The Births, Lives, Times, Secrets and Deaths of Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist

Brokeback Mountain The Complete Novel 1943-2006 XXXIV

Chapter 34 ~ Come Hell Or High Water
Where’s That Damned Revolver?
Despite accepting Carl's promotion and the lodging at the main house that came with it, Ennis moved into the trailer.

Laura offered to help him with his stuff but he didn’t have anything so it wasn’t necessary and transferred everything there in the space of an afternoon.

He’d begun regretting the tiny place almost from the day he got it. It was just too damned small and had a tendency to rock side to side in even a moderate wind.

Since he’d gotten used to living alone years ago, he preferred wandering around home naked and usually slept that way too. Now that colder weather had begun to set in, he had a tendency to avoid the drafty chilled breeze that constantly whistled around the bathroom window. Most of the time he’d turn on the water in the kitchen sink and then take a piss there instead.

The trailer house was basically one long room with a very tiny bathroom at one end, a cubby hole for a bookshelf and some knickknacks over the back window, a kitchenette in the middle and a little living room up front. The couch was the kind that folded out into a little bed.

Except for some mismatched glasses, plates and coffee mugs the 30-year-old trailer had everything he thought he needed.

Ennis had carefully enclosed Jack’s shirt down inside of his, reversing them so that now symbolically as well as literally Jack was within his skin. They were the only things hanging on his living room wall.

When Laura visited, she asked him about them, eyeing the bloodstains suspiciously and he said they were souvenirs from a hunting accident a long time ago.

Daughter Jenny, now seventeen, came by and took him shopping for some clothes and stuff that he’d lost in the fire.

Monroe sent along an old portable TV and a clock radio with her and she spent the evening puttering around dusting, making fun of the linoleum pattern, and threatening to make new curtains to replace the drab miss-matched ones he had and destroy the ugly metal Venetian blinds.

Ennis laughed at her when she seemed a little intimidated by the large assortment of butcher knives on his counter for carving up the prime beef he’d infrequently bring home with him.

She too pointedly eyed the shirts, so he moved them to the inside of a wooden wardrobe cabinet in a far corner of the trailer. The shirts and the spirits encased within them kept the dreams away when he was home.

In the weeks that followed he established himself as the new boss and was surprised when no one protested or quit. In fact he wound up with more new applications for jobs from people wanting to work for him than he could fill... much to Carl's relief.

The ranch hands respected him because he rolled up his sleeves and worked right beside them and within a week of him taking over, they wound up doing their chores because they wanted to; not because they were ordered to. Carl would show up occasionally beside him toiling away at something and remind him, "Ya got men ta do that shit Ennis; use ‘em!"

When he was out on a roundup or on the ranch, the dreams of his lost love came back, so it was hard for Ennis when he was away.

When the postcards of Brokeback Mountain finally came in, he bought one for 20 cents and neatly tacked it up next to the shirts on the inside of the door, wishing he had one of Jack’s old ones that he’d carefully saved but that’d been lost in the fire.

Word came that Alma had lost Monroe’s second baby at birth and had nearly died herself.

Ennis sent her an 8-week-old kitten from one of the barn cats on the ranch and Monroe half-heartedly bitched him out because she spent the rest of that day bawling over it.

Ennis lived his whole life by a phrase his mother once taught him, "If ya can’t fix it, ya gotta stand it."

Jenny criticized his "hick talk" for the umpteenth time and corrected, "It’s ‘you’ dad; not ‘ya’... It's 'for' - not 'fer'."

Life went on.

Early one morning Ennis had just come from the ranch after spending a rough night with some newly bought horses.

After making a detour to pick up supplies and finally getting around to buying some numbers for his mailbox, he came home tired and hungry.

He parked a couple of bottles of whiskey in the fridge with some eggs, sausage and bread, sat down on his couch and instantly dozed off fully dressed.

