They’d gotten into a hell of a verbal battle with each other over Ennis’ dream of rebuilding the del-Mar Ranch in Sage. The argument was mostly over money already spent repeatedly sending engineers down there to assess the latest plan to put the earthen dam back up to recreate Lake Sage… because a spread that big with no water just wouldn’t work.
Aside from the cost of the construction itself, it was determined that with the heat from global warming reducing the annual snowmelt, Twin Creek no longer had the flow to support a reservoir even half the size of its former glory.
Jack declared it a waste of time, resources and most of all money that they didn’t have the credit limit for, even if they put up the ranch and their combined fortunes. Heartbroken Ennis still kept hoping for the dream… which is how the conflict started.
“I bet if we did this; I wonder if we did that, it’d work - it will!”
“STOP it Ennis, you’re throwing money down a dry hole!”
They’d always leaned on each other, one’s interests always dovetailed the other's and over the years they fought a lot. Not out of spite, but out of passion. They both stubbornly cared deeply enough to refuse to back down on things they were committed to. As with any relationship, if their love weren’t as deep as it was they’d never argue about anything because they didn't care enough to.
Jack was the money man, always fretting over finances with the stock market looking like it was about to freefall, where Ennis was more interested in the heart of an animal than its worth. That was the secret of their success as businessmen, because one was tailored to whatever interest best suited a particular customer.
Fortunately the rich thought of horses as a better investment than the stock market at the moment.
To a stranger these verbal battles might have seemed like hatred but the family knew it was passion - pure and simple.
Most envied them their marital bond.
Inevitably when things got too strained between them, they’d take off by themselves for Brokeback Mountain National Forest for a week or so and leave the business to Laura…
…They’d bought Don Rhoe’s log hunting cabin a few years back, expanded it to include a small horse shed on the side, and fixed it up nice and comfortable. It was one big room - thirty feet square, with a primitive propane kitchen on one side and a huge fireplace on the other that they’d laid together fieldstone by fieldstone.
It was a far cry from the camp tents of an earlier day but as they got up in years it was better to sleep inside and dry, especially now that winter was here.
In the middle of the bare log and very masculine interior was a cheap foldout couch with two end tables, battery operated lamps and an old braided rug that Laura had handmade years ago.
A gas-fired generator was outside for electricity, though they rarely used it except to charge batteries with.
The recycled barn wood walls were decorated with pictures of JT growing up from a toddler to college and the Olympics, a custom oil painting that Don had done just for them, and photos of their favorite horses.
Peppered here and there were a mounted trophy head of an elk taken years ago by Jack Twist Sr. and Ennis, another by the husbands, and three deer that they’d bagged on hunting trips.
A few days after they’d arrived, Ennis suddenly jolted awake one morning in the dark interior of the cabin. He looked curiously around the room lit only by the flickering fireplace bouncing off the dark walls.
What had roused him?
Through the windows a midnight-blue hue shown barely past the curtains.
He yawned and stretched his old bones, then rolled over to face Jack still sound asleep and snoring softly.
As he reached to caress his lover’s hair tenderly a distant gun blast startled him upright.
That one startled Jack awake too.
A huge antique hunter’s grandfather clock chimed 6AM in deep bass gongs.
Jack reached for his cell phone and hit speed dial. "Gary?" he asked, after a couple of rings. "We just heard your poachers. They’re," he paused and looked curiously at Ennis, who pointed toward the front door. "They’re about half a mile or so north of us."
After a few brief exchanges, Jack clicked the phone closed and pulled his naked lover to him.
In a loving embrace Ennis frowned and whispered in his ear, "You know, I cain’t remember the last time I told you I loved you, huh?"
Jack smiled in the flickering dark and planted a tender kiss on Ennis’ lips and replied, "We say it every day to each other."
Ennis nodded against his shoulder.
Jack began kissing down Ennis’ chest and just as he reached his abdomen they were startled upright by an even louder twin blast of gunfire.
Ennis bared his teeth and spat out between them, "Fuck!"
Jack shot a concerned look towards the door and shook his head. "Those idiots’ll bring the whole damn mountain down on us if we don’t do something!"
They both jumped out of bed and quickly dressed.
Jack grabbed a shotgun and tossed its twin to Ennis, then grabbed a pair of binoculars as they shrugged into their coats and headed outside.
They paused on foot a hundred feet north of the cabin. All was blanketed with two feet of new snow and an ear-ringing silence.
As Jack scanned completely around them with the field glasses, the only movement was gray steamy smoke wafting gently into the morning air from their chimney.
