Fishing at Pine Creek
November 7th, 2006
Down along the creek there were two trot-lines set up under the willow trees. The lines were gently swaying with the current, the wind gusted periodically and the stiff breeze pushed the lines back against the current, and the motion began all over again. Leaves of red, gold and brown dotted the surface of the creek, flowing in a random pattern of autumn beauty.
Jack pulled on a flannel lined windbreaker over his sweatshirt and long sleeved western shirt and griped about the incessant wind, as he did every year at this campsite. Ennis looked up at him from the fire ring, and cocked one eyebrow; waited for Jack to go on and say a direct thing, or quit his grumbling altogether. He didn't care which he did, just do something.
One year, 1998, seems like, it dipped down in the teens at night and was literally too cold for them to stay outside even during the day, but the tent was nice and cozy. They didn't stint on money when it came to their camping gear, no sir; they needed all the amenities and comforts of home. The fire ring was now only for nostalgia's sake, for the smell of the burning pine logs, the cheery flickering light, and the crackling sounds they'd fallen in love to many decades before. That was the same year they woke up to 8 inches of snow on their third day out, and they packed it in, and went home.
It's only symbolic anyway. This trip. This camping trip to Pine Creek, every year on November 7th. It commemorates the almost missed trip in 1983.
Jack had no intention of meeting Ennis in the Fall. He'd had enough of this shit; he did all the driving, all the waiting, all the hoping. He'd just stay home this time and let Ennis see how hard and lonely that was. Let him see how it felt to wait and worry. He'd made up his mind, and that was that.
Until November came, and with each passing day, Jack's stomach clenched and cramped worse than he could ever remember. He paced the rooms of his large house, and worried their tabby cat, Matilda. By noon on the 6th, his head was throbbing with pain and this ache had nothing to do with alcohol, Jack knew, because he'd quit drinking back in August. He had known he had to take hold of his own life, be his own master. Quitting drinking was turning out to be easier than quitting Ennis del Mar.
Lureen had put up with him through the cold turkey, the dry heaves, the rambling out of his head during those weeks in the summer. She was even supportive. She kept his clothes laundered, his sheets changed, and his favorite soap in his shower. She kept fresh fruit and vegetables in the house, she made balanced meals in hopes that one day soon he would actually be hungry for food. For too long Jack had drank his meals. At last the day came when he reached for a sandwich and an apple. He even began to sleep at night.
But unlike that effort; this time she was far from sympathetic, far from feeling like a partner.
Jack was on the back porch sitting on the steps, rocking himself and holding his head.
"Jesus H. Christ Jack! Give it up. Just go to him."
"What are you talking about, Lureen?"
"Jack, I ain't stupid. Get outa here, go see your Ennis. He's the only one who can cure what's ailing you. This I know from long experience."
Jack's heart sang out long and loud in his chest, and Lureen didn't have to tell him twice. This was the excuse he'd been hoping for. He started grabbing camping gear from the large closet on the porch.
"I've packed you some sandwiches, and a thermos of soup, Jack. There's a handful of apples in the bottom of the sachel, as well. . . and some cookies. I know how you are about your sweets."
"Thank you, Lureen. You're the best."
"Well, maybe I am and maybe I'm not, dear husband. But I know this much."
He grinned wickedly at her, expecting her to tease him about one of his many failings. "What do you know, dear wife?"
"I know you better not come back here till you fix it with Ennis del Mar.
I don't wanna see that hangdog look on you no more. Do whatever it takes, Jack, because nobody but you can do this. Make yourself happy, Jack."
"God, Lureen. I don't think I can. I've tried for years, and I don't think he'll have me. Not now, not ever like I want."
"Look Jack. I've sent Bobby to gas up your truck, I've packed you some camping provisions, and food for your drive for the next 14 hours. The rest is up to you . . . and Ennis."
Jack kissed Lureen and held her warmly, gratefully. She hugged him tight, then said, "Now, you git!"
Obediently, Jack went to the closet and packed a duffel with several changes of clothes, and some heavier clothing in case it got friggin' cold out there at Pine Creek.
The asphalt flew underneath his singing tires, the wind buffeted the truck from side to side a bit. Still he forged on. When he couldn't hold it any longer, he'd stop to take a piss, pour a cup of coffee from the thermos Bobby insisted he take, and eat a sandwich. He took all of five minutes for this and was back on the road in no time.
By dawn of the 7th, Jack was ready to nod off at the wheel, but he opened his driver side window to clear his head, and revive himself. He only closed it when his teeth chattering began to make his whole body tremble in sync.
He had to slow down anyway, in the small town of Wellington, Colorado, so he decided to top off the gas tank, take a bathroom break, throw some cold water on his face and grab a cold Coke. His turn signal was clicking 'LEFT, LEFT, LEFT' as he pulled out of Barney's Texaco heading north.
Out of the corner of his left eye, Jack saw an aqua and white truck pull off the highway, and pull into Barney's just as he pulled out. He argued with himself for one mile only before turning back to make goddamn sure that it wasn't . . . well, that it wasn't . . . no way could it be . . . but it was.
Ennis del Mar was getting a fill up, buying a Snickers, and studying his map before getting back on the road. But he never made it.
Jack's truck careened across the black top surface and slid to a stop in front of Ennis' truck. He couldn't have him pull out and be gone . . .well that was just too hideous, too ludicrous to imagine. To lose him again in the other direction.
When Ennis stepped out of the filthy men's room drying his hands on the thighs and butt of his jeans, he was grabbed by the biceps and shoved right back in there. The lock clicked. He didn't mind a bit.
Jack was kissing Ennis so hard, their teeth were making marks on their lips, and . . .
Ennis grabbed Jack's face and pulled back. Rasping, his voice sounded like he hadn't used it in days, cause he hadn't. "Jack, let's get the fuck outa here!"
"Follow me, I know a motel on the outskirts a Cheyenne. We'll go there for now."
As it turned out, they stayed at the Hamilton Inn for two days, talked and talked, fucked and fucked again. Then they made love with the one they could no longer live without. When all was said and done, they were both desperate to never go through again what they'd gone through for the past six months. They packed up and drove on up to Pine Creek for the rest of their week, or for eternity, that was yet to be determined.
Each man knew for himself, just how bad it gets. And that was behind them now. Never again, they promised; never again will we cut short our time with each other. The 'How' is to be worked out, but the 'When' is right now.
And so it is, each year on this date, this devoted couple, these ardent lovers, make their way, in one truck, up the mountain, and over to the sweetest spot on earth, Pine Creek.
"Happy 7th of November, darlin'. "
"Same to ya, Cowboy."