He’d wandered away from his family party in the early evening and after ambling on foot absent-mindedly around the ranch for an hour ended up in a little-used shed over by the railroad tracks. After opening the door and switching on the lights he was stunned to come face to face with Jack Twist Sr.'s 17-year-old Chevy Silverado under a tarp.
He gasped in shock when he suffered a flashback and saw dried blood and brain matter on the front fender, but inspecting it closer only revealed dried mud.
Ennis had gone through several pickups since inheriting this one, but he never had the heart to use it as a trade-in, so he stored it here.
The memory surged in Kurt of sitting in the cab of this very truck so long ago. Then came the recollection of his maniacal laughter that seemed to echo through the shed as he remembered easing up on the clutch so long ago and felt the Silverado roll forward… and then the sound like someone had stepped on a couple of eggs.
There was so much blood on his hands while under the employ of L.D. Newsome... so much blood. He imagined Jack Twist's accusing eyes on him in the darkness of that shed. Even when he closed his own he couldn't escape his last victim's eyes.
Nor could he escape the guiltless glee he felt when Deke swung that tire iron and the first blow landed in revenge for all of the little boys that pervert had molested...
...but it was all a lie ...all a lie.
This many years later, he wasn’t laughing now, and what actually set him off was an envelope he discovered in the glove compartment containing those three news clippings that he’d tried so hard to forget so he could go on with his life.
In his hands he held Jack’s obituary, the article Newsome had shown him, and the more detailed later article that Kirk had read and then realized L.D. had tricked, and then hired him into killing a completely innocent man… and then murdering his own best friend Cory.
He’d long ago suspected something was wrong after getting to know Ennis so well, and listening to good stories about the man Twist that this ranch was named after.
That night he thrashed around in his sleep and then woke up screaming.
He mentioned finding the truck to Ennis the next afternoon, who confirmed that it was indeed "the" Silverado.
A few days later Junior confided to her father that she was convinced that based on what he was mumbling in his sleep, Kirk thought that Jack Aguirre was out to kill him in revenge for something. Of course Ennis’ husband was flabbergasted when he was told this. While they weren’t the best of friends, Jack and Kirk always seemed to get along.
A few nights later Jenny’s lover Officer Sarah Spencer discovered Kirkwood sitting in front of a huge bonfire in a wooded area just outside of town. He seemed to be in a daze, and the fire department had to be called out before it spread to the surrounding fields.
The situation escalated a day later when his middle son Josh found him out by the granite memorial pounding his head against the black stone, mumbling and crying. Though his head was swollen and bleeding from the self-inflicted beating, Kirk refused to go to the hospital.
Junior couldn’t wake him the next morning.
Kirk lay in a drug-induced coma at the brand new Lightning Flat General Hospital after confirmation that he’d suffered multiple concussions. If he could survive anywhere, this state-of-the-art facility was it.
The staff had set aside a comfortable conference room for his wife and teenaged children as the rest of the large extended Twist family gathered to console Alma Junior.
The man whose sanity was slowly slipping away was trying to punish himself by simulating the pain his victim must have suffered through when Kirkwood ran over his head.
Junior was beside herself with worry.
In the middle of the night three days after he was released, Kirk climbed to the highest branch of the old memorial cherry tree closest to the lane and began screaming, "I’m sorry!" up at the night sky.
It took a ladder and three ranch hands to get him down, but that wasn’t the worst of it. The following night a violent lightning storm hit, and Junior came to the main house frantic.
Half an hour later in a heavy downpour JT found Kirk by chance standing on the horse barn’s slippery wet roof repeatedly screaming at the sky, "COME FOR ME, KILL ME! I’m SORRY Jack!"
While they waited for the fire department to come with a ladder truck, fifteen-year-old JT climbed out of a skylight in the roof, tied himself to a tall spike at the peak and then carefully edged his way behind Kirk.
As rain pounded and almost continuous lightning cracked loudly overhead, the Twist men watched in astonishment as their teenaged son leapt forward and caught Junior’s husband just as he was about to topple over the edge.
As the violent thunderstorm raged Alma Jr. walked her drunken husband back to their house.
Shaking and cussing, Jack grabbed JT and slapped him hard across the face. It was the first time the young man had ever been physically hit by either of his fathers.
An angry Ennis had to be pulled off his husband. Only then did a horrified Jack explain his absolute terror that their unthinking son had carelessly tied himself with a soaking wet rope to one of the lightning rods atop the barn...
…The next day Kirk convinced everyone he was fine, just drunk and stoned on prescription pain pills for his headaches.
