||[Jan. 7th, 2007|04:09 pm]
|||||True love is hard to find... Bonnie Raitt||]|
Ed and Hank, Part 21, The day before New Year's Eve
Some stuff ya migh' not be expectin'...
(some good, some bad, some sad)
Note: Not the shirt-switchin or the final part of how they got together, permanent-like. Some stuff Hank didn't know plus some stuff he didn't expect to be writing about just yet. It's pretty much all Bill's fault...
Disclaimer: Somewhere, somehow, Hank told Annie Proulx their story. Jack and Ennis belong to Annie Proulx. Ed and Hank belong only to each other. Still breakin' even since our trip got cancelled. Comments: Good, bad or ugly, always welcome.
Everything else is here:
Part 21, The Day before New Year's Eve
“Think ya overdid it Bill. Thought ya migh’ be headin’ back ta work too soon. C’mon, have a seat at the table ‘n I’ll fix ya some lunch. Then ya can jus’ crash by the TV this afternoon.”
“Thanks, Hank. Maybe it were a little soon fer me ta go back ta work.”
“Ain’t really tha’ much ta do ‘round here in winter anyways. Not like it used ta be, anyways. ‘Lessen ya have Ed creatin’ a whole buncha busy work fer ya. Man’s real good at tha’.”
“Heard tha’…” Ed’s voice drifted in from the living room.
“Yeah? Ya gonna tell me it ain’t true?”
“Nah… True ‘nough, I guess… Jus’ like ta keep on top a things. Tha’ way they don’ get ‘way from ya.”
“Be right back, Bill.” Hank walked into the living room and over to Ed, bending down to kiss him on the forehead, “Good ta see ya sittin’ up, Cowboy. How ya feelin’? Feels like yer fever’s broke. Ya hungry?”
“Feelin’ a whole lot better. Jus’ finished a sandwich. Think ‘m gonna go ‘n take a shower… clean up some. Not feelin’ up ta goin’ outside yet, but need some fresh air bad. Migh’ jus’ open the window in our room ‘n take a nice ol’ nap.”
“Jus’ don’ go freezin’ ta death. I’ll come up ‘n put some more blankets on tha’ bed.”
Hank knew Ed loved sleeping with the window open in winter, at least when it wasn’t too bitter cold out. Hank did too, sometimes. It reminded him of their camping trips, he and Ed wrapped together, the cold air no match for the heat they had generated.
“Don’ need ta come up… ‘m well ‘nough tha' I can put a few blankets on the bed…”
Hank then bent over and whispered in Ed’s ear, “Glad yer feelin’ better. Missed ya a whole lot. If’n ya know wha’ I mean…” Hank blew in Ed’s ear to emphasize his point.
Ed tried to sound put out, “Yeah… Guess ‘m only good fer two things ‘round here. Workin’ ‘n…”
“Cookin’… really missed yer cookin’.” Hank laughed, “‘Cept fer yer chili a course.”
“Not polite ta mention chili ta someone jus’ recently back from the brink a death.”
Hank whispered in Ed’s ear again, “Well, if’n yer up ta it, I’ll give ya a proper welcome -back-from-the-brink-a-death party later on. I’ll do all the work. You jus’ relax ‘n enjoy bein’ the guest a honor.”
“Migh’ be catchin’ yet… Don’ wantcha gettin’ this. Ain’t no fun. ‘Sides wantcha feelin’ okay fer tomorrow nigh’.”
“Think if’n I were gonna catch it I’d a caught it by now.” Hank tilted Ed’s head back and kissed him thoroughly.
Ed groaned, “Think ya jus’ made ma already weak knees a l'il weaker. Help me up, Hank.”
Ed groaned as Hank helped him up then he twisted out of Hank’s grasp, laughing, as Hank tried to grab him. Ed headed towards the stairs, “Think ya better go fix Bill some lunch.”
Hank went back into the kitchen and fixed Bill a sandwich then made another for himself. After lunch they went into the living room, Bill sat himself down and Hank picked up a stack of movies, shuffling through them.
