish he were here, now. And I knows there a better plan and all."
"Yes, there is, if you believe."
"I guess the only other funeral I remember was my folks.
Both killed in an auto crash. Was Fourteen. Don't think I cried then. Maybe bottled up, I guess."
"If ever you need to talk. Day or night; drunk or sober; rain or shine."
"Thinking about getting me a piece of that cherry cake. Jack's favorite."
"All gone. Had the last piece myself, though, had to break Elsie's arm to get it; she just wouldn't let go of it. But the fight was worth it."
"Preacher, Dan, keep telling stories like that, and either you are going to hell, or you've got a dick a mile long."
They laughed. "Ennis, come and eat. The soul has been nourished. Its now time for the body."
They went to the house. People lingered about, and the house was full and standing room only. Darn preacher was right. All the cherry cake was gone, save the crumbs and a bit of frosting.
Shit, Ennis thought to himself, these are down home folks. He picked up the cake dish and with a fork--got some manners--scraped the dish for the tasty crumbs and frosting that remained.
"Just like my Jack would have done," Jack's Ma said. Ennis did know some good manners and didn't lick the plate clean--Jack might have, but Ennis didn't. But if he had been alone, good licking would have come.
Ennis poured his eyes over the table of food. He picked up a plate, and not wanting to offend any cook there by not taking a sample of each and every dish, he heaped his plate.
With plateful in hand, people came, mostly men and their wives, or the unmarried, widows and widowers. A pat on the back, a handshake, greetings, name, Ennis won't remember and where the folks lived, north, south, east, west of here. Someday, he will know all their names, their homes, everything. But too many for today.
"Married?" was a question.
"Was. Divorced now. Two beautiful daughters. One's around some place here. 'Once burned', but never again--'Once burned'."
A "Here, here," was heard, and a dozen or more men were slapped or swatted by their women. Well, answered the question. Bachelor, but not eligible. Not a rival.
Mostly it was good folks welcoming Ennis as new blood to the community--a community where the young had left for the most part, or the old were dying, like columns of marching soldiers.
A new neighbor.
That evening the neighbors went home, and the house seemed lonely, but filled with a new kind of love. Lureen had photo albums of Jack, her, Texas, their life. Ennis left and went outside, a bit sad that he did not have a photo album of him and Jack, and their good times. But some pictures are meant to only be memories, not some silver image.
Night came, and bed. Ennis went to his room, Jack's room he wanted to say, but knew it was his room, now, maybe forever.
In the stillness of the night Ennis found the diaries. The first had a big "#1" on it, and he opened it, and read.
PAGE 1. "I, Jack Twist, being only twelve years old, know I am different than the other boys. And if I don't keep it to myself, I will be run off the ranch, or better yet, for the better, I sometimes figure, killed."
ANOTHER PAGE. "Here it is, to the day, three years later. Proud to say, I am a queer. Oh, girls get the pecker charged up, but it's the boys, well men, I really like. But no one knows, am still at home, and not killed. Just looking, ain't had none of any, yet. Signed, Jack Twist."
ANOTHER PAGE. "Ennis DelMar, he be the first, best too, I reckon. Loved the man from the first day, no first hour, first second. Guess he was the answer to prayers."
Jesus Christ Jack. Well, lets put this diary away, and read when I know what I am reading. Ennis put the diaries back into their hiding place. Like the promise to his Ma, he'll read, and save the diaries until he can't read no more.
Finally Ennis stared at the picture of Jack. Thanks, Lureen, he mumbled. It was a good picture of him. Wished he had one of Jack and him, but none ever took.
Ennis saluted Jack. "I loved you," he said softly, then eased the salute and scratched his balls. He climbed into the small bed, but he'd make room for Jack any time. Sleep was slow in coming tonight, as it usually was. Close his eyes, and laid his head on a palm.
"Damn it, Jack," he said half aloud, half silent. Ennis rose, turned on the light and went to the picture of Jack. He stood at attention, best he knew how, saluted Jack, then said, "I love you, not loved as if it were over. I love you, then, now, forever. I love you Jack." (Just wished I had said it sooner.)
Then off the light, the bed seemed extra warm, and sleep came easy--after the promise he would say those words every night from now on, and maybe even the day too--just in case he should forget.
God won't give me a second chance to make it right -- gives no one a second chance. Now I gotta live a long time just wishing. Gotta believe, some day, when it's my turn, a second chance.
