What if Jack and Ennis met eachother before their summer on Brokeback?
"I was just making a swing for the tree." He said. "Sorry, mama. I'll go finish the chores." He started to run off, but she called him back.
"Now, Jack, you know your daddy's gonna have your tail when he sees those stalls aint done. Why you do these things, hon? Your just askin' to get into it with him." She sighed.
"I know, mama." He said. "I don't mean to shirk my chores. I just get...distracted sometimes. I'm sorry." He kicked the dirt around his foot. He didn't care about getting into fights with his dad. Those he could handle just fine. But he hated disappointing his mom. He hated putting that look on her face.
"Jackie, your startin' to become a man now, and you gotta take your chores here more seriously. One of these days your gonna go off on your own, and I don't need to be worryin' none about a son who can't hold down a proper job cuz he don't got the work ethic." The frown lines on her face became more prominent as she spoke.
"Sorry, mama. I'll try harder." He said. She looked at him for a minute, then smiled and shook her head affectionately. She waved him off, telling him to finish up before has dad came back. He ran toward the barn, grabbing the shovel he'd left leaning against the side. His mama's reprimand was like a gentle breeze compared to the tornado his daddy would rain down if he found out Jack had'nt finished the stalls on time. The familiar smell of horse shit and hay swept across him as he entered the barn. Boston, his dad's best and oldest horse snorted at him when he came in.
"Not you, too, Boz." He said. "I just heard it from mama, so I don't need you tellin' me off, alright?" He was glad his dad had left for a week to do some rodeoing. It meant Jack had the place basically to himself, other than his mom, who didn't usually make her presence too known anyhow. His dad was due back any minute, so Jack quickly scooped out the stalls and put all the tools away. He raced into the house to clean up for dinner. He smelled duck stew, his dad's favorite, and made a face. It was not his favorite. After washing, he went to change into something clean. His only clean outfit was his pajamas, so he put those on.
"You might wanna put something more appropriate on for your daddy's homecoming." His mom said when she saw him. "He'll be here soon."
"Couldn't find no clean wash." He said. "'Sides, I don't think daddy'll notice what I'm wearing. Prolly just notice I didn't get everything done to his liking." He sat down ready to scoop some stew into his bowl. His mom rapped him fingers with her serving spoon.
"I know you weren't about to start eating before your father came home." She said. Jack just sighed. They both heard the door of the truck slam, and Jack mentally prepared.
"Smells good." George Twist came in the door. He headed upstairs to wash up, and was back down in a few minutes.
"You get any money?" Jack asked, scooping up some stew after George took some.
"Course I did, what do you think I am?" He said, filling his mouth. "How much did I say I'd get, Charlene?" He asked, looking at Jack's mom.
"Oh, I think it was fifteen hundred." She said.
"Well, I got two thousand." He said. "Takes care of the next three months. Don't have to worry too much about selling the cows." Jack just rolled his eyes. It figured that his dad would make twice the money than they would've made selling the cows that Jack had worked so hard on for the past four months. He fed them, cleaned up after them, and made sure they were market ready. He finished up and excused himself to his room.
"Wait, I got something to say." George said. "Sit down, Jack." He sat. "I met a feller down in the rodeo. Did mostly the handling of the horses. But said he was looking for a place to move him and his younger brother to. I suggested the vacant place down the road. He told me his brother wasn't much help with house work, but that he was great with some horse handling. Thought he'd could come by and help us through the winter. Nice feller, name of K.E. del Mar. Didn't get a good look at his brother, he was off with the horses mostly. They said they was looking for work, but that K.E. seemed more a factory worker. Told him they'd be needing someone over at Monroe's factory."
"So we gettin' neighbors?" Charlene asked, starting to clear the dishes. "That's nice. How old are they?"
"Looked to be about 21 or so, and the brother around sixteen." George said. He looked at Jack. "And don't be getting any ideas about gettin into any trouble with that kid. He'll be here to work, you understand?"
"Yeah yeah." Jack said. "Now can I be excused?" George raised an eyebrow, and Jack smothered a sigh. Here it comes, he thought.
"Did you get your chores done proper?" He asked. Jack nodded. "Stalls cleaned out? Yardwork done? Animals fed? Shed painted?" Jack kept nodding. "Alright. Get on." George finally said. Jack practically ran up the stairs.
Great, he thought. Now some kids gonna come here, probably not pull his weight, and I'm gonna be the one in trouble for it. Know the old man's gonna find some way to make it my fault, even though it was his idea to bring 'em here. Jack just lay back on his bed, hoping knowing that he'd be out in just a two more years.
Ennis sat in the passenger seat of his brother's beat up old pickup. They rattled down the road, Ennis staring out the window. They were on their way to their new place, a small two bedroom house attached to the property of their new neighbors. Their parents had died the previous year and Ennis was left with just his older brother after his sister decided to get married and move away.
