Clutching one of the bed covers from the floor to his shoulders, he went into the locker room and spotted Bossman under the shower. Dropping the blanket on the bench he went over and joined him at the next spray head.
Yesterday he would have punched out anyone who even suggested it, but this morning he willingly, even enthusiastically soaped and washed another man's body while Jim returned the favor.
Their conversation covered whether he’d be a show rider or a regular one and after comparing the pay and potential tips, decided to try being a part of the sex show component of the rodeo, though he wasn’t enthusiastic about it. It meant daily weight training to tone his body and lessons on types of sex he wasn’t familiar with like bondage and discipline, toys, and keeping multiple partners of both sexes satisfied simultaneously in the same bed.
Jim promised that if he couldn’t cut it, he could go to chute dogging, rodeo clown, calf roping, handling a chuck wagon race or any of the other lower paying tenderfoot entertainment positions. After some training he could become a journeyman bullrider or broncobuster too.
They both sensed last night was a difficult subject and rinsed off, crossing over to the sinks to shave. In the mirror his tender eye was less swollen and had touches of yellow and purple in the skin around it.
Mary came in and Twist didn’t even flinch when she slapped his bare ass and then asked her husband how the sex between them was last night. She told them that Pete had been delayed and that Martha had called to say her father-in-law was on his way to pick John up.
She checked over his eye and nodded that it’d take a while to heal but it looked okay.
Twist was even embarrassed to stand naked in front of his wife, but with these people it was a non-issue and it made him feel comfortable and at home here. He wondered if he’d eventually bed Mary too.
What about the truce with Pete?
The entire show was already on the road except for the house trailer, their car and a bus for the rodeo employees that remained behind to pack up. The Bossmans had to hang back until everyone came in with their cuts from last night’s appointments, so it was decided that they would swing by the Twist ranch on their way out of town to pick Johnny up.
Out in the office John couldn’t help but gape at what he saw.
In those days, poor farmers were lucky to have a single set of clothing, and wore them until they literally fell apart. Mary presented him with three brand-new pairs of jeans, three pairs of good cotton socks, a brand-new pair of beautiful ox-blood colored cowboy boots smelling pleasantly of leather, a nice heavy-duty denim work shirt, three assorted plaid shirts and a fancy white cowboy shirt with fringed sleeves, waist, and gold trimmed seams. There was also a brand new and probably expensive tan Stetson for his head.
He selected the denim shirt and jeans, put the new hat on and groaned at how good the new boots felt.
Mrs. Bossman was proud of her keen eye and of course everything fit him like it was custom made. As he finished dressing, she kissed him affectionately and whispered, "Jim ‘n me see somethin’ special ‘n reliable in ya. Yer one of our family now boy; don’t let us down."
He gathered up his new duds, wallet and pocketknife and she walked with him out front to wait for his father.
Just outside the admission gates, he politely waited for her to seat herself and then he followed suit, feeling shooting pain in his back for the first time that morning.
Colorful flags fluttered in the morning breeze and the sun rose higher, warming the humid air around them. Cars and pickups drove by and men tipped their hats to her as the sidewalks across the road began to crowd. Shopkeepers began putting display wares out next to their thresholds and occasionally waved at Twist's familiar face.
Sitting on a bench next to the front gate, the subject turned to Hutch. She told him that after he’d lost his temper and cold-cocked John, they had a hell of a time settling him down because he was so devastatingly sorry for what he’d done. While Twist was unconscious, they all discussed it together and decided that Johnny would make a good match for young Peter to give him some maturity in his thinking.
Twist admitted concern that Hutch might fall in love with him, and they both decided that they’d handle that bridge when they came to it. He told her of his nearly loveless arranged marriage too, and how much it hurt that he wanted to care for and love her more than he did.
Just then an ancient, dusty and dented Ford farm truck pulled up and Martha jumped out of it before it came to a stop.
She immediately began fussing over his eye.
He told her he got it falling off a bull.
After he introduced his father and wife to Mary, Martha gushed over his new clothes, boots and hat, while his father looked on disapprovingly at the folded fancy cowboy shirt he carried.
They climbed into the truck with John now behind the wheel, and almost drove away when he brought it to a halt and jumped out to give Mary directions to their farm.
She had him check his wallet and he discovered $200 in ten dollar bills… his “pay” from yesterday.
…An hour later Johnny had walked aimlessly into the fields and found himself out at the horse barn deep in thought.
He gave his parents $75 (a small fortune back then) to hire, house, feed and clothe Martha’s brother Harold to replace him in the fields while he was away. He gave his wife $25 to buy some nice clothes and for mad money, then he buried $100 that they didn’t know about in a coffee can at the northeast corner of the horse barn.
In those days, no one trusted banks.
He leaned back against a stock pen fence, his head bowed against the morning sun deep in thought. His mind was being torn in so many directions. It hurt bad that he wouldn’t miss anyone here, though he should. His wife was a stranger who was always off at the postal hub working instead of by his side. Except to fulfill his obligation to become a father, he had little to do with her.
His parents were more his owners than a proper ma and pa and he resented them for it. Most times there wasn’t a single thing he did that wasn’t judged inadequate by them, and their over-obsession with the Bible was driving him away instead of keeping him there.