As usual the dream was of holding Jack in his arms while they peacefully slept in the tent by the stream the last day they spent together at Brokeback Mountain National Forest at the place Twist had declared "his" spot.

Sometime around noon he woke with a start.

He yawned, stretched, and was about to get up when a car door closed outside.

Frowning he got up and looked out the window, stretching his mouth wide with another tear filled yawn.

He studied an unfamiliar middle-aged man in a black suit and tie who was walking toward the trailer’s front door but at the last moment he detoured around to the other side of the truck.

Ominously, he checked something in his inside breast pocket.

Someone was sitting on the passenger side but he couldn’t make out whom.

He’d seen that truck only once before so it took a moment to recognize it.

Suddenly his breath caught.
It was the new Chevy Silverado dually that Jack had bought just before their last meeting!

As quietly as he could he stooped low and grabbed the revolver out of the kitchen counter drawer, making sure it was loaded.

Crawling back to the window he peered out and his jaw dropped in astonishment at what he saw...

A Boyfriend With Killer Looks
Alma Junior rushed around the apartment in her bra and panties looking for Kurt’s shoes.

When she turned 18, she’d fought long and hard with her stepfather about moving out on her own and he finally compromised with her by offering the place almost rent-free in exchange for managing the Monroe's Cleaners downstairs.

Having long-since become friends, Ennis backed Monroe up on the decision.

Kurt made it official and became her fiancé. It had been three months now since Newsome was killed and the muscular 23-year-old shaggy blond hunk with killer looks found work almost immediately as an oil field roughneck.

He came out of the bathroom with a toothbrush sticking out of his mouth, smelling of shampoo and soap, wearing only a pink towel barely clutching his trim waist, and his favorite old and worn green John Deere baseball cap.

He'd stopped shaving his chest, armpits and pubes a year ago and the wet growth of new body hair was semi-matted to his skin.

Alma had been secretly living with him since their engagement.

Kirk had gone straight and had truly fallen in love with Junior for real this time. He wondered how long he could keep his past life a secret before it caught up to him.

He mangled a question around the toothbrush, "You seen my blue plaid shirt?"

She sauntered up to him with a grin and ran her hand over his dense furry chest and down ticklishly over his washboard stomach. "You don’t need one with all this."

"Ha, ha."

His towel dropped to the floor as he reached into his jeans hanging over the back of a dinette chair. Pulling out his wallet, he handed her a ten then turned around to push the billfold back into his empty pants.

For some reason her eyes weren’t meeting his at that moment and he laughed while pulling her chin up with his index finger and kissing her full on the mouth.

As his hand caressed up her side and fondled a Playtex covered breast, he said with a growl, "I love how you make me feel like a man."

Intentionally not answering him, she frowned at the cash he’d handed her and asked, "What’s this for?" already knowing the answer.

"Bob’s coming to ride me up to a rig that’s got problems," he responded picking the towel back up and slinging it over his shoulder. "That's gas money for the trip to Signal."

This had been an ongoing fight between them over her repeatedly putting off telling her father they were engaged.

As he went back into the bedroom naked carrying his jeans he called over his shoulder, "And wear that ugly blue ‘Little House on the Prairie’ blouse I hate so much; the thing with all the little girl ruffles and no neckline."

Alma rolled her eyes at the ceiling.

There was no use arguing with him.

She frowned and protested, “I thought this was your day off, why don’t you come with me?

From the bedroom he called out, “I just told you, me ‘n Bob’s got a problem we gotta take care of way up north near the Montana line. I ‘spect we’ll be gone most of the day…

What Might Have Been
Jack’s mother Martha Twist stepped down from the truck, the stranger reaching back to carefully close her door.

At the front bumper, she said something softly to him and after a glance at the window that Ennis was peering from; the stranger nodded and got back into the truck.

She wore an old but well kept cloth coat over a black dress and black flat-heeled shoes.

