Del Mar accepted the offer.
Even though Ennis hadn’t formally "come out" of the closet, everyone around him had just assumed he was gay. The neutral smiles from everybody in town gradually turned to either concern or fear that he might get AIDS... or that he was somehow contagious.
Ronald Reagan wasn’t helping by bowing to the radical religious right and refusing to support government research money to find treatments for the virus. Tens of thousands of young men suffered and died needlessly because of his inaction.
Misleading and ignorant preachers like Jerry Falwell and publicity hounds like Anita Bryant saw a resurgence of their powers and were still filling the airwaves while raking in millions of dollars with their hateful misinformation about homosexuals using little boys to "propagate their species." As a result straight people wrongly thought they were immune to the disease and began dying off too, being miss-branded as closet queers instead of god-fearing Christians.
Ennis started feeling like an outcast again.
Despite Stoutamire insisting he was still welcome to stay, Ennis went shopping for a new home and put down a rental deposit to an old trailer way out in the middle of nowhere.
Ennis had struck up a close friendship with Officer Laura Olsen to the point of becoming hunting buddies and they’d often be seen out dancing at the bar or just sitting and talking in town somewhere. This confused the rednecks even further.
A few even warned her he might be using her to hide behind so no one would think he was one of them faggots...
[Reworked scene cut from movie]
…Ennis needed some time alone one unusually chilly morning and used it vaccinating calves by himself out in the cattle shed.
Losing Jack dwelled on his mind as he considered how a lot of the locals now considered him a homosexual because of the details that came out during the arson trial.
He spent a little extra time with a particularly frightened calf that had been sick for the past couple of days, stroking it gently and making calming sounds.
As he knelt there in the doorway deep in thought, he considered how all alone he was and how it was time to get on with his life somehow.
After administering the shot, he squatted there off in another world for a minute or so more before realizing he had company.
Carl had entered the barn from the other end and noticing the tender scene, walked up quietly to watch.
Ennis’ eyes stayed trained on the animal he was trying to calm down.
"So… Are ya; or ain’t ya?"
Ennis looked up at him standing there and couldn’t decide whether to act insulted or relieved to get whether he was queer or not out in the open with his friend and boss.
Instead of answering, he calmly dug his arms beneath the calf and picked it up.
Nodding toward his wooden meds tote on the floor at the doorway, he asked, "Can ya grab that fer me?" and carried his last patient over to his mama with Carl following behind him.
They walked out into the cool noon air and Ennis said solemnly as they headed towards the main house, "I don’t know what I am; 'n that’s the truth Carl. I know I been happier here than pert near anywheres else 'n I’d sure hate to have to leave on account of you were bein’ hassled about me workin' fer ya, huh." He swallowed hard and added, “’n us both bein’ single ‘n all, it might start the wrong kinda talk in town.”
Carl stopped him midway to the house and said, "No one’s askin’ ya to leave. Everyone here knows or has heard the rumors 'n most don’t care Ennis, a‘cause they know ya well. Anybody else that don't has to deal with me directly."
Del Mar studied the ground and dug his toe in the dirt, "Thanks… I don’t know; I just get more 'n more confused ever time I try to figure it out. I loved my wife, I love my daughters more 'n life, but the sex with Jack 'n… him lovin’ me fer well nigh twenty years… 'n me lovin’ him…"
Stoutamire playfully shoved him off balance and laughed, "Ah ya dumbass faggot, I ain’t talkin’ 'bout that! Is that what ya thought when I asked ‘are ya or ain’t ya?"
All kinds of emotions flashed through Ennis’ mind; anger, insult to his macho cowboy ego, relief, finally knowing he had one good friend who "knew" and didn’t care.
Straightening up he met Carl’s eyes and asked, "Then what the fuck are ya askin’ Mr. I-know-it-all?"
Carl braced his trusted friend’s shoulders and asked, "Are ya or ain’t ya thinkin’ of leavin’ us… me; What d’ya want; ya want more money - I’ll throw ya more money. Ain’t I always treated ya fair?"
Del Mar swallowed hard and felt wanted for the first time in a long time. After a moment to consider his answer, he replied, "My stayin' here and workin' fer ya could bring trouble that ya don't need, huh. I… I’d like to stay on… if’n you’ll have me."
