All I Got and All I Want: Chapter 3

By Zane Twist

It was dark when Ennis and Jack stepped outside the Silver Spur. The parking lot was not well lighted. At first, they saw no one. Then, to their right, there was the sound of a footstep on gravel, and the noise of someone clearing his throat. In unison Ennis and Jack turned to face the sound. It was Orville, the tall, fat roughneck, and one of his buddies was with him. Jack's jaw dropped and he touched Ennis's sleeve. Orville was holding a tire iron in his hand.

When he saw the tire iron, Ennis's eyes widened. Childhood memories of the murdered rancher Earl—and thoughts of his own recent nightmares—flooded his brain. Without waiting for Orville to make the first move, or without even thinking, Ennis launched himself on the oilfield worker. Ennis's right hook connected with Orville's nose; there was an audible and sickening crunching noise. Orville yelled in pain and raised both hands to his now bleeding nose. In the process, he dropped the tire iron, which clattered on the gravel of the parking lot. Ennis kicked the tire iron aside and followed up with a second punch that laid Orville out on his back, holding his broken nose and moaning.

Meanwhile, Jack sensed movement out of the corner of his left eye. It was Leroy, the uncommonly skinny roughneck. Before the man had a chance to aim a blow, Jack suddenly pivoted on his left foot and caught Leroy right where it mattered, between the legs, with the toe of his right boot. Leroy collapsed to his knees with a howl of pain. The kick wasn't exactly fair, but then guys who came to a fight armed with a tire iron weren't exactly playing by the Queensberry rules, either. Jack brought his right fist down on the top of the Leroy's head, sending him sprawling face down on the ground, effectively putting him out of commission.

While Jack was tending to Leroy, the burly roughneck who had been standing with Orville grabbed Ennis before he had time to recover from taking out Orville. He spun Ennis around, aiming his own right fist at Ennis's mouth. Fortunately, Ennis's muscular, supple body was made for fighting as well as for the horse, and his reflexes were uncommonly quick. He was able to dodge that fist, but before he could recover, the roughneck, with unexpected agility, landed a left that cut Ennis's lower lip. Probably as a result of the beer that was in him, the man then made the mistake of stopping to congratulate himself on his punch. Ennis, recovering and enraged, then caught him under the chin with a left jab that sent him staggering back against the right front fender of a rusty Ford pickup that was parked facing the front wall of the bar. The surprised roughneck's arms went back against the truck as he struggled to keep from losing his balance. Seeing Ennis coming at him with murder in his eye, and preferring to avoid the fate of his friend Orville, who was now sitting up but ignoring the fight as he moaned and held his nose, he scooted backward around the front of the Ford, barely out of the reach of Ennis's long, sinewy arms, then turned and fled into the darkness.

Ennis started to pursue the fleeing roughneck around the front of the pickup but hauled himself up short when he heard a yell from Jack. He turned. While Ennis's attention had been focused on Orville and his buddy, Jack had been concentrating on making sure that Leroy was out of the fight. They both seemed to have forgotten that there had been a fourth roughneck. That oil worker now seemingly came out of nowhere in the darkness of the parking lot. He grabbed Jack, spun him around, and landed a right that laid Jack out on the gravel and would soon raise a shiner under Jack's left eye. When the punch landed, Jack yelled, more in surprise than pain, and it was that yell that caught Ennis's attention. Ennis turned just in time to see Jack go down. Then, as Ennis watched, the roughneck noticed the tire iron, forgotten on the stones of the parking lot, and picked it up. He started for Jack. Ennis watched in horrified fascination as his nightmare seemed to come to life: Jack was in trouble. He had to help him. …

With Jack's left eye already swollen nearly shut, he almost didn't see the tire iron coming until it was too late. Somehow, at the last moment, Jack managed to avoid the blow, rolling out of the way a split second before the tire iron hit the ground where his head had been. And then Ennis hurled himself at the roughneck. "N-o-o-o-!" Ennis screamed. He cleared the distance between the old Ford and the roughneck in three strides and launched himself onto the man like an eagle on a rabbit. His full weight hit the roughneck in the middle of his back and knocked the wind out of him; he went down with a grunt, dropping the tire iron. Ennis landed on top of him. With a rage fueled by the remembered fear of his nightmare, Ennis pounded with his fists on the man's back unmercifully. And then Jack, who had gotten to his feet after Ennis landed on his assailant, was pulling Ennis off the roughneck, yelling, "Ennis! Ennis! Don't kill the sonofabitch!"

