[This is where Annie Proulx's short story and the Focus Feature's Film ends]
BLUE text is written by me. I hope to do them justice. Enjoy. ...Jet
Monroe and Alma finally motivated him by threatening to bar him from the church if he showed up wearing jeans.
Laura Olsen accepted an invitation to be Ennis’ partner at the upcoming wedding and pledged to give the Kirkwood’s limo a police escort, siren and all from the church to the reception hall.
Ennis and Monroe each took an arm and walked Junior down the aisle.
Month after month rolled by and Jack’s ashes never arrived; though Ennis rushed home twice a day in case the USPS, UPS or FED EX had left a missed delivery note while he was away. At work he even made it a point to call the post office daily with no results.
Martha Twist’s phone had either been disconnected or the wires were down, which worried Ennis even more, but he couldn’t get away long enough to drive up to Lightning Flat to check on her.
Eventually brutally cold weather set in and the drafty rocking trailer was almost intolerable, but del Mar stuck it out and refused to leave fearing Jack’s ashes might arrive and not be forwarded to wherever he might move.
Life went on... reluctantly and 1983 became 1984.
January and February saw heavy snow and ice storms that Ennis knew his old truck would never make it through. He and Carl tried going up to Lightning Flat in his boss’ Chevy with chains on the tires and couldn’t make it with deep snowdrifts hiding any sign of where a road was.
Del Mar resorted to calling the Crook County Sheriff’s office and asked a deputy to check on her after explaining her situation. A week later they reported that they’d found the house locked up. He went around looking in windows and reported that except for the kitchen table and a single chair; the home was emptied of furniture, though there was no sign that anyone had broken in.
Tire tracks on a recently snowplowed Twist driveway had showed where someone was there on a regular basis to tend to the animals that were apparently still there. The power was still on to the barns to keep the cattle and horses warm. A note was found taped to the door saying she’d moved south to Casper Wyoming to live with relatives and that her mail was being forwarded there.
Ennis knew her brother Harold lived in Signal before he died; maybe her nephew had settled in Casper?
Del Mar thanked him for his efforts, though the detective wouldn’t give him her new address or phone number.
Ennis found himself staring at those two cherished shirts all of the time, and kept sadly asking them, “Where are ya Jack Fuckin’ Twist?”
He wondered if he’d ever see or speak to Martha Twist again. More months passed and always he was too busy running the Stoutamire spread to drive up north, and every attempt at phoning said the number couldn’t be reached as dialed with no explanation.
Jack’s mother had her hands full, knew she couldn’t handle the spread through the winter by herself, but in May she moved back home to Lightning Flat with plans of her own that occupied every minute of every day.
She’d take care of her promise to Ennis soon enough…
Standing at the corral fence on the Stoutamire ranch, an unseen hand with precisely aimed fingernails suddenly eased his agony and he groaned in pleasure. He turned to find a young shorthaired brunette ranch hand smiling at him under a dark brown cowboy hat.
The 20-year-old was a shirtless stunner wearing beltless well-worn painted-on jeans that seemed to just barely cling to his hips short of falling down. His thin tanned skin was vacuum-sealed over deeply creased and well-defined muscles.
"Thanks," declared del Mar gratefully as he flexed his shoulders.
Despite Billy being completely straight, he took evil but friendly pleasure in cock-teasing Ennis after observing del Mar's gaze following him around for a solid week after he'd been hired by Carl. The guys thought at first that it was sexual attraction on Ennis’ part, but truth be told, the kid looked enough like his Indian friend from twenty years ago (minus the ponytail) to be Gene’s son.
From then on the handsome cowboy made a habit of heartlessly wandering the corrals in tight and extremely short cut-off jeans and no shirt …poor Ennis could barely stand it.
Carl laughingly compared it to a Playboy centerfold parading around the ranch in hot pants and an only partially buttoned halter-top.
It was something everyone on the spread good-naturedly grinned and made fun of Ennis about in a friendly way. The fact that del Mar had become used to their teasing was testament to how much he felt at home here, and acknowledgement of how much his ranch hands liked him like family yet respected him too.
"Carl wants you up at the house, Mr. del Mar," the kid said flashing a sexy grin.
