He only came out of his cheap apartment over Betsy’s Bar to buy basic groceries, cigarettes or to sit in the tavern downstairs drinking and playing poker.
In his depressed condition he didn’t care how soon his cash reserve would run out, so he never sought a job.
Alma Beers was lost to figure out what had happened to change him; it was almost like he was in mourning for someone he'd lost.
She had no idea how right she’d guessed.
Before Alma had set off on her own at 18 and moved to Sage to find a husband only to become a waitress, she lived and grew up in Riverton. Mother Beers still had their old homestead there, and was determined to meddle in her daughter's life.
Now that she and the unemployed ranch hand were both broke and getting broker fast, Alma hated taking money from her mother and having to endure the "I told you so" looks she got from her. That’s how Ennis had long ago figured out why Ma Beers' husband had left her when Alma was a child.
Del Mar had a terrible argument with Alma one night over him spending so much time gambling, and rather than deal with her, he went downstairs to Betsy’s just to spite her.
Along about 1AM, she was startled out of bed when from somewhere out behind the old building came the unmistakable voice of her fiancé joyously screaming, "Yahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh-hoooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!! at the top of his lungs.
After he cheerfully stumbled home up the steps half drunk from a bar fight, she became furious at how battered he was and he couldn’t understand her problem, mainly because he was so proud of himself for winning an old 55 GMC pickup in a poker game.
The brawl was because the truck's owner said del Mar had cheated and he threatened to kill him. Del Mar had bluffed his way through a high-stakes hand with eight other guys and won out with three deuces! The loser, (a local American Indian friend of his) folded with three jacks.
"Ennis; ya ain’t got that many friends to begin with," she shouted before storming out to go home to her mother’s, "Ya don’t need ta run off the few ya got left over somethin’ as stupid as a run-down no-good truck!"
Ennis resented Alma’s attitude; Jack would’ve been proud and laughed about it with him the rest of the night.
It was something women would never understand. His first vehicle is like his first love. He'll overlook how battered and dented it is and all of its problems because it will always be his first. Others will come along and maybe the first one that he'll ever buy new off the showroom floor may take its place... but only for a while.
October came and Alma pulled him out of his shell by visiting every day. Bitching at him for not getting a job would be counterproductive, so she started living with him full time to get away from her mother, cooking his meals and sleeping with him.
She finally figured out a way to get at the problem and in mid-October she got rehired part-time at the local Monroe’s Grocery Store to keep food in the apartment.
Ennis wasn’t about to let no woman support him and made her quit after he found a job on a ranch.
He also suspected she was flirting with the storeowner's son to make her fiancé jealous and true or not that worked too. He began paying more attention to her and allowed her to take up where she left off last summer making wedding plans.
He'd changed sexually too.
He began to prefer ass fucking her from behind doggie style or he'd flip her over and lay her flat and seemed to have a "thing" for kissing her shoulder blades tenderly.
His dreams often involved the day Jack fucked and sucked him at the same time and one night he loudly called out Jack’s name in his sleep, startling Alma out of bed.
As he’d pretended with Jack to be fucking Alma, now he was pretending with her to be fucking Jack, imagining her shoulder blades were his pecs. At one point he'd even talked her into cutting her hair short for no apparent reason.
In the middle of their improvised honeymoon in Casper the whole world came to a halt. President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated down in Texas somewhere and everyone held their breath waiting for Russia to react.
As rumors swirled about new President Johnson getting deeper involved in Vietnam, escalation of tensions with Cuba, and the Civil Rights marches, Ennis cut things short and took his bride home and started planning for a family, wondering if at any moment he’d be drafted into the army to fight World War III.
Alma's mother's interference got too much for him to stomach and they moved up north near the Idaho line, figuring he could get a job on a ranch he knew from when he and K.E. were up there five years ago.
In January of the next year Alma was pregnant.
Ennis kept busy on ranches and farms during spring planting and roundups. As things got rough financially and some ranchers couldn’t afford to pay him, Ennis began taking horses in trade, which infuriated his new wife even though he was making a fair resale profit on them.
Later he barely made ends meet with occasional part-time summer jobs like working on road crews in the miserable heat.
For a long stretch Ennis avoided whisky because it reminded him of Jack and how much he missed him; but now he drank it all the time…
…because it reminded him of Jack.
All through July they moved from place to cheaper place and finally Alma had her fill of it and demanded Ennis take an apartment back in Riverton so they could have their own permanent home base, but he refused... and refused... and loudly refused.
Twice, he tried to locate Jack with no luck. He even drove up to a nearly deserted Lightning Flat to try to find the Twist Ranch on the confusing and zigzagged D Road, but failed. The damned street kept changing names the closer it got to the Montana line.
Armed with good news for a change, he finally located K.E. in Signal and gave him a friendly call one afternoon from a pay phone.
Ennis barely had five words out when his half-drunken brother asked, "What'd ya think of God takin' out our Sodom 'n Gomorrah, eh? First he brought down the lightning 'n fire 'n... 'n... then he wiped it out with a flood. Goddamned rotten place fuckin' deserved it too by damn."