He muttered to himself, "How the hell could she have found me? I just fuckin' moved here! I ain't even got numbers on the damned mailbox yet!"

Stunned, Ennis quickly thought twice about her companion, and then put the gun back in the drawer, opened his trailer door and offered a hand down to her.

Before moving, she looked up at him and asked politely in a meek voice, "May I come in?"

Ennis nodded and carefully escorted her up and into the living room area.

Nervously watching her seat herself on his blanket strewn couch, he asked, "Might’n I get ya somethin’; some coffee maybe?"

Martha answered, "No thank ya please, my nephew 'n me ate on the way down here."

Ennis glanced out the window at the truck and sat down close in a wooden chair facing her. At a loss they both waited for the other to speak as her nervous eyes darted around the trailer.

Silently del Mar thanked God he’d put the shirts in the wardrobe out of sight but noticed her gaze studying Jack's Rolex on his wrist.

She gestured to Ennis to lean down close as if to whisper something to him, and when he complied her old but steady hand moved slowly and calmly towards his chest and he froze.

She gently tugged a cheap gold chain out of his shirt around del Mar’s neck to reveal her son’s wedding ring on it. She nodded approval softly, and then silently released it from her fingers. When it landed on his chest she pressed her fingertips against it, pushing it into his flesh as if saying it was now where it belonged.

After a moment more she withdrew her hand and leaned back.

As Ennis relaxed, she announced, "I come to tell ya that my husband John; Jack’s father has passed. We come directly down here from the service."

Stunned Ennis paused and muttered, "I’m awful sorry ta hear that ma’am. Jack always said he was a good man 'n a good father."

She shook her head no, "No… no he weren't Mr. Del Mar."

"Ennis, please Mrs. Twist."

The soft sadness with which she expressed them didn’t near match her words, "He was a cold hypocritical self-serving son of a bitch, that lived 'n died without a heart," she declared with a nod. "He never loved me or Jack… Only Pe… only Jesus Christ, 'n I spent my whole life tryin’ to convince him of the God’s truth that our boy really was his flesh ‘n blood, 'n not some other man’s bastard."

She looked down in shame at the confession and appeared very uncomfortable. She seemed to be trying to say something else even more painful and fought to keep her calm.

Ennis waited patiently; Pe.. Pete?

Suddenly it slammed into him like a freight train out of nowhere that Mrs. Alma del Mar was sitting in right front of him had he stayed married to her.

He was looking slap-bang at his ex-wife’s pain and resentment in the face and realized what he might’ve done to her had they remained together.

The wise woman watched his eyes as he worked it out in his head what John Twist’s secret was.

She nodded silently, “I guess I knew about Peter; that was his name Peter, all along but truly didn’t allow myself to really know until only a few months ago.”

“Jack never said a word, ma’am.”

“He didn’t know. Pete was killed before Jack was born.”

They both stared at the floor between them for a few moments while Ennis digested that.

Martha moved, regaining his attention and eventually she asked, "Ya still have them shirts?"

Ennis’ eyes widened and he responded softly "Yes ma’am."

Getting up silently, he crossed the trailer and brought them to her without being asked.

She gently took them and silently wept, clutching them to her chest like del Mar had done up in Jack’s room when he found them.

Ennis told her how he’d discovered them where she’d hidden them from her husband and after asking him; he explained that the blood was his and how exactly it got there.

He thought he owed her complete honesty… he was unaware that she already knew it, but wanted to test his version of it.

Composing herself, she told him that when Jack came home that late summer of ’63, he had turned his room into a shrine to Ennis. She’d even found several pieces of notebook paper in his wastebasket on which he’d repeatedly signed Jack Twist-del Mar over and over on both sides of the pages.

He’d tried to draw sketches of Ennis’ face and thumb tacked them up on his wall too.

She told her host of finding a journal of Jack’s intimate memories of Brokeback Mountain. At the time she’d convinced herself that it was only a "school boy" crush that he’d eventually get over and not that much to worry about.