Ennis stopped his pounding. He slowly got to his feet. Panting and sweating and shaking all at once, he looked at Jack. His throat felt tight. "Jack?" he croaked. "You all right?"

"I been better," Jack replied, gingerly touching the swollen flesh beneath his left eye. He stooped down, picked up his hat, which had fallen off when he hit the ground, and brushed some of the dust off the battered old Resistol while Ennis's breathing returned to normal and his heart stopped pounding. Ennis held his shirt cuff against his cut lip and pushed to stop the bleeding.

Glancing around with a slightly puzzled look on his face, Ennis said, "Where's my hat?" Jack pointed to it, lying where it had fallen when Ennis had flung himself on the roughneck. Ennis picked up the hat. He had just put it on his head when he noticed the tire iron, on the ground where the roughneck had dropped it when Ennis landed on him. Ennis looked at Jack, and then he looked again at the tire iron, and then he picked up the tire iron. He held it in both hands as he and Jack watched as the three remaining roughnecks slowly roused themselves, got up off the ground groaning, climbed into the rusty Ford pickup without looking at Ennis and Jack, backed the Ford out of its parking place, the box toward Ennis and Jack, and drove off in it like a dog skulking away with its tail between its legs.

Ennis looked at Jack. "Let's go finish those steaks, bud," he said.

"Right," said Jack. Side by side, they walked back into the Silver Spur. Ennis took the tire iron with him.

You could have heard a pin drop when they walked back into the bar. The place went from subdued quiet to dead silence—everyone had seen the confrontation and was wondering what was happening outside in the parking lot. Annie Price, who had just finished cleaning up the mess of spilled food and broken dishes with the help of one of the busboys, saw them walk in, stood by their table, hands on hips, grinning from ear to ear. Ennis and Jack calmly sat down in their places, Ennis propping the tire iron against the table. Ennis glanced into his coffee mug, looked at Annie, said calmly and quietly, "More coffee, please, Annie?" As if he'd just come back from the bathroom instead of from a deadly serious fight in the parking lot.

"Sure enough," Annie replied with a grin, clapping Ennis on the shoulder. "Comin' right up!" She headed to the side of the room, where the coffee makers stood on an old dark-oak sideboard, to fetch a fresh pot.

Back at the bar, Frankie pulled two longnecks out of the cooler, opened them, handed them to Manny the bar back. Pointing with his chin toward Ennis and Jack's table, he said to Manny, "Here. Take 'em these." Then he turned to old Pete Broughan, who, as curious as the next person as to the outcome of the fight, had not returned to the office. Frankie gave the bar owner a look, added, "They're on the house."

When Manny came back from delivering the beer, Pete Broughan sent him out to check the parking lot for the four roughnecks. "No sign of 'em," Manny reported, when he came back into the bar.

"Hunh," said Pete Broughan. "How 'bout that. Twic't their number." He turned to Frankie, chuckling a little. "Those two boys over yonder are drinkin' on the house for the rest of the night, you hear? And tell Annie those steaks are on the house, too."

"You bet!" Frankie laughed. Pete went back into the office, shaking his head in wonderment, chuckling a little. Those two boys from the old Barkley place might be queer, he thought to himself, but they sure as hell wasn't pansies.

