His father demanded half of what he'd made babysitting sheep again this year, so Jack spent a lot of time up in his tiny room thinking obsessively of getting out of town, maybe joining the rodeo again or of finding Ennis and making a new start.
At one point he began making rough pencil sketches of Ennis’ face or of him on a horse, sometimes standing shirtless. Eventually the torso became more muscular and the crotch bulge was exaggerated. These were tacked up on his bedroom wall, safe from his parents who never came up to his room anyway.
Lightning Flat was becoming a ghost town and though there were miles and miles of empty land around him, Jack felt more and more crowded in with only his mother’s constant questions and his father’s judgmental stares day in - and day out.
Martha didn’t seem as religiously enthused as John was, though she never expressed that to Jack in so many words. His mother seemed lost to explain her husband's meandering, sometimes radical, faith paths and like a bird clinging to a tree limb in a wind storm, defiantly held on to her Pentecostal roots.
All through his childhood, every-so-often Jack would overhear his father refer to him as "the bastard" to his mother, but never when he was in the room or to his face. He’d even heard his mother slap John hard a few of times afterwards.
All through his teens he’d wondered… When friends of his parents dropped over or whenever they went somewhere, people always commented on how much he looked like his mother but no one ever seemed to say he favored his dad.
There was however, one major difference between them that would color his memory of his father for the rest of his life.
From a very young age he feared John and became convinced that his father hated him. The tone of their relationship was set forever when one day his daddy came into the bathroom to take a piss just as a very young Jack was undressing to take a bath.
While watching his dad, he laughingly remarked that his father would have to clean the excess spray from the rim of the toilet and floor because it was splattering all over the place. Then without knowing any better he observed that it was probably because of all that strange extra skin his daddy had on the end of his dick that the boy didn’t have.
John became infuriated, pulled off his belt and began beating the child with it. Unable to escape the leather’s lash in the tiny confines of the bathroom, Jack went into a defensive tight ball on the floor and started screaming for dear life, convinced his father was trying to kill him.
To add insult to injury, the man finished his pissing all over his sobbing and terrified son.
When the yellow flow stopped, John made little Jack mop it all up, clean the walls, and then take a bath with his piss-soaked clothes because his mama wasn’t gonna clean ‘em for him.
From that day forward, Jack’s pulse jumped a little in reflex fear every time he saw another guy that had an uncircumcised cock in the locker room and shower at school. In fact he instinctively looked for them in those situations thinking it was an indicator that the owner was cruel, quick-tempered and to be avoided.
Jack could never have heart-to-heart talks with his father after that and it hurt. He would never know why his estranged dad had fallen so deeply into religion over and over again lately, nor his unexplainable avoidance of bragging about when he was "Jumpin’ Johnny Twist" the rodeo champion in his glory days…
They arrived early in the morning on Friday the 22nd and the boys got breakfast at a little luncheonette and explored a while. His friends had a little surprise for Twist. After parking again, and then threading their way through hundreds of people in downtown Dallas, Jack was told that all the excitement, red-white-and-blue street banners and crowds were for President Kennedy’s motorcade swinging through town on the way to a convention.
After they used up a couple of hours working their way down to a good vantage point on the route, they found themselves at the packed corner of Houston and Main. Jack's tall burly friend Buford noticed him jumping up and down trying to see over the heads of five or six other people. Buford just laughed at him, crouched down and said, “Come on then, saddle up Buddy!”
Twist frowned, “What?”
The muscular tree-trunk chested cowboy grinned, “Hurry up, boy! Git up on my shoulders so ya can see too.”
A moment later Jack was teetering, swaying and scared that they were both going to topple over, but he was now happily head and shoulders above everyone else.
Off to his left a bunch of motorcycles approached, followed by the fanciest black convertible stretch limousine Twist had ever seen in his life… and there she was… Jackie Kennedy in the most honest-to-god beautiful pink women’s suit and hat he’d ever laid eyes on. Unfortunately her attention was focused on the cheering people on her side of the car away from him.