…The next morning Josh went looking for his daddy and found him on his back out in the shed next to a big tan and brown truck he’d never seen before. Kirk had put the big pickup up on jack stands at each corner of the frame, and only his head and shoulders were under it fiddling with something within the front driver-side wheel. All four tires were about eight inches off of the concrete floor.
“Dad? You feeling okay?”
Kirkwood jerked in surprise at the sound of the boy’s voice. Without moving, he replied, “Yeah son?”
“Uh, checking the suspension and stuff.”
Josh noted that except for the early daylight streaming through the dusty windows he was working under there in the dark.
The boy asked, “Want me to hold the light?”
“Um… I forgot to grab it. Hey; why don’t you walk over to the horse barn and get one for me?”
“Okay, be right back.”
Kurt squirmed over to confirm his boy had left. The driver side tire was now directly over his face. Without moving his head, he blindly reached past a screwdriver and found a heavy mallet.
The stand supporting his corner of the Silverado was intentionally just barely under the frame supporting the heavy truck. His first swing missed it completely and he smashed his wrist against it, loosing the tool in the process. Blindly finding it again, he moved his head back into position and swung, making solid contact, but the stand only budged about an eighth of an inch.
The third swing made loud contact…
...As Ennis sat in the coroner’s office with his daughter waiting on the official decision on his son-in-law's death, the other pieces of the puzzle fell into place with ghastly results.
Years ago when the black granite monument to the first Jack Twist arrived, Kurt offered to go down to supervise the placement by the memorial trees and had gotten into an argument with the workers.
Ennis had instructed that it be placed way out in the spot where he’d seen the scorched rectangle in the field and then left to take a call at the house.
With his father-in-law now absent, Kirk insisted that it go where the old driveway used to be thirty feet in front of the trees, where only he knew that Jack had died by his hand under the truck.
All this time later it never occurred to Ennis to wonder how Kirkwood knew where Jack died, unless he either witnessed it, or had done the job himself.
It dawned on Ennis that it wasn’t his husband Jack Aguirre-Twist that Kurt was superstitiously terrified of; it was the ghost of the man who grew up on the very ranch that Kirk now lived, seeking revenge.
Ennis recalled that Jenny had reported that the police wanted to question Kirk about a badly charred skeleton with the back blown out of its skull, and an unregistered handgun. They'd been found near a burnt tree stump that was evidently once the center of a very large blaze.
Sarah discovered them the next day not far from where she happened upon Kirk's own huge bonfire while she was out on night patrol.
Then Ennis remembered years ago when Jenny showed him a police sketch that Sarah had brought home that had been faxed from Tulsa to the Lightning Flat department concerning some unsolved murders. It looked an awful lot like her brother-in-law.
At the time Ennis passed it off as coincidence.
The coroner ruled it an accidental death, freeing up payment of his life insurance.
After realizing that Kirkwood resembled Martha’s description of one of her son’s killers, Ennis suffered with the uncertainties for days after the funeral, but never told anyone about them.
What good would it do to bring out his suspicions now; it’d only hurt his daughter and their innocent kids.
He remained the only one who knew that Kurt had probably killed Jack Twist Sr. along with someone else - probably his partner in crime; and most likely on L.D. Newsome’s orders.
He shuddered when he realized that if all this were true, Kirkwood probably only dated Junior initially to find him. Another reason to keep his conclusions from his daughter.
In the months that followed grieving Junior recovered with the help of her kids and their huge extended family.
Life went on with horse shows and increased business at the ranch. Lightning Flat thrived too.
Though biologically unconnected, he somehow wound up looking amazingly like his namesake.
A few girls broke his heart in high school - par for the course - but then again he broke a few of his own... bisexually dating both boys and girls until he settled on girls.
He'd also somehow inherited the "hustler/sex tease" instinct of the original Jack Twist down to his black cowboy hat, and used his practiced smile and athletic good looks to influence people, which meant almost never wearing a shirt and only buying low-rise jeans.
For obvious reasons the high school yearbook was clogged with photos of him in only a skimpy white Speedo during swim meets, white tights during wrestling team matches, or very brief blue jean shorts while cheering this or that school team from the stands.
When he joined the tennis team, girls bought out the ticket allotment for every home game just to see him in those tight white shorts of his... and he knew it.
He decided at sixteen that he wanted to go to college to learn the proper way to keep his fathers’ business going and make them proud of him.
Eventually by his senior year several universities were enthusiastically courting him for their swim teams, and even talk of the Olympics came up.
September of 2001, they all knew they'd hit the big time one Monday when an extra panel was added to the local expressway exit that read, TWIST RANCH - WSU COMPLEX.
The only one not at the ceremony was Monroe, who’d flown to New York City on Chamber of Commerce business to talk to Endeavor Airways about possibly leasing part of Lightning Flat’s LandSpeed Field’s refueling hub’s runways.