Well, maybe I better think on this a little. God gave me twenty years of second chances, 1963 to 1983. Made my mistakes. Gave me twenty years, Jack and me, but like all bottles of good and bad whiskey, they do have a bottom. Just got to my bottom before I wanted it to.
I can only say it to a picture, and a memory. Just can't say it to you. Only myself.
Ennis sort of went back to his old ways, not talking much, keeping to himself. He helped out on the folk's ranch, and some on his, Jack's, their ranch.
Fences were shot there, and the house, well, go inside and look up and see the sky. Was dangerous to go inside, he was warned, but gotta check out the timbers and all. Maybe take the house down, stick by stick, and salvage what he could, and put some back--not a big house, but a nice cabin, like Jack had drawn in his plans.
Ennis worked when he could, helped build a house, and took home, with permission, any scrap 2x4, or crooked ones, or knotted ones, or those with too many nails no one wanted to pull. Tarped them well, and some day, someday I promise you Jack, we will have our cabin.
But he didn't mind living with the folks. Good food, Jack's bed and things, though there wasn't much--never had been. Ma, as he sometimes called her, and she insisted he did, knew how to set a fine table. Old man was there, had to be, and didn't call him Pa, and both were happy about that. Ennis felt he was sitting next to Jack, and at times Jack sat across the table from him. Didn't really matter. A family, the old fart at the head of the table, Ma at the end; the good boys in the middle.
Ennis lost his folks at fourteen. Almost like a new set to continue his life with. And Jack's Ma, well she liked the sounds Ennis made, comforted her. A few problems had to be worked out, like Ennis, living alone or on the range, usually didn't have his clothes or towel with him going between taking his bath, and it was a distance between the bathroom and Jack's room. Jack's Ma said she had diapered Jack, and he told her it had been nearly forty years since he last wore a diaper.
But she agreed to do her knitting or darning in her room when Ennis used the bathroom. But a place of their own--Jack and Ennis--sure did sound good.
It had been brewing all night to be a mean day. Thunder, lightning, wind, dark clouds, cold, wet dampness that went right through you. Lightning was close, and the house might get struck, or worse, a cow.
Ennis and the old man took the tools to mend a fence. They crossed the pasture, keeping an eye on the weather, not caring the other was there.
They found the fence post, rotted at the ground and barely hanging at an angle, supported by its neighboring fence posts, and a rusted strand of barbed wire.
"Fucking Jack Twist," snorted the old man. "Couldn't build a fence to last a day."
Ennis looked. If Jack had put that fence post in, it had to have been twenty years ago. What the fuck did the old man expect?
"Look here," Ennis's steam rose. "Old man, you say one more goddamned bad word about Jack, and so help me, I'll shove more than this fucking hammer up your fucking ass."
"Jack Twist talk. But let me tell you. It will be you that will eating dirt and your teeth, and walking with that fancy twitch, til you shit that hammer in two days."
"Shit," Ennis responded.
Ennis never saw the punch coming, but he felt it and flew backwards landing on his ass, and sliding a yard or two on the slippery grass. The old man came down on Ennis, and began flailing like a combine through the wheat.
The lightning bolt hit real close, and the thunder, and both men shit their pants, and took real close notice. The fence wire was jumping with sparks, and singing a song, like sopranos singing. The old man ran for cover, while Ennis crawled a ways in the other direction. Tall objects on a flat pasture don't mix. Both men had seen trees struck, and cattle stuck, and knew what the outcome would be, should they be a one in a million.
Ennis's body felt the beating the old man had given him. He cleaned the blood the best he could with mud puddle water. He took a bath in the mud puddle, couldn't go home stinking like a kid that shits his pants all the time, and his shirt and jeans just as well. If anyone ever said Ennis was full of shit, Ennis could reply and tell them just how much would come out--to the pint, or pound, however you wanted to measure it.
Ennis admitted, well, the bruises cuts, scrapes and sores kind of proved it, the old man got the better of him. No lying about it. But at least Ennis did not walk that twitching walk, nor shit no hammer. But just may have, he reckoned. Next time, if there were a next time, Ennis knew the rules, or the lack thereof, or thought maybe he had forgotten some of the rules. But if Ennis had gotten in a lucky punch, or a dirty punch, maybe things would be a bit different...not that Ennis enjoyed fighting dirty, but there comes a time.