Beneath him, Buford scared the living daylights out of Twist when he started jumping up and down yelling and waving.
As the car came up in front of them and paused briefly to make a right turn, Twist yelled down to the First Lady, “Hey Jackie! I’m Jack too!”
In all of that excitement at seeing her, the dumb cowboy didn’t realize until that second that the President of the United States was looking right at him.
Kennedy nudged his wife, whispered something and they both looked up at the crazy man waving his black cowboy hat down at them, laughed, and to all of Twist’s friend’s amazement they called out from the limo, “Hi Jack!”
As the motorcade rounded the corner and disappeared, Buford lost his balance, the two men fell to the sidewalk, and their friends all started pounding Twist’s shoulder happily congratulating him.
Somewhere off behind them a motorcycle backfired twice and by the third bang everyone realized they were rifle shots.
In fearful desperation, Jack and his friends had to plaster themselves against the storefront to keep from being trampled to death as hundreds of people rounded the corner and rushed by screaming, “Someone shot the President! The President’s dead! Someone gunned down Kennedy and Governor Connolly!”
Twist tried to battle his way to see for himself indignantly protesting in tears, “NO! I just talked to him. He ain’t dead! It cain’t be! NOOOOOOOOO! NOOOOO!”
…It took all four of his friends to drag Jack kicking screaming and crying back to their car. Hours later it came over the radio that the president was indeed dead.
No matter how manly or macho or tough you thought you were, every male in America cried that day for a man who was too young and had so much promise… and didn’t deserve to die.
With the Saturday rodeo canceled, the boys stayed in the motel room they'd reserved. The others walked around town aimlessly sightseeing while a stunned Jack stayed alone... crying... and praying Jackie hadn't been shot too. He stayed glued to the room's TV with news that they'd caught the gunman, and on Sunday they all drove home to Wyoming still trying to console Jack, who was just now beginning to believe what had happened, but couldn't get the President and Jackie's smiles for him out of his mind. A radio report said that Lee Harvey Oswald had himself been shot.
At home, after too many remarks from his father about how the Catholic devil Democrat was probably being punished for letting the Pope run the country or some other horrible sin no one knew about, Jack locked himself in his room on and off for a week, only coming out for meals and to do light farm chores.
Since they didn't have one, Jack journeyed a couple of miles south to watch the funeral on Buford's TV. The sad image of brave little John-John saluting his daddy's passing casket parade would live with Twist forever.
He’d also remember with both joy and tears John Kennedy yelling his name hello and waving, and be haunted by it too for the rest of his life.
One day in mid-December, John proposed that since his son was an adult now, he should get a side job on top of his farm duties and pay rent on his room in order for them to tithe more to their church.
Jack already considered himself an unloved and unpaid ranch slave to his father and this was the last straw.
He was no longer a son; he was now no more than a tenant and an underpaid farmhand in his father’s eyes…
As 1964 rolled around, Ennis was still never far from his mind and after spring planting, summer couldn’t come fast enough. He was sure that Ennis missed him as much as he missed del Mar. He’d even sent in an application to work up on Brokeback again, but heard nothing back so he figured it’d gotten lost in the mail.
By June he still hadn't heard back on his application and in desperation, Jack was drawn to the office trailer in Signal.
He made the long drive hoping that maybe del Mar’s plans to get married had fallen through and Ennis had already signed up for more shepherding.
Either way he’d damned sure rather spend a third summer up on Brokeback than with his parents; even if it meant four months with Aguirre’s teenaged kid again.
By then he’d come to accept the jack-off fantasies he kept experiencing in the nearly year since he parted ways with del Mar. They’d start out with him fucking some really sexy girl and end up with him being the one being fucked under Ennis, resulting with Twist having an exploding orgasm just as they both shot their loads together.
More often than not it was the one where Jack fucked and sucked Ennis at the same time up on the mountain.