The rodeo offered him a life free of all that and he joyously embraced his new identity. Mary told him that they’d decided to bill him as the famous "Jumpin' Johnny Twist" before he’d so much as tried to mount a bull!
The events of the last 24 hours had him torn up inside. He’d been taught all his life of how sinful it was to commit adultery or have to sex with another man… and yet Jim was the most intense experience he’d ever had in his life and try as he may, he couldn’t deny that through the shame, he wanted it again. After they’d cum, he was so wracked with guilt; he rolled over silently and faked sleep, too ashamed to even talk to Bossman about it.
The prospect of loveless sex with dozens of women and possibly fathering a child or two, like Pete did last night fascinated him. He’d felt like less of a man for not being able to sire a child by Martha, and now he had an excuse to find out if he could do it with another woman in order to soothe his masculine ego, determining if this failure was his or hers.
As with any freshly-broken horse; the masculine ego has a low startle point.
As Peter crossed his mind, he wondered about guiding a younger man who would also be his boss. The thought of sex with him and other men both repulsed and thrilled him at the same time. To touch, to experience the forbidden and get away with it, but risk God’s judgment.
Grass rustled in front of him and he looked up from the ground to find Peter standing there before him.
Hutch suddenly grew a crooked grin and shyly observed the damage he’d done to Johnny’s eye, "That’s a hell of a shiner ya got there." His face abruptly grimaced in emotional agony and he leapt at Twist and hugged him hard sobbing into his shoulder about how sorry he was.
Twist returned the embrace and tenderly told him his pain at what he’d thoughtlessly said and how much he wished he could take it back…
The Bossmans were very nice people, though it was obvious that her in-laws neither approved of their way of life, nor their clothing. She even heard her mother-in-law judgmentally mutter that they should’ve tithed the money they’d spent on that fancy car of theirs to their church instead.
More and more lately, Martha had become convinced that Johnny’s parents were determined to buy their way into heaven, and wondered what sins they’d committed in the past that would influence them into thinking that that was their only remaining option.
Thinking maybe she could talk her husband into delaying joining up with Bossman’s rodeo by a month or so, she took off after Peter to discuss it with both of them.
After trudging through the tall wheat, she rounded the side of the barn and stopped dead in her tracks. Forty feet away stood her husband by the horse fence in a passionate embrace with that boy Hutchison. She backed up in wide-eyed shock to hide behind the corner of the shed with her shoulders braced against it and gasped with her hand over her mouth to muffle the sound.
Maybe she hadn’t seen what she’d seen. She snuck another peek around the corner just as John’s new hat fell to the ground. The two men’s lips were locked together now and their embrace was even tighter as Peter's hands smoothly explored inside of her husband's open shirt unopposed.
From that distance she could hear Johnny softly groaning in pleasure as Hutch's palm strayed down to cover Twist's growing crotch bulge.
Within minutes she covered the distance back to the house and locked herself in their tiny front bedroom upstairs. From the window, she stared down the lane that led to the road and thought of escape and of leaving her husband.
She didn’t know what to think or do and it was a situation she could never have dreamed of and was completely unprepared for. In these times when a marriage failed, it was always blamed on the wife, which was surely what her in-laws would do.
As she gathered her strength and wiped her eyes, movement below caught her attention. John and Pete were silently walking towards the farmhouse at an uncomfortable distance from each other. Her heart filled with hope that maybe he’d changed his mind and wasn’t going to leave after all!
Outside, Jim was shaking hands with Edward after giving him $50 to hire some men to paint the house and spruce up the outbuildings. Mother Twist stood dutifully nearby with a tray of iced lemonade and handed them out as her son and the young stranger joined them.
Martha appeared at the kitchen porch and John gave her a concerned look at her blank expression. Walking up to her, he planted a kiss on her cheek and said it was time to go.
She just smiled politely and nodded.
Moments later her eyes followed that beautiful car down their dusty driveway, past the elbow curve to the right then straight on to the road beyond.
She hoped Harold would move in soon. The thought of months alone with her in-laws was more than she could bear without her brother as a buffer.
Ma Twist gleefully fingered the five ten-dollar bills the heathen Bossmans had given them, and gushed at the reaction and respect they’d get from their church when they gave it to them. Martha objected that the money was for painting their home. The old couple just looked at her disapprovingly and silently walked into the house, closing the door behind them just before she reached it…
In the weeks that followed, Mary Bossman’s prediction came true; Johnny Twist became one of their best earners. Not only that, he was a natural at both bullriding and bronco busting and after a month he became a well-know attraction with men coming from miles around to unsuccessfully try to beat him… He won every single competition fair and square, taking trophies left and right.
Twist was even allowed to accept invitations to compete in other shows while they moved between cities and on his off days as long as it was announced that he was with Big Boss Man’s Rodeo Show, and the Bossmans delighted in the free publicity, making Johnny one of the hottest rodeo circuit attractions in the northwestern U.S.
During shows they dressed him up all in white duds down to his gloves and boots, but in his off hours, just as his future son eventually would, he grew to prefer "bad guy" black hats and jeans, usually shirtless because of how proud he was of his new physique.