Yup, my own fault. Let my guard down for less than a second. Though, didn't think the old man had it in him. Mr. Kozinski warned him to never take his eye off the mean dog, but Ennis did, and paid for it. And Ennis found out why they call Lightning Flat, Lightning Flat.
Ma did some doctoring on Ennis. Stuff she used stung like hell, but he didn't need no infections, and would help it heal--the bruises, she added. "Son, take your bitter pill with one part love and nine parts forgiveness. I have, many times."
"Yes, ma'am," Ennis answered. But more like keep it down with a shot glass full of revenge, he thought.
The men would share the same dinner table, for Jack's Ma, but a pointing fork said pass the potatoes, and never a tongue would they speak to the other. And come to work, there was plenty of it, they could always find on opposite sides of the ranch.
Ennis and Jack's Ma would go the cemetery every so often. Pick up sticks and remove the fallen branches. First time, she showed Ennis the family graves. Her folks, long gone. Brother Harold, and his wife, and seven babies, five boys and two girls, none living to be more than six days old.
There were grandparents, some aunts and uncles, cousins and the whatnot. No Twist people; he came from somewhere else. Ennis knew, in time, it would be his sole duty to tend the graves, clean up after the weather and nature; put some flowers, or just rake. Some day, he thought, maybe he should go to his folk's grave, not sure where it was, not sure where his sister was, and if she would remember. Unmarked graves, no money, and like time, forgotten.
Not all days were good for Ennis...then again, for anyone else either. He came home late one stormy night, raining fierce at times, and the muffler sounds like some one had stomped on a grizzly bear's tail, and that bear was getting meaner and meaner.
He drove to the barn, got out and drenched just to open the doors, and drove in. Shook off the rain like a dog, and began his tantrum. God damn fucking son of a fucking bitch. Why me Lord? What the fuck did I do--nothings turning out right no more. Give up this fucking ownership, and have a good ranch stiff's life, owning nothing, having nothing. Fuck, shit. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.
The hammer hit the side of the barn and fell to the floor. Ennis searched the old feed bin and found the whiskey, and downed the sonofabitch, almost a full pint, nonstop. Then the bottle crashed into floor and scattered the glass. He kicked a big piece back into the corner.
Turning, he saw Ma. Shit.
"Sorry," he said.
"Barn talk is barn talk; house talk is house talk; and don't forget."
Ennis's fist smashed into the side of the truck. It dented, but Ennis pulled back a throbbing wrist. Damn. "I don't know."
"Ma, I got work to do," he said, then turned to look at her. She held out a broom.
"Animals can get hurt on broken glass; so can men."
"Yes, ma'am," Ennis replied, and head down low, went for the broom, and cleaned up the mess he had made. And he even found some glass from some prior happening.
When done, he threw the broom into the corner.
"Ennis, you put that broom back proper, and the hammer too. It don't belong on the floor."
There weren't no 'yes ma'am'; just did it. And some of the other tools that had been neglected as well; guess most of the untidiness was his; the old fart didn't leave things like that.
Ennis looked about for Ma. Found her sitting on a bale of hay, her half, another half for anyone who wanted to sit beside her.
"Ennis, you done throwing punches and tools?"
He walked over to her and sat beside her. No one spoke first, but some one had better, or it would be a long night.
"Sorry, language and all."
"Barn talk. Didn't hear a word."
"I drive a fu..."
"Looking for the word fucking, are you?"
"Ma, oh, shit. Drove a fucking one hundred and fifty miles for the part. Ain't got it they said. They called and said the order was in, just turned out my part wasn't in the order they received. Fucking kids wouldn't know nothing, except how to call the sheriff."
"Things have not changed much."
"But they were expecting another shipment in, in the fucking afternoon, like I ain't got no fucking work to do here. So, I scratched them, and had to think what to do. Wasted time and gas to get there; wait or try again. Or tell them to shove the fucking part up their assholes, and all they said there would be a fifteen percent restocking charge."
"Not like ordering from Sears and Roebuck."
"So, I goes outside. Half way to the truck, down comes the rain. Shit sunshine in the morning, and the hay is ruined now. Spent time and money cutting it, drying it; now its ruined. The old fart said I should wait until next week to cut it."
"There have been times we have lost a cutting too. And he knows it as well. But you'll get a second or third cutting from it; animals won't starve; can always buy, but will mean some lean times too."
