Bobby helped Benito load up the truck. Didn't need much, few supplies was all-- along with a whole lot of bags of M&Ms. Ennis didn't see why Benito needed candy for curin' a bull with bloat. Although he trusted Benito's judgment, Ennis had ta ask. Alls Benito said was they was a gift. A gift. Benito sure gave plenty, and Ennis reckoned Benito gave a lot more than he got. Seemed ta him that givin' made for a happy man-- leastwise it did in Benito's case. Still, Ennis knew his friend probably gave away more than he could afford at times-- that's why guilt gnawed at Ennis soon as he seen Benito's spankin' new truck. Ennis was pretty danged sure that Benito never would have bought this new truck if it wasn't for Jack and him.
"When'd ya get this?" Ennis asked, brushin' as his hand over the smooth surface like he was inspectin' a brood mare.
"A recent purchase. It is not new, but new to me," Benito said.
Ennis patted the hood and looked around, wonderin' where his old truck was. "Looks new."
"Not to worry. I put your old girl out to pasture in the back barn."
"My truck didn't make it far fer ya, I suppose." Ennis leaned against the fender and Benito chuckled.
"If you must know, Señor Ennis, my old bones didn't make it that far in your truck."
Ennis wiped his brow with the back of his hand. His old truck did have bad springs. And bad tires. And a cracked windshield. And backfired somethin' fierce.
"Can't thank ya enough for givin' us the use of your truck to go after them hombres." Ennis squinted his eyes. "Sorry ya had ta go off n' buy a new one."
"Ahh, well, I can't complain--this one has one important extra that my old truck did not--air conditioning."
Ennis opened the cab door and turned ta Jack. "Comin'?" he asked.
"Think I'll ride in the back bed with Bobby and Nina," Jack said. Nina wagged her tail gleeful-like, and Bobby looked almost as excited as she did, way he bounced and grinned. Seemed to Ennis his son was actin' more and more like his pa.
"We really gonna get ta see some buckin' bulls?" Bobby asked.
Benito smiled over the top of the cab. "I do not think it will be buckin' but there will be a bull."
Ennis opened the tailgate for Jack and Jack and Bobby climbed in the back, although they didn't seem ta need his help none. Nina leaped in behind with a bark. Yep, Jack done just fine 'n let Bobby help him to the back so's he could lean against the cab. Had ta say that Jack took it well, better than he did a few weeks ago when helpin' him was more like hurtin'.
Ennis walked around the truck thinkin' about the way things was and the way things was gonna be. Never would have thought that he'd be here with Jack and have family acceptin' them like this.
Them first few days was shaky, Ennis had ta admit. Both Lureen and Bobby did the eggshell walk. Didn't take long for a new kind of normal ta set in. Lureen was nothin' like Alma, that was for sure. Never cottoned much to comparin' women ta fillies but if ever a woman was like one, it'd be Lureen Newsome. Woman had the same fire. Yep, Lureen was a feisty filly: she'd rear up instead of lope, then toss her mane right pretty. Right then he knew what a young Jack Twist saw in her. She's the kinda filly that kicks and nips and never gets completely tamed, yet had them kind, wise eyes. Ennis seen the look in so many fine young mares. Nurtured her colt damn fine too.
And Jack did have a fine son. Yes, sir, had a lot of Jack in him. Same forgivin' ways. And the way Bobby treated him--Ennis still couldn't believe it. He reckoned that all them months thinkin' on his daddy dead had a heap ta do with Bobby's attitude toward Ennis.
And Jack, he was full of surprises, too. Risin' early, readin'. And although dodgin' bullets and out-foxin' hombres were right admirable tasks, meetin' with doctors was like askin' Jack to roll around with a mess of rattlesnakes. Fact was, Ennis was damn surprised this morning when Jack agreed so easily ta goin' for that second opinion. Still couldn't believe Lureen and him got Jack ta go.
Ennis turned to Benito. "Gotta thank ya, doc, it worked. Jack is gonna go ta one of them specialists." His friend smiled at that. "Was Lureen who done it-- pulled the Bobby card."
"Never underestimate the power of a woman to induce guilt," Benito said.
Ennis recalled how he had skittered around the issue fer days, knowin' it was a sore spot with Jack. Every time Ennis hinted of seein' another doctor, Jack's arms would cross and his jaw would twitch. Ennis was more of a direct-route kinda man, but there were times when direct routes got ya nowhere. That's when Ennis decided ta talk ta Benito about it. Talked to the Sister too. Seems they was all in agreement-- Jack should git a second opinion. Knew they was workin' on him. Went ta Lureen last. Truth was, talkin' to her was plumb easier than he expected.
So Ennis left it up to Lureen, and she'd told Jack straight-out. When Ennis came up on 'em and added his two bits, made Ennis' day when Jack agreed. Seemed quick but Ennis knew better. Knew all them friends 'n family's words had weighed on Jack's mind. Yep, Ennis reckoned Jack's mind was already made up, and Lureen's words was the last step.