“Watcha feel like watchin’, Bill? We got ‘High Noon’, ‘My Darlin’ Clementine’, ‘The Magnificent Seven’…” Hank stopped as he came across their copy of ‘Brokeback Mountain’ then skipped over it, “‘Tombstone’, ‘Unforgiven’…”
“Gotta confess somethin’ here, Hank…” Bill coughed nervously, “...Was bored the other day. You were out workin’ ‘n Ed was upstairs takin’ a nap… Weren’t nothin’ on TV… got tired a watchin’ all them old westerns… Saw tha’ ya had tha’ ‘Brokeback Mountain’…”
Hank wasn’t sure what to say. He could feel his face turning red. Not something that typically happened, “S’okay, Bill… Ya can watch any a the movies we got here…”
“Well… did watch it… Awful sad movie… Never teared-up at a movie ‘fore... but this ‘un… Jeez… ‘n… well… know the story were diff’rent… But… heard you ‘n Ed callin’ each other ‘Rodeo’ ‘n ‘Cowboy’ the other day…”
“Shit.” Hank thought, “We’re usually careful not ta do tha’ in fronta no one… Shit... Ed’s gonna kill me…”
‘N tha’ talk ‘bout shirts… Ed wantin’ ta be buried in a particular shirt… ‘N saw in the credits tha’ a woman name a Annie wrote tha’ story it were based on… Know yer fav’rite horse is named 'Annie'…” Bill cleared his throat, “…Jus’ stop me if’n ‘m way outta bounds here…”
Hank sighed as he sat down. He’d wanted to tell someone for so long. Probably a big part of the reason he’d started writing his and Ed’s story and putting it online, not that anyone really believed it, but still... it was an outlet for the sometimes overwhelming desire to say it out loud to someone. To anyone. “But should he? Without asking Ed first? Bill was a good friend. He would never tell anyone else…But…”
The need to tell won out, “Ain’t outta bounds, Bill… Movie were based on us… kinda… the short story came first a course. Funny thing is… Ed ‘n I ain’t never called each other ‘Rodeo’ ‘n ‘Cowboy’ ‘til tha’ movie come out.”
“Jeez, Hank… how….?”
“Met Annie years ago. Annie Proulx her name is. Was after Ed ‘n I had a real bad fight… cain’t even remember wha’ it were ‘bout... I stormed off… went inta town, ta have a drink by ma self. Didn’ happen but a few times, but always made Ed crazy when I’d go ‘n do tha’. He’d follow me ta town…” Hank laughed, “I’d spot him waitin’ in his truck outside the bar when I came out, tryin’ ta duck down so’s I wouldn’ see him. Then he’d follow me home, laggin’ behind some ‘n pretendin’ later he’d jus’ gone fer a drive ta blow off some steam. I’d jus’ go ‘long with it…makin’ out like I never seen him.”
Hank shook his head, “Always thought it were jealousy or somethin’… I dunno wha’… Weren’t ‘til he stormed off on me once tha’ I figured it out. Ended up doin’ the same damn thing. Lookin’ fer his truck parked outside the bar. Wantin’ ta peer in them windows… make sure he weren’t havin’ no trouble with no one… worryin’ ‘bout not bein’ able ta see the back door if’n I were watchin’ the front… Shit… I were so damn ‘fraid tha’ some a them guys would get it in their heads ta hurt him. Didn’ never worry like tha’ ‘fore we moved in together…”
“Can see why… Some a them fellas what hang out in them bars…”
“Sorry, Bill… more ‘n you wanna know…” Hank paused, “Anways… was in the bar ‘n guess someone musta called me queer or somethin'… didn' happen often, but happened sometimes… I jus’ ignored ‘em… Then, somehow, Annie ‘n I got ta talkin’… she were sittin’ on the barstool nex’ ta mine… Guess she could tell I were upset… suggested movin’ over ta a booth... Hard never havin’ anyone ta talk to ‘bout it. .. Ya know… like other folks… can talk ‘bout havin’ a fight or guys can brag on their wives or girlfriends or talk ‘bout somethin’ funny or stupid they did. Ain’t never been able ta do none a tha’." Hank smiled, "Hell… Tha’ woman sure had a way ‘bout her. Tol’ her lotta stuff ain’t never tol’ no one ‘fore tha’. Or since fer tha’ matter. Well… ‘til I started writin’ it down ma self. Ain’t the same though…”
“Ya jus’ seen her tha’ once?”
