Big Boots of Pain – Part 2

One Week On

Ennis stood in the doorway of the cabin, jeans hanging low on his scraggly frame, hot coffee steaming in his hands and the sun rising pale over Brokeback Mountain. He could not think of a thing that he needed or was missing, and the fear of this contentment tightened a knot in his belly. Jack was about aching and needin’ so bad he most times couldn’t stand it; not this fullness that had settled into his belly like a fine meal and too much whisky.

The offending one wasn’t helping. Ennis could see him out of the corner of one eye, sprawled like a whore across rumpled sheets. They’d rarely had a chance to sprawl, up in the coldness of Brokeback, tight in horse blankets to keep the warmth, sometimes out in the open, but then never sprawled, no time, never enough time.

‘You gittin’ up?’

A muffled reply, which Ennis knew would burn the ears of right-minded folk should they hear it.

The temptation to return to the bed was so strong Ennis had to leave the cabin, half-dressed and finish his coffee sitting on the chopping stump.  He’d lose himself entirely in those sheets if Jack had his way.

Jack having his way was another source of tension in Ennis’s belly; the knot tightened once more. But Ennis never spoke of what they did between the sheets, and he sure as hell wasn’t gonna think about it either. Damn the whoreson sonofabitch and his newfound confidence. Sure, it was Jack’s goddamned place, Jack’s cabin. Hell, it was Jack’s coffee, and he was sitting on Jack’s stump. None of it was Ennis’s, so Ennis reckoned it was pretty damn important he kept what was his. He wasn’t turning over for no one, not now, not ever.

‘What’s got into you?’

Jack’s words, coming so hard on the heels of the pictures and thoughts in Ennis’s mind, didn’t help.

‘What goddamned time do you call this? An’ can you put on some clothes like decent folk?’

Jack, scratching his belly, ignored him, except to mutter something about the recent state of Ennis’s decency. ‘Race ya!’ Then he was running and leaping, hooting and hollering into the icy lake. Ennis mood slipped away as easy as the coffee spilling from his cup. He hit the water full on, jeans an’ all, and ducked down to the nakedness. He’d just been called indecent after all.

* * * * * * *

‘Got a new huntin’ group coming up next week. You wanna take them up with me?’ Jack, drying his hair on an old towel, eased himself behind the rickety table he called his desk. He sorted through some paperwork and added, ‘Two folk from New York city; week’s hunting and some nature watching, whatever the hell that is.’

Ennis glanced up from his rifle, which he was cleaning on the big table. It didn’t need it, but the job gave him the pretence of being himself. ‘You need me?’

Jack turned back to the paperwork. ‘Do as you want, Ennis. I could use the company if’n you want to come along. Ain’t so much needing you.’

Ennis didn’t comment on this. He was reassembling the gun and it took all his concentration. Jack got up and shoved the desk away. ‘Fuck you, Ennis.’

* * * * * *

Jack was shovelling one of ma’s breakfasts down his neck when Ennis came into the big house. He didn’t look up.

Ma put a similar plate in front of Ennis, and they ate silently.

‘Can you take me into town today, son?’

Jack nodded through a mouthful, swallowed and replied, ‘I need to get me to the bank. Big fat cheque for next week came this mornin’. Gonna buy me those fancy boots I’ve had my eye on.’

Ma glanced at Ennis but didn’t say anything.

Ennis concentrated on his plate.

‘What would you say to puttin’ these New York gentlemen up here for one night, Ma, ‘fore we set out? Was thinking we could do the big bedroom over real nice and give them a taste of this here cookin’ of yours.’

Ma clattered the plates together angrily but said calmly enough, ‘Sounds fine to me, Jack. Ennis, when you goin’ back to bring your things up? Been here a week, must be needing ‘em to feel settled.’

Ennis leant back. ‘Don’t knows as I had much to worry ‘bout, ma’am. Few jeans and shirts, I guess. Would like the pictures of the girls. Had a real nice one done of Junior in her weddin’ dress. Maybe I’ll go down next week.’ Sly glance to Jack. ‘Seein’ as I’m not needed here.’

Jack was reading the paper, and the barb didn’t so much as penetrate.

* * * * * * 

‘You coming?’

Ennis was in the barn, feeding the horses before letting them out. ‘Comin’ where?’


‘Uh huh. Thought you had big business dealings in the bank to be takin’ care of. Don’t need me tagging along.’

Jack came up close, wrapped his arms around the lean frame. ‘But then I’m planning to drink some whisky, till ma’s ready. Sure need my favourite drinking buddy.’

Ennis smiled, utterly unable to resist. He felt the old, familiar need rise, the one that took sense south. Jack pushed his mouth against Ennis’s neck. ‘You smell damn good, cowboy.’ He slid his hands down inside Ennis’s jeans. ‘Feel good, too.’

Ennis twisted around, glanced in the direction of the house, then pushed Jack hard against a bale of hay. ‘Gonna feel me a whole lot better, friend.’

* * * * * *

Ennis envied Jack his ability to separate what he did with him and who he was with ma and other people. Ennis couldn’t. Wherever he was, he felt people looking at him, knowing where he’d been. Looking at Jack, maybe, and knowing what was deep up in Jack’s body that didn’t ought to be there by rights.

It didn’t help that he still drew stares, still the stranger. That must be the other Twist boy. Made his face hot with shame, not sure whether this was for the lie or the need for the lie. Sometimes he missed Alma and what he’d had with her. Him, little wife and two littl’ gals. Could have had a big brand NORMAL across their foreheads. Sure didn’t have that now.

Ennis went to the bar and began drinking, waiting for Jack. Sat where he could see the door. Wanted to see him coming in. Got a real kick out of it when he did. Jack went straight to the bar and bought two more drinks. Came over, beer spilling over his fist. ‘Can I sit here, stranger?’