Over the years, Jack obviously thought those things were safe there away from his wife Lureen’s eyes. John never went in Jack’s room because of his back problem, so Martha left them where they were.

Mysteriously, L.D. Newsome had begun coming up to their ranch more and more frequently, and after she was ushered out of the room, he’d always spout hateful awful things about Jack while she listened at the door in shock.

She didn't think anything would come of it until a few days before Jack’s murder.

John received a strange phone call from someone named Randall and then angrily struggled his way up to Jack’s room. He burned nearly everything he'd found up there as if trying to destroy any evidence of ever having a son.

He would've succeeded had she not gone up there and stopped him, threatening to go to the county sheriff unless he left her something to remember her only baby with. That was also how she’d rescued his watch and ring; apparently Jack had slipped them off and put them in his jacket before working on the flat tire.

Jack’s bedroom was left stark and empty but for a few things.

Her son stored clothes there for when he came to help with the ranch once or twice a year; those and his jacket and boots were all she prevented her husband from destroying… along with the toy horse and some other mementos that were found stored in boxes in the Twist’s old second floor bedroom.

She was busy restoring order up there in his bedroom a few days later when she heard cars pull up outside.

L.D. Newsome and two boys she thought that they’d hired to paint the house were down there. They talked briefly with her husband and then mysteriously left in the elder Twists’ old farm truck.

At the time she thought it was to buy paint and supplies, so she didn’t think anything of it because by then L.D. had been up to their house for supper and to talk several times.

About a half an hour later she spotted an unfamiliar brand-new truck coming up their drive that suddenly swerved to a stop.

Her son got angrily out of it, yanked his coat off and got underneath the Silverado to pull the spare tire down.

In the distance down the road, she spotted their own truck with the two painters in the back of it… and she couldn’t understand why it seemed to be waiting at the end of their lane.

She recalled how she watched from above and almost turned away as her husband pulled up behind, thinking they were going to help him… but then thought it strange that after a moment her husband just walked away in the direction of the south pasture gate, lost out behind the cherry trees.

When she looked back she saw Deke Newsome and the two young strangers begin to beat her son senseless. Martha was so horrified she couldn’t speak and she panicked as he ran from them.

In an attempt to stop it before things got out of hand, she rushed downstairs to scream at them but the steep steps from the second floor delayed her hurry and by the time she got to the kitchen door it was too late.

She remembered screaming in pain at the top of her lungs and they all turned towards her.

For a moment she worried that she was next, but John seemed to stop them.

She was sitting in the living room crying and trying to composer herself, only seconds away from calling the sheriff and an ambulance; neither of which would’ve arrived in time to save her boy. By then John came in and got her under control.

Ennis looked up from where he’d buried his head in his hands in pain, and told her that the last day he saw her son was apparently the day he died and how heartbroken he was.

He also told her he suspected they’d murdered him, from the day he'd found the coat that Jack had worn.

She nodded and confirmed that the only reason it was spared from the fire was because he’d taken it off to change the tire and there was no blood on it.

She’d turned against her husband completely when he later read in the paper how that man Ennis del Mar had been accused of Jack’s murder; the one that his son wouldn’t stop talking about.

The old man told her he hoped del Mar would hang - it’d serve him right for pervertin’ his Christian boy. A succession of charlatan preachers had convinced her husband that Satan was planting false memories in his head of being homo… queer… gay? in his mind.

She bowed her head almost in tears when she told him that John didn’t admit it to himself until just recently… in fact not until just shortly after Jack’s death.

It was now clear to Ennis that she had lost her steadfast faith in God at the same time that her self-righteous husband had found his.

She told him how it was by God’s providence that that evil man Newsome and Jack’s horrible wife died on the mountain that Jack seemed to love so much.

A long uncomfortable silence followed as she wept. Her mind became so clouded that she didn’t finish the story about how that lying Newsome had convinced John and his two hired men that Jack was a pedophile who was molesting his own son, and that’s why they killed him.