"Ennis," he patiently corrected.
"Yes sir, Mister Ennis sir," he replied suppressing a sarcastic grin.
Reluctantly tearing his eyes away from the lithe young man, Ennis muttered sardonically, "Thanks."
Indicating a couple of mares being exercised in the middle of the fenced off area, he added with a gesture towards them, "Keep an eye on ‘em for me, huh?"
Billy nodded and climbed to sit on the top rail.
Ennis headed away from the barn towards the house shaking his head. As he followed the wall of another shed, he thought about how since turning forty last year it still irked him to be called "Mister" del Mar because it made him feel old.
Rounding the corner on foot he came to a dead halt and his jaw dropped. He was gaping at a big GMC flatbed tow truck parked in front of the main house. On its back was Jack Twist’s tan and brown Chevy Silverado "dually."
Entering through the porch screen door, Carl on the couch looked up at him from his newspaper and silently indicated the den with a gesture of his head.
Inside the wood paneled room, he found Martha Twist’s nephew behind the desk looking haggard and tired as though he hadn't much sleep lately. The man stood and offered his fist as del Mar entered. "Mr. Del Mar," he said politely shaking Ennis’ hand. "I don’t believe I introduced myself the last time we met. I’m Silas Caine; Mrs. Twist’s nephew. My father was Harold Caine, Aunt Martha’s brother."
He indicated the chair saying, "Set yourself down, sir," and Ennis settled facing the desk, a little self-conscious at still being shirtless for what seemed to be an unexpected business meeting.
"I’m also Martha Twist’s lawyer and executor."
He nodded and suddenly frowned. "Executor?"
Silas glanced up in surprise; del Mar didn’t know.
A cat unexpectedly rubbed up against Ennis’ left ankle and he absently reached down and stroked the purring animal. Recovering from the distraction, Ennis met the man’s eyes expectantly.
He swallowed hard. "Mr. del Mar, I asked the sheriff's department to check on her after my Aunt Martha left us unexpectantly and drove home to Lightning Flat on her own. When they got there, they found that she'd put a gun to her chest and pulled the trigger."
Ennis’ jaw dropped in astonishment.
"She left two envelopes on her kitchen table," he continued, "One addressed to me and one to you."
He reached into the breast pocket of his brown suit and pulled a white envelope out; Ennis’ name hand-scrawled across the front in a woman’s scrip.
Del Mar fondled it absently and set it down on the desk unopened.
"She had no living relatives except for me and so the week before she took her own life she set out reassigning ownership of all the properties she inherited from my Uncle John." He paused as a sad expression crossed his face. Shaking his head, he met Ennis’ eyes, "I had no idea she was going to do that, none at all… May I call you Ennis?"
Ennis nodded absently still stroking the cat on the floor at his feet, and self-consciously wanted to run and get a shirt before he continued.
Caine resumed speaking while opening an envelope containing a sheaf of paper stapled together with a notary seal affixed to the top page. Indicating it, he said, "She didn’t want to leave a will that’d take forever to clear the legal system so she transferred ownership and power of attorney over to me in advance of her death.
Del Mar’s head was swimming trying to understand.
The attorney added, "Also in my envelope was a confession that she’d poisoned her husband over a long period of time since Jack’s death with tiny amounts of cyanide in his food and coffee, letting it build up in his system gradually until he died of it. As far as the coroner knows, he died of natural causes after a long illness."
The reason she gave for doing it was that my Uncle John had participated in cousin Jack’s death with the help of L.D. Newsome."
Del Mar nodded, "She told me."
Indicating himself, he said, "I’ve been assigned the task of gutting her house of all of her possessions and distributing them to her close friends from church and a couple of neighbors. Afterward, I’m to assign someone to oversee the burning down of that house, being sure it’s completely destroyed."
Ennis’ eyes widened in surprise as he struggled to digest the news. Still lost, he framed the nagging question in his mind, "Well uh, why are you tellin’ me all this?"
Silas smiled understanding and as he handed him the documents, "I’ll get to that in a minute."
To del Mar’s questioning look, he nodded and then as if reciting from memory, "She has assigned you a task of which she indicated to me that you swore to complete."