Ennis glanced around. ‘Fool.’

Jack grinned, slopped some more and sat down, looked pained. ‘Hard chair.’

Ennis retreated under his hat and drank his beer, chasing it hard with whisky. By and by the shame of hard chair faded.

‘So, what do you plan to do with these city folk, up on the mountain?’ Jack gave Ennis a look, and Ennis snorted gruffly, ‘As if’n I’d let you go up by your lonesome.’ Jack pushed his foot against Ennis’s under the table, which gave them both more pleasure than he’d reckoned on.

‘Last group I took just wanted to play cowboy.’

Ennis frowned. ‘Gettin’ wet an’ cold and eating beans for days?’

Jack laughed. ‘’S why I gets me the money up-front. Cain’t guarantee the weather up on Brokeback, even in the summer.’

‘I do recall.’

Jack leant back. ‘Yep. I reckon you do. So, what do you think to the T-Mar?’

‘Huh? What that damn brain of yourn skipped onto now?’

‘For our place. The new business an’ all. Gotta have a good business name. Learnt that from LB—an’ how to be a cheatin’ son of a bitch. T-Mar. Get it? Twist and….’

‘I get it.’ Ennis swirled his drink thoughtfully. ‘Thought Del Mar were good and buried.’

Jack laughed. ‘In my ass, maybe. That what you been sulking ‘bout?’

Ennis glanced around. ‘Will you watch that mouth o’ yours?’

Jack leant forward, hands possessively around his empty glass. ‘Goddamn you, Ennis! You’re getting right on my tits today. Ain’t no one around, and no one takin’ any bit’a notice of us.’

‘That so?’

‘Yeah, that’s so. Stop frettin’ like a gal. Jesus, cain’t I be seen out with you?’

Ennis felt the temptation like sweet sugar in his mouth, resisted but then gave in. ‘Seems to me you ought’a remember the consequences of bein’… seen out.’

For the second time that day, Ennis got a fuck you, accompanied this time with some spittle spray, and Jack went to sit on his own at the bar.

Ennis nursed his empty glass, needing it refilled, not needing Jack to think he was giving in and making up. Fuck him. Ennis went to the far end of the bar and summoned the barman. Weren’t Jack’s bar.

The place began to fill up with lunchtime drinkers. A few men hailed Jack, clapped him on the back or appeared to offer to buy him a drink. Real popular was Mr Jack Twist. He got to talking with an old guy for a while. Ennis talked to no one, but felt everyone’s stares. Two beers later (the whisky was fuelling his pissy mood an’ he didn’t take to the idea of walkin’ home), and a man sat down next to Jack. He ordered a drink and appeared to be looking at Jack in the mirror behind the bar. He was heavily bearded, and his forearms looked like they should have bears paws at the end: furry and dark. He said something to Jack, and Jack flicked a glance at him. They took their drinks to a table.

Ennis glanced around the bar from the shadows of his hat, his gut rolling with sourness. He was half-hoping someone might object, some beer gut step up with righteous anger and order ‘em out. He wouldn’t have gone as far as tyre irons, but the hissed word faggot would have sounded real prutty right now. 

As no one else was botherin’ he reckoned he better do it himself. He went and joined Jack and his new man at the table. Jack look surprised, faltered in what he was saying, told the beard, ‘This here’s my brother, Ennis,’ then added to Ennis in a voice that made it very clear he wasn’t speaking to him ‘cepting for this necessity, ‘This is Ed.’

The man tipped his hat. ‘Nice to make your acquaintance. You been up with Jack long?’

Ennis kept his eyes lowered. ‘Guess that depends on your point of view, Ed.’

The man glanced with a frown at the stress Ennis put on his name, then turned back to Jack. ‘Suspect you’re not comfortable talkin’ ‘bout this now—what with….’ He did not say now that Ennis had joined them, but his meaning was clear.

Ennis gave him a full-on blast of stare. ‘Don’t mind me. Nothin’ Jack could be arranging with you cain’t be said in front’a me—brothers an’ all.’

The man was uneasy. ‘Don’t seem right.’

Jack looked angry, barely concealed. ‘All right, then. If’n he don’t mind, I don’t mind. What’d you say your price were?’

Ennis leant forward, incredulous. He wanted to ask, ‘Am I sittin’ here, Jack?’ but that was the way they spoke on their own. Weren’t nobody’s business but their own. Ed stroked his beard, considering. ‘Git a better price in a bigger place, you know? Don’t have to sell myself short.’

Jack nodded. ‘Not asking you to, friend. Fair and square.’

‘Give you a ride like you’ve never known. That’s worth a pretty penny.’

‘If’n I didn’t like the look, I wouldn’t be sittin’ with you now.’

Ennis pushed his chair back. He shoved through some men milling by the bar and went into the bathroom. It stank of urine on floors and sweat. He’d have vomited without that smell, but it helped make sure it all came up. His throat burned from retching, and when he looked in the mirror, his eyes were all red with blood like he’d been crying.

The door pushed open and Jack came in. ‘You okay? You looked real—.’ Ennis flattened him against the wall, fists balled into his shirt.

Jack flared with anger and brought his knee up instinctively. ‘What is your problem, Ennis Del Mar?’ Ennis was gasping for breath on his knees, so Jack wasn’t expecting an answer. He bent down. ‘You better have one hella’f an explanation, cowboy, or you’ll be sleeping out with the horses tonight. You cain’t let me keep a secret, can you! You had to know. Well, now you do. Ruined the surprise. You can go whistle if you think I’m buying you something else on the day.’

Ennis climbed to his feet. His hat had fallen off, so he had nowhere to hide. ‘Wha’d’ya mean?’