"Smile a bit, bro." K.E. said patting his shoulder. "Looks like it's a pretty sweet setup here."
"Your not the one havin' to work on a strangers farm." Ennis said. He was starting to feel nervous. Not because of the work, that he could handle. He just didn't like new people. He'd hated having to move after his parents died, not knowing anyone from the new town. He'd also been hoping to at least finish his sophmore year, but their damn truck had broken down before he got a chance to even start. Now his brother was dragging him all the way down to Lightning Flat, someplace he'd never even heard of.
"They've got a boy your age, maybe you'll be friends. You could sure use someone to get into mischief with. It's not good being alone all the time like you do." K.E. said.
"Like bein' alone." Ennis muttered. He didn't need any friends, and he was sure he wouldn't be making any soon. They pulled up to the house. Ennis squinted up at it in the afternoon sun. It sure wasn't much, but him and K.E. didn't need much. As long as the stove and plumbing worked, they'd be fine.
"Looks alright." K.E. said. "But this is just the outside. Dibs on the room closest to the bathroom." He ruffled Ennis' hair and went inside. He followed him in, and looked around. It was pretty small, the way Ennis liked it. The only place he liked to have a lot of room was outdoors. Even then he always needed something to be doing. Ennis wasn't one to idle around. K.E. had told Mr. Twist that, and that's why he'd hired him on.
"Best get a good nights sleep tonight baby brother!" K.E. hollered from upstairs. "You gotta be at the Twist ranch nice and early. Oh, shit, they already got some beds up here. This is gonna be great!" Ennis gave a half smile at K.E.'s enthusiasm. He always made the best of a situation. He went outside to start unloading their truck. They'd just brought the bare essentials, which was really all they owned. Some clothes, cookware, K.E.'s rocking chair he'd made a few months back, and another few odds and ends. Once they were unpacked, Ennis made some sandwiches for dinner, and headed upstairs for bed.
"G'night Enn." K.E. called. "And remember, try to smile. Show that pretty mouth of yours." He laughed as Ennis frowned. He muttered something under his breath, and went into his new room. He looked out the window, which K.E. had opened to air out the place, and could just make out the Twist home off in the distance. The windows were lit and he could smell the all-too-familiar scents of the farm. He fell asleep fast, tired from the days drive. Soon enough he'd be over there, working the farm.
Jack jumped on Raider, his favorite horse, and took off for the field. He'd been late, as usual, and his dad was already getting the plowing done. His mom had insisted on a quick breakfast, which had only made him later.
"C'mon, Ray, get the lead outta yer ass!" He kicked the horse into a run. He could see the giant plow in the distance, and knew there'd be hell to pay if the bales weren't brought in on time. He ran past the plow, but stopped short when he saw the neat piles stacked up behind it. He was confused until he saw hands coming up over the next bale, tying it up. "Who-?" Then he saw the a curly blonde head pop up over it.
"Hey." Said the boy. He'd already done half of Jack's work. "I'm Ennis. I guess you're Jack." Jack just nodded dumbly. "Well, I'm guessin' this is usually your job, seein' as how you come running out here like the devil's biting at yer balls. But, I'm pretty much done." He tied off the last of the bundles, and wiped his hands on his jeans. "So, what now?" Jack didn't know what to tell him. So he just stood there. Ennis looked around, clearly uncomfortable. "Maybe some cows need milkin'." He muttered, and started to walk away.
"Hold up." Jack called. He dismounted, and led Raider behind him. He caught up to Ennis. "So, you did all this in an hour?" He motioned to the bales.
"Couple hours." Ennis said. "Came up here 'bout five-thirty. Thought I'd get an early start." Jack just grunted.
"Daddy give you a hard time?" He asked.
"Nah, just tell me what needs doin'." Ennis said. Jack just shook his head.
"Well, you just did about half my days work. What the fuck am I supposed to do now?" He wasn't angry. Far from it, in fact. His entire day just opened up. He continued to follow Ennis. It was true that the cows needed milking, so they went to the barn. Jack showed him where the buckets and stools were, and they went to work.
"You always this hard working, or is it you wanna impress my daddy first day?" Jack asked as he milked Betsy, and Ennis worked on Leanne.
"Guess I just think what work needs doin'." He said. "And I do it." Jack nodded.
"Yeah, well, a week here'll rid you of that pholosophy. I'll tell you, used to be I liked gettin' out here with the animals, plowing and hauling. All that stuff. Didn't mind it too much cuz I knew it needed doin'." Jack sighed. "But after sixteen years of the old man beatin' the joy out of it, I'm ready to ship outta here the second I turn eighteen."