Ennis beside him spotted their buried truck and wondered if it’d start.
A brisk wind whipped up and swayed the tall pines, spraying the two men with falling clumps of accumulated snow from the branches.
"There!" exclaimed Jack softly, pointing northwest along the flanks of a cliff. He handed the binoculars to Ennis who took a look and nodded.
Three teenaged boys were laughing and having a snowball fight in a clearing. One tried to play baseball and began batting at pitches with his rifle.
Ennis shook his head in disapproval, looked back towards the shed and thought of mounting the horses, but Jack grabbed his shoulder and said, "Come on old man; we could use the exercise."
After about half an hour of trudging through the snow, they found them, gave them a stern lecture about risking an avalanche with their gun blasts and sent them on their way.
When they got back to the cabin, Jack went inside to start breakfast, Ennis detoured to check the horses and made sure they had enough to eat.
As the snow began turning light blue to match the brightening sky, he found the pickup. It took him a couple of minutes to dig around the door so he could get it open, and once he was in, fluffy and cold snow invaded the interior with him. The dome light was bright, which was a good sign.
He fished out his key and turned it expectantly. The starter grinded reluctantly and the motor coughed and almost caught, but not quite.
He tried it again, and this time it turned over. He had to play his foot on the pedal to keep it running, but after a minute or two it purred like a kitten.
Ennis reached over and hit the windshield wiper switch, and laughed as the blades uselessly slogged back and forth once and then stopped beneath two feet of snow. He’d wait till they left before he cleaned it off; right now he just wanted to make sure the battery was charged.
While he waited and watched for the temperature gauge to rise, he fiddled with the radio and got a good station, stomping his feet to get the snow off of them to the beat.
About five minutes later when the temp gauge was still unenthusiastic, he gunned the motor to encourage the thermostat to open.
As it backfired loudly, he grinned as the needle finally woke up. He hit the heater and warm air wafted from the vents as he pulled his gloves off to warm his hands.
Soon he’d have to crack the door open or start breathing carbon monoxide.
Over the radio and the heater fan he thought he barely heard, "Ennis!"
Jack was probably calling him to breakfast.
He opened the door to see Jack urgently pointed upward and back behind the cabin. He frowned and turned off the truck.
"Be right there babe!" he called out in a hungry tone.
As he struggled out of the truck, he heard Jack scream frantically for him in a panic he'd never heard his husband use before, "EEEENNIS!"
Above them came a low rumble like a jet flying over; only it was constant and getting louder.
He didn’t have to look; he knew. The whole of the mountain’s snow was coming down.
There was no time to decide if they were safer outside than in. Jack was in the cabin so that’s where Ennis needed to be.
He took off running, crying in terror, as the rumbling got louder. Ennis could feel the ground begin to throb beneath his hurried feet.
He had seconds.
It hit just as the door slammed behind them. It was so loud they actually couldn’t hear it.
The pines took the brunt of it, but the huge tall trees collapsed against the cabin.
Everything went dark, as the beams began loudly creaking above them, Jack grabbed at his phone on the end table and dialed.
Instantly the roof pancaked in on them. Ennis lost consciousness to the sound of a 911 operator asking what the emergency was.
All around them became a smothering silence…
…Sometime later, Ennis woke up in a coughing fit on the floor laying on his stomach. Something was pressing hard against his back and it ached to try to breathe in the freezing cold. Fortunately he still had his coat and gloves on.
He was in the dark and found himself in a cramped space that stretched beyond his reach in all directions but seemed to be only about eight inches or so tall.
Fine ash was burning his lungs; probably the fireplace collapsed but the embers were still producing smoke. He grew scared that the flames might be spreading to the collapsed cabin’s logs. They wouldn’t catch right off, but it was only a matter of time.
He tried to pull himself along the floor but something had his left ankle trapped and he couldn’t move. Above him wood was creaking loudly in the dark and ice cold water was dripping in.
He stretched as much as he could and suddenly panicked, "Jack?" he called out weakly and had a coughing fit from the soot he’d inhaled.
Everything remained silent. An icy breeze pushed the smoke away beyond his feet and a reddish-orange glow flickered. The stonework of the fireplace seemed to have contained the flames… for now.
He wondered how long he’d been unconscious and tried to rub at his aching head.
From somewhere behind him, he could barely hear a horse continuously crying out in pain.
In his tiny space he pulled the glove off of his right hand and began stretching it outward, painfully at first from bruised muscles. He encountered one of the legs from the couch and a cold cast iron frying pan. For it to be that cold, he had to have been out for a while; maybe more than an hour.