It was as if he displayed a different personality with each Stetson so he could keep them separate. Mary began thinking that the switches were a way of putting that part of his sexual ego away so he wouldn't have to face it... and it worried Jim for a while when Johnny grew a mustache and then discarded it, but Twist swiftly showed signs of adjusting to his new life...
...and with young Pete's help; he even openly began enjoying it.
His athletic build and stance started gradually changing as his body required more protein to compensate. Hutch playfully began teasing him that someone behind the scenes must be inflating him with a bicycle pump.
With his notoriety came backroom offers from horny women who couldn’t pay much but soothed his heterosexual ego. His participation in the shower room show faking sex with Hutch or one or more burly bullriders became so successful that sometimes Jim had to accommodate as many as five watchers at a time. Additional private locker room shows involving Jim, Pete and sometimes even Mary became popular and financially lucrative too.
Many times during his first year with the show he’d return from the bullriding circuits of Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Colorado to find his once-shapely wife dressed down in modest clothes that his parents made her wear. He sadly discovered too, that the playful side of her that he’d tried so hard to fall in love with had been shamed out by his stern father and mother who openly considered her an unworthy and unacceptable daughter-in-law.
She didn’t know until years later that in order to get along with his parents, her pretended newfound faith and unwanted wardrobe was what kept her husband out on the rodeo circuit as often as possible. He preferred to keep company with shapely, sexy and easy rodeo girls and buckle bunnies rather than to face his parents and his new wife’s apparent judgmental glares when he cussed or drank… or her disapproval when he was too tired, hungover or sore to go to church with them on the rare Sundays when he was home.
Over the winter break the gap between husband and wife grew wider. Despite their frequent coupling they remained childless... his parents of course blamed her.
The hard ranch work kept him in fine physical shape which pleased the Bossman's when he rejoined the show the following year. They immediately announced a raise in pay in order to retain their star attraction.
John worried that Pete would resent him for his sudden success, but Hutch actually admired and encouraged him. They always roomed together on the road, had great sex on nights when they weren’t otherwise engaged and became quite an item of gossip at the rodeo.
During a "fourgy" one night after some fine whiskey with the Bossman’s, Peter and then Jim fucked Johnny for the first time as Mary twice sucked him to frenzied orgasms while careful cocks took turns massaging his prostate from within.
He was amazed at how little it hurt having a cock up there, and how surprisingly enjoyable it was... and he didn't feel like his masculinity had been taken away either.
With the constant exertion in the ensuing fourteen months of competitions; Johnny’s now twenty-two-year-old body grew more developed. Jim told him that the better in shape he was, the less likely he’d be sidelined by injuries, and joyfully challenged his top-billed attraction to grow a physique equal to his and gleefully coached him in the art of bodybuilding and what to eat to build muscle mass.
As he lifted weights with Bossman to make himself even more eye-catching to the women… and men, he had to wrap his mind around a new problem. When this sexual adventure began, he felt guilty about cheating on Martha… Now he felt equally bad cheating on Hutch, though after long discussions, they knew that their pair bonding was strong enough to withstand it.
He began growing faster than they could have custom costumes made! Not that anyone complained when his clothes got tight, though Mary was getting sore fingers double-stitching seams so they wouldn't pop.
The "after-show" show began taking longer that the rodeo! New customers began paying premium prices to not just watch the locker-room show, but to shower with Twist, (no sex; just soaping up and worshiping that beautiful body.) Soon a competition began between John and Jim as to who could earn more in the shower and more often than not it was a tie!
In July during a brief visit home, Martha’s jaw dropped when she saw her husband’s incredible physical improvement. After a couple of days wandering around the ranch without a shirt doing chores, then being gawked at with Harold while in town for supplies, Johnny became the talk of Lightning Flat.
Twist’s puritanical mother of course indignantly remarked that he was beginning to look like his disgusting immoral circus-freak of a boss.
For a month after he left, unannounced women and a few men made impromptu visits out to the ranch just to say "hello" only to be turned away disappointed that he wasn't there.
Meanwhile, three days after he returned to the show, Mary secretly followed him out to a stream where he was going to cool off, and she took a photograph of Johnny from behind, standing naked in a field near the water. That image was quietly distributed to potential clients and more money began rolling in to the point of the Bossmans actually considering making him a 1/5 partner in their venture.
Soon thereafter, he was bottoming for men willing to pay triple or more for the privilege and there were many as his rodeo fame grew and grew.
More often than not, Johnny found himself all alone at night on some farmer’s porch or sitting on the tailgate of a pickup in a motel parking lot suffering over admitting that he’d begun to more than just like young Pete. When they were together laughing or competing, they made each other so damned happy.
When he went home to Lightning Flat it was like he was fulfilling an obligation, rather than rushing back to anyone he loved or missed, and he was increasingly troubled by it.
Twist came to realize that like Jim, his big money was made from rich men who wanted his body after seeing him ride. He never cheated on the Bossmans once and insisted on all appointments going through them. As he loosened up sexually, there were more and more men at bigger and bigger fees.
