Jackie went home a few days later to Cheyenne. For some reason it made Ennis happy that the Twist family had settled back in Wyoming.
A couple months later in July, a large manila envelope turned up in Ennis's mail from Jackie. He went inside, the rest of the mail tucked under his arm, opening the manila envelope as he walked. Inside were two smaller envelopes and a three-prong folder. One of the envelopes was labeled "Open me first!" in looping not-quite-cursive that looked like a neater version of Jack's. Ennis opened the envelope to find a rather spangly Independence Day card. In addition to the printed message, Jackie had scrawled a note in the card.
I can hardly thank you for all that you've shared with me but I hope this will do.
My proffessor was impressed with what I've written about my grandfather but it
matters more to me what you think, so I've included a copy. I haven't let my dad
read it yet—not sure what he'll think. Hope you had a happy fourth.
She'd drawn a small heart next to her name. Ennis smiled and flipped open the folder, then took it and the second envelope to the couch. Neatly typed on the front page was Jack's full name, birth and death dates, and under that, in small type Ennis had to squint to read:
For my grandfather,
and for the man who still loves him.
Ennis read the rest of the paper and found himself very nearly in tears by the time he reached the list of references which included "Jack Twist's lover, unnamed by own request." Jackie had dutifully written Jack's life story in full, from his upbringing in Lightning Flat to his summer on the mountain with Ennis, his marriage, his rodeo days, his son—everything. The official story of his death and what Ennis believed to be the truth. Even Jack's father's refusal to let Ennis carry out Jack's last wishes by scattering his ashes up on Brokeback. Nothing had been left out. It was as if she had written a ghost.
After sitting there a moment staring at the closed folder in his lap, Ennis opened the other envelope and dumped its contents—a pile of photos and another note—onto the couch cushion next to him. The note read:
Didn't think you had any pictures.
Thought you'd like some.
One photo had fallen out face down covering most of the rest. Picking it up Ennis could see they were a mix of black and white and color, some of them clearly copied from old newspapers, but every last one of them of Jack. Jack as a baby in his mother's arms; a little boy smiling from the back of a small paint mare; nine years old in front of a Christmas tree with a collie puppy in his lap; no older than fifteen in a yearbook picture from his freshman year of high school; newspaper picture from three years later showed him beeming with joy having just one the belt buckle he'd worn most of the time Ennis had known him. There was a picture of him dressed up for what most have been his own wedding, bottle of beer in one hand, smiling over his shoulder at whoever had the camera; and quite a few of him with Bobby over the years.
Now Ennis did cry, hugging the photos to his chest. It made the place in his heart Jack had filled hurt to see him young and happy, but it mad Ennis glad to have the pictures. More glad than he knew how to say.
He wrote a letter to Jackie, thanking her and saying he thought her paper was great, dropped it in the mail, then took a couple days off and drove up to Lightning Flat. He'd been to Jack's home town plenty of times, but not since Jack's mother had passed away in the '90s. Despite visiting once or twice a year for just over a decade, he had never once been to Jack's grave. He went there now.
Jack's grave, along with his parents', grandparents', and uncle's, was in a fenced in corner of the cemetery out behind the white washed little Pentecostal church. There was a small gate set into the fence. It was open and Ennis went in, stopped in front of Jack's stone, and stood there a while. He hadn't brought flowers; instead he fished a out of his pocket a very small bottle of whiskey and set it on the corner of the ledge that ran around the base of the stone. He figured Jack would appreciate it more than a bunch of plants that'd be dead in less than a day under the summer sun.
With a sigh, Ennis sat on the grass, leaned back against the sunwarmed stone and closed his eyes. There wasn't anyone around and a soft breeze rustled the grass and the leaves on the nearby trees. It felt a lot like it had on the mountain.
Ennis sat there a long time, found himself humming "King of the Road"—Jack's favorite song. He sighed, leaned his head back, and smiled. "Jack fuckin' Twist..."
A/N: Well that's it. I cried writing this last chapter. I normally don't cry while writing unless I'm killing a character off. I'm quite happy with this story. It has my favorite ending I've ever written.
I have a vague idea of a kind of sequel to this that would focus more on now grown Bobby.
Anyway, put any questions or comments in a review.