Chapter: 3 :: Out of the Doghouse
Disclaimer: 100% work of fiction, stealing from Annie Proulx. This is my attempt to reconcile Real Life with Brokeback Mountain. Annie maintains that BBM is a work of fiction, and I'll believe her there. A girl can dream.
Summary: Rob Ennis sure does remember Jack Williams, but he wishes he could forget the day he told Annie that story. Will he ever be able to tell his granddaughter about Jack?
Rating: soft R
AN: Thanks to my beta jack_fing_twist
Chapter 1: Based on a True Story
Chapter 2: Blue Eyes
View the Chapters at ff.net
Non Fiction Chapter 3: Out of the Doghouse
The smoke twisted through the chill night, until the stiff Wyoming winter wind unwound it, and Rob gripped his heavy coat more tightly about him. He watched the plume of smoke reform, and inhaled awkwardly on the last of the cigarette before snubbing it in a brown plastic ashtray. He started at the sound of the door opening.
“Daddy? What are you doing outside? It’s freezin’!”
Rob shook his head minutely, barely turning to see Gerry out of the corner of his eyes. “Below freezin’.” A proud smile licked at his lips, a joke being a rare enough thing from Rob Ennis.
Gerry stepped onto the patio, shutting the glass door behind her. She sat down next to Rob in a matching brown-and-orange-tubing-strung lawn chair, separated from her father by a rickety white plastic table, and that brown plastic ashtray.
“How’d your talk with Kimmie go?”
Rob’s mouth turned up in a grimace as he fished another cigarette from his pocket. Gerry had asked him to quit countless times, but he just kept on ignoring her. “Didn’ believe me.”
“Some kinda joke.”
Gerry laughed, “Well, it is far-fetched.”
“Gerry, would ya really a told her if I hadn’t?”
“No, Daddy... that’s just not the kind of thing you should keep bottled inside, and I don’t know that I can handle it.”
Rob nodded. “I didn’t think I wanted her ta know,” he paused to eye Gerry, “but now she don’t believe me? I feel pretty bummed about that.”
“You want me to talk to her?”
Rob shook his head. “Might try again. Haven’t decided.”
Gerry just nodded. Rob could see she was suppressing shivers when she spoke again, “Dad, what happened to your Jack?”
Unable to respond, Rob waved his cigarette around in the air a bit. “Well, well you seen the movie, Gerry. Jesus.”
“Jus’ like that, like in the movie?”
“Hell, I dunno, that’s what I tol’ Annie, though. Jack never could keep his damn trap shut proper.” Ennis thought about Jack’s mouth descending on him and thought how grateful he was for that fact, until that postcard-day. He blushed furiously at the memories he was having sitting next to his daughter.
“Sorry to hear that,” she mumbled through lips full-out chattering now. “Daddy, it’s too cold, I gotta go inside.”
“Wait.” Rob turned to her. “We’re bein’ all truths around here now, that right?”
Gerry nodded, shiny eyes serious by the single house light on the patio.
“Rick ain’t Kimmie’s dad. No one in Rick’s family, ours neither, got hair like that. Dark, I mean.”
Gerry frowned at him, serious still. “Daddy, you ain’t one to judge fidelities—“
“Ain’t judging,” Rob interrupted, “jus' asking.”
Gerry sighed. “Alright. ‘Member when the oil company moved Rick to Texas and he and I were fightin’ all the time? I got that secretary job at that farm dealership I told you about?”
Rob groaned, stamped out the second cigarette in the brown ashtray, like he was trying to stamp something out of his life.
Gerry was confused by his reaction, but she continued. “A floor manager there, name a Robert...” she trailed off, started up again, “well, he was so nice, not like Rick.” She frowned.
“Yeah, Daddy, you know h—" She stopped mid-stride.