“Nah… Saw her again the very next day. Invited her out here. ‘N saw her a few times after tha’. Now she stops by every year or two ta say ‘hey’ ‘n visit some.” Hank laughed, “Shoulda seen me tryin’ ta explain ta Ed why a woman I met at the bar was comin’ over. Tha’ sure as hell drug our figh’ out lot longer.”
Bill laughed, “Can imagine tha’ didn’ go over too well.”
“Got tha’ righ’. Ed weren’t none too happy tha’ I were talkin’ to her. Specially after she tol’ us wha’ she were thinkin’ a writin’ ‘bout.” Hank laughed, “But in the end she won him over good.”
“Ed? He talked ta her? ‘Bout the two a you?”
Hank snorted, “Nah. Ed never did none a the talkin’. Jus’ ended up trustin’ her. Saw she were a real straight shooter. Mighty fine person.” Ed laughed again, “Gotta tell ya though… Don’ think Ed really calmed down good ‘til he finally read tha’ story a hers years later. No way ya could recognize us from it.”
“So Ed ended up likin’ it?”
“Well… cain’t rightly say tha’… Don’ think Ed ever did forgive her fer tha' endin'... Took it real personal-like. ‘N then when tha’ movie were bein’ made. Shit… Never expected tha’. ‘N then never dreamed it’d be tha’ big. Think tha’ nearly did Ed in.”
“Sounds like Ed got put through the wringer but good. Few times even.”
“Sure did. Don’ know tha’ I’d do it again if’n I had it ta do over. But… in the end guess I gotta admit tha’ the good outweighed the bad. ‘Specially nowadays. Been real good.”
“Wanna bet on if’n Ed would say the same?”
Hank laughed, “Not a chance.”
“So… Ya like the movie or the book better? Folks ‘r always talkin’ ‘bout how books are better ‘n the movies they’re made inta. I ain’t never been much fer readin' so’s I cain’t never say.”
“Like ‘em both. If’n ya can use the word ‘like’ ta describe somethin’ tha’ gut-wrenchin’. Both knocked me fer some kinda loop… But… guess tha’ movie packed more of a punch. Jus’ 'cause a seein’ everythin’ up on tha’ big screen, the mountains, them actors, even the sheep… Brought back lotta memories. Funny thing is… some stuff ‘bout us tha’ weren’t in tha’ short story showed up in the movie, not in the same ‘xact way it happened though. Tha’ were quite a s’prise when I saw it. Guess Annie musta told them folks… Diane…or Diana somethin’ ‘n tha’ Larry McMurtry fella who wrote the movie ‘bout all tha’. Or gave ‘em her notes ‘r somethin’… Dunno… Sure gonna s’prise Ed if’n I ever get him ta watch it.”
“Yer kiddin’? Ed ain’t seen it?”
“Cain’t get him ta. Been tryin’… Guess not hard as I coulda... Gotta tell ya… Ain’t been able ta watch tha’ movie more ‘n once ma self. Own the dvd there, but yer the first ta actually watch it. Do wan’ Ed ta see it… but tha’ would mean I’d have ta see it again. Don’ know if’n I can jus’ yet…”
Hank saw himself sitting in that movie theater again, watching the credits roll, not even trying to stop the tears from falling, his heart breaking for Jack and Ennis. He’d been angry with Ed for making him see it alone. After watching the movie he hadn't been angry with Ed anymore. He'd been angry with the whole stupid, ignorant, mean world. And he just wanted to get home to Ed. Needed to wrap his arms around Ed. But he was rooted to that dingy seat, unable to move for a long time, completely overwhelmed by what he’d just seen.
“Jeez… Hank… Did Ed really see tha’… uh… tha’ Earl fella…?"
“Don’ know tha’ I’d a ever got him here with me if’n he had. Lotta tha’ stuff never happened ta us. Ya know… I used ta think Annie jus’ made all tha’ other stuff up… But… maybe she talked ta some other fella… or fellas… too. Fellas maybe not so lucky as me ‘n Ed… ‘Course tha’ ain’t ta say she couldna made it up. Rings awful true ta me though.”
Hank shook his head, “Always played tha’ part down when I’d be tryin’ ta talk Ed inta movin’ in here… part ‘bout folks maybe wantin’ ta hurt us… Prob’bly shouldna. Guess I didn’ wanna believe it ma self. Truth is, still are plenty a folks out there wanna hurt people… do hurt people… jus’ on ‘count a who they love.”