Jack picked up the hat and began to wipe it on his sleeve. ‘Was thinking to git you a pretty littl’ mare that Ed’s been meaning to sell me. For your birthday, an’ all. Forty next month, Ennis, same as me. Seemed like something important. Twenty years one way, now maybe twenty years more the other.’ He handed the hat back. ‘Leastways, that’s what I was thinking this mornin’. Not so sure now.’ He left the bathroom, and the door shut with a surprising lack of force.

* * * * * *

Ennis let ma sit up front with Jack. His head hurt, and he just wanted to slump in the back with his face shaded. He saw Jack glance at him once or twice in the mirror, but didn’t let on he’d seen.

‘You two have a fight?’

Jack said yes and Ennis no at the same time, and ma chuckled. ‘Must be nice to fight. Never did. Can’t fight ‘gainst what’s always right.’

Ennis was minded to comment like father like son, but didn’t want to hurt ma’s feelings.

Jack let his mother off at the bigger house and drove around to the cabin. He began unloading some supplies. Ennis went to sit and smoke by the lake. He was so in the wrong he didn’t rightly know how to make it right. Jack made it easy. He sat down alongside him and passed over some coffee with a large piece of pie. ‘Cherry. ‘S only store-bought.’

Ennis took both. ‘I ain’t good at sayin’ sorry, Jack. You know that. Reckon I acted like a damn fool back there.’

Jack grinned. ‘Sounds like a fine apology to me, cowboy.’ He pulled Ennis’s hat off, cupped his face and kissed him, tasting cherry pie and coffee. Ennis tasted so good, Jack kissed him again, deeper and longer, hand straying pleasantly. ‘Did you wake up on the wrong side, maybe? Seems like you’ve been hurting all day, Ennis.’

Ennis made a small snorting sound. ‘Don’t rightly know what side is what after’n I’ve been fooling with you for hours.’

Jack mistook this and, pushing Ennis onto his back, said in a low, tight voice, ‘I want you under me, Ennis. I wanna try it the other way round.’

Ennis pushed him off, hard. ‘Where’s this come from, Jack? Couldn’t believe it last night; don’t believe it now. Where’s this suddenly sprung from? Never done that! An’ I ain’t comfortable talkin’ ‘bout this business. You know that.’

‘Maybe it was time you were, Ennis. You ain’t a novice at this now. We ain’t pretending anything here. I’m living with a man. You know that word I’m hearing, don’t you friend?’

Ennis scrambled to his feet. ‘Don’t you go and say it!’


Ennis floored him. Jack went down hard, but before Ennis could walk away he said, ‘Queer,’ again and earned a kick for his troubles.

* * * * * *

Ennis spent the night in the barn. The next day he packed up his pick-up before sunup and headed back to his trailer. He wasn’t sure whether he was collecting things or going home. He reckoned he’d decide on the way.

* * * * * *

Jack watched him go, keeping out of sight of the window in case Ennis glanced back to see if he was being watched.

* * * * * *

Ennis was back in four days. He couldn’t stand it now. Being away from Jack was worse than being with the son of a bitch.

* * * * * * *

Jack was in the yard with a clipboard, checking off items that he had scattered around in the sunshine. He watched Ennis pull up.

Ennis swung down from the vehicle, strode over to Jack, grabbed him by the arm and dragged him into the cabin. Jack hadn’t said a single word before he was face down and unable to say much except, ‘Gonna shoot hard, Ennis; don’t stop.’ Ennis had no intention of stopping. It was as good a way of punishing Jack as it was of loving him, and Ennis was happy not to have to work out which he was doing.

Jack appeared to take it as loving. He stretched out when it was over and pulled Ennis down on top of him, kissing and nuzzling. ‘Missed you. Weren’t sure you were coming back.’

‘What would you have done, Jack? If’n I hadn’t.’

Jack grinned. ‘I reckon ol’ Ed would be willing to plough me nice, if I asked prutty enough.’

Planning to be mad, planning to keep up the argument for longer, Ennis was undone. He grunted, punched him fondly and rolled off to make a smoke. ‘What’s all the crap in the yard?’

Jack rolled onto his belly and stole the roll up when it was finished. Ennis grunted and started fixing another. ‘Equipment for the trip. They’re arriving tomorrow. You coming?’

‘How much you gonna pay me?’

Jack sat up, frowning. ‘Pay you?’


‘You want payin’?’


‘You son of a bitch.’ Jack snaked his hand down to where Ennis liked it to go. ‘You gonna ask payment for this an’ all?’

Ennis considered. ‘Might.’

They laughed and rolled and played around the edges of the new game. It was only later that Ennis said in an amused drawl, ‘’S gonna be kinda quiet for us, up on the mountain, brother.’

Jack sat up and stared at him. ‘Gonna have our own tent, Ennis. Don’t see that.’

Ennis laughed. ‘Like you’ve ever been quiet, littl’ darlin’, when you’re getting the pleasure.’


Ennis rolled on top of him. ‘Thinking I’ll fill ya up now—keep you going when it ain’t on offer.’

* * * * * * *

The two men introduced themselves as Randy McDude and Dick Swing, saw the joke was entirely lost, so said more soberly, ‘Toby Wainwright and Martin Johnson. Good to meet you.’ They were roughly about the same age as Ennis and Jack but looked like new tack compared to their worn leather.

Jack showed them up to the big room in the house, put their bags onto the matching single beds and told them suppertime. Toby looked out of the window. ‘What passes for fun around here?’

Jack hesitated, thinking about Ennis’s body. ‘Town’s ‘bout an hour, but we’re startin’ at sunup—maybe afore five—so I reckon you’ll need some sleep.’

‘Five o’clock in the morning?’ Martin paled. ‘Christ, I’m usually hitting the sheets about then!’

‘Got to get high ‘nough afore we make camp. First day’s the hardest.’