What broke his heart even more were the tender times when they just held each other silently feeling the love between them even if it wasn’t expressed out loud. Jack would sometimes lull himself to sleep remembering the many times that Ennis kissed him tenderly…
...That cold early morning brought clouds racing across the sky. Signal hadn't changed - it never changed.
The office trailer rocked a little in the wind as Joe picked up the application on the top of the stack he’d been reviewing. He blinked at the name on it twice and frowned and wondered if they were related, then muttered to himself, “Kyle del Mar Jr. from here in Signal huh; that’s all I’d need is another one of them.”
He crumbled it up, tossed it in the overflowing wastebasket, and picked up the next one.
As Jack pulled into the wind blown dirt-and-gravel parking lot, he spotted Joe Aguirre’s car. Someone had done a sloppy job of painting the office trailer door blue, the mailbox white and the applications box red. Twist smirked at them and muttered, "How patriotic," under his breath.
Pounding loudly on the door, he still hoped Ennis had been there.
The foreman’s voice held an aggravated tone as he bellowed, "Yeah?"
Jack entered, finding the foreman seated sideways at his desk reading some papers from a stack.
Twist respectfully removed his hat and Aguirre looked up to blink at him as if he didn’t believe his eyes. He shook his head and then pointedly returned his gaze back to the employment application in his hand, contemptuously remarking, "Well look what the wind blew in."
Twist nodded and replied with a nervous smile, "Hi, Mr. Aguirre. Uh... I was wonderin’ if you’d be needin’ any help this summer?"
Chewing on a toothpick, the foreman just looked off in the distance, still not bothering to meet Jack’s eye, amazed this son of a bitch actually had the balls to come here looking for a job. A remembrance of when he watched Twist having sex with del Mar in the clearing that day filled his mind with disgust.
Jack scanned the room and spotted a pair of spyglasses hanging on a nail next to the man’s hat, then he darted his eyes back to Aguirre.
With a tone of pure contempt, the foreman replied, "Yer wastin’ yer time here."
Jack frowned, almost turned to leave, but wasn’t ready to give up yet. "What; you ain’t got nothin’?" then after a pause he added, "Nothing up on Brokeback?"
Aguirre turned to face him in his squeaky desk chair and as his narrowed hateful eyes were lit by the desk lamp he said, "I ain’t got no work fer you."
Jack felt the man’s hatred but stood his ground till he saw the foreman’s eyes and finally took the message. The son of a bitch had seen them for sure last summer with those binoculars.
He turned to leave but figured he had nothing to lose, so he turned back and asked, "Ennis del Mar ain’t been around has he?"
In a flash the foreman recalled finding those magazines with naked men and that clipping with Jack’s picture riding a bull hidden in his son's room and still wondered if Twist had corrupted his son, especially after seeing them up on the mountain. His son’s name was John, but everyone called him Jack… everyone but Aguirre that is.
In a building rage, he seriously considered murdering this faggot standing before him with his bare hands, but decided it wasn't worth a long stretch in jail.
Aguirre’s expression looked just barely controlled, "You boys sure found a way to make the time pass up there. …Twist; you guys wasn’t getting paid to let the dogs baby-sit the sheep while you stemmed the rose."
Aguirre looked away and then spat out a warning by glancing toward a tire iron sitting on the counter next to a pair of work gloves, "Now get the hell out of my trailer."
Jack swallowed hard, nodded and put his hat back on.
He wasted no time and slammed the door behind himself, wondering if Aguirre knew about his son. It'd serve him right to turn tail and go back in and tell him to his face that his damned kid had made the first move and that Jack had rejected it.
As he slowly backed his truck out, he wasn’t paying attention and came up tailgate to bumper against Aguirre’s Rambler.
The contact was gentle enough not to be heard in the trailer and his surprise turned to bravado. With a touch of the gas, both of the Rambler's tall taillights crunched and with a grin he shifted into first and intentionally popped the clutch, spraying driveway gravel at the car and the office trailer. As the shrapnel hit the wooden walls and windows, he roared off.