Rob felt all the color go from his face for a second. Apparently he wasn’t the only Ennis suckered in by the Williams charm. “Bobby Williams.” Rob shook his head. “Never knew 'im. But, ya know, Jack named him for me? His wife, Lori-Anne, didn’t have much opinion in the matter, turns out. Jack weren't too keen on namin' another Williams after his daddy.”
“Daddy, I.... I don’t know what you want me to say. We gotta... I gotta...”
“That she’s not Rick’s. A damn sight better than being that idiot’s child, I thought. Got me outta the custody battle. It's good for her to know, too, for, you know, medical reasons and whatnot.”
“You ever tell her who her real daddy was?”
“Nope, I mean, he was just some—just some floor manager—guess I should. Not just some floor manager any more, is he?”
Rob shook his head. “You do what you want, Ger, and I gotta do what I need. All these truths, worry they could break a girl.”
Now Gerry shook her head, “She’s strong, Daddy, knows who she is, truths ain’t likely to break her. Me, maybe. You? For sure. Not Kim. She’s the most grown of us all,” Gerry laughed.
Rob didn’t think it was too funny. He’d spent too many years already beatin’ himself up for not knowing how to be a man. “Well, I ain’t afraid of truths no more, Gerry, so you lay ‘em on me much as you want.” Truths were far more freein’ that he’d known.
"Alright." She was looking at him like he'd suddenly morphed into some strange zoo-creature, or mebbe a unicorn, those big girl-eyes he was receivin'. "Alright, Daddy. Don't have any more jus' now, but I think of some, I'll tell you."
He nodded, missing the amusement dripping from Gerry's eyes and lips.
"Meanwhile, I'm gonna die of cold, and you will too, if ya don't head inside." She stood and pulled on his sleeve.
Rob hobbled up, feeling every year of sixty-one, and still a rugged old ranch-hand, arthritis in every body part, and the cold wind wrapping around him. Why the hell was he outside in this shit cold, anyway? The howling wind made him feel small and safe on the inside, even if it bruised and battered his bones on the out. No explaining that.
Finally reclining in bed, hours after he'd meant to be, and too few hours until dawn, sleep still couldn't extend a helpin' hand to Rob. Not anyone ever extending a helpin' hand, dammit. He was in a right rotten mood, too. Finally his mind settled on Kimmie, and his thoughts got all riled up again. Kimmie. Dammit, but she had Jack's eyes, and some of Jack's smile, although those thick red lips weren't from Jack or Lynn or him. Only one place left for them to come from, Lori-Anne. That was how it was, all four of them all wrapped up in that girl, like some horrible thunderstorm had crashed them all together, and as usual Jack'd come out on top. But she had Rob's carefree curls, only long like a girl's should be, and dark like any child a his and Jack's would have been.
The thought stopped him cold. He'd never imagined a child of his and Jack's. That didn't make no sense, two men, and a child. With Lynn, before he'd met Jack, he used to wonder what their kids would look like, red haired or blond, dark eyes or light. With Jack there'd been no kids. Not until now. Not until fuckin' now. Now there was.
There was no explainin’ it all. Too much coincidence; couldn’t all be coincidence, and that left something Rob couldn’t believe. He’d been in the doghouse with his God since he was nineteen, but he couldn’t think of any other way they’d all gotten mixed up in each other like this. Maybe this was some kind of punishment or taunt. Sure didn’t feel like a punishment, though. Those Jack-blue girl eyes seemed more like a reward. The God he believed in didn’t reward men like him. Or so he’d though, ‘til now. Maybe he weren’t in the doghouse after all? Maybe he’d never been? Sure had felt like it all these years, but maybe he’d served his time, and there weren’t nothin’ left to be ashamed of? ‘Cause there weren’t nothin’ left at all, truth be told. Nothin’ but his grandbaby. Cold mid-night hours and Rob climbed out of bed again.