The mention of the trip ahead cheered the two men and seemed to divert their thoughts from the town. Jack capitalised on the change and offered, ‘Bar’s open downstairs, when you’re ready.’

Ennis had termed it the bar: the corner of the room where Jack had put up some shelves and a counter. He hadn’t meant it in a complimentary way. The visitors saw nothing amiss, however, and with whisky flowing, a fire blazing and Jack showing them the choice of guns, they seemed entirely content.

Ennis came in for supper, and Jack said, ‘You met…. This is my brother, Ennis.’

They sat the five of them around the table, Jack outlining the route and explaining some of the things they had to know. Bears got some interest, and they paid more attention. When cigarettes were lit, Toby, eyeing Ennis, said, ‘How long have you two owned this place?’

Ennis normally let Jack do the talkin’. He was better at it. Jack was busy, showing Martin something on a map. ‘Not long.’

‘Have you always lived on Brokeback Mountain?’

Ennis considered this and answered truthfully, ‘Yeah.’

‘Your mother’s really nice. These quilts are amazing. She could make a fortune in New York. I guess you’ve heard about the revival in naive American art?’

Ennis was fairly sure he hadn’t.

‘Does she sell them?’

‘Dunno, you’ll have to ask Jack.’

Toby frowned for a moment then shrugged it off. ‘Okay.’ He turned to Martin. ‘You ready for bed? Five o’clock is looking depressingly close.’

Ennis said with inward amusement, ‘Five is when we set off. Reckon if you want some breakfast we’d best rouse you at four.’

The visitors hastily stood and went up the stairs.

‘You are a cruel man, Ennis Del Mar.’

Ennis laughed. ‘Maybe I’m naïve.’

* * * * * * *

The day was perfect. Jack woke first, now he had something to do, eager to be off. He prodded Ennis. ‘Gonna be a nice day, cowboy.’

Ennis rolled and pulled him back. ‘Wish it were just us.’

Jack surrendered to the need he could never assuage, managing to pant out between Ennis’s thrusts, ‘Maybe we can head back up followin’ week. Just us to please now.’

Ennis rose higher on him, hard hold around his neck, bruising him. ‘You feel good, Jack.’

‘Nice an’ tight?’

Ennis buried his face against Jack’s neck. ‘No need to talk like that.’

Jack let it drop. Ennis was good on the doing if he wasn’t so good on the talking about it.

* * * * * *

They were late for breakfast, ma serving the other two as Ennis and Jack came in. Martin looked up from his plate. ‘Sleep well?’

Jack appeared to hear nothing in this and replied cheerful enough. Ennis hesitated for a moment then tried to get over this thing he had about people knowing. ‘Less they were both glowing from the workout, there was no way anyone could know. He still felt Jack, soft and slippery around him; he always did right after, and it put him off wanting to dull the feeling by eating. He took some coffee and sat quiet, going through it again, especially the last part, which was always the best.

Half an hour they were saddled and moving slowly up the ridge that led away from the spread. Ennis rode alongside Jack, up front. Jack stopped to let the others catch up and murmured, ‘So…? T-Mar. What do you think?’

Ennis gazed down on the huddle of buildings, their cabin behind the trees. ‘Sounds good, darlin’. T-Mar it is.’

Jack grinned, gave him one of his most favoured looks and turned back to the stragglers. ‘Let ‘em have their heads. They know the trail. No need to be steering ‘em. They ain’t cows.’

The men laughed, hearing the friendly tone and caught up.

They stopped for lunch by a stream Ennis and Jack knew well. They’d not fished it every year for twenty years. High on secret memories, they were good company: Ennis relaxing enough to tell a few stories, Jack to attempt some cooking, although they’d brought cold supplies as well.

‘So, what do you folks do in New York?’

Martin bit into a biscuit and wiped his mouth on his sleeve. ‘I’m in banking; Toby owns a club.’

‘Golf?’ Jack immediately blushed and mumbled, ‘Not in the damn city, Jack.’ No one made fun of him, so he recovered enough to ask, ‘Married?’

‘Martin used to be. You?’

Jack nodded. ‘The same. Me and Ennis both.’

Toby laughed. ‘I told Martin that I thought we had a lot in common.’ Martin elbowed him, but he ignored it, chewing with the smile of some private joke.

Jack let the men doze after the food, stretched out in the sun, new hats tipped over their faces. He twitched his head at Ennis, and they went to reacquaint themselves with Brokeback. Jack grumbled after that all he got to see was bark.

* * * * * * *

The sun grew hot as they wound higher. They were all sweating, flies biting and making the horses swish tails and dance. They saw deer; Toby reckoned he saw a bear, and all agreed that the speck had been an eagle high overhead.

By the time the heat of the day sat heavy in every crack of the mountain, weighing them down like sorrow, they arrived at the first camp. It was by a river with a deep pool and high rocks Ennis and Jack had once jumped off in the middle of winter, because they were together and because they could.

Ennis helped Jack set up the camp, the routines so familiar they worked like one man. The city boys hit the river, stripping down and starting off cautious, gaining boldness and now leaping from the rocks.

Jack straightened and held the small of his back.

‘You riding too hard, Jack?’

Jack winked. ‘You riding too hard, more like.’

Ennis shot him a private look back. ‘Them tents far enough apart you think?’

‘You’ll have to gag me.’

‘Reckon I can think of something might do that.’

Jack nudged him fondly. ‘So, what do you reckon to this as a life?’

‘Seems real easy. Nice guys though. Can imagine some fancy city folks not be so easy to be with.’

‘Yeah. Good lookin’, ain’t they?’

‘Jack Twist!’

‘Christ, I got eyes, Ennis. Only sayin’. Even you musta noticed.’

‘Slick. Betting those haircuts cost more’n we’ve spent our whole lives at the barbers. Or Alma and Lureen.’

