"Wish I knew how to quit you!"
"That's all we got, boy, is Brokeback Mountain!"
The dreams were back with a vengeance, and not the good kind. Ennis rolled over, tangled in his sweaty sheets and groaned. His hand automatically reached to the night stand for his cigarettes, but then he remembered they wouldn't be there. 'Damn it!' he thought, he really needed a smoke in the middle of these nights. These nights when Jack wouldn't leave him alone, these nights when he saw all the errors of his ways . . . but too late to do anything about it.
There could be no more sleep this night so he got up and put the coffee pot on. Showered and shaved, Ennis stepped out onto his porch to reach the newspaper that never quite made it to his doorway. Always a few steps away, sometimes coming apart in the process, sometimes blowing across the lot into the neighboring yards; it was nowhere to be seen. "Shit!"
Just because his day had begun, didn't mean anybody else was up and about at this early hour. He glanced up at the moon and wished for sleep; wished for solace. How much longer could he go on like this? 'God, I need a cigarette' he groaned inwardly.
A light mist, not quite a flurry, fell wet and sweet on his cheeks and eyelashes. Ennis smiled. It was enough to break the spell of needing a smoke, and turn his mind to the grandchildren he would see later today. They loved snow, prayed for snow, and relished playing in it until he thought they would turn into frozen popsicles. The boy, Timmy, is seven now, and his sister, Amy, is almost five. He'd moved here to Casper to be near them, and it was the best decision of his life.
Well, it wasn't as clear cut as all that. Jenny had forced his hand. She and Carl were caring for Ennis following his surgery, and they couldn't keep running to Riverton or Lander or wherever he happened to be living at the time. Besides, all the ranch-hand jobs had dried up, or went to the younger, abler men. So he moved to be closer to his nearest and dearest.
His girls and their families held him together and reminded him of all that was good in the world, all he had to live for. He'd never expected to outlive Alma, but that's exactly what had happened. She's been gone due to breast cancer, six years now, come January. Monroe had preceded her by one year. He died of a heart attack. . . his second.
Ennis had found a small modular home to rent, just west of Soda Lake, south of Bar Nunn. It was only a ten minute drive to Jenny's house out on Blackstone Road northeast of Casper. His job was just five miles north of him, in the Industrial Park on the Harford Air Field Road. He liked his work much better than he'd expected to. Been there five years now. They seemed to like and respect him, he'd gotten a raise every year and a promotion to supervisor, two years ago.
Since the paper was not going to be here for a couple more hours, Ennis went in, replenished his cup of coffee and turned on the TV. They always seemed to have some kind of local news on, someone always yammering about something. He fetched yesterday's paper, got comfortable in his recliner, and prepared to while away an hour or two reading, in lieu of sleep.
The ad for the rodeo almost slipped by unseen, but there was a picture of a bronco buster wearing a black hat, and so his mind rolled back and back all those years to Jack Twist up on Brokeback. Ennis' day dreams were vivid enough to give him a hard-on just like in the old days, or so he told himself. Whether it was or not, he found himself reaching to unzip his fly and take himself in hand, thinking of his best bud all the while. God, he missed that man. It wasn't just the sex, he knew, but having a companion where none had been expected. It was having someone who knew him inside and out, knew his hopes and dreams better than even Ennis did himself. 'Wonder where Jack is now, today, I wonder if he's happy?'.
Ennis dozed off in his recliner, and would have slept all morning except his bad knee began aching from being stretched out that way. It was only satisfied in one position or another for twenty minutes or so; any longer than that, and it started complaining, big time. His other knee, the titanium one, was fine and would probably last him the rest of his life if he took care of it. He knew he had a decision to make within the next year, maybe less.
Waking, he glanced down at the paper sliding off his lap, once again he noticed the ad for the rodeo. "Hmm, wonder if Timmy and Amy would like to see a real live rodeo." he spoke the words aloud to the empty house.
The next Friday morning, Ennis and the grandchildren pulled up to the Fairground gates in Douglas, where the Rodeo was being held. They parked the truck and walked toward the entrance, swallowing thick dust all the way.
Once inside the gates, they found a drinking fountain to wash down the dirt that was blowing in little swirls here and there. "Sure is cold and windy today. Let's get a hot chocolate and a funnel cake, what'dya say?" The kids were totally in support of that! There were plank tables set up for people to eat at, or fix their hot dogs or whatever they needed. No chairs, but plenty of standing room. Ennis helped Amy get a hunk of funnel cake in one hand and her hot chocolate in the other; she was too little to reach the make-shift table.