“Don’ worry none Hank… won’ tell no one wha’ ya tol’ me. 'N I won’ tell Ed...”
“’Preciate tha’. Gonna tell Ed I told ya though. Don’ like keepin’ nothin’ from him. Don’ figure he’ll be none too happy with me.” Hank sighed again, “Sometimes… think it migh’ be better if’n folks knew. Maybe do some good… Then again, maybe better folks jus’ know the tragic endin’… Make ‘em think more or somethin’. I dunno… I jus’ dunno…”
“Well… Wouldn’ spend a whole lotta energy worryin’ ‘bout it if’n I were you… cain’t ‘xactly see Ed agreein’ ta let folks know.”
Hank laughed, “Yeah… Guess tha’d be ‘bout the same day as hell froze over.…”
“Gotta tell ya Hank…” Bill hesitated, “Sure is hard fer me ta watch the two a you together sometimes…”
Hank opened his mouth to speak then closed it again. He was startled, not sure what Bill meant, not sure what to say. He just waited for Bill to say something else.
“Way ya are together… jus’… reminds me sometimes… well… lost ma very own ‘Ed’ years back...”
Bill laughed, kind of sadly, “Guess I should say ‘Edna’. Or ‘Edwina’. Ain’t her real name a course. Molly was her name.”
“Wha’ happened?” It was Hank’s turn to hesitate, “Sorry, Bill… Don’ mean ta pry. Ya don’ have ta answer tha’.”
“Hell… I’m the one brung it up. ‘Sides… happened years ago ‘n there ain’t much ta tell.” Bill took a deep breath then let it out, “Didn’ really lose her… Jus’ let her get ‘way. Don’ even know why fer sure. Jus’ stupid I guess… Don’ know wha’ all you ‘n Ed had ta go through… but here I am with Molly… purty much handed ta me on a big ol’ platter… ‘n I jus’ tossed her aside. Ignorant sonofabitch tha’ I was. Still am, come ta think a it.”
Bill was quiet for a moment then went on, “She moved ‘way after we split up. Moved to her sister’s in Colorado. Heard she married a fella there not too long after. Didn’ realize wha’ I’d done ‘til it were too late ta do anythin’ ‘bout it. Tell ya… Tha’ woman made me laugh. Even when we’d be arguin’. Be as stupid as I wanted ‘n she’d jus’ laugh. Only woman ever loved me jus’ fer bein’ me. Sometimes… seems like I can still hear her talkin’ ta me. Still hear her laughin’…”
“Ya ever think a lookin’ her up? Lot a things can change over the years. She migh’ not be married no more.”
Bill sighed, “Thought ‘bout it now ‘n then. Never did. Then… this was a few years back… heard she died in a car crash.”
“Damn… Know tha’ musta been hard to hear.”
“Yeah. Jus’… Jus’ hope she had herself a real good life. Don’ mean rich or nothin’. Jus' a life like you ‘n Ed got together. Feel a whole lot better if’n I knew tha’.”
“Anybody ya could ask?”
“Don’ think so… Maybe her sister. Think she’s still in town. Don’ think I could get up the nerve, though. Woman would think I were nuts.”
“Doubt it. ‘N wha’d it’d matter if’n she did?”
“Migh’ spread it ‘round tha’ I asked.”
“Then ya’d jus’ have every single woman this side a them mountains tryin’ ta mend yer broken heart. Don’ seem so bad.” Hank paused, “...Tha’ why ya never married?”
“Guess so... Been other women... Jus’ ended up comparin’ everyone ta her. Nobody could ever measure up. Guess it’s right hard ta measure up ta a memory.”
“Ya never know…” Hank realized that if he and Ed hadn’t made it he probably would have been in the same situation as Bill. Sure, he would have found someone else, it had never been hard for Hank to find someone else during those years he and Ed had spent apart, but they never would have measured up to Ed. He always would have wanted Ed. Only Ed.
“Yeah… But maybe I oughta lower tha’ bar jus’ a little. Or maybe raise it, let ‘em walk righ’ under ‘stead a havin’ ta jump over. Give someone a fightin’ chance…”
Hank could tell Bill was trying to joke about it, but couldn’t quite manage it, “Dunno what ta tell ya Bill… Like I said before, be willin’ ta invite Betty over when yer ‘round. Jus’ let me know.”