"Where you gonna head?" Ennis asked, moving on to the next cow. Jack just put his finished bucket in the corner and sat back down.
"Figured I'd rodeo for a while. Daddy does it now and then to make some money. He cleans up pretty good every time. Thought I'd try my hand at it. Even if I'm not too good, it's still a place that aint here." Jack brushed his hands through his hair, gazing out of the barn. "'Sides, I got these horses whipped into shape pretty good. Daddy brought ol' Raider from a man who raises 'em almost wild. I got him tamed down, though. He won't let anyone else ride him, mind, but he'll let me on. Did the same with Boston. Daddy brought him home almost five years ago, went off to rodeo the next day, tells me to have him able to ride when he gets back. Ball fuckin' buster, I tell you. Ol' Boz took me for a ride or two. Nearly stomped me, too." He sighed.
"Seems tough, tamin' a horse. I seen a few guys do it. Don't think I'd be too inclined to try myself." Ennis said. "I ride 'em alright, but get me on a wild one, I'd more than not have my skull crushed." Jack chuckled.
"I can see that." He said. Ennis just smiled. "What about you?" He asked. "Your brother just decide to move you out here, no reason? You aint got no family around?"
"Well, only family I had was mom and dad, and they run themselves off the road." Ennis said. "I got a sister married off, and now it's just me and K.E. left. He does what he can. Says he won't see me leavin' till I'm at least eighteen. Till then, he tells me I gotta work so's I can have something saved for when I do leave."
"Thats rough. Sorry about your folks." Jack said. "K.E. seems to have his head on straight, though." Ennis nodded.
"'Bout finished here." He said. He'd moved on to the last cow while Jack talked.
"Jeez, boy, you about did my whole days work." Jack said, laughing. Ennis just shrugged.
"I don't mind." He said. Just then they heard George calling for Jack.
"Oh, shit. Brace yourself, cowboy, here comes the thunder." Jack said.
"Jack, you in here, boy?" George came around the corner, and stepped into the barn. "What're you up to?"
"Milking." Jack said. He indicated the pails stacked against the wall.
"What about the field, huh?" George asked, ignoring them. "They aing gonna bale themselves. You put your head on backward today, or what? You get them bales done first thing, then you worry about the cows. Get your ass out there."
"They're done, daddy." Jack said, standing up. "Ennis here did 'em up this morning. You told him to." George glanced over at Ennis. "Go on and take a look, if you don't believe me. Although, I'm sure he did a better job than I would've done, at least according to you."
"Don't smart mouth me, boy." George said. "I'm gonna go out and see about 'em, and if it aint to my liking, you boys can go out and do it again. Get these buckets together so we can bottle 'em." And with that he left. Jack rolled his eyes.
"Never knew what made him such a mean son a bitch." Jack said. "Used to be, I'd try to keep him pleased, not screw up too bad. Now I just don't give a shit. He's gonna find one thing or another to tear me up about."
"Seems kinda hard, I guess." Ennis said. Jack just grunted. They got the milk bottled and stacked into the truck.
"You wanna come get these to Mr. Willon?" Jack asked Ennis when they were done. "He's the man we sell the milk to. It's not much of a job, but I can tell you right now, you don't wanna be stuck here. The work's pretty much done for the day. Unless you wanna go back to your house." Jack had such a hopeful look on his face, Ennis couldn't deny him. He nodded and climbed in the truck. They drove down the road, making a few turns, and eventually ended up on a farm three times the size of the Twist farm.
"You'll like Mr. Willon." Jack said. "He's always in a good mood." They got out of the truck and grabbed the crates the held the milk. Jack walked up to the door, set down the crate, and knocked. They heard a dog bark from inside, and a muffled call. The door opened to a portly middle-aged man with a jovial expression.
"Jack Twist!" He said. "It's been too long, son." He walked outside, and they followed him around back. "You know the routine, just set those crates in the shed, and I'll get your daddy's money up to him within the week. So, who's you friend here?"
"That's Ennis del Mar. Him and his brother are staying in the old house down the road from ours for the time being." Jack said. Ennis nodded, putting the crates down.
"Howdy do, Ennis." Mr. Willon said. "Jack, you tell your daddy that I've got some fine hens for him to take a look at, and I'll get him some, good price."
"Sure will." Jack said. He brought the last crate back and put it down. "Guess that's it."
"Well, it was good seein' you, son." Mr. Willon said. "I'd offer you a drink, but we're fresh out of lemonade, and Marla makes it so much better than me."
"Oh, that's no problem, sir." Jack said. "We best be goin', anyhow." They waved goodbye and were back on the road. "So, Ennis. You wanna do something that don't involve farm work for a while?" Ennis looked at him, curious.