"I guess. But I ain't done yet. On the way to the truck, fucking rain coming down like piss, and drop my keys, and into the goddamn storm drain. Probably the only drain they got in town, but I found it. Kept looking down there, lucky the rain didn't wash them away; but couldn't reach them anyways, so should have washed them away."
"Hell yes a well. If it were a well I could have climbed down and got them. Stopped raining, and keys still there, million miles away. Part store, asses that they were, called the county drain people, but they wouldn't get around to it for a day or so. Couldn't pull the drain lid off or nothing. Wouldn't do any good to bust the truck windows, cause no key, no go."
"Called, and Pa would have come and got you. You got an extra set upstairs?"
"Well, trucker said he'd give me a ride; but wasn't leaving until tomorrow."
"So how did you get your keys?"
"Well, went to store, thought a magnet on a string might do the trick. Man had string, but didn't think he had a magnet. But found one, but keys are made of brass and aluminum, and guess Mr. Leazenby taught me magnets only work on iron."
"Could call a locksmith, but he wanted forty bucks to come out, and a little short, twenty or so. Got hungry, went to diner and wait. Meatloaf must have been one half lard and one half shit and burned like charcoal; potatoes were instant, mushy and watery, you would have thought they came from a baby's rear end. And not hardly a speck of gravy, and corn had more cob in it than corn; and flies all over the pie, and didn't eat none."
"Come into the house. Dry clothes, and Ma's meatloaf."
"Not done with story; ain't half done. Well, got some string and fish hooks, and went fishing, sort of. Got my keys. Fucking part didn't come in with afternoon shipment either. Went to the grocer and had their popcorn on sale, last bag, too, and nearly half price. Outside raining like shit, bag of popcorn split open, lost most of the corn."
"You do like your popcorn."
"Cheap. But salvage a fourth or so; rest for birds, and should be a good crop next year."
"Ain't crying about it. Just bitching. Guess I figured out why women bitch so much; feel better afterwards. But what pisses me off, popcorn all over the place, not popped, but still there, and some pigeon shits on me. Big glob. So, I takes my shirt off to wash it, and who shows up. Deputy. Says I can't go around town half-naked. Told him mind his own business, or I'd pop him in the nose."
"Ennis, we told Jack we would not bail him out of jail ever. You too."
"Knows that. Anyways, pigeon shits on deputy, and pigeon is waiting in jail now, I guess. But Ennis ain't so dumb. Talked once with Mr. Kozinski, and he said he'd come if needed. And just in case Mr. Kozinski weren't around, preacher said he would, but didn't like the bargain he made. Either sit in jail or sit in church; don't know which is worse. So, all done, I comes home."
"Ennis you are going to get a chill. Need to get out of these wet clothes."
"Well, ain't caught a chill yet; don't think I will. Half way home, hit a dog, but turns out it was a coyote. Killed instantly."
"Ran out of gas. Walked eleven or twelve miles or more to get some more, rained every step of the way, but it didn't rain no gas, that's for sure. Got darker than fuck that's for sure. Got my gas; truck started and all, things looking up. Almost hit a deer; good venison, except repairs to truck would have been making it a hundred bucks a pound."
"Oh, I forgot, some asshole at the restaurant didn't put the fucking cap back on the salt shaker right, so got it all on my food--which couldn't help it any. Tried to scrape it off, but salt goes deep in wounds too. So no deer, but did get a skunk. Well, maybe say he got me. Smelled it all the way home."
"Oh, forgot, don't look Ethel, broke the zipper on my jeans."
"Ennis. They can be repaired."
"The muffler starts roaring, and wouldn't you know it, think I can see the lights burning in the home windows. Bam she goes, blowout. Rain or no rain, got out, sure as shit. Tire no good, but think I can make it home, rim should be okay if I take it easy."
"Into the house, these wet clothes off and your hide before the fire, Ma's meatloaf, and hot vegetable soup too. No pie though."
"Can't. Already three days behind in work. Get this tire changed, and see about fixing the muffler, and who knows whats else, what the fuck else I will find."
"Then I will tell you about my day. After the men folk left, I mopped the floors and waxed them, knowing men would be back with dirty boots. Went to the cellar for a jar of pickles you like so much, last jar, need to can more, dropped them on newly waxed floor, and had a mess. No pickles with the meatloaf."
"Saw a mouse in the house."
"Cat will get him."