Stoutamire backed up a pace or two and after considering his answer replied angrily waving his arms in the air like a madman, "Ennis; ya got one true reputation in these parts' n that is ya just walk off a job on a whim when ya feel like it. Now I got fuckin’ accountants pesterin’ me ‘bout expenses, I got damned problems with feed prices, I got old equipment breakin' down 'n I cain’t decide if it’s cheaper to fix it or replace ‘em, I got crews in the fields needin' assignments and now... NOW I gotta worry 'bout YOU thinkin’ of up and skedadlin’ on me and I ain’t got enough hands to juggle all them balls up in the air at the same time!"
Stepping forward he continued with a pissed off look on his face, "Now that Mitch moved to Oklahoma, ya know what I need? I goodly need me a new goddamned general manager on this spread ta take some a the load I’m totin’ off’n my back. Now where the fuck am I gonna find one I can depend on?"
Ennis gave him a look of pure gratitude, "Ya mean it; huh?"
Barely keeping from cracking up, Carl grinned and asked, "I hate juggling balls; Now you like jugglin' balls; don't ya? Ya know; them big hairy..."
Ennis nodded before he realized the double meaning of the question.
They both stood there laughing at each other, and then suddenly Carl lunged forward and gave him a big bear hug…
Since their son’s death they’d been no more than cordial with each other. If she’d had any thoughts of leaving him, she kept them stoically to herself. After all, all they had left now was each other.
Each in their own way were devastated that the parental feeling of immortality in that they'd live on through their child after they died, perished with Jack's death. They were left knowing it all ended with them... forever.
When he finally came in for dinner an hour or so later, he found an unoccupied kitchen with a newspaper and brown paper sacks of canned goods on the table. Nothing was on the stove or in the oven.
With a puzzled frown, he called out, "Martha?"
He located her in their bedroom at the back of the house on the ground floor. She seemed to be packing her clothes.
Mystified, he asked, "A goin’ somewheres?"
She just silently picked up a cardboard box of her things and he followed her through the central living room as far as the steep steps leading upstairs.
He shrugged to himself, figuring she was storing stuff up there and thought nothing more of it.
Now that he was getting on in years, he had trouble with the steps and years back they’d moved to the rear room on the first floor back beyond the parlor.
In the dining room, he moved the groceries onto the counter by the kitchen sink and sat down at the table. The rumpled newspaper looked like it'd already been read; Martha probably looking for coupons and sales. He picked it up to read while listening to his wife move about upstairs, wondering when she was going to start supper.
Page two of the Crook County Chronicle:
DISGRACED TEXAS BUSINESSMAN/DAUGHTER DIE IN BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN JET CRASHJohn Twist sat there stunned. Jack hadn’t been guilty of anything… it was all a lie by Newsome to get revenge… and he’d fallen for it hook, line and sinker.
Disgraced businessman L.D. "Deke" Newsome and his widowed daughter Lureen Newsome Twist along with an unnamed pilot were killed Friday when their leased Learjet slammed into Brokeback Mountain in central Wyoming during heavy weather.
The FAA said the pilot reported engine trouble and requested directions to the nearest emergency airfield before losing contact with the plane. The Forest Service reported visually finding the crash site and fire near the mountain peak, but they will be unable to reach the scene until the storm clears.
Newsome, a former successful businessman from Childress Texas, recently lost ownership of a thriving farm equipment business when he was found guilty of falsely accusing his deceased son-in-law Jack E. Twist of beating and molesting his young son. Court psychiatrists reported conclusively that the boy had never been physically or sexually injured and that Newsome had carefully coached his grandson Bobby what to say on the witness stand.
According to court documents, Newsome attempted to ruin Twist’s reputation in an effort to separate his son-in-law from his business and wreck his daughter’s marriage to him. Newsome later lost his business and $250,000 to Jack Twist in a Defamation of Character lawsuit.
Many blamed Twist’s later death under mysterious circumstances in Wyoming on Newsome, but no proof was found for the allegations. Unconfirmed sources say the Wyoming State Police are looking for the two men who found Jack Twist’s body at an accident scene, who used false names and I.D.s.
Father and daughter were on their way back from a Republican Party fundraiser in Montana.
They are survived by his ex-wife Fayette and Lureen’s son Bobby Twist.
Details on the crash as they come in.
In astonishment at the depth of his sin against his son, he looked up to find Martha standing there in pain, tears streaming down her face.