If they hadn't been careful, Ennis and Jack would have gotten too seriously drunk to drive home. Aside from the beer on the house, a number of folks insisted on buying them shots of whiskey as well. They admired that the two young cowboys from the Barkley place had kicked the shit out of twice their number in roughnecks (by morning the story would be all over Signal), and never mind if they really were queer. But Annie kept the coffee coming, so they managed to keep their heads, and Frankie sent ice wrapped in clean bar towels for Jack's black eye and Ennis's cut lip. When they finally couldn't swallow another drop of coffee or beer and rose to leave, Ennis remembering to pick up the tire iron, Annie came over, took Ennis and Jack both by the sleeve. "Thanks, fellers," she said quietly. "I really 'preciate what you done this evenin'. Whatever you did, them shitheads deserved it. You come back here any time you want, there's always a table for you. You're always welcome."

"Thank you, ma'am," Ennis and Jack both murmured in response. Touching their hat brims, they quietly left the bar, followed by admiring glances from customers in both the dining room and the bar.

The drive home was silent. Ennis drove because Jack's black eye was swollen nearly shut. They said nothing when they finally entered the house. Then they both knew where they needed to go, what they needed to do. They went right to the bedroom. While Jack opened the window, Ennis turned on one dim light, on the dresser.

They hadn't made the bed that morning, so the bedclothes were as rumpled as they had been when they got up that day. They stood facing each other silently by the bed for some moments. Jack reached up and started to unbutton his shirt, but Ennis suddenly stepped forward and seized Jack's wrists. He lowered Jack's wrists to his sides. Then he began to unbutton Jack's shirt, slowly, button by button, revealing the smooth, sculpted chest beneath the fabric. After he undid the last button, Ennis pulled Jack's shirt out of the waistband of Jack's jeans. Then he stepped back.

Taking the hint, Jack, in turn slowly unbuttoned Ennis's shirt while Ennis stood still with his hands at his sides. After he opened the final button, Jack pulled the shirt from the waistband of Ennis's jeans. He pushed the shirt off Ennis's shoulders. The shirt slid down Ennis's back and arms and crumpled to the floor. Ennis then repeated the motion, pushing Jack's shirt off his shoulders.

Again they stood facing each other, silently, for several moments, shirtless, their chests gleaming with perspiration. Jack licked his lips as he stepped closer to Ennis, reached up slowly, took Ennis's face into his hands, and, mindful of Ennis's cut lip, gently brought Ennis's lips to his own. But Ennis didn't want gentle. Not just now. The memory of seeing that tire iron hit the ground where Jack's head had been a split second before, the horror of it, was too fresh, too raw. Ennis wanted it—needed it—fierce and hard and long. And Jack, who never wanted anything more than to lose himself in Ennis and their love making, was glad to let him do what he wanted. With a desperate, adrenaline-fueled passion, Ennis pulled Jack's lips to his own. They came together as hard and as desperately and as fiercely as at their reunion back in '67, four years after their summer on Brokeback Mountain. …

Three hours later, finally exhausted, sated, spent, sweat drying on naked bodies, postcoital cigarettes stubbed out in the ashtray on the nightstand, they lay together quietly, Jack cradled in the crook of Ennis's arm. As they drifted toward sleep, Jack murmured, "Ennis?"


"No more bad dreams?"

Ennis smiled up into the darkness, hugged Jack close. "No more bad dreams," he said.

By the next morning, the tale of Ennis and Jack's encounter with the four roughnecks was all over Signal. Of course the tale got embroidered slightly as it was passed from hand to hand. No one seemed to remember—or care—that the four roughnecks had been considerably liquored up when they took it outside with Ennis and Jack. All anyone seemed to care about was that Ennis and Jack, those two reputed queer boys living on the old Barkley spread, had put the fear of God into twice their number of big, burly roughnecks. And folks were mightily impressed.

After thinking about it for a couple of days, Ennis put the tire iron on the fireplace mantle in the main room of the old log cabin ranch house, where it remained for years on years, a memorial and a trophy of the Saturday night of Labor Day weekend, 1971. And the next time Ennis went into Sorenson's to pay the feed bill, nobody laughed behind his back.

(The End)