"Broke the needle on my sewing machine, so will be a while to mend the jeans."
"Don't look Ethel, what I always says. Don't bother me none."
"Got the electric bill."
"It started to rain, and knew the hay would be ruined. Prayed you wouldn't go out and get drunk, and get into a fight, or something."
"Preacher called and said he would visit. Wanted to bake some cookies for him, and for you too, Ennis, and Pa."
"Dropped the flour sack on the floor, and another mess, but I have plenty of flour. Didn't have no cinnamon."
"Cooking always tastes good."
"Burned a batch of cookies, even Ennis wouldn't eat."
"Washed out the teacups for the visit. Broke the handle of the teacup. Was a set of twelve my folks gave me for a wedding present; now they're all a matched set again."
"Good to hear that."
"Preacher said the squirrel has been missing you."
"Tell the squirrel hunting season may be closed for some folks."
"Preacher wanted to know if you wanted to go fishing some time. Maybe next week."
"Hell, the man would get me in a boat and baptize me for sure."
"He said Elmer's grandson may have cancer, and only nine years old. Shame."
"Little Billy? Hell, looked good to me. Why, two Sundays ago, at the pig and eat, him and me got into a rassling match about the last piece of cherry cake, and had me pinned good for the three hundred and three, and even wanted to wail the crap outta me after I gave a hundred times. But he let me up, let me cut the cake in half, but I let him take the piece he wanted. Sheet. Gotta take the boy fishing, and when he gets older, hunting and all. Sheet."
"Doctors are running tests."
"I worried about Ennis, getting home late, the rain and all. Worried a bit."
"Want to know about Pa's day, how it went?"
"Then about the preacher's day?"
"Want to hear what they said on the radio about the President's day?"
"Want to hear the sound of soup bubbling on the stove?"
"Three days behind already."
"Ennis, the body is telling you something, the soul is telling you something. Your body needs food, and sleep. The harder you work, the less you eat, the farther behind you will get. Tomorrow is a better day, you will see."
"Well, should have stayed home and got some of the hay on the wagon and in the barn. Old fart."
"You are coming to the house, and no punching hole in my walls either."
Ennis may have needed his ear tugged on to get him into the house. But it was late, the woman was right. Too tired to argue. Too mad to see straight.
They dodged the rain drops, letting up, but still a big one coming down every so often. The house was warm, but Ennis was not. The old fart let down the newspaper and looked at him.
Ennis swallowed. "Guess I should have waited a week to cut the hay, like some one said," Ennis said before the old fart had a chance to say, not out loud, but with a nod or wink or whatever that sent the message.
"No guessing," the old fart replied, but Ma kept still, but the men knew she knew all the secrets.
"You get changed and I'll warm the meatloaf."
"Maybe a sandwich, or two, mayo, soup sounds good."
Ennis went to his room, pealed off the clothes and naked wrung the clothes as dry as he could. He shivered, but not when he would be around Ma, and dried. If he laid down on the bed, he would be out, lights burning or not, not saying to Jack the words he always said. But he got some dry clothes on, and went down.
The old fart was gone, probably to bed, and sandwich made to order, and hot soup. Like a hobo that ain't eaten in days, Ennis went at it.
Finished, room for a cookie or two. "Tomorrow, Ennis, tomorrow."
It was raining fierce outside now, and Ennis figured the tire could wait until tomorrow. "Yes, ma'am."
They retired, and Ennis did his salute, scratched his balls still a little damp, and crawled into the warm bed. Lord, forgives me, he murmured. And Lord, about Billy, I mean, if someone's got to go, and you don't care who, then take me.
Billy, he's a good kid, will make one hell of a good man. Although, I do ask you send me where Jack was sent. Now if he made it with you, and I won't, well, got some figuring to do on that. Maybe a bargain? But Billy, just a case of measles, or some green apples, huh? Amen. Then sleep.
Birds were singing in the morning. Mud puddles they could take their baths in, and worms coming up from the drenched land. Some one was happy, Ennis thought, should be him too. He got ready, making his plans; tire first; muffler can be taped for a while, but put one on order and if you didn't mind the noise, can go a while. Hay field, nothing you can do about that except clean up the mess and wait for the next crop, and check the weather reports better.
Downstairs, Ma was at the stove.
"Just coffee," he said.
"Well, works gotta be done."