"What'd you have in mind?"
And so it went for the next few weeks. Ennis would show up early to the farm, start his work, and wait for Jack. He'd usually show up about an hour after Ennis started working, but eventually he was out when Ennis showed up. They became fast friends, Jack always itching to do something interesting, and Ennis always convincing him to finish his work first.
"Didn't know you was such an early bird." Ennis said one morning while they worked the plow. "Usually I do about half your work before you decide to haul your ass out here." Jack laughed.
"Aint heard you complain before. Besides, I didn't have much of an excuse to get out here before." Jack said. "Having someone to talk to makes the work bearable." Ennis looked up at him.
"You really hate it here that much?" He asked. "It aint too bad to me." Jack continued to work.
"You don't gotta deal with my daddy every damn day." He said eventually. "It's not like you comin' into the house ever. Out here, old man just tells me how he's disappointed in my work. In there, he's disappointed in everything else. S'not like I care too much anymore, though. He wore that outta me long ago. " Ennis didn't know what to say to that. He felt the need to reassure Jack, comfort him in some way, but didn't know how. "Hey, mama wanted me to ask if you and your brother wanted to come to dinner sometime?"
"How about tonight?" Ennis said. "K.E. said he'd invite you all up, but honestly, he don't cook worth a damn, and we aint got a clean dish in the place." Jack laughed.
"Mama'll like that." He said. "Come tonight and bring that brother of yours."
Ennis showed up later for dinner without K.E. "He got a new girl he's been seein'. Guess he's over at her house. Sorry about the mix up, Mrs. Twist." He said.
"Oh, nonsense." She said, showing him to the table. "I'm glad you could make it. You come by anytime, and I'll make you something to eat, you hear? And you tell K.E. that he owes me a visit." She had a kind smile, and Ennis returned it. He sat next to what he assumed was Jack's place while Charlene took a plate away.
"Jack here?" He asked looking around. He hadn't seen Jack since that afternoon, and didn't know where he'd gone.
"Oh, I'm sure he'll be back any second. He went to buy some of those hens Mr. Willon's been on us about." She said. Just then, they heard the front door open and slam. Jack bustled in, clearly upset. He had grease all over his clothes and hands.
"Damn fucking truck!" He said.
"Jackie, I don't like that talk." His mother said sternly. He glanced at her, then at Ennis.
"Sorry, mama. Hey, Ennis. Sorry, forgot about dinner." He said. "I went to get those hens, and the truck broke down about two miles up the road. Damn transmission blew again, nearly run me off the road. Managed to get it straight, but not before all those hens come falling out the back and outta their cages. Took me half an hour just to wrangle four of the six. The other two are god knows where by now."
"So, what your saying is that not only did you fuck up my truck again, but you lost two good hens?" George was standing in the doorway, drying his hands on a dish towel.
"Pretty much." Jack said not trying to contain the defiance in his voice. "And if you'd just gotten the damned truck fixed when I told you about the problem with the transmission-"
"Don't you take that tone with me, boy." George said. "Who is it needing to drive all over town these days? Seems to me the one who drives it should be the one looking after it."
"Daddy, I drive it to do the work that needs done around here when your gone!" Jack said, almost shouting. George threw the towel down on the counter and stepped over to Jack, putting his finger in his face. Ennis was on his feet in an instant.
"Don't you be telling me my business. Without me, you'd have starved long ago. It's me keeping this farm afloat. You, well, I still don't know why you even stick around." He whispered threateningly.
"Neither do I." Jack said. Charlene danced between the two men, clearly agitated, but not wanting to get in the middle. George grabbed Jack by the shirt. "You gonna buy me a new transmission or what?" Ennis tried to step between them.
"Hold on, Mr. Twist, I know it must've been an accident." He said, putting his arm over Jack's chest, keeping him away from his dad.
"Who the fuck're you to tell me anything?" He said. He pushed Ennis out of the way, and that was it. Jack exploded. He ran at his dad, knocking into him. They landed on the floor, and Ennis dove to intervene, but was grabbed by Charlene.
"Just go, Ennis. This aint no place you wanna be right now." She pushed him toward the door. He tried to get around her, but she was surprisingly strong. "Don't worry, they've gone at it before. Usually just ends with hurt pride more than anything else." She opened the door and closed it behind him. He stood there for a minute trying to collect his thoughts. He breathed in the cool night air, and descended the front steps. Jack was always going on about how he and his dad were. He shouldn't have been surprised to see the truth in action. Still, he couldn't help but feel an almost overwhelming need to go back into that kitchen and lay George Twist flat. The image of Jack tackling him raced through his mind. George was bigger than Jack, and a hell of a lot meaner. Jack was usually real gentle, so it was hard for Ennis to imagine him being able to hold his own in a fight. He clenched his teeth as he forced his feet not to turn around and run back in the house. Instead, he ran toward his own house. Hoping K.E. wouldn't be there, he turned the knob and walked in. The house was empty, so he went upstairs and went into his room. He tried to lay quietly for a while, but after twenty minutes, he couldn't take it anymore. He had to go see Jack.