‘It’s gone very quiet. Reckon I oughta go check? You wanna swim?’

‘Yep, but I’m not gonna, nor you, neither.’


‘Jack, I’ll say this just once on this trip.’ He hesitated. Jack wondered what he was going to say, something about them being responsible, not open, not upsetting the paying men. Instead, Ennis tipped his hat low and mumbled, ‘You’re mine, and nobody else gits to see you nakid.’

* * * * * * *

The two men had no such inhibitions. They strode back from the swimming hole, naked and streaming water. Much to Jack’s amusement and Ennis’s annoyance they didn’t see fit to dress until they were dry. They stretched out by their tent, side by side, Martin on his belly turned away, facing Toby and deep in conversation.

Ennis went off to relieve himself. Jack stirred the dinner, half watching the naked men, half watching for Ennis to come back.

Suddenly, he lowered his eyes and fastened them on the pot. He frowned deeply and tipped his hat low, shading his face. Nonchalantly as he could, he got up and went into the tent.

When Ennis got back he looked for Jack then came in too. Jack pulled him down, hand over Ennis’s mouth. Ennis shook him off. ‘Quit actin’ like a damn-fool girl, Jack.’

‘They were kissin’, Ennis! I swear to God, Martin bent down and kissed him, an’ I’m sayin’ tongues, if you get my meaning.’

‘Maybe it were wishful thinking on your part, friend.’

Jack didn’t dignify this with a reply. He flung himself down and folded his arms under his head. ‘I never thought to see it.’

Ennis glanced at him and wanted to say something about it being unnatural but as he was considering doing the exact same thing himself, he realised he was on shaky ground. ‘Ain’t right.’ Was all he allowed.

Jack raised an eyebrow. ‘Don’t know about that. Sure made me….’ He pulled Ennis down and showed him exactly how it made him.

* * * * * * *

Supper was a surprisingly relaxed affair. When Martin sat down, he swung his leg around Toby’s back and sat behind him. ‘Does anyone around here mind?’

Toby obviously didn’t. Jack couldn’t have looked happier. Ennis was over with the horses, and by the time he’d thought of a way to say he did, it was too late. Three against one and the meal went off like they were old friends. They steered clear of one subject, however, mainly because Ennis’s face darkened every time the conversation strayed to personal matters.

Whisky bottles were produced. Jack was eyeing the newcomers with something akin to envy. He and Jack sat like that when they were on the mountain. Didn’t seem right to him that he had to sit by his lonesome. He glanced at Ennis and recoiled at the look that was shot back.

Ennis stood up. ‘I’m turning in.’

No one else stirred. Jack refused to catch his eye, so he stomped off by himself.

Toby lifted his face to the firelight. ‘Your brother have a problem with us?’

Jack spluttered his drink, but it was Ennis’s place to say what was wrong, not his. ‘How long you two known each other?’

Martin laughed. ‘A lifetime. It’ll be six months tomorrow. Hence the trip.’

‘Six months?’

Toby nodded. ‘I know, hard to believe, isn’t it? Longest anyone we know has made it.’

Jack glanced at the tent. ‘Do you… live together?’

Martin nodded. ‘We’re both out.’

Jack pondered this for a while, not sure that he understood, afraid that he did only too well. It cheered him up to know that Ennis would have asked, ‘Out of what?’

He felt an overwhelming need for Ennis and rose, making his excuses. Just before he left the circle of firelight, Jack mumbled, ‘It ain’t that Ennis is down on you. He’s just a real private person. Don’t want you to think that. You kin enjoy yourselves up here. This is Brokeback.’ He nodded goodnight, added that they weren’t to go too far from the camp to piss, and climbed into the tent, sealing the flap behind him.

He pulled off his boots and tucked up alongside Ennis. ‘You still sulking or should I stay awake hopeful like?’

Ennis grunted. ‘You sure like talkin’ to our new friends out there.’

‘Ain’t you curious?’

‘’Bout what?’

‘Jesus, Ennis. We got ourselves two live homo-sex-uals out there. Think of all the things they could tell us!’

‘What you need to know, cowboy, I remember you picking up real quick with no questions needed.’

‘I wanna know, Ennis. I wanna know… what I am.’

Ennis rolled over onto him. ‘How many times I got to say it, Jack? You’re mine. That’s all.’

* * * * * * *

If Ennis noticed that Jack took every opportunity to ride close to the men or be alone with them, he didn’t comment on it. Jack was like a boy again, like Ennis first knew him, jumping with life and his new enthusiasm. It made Ennis feel old. It made him incredibly horny, which was incompatible but pleasant to muse on as he rode along mostly on his own. The city pair seemed to have taken to Jack just as strong and treated him like a long-lost friend.

They hunted for the first time that day, looking for some fresh meat for supper. Ennis watched with wry amusement as they proved even worse shots than Jack and then stepped in and bagged a deer, ignoring the worshipful looks thrown his way. ‘Damn fools. Who gonna help me gut it?’

Jack offered, but looked wistfully at the other two heading off to swim. ‘So, what you learned about your new homo-sex-ual lifestyle, cowboy?’

Jack pushed him over. ‘Don’t make fun’a me!’

‘I’m not! I’m real serious, Jack. You learned the colours for the Fall collection yet?’

‘Fuck you, Ennis Del Mar. An’ you seem to know an awful lot about it, if’n you ask me!’

‘I lived with three women, Jack. ‘Nuff said.’

‘An’ if you must know, I learnt some real interesting things.’

Ennis pretended to be engrossed in the butchery. Blood up to his elbows suited his mood. He wasn’t going to ask, that was for sure.

Jack wasn’t going to tell, neither.

* * * * * * *

It was the first time the newcomers had eaten steak that fresh. They talked some about how well it would go down in New York, the difficulty of getting it there fresh when Martin suddenly said, ‘Hey, Jack, why don’t you and Ennis come and visit us sometime?’