Ennis frowned at the phone and asked, "What're ya talkin' about?"
“Hey! Speakin' of Sodom 'n Gomorrah, how’s yer queer boyfriend Mikey doin’?”
The ear-splitting shriek of a young child roughhousing with another came over the phone along with loud country/western music as he told his brother that Mike was dead.
Kyle yelled loudly at the child in the background who kept screaming, and Ennis was sure from a lack of reaction that K.E. hadn’t heard him.
After a puzzled moment to collect himself, he continued, “Me ‘n Alma got married and we’re expectin’ our first baby soon and I…”
Seemingly not hearing the last part over the brat yelling for his mama, K.E. interrupted, “Now that’s a corker; we don’t allow no faggot weddin’s in Wyoming. He’s callin’ himself Alma now is he? I reckon that means yer playin’ the man?”
Aghast, Ennis looked at the payphone receiver as if he could see his brother through it and asked, “K.E. what’s gotten in to ya?”
“It’s Kyle… got that? Kyle… Mr. del Mar to you, ‘n if’n yer tryin’ to hit me up fer dough to have one a them queer operations, I got a wife ‘n four kids ta support.”
“K. uh Kyle, we was jest tryin’ to have ya meet yer own flesh ‘n blood after it’s born ‘n…”
“No fag is kin o’ mine. Don’t call here no more.”
The connection clicked and the buzz of a dial tone followed.
Ennis sort of collapsed against the side of the glass booth.
After all they’d endured together. After his saving his brother's life when he was sick and at death’s door, after all…
Eventually the young horseman put the heartache away with all the others. He was getting a lot of practice at it. Occasionally Alma would ask after his kin and he’d just grunt a noncommittal answer so she’d let it drop.
Slowly the thought of being a father pushed everything else out of his mind.
Prodded by her mother always complaining that she deserved a better life and a better man, Alma became selfish and impatient in her pregnancy and never seemed satisfied with anything he did for her.
He surprised her on a hot August day by announcing they were moving. Ennis had gotten an important job on the Hi-Top Ranch up in Washakie County working with horses and agreed to take lower pay in exchange for a rent-free house on the southern tip of the spread.
Alma was overjoyed… until she saw the place.
In September she had a baby girl. His bitch of a mother-in-law was named Alma too and his wife seemed determined to name the baby Alma as well, so Ennis dubbed her "Alma del Mar Jr." on the birth certificate.
After that, Jack eventually faded from his mind reluctantly replaced with midnight feedings, the responsibilities of being a husband and a father, the impossible task of trying to do anything that pleased his constantly demanding wife, and the pride of feeling like a real family man for the first time.
He had Alma pregnant again in less than a month, hoping for a boy this time so he’d have a namesake.
By the end of October the Hi-Top folded without warning and the del Mars began worrying about where to move. Ennis knew of a ranch near Signal that’d take him and wondered if his brother could help him find a good job down there. He briefly fantasized about showing up at K.E.’s door with his pregnant wife and child, if only to watch his brother apologize to him for being wrong about the hateful things he’d said the last time they spoke.
A week later Ennis tried to call him only to discover Kyle’s phone had been disconnected.
Both K.E. and Cornelia seemed to have vanished off the face of the earth; almost as if they were avoiding him.
Circumstances made up their minds for them.
In late November, Ennis came home after working all day on a snowplow crew to discover their electric had been turned off. Alma was burning fence posts and a busted up chair in an old stove after the coal ran out, with the baby next to it to keep warm.
After going to town hall the next day, he had it turned back on under his own name and while there, he discovered that no offers had been made on the ranch. They chanced it and stayed put where they were, figuring that sooner or later the new owners would come along and either evict them for squatting or offer Ennis a job.
More and more Ennis began seeing himself as a ship lost in the middle of an enormous uncharted sea with nothing but endless miles of water everywhere he looked. He began resenting Alma for wanting to steer the damned ship even though she had no idea which direction to go either.
The following January Ennis got himself hired on at the Rafter-B and like their present arrangement it came with low pay, an old rundown house and a place to keep his livestock. By then, Ennis had taken on another three horses in exchange for back pay that he wouldn’t get, infuriating Alma... again.
The new house was even more rundown than the old one and through the rest of the winter Alma became more and more miserable fighting drafty rooms and a leaky roof.
Ennis thought only of his family and never himself, and nearly got frostbite on one very windy day putting up plastic over the windows, and then a week later fell off the roof fixing shingles over a leak.
Not a word of appreciation came out of his wife’s ungrateful mouth. She did however bitch him out about the possibility of not being able to work if he'd hurt himself when he fell.
Everything was about "her" never "them."
He began watching the newspapers to find movies at the drive-in theater that she might like… it was the only way to be with her and not have to listen to her bitch about this and that for two hours’ peace.
In May came the birth of a baby girl three weeks premature, which she named Jenny Francine. Ennis wanted the first name to be Francine after his mother, and Jennifer after the kindly old midwife that delivered her for free, but Alma wouldn’t even let him have that little triumph without screwing with it somehow and reversed the order.