One night in 1940 a Los Angeles furniture tycoon took the train all the way up to Wyoming to have an all night 3-way with John and Jim.
He earned enough from that one meeting to send Martha a new solid gold wedding band and a diamond engagement ring that he couldn’t afford when they first wed. He also sent along his own wedding band for safekeeping, worried that it’d get lost or damaged during a bull ride or during the hard labor he was required to do.
Through it all Johnny was getting more and more disturbed that sex with men seemed to feel more natural than sex with women, though he pushed such feelings down deep and kept them to himself… and never said anything to Pete.
Though he was sending more and more funds home, it never seemed to be enough and his parents always wrote for more. Money to hire temporary help, money for a new truck, money to repair a piece of farm equipment, food expenses, supplies, even livestock. Martha’s early shares of it went to buying a tiny little travel trailer for Harold because Mr. Twist made him sleep in the barn instead of the house even though there was plenty of room.
Martha began to suspect that her own share of the money was disappearing from her dresser. Johnny began getting suspicious that his parents were splitting his regularly sent pay and prize money with their church instead of using it for what it was intended for.
Martha wrote him that they planted only half the crops he provided money for and raised half the livestock he bought and shipped, and then sold the rest to tithe. He’d come home furious ripping the "GOD will provide" sign off the kitchen wall, do his husbandly duty by fucking his wife, used rough language with his holier-than-thou parents and then leave; threatening never to return if his instructions weren’t obeyed.
The Twist spread was going broke because of his parent’s financial mismanagement. Suddenly he was the breadwinner of the ranch with none of the decision power that went with it.
As the resentment built, he started considering the rodeo show more his home than his own homestead and the periods between his returns became longer and longer. As the emotional distance widened between those he left in Lightning Flat, his feelings grew more and more for Pete, causing him more and more mental conflict.
As the economy struggled to recover from the Great Depression and rumblings of war in Europe caused everyone to hoard what little cash they could scrape together, less and less men could afford the luxury of clandestine man-to-man sex. A woman’s income barely supported her and her family, so eventually almost all of Twist’s customers were men.
Horny homosexual ultra-rich businessmen began demanding their money’s worth and Johnny found himself being sexually dominated in ways he hadn’t counted on when all of this started. Even worse and more disturbing; he was beginning to enjoy it and by comparison it thrilled him more than his wife ever could.
To satisfy his protesting Christian heterosexual male ego, Twist made more frequent trips home that second year, but all he found there was obligatory sex and conflict, instead of the love and fun he shared with Hutch, Jim and Mary.
The word was sent that Martha was "with child."
At the beginning of her ordeal, his parents convinced Martha that he expected her to act a certain way and have strict morals, so she played along in order to fit in… unfortunately. Eventually she was sure that her husband was staying away because of her “loose floozy” behavior.
As surrounding spreads failed in the still-faltering economy, Edward Twist began using ever larger chunks of his son’s intercepted money to buy up surrounding ranches, sometimes donating parcels of real estate to his ever money-hungry church. That summer the Twist ranch nearly doubled in size but remained on the edge of bankruptcy while the church elders became well off and more financially powerful in the community.
On the highest hill in town a new church began construction on Twist-donated land. The plans called for it to be tall enough to be seen for miles. The congregation contracted a manufacturer back east for the loudest bell ever made regardless of expense ...and the warning that it could crack windows 50 yards away when rung was ignored.
Johnny expected to come home a rich man after a few more years, not knowing how much of his money was being squandered.
With poor Harold Caine’s workload nearly tripled as the ranch expanded, he was being used like a slave and still being forced to live in that little cramped travel trailer. Recently pregnant Martha more often than not was out there in the fields right beside her beleaguered brother. To her dismay, she discovered that he was being paid far less than she thought because his pride wouldn’t allow him to say anything or complain.
Johnny thought if he sent his money to her instead of them, maybe she’d get more respect, but his puritanical father wasn’t about to let any woman dictate his budget and intercepted the cash at the mailbox before she even saw it. She rarely got a letter from her husband that wasn’t already opened before she got to read it.
Edward’s Bible said men, not women, managed the money.
After about six months of her husband’s funds being filched by her in-laws before she could bury it out of their reach, she solved the problem by having her father intercept the letters addressed specifically to her at the postal hub where she used to work before they were delivered.
Now that Johnny’s parents had to come to her with their hand out for income, they started resenting her even more and considered it sacrilege.
John rushed home when she nearly died miscarrying their first child, and he wouldn’t leave her side as they cried together the whole night. When he paid the expensive doctor and hospital bills, he discovered how little money he had left because his stubborn father self-righteously believed that any income his son earned belonged to his parents for raising him… another thing it said in his Bible.
After about the twentieth time his mother declared that the miscarriage was god’s will and punishment for her unknown sins, he decided to get his wife the hell out of there and approached Jim about taking her on as an employee. The Bossmans promised to consider it, but worried that she might cause more problems than solve if she found out about her husband earning a living by sleeping with wealthy men and being a stud service for barren couples trying to have a baby.