A few blocks away, he pulled over, rested his forehead on the steering wheel, and felt like sobbing though the tears wouldn’t come.
He wasn’t sure if he was more afraid of the threat Aguirre had made or disappointed at not finding Ennis.
As del Mar had done a year before, he punched the metal dashboard as an excuse for the pain he felt.
Putting it in gear, he drove off again and eventually came to a T intersection and stopped. Should he try to find Ennis somewhere near here or turn left and head south? North was out of the question; he’d had his fill of his father all winter and spring.
The street he was on dead ended at a closed-up and vacant gas station across the way and he spotted a payphone booth. He pulled into the lot and slid a dime into the slot dialing the operator as the sun crept up over Brokeback Mountain in the distance.
No listing was found in Signal or Riverton for Ennis del Mar or in any of the surrounding counties. Next he inquired for a listing in Sage and the operator just laughed and asked if he was serious.
A police car drove by and it suddenly occurred to Jack that Aguirre was just capable of calling the sheriff on Jack for vandalizing his car so it was definitely time to leave town.
He got back into his truck, slammed the door and closed his eyes, feeling them start to burn beneath their lids.
He’d heard some things about finding male prostitutes in Mexico, shrugged that he had nothing better to do and figured maybe he’d become one after he ran out of money, servicing women and/or the occasional man.
Maybe if he got good at it and became rich, he’d drive up and rub his new occupation in his born-again father’s face.
Gunning the motor, he turned right, and wondered what his daddy’s reaction would be on the news his son was a male whore...
Boy-howdy, he had no idea…
He’d had second thoughts all the way south anyway and instead decided to look up the barrel riding cowgirl he’d gotten lucky with two springs ago, and in the process entered himself in the bullriding competition in a rodeo at a local arena.
Of all the girls he’d had, she stood out the most with those cherry red outfits and those unforgettable breasts.
He did fairly well, but only managed to come in second or worse in most places on the circuit, which wasn’t enough to make much of a living.
The constant strenuous exercise turned his once-boyish body into a defined man’s well toned but bruised build. Bullriding was taking its toll on his back and legs too.
His nighttime thoughts became divided between Ennis and the "buckle bunnies" that tagged along with him from rodeo to rodeo.
He may not have been winning much, but like his father before him, he only needed to pull his shirt off in the parking lot to bed any girl he liked - sometimes two at a time.
A new (what he thought was amusing) catch phrase had entered his vocabulary and he used it often until he figured everyone had heard it at least twice… "She can suck the chrome clean off a trailer hitch!;" which was soon replaced with, "She can suck a golf ball through fifty feet of garden hose!"
Still the easy girls didn’t satisfy him and one day after a particularly grueling couple of hours of bullriding, a rodeo clown caught his eye in the corral.
The man under all that comic makeup made him feel like a 90-pound weakling that’d just had sand kicked in his face.
Later that afternoon, Jack pert near got stomped to death paying attention to him instead of the bull that’d just thrown him.
It took him a while, but he finally figured out why; the protective clown reminded him of Ennis.
Later on that evening, he sat in a dark hole-in-the-wall bar eyeing the girls, listening to the music and incidentally watching the young guys playing pool within a haze of cigarette smoke.
A tall good-looking shorthaired blond man in his late twenties with a fancy stark white cowboy shirt and hat entered. The overhead light at the door bounced off his Stetson and shoulders, causing a flash that made everyone look up in the dim room.
Jack frowned to himself a moment and then realized it was the brawny clown he’d been eyeing earlier. He wore a pair of "tight enough to be painted on" Levis, and shiny black boots. His V-shaped muscular torso and arms turned heads. The man was spectacular and knew it, possessing the pecs, swagger, biceps, slim waist and the impossible crotch bulge of a Greek god in western disguise.
He also possessed a heart-melting grin, which never left his face.
One of the barmaids yelled out "Hey, Jim!" and he politely tipped his hat towards her with a familiar smile.