“I’ll think on it some. Let ya know.”
Hank felt awkward all of the sudden, unsure what else to say but feeling the need to say something, he blurted out the first thing that popped into his head, “Ya know… my folks died in a car accident...”
“Didn’ know tha’. Sorry ta hear it, Hank.”
“Was a while after Ed moved in. Lotta years ago now. ‘N kinda misspoke there… My ma’s the one who died in the accident. But my pa pretty much died tha’ day too. Jus’ took him a lot longer ta stop breathin’. Was kids racin’ tha’ hit ‘em.”
“Damn reckless kids. Don’ understan’ how quick it can all be taken ‘way. Heard it were icy roads in a snowstorm what caused Molly’s crash." Bill frowned, "Yer pa got hurt pretty bad, huh?”
“Nah. Not a scratch on him. Jus’… Guess he jus’ kinda lost the will ta live after tha’. Died not more’n six months later.”
Hank thought back to the day of the accident, the day he saw that the light in his pa’s eyes had gone out. A light Hank had never even realized was there. “All those years spent living with my folks… How could I not have seen that?”
“Think my pa blamed himself ‘cause he were drivin’. Weren’t nothin’ he coulda done though. Heard from people who saw it… them boys come outta nowhere. Walked ‘way withou’ a scratch on ‘em. Slap on the wrist ‘s all they got too. ‘Community service’ they called it. Shit...”
Hank could almost see his pa sitting in his chair, fading away before their eyes, the words he had had uttered on that long drive home from the hospital still echoed in Hank’s head, “She weren’t s’posed ta go first. It were s’posed ta be me…”
He’d made it to the hospital in time to say good-bye to his ma. It had been hard. Words had never come easy between them. Hank was glad he'd managed to tell her that he loved her. That she had managed to say to say it back. Then she had asked Hank to promise to look after his pa. And Ed. She’d said Ed needed looking after too. Hank remembered feeling lost, guilty and even kind of surprised at himself, being a grown man and all, because all he could think was, “But who’s gonna look after me?”
Of course Ed had looked after him, and he’d looked after Ed. But at the time he’d felt awfully alone. Still not being a hundred percent sure Ed was gonna stick around for the long haul.
“Damn shame, Hank…”
“Yeah… ‘Course my folks were older… had me purty late in life… ‘N my pa were in poor health fer a long time…”
“Tha' don’ make it any easier…”
“Sure don’…” Hank looked around the room. The place hadn’t changed much over the years, down to the same old creaks in the same old stairs, third down from the top and second up from the bottom. Except for replacing things as they wore out, some furniture, some flooring and the refrigerator, about the only thing he and Ed had done to alter the place was to cut a door through to the bathroom from their bedroom. And they had fixed up the outside some. Had to, or the place would have slowly fallen down around them.
Hank suddenly wished he had put that old fake Christmas tree back up after he and Edthedog had knocked it down. But he had thought they were going to Chicago, so he hadn’t bothered. Didn’t really matter though. Hank could still feel his ma’s presence in every room in the house, from that quilt in their bedroom to the ornate old floor lamp in the living room that she’d been so proud of finding at a yard sale.
But it was the kitchen where Hank could still feel his ma's imprint the strongest. He could almost see her standing over that big old stove frying up a mess of chicken. Or bent over the kitchen table rolling out yet another piecrust. Or maybe calling for Hank to hand her down something from high up in one of those tall, narrow cupboards.
Hank smiled, thinking of how many times he had painted those cupboards for his ma. They had so many coats of paint on them that they were difficult to close in damp weather. Luckily, it was rarely damp. His ma loved a freshly painted kitchen and, while the cupboards were always painted white, it was the only room in the house where his ma let loose with some color on the walls... first it was yellow, then green, then blue, then back to yellow again. It was even lavender once. No matter that it clashed with the countertops.
His pa’s presence was harder to detect. Except in the barn. Over the years, Hank and Ed had practically rebuilt that whole barn, board by board, except for the corner with his pa’s workbench. Hank left that corner untouched. He and Ed still used that workbench and his pa’s tools sometimes. Hank smiled again, thinking about his pa’s old space heater. It looked out of place in that ramshackle barn, even more so when his pa had been standing next to it, like something designed for some future space age. A long ago future now. One that had never come to pass. These days, that old heater probably would have burned the place down if anyone turned it on, but Ed had made sure that wouldn’t happen, leaving it in place but making darn sure it was unusable.