The house was quiet when he reached it. He looked around, realized he didn't know which window was Jack's and went around back. He was just about to take a peek in when he noticed the barn was lit. He went over quietly, in case it was George outside.
"Hey!" He heard a hushed whisper coming from above him. "Ennis, get your ass up here!" He looked up to see Jacks smiling face hanging out of the window in the barn. He smiled back, relief rushing through him. But when he got upstairs the relief turned to worry when he saw Jacks bloody face. "It's worse than it looks, trust me." Jack said. "The old bastard got me good, though." Ennis sat beside him, and grabbed the wet cloth Jack was using to mop the blood off.
"Your making a mess of it." He said. He wiped Jack's face gently, already able to make out a deep purple bruise under his eye. Anger filled him. "Yeah, he did get you good. Hope you gave as good as you got." Jack just laughed.
"I never do, friend. But at least the old man won't be biting at me for a few days. It usually takes that long for him to forget mama's threats. Then it's back to this." He indicated his eye.
"Not with me around it wont. You gonna come stay up with me and K.E. for a while." Ennis said. He finished wiping off Jack's face, and made himself comfortable beside him. Jack looked at him. "Anyway," He continued. "It aint right, what he does. My daddy ever did that to me, you know K.E. would've whooped the shit outta him." Jack shrugged.
"It aint as bad as this most times. Mainly we just get under eachothers skin. We only go to blows when he knows he's dead wrong about something and I make him admit it. He knows that truck's his responsibility. Besides, I got a nice little setup in here. I don't need to take up any room at your place. I'm sure I'd just be a nuesance."
"Nah. We'd be glad to have you." Ennis said. He looked around. Jack had made this part of the barn his own. There was water, a few old blankets, and some books on the corner. He had a lantern lit and some leftovers from dinner. "Guess it aint too bad in here, though."
"It wasn't too great till you got here." Jack said. "And I don't just mean tonight. I was two feet out the door till you got here. You know, I went down to rodeo a couple months back. Didn't tell anyone, just said I was visiting some friends. I was pretty good at it, too. Made about three hundred bucks."
"Thought you said you'd never done it before." Ennis said. Jack shook his head.
"Did it." He said. "Thought a lot about leaving, but couldn't do it to mama. Not just yet, anyhow. But I was seriously considering it a few weeks back. But....I guess it's not too bad for now." He looked at Ennis.
Ennis felt something stir inside of him. Pride maybe, at being the only reason Jack had stayed. He was glad, too. Infinitely glad he'd decided to stay.
"Well, glad to change your mind." He said. "And, I'm really glad you stayed, too." Jack looked at him, his blue eyes glowing in the light from the lantern. He smiled, and Ennis smiled too.
"Guess you should get some sleep." Ennis said after a minute. He started to get up, but Jack grabbed him.
"You aint leaving, are you?" He asked. "I was hoping you'd stay for a bit. There's more than enough room up here." Ennis' willpower crumbled at the look on Jack's face.
"Alright, I'll stay." He said. He grabbed some blankets and threw one around Jack's shoulders. "Get some sleep, though. I'm sure your daddy'll be looking for any excuse if you're not up and working first thing tommorrow." Jack lay down, and Ennis settled in beside him, surprised at how comfortable it felt.
"Thanks, Ennis." Jack whispered. Ennis reached over and patted him on the chest. Jack grabbed his hand, holding onto it. He moved up his wrist, arm, and shoulder until he was grasping his face.
"Jack." Ennis whispered, suddenly nervous. His heart beat uncontrolably as Jack's face came closer. He bit his lip, unsure of what to do. He suddenly knew what he wanted to do, but was terrified of doing it. Jack's finger brushed against his lips, and Ennis took a shaky breath. His skin tingled under Jack's touch, and he felt a thrill race through him. Suddenly he pulled Jack over, closing the distance between them. He kissed him, and it was unlike any other feeling he'd ever had. He remembered his first kiss, Lindsey Mooning, under her apple tree when they were twelve. His first real girlfriend, Allison Chenning, and how he didn't really feel about her the way he thought he should. He also remembered seeing Jack that first day, racing his horse because he thought he'd be late starting his work. And he remembered every moment with Jack after that, feeling for the first time since his parents death like he was free again. That's what went into that first kiss with Jack, and he gave into it with a sharp longing.
