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Is a Very, Very, Very Fine House

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Jack had managed, finally, to talk him into it. Things were so easy for Jack – he was wild and free, never afraid of what might be awaiting him if he stepped too far over the edge and someone else was around to see. Ennis was sure that if Jack flapped his arms like a bird and thought hard enough, well damn it if he wouldn’t see him cutting through the sky like a migrating goose, looking for home.

And, Ennis liked to think, he’d found it. They were back in Wyoming, after trying so hard to get away from it, in a little one-story house in Boulder Flats, on a street where one else lived for miles.

Not quite a whole ranch, but it was something. Ennis liked the way that he would usually wake to the sound of Jack singing loudly, some song or another, most of which he had forgotten the words to.

Ennis’ personal favorite was Jack’s rendition of “Summer fleeeeas, makes me feel fiiiine… going to the jasmine in my mind” and hadn’t yet had the heart to correct him.

This morning was different – or was it still night? It was dark outside, pitch-black except for all of the stars.

Ennis awoke out of a cold sweat and couldn’t remember where he was. Not at first, at least, but then there were Jack’s arms around him. That made him panic more, first, arms around him made him feel trapped.

It wasn’t until they were tussling – that same playful, brutal horseplay they had been so fond of back on the mountain – that he remembered what he had been dreaming. He had been back in the canyon, his father’s hand in his, and it wasn’t the death in front of him that had seared into his brain but the coldness of the hand.

Frozen solid.

He must have been thrashing when Jack had awoken him. That happened, sometimes – he would find himself on the floor or wedged into the crook of the wall, shaking and wanting to scream but not finding any way to get sound to escape his throat.

“What were you dreaming about?” Jack asked, and Ennis shook his head. He’d told him that old, bad sad story once before, and he didn’t want to tell it again. He had told it to him as a warning – a reason that they couldn’t move in together.

Well, but here they were. It had taken both Cassie (who had seemed considerably less annoyed once she had realized she’d hit upon the issue) and Alma Jr. (who maybe had heard it from her mother or maybe had heard it from somebody else – whatever did happen to Troy, anyway?) both bawling him out and demanding he love somebody and stop wasting his life away to get him here, but here, indeed, he was.

Well, most of him, anyway. In the daytime, he watched TV with Jack, sat out in the yard, gardened (their tomatoes seemed to be holding out this year), raised chickens (“I’m still tired of sheep”, Jack told him, “Fuckin’ Aguirre and those fuckin’ sheep.”) and watched sunrises and sunsets.

In the daytime, he chatted on the phone to Alma Jr. and Jenny, and even Kurt, who was nice enough but was a man of few words – they would spend ten minutes and had said four words between them, then both say goodbye and hang up.

But in the night, he was standing on a mountain and looking into a pit. He was watching a car miss the only curve in the road for 43 miles. He was swinging a tire iron.

“Well, if you don’t wanna talk, then you don’t have to,” Jack replied. “You wanna take a walk?”

“Too damn hot,” Ennis replied.

“C’mon,” Jack urged, and pulled him up into a half-embrace. “Let’s take a walk.” They set off for the path around the edge of town. Sometimes, they even walked into town, where there were enough people to be a little nosy but not enough to really make anything of it.

Along the way, Jack hummed and then straight-out sang.

“Our house, is a very, very, very fine house… with two cats in the yard…” He paused, “We need some cats, Ennis.”

“Couch’ll be shredded.”

Jack shrugged.

“It’s justa couch.”

Out here, where no one could see, Jack slipped his hand in Ennis’.

They heard a noise, then, and Ennis jerked back, then saw small shadows appearing in front of them.

Then a tiny little head.

Ennis cocked his head to the side.

“It’s a lamb,” he declared, scooping forward and picking him up. “Ain’t got any markings. Lonely little thing.”

Jack looked at him.

“We’re not gettin’ any damn sheep…”

Ennis looked at him, and Jack sighed.

On the walk back, he sang, “With two lambs in the yard… Life used to be so hard…”

Once they did have the lamb in the yard, wandering around happily with food, water, and an annoyed chicken friend, they walked back to the bedroom and lay side by side.

“Feels like old times,” Jack mused. He looked over to find that Ennis was already half-asleep. He slipped his hand in his again (there’d be no interruptions this time) and sang quietly “Life used to be so hard… Now everything is easy ‘cause of you…”

And then he closed his eyes.