She nodded her head and swallowed hard. "Jack was our boy - the only good thing we ever done - our own flesh ‘n blood; we made him but ya wouldn’t acknowledge him as yer own… so ya helped kill him.
A sad remembrance face clouded her expression as she said, "The day ya come home from gittin’ the job rodeoin’ I... come out ta tell ya how happy I was out by the horse barn, but you didn’t see me a’cause I found ya a'kissin' that young boy Pete ‘n I could tell you was in love right then ‘n there."
Twist knew there was no use denying it and bowed his head to stare at the table.
She continued, "All them damned preacher men ya been to… I couldn’t understand it after what ya went through with yer mama ‘n daddy, I never understood until it hit me that you was tryin’ ta git yerself cured. ‘N then ya found out our boy went ‘n done the same thing with Ennis."
John only silently bowed his head in guilt, not meeting her accusing eyes.
"Well… I done spent my whole life forgivin’ ya fer all that ‘n the hell our lives have been since, a’cause I truly loved ya John Twist, I took yer name ‘n I had yer baby 'n through all that I loved ya like them vows fer better ‘n fer worse… ‘n in some ways I still do, but when ya helped kill yer own son on that lying snake bastard Newsome’s word… well… ya got no one ta blame fer both of our wasted lives but yerself."
John was suddenly smothered emotionally by the love he spent his whole life denying for Hutch, and the waste of this good woman’s love for him and sighed as a single tear rolled down his cheek.
She nodded knowingly and said, "I’ve moved my things upstairs John Twist. Because of the way I was brought up, I won’t leave you, though I should, but from this day forward I’m yer wife in name only. I hope yer God forgives ya a’cause I cain’t… and as my god as my witness I’ve tried my heart out to."
Twist bowed his head listening to her carefully climb back up the stairs…
...to her room.
...Kurt Kirkwood had just returned from the gym, and sat out back halfway up the wooden stairs to Alma Junior’s new apartment over the laundromat where she grew up.
In his hand was the morning Riverton Review. He too had just read the article on L.D.’s death and was lost in a fog of problems.
There’d be no more big money coming in from Newsome, so he’d have to get a real job when his ample bank account ran out. There was no sense in killing that Ennis del Mar guy now, since he wouldn’t get paid for it and besides that he was probably just as innocent as it turns out that that Jack Twist was…
Kirk was always able to justify the beatings and the killings he’d done in his own head, but now he realized that that son-of-bitch Deke had fooled him and he wondered how many others were lies too.
Kirkwood’s anger for being so stupid and easily manipulated turned to a kind of sadness.
Kurt looked down at his beloved new Camaro parked below where Ennis used to keep his truck and wished he had his best friend Cory to talk to. He felt lonely for the first time in his life, wondering if he’d ever find anyone to trust… anyone worth trusting again. Lately he thought of Baint every time he looked at his car.
His eye caught a movement and he saw and heard “Junior” smiling up from the driver's side window of his other Camaro that he'd given her to use as it pulled in. When she reached the foot of the steps she frowned up at him as she started climbing.
“What happened, you big gorgeous dummy,” she asked with a loving smile, “You lose your key or something?”
God’s Eye Is MissingThe once revered house of worship used to be painted stark white, and when the bright Sunday morning sun hit its fifty foot tall spire, it could be seen and heard from more than a mile away. Its bell was long gone; probably sold by scavengers for scrap metal and its paint had long ago been cracked by the sun and scoured off by the wind.
Its size seemed to double the closer you got to it and was meant to intimidate its flock, not welcome it.
The pulpit of the abandoned Lightning Flat United Pentecostal Church was situated in the dimly lit and gloomy center of the rear western wall of the sanctuary.
The old polished wood pews were dull now from lack of care, and those closest to what were left of the few intact southern-facing stained-glass windows glowed brightly in tinted pretty hues by the late afternoon sun striking down upon them. The dust stirred in the drafty musty chamber, coloring the diagonal shafts of light where protecting storm shutters had either fallen or rotted off.
The building developed a slight lean from years upon years of constantly opposing the wind. The stress caused the gothic leaded-glass panels to crack and most had broken, letting in the rain and the snow.
Scattered on the floor and amongst the protruding baroque wall decorations were field rat and bird’s nests, along with remnants of other larger animals seeking shelter from the brutal weather that came in yearly cycles.