Jack was surprised by Ennis' enthusiasm, but was just as hungry for it as he was. Ennis was on top of him in an instant, their mouths and toungues wrestling aggressively. Ennis tore open Jack's shirt, moving down his torso with his mouth, leaving light sratches down his back. He pulled Jack up to his knees, pushing him against the wall. Jack just grunted, and pulled Ennis' face back to his. "Jeez, Jack!" Ennis growled. They stayed locked together for a few minutes, Ennis' hands moving up and down Jack's chest. Jack's hands made their way down to Ennis' belt buckle and it was off in a few seconds.
The next half hour was spent like that. The only noise was an occasional grunt or moan. Finally they lay still, breathing heavily. Jack's head rested on Ennis' chest, their clothes strewn around the top of the barn.
"Fuck." Jack said after a few minutes. "Never done nothing like that before."
"Me neither." Ennis said. He felt Jack smiling into his chest.
"Sure was fun, though." He said. Ennis nodded, smiling as well. Jack sat up, looking at Ennis. "Dunno where it came from exactly."
"Neither do I." Ennis said. "Kinda came up outta nowhere. But it sure took hold fast." He pulled Jack back onto him. "And now I don't think I can let it go."
"Sure can't." Jack agreed. "So, what now?" He looked up at Ennis, who shrugged.
"Reckon we get back to work tommorrow, like anything else." He said. Jack's smile faltered. "But, I think I'd like to pay more visits to your little place up here." He pulled Jack's face to his, leaving Jack with a preview of the next night before falling asleep.
The next couple of months were a blur as Ennis and Jack spent almost every night in the barn. Sometimes it would take Ennis a while to get away from his house, and Jack would get anxious. But he always showed up, and Jack was always happy. They got through the days work side by side, laughing and talking the whole time. Ennis went with Jack whenever he had errands to run, and Jack spent a lot of time at Ennis' house. K.E. was glad he'd found a friend, as it meant that he didn't have to worry too much about Ennis being upset when he went to stay at his new girlfriend Gina's house.
It was during dinner two and a half months after their first night in the barn when K.E. told Ennis his news. He'd made steaks and potatoes, Ennis' favorite. He cleared his throat, setting his napkin on his plate.
"Got some news, baby brother." He said. He stared at his plate, and Ennis knew it wasn't good news.
"What is it?" He said. He'd seen that look in K.E.'s eyes before and knew what he was about to say. There were only two things K.E. ever felt guilty about, not having enough money to feed Ennis, and having to tell him they were about to move again. And since they'd just had steak, he knew it had to be the latter.
"Lost my job today, Ennis." He said. "Now before you jump to conclusions, it wasn't cuz I wasn't putting in the work. It's was kinda....well, you know I've been seeing Gina?" Ennis nodded, feeling as if the room was getting smaller. "Well, she was the boss' daughter. He knew we was together, but I decided to end it with her. She was too much for me. Anyway, he fired me today. I only got enough money saved for next months rent, and I don't think I'll be able to find anything else before then. So, what I suggest is we cut our losses and get outta here before we're completely broke. What do you think?" He looked at Ennis, always giving him the option of staying. Ennis usually just agreed and moved away with him. But this time was different. He thought about leaving Jack, and found it hard to breath. He swallowed with some difficulty.
"How soon?" He asked, feeling panicked.
"Uh, soon as we can get the truck loaded up. So.....tommorrow?" K.E.'s joke about their meager belongings didn't make Ennis smile this time. K.E. noticed his reaction and was quick to reassure him. "Like I said, Ennis, it doesn't have to be right away. We can make it a little longer, but eventually I'll have to leave. And just like I told you when you turned sixteen, if you think you'll be better off without me, don't hesitate to stay, or go, or whatever. But, honestly, I'll hate to lose you little brother." Ennis looked up at his big brother. He'd protected and supported Ennis when their parents had died, and never once complained. He'd never envisioned a scenario where he'd want to separate from his brother. But here it was.
"I got some thinking to do." He said. K.E. just nodded. Ennis got up and went outside. He looked down the road and could make out the Twist farm in the distance. He saw the lights on, and knew Jack would be waiting for him. He imagined the look on Jack's face when he told him the news, and knew that he wouldn't have the will to say goodbye. He turned in the opposite direction of the farm, and started walking.