Ennis’s head snapped up, waiting for Jack’s reply. Jack wobbled his hand. ‘We got the ranch, Martin. Cain’t leave animals to go on vacation.’

Toby frowned. ‘You don’t vacation?’

Ennis suddenly snorted, ‘This here is a vacation, an’ I ain’t even had to quit to have it.’

Martin hesitated. ‘Maybe you could come, Jack. Ennis could maybe hold the fort for a few days?’

Jack glanced at Ennis but got no help. To end the awkward conversation he mumbled, ‘Sure. Maybe.’

Martin totally misunderstood his reply and began making desultory plans with Toby: things they could take him to, people they wanted him to meet.

Ennis stared into the fire, silent, then suddenly said, ‘We ain’t brothers.’

A slightly stunned silence met his declaration, stunned from Jack at least.

After a moment, Toby replied, amused, ‘Well, we kinda worked that out, Ennis. Although we were hoping you might be brothers and still fu….’ Martin nudged him to silence.

‘How long you known each other, Ennis?’

Ennis winced and shrank under his hat. ‘Twenty years, give or take.’

That did silence the visitors. Except for a whistled intake of breath from Toby and a soft curse from Martin.

* * * * * * *

Jack waited for Ennis inside the tent, naked under the rough horse blanket. He could smell a faint musky sweat from his armpits but reckoned Ennis would like him well enough. When Ennis came in, there was an initial awkwardness until Ennis said gruffly, ‘Weren’t havin’ you whisked off to the city like some fucking princess. Needed to be said.’

‘You could have pissed on me, an’ rubbed your scent in.’

Ennis chuckled, a clear sign he was quite pleased with himself without Jack pointing things out. ‘You’re a fool, Jack Twist. Now, come here, and reacquaint me why I made a damn idiot of myself out there tonight.’

They kissed for a while, Ennis clearly appreciating the smell and the nakedness. He breathed deeply into the hair on Jack’s chest as he held him. ‘So, you gonna tell me or am I gonna have to beat it outta you? What you learn today?’

Jack grinned into Ennis hair. ‘Want me to show you?’

‘I don’t know. You gonna do something womanish?’

‘Would you mind if’n I did?’

Ennis, warm and warmed up, shook his head. ‘I reckon not.’

Jack reversed his position on the blankets then knelt over Ennis. Ennis grunted. ‘Got your big butt in my face, Twist.’ Jack took Ennis into his mouth and pushed his own cock back between his legs. A mumbled, ‘Go on, then!’ got Ennis going. He warmed up considerably as Jack eased off to lie alongside him.

‘Christ, Jack, I can’t hardly concentrate on you if you do that.’

Jack withdrew his lips. ‘You’re doing just fine, Ennis, trust me.’

* * * * * * *

The next day, much to Ennis’s embarrassment, they had become the ones studied. He could sense the double pair of eyes on him and wasn’t surprised when Toby pulled his horse up alongside Jack and asked, ‘So, how did you two manage to stick together for twenty years? That’s longer than most people I know have been alive.’

Before Ennis could reply, Jack said bitterly, ‘We’ve have eighty three weeks together in all that time.’

Ennis gave him a sideward look, and when they were together later Jack mumbled apologetically, ‘So, I counted. Nothing wrong in that. Got to missin’ you so bad, Ennis.’

Ennis didn’t disagree. ‘We’ve got time to make up, that’s for sure.’

‘Well maybe you’d better think of that instead of gettin’ huffy with me all the time.’ Jack’s pout matched his slightly whiney tone.


‘You know what I mean!’

‘Don’t remember no huffing last night.’

‘Night’s don’t count, Ennis. You know that. Never did. Can’t help things then, don’t matter how much you hate me it jist comes over us.’

‘Hate you? Jesus, Jack, what call you got to go and say somethin’ like that? Hate you?’

‘You treat me like you do sometimes.’

Ennis dipped his face, shading it from Jack’s gaze. ‘Well, I don’t hate you, Jack. An’ I’m sorry if that’s how it seems.’

‘How sorry would that be, cowboy?’

‘Huh? What you thinkin’ on now, Twist? Don’t trust you.’

Jack laughed. ‘Simple question, Ennis Del Mar: how much you sorry?’

‘I’m sorry enough to be real kind to you tonight, sure.’

Jack nudged his horse against Ennis’s. ‘Anythin’ I want?’

‘You’re a whore, Jack Twist.’

‘Is that a yes?’

‘You kin take it anyway you want, now let me be, fool.’ Grinning Jack dropped back. Ennis, totally unaware of what Jack thought they had agreed to, rode higher onto Brokeback.

* * * * * * *

Ennis could sense a strange excitement in Jack and could hardly help the grinning himself. Jack in this mood was irresistible, and if they’d been alone he would have had him down on the dirt, going at it hard and fast under the stars.

He had to be content with Jack leaning against his leg, a concession Ennis was willing to make to the newly declared status, and listening to him talk. He was talking up a storm, telling about rodeoing and Texas, two things Ennis didn’t like to hear.

He got up to see to the horses and himself, pissing a stream into the woods, hearing Jack’s voice as he pissed and letting a wash of desire harden him.

Jack was saying goodnight when Ennis came back, and they crawled into the tent, one after the other. Jack was on him, biting and feeling him, whispering nothings that meant everything.  He pulled Ennis’s pants down and grasped him, groaning with the relief of touching him at last. ‘Turn over, cowboy, been thinkin’ on this ride for weeks.’ Ennis froze. Jack looked up. ‘No! Don’t you tell me no, Ennis.’

‘Lower your fucking voice, Jack. Don’t want every damn person in the State hearing our business.’

