Raking a hand through his hair, Ennis dropped down on the sofa with a beer, sighing in relief. Alma was working late, and it had been a struggle to get the girls to sleep tonight. He propped his feet on the coffeetable and leaned back to watch some TV and relax. It had been a long, hard day on the job, and he was still aching from where an agitated horse had kicked him in the thigh.
A few beers later, the weather report ended and Ennis was dozing while still sitting up on the sofa. He vaguely registered that the rodeo was on, but didn’t bother opening his eyes, sliding a bit deeper into sleep. So it was with a start he woke, blinking at the TV, when he heard Jack’s name.
Jack. Rubbing at his eyes, Ennis leaned forward, staring at the man climbing the rails of the chute, watching as Jack threw a leg over one mean looking bull. Jack looked good, he couldn’t help but think, as a different kind of ache blossomed through his chest. It’d been too long since he’d seen Jack and seeing him like this, utterly unexpected and unbraced for it, Ennis couldn’t fight down the lump in his throat or the sudden burn in his eyes.
He felt his heart in his throat, choking him, as the gate swing wide and the bull made a break for it, twisting and bucking madly. He barely registered the announcer’s voice, his gaze locked on Jack, his heart damn near stopping as he watched him fall. He knew before the announcer said it that Jack’s arm was busted, could see it in the unnatural bend of the limb as Jack scrambled back from the bulls flailing hooves, those blue eyes of his darkening with pain.
Ennis watched until they had Jack out of the arena and the next rider took his place in the chute, before standing and snapping off the TV. Raking a hand through his hair, he dug a pack of smokes from the pocket of his shirt, fumbling one out with shaking hands. It took a few tries to get it lit, but when the tobacco caught, Ennis took a deep, calming drag. Blowing out smoke he leaned forward, resting his brow against the wall for a long moment, eyes closed.
Glancing towards the phone, Ennis considered calling Jack’s wife; she’d have the number for his hotel, for sure. But what the hell would he say to Jack if he called? It wasn’t like he could do anything. Wasn’t like he could go down there, or ask Jack up here. Better to leave it be, he told himself, the ache in his chest growing so strong, that for a moment, he worried he might be having a heart attack.
Pushing away from the wall and going into the kitchen for another beer, Ennis tried to put out of his mind the image of Jack hitting the dust under that bull’s hooves; settled down to try and drink away the pain and worry that was eating away at him.
By the time Alma arrived home, she found her husband passed out at the kitchen table, one of the postcards from that Jack Twist clutched in one big hand. A desolate ache filled her breast as she gazed at the man she loved, telling herself those weren’t tear-tracks she could see on his face. But she knew she was only fooling herself as she covered Ennis with a blanket and left him to sleep it off, with Jack Twist’s name on his lips.