Hank realized Bill was talking, “…can happen so quick. Blink of an eye. Always thought I’d have time. Maybe look Molly up someday. Least-wise find out if’n she were still married.” Bill shook his head, “Don’ know why ‘m still talkin’ ‘bout all this. ‘Preciate it if ya jus’ ferget I ever said anythin’.”
“Maybe it’s catchin’. This reminiscin’. All I been doin’ with this here writin’.”
Bill smiled, “Could be our age catchin’ up ta us too. Been runnin’ a losin’ race there. My age seems ta be gainin’ on me l’il more ev’ry year.”
Hank laughed, “Got least 10 or 12 years on ya. Maybe more. How ya think tha’ makes me feel?”
Bill laughed, “Hell… Ya know well ‘nough you ‘n Ed can run circles ‘round me real easy-like.”
Bill and Hank turned towards the stairs as they heard them creak, Ed was halfway down.
“Ya oughta know Bill, ain’t no self-respectin’ cowboys gonna run nowheres. We migh’ amble or maybe even saunter, but we don’ run. Not ‘lessen we have a horse ‘neath us. Or maybe if’n somethin’s on fire. Somethin’ real important-like.”
Bill laughed, “Hey Ed. Yer lookin’ lot better.”
“Feel lot better.”
“Good. Sure am sorry I gave ya tha’ flu.”
“Ain’t yer fault. Ya couldn’ help it none. ‘Sides, I blame Hank…”
Bill looked a little confused, “Why ya blame Hank?”
Ed grinned, “Blame Hank fer everythin’… Jus’ easier tha’ way.”
“Sounds like a righ’ good idea ta me. Keeps things nice ‘n simple. Hey Hank, mind if’n I blame ya fer everythin’ too?”
“Go right ahead, Bill… cain’t say as I ain’t used ta it.” Hank turned towards Ed, “Thought ya were gonna take a nap?”
“Couldn’ sleep. Too cold.”
“Think maybe ya could close tha’ window ‘n open tha’ heat vent?”
Ed rolled his eyes at Hank, “Thanks Hank. Never woulda thought a tha'.
"Jus' thought maybe tha' fever mighta left ya a l'il addle-brained."
"Left the window open 'cause I wanna get tha’ room good ‘n aired out. Was gettin’ awful stuffy. Changed them sheets too. In fact… 'm feelin’ so much better… thought maybe I’d do some cookin’ fer ya, if’n ya’d like me to.”
Ed wasn't taking any chances this time. There was no way anyone but Hank would have known he wasn’t talking about food.
Hank kept from smiling, but couldn't keep his heart from thumping, “Don’ know if’n yer up ta cookin’ yet, old man. So’s, if’n there's any cookin’ ta be done ‘round here today, guess I’ll be doin’ it. Jus' gotta tell me wha' ya got a taste fer.”
“Okay by me. Kinda like bein' took care of. I'll think on it some... wha' I got a taste fer that is... Maybe somethin' salty..."
"Hey Hank, ain't there some a tha' leftover ham from my sister in yer freezer?"
Hank noticed a ghost of a smile playing at the corners of Ed's mouth, "Think there is. I'll take a look a little later."
Ed sat down on the couch, “Wha’ you two been doin’?”
“Nothin’… Was gonna watch a movie… ended up jus’ talkin’ instead.”
“Well…” Bill got up, “Think ‘m gonna head out…”
“Ya sure, Bill? Yer always welcome ta stay. Long as ya like. Sure Hank won' mind if'n we put another movie in while he gets back ta work.”
Hank was worried, “It weren’t anythin’ we…?”
“Nah… Jus’ bout time I got goin’. Feelin' lot better again since I sat fer a spell. Talkin' 'bout tha' ham reminded me... Think I should be stoppin’ by my sister’s place. Thanks again fer all ya done fer me.”
Hank walked Bill to the door, “Weren’t nothin’ you wouldna done fer us. ‘Sides, been real nice havin’ ya ‘round.”