"And it can wait. You will work better on a full stomach. But you can go get Pa. He didn't come back from the barn last night. Must have fallen asleep waiting for the rain to stop."
"Yeah," Ennis answered.
"Bacon eggs toast and hot coffee when you get back."
It took a while for Ennis to return. Ma was getting concerned. Ennis came into the house. Almost like some one had taken a frying pan and smashed his face flat. Eyes back, sullen.
"Ennis? Ennis? Something wrong?"
"Don't touch no people like that. Never had."
The woman sternly walked to the barn, knowing the results of this journey before she arrived.
The newspaper account read:
"Mr. John C. Twist, a long-time resident of Lightning Flat, died as a result of a tragic accident on his ranch last Tuesday. A tire that he was working on, exploded, and massive injuries occurred when the rim of the tire came in contact with his body. Mr. Twist married ... And he will be missed by family and friends. Arrangements pending."
Left out of the report, drowned in his own blood before he was found.
Long overdue, Ennis thought. Within a few minutes after the undertaker took the old man away, Jack's Ma gave Ennis two deeds. One to the cemetery plot next to Jack, and the other to her ranch.
"Put it back to one piece, like my folks had it. Harold's and mine. No one else to leave it to, no one else but you that I'd care to leave it to, except Jack. Can't do that."
The old man's funeral was attended, as usual, not necessarily for the old man, but for the widow, though she wouldn't be grieving that much. Ennis had no troubles throwing that dirt, and leaving the stones and roots in the grave. Not Christian, just the feeling.
That evening Ennis studied the deeds. They had been made out, and recorded, days after Jack's funeral. More land can be a burden, sure is nice, but not more taxes, and more work.
Ennis was a thinker at times, and something was gnawing on his gut again. Two day's after the funeral, an hour or so before dawn, Ennis rose and went to the cemetery.
He stood on the old fart's grave. "This is for Jack, and if Jack has already done it, or says I shouldn't, then it's from me, or maybe it's for your widow, or wife, I am doing this. But you better believe, it's from the bottom of my heart."
Ennis unzipped, and whipped out his dick.
"Old man, it should have been me, could have been me, would have been me; and you standing here now." With hands on his hips, he pissed. Maybe a quart or more. The recently disturbed earth captured the piss, and it easily traveled down through the broken earth, and found the heart of the target. Done, or just about, Ennis shook the lamb's tail a couple of times for the last drops, then tucked henry away, and zipped.
He went back to the truck, then turned and went back to the grave. "And old man, any trouble out of you, and I'll be back, and shit on you good. And if that don't cure you, I'll dig you up and haul you to Texas and plant you there. You'll never find your way back; no one to bring you back either."
"Should have been me, could have been me, would have been me."
Ennis went to Jack's grave, knelt by the stone. "Jack, you know, maybe it was the rim that got you, like Lureen said. Sure as hell thought it was my old man taught me right. Maybe my old man had it all wrong all these years? Hell, maybe I had it wrong all these years? I don't know. Hell, if Jesus came down and told me it was Martha, not Mary, that was His mother, I think I could believe that first."
Ennis returned to his truck and went home, and had a damn good breakfast.
Jack's dream of a cabin, for him and Ennis, was put on hold. Ma needed Jack's help. When chores weren't so heavy, Ennis would go to Uncle Harold's place, remove some timbers and boards, put them under a tarp, some day, build Jack's cabin.
A few years later, Ma died. No more cherry cake, unless Lureen would send one up. It was sad, but Ma told him she was ready to go, would be meeting up with Jack and friends, and husband perhaps. And they would all be waiting for Ennis, when it's his time, not one second before. Don't be sad; don't cry, but I know why you will. But going to a better place.
"She's a good woman. Lots of good things to say about her, talk all day. Guess I'm most proud to say, she was my teacher. Taught me to believe. And like all my schooling, test day comes sooner or later. Today's the day. I think I'll pass. In fact, know I'll get an 'A'. Probably the only one I ever got."
After her funeral, a few days later, in the afternoon, Ennis made a pot of tea, took a couple of cups, and sat on the ground, next to her grave. Talked a little. Had a couple of cups of tea, even though Ennis couldn't stomach the taste.
Wondered if she'd know next time it might be whiskey, almost had the same color.
As Ennis grew older the grandkids did too. When younger they liked coming to the ranch, mostly to play. They liked riding on the hay wagon or driving the tractor, playing in the barn, roaming the woods and pastures, even flinging cow patties at one another. Something their grandpa must have taught them.