Timmy was nearly tall enough, but his cup began to tip as he set it up there, and Ennis had to grab it to save both the drink, and the boy standing under it.
Amy spied a section where hay bales were set out for people to sit on and suggested that looked like a better idea. Gladly they moved over there to finish their snacks before finding seats in the arena.
A few minutes later, Ennis was saying, "And the next thing I knew, I was flying through the air! I didn't have no wings like you little angels." The kids had heard this one before, but they loved it every time.
"Oh, grandpa, I like that story!" said Amy.
"Grandpa, why is that man staring at you?" asked Timmy.
Before Ennis could stand up and fully collect his wits about him, Jack Twist was coming forward, looking a bit hesitant, but reaching out for a handshake.
Pushing aside the formality of that handshake, Ennis grabbed Jack in a hug and pounded him on the back over and over. "Look who it is, look who it is!" cried Ennis, "kids this is my old friend, Jack Twist."
"Jack, this is Timmy and Amy Toler, my grandchildren. How you been? What'cha doing here? Where you staying?"
Jack smiled. "Never thought I'd see the day Ennis Del Mar wouldn't let me get a word in edgewise!"
The kids were just standing there stunned, but grinning ear to ear. They'd never seen their grandpa this animated, this excited, this talkative.
Jack and Ennis had not let go of each other. Their hands were patting and touching the other making sure this was not a hallucination, that they were actually seeing their long lost friend.
"Come," said Jack "let's get out of this wind, where we can talk. We can go into my office. You too, kids, I'll show you behind the scenes of a rodeo."
Ennis' head was spinning, he'd have followed Jack anywhere at this moment.
On the way to Jack's office, Ennis found a restroom where he could wash the kids' hands and faces, removing the evidence of the sticky funnel cakes, and the hot chocolate. Timmy and Amy then submitted to being dried off by Mr. Twist with some brown scratchy paper towels from a dispenser.
Ennis' eyes glowed seeing how Jack was still the same guy who could anticipate his every need and never hesitated to help. "Guess we still make a good team."
"We still make a great team," replied Jack "are we all set now?" That last comment he made to the kids. They agreed "all set!"
Inside the office Jack was using here in Douglas was a generic desk with chair, and a few side chairs. The walls were covered with pictures from state fairs, rodeos and other attractions held on these grounds. They were old, mostly black and white group shots of winners with trophies and blue ribbons.
There wasn't much in the drawers of the desk, nor on the shelves of any interest; but Jack found pencils and paper for the children to draw or write on to amuse themselves while he and Ennis caught up on old times. Getting reacquainted would take some doing though, it has been more than thirteen years since they said good-bye at the trailhead in 1983.
"So tell me, what brings you here today?" began Jack, but a younger man walked into the office, disrupting the conversation. Ennis looked at the fellow, stood up surprised at seeing the resemblance, and held out his hand. "Could this be little Bobby?!"
The young man smiled. Jack stood up to do the introductions properly. "Ennis, this is my son, Bob Twist. Son, I'd like you to meet my old friend, Ennis Del Mar."
The two men shook hands and gazed fondly at the other. "So you're The One. It's great to finally meet you." said Bobby.
With a puzzled look on his face Ennis asked, "Likewise, but, the one what?"
Bobby checked his dads face, and Jack nodded. "Yep, son, he's The One."
Bobby then did something that shocked Ennis. He put his arm around him and spoke sincerely in his ear. "I'm glad you're here." he said.
"Me too." admitted Ennis.
Ennis added, "by the way, Bob, these two are my grandchildren, Timmy and Amy. Say hello kids." The children said hello and went back to their artwork.
"Ennis, er . . .may I call you Ennis?"
Ennis was nodding, "Of course you should call me Ennis after all these years."
"Can I take the kids out to sit with my family? Maybe they'd like to watch the barrel races."
"That was your mother's race. Yes, I know they'd like that very much, Bob. Thank you."
Bob Twist shook his head, still marveling about how much of his life this man was a part of, and knew about, but that they'd never met till now.
Once alone, the two men's bodies' collided as if by magnets. They could no more stay apart than they could fly. They kissed and held on for dear life.
They nuzzled and kissed some more. Breathless, they did not want to separate even to draw the next breath.
At one point, Jack pushed Ennis away and asked "Are you married, or anything?"
"No. Are you?"
And that was that. They were back.
To be continued . . .