Outside her nephew started up Jack’s truck to get the heater going against the chill.

The sound of the roaring truck’s motor distracted her further and she fixed him with a lost look and said, "My upbringing won’t let me understand… but I have to know somethin' Mr… uh Ennis."

While del Mar's gaze was distracted by the sound, Martha shocked his attention back to her by sadly... softly saying, "Pine Creek."

Ennis’ eyes widened and his lower lip tightened to hold back a gasp.

"I read everythin’ he wrote in that there diary of his about ya over the years ‘n how he took a shine to ya right off. I knowed he made the first move on ya 'n all the details that came after, but he never knew somethin’ fer sure so I’m gonna ask ya straight fer him… Dih… did ya love him?"

Ennis bowed his head, swallowed hard and half whispered, "Yes ma’am… I surely did."

His heart filled with sorrow now that he seemed to be able to tell others what it was too late to tell Jack.

"Then don’t be ashamed of it."

Del Mar looked up in surprise to be captured in a mother’s eyes as she nodded, then told him she now regretted burning the diary Jack kept to protect it from John. She was sorry she hadn’t saved it for Ennis.

In a tone of disgust she continued, "His awful wife Lureen; she waited till the day of the memorial service ta tell me that she was keepin’ his ashes. I begged 'n begged her ta allow me ta divide ‘em up 'n when she finally agreed to, the mortician give me one a them nice urns to put him in…

“He was cremated up here?”

She nodded, “Over in Moorcroft.” It took a moment for her to remember what she was trying to tell him, and then she continued, “Anyways, I went out back behind the funeral home 'n scooped up some sand 'n put it in her half."

Before Ennis could digest that, she added, "My husband buried sand in the family plot down the road too."

Ennis' jaw dropped in shock as it hit him and it took another moment for what she’d said to fully sink in. "You mean ya… ya mean, you have all, uh all of… you got?"

She nodded, "I’m his mother. I didn’t want him cremated but John 'n that awful L.D. didn’t want no evidence."

Promise It Like You Mean It, Damn You!
Ennis got up and put the shirts back where they belonged, nearly knocking the postcard off its tack in the process.

As he passed back through the kitchen, he almost paused at the fridge for a swig of whiskey to calm his nerves but thought better of it. Out of consideration for her he didn’t reach for a smoke either, but wanted one badly.

Martha stood, sniffed and stared directly into his eyes with a determination that surprised him.

"Jack wanted to be scattered yonder up on Brokeback Mountain; didn’t he?"

Ennis nodded, "Yes ma’am; that's what his wife said 'n I'm pretty sure it's true." He’d just found out she’d read her son’s journal so he didn’t add that that’s where they fell in love.

She nodded with a determined look, "Mark me down yer complete mailin’ address 'n the address where ya work." She glanced around and didn’t see a phone. "Give me yer work number 'n yer social security number so I can send ya 'em registered mail."

Ennis nodded and wondered why she wanted his social security number, and then frowned, "Them?"

"I’m sending ya Jack’s ashes."

At that moment the wind rocked the trailer, which didn’t help his state of mind, since the room was already spinning emotionally for him.

Ennis was fighting back tears, so far successfully, but barely.

Scribbling everything down that she’d asked for, he handed her the slip of paper.

She reached out slowly to take it from him and suddenly seemed at peace.

Meeting his eyes again she stunned him with a look of sheer determination. "Swear ta me you’ll take him up yonder like he wanted, come Hell er high water Ennis del Mar, come Hell er high water!" she spat it out as though the anger she felt toward her husband was releasing itself at him.

With a clenched jaw he nodded in a reassuring soft and polite voice, "I swear Martha Twist; I surely do."

Startling the hell out of him, she repeated loudly in his face, "Promise it like ya mean it damn ya, this is my son, my only baby we’re talkin’ 'bout!"