He also carried a switch with him, and kept them in line. But loved them all dearly.
And they liked camping out, and popping real popcorn on the stove, like Ennis did when he was little. But there weren't no tv, and no microwave oven, just a wood burning stove that served Ennis very well. Could even bake a cherry cake if he had a mind too.
As age set in for all the generations, the kids lost interest. None of them knew what an easy day's work was, let alone a days work, and sure as hell, not a hard day's work. So, guess the dream will end with Ennis--Jack's dream and Ennis's too.
Lureen came off and on, never married, brought a tear or two and some flowers.
Ennis grew a mustache, rather than boobs, and ran a good ranch, had a good life, at least by his standards. Most would say it weren't worth much, but for nothing but a ranch stiff, he did pretty darn good. Had Jack to thank for that. The land, money, inheritance, that made the difference. Ennis admitted that to himself. Had no problem with it. If, and there's that dirty word, if only Jack had told him, and showed Ennis that it was more than gas out of the ass.
But some auctioneer will give it to some young kid who doesn't know any better. Maybe make a go of it. His girls, and mostly the grandkids will be interested in the money the ranch will bring. Guess they'll be a little disappointed, but more than the one-third twenty-four dollar share he got from his folks. Not counting the two mortgages.
Maybe Jack's boy would want it. Had never seen him, talked to him or anything. Could be dead, or maybe making Jack some grandkids left and right. Should write Lureen some time, and check some things out.
Ennis thought he would see two young men--ranch stiffs, in love with each other, and with a dream that would be almost impossible for them to achieve. Just needing a start, that first kick in the ass. They gotta love the other, until death they part, and beyond.
But most young men were not worth a bean fart--just like was always said about Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar.
Ennis would spend his quiet summer evenings, after the work was done, rocking on the front porch. Always had a knife and piece of wood in his hand, carving animals, mostly horses that he knew best. Spects his carvings will be about the only legacy he'll be leaving anybody. Then Ennis would look over at the other rocking chair on the porch, and see it rock, even when there wasn't a breeze, and knew, by some boy's definition, this was a good life, a real damn good life.
As Ennis aged his daughters were also getting after him about moving away from Lightning Flat. Everyone else seems to be leaving, or dying there. Nags, he thought, but would not budge. Ennis built him a little shack where no one could find him, and kept it stocked, just in case they came with ropes to drag him off. If he got a shot out of there, he knew he could hole up until they left.
Life is like a funnel, filled with water. When you're young its so big, you can't swim across, and you think the water will last forever. As you get older, and the water comes out the funnel end, the sides of the funnel begin to cast shadows, and you have to look up to see the sky. And the water begins to flow faster. Ennis would wonder at times, if only he had swum down to the bottom of the funnel, and came out the spout, maybe him and Jack would have had a real good life together, fifty, sixty, seventy years or so. But Ennis never swam down, instead stayed on top, floated when the breeze blew, doing what others thought he should do, thinking that was right.
If Ennis would have ever spoken on the matter, maybe he would say he had been left-hand celibate, though Jack would know that for sure.
"Jack, I love you." Then Ennis died, the undertaker came and did him fine. The daughters came, and a few grandkids, but most were too busy or too far away. Neighbors came and did him proud as an earlier generation or so had done Jack, and the folks, and others. They laid him to the final rest next to Jack Twist, as good hunting and fishing buddies should be. Death departed, death re-united.
Reports came from Brokeback Mountain of two young men, about nineteen. They camped and rode their horses, hunted and fished, sang and played a harmonica, fought and wrestled and frolicked.
THE LAST MINUTE
Ennis studied the apple, wondering if someday he would peel the apple, and have its peeling as long as he was tall. Talked about it last time with his grandkids a while back, and one said if he knew pi-r-squared, and he told them old grandpa knew it was pie-are-round, and the only pie he knew was apple, cherry, rhubarb and pumpkin and others, many of which he has eaten, and baked a few too.
And the young man told his grandfather you could figure the area of a cylinder, and Ennis told him he didn't know no silly dear. Guess they both gave up talking about what neither knew of.
All Ennis knew, for sure, was if you cut the peeling too narrow, it could not bear its own weight, and would break, and if you peeled it too wide, there weren't enough peeling to get very long.