‘You promised!’ He tried to wrestle Ennis over, would have made it too, except for the knee in his balls. ‘Oh, Christ.’ He fell to one side, gasping for breath to ease the pain. ‘You son of a bitch.’

Ennis grabbed his shirtfront. ‘I’ve told you, Jack. That ain’t gonna happen. What you thinkin’ I am?’

Jack coughed, spat and replied, ‘Queer boy, butt-fuck.’

Ennis hit him then hit him again. ‘Get outta this fucking tent, Jack.’

Jack, spitting blood and checking his teeth, said calmly, ‘It’s my fucking tent, Ennis.’

‘Tomorrow, I’m going back down.’

Jack nodded. ‘How you gonna do that, Del Mar? My horses, too.’

Ennis reared back. ‘Do you want to take me all away, Jack? Why are you doing this to me?’

Jack grabbed him and pulled him close. ‘What am I trying to do, Ennis? What is it that’s so wrong with wanting to love you?’

‘It ain’t love! It’s….’ Jack let him go.

‘So you don’t love me.’

‘Don’t Jack, you know I do, though I don’t know’s I’d use that word.’

‘An’ how do you show me, Ennis? How do you show me when we’re here, like this, on the mountain?’

Ennis sat back on his heels, wiping his mouth nervously. ‘That’s more what I want than what I feel ‘bout you. I show you when we….’ He broke off and tried to kiss Jack. Jack wasn’t having any of it.

‘What about what I need?’

‘You’ve never needed it ‘fore this!’

‘Never had you long enough to want it, Ennis. So took with being with you every time it clear blew me away.’

Ennis raised his eyes through his lashes, not consciously undoing Jack, but having the same effect. ‘I cain’t. I’m sorry, Jack, I just cain’t.’

Jack nodded and lay back down. ‘Best get some sleep, Ennis. Gonna push for the high meadows tomorrow, see if we can find us some eagles.’

Ennis lay down. He guessed a fuck was out of the question.

* * * * * * *

Jack didn’t mention Ennis leaving the next day, and Ennis sure wasn’t about to. He’d lain awake most of the night, imagining Jack with Martin and Toby, and him gone. He was staying.

They rode hard, the newcomers acclimatised to days in the saddle now. It grew hot. Toby removed his shirt and tied it to his saddle horn. He rode up ahead with Jack. Ennis squinted against the sun to see them, sensed the other one close by. ‘Your friend’s gonna get himself burnt. Light’s real powerful up here. Air’s thin.’

Martin laughed. ‘Yeah, but if I tell him, I won’t get to admire him.’

Ennis pulled his hat lower, not wanting to go there. Martin had other ideas. ‘You and Jack okay?’

Ennis spurred his horse to go ahead on the track, but the trail widened out slightly and Martin caught up. ‘Couldn’t help but hear raised voices last night. Hope we’re not… disturbing you.’

‘Slept like a baby. Always do.’

‘Jack’s a nice guy.’

‘Reckon I’d agree with you there.’

‘You must… worry.’

‘Worry ‘bout someone being nice? Funny place that city must be.’

‘You know what I mean, Ennis. I’ve got one, too.’

Ennis pursed his lips, studying his hands on the reins. Eventually he asked, though he’d rather go an’ have another rotten tooth pulled, ‘One ‘a what?’

‘A man that takes a lot of loving to keep.’

That was enough for Ennis. He kicked his horse hard and rode past them all, going up, far ahead where it was clearer. It was silent, but the voices in his head gave him no peace.

* * * * * * *

Ennis wasn’t a cruel man so he took no delight in Toby’s pain that night. He even found some salve and offered it, but it was for horse ailments, so Martin turned it down. He fetched some freezing water in a bucket and produced a cloth, and a combination of those applied by his lover enabled Toby to get through the evening. He was looking ill though, and Martin took him to bed early with an apology to the others.

Jack poked the fire, sending sparks into the darkness. ‘I’m sorry. I weren’t thinking. I should’a told him.’

‘You don’t burn. Don’t guess you thought ‘bout it. It was my fault. I didn’t insist.’

‘Shame, on their last night.’


‘I’m guessing Martin will find a way to make him feel better.’

Ennis flicked him a glance. ‘You givin’ thought to going to New York?’

Jack poked the fire again. ‘I’m thinking of it. Can’t lie, Ennis: I’m giving it some thought.’

‘I’m not happy with that, Jack. Can’t lie neither. Seems you ought’a ‘a learnt. Near got you killed, doing what you did. Still might when I remember to think on it.’

Jack looked up then down at the fire. ‘It ain’t like here there.’

‘Every where’s like here for boys like you.’

‘Toby says boys dance naked in his club. Men fuck while they’re dancing, everybody lookin’ on.’

‘An’ you want that? Christ, Jack, what kinda decent folk do that?’

Jack replied stubbornly, ‘Don’t make me embarrassed Ennis for something I’m not shamed to be.’

‘I ain’t never been but with three people, Jack, an’ you’re one of ‘em. Thought it was gonna be just you now.’

Jack dropped his head. ‘I didn’t say I wanted to do it, Ennis…. I just want to… know it’s there. See it with my own eyes. Like….’ He closed his eyes and lifted his face. ‘Like you cain’t believe how beautiful the night on Brokeback can be till you see it with your own eyes.’ He opened his eyes, the stars reflected in them then lowered them just as sudden. ‘An’ it’s beautiful because you’re here with me. My whole life’s beautiful now, Ennis, and if’n you’re doubting that’s how I feel then there’s nothing else I can do to make you know it.’

Ennis picked up the stick Jack had dropped and tossed it into the dying embers. ‘M’ybe there is.’

* * * * * * *

It was like their first summer on Brokeback, only now it was Ennis lying waiting for Jack, fear in his eyes. Jack slid on top of him. ‘I’m gonna make this so slow, darlin’, you won’t feel no pain.’