Wood softly creaked and strained all around and above the lone visitor silently standing in the semi-darkness. He'd paused midway between the front doors and the altar as a cold breeze whistled through the cracked walls, rattling leaves on the floor in circles. Wind repeatedly banged a partially open door somewhere off to his left.
Ancient and tired wood protested beneath his feet with every hesitant step he took as he looked around in wonder at the once-magnificent sanctuary. The faithful had abandoned it like a pathetic empty cardboard box of crackers discarded at the side of the road in an overgrown field.
Hand-painted, cracked, peeling, and water-stained murals of Jesus and/or God smiting down evildoers and heretics adorned every wall. The pitched ceiling sported someone's version of almighty god looking down at the congregation with unsmiling and judgmental eyes surrounded by cherubs. An almost circular piece of plaster had fallen to the floor and the Lord's left eye was missing. Angels in the painted clouds had tightly clasped hands with anguished expressions as if begging forgiveness for some unknown sins.
Anyone upon entering knew immediately that this was a place of fear and prejudice of the unbelieving; not one of love, acceptance and healing.
This chamber that once sternly taught the intense fear of God's self-appointed spokesmen, now appeared to be lonely and defeated like a traveling wizard who'd run out of tricks and had been exposed as a fraud.
The old man sat down at the center aisle end of a pew immediately to his right. He remembered long ago as a boy waiting nervously here asking god for a sign that he was really real and here watching over him... "If you can hear me god, make a bird fly by the window, or have my mother cough in this oppressive silence"... nothing... but he was taught to believe despite never really feeling a sign.
Then, as in now, he could feel no spirits here, neither earthly nor otherworldly.
The man frowned surprise to find ancient and worn hymnals still in the rear wooden bench-back pockets before him. He huffed half a chuckle remembering that he'd probably paid for them long ago, along with most of the now-absent gold adornments that once decorated every corner of this place. Many times he fantasized of stomping in here, interrupting the sermon, and informing the flock just where that money came from and how it was earned.
As he lifted the songbook to view its contents, he glanced up remembering the now missing ornate pipe organ. In its absence his eyes caught the silhouette on the grimy dirty wall above and behind the pulpit where a tall elaborate wooden crucifix once was affixed to it. Vandals or souvenir seekers must’ve taken it.
He nodded his head sadly in the confirmation that like his soul, even Jesus Christ had left town.
The old yellowed, stiff and curled music pages crackled open to “Onward Christian Soldiers,” and somehow it brought a sudden autumn anger to his tortured soul. Without really knowing why, he rose carefully and began walking the rows gathering old dusty hymnals, piling them open and haphazardly around and on the worn cracked oak pulpit.
It took him half an hour on aching legs to gather forty of the old songbooks there and he stood staring and tired at his work. Somewhere behind him came the sound of a prairie rodent scurrying away in fear of the solemn visitor.
All around him wood groaned again in the breeze and the building seemed to sway slightly as if it’d guessed his intentions in coming here and was determined to fall on him to keep him from succeeding in his task.
Old and weary "Jumpin' Johnny Twist" hadn’t been feeling well lately and in fact was convinced his end-time was near, culminating in the inevitable and horrible journey down into the bowels of Hell. Before he died, he was determined to fulfill a promise he’d angrily made to his parents and now that his boy Jack was gone, he longed to be with forever young Peter Hutchison, whom he knew was patiently and lovingly waiting for him there.
Martha would be better off without him and the lie he’d forced her to live her whole life.
Opening the text he’d brought with him from home, he scanned past the front flyleaf of his heavy old family bible and sadly, slowly and carefully read aloud the records of his ancestors. After a while of studying, he leafed through the volume resentfully, placing the big leather-bound Good Book that so many generations of Twists had cherished on the pulpit... its antique pages open to the holy chapter that had caused so much pain in his life.
Suddenly unafraid of god striking him down, he reached forward without hesitation and began tearing pages out of it until the entire book of Leviticus was nothing but balls of crumpled paper littering the surface of the lectern.
He gazed down at the pews that were now sparsely occupied by faceless strangers as the ghostly figure of a young Martha Caine in a flowing white dress was walked up the aisle by her father to a nervous man barely nineteen waiting at the alter.
Gathering his strength and courage, he carefully pulled out his lighter and thoughtfully set the gilt-edged clutter to flame and immediately the remains of the bible caught in a heated whoosh.