Johnny decided to start over again and told Martha only to spend what was absolutely necessary because he was determined to buy his own spread and leave his parents to fend for themselves. The humiliation of how he’d lowered himself to whoring for them only to come up empty-handed made him short tempered and resentful when he was home, and unfortunately Martha undeservedly took the brunt of his abuse.
She’d become more and more of a stranger and he was convinced she’d become one of “them," thanks to his parents. After assuring himself that Martha would be recovering okay, he left for Salt Lake City to rejoin the Bossmans. The show toured south during the winter months in warmer climate and Johnny came home only for the holidays, then left again the following spring.
During the seasonal break, John came to grips with the fact that though Hutch still hadn’t used the word, Twist was unwillingly falling in love with Pete… He missed him so much when they were apart that it ached.
Martha sensed it, and always the sight of her husband hugging that young man out by the barn haunted her. When the rodeo was in town for a short stay, she couldn’t help but notice the way the two looked at each other.
Come August, Martha came in from the heat to the kitchen to fetch more lemonade.
A huge congregational crowd had gathered outside for a barbeque hosted by the elder Twists. A bull had been butchered just for the occasion and Ma spent the afternoon ordering Martha around for hours serving the flock like she was a hired maid instead of her daughter-in-law.
They were celebrating moving into the new church, which had been delayed because the elders insisted on making the bell tower even taller than planned.
As she began squeezing squirting lemons, she reached over for an apron, and after putting it on, discovered an open envelope addressed to her in-laws in the pocket:
Ma and Pa,Folded inside was a prize certificate, bill of sale, duplicate blue ribbon, and a photo of the champion bull at the ribbon ceremony. Her eyes widened realizing that it was the very one the Twists had had butchered.
I have shipped to you a valuable blue-ribbon prize stud bull as a sire that should produce some mighty good calves that'll fetch a pretty penny with the enclosed paperwork. Here is money for feed and care - please use it for that purpose, and that purpose only.
He's a good one from good stock!
No wonder everyone outside was falling all over themselves complimenting Ma on how great the steaks were and praising them on their generosity for throwing this picnic!
Now she knew not only where they'd mysteriously gotten the new bull, but also where the money came from to have it custom butchered and fed to the born-agains outside.
Her husband would be furious...
...After Martha's miscarriage, Johnny started making more frequent visits home to be with her. While he tried to work out his feelings towards Hutch, his lovemaking with her become more urgent. Though she sensed that his heart wasn’t in it, she remained dutifully silent.
She gained a little more hope for their marriage every time they made love, and then lost it again when he left.
In September of 1941 during a long grueling season, he rushed home for a week when he found out that Martha was pregnant again. He told her of his plans to rescue her away from his parents and take her on the road with him and her face lit up with joy at the news.
He journeyed back to the show just as Peter finally found his courage and confessed his feelings for Twist. Rather than reject them, John took comfort in it and they made unbridled passionate love all night resulting in Johnny confessing he felt the same way.
The next morning Twist was troubled by his realization, and Pete suggested that maybe John and Martha could develop the kind of open relationship that Jim and Mary had if she actually did join their traveling show.
Sex with women was Twist’s passion, sex with Martha was his duty, sex with men was his job; loving Pete was the exception he couldn’t understand like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle that came in the box of his life but didn’t seem to belong there… until now.
A few weeks passed and in late October word reached him that Martha had miscarried again and he was devastated. This time she’d been confined to the hospital for an extended stay and it took nearly the rest of the secret cash at the barn that he’d gradually stashed away to pay more doctor and hospital bills. Again, he never left her side.
Harold showed up at the hospital and meekly asked him for a loan to buy a second-hand car. Mr. and Mrs. Twist were running him ragged and he was seriously thinking of quitting. The only thing that kept him there was Martha. He told him about the prize bull barbeque too.
That’s when Twist had his suspicions confirmed that over the last two years his parents had only been paying his brother-in-law a third of what he’d sent them for his hard work! He could guess where the rest went.
In a rage he rushed home from the maternity ward with his brother-in-law. Leaving him outside, Johnny crashed through the locked kitchen porch door splintering the wood and breaking the glass. He stood menacingly over his father and told him to his face what he thought of them both and their blood-sucking congregation. Then he looked his mother in the eye and said that he probably should rightfully own that god-damned church by now and if even one more dollar of his hard-earned money went to it, he’d go over there and burn it to the ground.
Suddenly something came over him in the kitchen. It felt like a cold blow to his chest and he felt light-headed. Taking a deep breath he felt as if the spirit of death had just touched him and he momentarily froze in fear... Martha? Wordlessly he turned and stomped outside again, his fancy cowboy boots crunching broken glass on the kitchen floor as he kicked the shattered door out of his way.
That night he took Martha’s brother with a flashlight and dug up his coffee cans. He gave Harold $300 dollars telling him how sorry he was for what his parents did, begged him to stay on at the ranch for his sister’s sake, then pocketed the rest and drove back into town.
The strange feeling that something was desperately wrong gripped him again as he jumped back into the car that he'd borrowed from the owner of the Lightning Flat Rodeo Stadium.
