2004 - The Valentine - Part 4
Once again, Ennis and Jack busied themselves with laundry, repairs, packing and grocery shopping. It was almost becoming routine for them to compress their work into the first part of each week. By Thursday, February 12th, they were ready to leave Osage, in northeastern Wyoming where their small ranch was located, to head on up to Lightning Flat to check on the folks and their place.
The mood was quite different on this trip than it had been for the past several months. For one thing, the Twists now have some money of their own, so Jack was not as concerned about their finances. He seemed more light-hearted because of it.
And Ennis, for his part, was downright pleasant. He seemed as if he were keeping a secret to himself. He smiled and hummed as he drove.
Jack kept up a running commentary as they drove along, but that was not unusual. What was different was that Ennis joined in, and answered back with ideas of his own.
"Yes, it was a very nice day."
"Yes," he noted that there was a new Sinclair filling station on that corner. And he agreed with Jack that the atmosphere in the area seemed to be picking up. They even saw a couple "Help Wanted" signs in windows.
Next he pointed out that the Culbertson's seemed to have a couple new horses in that lower pasture, and so on. They checked out the environment, now familiar to them, as they'd driven this route weekly for months. Perhaps the only difference was that winter was losing its grip on the area. But all in all it seemed quite hopeful.
When they passed Rocky Point, they were practically there, and wondered how the folks had fared these past few days. Unexpectedly, the mood continued to be buoyant with the elders when they arrived. Smiles wreathed their faces. John was busily cutting out and stacking squares of fabric while Delores stitched away, creating a new quilt with her own original design.
They dropped their work to greet the young ones; admittedly, they were only young in relation to the elderly couple, not in actual years.
They talked loudly and excitedly as they unloaded the groceries, and the laundry. Ennis told Mama Twist, "We brought something special for you."
John chimed in with, "Not another jigsaw puzzle, I hope!"
Grinning, Ennis replied, "What's wrong, didn't you like the puzzle?"
"Sure I did, but it takes over your life if you let it!"
As Jack and his dad were talking quietly about the results of the sale, Ennis spoke privately with Delores. "We brought you the fixins for a cherry cake. Thought you might want to make one for the two a you for Valentine's Day."
"Aren't you just the sweetest boy?" she crooned. "This would have been my first year to miss making it."
When she looked worried, Ennis read her mind and said "Now, now. I'll help you and so will Jack. Guess it won't be a surprise for the old man though, he'll see what we're making."
"How much of a surprise could it be anyway, when I've made the same thing for the preceding 65 Valentine's Days?" she laughed, "John will love it no matter what, it's his favorite dessert."
Still speaking quietly, she asked Ennis, "How's your plan going for your little trip?"
"Pretty good, he don't even ask about it, cause he thinks we can't do it. We'll leave tomorrow after lunch, n' get there in time for dinner."
"Let's make the cherry cake in the morning then, how's that sound?"
Meanwhile, it looked like Jack and his dad were up to something sneaky the way they huddled together and spoke in undertones. John had been cutting heart shapes out of red polka dotted material when Delores wasn't looking, but he couldn't figure out how to make something of them. Jack, not being a sewer, couldn't think of anything either. Eventually, he'd need his wife's help. That's all there was to it.
They ate soup and sandwiches for lunch before the boys took their guns and went out to hunt ducks or geese. The folks went back to their quilting for an hour before napping in their easy chairs.
As Ennis and Jack strode across the newly empty pastures, they periodically saw the sky fill with giant vees of migrating birds returning to the area. Only when the geese saw a pond or a field of grain, did they become tempted enough to come down low for a good look around, putting them in range of their guns. Jack shot the first one; a big Canada Goose, and then grumbled as he had to walk a half mile to find the bird and wring its neck. At least the strenuous walking warmed him up, and he stopped barking about how cold it was.
Ennis shot another, and they proceeded back to the house to prep them for cooking. Later, the entire house smelled of roasting fowl. The aroma was delicious. When the meat was roasted, Ennis and Jack each took one goose and removed the meat from the bones, saving everything.
The family feasted that night on goose, baked potatoes, corn and baking powder biscuits. There was tapioca pudding for dessert. The leftover meat was portioned for the elder Twists, and packaged for the freezer. For some time, it had been a concern for Ennis and Jack that Delores and John were not getting enough protein. Their hunting trip had been planned to solve that.