Ennis straightened, met her searching eyes and repeated, "I promise, Martha Twist, with all my heart and soul; I swear on everthin’ I find holy… I swear… I… I swear on my love fer Jack."

She lurched forward and clutched him with surprising strength, sobbing into his chest.

After a few minutes, she nodded and let go.

She backed up and stepped towards the door, paused, and then turned back to him saying, "Before he died, Jack give me two special things to give to ya." Meeting his eyes, she added in a determined tone, "Once I know that my boy’s where he belongs, I’ll send ‘em to ya... but only then."

Ennis opened the door and escorted her to the truck. Just before she closed her door she raised her voice to be heard and warned, "Get some numbers on that mailbox yonder; I don’t want him in no dead-letter office fer eternity."

Ennis nodded and they drove away without another word.

As he watched Jack's truck disappear, the sun came out and brightly warmed the wind.

Ennis took that as a sign.

Back inside, he put some coffee on to heat and searched around in the junk drawer.

As he prepared to go outside, he wondered what Jack would have that he’d only trust his mother with…


The Father - Daughter Game
He stepped outside and watched a bank of clouds trying to organize into a western racer without much success. It’d gotten cold again as he stuck the self-adhesive metal lot numbers he’d bought earlier onto the mailbox.

Deep in thought, he wasn’t actually smoking the burning cigarette he had in his mouth.

Unsure if the numbers were now big enough because they’d suddenly become very important, he backed away around ten feet and looked at them again ignoring an unfamiliar car on the dusty road that ran through the trailer park.

As he squinted at the silver stick-on numbers and decided to get bigger ones, he heard the car pulling up behind him.

Turning he spied a 5-year-old brown Camaro Z28. He ducked down, peered into the open front window, and recognized the driver.

"Well hey there Junior!" he said, giving his daughter a surprised if not distracted smile.

Lately his girls were concerned that he'd developed a stammer. Actually he was trying to be careful to talk correctly for them and they seemed to appreciate the effort.

She got out of the car giving her beloved dad a big hug. Though she was a young woman now, she had her mother’s height and the top of her head barely reached his chin.

Releasing him she gestured at the chariot she’d arrived in and asked, "Like the car?"

He gave her a half-hearted "Yeah," indicating it was okay for her but he’d never own one; preferring pickups. "Is it yours?"

This was a good enough time as any to introduce the name so she replied instantly, "Yeah, well no, it's Kurt’s."

Playing the typical father who never knows what’s going on, he protested in an unsure puzzled voice, "Well I thought you were seeing uh, uh Troy?"

"Troy?" she replied in a miffed tone and then protested, "Daddy that was two years ago!"

Having fun with her was a familiar pastime between them, so he made a point of half-heartedly ignoring her face, pretending to be fascinated with the car instead.

He nodded absently and fought to keep from cracking up as he began seriously sizing up the suped up little Chevy. He wondered if it might have too much power for his little girl to handle.

Absentmindedly he asked, "Troy still playin’ baseball?" as he continued to enjoy the sarcastic ignoring game he was playing with his first-born.

A little annoyed that he seemed to still be paying more attention to the car than her, she replied tersely, "I don’t know what he’s doing, I’m seeing Kirk now."

He gave a hint of a sly smile and asked, "Well what does Kurt do?"

"He works out in the oil fields."

That got his attention. Putting a gentle hand on her shoulder, he remarked skeptically, "He’s a ‘roughneck' huh?"

Seeing straight through his attitude, she chuckled, "Yeah," and began heading to the trailer’s door with him accompanying her.

Voicing a new respect for her he asked "Well I guess yer nineteen, ya can do whatever ya like; is that right?"

Taken aback a second at the fatherly deference, she replied, "Sure!"

At the door he asked with a frown "Kurt or Kirk?"

"His name is Kurt Kirkwood, Daddy," she replied, "his friends call him Kirk."