“Gotta say… Been nice bein’ here too.” Bill stopped, “Sure hope tha’ won’ cause no trouble ‘tween you ‘n Ed… Ya know… me askin’ ‘bout tha' movie 'n all…”
“Nah… don’ think so…” Hank laughed, “Knowin’ Ed, he’ll prob’bly put on a good show fer appearances sake, yell in my gen’ral direction fer a piece, maybe pout some fer good measure ‘n then be done with it. He knows well as I do you won’ tell no one.”
“Sure won’ tell no one…” Bill stopped again and turned towards Hank, “When ya want me back?”
“Ya migh’ as well take tomorrow ‘n the first off. C’mon back on the second. We’ll pay ya jus’ the same a course. Like always. ‘N yer welcome ta stop by anytime if’n ya’d like. Fer the company that is, not fer the work.”
“Thanks, Hank… Jus’ migh’ do tha’.” Bill walked out the door and across the yard to his truck.
Hank went back into the living room, but Ed was gone, “Ed…?”
There was no answer, so Hank called a little louder, “Ed?!?”
Hank grinned, “Still wanna do some a tha’ there cookin’?”
“Nah…Think yer righ’. Don’ think ‘m up ta cookin’.”
“Oh…” Hank tried to keep the disappointment out of his voice as he started towards the stairs, “Ya feelin’ worse again, Cowboy? Can I getcha anythin’?”
“Nah… Jus’ get yerself up here. Thought we migh’ get started on tha’ there party ya were talkin’ ‘bout instead.”
Hank let out a whoop and ran up the stairs and into their bedroom, stopping to quickly strip his clothes off next to the bed.
Ed laughed, “Guess there migh’ be somethin’ else ‘sides a fire can get a cowboy ta run.”
“Damn righ’. Run flat out if’n it’s inta yer arms… anytime.” Hank shivered, walking over to the window to close it he glanced out and saw Bill's truck heading down their driveway to the road. Hank thought about the story Bill had told him and shivered again, not entirely from the cold this time.
"Watcha lookin' at?"
"Nothin'..." Hank closed the window , "Brrrrrr... Ya weren't kiddin' 'bout it bein cold in here."
“C’mere… I’ll warm ya up good.”
Hank ignored Ed and headed towards the bathroom.
“Hey! Them arms ya mentioned runnin' inta are over here Hank…”
“Know where yer arms are. Been workin’ all mornin’. Wanna hop in the shower first.”
“Don’ bother on my 'count… Told ya... got a taste fer somethin' nice 'n salty.”
“Sorry ta disappoint ya... ain't sweaty, jus' kinda dirty. Wanna clean up a l'il."
"Don' mind ya dirty neither."
Hank stuck his head back into the room and gave Ed a grin, "Don’ worry. Still be plenty dirty ‘nough fer ya.”
Shower finished, Hank quickly dried off and jumped into bed with Ed.
“C’mere… You can warm me up now. Freezin’ m’ ass off here.” Ed pulled Hank towards him, his mouth finding Hank’s easily.”
Hank reluctantly broke that kiss, “Wait a minute, Ed… Gotta tell ya somethin’ first... Don’ wantcha kissin’ me under false pretenses…”
“Watcha talkin’ ‘bout?”
“Well… Don’ know ‘xactly how ta tell ya this…”
“Gettin’ me kinda worried here, Hank… Whatever it is… Jus’ spit it out.”
Hank took a deep breath, “Okay… Here goes… Bill watched our copy a ‘Brokeback Mountain’ the other day when you was sleepin’ ‘n I were out workin’ ‘n he asked me ta day if’n tha’ movie were based on us ‘count a us callin’ each other ‘Rodeo’ ‘n ‘Cowboy’ in front a him ‘n all tha’ talk ‘bout tha’ shirt ‘n ma favorite horse bein’ named Annie ‘n then I kinda told him the truth ‘bout meetin’ Annie ‘n tha’ it were kinda based on us ‘n all, but maybe on some other fellas too...”
Hank took another breath and closed his eyes, not wanting to see whatever look might now be on Ed’s face. Suddenly, Ed’s lips were back on his.
Hank broke the kiss again, “Ain’t ya mad?”