Ennis interrupted, "Uh I cain’t Mr. Caine; I never got the uh… a package she was supposed to send."
Her nephew bowed his head and a puzzled frown crossed his face. Daylight dawned on him and he understood, "If you’re referring to a burial urn, it’s out in his truck, Ennis," he shrugged and then added, "Uh excuse me, your truck," he said handing Ennis a set of keys and endorsed ownership documents.
She’d left Ennis a thoughtful and practical gift - Jack’s fancy Silverado pickup!
Ennis shook his head and pondered that every truck he'd ever owned probably came through Jack's hands first, and thought, "He's been dead a year and is still buyin' me pickups."
"I, uh I don’t know what to say Mr. Caine," he replied in a stammer. "I’ll surely cherish it forever, I promise ya that."
Silas stood up, "You didn’t let me finish, Ennis."
Del Mar looked up in puzzlement.
Ennis opened it and tried to read it but it was all in "legalese" and he couldn’t make heads or tails of it. As he tried to put the bulky document back into the envelope an unusually shaped key fell out. Del Mar gave Silas a puzzled frown.
Understanding, and being the one that had drawn it up, Silas told him, "On the completion of the task that you swore to do for her and on the condition that it forever remains under the name 'The Twist Ranch'…"
Ennis squinted at him, "The same name?"
From just outside the office door, Carl yelled out in frustration, "Will ya simmer down, shut yer yap, 'n let the man finish a sentence! DAMN! Ennis!"
Appropriately chastised, Ennis looked expectantly back at Silas.
Caine smiled, "Mr. Stoutamire, would you come in here please; I need a witness?"
Carl appeared at the door smiling from ear to ear.
Caine moved a document with a gold seal on it across the desk and indicating a line with his finger instructing, "Sign there please."
Still grinning Carl picked up a pen and scrawled his name where indicated.
Silas looked at a completely lost Ennis and asked, "Do you have a dollar on you Mr. del Mar?"
Mystified, Ennis stood and dug into his jeans, pulling out four quarters he kept for vending machine Cokes and handed them over, struggling not to ask why.
Caine declared flatly, "From here you’re directed to drive Jack’s truck to Brokeback Mountain National Forest to scatter my cousin’s ashes. The moment they touch ground up there… I will notarize this bill of sale, stating that you have become the sole owner outright free of back taxes and liens of the Twist Ranch at 16905 D Road Lightning Flat, Wyoming after you’ve handed me the agreed upon purchase price of one U.S. dollar.
Additionally I personally am assigning you the conditional task of completely destroying the house by fire; which was the dying wish of my client. The one condition is that the pair of cherry trees on the lane leading to the house must not be touched and will be well cared for, and the livestock is to be sold so that you’ll have starting out money."
Ennis thought back to an old county fair ribbon for a cherry pie on Jack's boyhood wall and wondered.
Caine had no further explanation.
Stoutamire gave del Mar a friendly slap on the back and shook his hand, "I knew if’n I got ya ta promise ta stay on permanent, ya’d find an excuse ta leave me anyways!"
Ennis looked at Caine, "She promised me two special things for carryin’ out Jack’s last wishes, but a truck and a ranch… wow!"
Caine laughed, "But Ennis; that’s not what she meant."
Del Mar frowned back at him.
The attorney continued, "When you return from completing your task on the mountain, you’re to go directly to the Signal City Savings and Trust on Morrison Rd., present this key to the bank manager and he’ll open a safe deposit box that was rented solely in your name by Jack Twist and later maintained by Martha Twist.
If she knew what was in it, she carried that secret to her grave."
Ennis turned to leave.
"Oh; and the second special thing she promised."
Del Mar turned back to be handed something heavy that until now had been on the floor behind the desk.
The fancy hand carved wooden oblong box was about four feet long. He’d once held it on his knees so long ago in camp with Jack. It looked older now, but he recognized it instantly… along with the fight the incredible gift had caused and the sorrow he’d felt afterwards.
Carl said impatiently, "Well open the damned thing all ready!"
Undoing the catch and lifting the lid revealed an untouched mint-condition Winchester Model 1873 lever action .44 - .40 hunting rifle.
Carl gasped in awe of it as Ennis finally broke down in tears...
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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.