‘Did I hurt you?’

‘Yep. But we’ve got….’ He held up the liniment, rejected for sunburn.

‘That shit stinks like skunk, Jack.’

‘You wanna go without? It’s your call.’

‘I don’t want that crap on my butt, no.’

‘Well, okay. Then I suggest you turn over an’ bite something.’

Ennis sat up. ‘Shit, Jack, you sure ain’t making…. Are you laughin’ at me?’

Jack took his mouth, kissing him with the laughter. ‘Turn over, cowboy. Quit making me wait for ya.’

* * * * * * *

Jack was knee deep in the river, naked and singing at the top of his voice when Ennis crawled out of the tent. He felt like a night creature had crawled up his ass and died, but he remembered the crawling up part and couldn’t suppress a grin. He fastened his pants and walked gingerly down to the water’s edge. ‘You gonna stop that racket any time soon?’

Jack put a hand to his chest theatrically and belted out the chorus even louder. Ennis splashed him. Jack waded over, cupping things. ‘You want some more of this, hey?’

‘Stop it, you damn fool. Jack!’ They wrestled in the water for Ennis’s pants until they sensed they had an audience. Before they knew it the river was a mass of shouting men and splashing.

Toby was the first to surrender, lying on his back and floating. ‘Jesus, someone put me out of my misery. Didn’t sleep at all last night.’

Jack eyed the redness. ‘Still sore?’

Toby winced. Jack nodded sagely. ‘Ennis is a mite sore today as well.’

* * * * * * *

It was their last breakfast, and they cooked most everything they had and feasted. Toby stretched out in the shade and fell asleep at last. Martin wanted to take some photographs so wandered off.

Jack stood up and offered Ennis the last of the coffee then sat down behind him, long legs stretched around him, pulling him back against his chest. ‘How you feel today, cowboy?’

‘Not like riding, truth be told.’

‘Didn’t mean that, Ennis. I know that pain. How you feelin’? ‘Bout me and things.’

‘You going to New York?’

‘Never was, darlin’. Got you to see me proper for once though.’

‘I was seeing you, Jack. I was seeing you. But I kept thinkin’ I didn’t ought’a be seeing you. That make sense? Like if I closed my eyes on you for a second you’d be gone. This would be gone, and I’d be standing in that fucking street with that….’

‘Hey! Ennis. Don’t.’ He propped his chin onto Ennis’s shaking shoulder. ‘I ain’t going anywhere, friend. Jus’ you an’ me.’

Ennis rubbed his sleeve over his eyes. ‘Be good to get home.’

Jack pushed back. Ennis twisted around. ‘Fuck.’ Jack nodded. ‘That’s the first time we’ve ever wanted to leave the mountain.’

‘First time we’ve had something to go back to.’

Jack embraced him again. ‘Christ I love you.’

‘No need to get all soft on me.’

Jack laughed into his ear. ‘I remember some real soft talk from you last night, Del Mar.’

‘Yeah, well. No need to let the damn squirrels know our business. Shut that prutty mouth of yourn.’

Jack slipped his hand around. ‘Maybe I’ve found something I might not object to doin’ the shuttin’.’

‘Hush, fool.’

Jack dragged Ennis’s hat right down over his face. ‘Fool for you, Ennis Del Mar.’

* * * * * * *

They broke out of the woods to a regulation campsite where Ennis and Jack had left vehicles and trailers earlier that week. The descent off the mountain was done swiftly and mechanically, but although the visitors did not say much, Ennis and Jack knew that their hearts were full. Couldn’t help it. Brokeback was just like that.

The parting was delayed by the buying of quilts. When the two left, Jack, Ennis and ma sat around the big table in the house, drinking coffee and playing with ma’s money. She stroked it like she stroked her sewing, pride and humility in equal measure. ‘Don’t seem right, Jack, to have so much for something so ordinary.’

‘Ain’t ordinary to them, ma. It’s what they ain’t got, what we got easy. ‘S way of the world, I reckon.’ He glanced at Ennis, for once without his hat hiding his eyes. ‘I reckon we’ve got plenty they ain’t, for all their fancy haircuts and city life.’

Ennis smiled, knowing the comment was directed at him. ‘Come on, cowboy, we’ve got tents to clean, equipment to sort. We’re running a business here, case you forgot.’

Walking back to the cabin, Jack leapt onto Ennis back, felling him. ‘My equipment’s ready for sorting anytime you feel ready, Mister Del Mar.’

* * * * * *

A few weeks later, Ennis woke to being forty. He lay in bed thinking about how his daddy hadn’t even got near such an age. Jack had been forty for a week or two. Now he was there, didn’t seem so big. He guessed it was easy to get older when you had a sense of having.

He closed his eyes and willed himself back to the street, standing with deceased in his heart. Moved forward to think of a life lived in regret in an empty trailer. Jack shifted in the bed beside him. It was hard to concentrate on the misery. He moved into the sleepy warmth of Jack’s body. ‘Happy Birthday, me.’

* * * * * * *

Jack went for the mail, strolling in the sun, full of Ennis. Found a package addressed to them both, just Jack and Ennis, no last names, and took it back like it might bite. He let Ennis open it, as it was his birthday. It was from Martin, a picture in a slim frame. Eight by ten, it seemed bigger than they could imagine. Them, sitting on that last day, Jack behind Ennis, arms tight around him, kissing into his ear. Ennis full on smiling for once, his eyes full of Jack.

‘Where’d he…?’

‘That big camera thing, I guess. Better than binoculars.’

Jack put it on the shelf, alongside the one of Alma Junior and her man that Ennis had fetched from his other life. Married couple.

Ennis lifted an eyebrow, not needing to comment.

The End

 Feedback to jenny