He had one thing on his mind: Kimmie had to know about Jack, had to really know about him, what her granddaddy had been like, the way he used to laugh carefree like she did, the way he was picky with his water, kept his trucks clean, liked to muss up Rob's hair when he was asleep, all them things. 'Course there were some things just between Rob and Jack, but Kimmie deserved to know her other granddaddy, the better of the two. And if Gerry didn't want to tell Kimmie about Bobby Williams, Rob would just have to beg her forgiveness later. Wasn't nothin' else for it. Rob had to tell, like those preachers used to say in church, how about if something filled your soul it also came spillin' out of your mouth. Well, Rob was near to runnin' over now.
He found he'd slung on his jacket again, landed himself back on the patio, only it was even colder now and he couldn't suppress shivers. Not ten minutes of teeth railing against teeth, and the glass door slid open behind him again.
"You either? I was coming down for some milk. You okay?"
"Yeah, just needed some fresh air."
Kimmie's teeth-rattling had started by now. "It's, like, minus twelve out here." A bit of an exaggeration, but it didn't feel like one.
"Come on, baby girl, you don't need to be standin' out here. Let's go inside and get you some hot cocoa." Rob stood and pulled Kimmie inside by her bathrobe sleeve. Putting on the over-sink light, he filled the kettle with water and set it on the stove.
Kimmie hugged her robe more tightly around herself and plopped down at the kitchen table. For a minute, all was silent. When she spoke again, he voice sounded years smaller. "Wasn't a joke, was it, granddad?" Rob, pouring out hot water into two mugs of cocoa mix, barely moved his head, but anyone who knew him would have said it was an emphatic head-shake. "I'm sorry, granddad, I... I really thought it was a joke."
"Know ya' did, darlin'. Nothin’ to apologize for." He didn't know how to turn around and face this girl right now, so he just stood there, head drooped over hot cocoa. He would have to face her eventually. He dragged the cocoa to the table, eyes still hanging, and placed one mug in front of her.
She cleared her throat, and continued, "I know... I know I'm alright with the story, but it was fictional then."
Rob was afraid he was about to get the 'I can't handle that you're queer' thing from Kimmie, too. The reason he'd been alright with telling her is that he didn't think he would get that from her, and she was about to give it, alright. Maybe he was still afraid of truths, after all. He dragged his eyes up to meet hers, but she was staring into her too-hot-to-drink cocoa. Finally, her voice cracked to a start.
"I... you know, I have a couple gay friends at school. One of my best friends is gay. I just... I guess I thought of it as something that belonged to my generation or something." She shrugged and met her grandfather's eyes. "I'm surprised, but it's alright. I was just wrong, I guess. I'm glad you told me, though."
Silence stretched on between them, Rob fighting back tears, and both drinking their cocoa with a headstrong determination against the heat, a determination that comes from sitting up at two in the morning in a cold house and thinking fondly on your down comforter again.
Kimmie was the next to speak again. "Did he die?"
"Yup." Some more silence weighed down between them.
"Would you be willing to tell me about your Jack? I want to hear about the good times you had and all the happy things." She smiled. "I want to feel like I remember him, but just the happy things. I mean, if you feel like it sometime."
"I'm feel like it now, darlin'. Took me forty years to be feel so, an I do. Tomorrow, mebbe."
She nodded. "Do you mind if I write it down, so I can remember?"
"Nope." Their cocoas finished, Rob had something else to tell Kimmie, but she looked too small in her pink pajamas and oversize robe. She was still such a little girl. She didn't need more than she asked for. Besides, she already wanted to know all about Jack, what reason was there to go into details right now about her parentage? He decided to leave that bit to Gerry's discretion after all. They both rose from the table and set their mugs in the sink. Rob rubbed Kimmie's back gently in the mostly-dark kitchen. "You sleep well, baby girl, and don't let any of this worry you none. We'll talk tomorrow evenin' bout it if you still want to."
Kimmie nodded and shuffled off to bed. Rob turned off the over-stove light and followed her. He found himself fast asleep just in time to wake up a couple hours later, and start his daily routine all over again.