The man definitely had friends and most of them seemed to be here tonight.
A few days earlier, Jack had found some badly printed flyers in the trash for some homosexual prostitution house down in Mexico. The jack-off fantasy that resulted later that night looked just like this guy, making Twist wonder.
All eyes couldn’t help but follow him cross the room, both male and female.
The cowgirls wanted his body - the cowboys wanted his leftovers.
His face didn’t look as much like Ennis’ as he’d thought, but that body kept drawing his gaze and quickened his breath.
Scenarios of Twist getting him drunk and using the prize money to spend the night with this Adonis in some cheap motel began filling his head.
The popular rodeo clown went straight over to a group of his buddies shooting pool. He dropped a couple of coins on the billiards table and then glanced over towards the bartender.
Moving forward again with an affable smile and a few nods, he met many eyes in the crowd with a warm friendly expression... including Jack's.
For a moment their gaze locked across the noisy bar, then just as quickly flicked away.
Jack began breathing hard, as the hunk seemed to be coming directly toward him, but at the last moment he detoured to the rail twenty feet away to sit down and order a beer from the friendly barman.
Was it an invitation or a casual glance?
Before he could wonder why or chicken out, Jack grabbed his own beer from the bar and found himself walking the length of the rail to sit next to him.
To the barkeep, Jack said, "I’d like to buy Jimbo here a beer," giving the clown a bright smile.
The bartender nodded and reached for a brew when the good-looking stud gave Twist a quizzical glance and shook his head no as Jack laid a dollar on the bar.
Just then a pretty barmaid went by with a full tray of frosted mugs, the clown's eyes following her hips.
Jack’d made a bad mistake and knew it with everyone watching. Now all he had to do was get out of the situation. Thinking fast, he added quickly, "The best damned rodeo clown I ever worked with!" was a good excuse to innocently buy another man a beer.
Without realizing it until after he'd done it, Jack had blinked both eyes at him in a sort of flirtatious double wink.
The powerfully built object of his hopes stood up to his full six-foot-five and answered with a look that said he definitely wasn't interested, "No thanks Cowboy," looking away. Speaking to the bartender instead he said, "If'n I’s to let every rodeo hand I ever pulled a bull off of buy me liquor I’d a been an alcoholic long ago."
The barman chuckled as the hunk shoved his own dollar forward, pushing Jack’s away in the process and said to Twist, "Pullin' bulls off of you buckaroos is just my job."
As he moved to turn away while grabbing his foaming mug, he added, "So save it for your next entry fee Cowboy," gave a look that left no doubt that his flirtation (if that was it was) wasn't to be repeated without dire consequences and headed back through the crowd.
Jack twisted around and watched the handsome man stroll over to the guys at the pool table as they all gathered around him... then all of them looked his way suspiciously.
Depending on what he'd just told them; it just might be a good time to make a hasty exit.
"Ya ever try calf ropin’?" the barkeep asked Jack’s back.
Jack turned around and tersely replied, "Do I look like I can afford a fuckin' ropin' horse?" slapped his dollar across to pay for his own drink and made his way quickly out of the bar.
Outside, a good-looking buckle bunny in a cowgirl hat with an ample chest sidled up to him and asked if he had any plans. He took that as a sign, escorted her back up to his cheap room over the bar and fucked her silly repeatedly over the next few weeks, deciding to give up on men unless it was Ennis...
...Martha Twist was sorting through the mail after breakfast and handed a letter to her husband John.
It is my sad duty to inform you that Lightning Flat United Pentecostal Church must out of necessity merge with Rocky Point Pentecostal Church, due to our dwindling congregation being unable to support our continued fellowship.John thought back to a time in his childhood when he used to be afraid of the painting of a scowling judgmental God staring down at him from the ceiling of the sanctuary...
Beginning this Sunday, please join me in our fellowship in Christ there, as our building will be closed until such time as we can gather more membership.
Yours in Christ
Reverend Morris Q. Plevrokeno
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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.