On the way back to the hospital, he decided to set Martha free to find a man who loved her and could give her the life she deserved. That would free him to spend his years in the warmth of Pete’s love and devotion, and maybe even eventually take over the Bossman show.
More and more he came to realize that his life was so wrong without Hutch and that he never ached for his wife this much when he left home. He had a duty to her but was that now all that it was?
Driving on through the night he experienced that chilling touch of death again. He nearly came to tears thinking God would take her before he could make things right.
Johnny knew now that sooner or later he’d have to summon the courage to stop lying to himself...
Mr. Lasako, the man the car had been borrowed from, arrived around two in the morning and swiftly raced him to the train station barely in time for the long ride southwest. The stadium owner said a prayer for him as he silently got out of the old automobile.
Alone in the train's darkened and rumbling club car, he was tearing himself apart inside that no matter what he did it would unfairly impact innocent Martha, and she didn’t deserve that. A white-jacketed negro porter told him they'd arrive in Sage about eight in the morning because they had to make several stops during their trek. One of the sleeper car's cubicles was empty and Twist was offered it for free.
The same kind man would gently woke him when they arrived that morning. He was the only one who got off and the train loudly left him alone at the depot downtown.
He finally found the local arena the Bossman's had rented surrounded by Sage City and Lincoln County police cars. Despite the early hour, reporters from every corner of the tri-state area badgered him for information he didn’t have. After fighting his way through to the office, a detective gave him the news.
Jim, Mary, the two bodyguards that eventually had become his friends, and two bullriders were shot dead during a robbery after a show last night. A full-body shudder ran through him.
The doctor in Sage couldn't handle the complicated wounds and Peter Hutchison was barely clinging to life in the hospital twenty-five miles west in Lakton Utah. He'd suffered two gunshots to his abdomen.
The detectives heartlessly refused to let him go until they'd asked the same questions of him ten times, trying to trick him into changing his story.
Later when they were finally satisfied, they rushed Johnny in their car over to the hospital, still grilling him with questions the whole way there. The hospice wouldn’t let him in to see Hutch until he thought to lie and claim to be his stepbrother to explain their different last names.
Up in Pete’s room an intensive care nurse stood by his bed constantly taking his pulse and temperature. Hours passed and someone came in and put in a drain tube to catch the internal leaks that the bullets had caused and an irretrievable slug lodged in his spine not only had him paralyzed, but was causing a high grade fever from an infection.
Twist refused offers of food, and only drank coffee that was brought in.
As Pete lay there unconscious, Johnny explained to her that the youngster was his kid brother. It was only after he got up to stretch that she confided that there was just too much damage and he wasn’t expected to make it more than another day.
Numb to the news, he sat back down at the bedside in tears, sniffed back a clogged nose and held his lover’s hand.
As his brow and chin tried to crush his face between them, he squeaked out, "Pete?" every so often.
Time passed unnoticed but Hutch's hand never left Twist's. The staff lost count of how many times the famous cowboy offered to donate blood if it'd help.
Reporters showed up and were ejected forcibly; some repeatedly. Nurses and orderlies occasionally asked for autographs after several were offered bribes to let news hounds in and it got out that "Jumpin' Johnny Twist" was somewhere in the building.
All through the torturous evening anguished burning tears rolled down Twist’s cheeks from a seemingly inexhaustible source. He prayed to everything he’d ever held sacred his whole life for God in heaven to spare this life. He swore never to sin by touching another man again if only… he promised to renew his faith in the Lord and go to church regularly if only… he’d be a good husband to his wife if only God would let Pete live. He silently begged repeatedly and promised with every thing he found holy if only one miracle could be bestowed on him… spare this one life… Oh please merciful God, please!
Around midnight they tried to get Johnny to leave, but he steadfastly refused to go. Around 1 AM the hand held in his moved ever so slightly. He looked up to find Pete’s eyes barely open and looking at him, his jaw trying to move. The nurse pushed Twist away and took his pulse calling out for a doctor. John rushed around the other side of the bed thanking his god for listening and put his ear to Pete’s mouth.
A gurgled word took effort to escape his lips, "Luh-love."
The nurse barked out her call for a doctor more urgently this time and that’s all Twist heard.
Two orderlies were needed to drag him kicking and screaming from the room. “DON’T LEAVE ME PETE. FIGHT - DAMN IT FIGHT. GOD! OH GOD; PLEASE DON’T TAKE HIM - I’M BEGGIN’ YA! DON’T TAKE HIM, PLEEEEEEEASE DON’T TAKE HIM! I LOVE YOU TOO PETE - YA HEAR THAT? I LOVE YOU TOO!"
The white-coated doctor rushed in with a stethoscope and yelled, "Bag him!"
The nurse pressed a facemask against his mouth and rhythmically squeezed a big black rubber bag attached to it, trying to force air into his lungs. The doctor pressed one palm atop another over his chest counting and pushing, counting and pushing.
One of the orderlies held the young man’s wrist, "No pulse!"
The doctor pressed faster and harder, but the orderly shook his head no.
The doctor sighed a deeply felt resignation and said, "I’m calling it," and looked up at the wall clock. "Time of death 1:26 AM."
He shot a look of somber sorrow towards the door but no one was there.