She sat down at his little dinette table as he remarked jokingly, "Alma Kirkwood… Nah, don’t sound right, huh?"


They Can Find Themselves A New Cowboy
His last remark made her squirm uncomfortably where she sat next to an unused box fan on a portable stand.

She pulled off her sweater, placing it on the bed behind her, revealing Kurt’s hated blue blouse.

For this she needed to be as prim and proper as possible.

While Ennis busied himself pouring a couple of cups of coffee for them, she anxiously scanned the room.

In an attempt to distract herself from the nervous announcement she’d come to make, she remarked, "Daddy; you need more furniture."

Carrying a pair of mismatched coffee mugs, he handed one to her.

A scant hour ago Mrs. Twist sat in this room and changed his world as he knew it. He was unprepared for his daughter to do the same thing but that was what she was here for.

As she handled her steaming mug nervously, he tried to remember what she'd just said; Oh yeah; furniture. "Yeah well… if you don’t got nothing, you don’t need nothing," in a resigned tone and sat down opposite her beside the window at the table.

Alma Junior almost corrected the "got nothing" to ‘have anything" in what he'd just said but decided this wasn't the time to criticize her Daddy; it was enough that he got the ‘ing’s right and the ‘yous’ right.

Junior always brought out the young man in him, and for a brief glimpse the worries and heartaches of the past few months left his face and he looked the part.

He was feeling their age difference too by way of her more educated accent. He got his last sentence out without mangling it. He hadn’t really realized it up until now that he felt ignorant when they conversed.

He once tried to speak like her and came away from it wondering if she thought he was making fun of her. Even worse, when she started talking like her daddy he wondered if she was making fun of him.

Junior briefly got distracted by a full rack of butcher knives behind him and nervously played with her cup.

Her father could read her like a book, instantly knew she had something important to tell him and maybe difficult on her mind so he inquired, "So what’s the occasion?" with a half-hearted stern look.

No turning back now.

She looked into her mug then at her father. Fearful of dropping it out of anxiousness, she clutched the cup with both hands and tried to be casual, "Me and Kirk… we’re getting married."

She felt lost as her father’s face turned to stone.

For him, all of her years flashed by in the blink of an eye. Her birth and his dreading this moment from that day forward and as if written in his eyes, the objections painted his face.

He remembered using her mother to cover his affair with Jack, of John doing the same with Martha Twist over countless loveless years of marriage, and of Jack using Lureen for her money in an unfeeling partnership.

This was his little girl; the one he cherished above all else in his life and now another man threatened to tear her away from him. Before he’d let that happen he had to know she was safe from the fate he now lived.

Struggling for the words, he leaned forward, still looking like he was no younger than Kirk and probably knew all of her fiancĂ©’s secrets too. "Well, how long have you known this guy fer-for?"

"About a year," she answered.

His pain-filled eyes studied her as she spoke, she watched him suffer and knew why, having witnessed her parent’s turbulent marriage.

She bravely continued, "The wedding will be June 5th at our Methodist Church up in Riverton. Jenny’ll be playing the guitar and singing, and Monroe will be catering the reception."

She’d hurt him and knew it in his hesitation. She’d unintentionally just let it slip that he was the last to know, the last to be invited - not the first, as it should be.

He showed her how much he loved her by voicing his only true concern, "This Kurt fella… he loves you?’ he asked meeting her eyes.

Her face lit with hope and she knew she still had her father’s love as she replied with a half smile, "Yeah Daddy," she assured nodding, "He loves me."

He knew he’d never make it through that wedding. He studied out the window as if seeing all of his pain on a billboard outside. His whole life he’d never let anyone see inside him, not even Jack.

His silence was cutting into her heart like the knives she kept staring at behind him while he looked absently out the window.

Deciding to face him head on, she looked at him again. "I was hoping you’d be there," she said nervously.