In the choking darkness he kept exploring and saw the hint of pale blue. Daylight was barely making it in from somewhere above.
Still blind in the dark, his eyes burning from the smoke, his fingers encountered something plastic and rectangular… Jack’s cell phone. He fumbled for it again and froze as he encountered a hand with a wedding ring on it.
His eyes squeezed tightly shut, his jaw tightened and his sinuses clogged as he moaned a high-pitched, "Nooooo, no Jack, please no," painfully in anguish as burning tears ran down his face.
Jack’s hand was stone cold... His lover, his joy, his partner, his reason for living was dead,
As the smoke got thicker, Ennis called out, repeatedly croaking out his husband's name, and choked out his grief, bawling and begging God to show him he was wrong …until he passed out himself…
…JT was in his frat house's shower trying to wake up. It was his birthday and he was trying to prepare for what pranks the brothers inevitably would be pulling on him all day.
Through the steam, his roommate Bob Ledger called out "Jack!"
Turning off the water he frowned and saw Bob was thrusting JT's cell phone at him.
Preparing himself, he rolled his eyes and asked, "Yes?"
A weak voice barely grunted out, "Jack?"
He laughed, "Nice try asshole," and tossed the phone back at his roommate, then turned the water back on again…
…In the smothering dark, Ennis gritted his teeth in pain and redialed, barely able to read the blood-smeared display... the battery display was blinking its warning.
It rang several times.
JT finally answered, probably only after he saw who was calling on the I.D.
"Where are you?"
…………"We’re, we’re on the mountain… ah… a… aval…lanch... cabin cruh...crushed... trapped."
JT's chest tightened as he begged, "Pop? ...nooooo," scalding hot tears stung his eyes and rolled down his face.
"Never forget how mu…. much we love you son." The line went dead as Jack's cell battery gave out.
Panicked frat brothers rushed in from all over the house as loud and anguished primal screams, seemingly coming from a slaughtered wild animal came from down in their shower room.
The strong, naked and slippery wet madman they found on the floor was almost impossible to subdue as fists and feet flailed aimlessly, wild and blindly connecting randomly in bruising pain with chests and heads.
Within moments, six determined college men piled onto him holding, hugging, calming and comforting him with their weight and their tears before he could hurt himself.
Jack and Ennis were no strangers to them; they had one of the nicest fraternity houses on campus due to the husbands' generosity.
…A week later the Forest Service found JT's parents in the rubble, still clutching hands.
The coroner said that Jack had died instantly when a roof beam crushed his head. Ennis died sometime later of smoke inhalation.
They died as they’d lived for over 22 years; happy, in love and together.
They were buried beside two old cherry trees in a plot out by the horse barn just off the lane leading to the main house.
Jack Twist's memorial headstone was now also the loving couple's as well. Above their names on the side that faced the street in curved scrip read their family’s proud motto: "If you can’t stand it - You gotta fix it."
Three teenagers were found dead much later after the thaw. None had cell phones to tell anyone where they were...
…In the wreckage of the cabin was an old 36" x 24" oil painting crumpled and torn roughly in half; fire-damaged when the roof collapsed where it hung over the fireplace.
From behind shattered glass and a mangled wooden hunter’s frame peered a young Ennis del Mar, Jack Twist, and Johnny-Jack Aguirre, all in their twenties. Ennis stood in the middle with his arms stretched across both his men’s shoulders and all sported big grins.
Behind them majestic snow-covered Brokeback Mountain rose above lodgepole pines. Don Rhoe knew Jack before he died, and painted him from memory. He’d grouped them together as a gift for the husbands when the couple bought the cabin from him.
It went thoughtlessly into a big dumpster with the rest of the debris from where they dug the bodies out of the rubble never to be seen again.
Johnny, Ennis, Jack Jr. and Don were the only ones who knew it even existed.
The destroyed artwork, remains of an old couch and charred roof beams landed on top of pieces of a light blue porcelain funeral urn that had JACK E. TWIST hand lettered in gold on it that had shattered after falling off the mantle.
Tucked within Ennis del Mar-Twist's coffin was Jack Twist's blood-stained denim shirt; in its breast pocket a tiny bit of gritty ash. At his feet was the tiny blue work shirt from Michael. In his right hand, he clutched a set of keys for a 1983 Chevy Silverado.
Tucked within Jack Aguirre-Twist's coffin was Ennis del Mar's bloody white plaid shirt also with a tiny bit of gritty ash within its breast pocket. In his right hand was clutched the keys to a customized 1955 Pontiac Chieftain convertible for them to ride around in...
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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.