Early the next morning Alma came pounding on the front door of the main house screaming at the top of her lungs in hysterics and it took Ennis and Jack ten minutes to calm her enough to find out what was wrong.
She ran to their living room and turned on the TV. It was the awful Tuesday September 11, 2001 when two hijacked airliners slammed into the World Trade Center. In shock the whole extended family gathered at Ennis & Jack’s to watch the tragedy unfold.
No one could reach Monroe on his cell because service was down. Then they discovered in shock that someone had managed to slam another airliner into the Pentagon.
Just after the first tower fell, Monroe called from a payphone to say he was all right, but terrified for his life. After all vehicle traffic was halted, he was one of the people who got out of the city by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge but was stranded there until the FAA reopened the airports days later.
Suddenly Lightning Flat’s cargo-based airport became clogged with jets of every description and from every airline that’d been ordered to land immediately anywhere that they could. Since traffic was mostly huge 747 cargo jets, fortunately they had the runway lengths for it.
Local folks opened their hearts and homes to hundreds of stranded travelers.
JT refused to leave the television for days afterward skipping school.
He’d sit switching from station to station for more details or pace the room like a caged tiger with balled up fists and gritted teeth. A tense week was spent talking a livid JT out of quitting high school to join the army to get revenge on "those fucking sandniggers."
His fathers were shocked enough at the use of the term to have more than one talk with their teenaged son about it... though they could understand his anger. He was only 16 and for months afterward there was a tension between he and his fathers after they refused to sign the papers needed to allow him to enlist in the military as a minor.
JT got impatiently angrier and angrier that Bush hadn’t done anything yet except to uselessly pray repeatedly for the victims.
In the months that followed American flags popped up everywhere and on everything. Everyone stayed glued to their TVs for any news at all about the events.
President Bush just kept on praying like a useless televangelist as months passed and the country got tired of being outraged and went back to semi-normal.
Jack and Ennis helped Alma Junior get over her grief, opened up a toddler daycare center in one of Monroe’s unused offices downtown, and put her in charge of it. Soon her hands were so full handling and falling in love with all those little kids that she recovered and became her old self again.
That winter Jack taught Ennis and JT how to ski, and life settled back into a routine.
Though the Taliban and Osama bin Laden were in Afghanistan, Bush sent troops to Iraq, probably to appease his father’s earlier failure there. The airlines were losing business from fear of hijackings, skyrocketing fuel costs, and intensified and expensive security regulations.
It was a fight for Monroe to keep the airfield open, but he was a shrewd businessman and did his town proud by winning government contracts for the sudden overflow of military aircraft heading in every direction, both temporary parking and refueling.
In 2003 a college recruiter presented JT with a new Pontiac Trans-Am with California vanity plates that said "SWIM-JET" for his 18th birthday. He would star on their NCAA swim team and major in business with a minor in animal husbandry and veterinary medicine.
Ennis turned sixty that year and practically the whole town seemed to have either phoned or showed up in person to congratulate him. That afternoon, Jack became concerned when his husband disappeared from the party.
He found Ennis sitting on the ground under one of the old memorial cherry trees, staring at the big black granite headstone they'd put up for Jack Twist Sr..
Gently kissing the top of his head, Johnny-Jack eased himself down beside his husband and asked, "You okay?"
Ennis nodded and jutted his chin towards the spot where the rodeo cowboy turned businessman died. 'We would've been together forty years today."
Jack nodded and smiled. "You still are." Getting up with a groan, he extended his hand down to help his husband up and then added, "Come on old man, you gotta open your presents before they send a posse down here looking for you...
...In 2004 JT competed in the Olympics at the age of 19 with his proud family in the stands but he didn't medal. Afterward, he reduced his study load his junior year to a bare minimum in order to go into intensive training for the 2008 Olympics.
After selling Jack Nasty’s when the economy began tanking, Jenny rejoined the police force.
In 2004 JT suffered a serious shoulder injury in Los Angeles during an outing with friends when the car they were in was broadsided by a city bus that ran a light, ending his swimming career. He decided to return to UCLA full time for his masters in Business Administration.
…Alma del Mar Monroe died after a long fight with lung cancer in 2005 because of her chain smoking. Monroe renamed the main street through town Alma Blvd. after her. Ennis suffered when she died and it took a while for him to recover.
Monroe later retired from his duties as mayor and threw himself into his grocery chain, expanding into Utah, Northern Montana and Idaho.
As they grew into their sixties, it was decided that Ennis became "Dad" to everyone who knew him and Jack became "Pop." Ennis del Mar-Twist and Jack Aguirre-Twist were by now respected members of the community.
Life went on… Sometimes too fast for them to grasp it all.
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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.