“Ain't mad. Ain't happy 'bout it neither. But... ya couldn’ rightly lie ta Bill. ‘Sides doubt no one but Bill would ever figure it out from tha’ story. Ain’t hardly like ours at all. ‘N know fer a fact tha’ he sure as hell won’ tell no one. ‘S yer story ‘m more worried ‘bout folks readin’ ‘n puttin’ two ‘n two together…” Ed hesitated, “…Think sometimes maybe ya wan’ someone ta figure it out...”
“Maybe I do… sometimes… but don’ think ya gotta worry none ‘bout it. Don’ think it’s gonna happen.” Hank climbed on top of Ed, moaning and biting his lip as Ed grabbed him and held him close, moving against him, “Jeez, Ed… Cut tha’ out fer a sec… Cain’t think straight if’n yer doin’ tha’…”
“Don' really wan' ya thinkin' straight... kinda defeat the whole purpose here.”
Hank laughed, “Guess yer righ' 'bout tha'..."
Ed tried to pull Hank in for a kiss, but Hank avoided him, "Hold yer horses, Ed... Got some business ta attend to first. Now… As the guest a honor a this here welcome- back-from-the-brink-a-death-party, wha’ would ya like done ta ya first?”
“How ‘bout ya jus’ make it a s’prise party?”
“You been s’prisin’ me well ‘nough lately…Guess I oughta be able ta do the same fer you.”
Ed let loose of Hank, flinging his arms out to the side, “Okay… S’prise me…”
“I’ll see what I can come up with here…”
Ed laughed, “Well tha’ ain’t ‘xactly gonna be no surprise...”
“So ya gettin’ bored with me already? Only been some forty-odd years, give or take a few…”
“Lemme think… I been irritated, infuriated, confused, amused, exasperated…”
Hank shut Ed up with a long, slow kiss …
“…frustrated ‘n annoyed with ya... But I sure as hell ain’t never been bored with ya. 'Course tha' ain't ta say it couldn' never happen... Always a first time fer everythin'...”
“Ya ‘bout done?”
Hank kissed Ed again, long and slow again …
“So..." Ed let out a big, exaggerated yawn and pointedly craned his neck to look at the clock on the nightstand, "Ya think any a them s’prises migh’ be startin’ anytime soon?"
“Hank? Hank…? Where ya goin’ Hank? C’mon back...” Hank had made it halfway out of bed before Ed grabbed his arm, pulling him back.
“C’mere, Hank.” Ed reeled Hank in, wrapping his arms around him and holding him close, whispering in his ear, “Truth is... 'm s’prised all the time... s'prised a stupid sonofabitch like me could be lucky ‘nough ta spend ma life with you... 'm s'prised every mornin' when I open m' eyes 'n see ya lyin' next ta me...'n every nigh' when I get ta fall asleep holdin' ya in m'arms... 'n every minute a each 'n every day I get ta spend with ya..."
“Jeez, Ed… ain't fair... there ya go s’prisin’ me again when I’m the one s’posed ta be s’prisin’ you..." Hank turned in Ed's arms, his eyes catching and holding Ed's, "Ya know I feel the 'xact same way... dontcha?"
Hank didn't wait for Ed to answer.
He just pulled Ed into another long, slow kiss ...
“Ya know Hank, if'n ya don' think ya can s'prise me, how ‘bout I promise ta act s’prised ‘bout whatever yer gonna do ta me… even if’n I ain’t… ‘Course tha’ ain’t ta say I won’ be enjoyin’ it...”
“Oh you won’ have ta do no actin’… Think I thought of a way ta s’prise ya alrigh’. Ya care ta make a wager on it?”
"Nope. Only bet when I know I cain't lose."
“Damn… Hank… Damn... cain’t say as I were ‘xpectin’ tha’… Think I could get used ta this guest a honor stuff. ”
“Jus' didn’ wantcha ta overexert yer self… seein’ as yer still recoverin’ ‘n all…” Hank gave Ed a gentle kiss, “How ya feelin’? Y’okay? Ya warm 'nough?”
“I'm jus’ ‘bout fine as I could be. Thanks fer askin’.”
Hank laughed, “Yer welcome ‘m sure…” Then he gave Ed another long, slow kiss...
“...Uh... Hey, Hank... don' wanna bother ya or nothin'... but...”
“Would ya mind untyin’ me?”
"I'll untie ya... but I sure as hell ain't never lettin' ya go."
"Wouldn' have it any other way..."