A lame excuse came to him off the top of his head and he mumbled and stammered out softly, "Uh, I uh, think I’m supposed to be in a roundup down near the Tetons."

They looked everywhere but at each other.

He’d given his blessing… sort of, but wouldn’t participate. Suddenly their eyes met.

She looked away and then bowed her head in disappointment.

Ennis wouldn’t let her suffer with her love as he had his. Painful as it was, he came to a decision and silently put his cup down. After all, the fact was his daughter was a woman now, a full-grown woman. Silently and without explanation, he stood up and turned his back to her.

Her eyes silently began to flood at his apparent rejection.

Midway to the kitchen Ennis looked back at her and as casually as he could manage, he gestured with his hand and asked, "You know what?" then reaching the ancient refrigerator he pulled out a bottle of whiskey and gestured it at her with a neutral expression. "I reckon they can find themselves a new cowboy."

Now that he was the ranch’s general manager, he could take the time off; of course she didn’t have to know that.

He’d so carefully phrased what he’d just said, she found herself not knowing how to react.

Then it hit her.

He was pouring a toast and it meant he not only approved, but he’d attend despite how emotionally difficult it’d be.

Suddenly her heart filled with relief as she reaffirmed the treasured love of her father.

He continued, "My little girl getting married… Huh?" as he poured out the liquor into a couple of mismatched glasses.

Carrying them over he handed her the bigger, more full of the two and sat down, still trying to hide his approval, unable to defy her loving smile.

He raised his glass to her and toasted, "To Alma… and Kurt."

They clinked glasses and her eyes widened comically after she swallowed hard and gasped as the drink burned all the way down her throat.

For the next half hour she told him everything she knew and loved about her boyfriend, even spilling that she’d been living with him.

Ennis took it in stride, admitting he’d lived with her mother months before they wed too.


Watching her drive away in a throaty roar of the powerful engine and a cloud of dust, he turned to walk past the mailbox making a point not to notice it.

Everything that had happened this morning weighed heavily on his mind as he headed back to the trailer, closing the door securely behind himself.

Images of his unexpressed love for Jack filled his mind as he shuffled through his home and hung up his hat on a nail.

On the couch was Junior’s forgotten sweater.

He needlessly rushed to the door to call after her but she was gone. Gone just like Jack was, he thought as he pulled the door closed again.

He neatly folded it under his chin, sniffing at the smell of her face powder and perfume and then walked over to the wardrobe, opening it to push his daughter’s sweater onto the top shelf.

He came face to face with his lover’s shrine and he remembered his promise to Martha Twist.

As if to make sure Jack’s spirit remained locked in that denim, he fastened the buttons up on its chest.

Reaching to straighten the postcard his eyes filled with burning tears and his throat tightened.

Just as he had earlier promised his mother, he would now repeat it to Jack. With an aching and broken heart he declared in a whisper, "Jack… I swear," as his sinuses completely clogged.

Closing the door revealed a vista of flat expressionless land, completely opposing the mountains he saw in his mind’s eye.

He spent the rest of the day thinking of Jack and listening to the record player, selecting country guitar instrumentals, later switching to a Willie Nelson album.

He was feeling old…


…Late that afternoon, Silas Caine and his Aunt Martha pulled up to the Twist home to find two big blond men wearing painter’s overalls. One wore a green baseball cap with a logo on it; the other wore a white painter’s cap.

She’d only seen the two strangers who helped kill Jack from a distance, and when they later confronted her husband she’d been ushered into the living room out of sight… Still the taller of the two seemed familiar.

Her dead husband's old truck was parked over where it always was, but no other vehicles were in sight.

As Silas circled the front to help Martha out of her side of the Silverado, the men got up and started towards them.

One of the tall men towered over Martha as he silently stopped directly in front of her.

She noticed a dark red smear on his right hip, like he’d wiped off paint or something from his hand onto it…

Silas began regretting he didn't bring his pistol.

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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.
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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.

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