Ennis looked up to see the car, its lights on, down the road a piece. He knew he'd get them an apple too, if they stopped, or wave his hand if they kept on going.
Maybe have some meatloaf tonight, though some chicken sounded good. Maybe ask the preacher to go fishing, and fish sounded good too.
As the old 1950 Chevrolet pulled into the driveway, the apple was the first to hit the porch, and then the knife. Then the body. Life was breaking out of the corral we know as Ennis DelMar. The timbers of the corral were creaking with the strains life was putting on the corral. It would only be seconds now, if even that.
The last words, barely audible, slowly spoken as if one letter at a time was said, "J-a-c-k, I l-o-v-e y-o-u."
And then the corral collapsed, and life exited, finally, at last.
Unseen, they came, prepared the spirit of Ennis DelMar in robes, and took him to God.
Ennis sat with God, and they talked.
Ennis, my son, He said.
You disappointed me. But we sometimes talked when you did wrong, and I listened.
Overall, you were a good man. Times, you made me happy. You were good to our animals. Tried to be fair. You helped this old lady with her groceries, and gave this old man a quarter. You gave me food and water when I knocked on your door. You didn't know who I was, but you gave it to them.
Do you know your ten commandments?
Well, sir, preacher talked about them a couple of Sundays ago. Didn't know there would be a quiz. Well, lets see. Do not kill, or was it murder?
And did you ever murder?
No, I don't think so.
No, you did not. And the other nine?
Will have to think on that. Oh. Stealing. I know what the answer to that will be.
Pies, but nothing too terrible. But you know.
Ennis, if there is one thing that would make you happy, what would it be?
Sir, I know you know. No sense in lying to you. Guess that's another one, ain't it? Well, it's Jack. Reckon you don't approve of that one.
I gave you Jack. No one listened to me. Satan, I am afraid got to all of you, you, your father, Jack, Alma, every one that I made. Yes, I gave many laws, and my son told me, even the ten were too hard for my children to keep.
Glad that you understand then.
Ennis, I have a question for you. Which is the worst: Doing the sin, not asking forgiveness of the sin, or telling me of your neighbor's sin.
Well, guess you shouldn't sin in the first place, and then if you do, guess you should ask forgiveness. Then why would anyone want to tell you of their neighbor's sins since you know it already.
Perhaps you need some more time to think on that. Now, Ennis, ask that question that is bothering you right now.
Well, okay, which came first, the chicken or the egg?
I thought it should be logical. And the other question you have.
Well, is it here or there?
Ennis, for very few, I am sorry to say, heaven will be for them. And even sorrier to say, that even for one, hell is for them. Like all those that go neither to heaven nor hell, I am giving you my blessing, and one more chance for true, eternal happiness. A land where you will feast on your memories. Go, they are waiting for you.
Thank you, sir.
And Ennis, I am not really old. Life is just beginning.
Ennis left God, and was taken back to his body. He saw it, lying there, lifeless, but he did not enter it.
The old 1950 Chevrolet, two-tone paint, like his folks had, a long time ago. The doors opened, a man and woman, dressed as he had remembered them to be last dressed, came out. He ran, greeted them and hugged them, the nine year old boy, the man, the old man.
They hugged, kissed. Pa told his son, Ennis, you got every right to punch me a good one. Steered you wrong, about some things. You should have had happiness, what God gave to you. Sorry.
It's okay, Pa, Ma. Missed you.
You turned out a nice, good man. Proud of you.
The Twists are fine folk too. You did them well too.
Remember us, they asked. And made cherry cake.
Hugs and kisses, hand shakes and all.
Yeah, and cherry cake time too, soon.
Remember me? Have to tell you the count was better than I had hoped for, but back then, didn't know how good of a ranch stiff you really were.
Call me Joe. Most folks do, now.
Looking for me?
Heard you every night. Jack, I love you. Did you hear me say, Ennis, I love you.
Figured it was you.
Well, bud, brought the horses, and after they lay you to rest, we will be heading up to Brokeback Mountain.
But first, we need to have our time together, me, you, my folks, your folks, even Joe here, and others. We will attend your funeral, listen to the words the other side will say.
I was proud what they said. Made me feel good. Real good.
Mr. Del Mar.
We don't eat over there, with them. Our table is over there.
And we will cut the cherry cake into thirds this time.
You bet we will.
After the sentiments and tears, the ride, to Brokeback Mountain.