He set a brisk pace, not wanting to slow down. He walked for about fifteen minutes, going over in his head the pros and cons of staying behind when K.E. left. Not being with his brother....inconcievable. Not being with Jack....also inconcievable. He'd finally found someone he could be completely open with, who understood him when he didn't even understand himself. Jack knew how to read Ennis. But leave K.E.? How could he? They'd been a package deal his entire life. Wherever K.E. was, that's usually where you'd find Ennis. Even when they were kids and the older boys complained when their younger brothers wanted to tag along, K.E. would always bring Ennis with them. He'd taught him how to play baseball, hook the bait on a fishing pole, even ride a bike. Then when their parents died, he took care of him, quitting the job he'd had and liked for a job he hated just because it paid more. But the bills kept piling up. K.E. couldn't keep up anymore and Ennis told him he wanted to help out. K.E. refused, telling him to finish school. But then their truck broke down, and Ennis couldn't even start his sophmore year. That was when the moving started. They'd found a small trailer near the town, but then K.E. had gotten fired for fighting with the boss. He always was getting fired, but he always found something quick, in a different town.
Ennis took a deep breath, trying to quiet his racing heart. He doubted K.E. would find anything before they were evicted. And without Ennis to get work and help with the bills, he hated to think of what would happen to K.E. Family first. That's what his dad always said. Ennis sat down on the hard ground. He put his face in his hands, and knew what his decision was.
He arrived at the barn sooner than he'd thought. He paused before going in, collecting his thoughts and trying to calm his nerves. He headed up the old wooden steps.
"Thought you weren't coming." Jack said, the relief plain on his face. "I got something to show you, c'mere and sit." Ennis sat next to him, putting his arm around Jack's waist and pulling him close. He breathed him in, the familiar scent of pine and sweat tingling his nostrils. He'd definitely miss that. Jack took a paper out of his pocket and handed it to him. "What'ya think?" Ennis looked at it.
"Rodeo?" He asked. Jack nodded enthusiastically.
"I'm gonna go join 'em when winters over!" He said, grinning widly. "I found this advertisement in the paper this morning. They'll be coming close to here in april, and I'll be there." Ennis didn't know what to say. So Jack really was gonna join the rodeo.
"Sounds great." He said quietly. "Right up your alley. Don't chicken out this time." Jack laughed.
"Aint gonna, I swear it." He said. "I'm getting the fuck off this farm. And you're coming with me."
"I am?" Ennis looked at him. "How you propose that?" He tried to fake his enthusiasm.
"Well, you said you worked one before. Cleaning stalls and taking care of the animals and all that. They're always looking for some extra stable hands. It wouldn't be a problem." Jack explained.
"You got this all planned out, huh?" Ennis asked. Jack nodded. Ennis closed his eyes, and took a breath. It's now or never, he thought. "We're leaving." He said.
"Yeah, that's what I been trying to tell you." Jack said.
"No, Jack." He opened his eyes and looked at Jack. "Me and K.E. We're moving. Tommorrow." Confusion rippled across Jack's face as he gazed back at Ennis.
"Wh-why?" He stuttered. "Where?"
"K.E. lost his job. We don't have enough money to stay. I dunno where we're gonna go, but it'll probably be nowhere near." Ennis explained. His throat closed and he couldn't talk anymore. Panic tore across Jack's face.
"But, I don't understand. Why do you gotta go tommorrow? At least stay till april...then we can go-"
"Can't Jack." Ennis said. "Can't leave K.E. He's my brother." Ennis whispered.
"Tommorrow, though? So soon?" Jack didn't know how to continue. He was confused and feeling lost. Ennis just nodded.
"I'm sorry Jack, you have no idea how much." Ennis said. "I've never cared about moving that much. Always been when we'd move, I'd look ahead to the next place. Now all I'm gonna do is look behind."
"Then don't go!" Jack cried. "Ennis, if you leave...." Jack had to swallow before he continued. "How am I gonna survive here without you?"
"You've done it for sixteen years-"
"And I won't make it another sixteen days!!" Jack said. "Ennis....it's unbearable here without you! I can't see going anywhere that I'd be able to stand if you weren't there. I don't even want to rodeo without you!" Ennis just grasped his hand.
"It's done, Jack." Was all he could say. "I'm going. Tommorrow." Jack held his composure for all of five seconds. Ennis could see the tears welling up in his eyes and looked away. He couldn't take it. He wanted to take his words back, to tell Jack that he'd stay with him for as long as he was wanted. But he couldn't. Jack suddenly stood up and walked away. Ennis called after him, but didn't try to stop him. He sat by himself for a while, trying not to think of the look on Jack's face when he left. He looked around the barn, taking in every detail. This was the place he'd felt the safest in his entire life. He breathed in, memorizing the smell. It smelled like every other barn he'd ever been in, but somehow completely different. He saw that Jack had left his hat on the floor. He bent down and picked it up. He took his own hat off, and left it where Jack's had been. He put Jack's hat on his head and left.