A resentment had begun building in Ennis after that, as though his constantly-criticizing wife was determined to "wear the pants" in the family, never pleased with his decisions, never happy with how hard he was working to support his family or what income he brought home. She seemed to always be withholding her pussy as a way of getting her way - whether he liked it or not… and usually he didn’t.
Many late afternoons she'd hear him come home outside and go to the window, only to find him tired and standing out between his truck and the house staring at the ground like he was torn between coming in to his miserable wife or turning tail and just leaving her.
She was so self-centered that she never really caught on, or cared for that matter about just how unhappy she'd made Ennis become with his life.
The house became smaller and smaller, with constantly crying babies, dirty diapers, and feedings at all hours of the day and night. Infant Jenny developed a cough that wouldn’t go away and as the doctor bills mounted Ennis took on more part-time jobs and became increasingly fed-up.
Whenever he came home the babies were always screaming in piercing high-pitched shrieks and never seemed to quiet down.
Finally in 1967 Alma seemed on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The kids, especially little Jenny, were getting more and more sickly and a trip to the hospital or doctor could take 45 minutes not counting how long it took to find Ennis to drive them there.
Most of those expensive doctor visits proved to be unnecessary, and always wiped out what little money Ennis had barely been able to save up.
More and more of their fights were about her frantic calls over a sniffle or a slight fever. Alma painted him as a selfish and uncaring father to anyone who'd listen and of course it always got back to him.
As a result, instead of beating on her, Ennis grew an impatient and mean streak with everyone else, getting into fistfights in bars and coming home drunk or arriving the next morning after spending the night in jail to sleep it off.
He’d become more distant to his wife sexually too, continuing the trend of mostly rolling over and facing the wall away from her, claiming to be too tired for sex.
He'd grown to as much fear as to ache for the love he'd once shared with Jack and worked hard to keep those thoughts from his mind.
He was hurting too, because he realized when he thought back on it, he never really loved Alma, ever. She was only his opportunity to prove to everyone and himself that he was a "man," whose job it was to sire a family to continue his blood line. The closest he came to loving his wife was when Junior was born, but with her constant demands and complaints; that didn’t last long.
Now, if it weren’t for how much he loved his kids, he’d have left her.
Finally it came to a head on July 4th of 1966 when Ennis was arrested for assault and battery involving two leather-clad hippies he’d beaten up in front of his family at the fireworks display that night.
Two half-drunken longhaired bikers, the likes of which Ennis had never seen before, began making pussy jokes in front of his wife and baby girls. After several warnings to keep their slop-bucket mouths shut, he laid into them both.
Instead of showing him any kind of support, all his wife did was loudly try to get everyone within earshot to feel sorry for her for having such a heartless husband while the deafening skyrockets shot off above their heads.
For a while there, it was a toss-up as to what was louder, the skyrockets or Jenny’s screaming.
Del Mar pled guilty to the assaults; basically to temporarily put some distance away from her in order to prevent himself from beating the hell out of his increasingly self-centered wife.
After three weeks in jail, Alma threatened to leave him unless they moved back to Riverton where her mother and sister could help her take care of the kids and he relented.
What Ennis didn’t know was that Grandma Alma had called Monroe Jr. after she'd heard that he'd taken over the businesses from his old bedridden father and told him her lovely daughter's marriage was falling apart, pleading with him to help pick up the pieces.
Monroe had recently invested in a chain of dry cleaners, hoping Ennis' wife would come work for him at the grocery store in exchange for an "employee discounted" rent on an apartment over the laundromat that was obviously meant for only one person instead of a family.
Old-lady Beers just hoped maybe her daughter would dump her worthless cowpoke husband in favor of someone with money and if a little lie in Monroe's ear accomplished it, so much the better.
It didn't help that secretly Jack had been invading her husband’s dreams. One in particular had Ennis naked and lost on Brokeback Mountain calling out Jack’s name trying to find a way out of the forest. When they finally found each other, Twist, who was also naked, held Ennis with his strong arms in a sexless romantic hug and kissed him until he woke up heartbroken and aching to feel Jack’s embrace around him for real.
Trying hard to push them "faggot" feelings away, he became more aggressive and masculine to suppress it but it was hopeless. He felt more and more lost and lonely in Alma's arms. In fact everywhere he turned he found himself lost in the arms that had found him. The only reason he agreed to move back downstate was to try to get a new start.
Once in Riverton he got another job on the road crew while working at a couple of ranches - one without pay just so he could board and feed his horses.
He finally settled with himself that even if he wanted to, he’d never find Jack again, so he allowed life to go on and once more became a good husband and father.
Monroe planned to house Alma there until after the impending divorce, and then move her into the home he'd just bought... on E. Monroe Avenue. It came as a shock when he found out that the whole del Mar family had moved in up there.
The girls took the bedroom, and husband and wife slept on a foldout couch in the living room.
Alma was mad at herself for taking the apartment sight unseen based on her mother's description and made damned sure everyone around her was as unhappy about it as she.
As 1967 ended, Ennis came home more and more reluctantly from working on outlying ranches and he suspected she was having an affair with Monroe again; this time for real.
If he hadn't fallen so madly in love with his daughters he would've left her...
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.