When the small packages of roasted goose were put in the freezer, The bones were wrapped and refrigerated. Delores would happily boil the bones for stock, and make soup later in the week.
In bed that night, Jack asked Ennis if he thought his dad looked okay. "I thought he seemed a bit slower, maybe he was just tired." Jack consoled himself with the idea that it was just fatigue.
"I didn't notice it. I'll pay special attention from now on. If so, maybe we should think about moving them in with us sooner than we'd planned, bud."
In the morning, as soon as breakfast was over, the four set about making a cherry cake. John offered to pit the cherries, Delores measured out the flour, sugar, cinnamon, butter and milk and put them in the bowls in proper order. Jack stirred the batter after it got too stiff for his mama to do. Ennis set the oven on 350 degrees and greased the cake pans. He then took a turn stirring before disappearing upstairs.
When the cake was in the oven, the boys played pinochle with the elder Twists, never beating them once.
While the cake cooled, the family had a lunch of leftovers from the goose dinner. As soon as Jack and Ennis finished doing the dishes, Ennis announced to Jack that he needed to speak with him.
Looking serious, Jack asked, "What's up, Cowboy? Is it dad?"
"No. Well, yes. He and your mama need to be alone for Valentine's Day. You know that, right? We need to get out of here for a bit. Okay?"
Jack was taken aback, he certainly never thought of his parents as needing time for "romance". Ewww. Ennis told him to go ahead and get in the truck, they'd take a ride or something.
He look befuddled and did not know what to do, he wasn't expecting this for sure. Unbeknownst to Jack, Ennis had thrown their overnight bags in the truck earlier.
They quickly said good-bye to the folks. Jack saw that his parents were grinning. He thought he knew the reason, but he was wrong. The elder Twists were in on the secret trip that Ennis had planned for Jack.
They pulled out of the gravel drive, and turned south down 59, back toward Rocky Point. Ennis passed Weston and continued driving until he picked up 14/16 just northeast of Gillette. They drove in silence, Jack getting more and more restless, until they stopped in Spotted Horse to gas up the truck.
"Where in the goddamn hell are you taking us, Ennis? I've been patient, but this is not just a little drive to give my folks some time alone, they're alone all week for fuck's sake!"
Ennis put some coins in the Coke machine sitting outside the filling station office, and retrieved an icy, cold can of Coke. He cracked the tab open and took a large gulp, then handed the can to Jack. "I'm taking you on your valentine trip, bud, like I said I wanted to all those weeks ago. I'm sorry we've kept it a secret from you, but it was supposed to be a surprise."
"Yeah, your folks are in on it too."
"I don't know why you have to make it such an all fired production, Ennis. Where we going, anyway?"
"I'd still like it to be a surprise, Jack. Can you just relax, and come along for the ride? It will be obvious in another hour and a half, maybe two. Just enjoy the scenery."
"Why? Are you going to do a strip tease for me?" Finally Jack found something to smile about.
"Maybe. If you're good." smirked Ennis.
Now that the tension was relieved a bit, they talked as they drove; admiring the mountains and the valleys, the enormous beauty of Wyoming splayed out before them.
By 3 p.m. they were within ten miles of Sheridan, Wyoming and the traffic picked up noticeably.
Main Street was festooned with banners hung astride the road, welcoming the Northern Wyoming Rodeo Association. Motel signs welcomed visitors here for the rodeo. Diners advertised their specials with names like Bronco Buster Burgers and other rodeo-themed foods. Jack was smiling ear to ear. "Is this my surprise, Ennis? You brung me to the rodeo?"
Ennis looked so happy, and he loved seeing the pleasure in Jack Twist's face. "You bet, darlin'. Do ya like it?"
"Nothing could be better, Ennis. You picked the best trip I could ever want."
"Good, then I guessed right. You want to eat first before we get into more rodeo traffic and all the crowds?" offered Ennis.
"No, I love the crowds, and the noise, even the dust. And there's nothing I like better than rodeo food. Think I'll get me a corn dog to start with, how about that, Ennis?"
"You get whatever you want, this is your day. But I think we should reserve a room before they're all gone. You got any druthers?"
"Well. Since I ain't been to Sheridan for a coon's age, I don't know that I have a preference. We prob'ly oughta get the cheapest room we can find, don't you think, Cowboy?"
