Ennis wants to get Jack the perfect gift.
Friend, this letter is long overdue in more ways than one. But you know me. I never was one to regret too much. I've been thinkin' and it gets me nowhere anymore. Everything's movin' around and it seems I'm still standing still. You had a life planned for us once. It seemed to me that it was impossible. But I can't stand here still no more. The years are movin' and I feel as if I'm goin' against 'em however I can. I know we planned to meet again in January, but I can't wait no more. I quit my job yesterday. I just walked right in and told the boss I was leavin' and not comin' back. I was seein' your face the whole time he tried to convince me to stay. It used to be that I thought I couldn't survive without a job. Something stable to go back to. That was wrong, though. I know now what I can't survive. I don't know how many more years I got left in me, but I do know that I can't spend any more of them knowin' you're somewhere that I aint. So, I'm comin' to get you. We'll figure out the rest as it comes. We usually do.
Ennis had written that letter a year and a half ago when he stepped into the small shop at the edge of town. He had almost an hour of driving ahead of him and he wanted to get home before Jack. Ever since he'd moved in with Jack, he'd been working at the Furson ranch. Roping, branding, and hauling cattle were all that he knew, and it was enough. He still couldn't believe the setup Jack had found. One small plot of land almost right in between two small towns, Furson and Bulton. Jack worked on a small ranch in Bulton. Jack liked farming and had a patch of land that he'd work on when he got the mind to. Mostly it was corn or wheat, sometimes potatoes. They'd sell them out on the highway to make extra cash a few times a year. Ennis was glad they worked in seperate towns. It meant they didn't know the same people, and also not a lot of awkward questions from nosy neighbors. Usually Ennis would drive straight home after work, but today was special, and he wanted to acknowledge it. He'd already bought a bottle of wine from the liquor store, now all that was left was picking out the perfect gift.
It was Jack's birthday. Jack hadn't reminded him like Alma used to, but he didn't need reminding. He wasn't even sure if Jack remembered because of how hard he'd been working lately. The ranch Jack worked on was an up and comer, wich meant it needed a lot of work. Jack'd usually come home too tired to do much but have a hasty dinner and hit the bed. He complained about the hours and the foreman and the animals always smelling of shit. There had been an opening for a good paying job at a factory a while ago, but Ennis knew Jack. He knew that working with his hands, outdoors, with horses was the only thing Jack could do to keep from going crazy.
"You looking for something, hon?" The cashier called over to him. He cleared his throat, thirsty from the days work.
"Uh, yeah. You got one of them record players?" He asked. She smiled at him and came around to look.
"Let's see." She said leading him down an aisle. "Anything particular? We got real nice ones."
"Nothing too fancy. Just so's it plays records." Ennis said. Jack had been saying lately that he wanted something to play music with. He used to have one in Childress and would play it for hours at a time until Lureen would come in and shut it off, telling him to get something constructive done. Jack liked music, Ennis knew. Especially the old kind, mostly slow sad stuff. He'd given up a lot to come out here with Ennis, but never once said anything about it. Ennis knew it must not be easy for Jack leaving a life where he never had to worry about when the next bill could be paid.
"This one here's nice enough." The lady said, interupting Ennis' thoughts. "Practically new. You got any records to play on it? We sell some here, too."
Ennis bought a few records he thought Jack'd like and headed home. He was glad that Jacks truck wasn't there when he pulled up. It meant he had time to get ready. He threw in some steaks he'd bought the night before and went upstairs for a quick shower. The hot water hit him, washing off the days sweat and dirt. He sighed, feeling the stress run off of him. He toweled dry and put on a t-shirt and jeans.
The steaks were almost ready when he got back downstairs and he wrapped up a couple of potatoes in tin foil and tossed them in on low heat. He brought the record player into the living room and sat it on the short table underneath the window where he'd cleared a space for it. He picked out one of the records and put it on, placing the needle down, but not turning it on yet.
He heard the crunch of gravel as Jack's truck pulled up. His stomach did a flip, as it usually did when Jack came home. He stood, leaning against the wall by Jack's new gift, and waited.
"Can't believe what a day I had." He heard Jack as he came in the door. He smiled as Jack put his hat over the hook in the hall. "I must have ten pounds a' mud on me. That new philly Mr. Bulstin got came in today. She was a giant of a fuckin' horse." Jack came into the living room and Ennis smiled even wider. He was sweaty and caked in dirt, but he was there and even now Ennis still caught himself amazed at how much he was thankful for. "I had to break her in, and I tell you Ennis, she was a right awful fuck of a ride. Threw me off half a dozen times before I could get her. One point I thought for sure she'd stomp my head." Jack looked at Ennis standing by the window, smiling from ear to ear. "What?" He asked, starting to smile too. Ennis just stood there. It took Jack a full minute to notice the record player.
"The fuck'd you do?" He asked walking over and looking at it. "Where'd you get this?" Ennis shrugged.
"Just picked it up at the store today. Happy birthday, bud." Ennis said, patting Jack on the back.
"This is perfect." He said. He turned it on, and the slow music filled the room. Ennis was glad to hear that he'd picked something Jack liked, one of the old warblers.
"C'mere you." Jack pulled Ennis to him and they spun slow circles around the room. "Thanks for the gift." Jack whispered into his neck. "But you know I didn't need nothing like that. I already got everything I want right here." He pulled Ennis closer. Ennis closed his eyes, breathing Jack in.
"I know." He whispered back. He had everything he'd ever want as well. They continued dancing around the room until the record ended.