John never did remember much of what happened after that. The Lakton train to Lightning Flat wouldn’t be back until next week, but another one stopped in Sage tomorrow morning if he could get back over there.
He hitched a ride on Rt. 30 in a daze to the railroad crossing at Sage Street with a kind rancher who was on his way to Diamondville. He wandered up the town’s business street in the dark on foot looking for a phone to call Martha at either the arena, or in a hotel for the night.
Kyle del Mar, a local rancher turned minor rodeo rider, found John Twist aimlessly wandering the streets of Sage in the midnight hours, took him home, and tended to his anguished sorrow.
The incredibly handsome rancher couldn’t stop grinning and spouting off about how he idolized Twist. Eventually del Mar got him partially drunk that night and then led him to bed. They seemed to have the house to themselves and the muscular straw-haired man slept intimately close all through the night, comforting him… calming him.
Several times Johnny fought off the urge to make love to the man in gratitude, especially after they’d both gradually kicked off most of their clothes. The rodeo star settled for simply holding the father of two close and silently crying out his grief for Peter in Kyle’s arms.
Just like Hutch and Twist did naked nightly, eventually the two strangers fell asleep spooned together in their long johns. Del Mar didn’t think anything of it.
The next morning the blond rancher dropped him off at the arena still stunned, grief stricken, and barely functioning.
Kyle accepted a grateful hug from his hero and watched him until he walked through the arena’s front gates… and then was gone.
Neither would ever realize what fate held in store for both of their unborn sons…
Married now, with an eight-year old son, Lucas claimed to have "found" Jesus and started a itinerant salvation and faith-healing show that would use any means available to suck as much cash out of a community that it could and then move on to the next.
He, his wife and young son "L.D." had worked their way north to cooler weather and to avoid the plains states’ dust storms. They briefly settled in Utah until he discovered that Mormon’s weren’t that easy to convince, so he moved east to Wyoming.
The long-perfected traveling con was easy enough, he’d yell out a few prayers and then shame a bunch of ignorant hick Christians into emptying their pockets into his collection plate. He’d opportunistically pick towns with recent droughts, wide-spread sicknesses, or tornados to promise new prosperity in exchange for God’s forgiveness, and then have his wife (playing a randomly picked woman from the audience) present their son to him up on stage with leg braces and a cane, and he’d then proceed to miraculously heal him.
His most recent move was towards Sage Wyoming, where he’d hoped to talk the local stadium owner there into letting him use his venue for free for a couple of nights.
His timing was bad, because a big-time rodeo was using it pulling the money he’d hoped to get from this town. His luck changed though when the famous rodeo owners were gunned down one night in a robbery gone wrong. Sensing an opportunity, knowing that simple folks and fans would come from far and wide, he set up a memorial service in his used circus tent right in the middle of the arena’s sports ground, with him presiding over it.
He couldn’t miss but to hit the jackpot!
A faith healing wasn’t appropriate for a funeral, so Newsome hired an old drunken cowboy from the next town over to pose as a lost soul for him to save.
Later that afternoon with pump organ music playing softly in the background, the service progressed in the gloomy tent. Lucas was in his usual bright spotlight reciting the customary prayers behind an unusually high-upraised pulpit, gazing down upon them as if he were God to the pitiful ignorant townsfolk below. He even invited a few of the well known community preachers to come up to his pulpit to speak, and all was going well until he called for the collection plate to be passed down the rows of seated mourners in order to fund his and Jesus’ continued good works.
Several of the townspeople expressed outrage at someone wanting money at a funeral, and murmurs skipped through the assembled rodeo fans.
The crowd was unexpectedly turning on him, and thinking fast, Lucas amended his announcement to say that it was mostly for the families of the fallen, and sighed relief when they quieted down. As well-dressed men systematically worked the aisles, Newsome sensed that he’d better wrap things up quick and leave town. A flash of daylight caught his eye as someone at the back entered the darkened tent. His hired stooge had made his entrance too soon damn it, probably because he was too drunk to know better!
Making the best of the situation, knowing the main event might further distract the objections of the crowd, he yelled, "YOU!" pointing toward the man with an accusing judgmental finger.
"You have sinned in the face of almighty God; have you not?"
A meek voice murmured, "Yes."
"God has punished you by taking away what is most loved by you; has he not?"
Raising his mighty voice, he bellowed, "Your soul is wracked with guilt, you have experienced the death of loved ones and your very being is filled with sorrow because you have defied the scriptures’ written law; is that not so?"
The tear filled and anguished voice wailed, "Yes reverend; it is."
The reverend grinned as the tent became so quiet that you could hear a pin drop. People stared at the stranger, trying to see who it was in the dark. Newsome felt a rush of relief; at least this drunken idiot had remembered his simple scripted lines that he'd been hastily taught... so far.
"Your mind is clouded with the very hell that our almighty God has set upon you here on earth; is… it… NOT?"
The silhouette of the man wearing a cowboy hat nodded against the tent flap at the top of the aisle.
"YOUR ONLY WAY OUT IS TO ACCEPT JESUS INTO YOUR HEART! THE ONLY WAY TO STOP THE TORTURE YOU ARE EXPERIENCING IS TO FALL DOWN TO YOUR VERY KNEES AND BEG GOD FOR FORGIVENESS!"