"Not necessarily, not this time. This is a special trip and a special day. And just so you know, your dad slipped me fifty bucks this morning, said it was because a all the hard work we did on their sale."
"Oh, Ennis! Maybe we shouldn't take his money. Maybe shoulda told him no thanks."
"No, I don't think so. You should have seen his face when he gave it to me. See how proud he was that he could do it. And how long it's been since he could do that for his son and for me."
"So. Motel room, rodeo, steak dinner, hot tub. In that order. How's that sound?" fantasized Jack.
"Sounds perfect to me, valentine."
The Oregon Trail Motel seemed clean and had a hot tub on site. The first order of business when they got inside was to hit the shower, together, and get some private time with their sexy man. That took longer than they had planned. They shaved and dressed for the rodeo, Jack grinned when he saw the overnight bag that Ennis had packed for him. He had thought of everything.
They walked the three blocks to the arena; hordes of people were strolling the sidewalks, jostling for space, calling to each other, shouting, smiling; excitement was in the air. The day was cooling off as the afternoon sun slanted across the sky, revealing millions of dust motes kicked up by animals and people alike.
When they'd handed in their tickets, Jack's heart was beating double-time as he smelled that old smell of horses, cattle, dust and cotton candy. It brought back a million memories.
"Bringin' back memories, is it?" Ennis asked. He raised his eyebrows in question about where to sit. Jack nodded in agreement that this was a good spot. They climbed about a third of the way up the bleachers and took seats in a nearly empty row. Soon, though, every seat was filled. They stayed in place at the end of the row so they ould get in and out without bothering folks.
The arena was filled with colorful flags, banners and the bright shirts of the contestants. "ICE COLD BEER" called the beer vendor, and Jack held up two fingers as the man neared their row.
"Thank you, Jack." Ennis said as he was handed the welcome brew. It had been a dry drive, and he was thirsty. They clinked their bottle necks together in a toast and in celebration that this was really happening.
The night was perfect all around. They couldn't have asked for a better trip, or for a more enjoyable time together. Even the weather cooperated.
"Don't you want that corn dog you were talkin about?"
"Not this time, maybe tomorrow. But I am getting ready for that steak dinner. How about it, Cowboy? Ready to leave?"
Several hundred other people had the same idea, but there were plenty of restaurants offering prime beef steaks and baked potatoes, so it was no problem. As they sat back, full and satisfied, Ennis confessed.
"I didn't buy you no fancy valentine card, bud." As he said this, he tapped his chest over his heart. "I hope you know what's in here though."
"What, no roses? No perfume?" teased Jack.
"Well, in fact, you deserve a bucket full of those long stemmed red roses, and all the pretty smelly stuff you could ever use, but you blew it. You fell in love with a poor ranch hand, way back on that mountain. And you're stuck with me now."
"Well, ain't you just the pretty talker tonight?"
"Yep. 'Cording to what they been sayin on TV, this is the day to say all that stuff."
Jack smiled at Ennis, and nodded. "It's only that you don't never need to say nothing, Ennis. You tell me every day how much you love me by what you do. Don't you know that by now, Cowboy?"
Ennis' heart stopped for a beat, and then resumed it's solid cadence. "I had sorta hoped so, Jack, but some things just need sayin, after all this time."
The waiter made eye contact as he cleared away their plates. Ennis nodded, and he brought their check. The hot tub beckoned.
As they strolled back to the motel, Jack's smile never dimmed. He shoulder bumped Ennis and remarked, "I'm a lucky, lucky man."
Just as he said this, Jack saw a street vendor with a bucket of roses, "just a sec, be right back." When he returned, he held a single rose, not red but yellow. Handing it to Ennis he said, "For my valentine."
Ennis blushed bright red, right out there on the street with people milling about. "Jack! You damn fool, people will see."
"People are seeing, Ennis. Look around you." And true enough, several people of all ages were noticing the two gray-haired men sharing a romantic moment. They smiled at them. Well, it is 2004, after all. Others walked on by as if nothing unusual were going on.
Two men? Big deal.
Jack lay back, soaking up the warmth of the water. All the other motel guests had called it a night. They were the only two left in the hot tub.
"Ah, this is perfect, Ennis. Just perfect."