As the front of the dark chancel flickered with yellow light that got stronger by the minute, John stepped down and sat in the first pew and then began singing “Onward Christian Soldiers” aloud off key in a mournful and regretful tone while smoke began burning his lungs. Sparks snapped and sputtered as the platform made of decades dry wood caught fire and spread to the hymnals.
As the heat of the growing blaze reached him, Twist figured that when he entered the gates of Hell, he'd have an advantage, having already gotten used to its flames here on Earth before he'd made the journey.
Minutes passed and still he felt nothing in his soul, but he waited anyway. There was no god, no devil, nothing. He couldn't even feel Pete waiting for him. He became convinced that he would just cease to exist like an ant that had been stepped on and nothing more as it became harder and harder to breathe the black room-filling soot.
His faith was all that gave him comfort and now that it'd been wrenched away from him, he was convinced that this was his decision and not God's, and wondered why had he decided to die suffering here instead of peacefully in his bed?
With tears streaming from his burning eyes, he lost his nerve and fearfully scrambled his exit while painfully choking smoke out as he passed through the front door. Cursing himself as a coward for losing his courage, he recalled trying to hang himself when Hutch, Mary and Jim died. John resented Harold to this day for finding him before he choked to death on the noose.
Standing safely there outside, he smugly hoped his self-righteous parents were helplessly watching from their glorious heaven as flames began breaching the windows and smoke puffed from the shingles.
Getting into his old Chevy pickup, he backed away from the blaze through tall weeds and stopped about fifty yards out to watch the damned church burn. If his faith hadn't abandoned him when it did, he'd still be in there trapped by hungry flames feeling the devil’s touch and hoping for Christian salvation before the roof and walls collapsed down onto him.
Even if someone in this ghost town saw it, it was doubtful that the distant fire department would get here before the place was reduced to charred ruins.
While the surrounding overgrown and long-abandoned evening fields glowed bright orange and yellow, he sang and hummed "Water Walking Jesus" to himself, recollecting Martha teaching it to a young Jack, and smiled at how the boy could never get the words right.
When he was satisfied that nothing could save the church now, he headed into what was left of town past empty store fronts and row upon row of uninhabited houses.
For a while he paused at the old rodeo arena where his whole adventure stared. The stands had collapsed and the front sign's paint was worn off, but in his mind it was as beautiful as the day he met Hutch.
The ghost of a familiar, grand and envied 1938 Packard wheeled past him in the dark...
Later that evening he returned home defeated and sullen. His wife greeted him at the kitchen door with a steaming cup of the lousy tasting cheap coffee she’d been buying lately. When she asked why he smelled of smoke, he replied that he’d been burning some trash and brush he’d cleared in the south pasture, and without another word went into the parlor and turned on the TV as distant thunder rumbled outside…
Jack's blood was on his hands, justified or not, and he was bound by it and fate to suffer the consequences...
One way or another...
Casper Wyoming; two days later:
"Yes... I'll take care of it and should be there tomorrow," the lawyer answered. "Will you be alright up there alone?"
"...All right, see you first thing tomorrow morning, and don't you worry; I'll take care of everything."
He set the phone down deep in thought, then hit the intercom button. "Joanne, I'm going to need a funeral wreath and flower arrangement delivered here before we close up."
"Yes, sir," a friendly dependable voice replied.
"I also need you to contact Stoutamire Farms up in Signal and get the current address of an Ennis del Mar; not where he's getting his mail, where he resides. Be sure not to give too much information out on what we want it for. Say it's for a legal matter concerning a relative or something that's trying to get ahold of him, or like that... what? D-E-L-M-A-R two words little D."
The careful man stood up and shrugged into his business suit jacket. He studied his Smith & Wesson revolver in a shoulder holster hanging from the coat tree and decided he wouldn't need it until tomorrow, then hurried out of the office just before lunch. He'd figure out if he needed it when he came back for the flowers.
He had a lot to do in the next 24 hours for one of his most valued clients...
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Important notice about this novel: This adaptation of the original short story was
written by Vernon "Jet" Gardner © 2005-2012 and contains enhanced versions of all of the original's events written by Annie Proulx, Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana in red/black/green.
All text in blue written by Vernon "Jet" Gardner published here ©2005-2013.
Reproduction in any form or use of unique characters is
forbidden without permission of the author.