At the head of the next aisle over, another flash of light revealed an old man unsteady on his feet, holding a bottle of cheap booze. With a laugh, he called out through the tense silence, "Uh… sorry I’m late there Rev!"
Lucas frowned. Then who is…
The spotlight swung around to reveal that the first man literally glowed and sparkled in its beam. Dramatically contrasting the darkness around him, he was dressed in a dazzling white Stetson hat, white glittering rhinestone studded cowboy shirt, white denim jeans and cowboy boots. He was weeping with his hands clutched together in prayer and had just fallen to his knees, his head bowed in submission. As he looked up to God for forgiveness the light revealed the tear-stained face of Jumpin’ Johnny Twist - the famous Boss-Man Rodeo bullrider…
…An hour later, John returned to the office dazed and still hurting to find himself in charge of the show with no one else living to assume the duty. The next hour was spent behind that locked door in deep grief.
Later that night and into the next day, John pulled himself together and took the money hidden in a safe in the Bossmans’ trailer and divided it up amongst the show’s now jobless employees. He also gifted the bulls, horses, trucks and remaining assets between the city of Sage and a funeral parlor to ship Jim and Mary to San Francisco for burial, and to bury Pete in his hometown about forty miles south of Signal Wyoming.
Newsome had the nerve to show up at the arena office with his hand out and Twist, still bitter at God, gave him nothing.
The rodeo star had planned to keep the fancy Packard for himself as a remembrance and to drive home to Lightning Flat in, but the car mysteriously vanished, and he was told later that the robbers might have taken it.
He stripped the Bossman’s fancy house trailer of its personal contents and then had it shipped north by rail as a gift to Harold for standing by Martha the way he did. He sent word to his brother-in-law to sell off the tiny one that Martha bought him and pocket the money for the balance of wages he was owed.
Twist could’ve kept all that money after selling everything off, but instead of pocketing it, he did the right thing and took care of the people that depended on Jim and Mary. He assumed that most of that money he’d sent his parents in the early days was in a bank somewher, and that all that he’d invested in prize livestock and improvements to his parents’ ranch would pay off financially…
He was wrong.
Jumpin’ Johnny Twist left Sage a week later, bitter at God for not saving Pete, not knowing if his sins were at fault or not but deeply conflicted over it. He returned home jobless, sexually confused, and desperate for love from heartless parents and what he mistakenly thought was an indifferent wife.
Now it was all in sad ashes and he found himself lost. His first night back home his parents deflected his anger at finding he was penniless by acting outraged at giving Harold the trailer instead of their church.
In the middle of the night with nothing left to live for, he went out to the horse barn, prayed for his soul and clumsily tried to hang himself…
Fortunately Harold was nearby and had sought him out to thank him for the trailer. He found John barely in time and cut him down, then stayed with him that night and talked it out. He cried the rest of the night and confessed everything to his brother-in-law. Caine swore he’d never tell Martha the truth about Pete and the show.
Martha finally returned from the hospital the next morning and Harold told her only what John said had happened in Sage. Both husband and wife needed support and they emotionally clung to each other and the marriage over the next few months strengthened to true love, though the truth about Pete would haunt both of them separately the rest of their lives…
…Nine months after the robbery/murder, a new business opened up in Childress Texas. Lucas Newsome bought up defective factory-returned ranching equipment and farm machinery, then repainted and sold it as new.
The preacher had confronted Big Jim that fateful night and demanded the rodeo leave early so the arena could be used for a revival meeting. When Bossman stood up from behind his desk to his full height, the arrogant Newsome shot him as much out of fear as out of punishment for having the nerve to defy the reverend the venue.
In the aftermath, Newsome was never accused, nor brought to justice for his crime of pulling the trigger that killed Jim, Mary and Peter, while his associates murdered the others. They’d not only taken the money, but three months later his family started driving around in a fancy repainted 1938 Packard coupe.
From 1941 through 1952 Rev. Newsome ceased to exist until a decade’s worth of mismanagement nearly drove Newsome Farm Equipment into bankruptcy. In need of more cash, he returned to his old ways when earnest prayer with his well-off Texas relatives didn’t net any investment capital.
In cocky arrogance he went back to the scene of his cold-blooded but profitable crime in Sage Wyoming.
He found a town seething in turmoil and scandal over the actions of two suspected homosexuals and immediately pulled out his trusty Good Book, opened it to Leviticus, called a prayer/revival meeting of the local parishioners and whipped them into a lynch mob full of righteous hatred and indignation…
…Then laughed in the aftermath as he left with every dime he could greedily grab out of the combined collection plates of all four local church’s congregations. He never knew, nor did he care about the damage and death he left in his wake.
Eventually his son took over the farm equipment business.
L. D. Sr.’s family once again was grateful he'd gone straight and found the Lord and prosperity…
Dear Friend, If you've enjoyed this chapter, please use
the line of link buttons below to recommend it on Facebook/Google/ect.
and tell your friends.
...also comments are welcome below... Thank you.
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.