"Well, not exactly my valentine. Only one thing missing." and he jumped out of the tub (they were both wearing swim trunks he'd packed for just this occasion) and got something he'd had hidden under his towel.
When Jack saw the red, heart-shaped box he whooped in glee! "Happy Valentine's Day, Jack."
"Oh, it is, it is," and opening the box, Jack saw that there were four pieces of chocolate missing, the empty brown papers just sitting there in silent evidence. "Could not restrain yourself, eh, Ennis?"
"No, I left 4 pieces for your folks. Wanted to make it special for them too."
"Ah, you think of everything, friend."
They each chose one chocolate; it took awhile to select just the right one! One was enough, and they soon got too sleepy to stay in the warmth of the tub. They went off to their room with the big, clean bed. It had been a long, wonderful but tiring day; they fell asleep as soon as they kissed good-night.
As soon as the light of dawn slanted across their bed, Ennis was awake, or parts of him were. He snugged up tighter behind Jack and wriggled against him, sending the signal that it was time to play. No word was spoken, but Jack's legs opened wider, giving access. The game was on.
Jack liked to pretend that it was all Ennis' doing, that he had nothing to do with it. With his eyes still closed he pushed his ass out and put pressure on Ennis' dick, silently saying, "take me now, take me strong, fuck me hard." Ennis knew the message well, and he went with it. His breathing quickly became rapid and harsh.
Twenty minutes later, they were coming down from that exquisite high of a good fuck the first thing in the morning. Ennis turned to Jack and licked the sweat off his belly, "I still kinda like you, Twist, after all these years."
"That's odd, I thought you were tired of me Del Mar."
"No. You MAKE me tired, there's a difference." they stretched and smiled.
They showered and shaved and while dressing, Ennis glanced over at the rose in the water glass taken from their bathroom the night before. He asked the question he'd forgotten to ask last night. "Why yellow?"
"Huh?" Jack asked as he stomped his boots on.
Ennis tucked in his shirt and poked his belt through the loops while commenting, "That feller had red roses, pink roses, even a kind of orangey roses in that bucket. What made you choose yellow?"
Jack straightened, all dressed and ready. "No secret there, my yellow-haired boy of 19. That's still how I see you, Ennis."
Understanding dawned on Ennis' face. "Ah," and he nodded and smiled.
It was hours before the first event of the day, but they needed coffee and breakfast. The morning was crisp and sunny as they walked over to the diner.
There was a hub-bub already going in there, as well as all the great smells of a breakfast shift in progress. After bacon, eggs, toast and coffee, they walked up around the arena, and the animal pens.
By ten, the clouds had gathered and the sky was overcast. The first events' contestants had to contend with the drizzle but they were used to that, and it did no more than add a tad of discomfort as the rain slid down their necks.
At a quarter till noon, the skies opened up and a deluge ensued. The temperature dropped sharply, and most folks, including Ennis and Jack decided it might be time to head on home. Check out time at the motel was at 1:00 p.m., so in case anyone was interested in a quickie, there was just enough time.
No quickie had ever been so long, tender and loving. They used up every single second of their time in that rented room, relishing their hours together away from all responsibilities.
Jack's hair drooped across his sweaty forehead, and Ennis pushed it aside and kissed him softly.
"I love you, Ennis Del Mar," Jack murmured. "always have, always will."
Ennis nuzzled Jack's neck, and said "I love you too, Jack Twist. Now get your sweet ass in that shower, we got less'n fifteen minutes to check out!"
This was quick rinse time, they'd already showered and shaved before breakfast. Soon they'd paid the bill and loaded everything in the cab of the truck to keep it dry.
As they drove along the highway toward home, Jack recounted all the things he'd enjoyed about their outing, and thanked Ennis again.
"All in all it didn't cost us that much, Jack. We should do something like this more often. You know, get away, fish, drink some whiskey . . ." Jack cocked an eyebrow at Ennis. Now where had he heard such a suggestion before? Sounded familiar.
"You're right, Cowboy, we should. But right now, I'm really looking forward to getting home, having our own place, our privacy . . . ."
"Uh. Yeah. About that. Jack, I think it's time to move your folks down to our place. We shouldn't put it off any longer."
Jack turned to look at Ennis and both men wore serious expressions. They were each concerned that they were getting on toward the end; the last phase of having parents with them, and they wanted it to be right.
"Yeah. Let's make a plan, and call them tonight."