He didn't sleep at all. The weight of his decision lay heavily on him. He'd told K.E. that he'd go with him, but didn't want to talk about it. They'd packed the truck in silence and K.E. was putting the last of their stuff in when Ennis decided to go out back for a moment. He gazed at the Twist farm one last time. He saw a figure in the distance coming toward him. Jack walked quickly, his face tense. He closed the distance quickly, a look of resignation and determination on his face. He didn't stop, or let Ennis speak. He just walked right up, and without pausing, grabbed Ennis and kissed him with such force they stumbled back a few steps. Ennis grabbed him, unable to let go. Ennis was overwhelmed with the kiss. He didn't know a person could have such a strong emotion. He loved Jack. He realized it too late, and that made the kiss that much more intense and painful. He didn't want to let him go, ever. But he did. Jack backed away, not even trying to hold on. They didn't say anything, there was nothing to say. K.E. called Ennis from the front of the house, and he turned and walked away. He didn't know where they were going, and didn't care. All he knew was that Jack wouldn't be there. Jack had said this was the only place he didn't want to be. But to Ennis, it was the only place that felt like home.
Three Years Later.....
Ennis leaned against the trailer smoking a cigarette. He'd heard about this job from a friend, and thought it sounded like good money. He'd hitched a ride from a friendly trucker and arrived four hours early. Herding sheep up a mountain for three months wasn't something he'd had experience with, so he hoped the guy he got paired up with would know the ropes. But he was a quick learner and unafraid of new things.
K.E had married the previous year and Ennis knew it was time to find something of his own. K.E. had told him he was more than welcome to stay with him until he found a steady job, but he knew it was time for him to move on. He'd worked odd jobs here and there to make ends meat, and hadn't really found the settling down part very easy. He was restless and didn't like to be in the same place for too long. It made him uneasy. So he found this herding job to be just to his liking.
A dark truck pulled up after a few hours, and he thought the boss had finally shown up. He straightened up a bit, but the man just got out, and rested against his truck. His hat covered his face, so Ennis couldn't see him clearly. After a few minutes, he grabbed a razor and started shaving. Ennis kept his head down, blocking the hot sun with his hat.
Not too long after that the boss finally arrived. Ennis went into the trailer, the other man following him. They stood, listening to the boss give them their rules, and he threw Ennis a cheap watch to keep time with. He excused them, and Ennis turned to leave. The other man was already out the door. He got outside, and the guy turned to shake his hand. They both froze.
"Jack." Ennis whispered, barely believing it.
"En-Ennis?" Jack said. He blinked a few times, but sure enough, there he stood.
"Get on outta here! 'Less you plan on staying the night." The boss called out to them.
"C'mon." Jack said. He grabbed Ennis by the wrist and led him to his truck. They drove for a few miles, Ennis was unable to do anything but stare. He'd tried hard not to think too much of Jack over the past few years, but hadn't succeeded for even a day. And here he was, flesh and blood, right in front of him. "Been staying here the past few days." Ennis looked out the window and realized they were at a motel. "Knew Aguire'd be looking for workers again. Did this last summer, too." He followed Jack to his room. He turned the key and they went inside. "Never thought I'd see you again, you-" He didn't finish his sentence. Ennis was on him before the door was even closed. Jack slammed it behind him, and they fell on the bed. Ennis couldn't believe Jack was here again. He'd thought about this moment several hundred times. He'd even thought about going back to Lightning Flat a few times, but was terrified that Jack wouldn't be there.
After a while, they lay together, staring at eachother. Jack smiled, mirroring Ennis. He moved closer, pressing his head against Ennis. "Like I was saying, I never thought I'd see you again." Ennis smiled into his hair.
"I thought about it plenty, but I didn't think it'd happen." He said. "I still can't believe you're here."
"Well, beleive it, cuz I aint going anywhere." Jack said. "I got outta my house to rodeo, like I said I was gonna. After you left..." He paused for a minute, and took a breath. "It was rough for a while. Stuff between me and the old man only got worse. Finally, I just left. It was three weeks before the rodeo came, but I tracked them down. Did it for half a year. After that, I just been riding around, finding what work I can get. Usually rodeo is good work, but it's hard as hell."
"Same here, minus the rodeo. Working's about all I got time for." Ennis said. "Found out about this herding deal from a friend."
"Did it last summer. It aint too bad, actually." Jack said. "Aguire's a tough son of a bitch, but it's pretty cut and dry." They lay for a while, just taking eachother in.
"Three months on a mountain with you sounds about the best job in the world." Ennis said. Jack nodded.
"But..." Jack paused, not wanting to continue. Ennis looked at him, urging him on. "What about after that?" It took Ennis a second to understand what Jack meant. Then he laughed. A full out laugh, something he hadn't done in too long.
"Friend, now that I've found you again, there aint no way I'm letting you outta my sights." He said. "I made that mistake once, and it wont happen again, I guarantee." Jack laughed with him. Ennis kissed him, already looking forward to their future.