Was a long, dirty ride. Imagined that the back of the truck wasn't such an easy ride, but sittin' in the cab next ta Benito, Ennis could hear Jack wrigglin' around in the truck bed with Bobby and Nina. Ennis glanced back at 'em numerous times. Weren't checkin' up, just makin' memories. Made him feel warm inside the way father and son got on together. Way they played, they was like two pups most times. And his daddy bein' blind didn't stop Bobby from wrestlin' or jokin'. They was that way on the ride there and despite the heat 'n dirt they frolicked around.
Soon they found hills covered in lush Bermuda grass and followed the road to a wide wooden threshold.
"Name of the place is El San Luis," Benito said.
For the most part, the house was weathered but well-kept. The rest of the place was the same-- the barns, the livestock. The tidy home looked inviting with old rockin' chairs and wood on the steps shiny from wear.
They were greeted by seven children in an assortment of sizes all dressed in the same worn brown pants and yellowed shirts. All of them ran along side the truck shouting, "Señor Benito! M&Ms! M&Ms!" Their faces seemed as bright as the sun ta Ennis. A short, scruffy man with thick white hair limped up behind them. He was dressed pretty much the same and wore a proud smile on his face as he took in the band of children. Ennis reckoned that he must be their grandfather.
Benito parked the truck and reached over and opened the glove compartment, and the bags of candy plopped into Ennis' lap. Ennis and Benito climbed out bearing candy-coated treats. But the children had a new interest. Nina. And she loved it-- ear-scratching, tummy-rubbing, face-licking fun.
Jack and Bobby were right behind, laughin'. Ennis climbed out of the cab only ta find himself circled by gigglin' and skippin' children. Ennis couldn't understand a word they was sayin' to him, but it didn't matter none-- their glee was contagious. The old guy started conversin' with Benito while the children chased Nina. Ennis watched the doc patiently nod and look over to the corral that the old guy pointed to-- he seen the bull then. Big bull, had ta be over 2,000 pounds, with head lowered, eyes bulgin' and one side distended.
Jack turned ta Ennis and kicked the dirt. "Imagine ya worked with bulls o' plenty," Jack said.
"Imagine." Ennis shifted his weight. "Beef bulls and some dairy, used for stud. No ridin' ones. This here is a stud. Benito said it's a damn valuable one, too."
"So's the bull was raised in a herd," Jack stated. "That's good. They ain't so damned confrontational when raised with other bulls. You'd think it'd be the other way around."
"Don't know, seems ta me if ya ain't never been 'round somethin' yer whole life, puts the fear in ya. Makes ya rear your head."
"Bull's got bloat. Problem is he keeps gettin' it, and Benito can't figure where he's gettin' it from since they been keepin' him on dry hay. Only put him out in dry pasture."
"The cure sure ain't no fun," Jack said, thrustin' his hands in his pockets.
Benito and the old guy stepped over, makin' introductions. The old guy's name was Luis, and he didn't speak English. Ennis and Jack's knowledge of Spanish was damned limited, although they had been pickin' up a bit bein' around Benito. Ennis took in some of what was said. Seemed the bull was right sickly, and Luis was worried he might lose his best bull.
He shooed his grandchildren into the house out of harm's way. They begged ta take Nina with 'em, but Nina wouldn't leave Jack. The children went inside reluctantly, wavin' to Nina and munchin' on M&Ms. Luis then led the doc out ta the bull.
Ennis took Jack's elbow with just enough of a touch ta let him know where they was goin'.
When they got to the bull, Benito, Luis and Ennis got the bull in the pen while Jack and Bobby stood off ta the side. Ennis knew the bull was goin' bad, way its mouth was all frothin' and side blown up almost twice the size of the other.
Didn't matter ta Jack. No way that Ennis needed his help so he hung back with his son as they herded the bull into the pen. Couldn't walk completely away, instead he counted off the14 paces-- Nina followed next ta him at his heels and sat right at his feet when Jack leaned against the gate. Jack found that countin' steps was comin' more and more natural. Sometimes he didn't realize he was doin' it. Bobby stood not far from him, but Jack kept himself between his son and the bull. Damn things were so unpredictable, didn't matter that the bull was sick-- damn things move fast. Lots of animals in this world you can trust but one of them ain't a bull.
Remembered when he could have helped them get the bull in the pen. Now he felt like he was in the way.
Heard the day move 'round him like a thousand whispers. Was like that sometimes. Time slowed and the wind and sand and sun became part of a swift rush of sound that Jack had ta separate. Listened to Bobby's boots kickin' dirt, listened to the bull stompin' and gurglin' as Ennis and Benito slipped the hose down the bull's throat. No small task. Then Jack had one of them feelings. Thing was, Jack understood now that nothin' came without a warnin' in life. Sounds and movement and scent. There was always a sign, just that most people never noted 'em. Jack felt it before the bull spun. Smelled the bull. Felt it in the air. Jack's only thought was gettin' Bobby outta harm's way -- it came an instant before the loud crack of the boards as they snapped under 2,000 pounds of pressure. "Bobby! Get over the fence!" he yelled, then pushed his son out of the bull's sights ta safety.
He knew his best change was ta go low: he done a 180, then rolled to the ground-- right under its legs. A sharp pain bit through him as a hoof clipped his side. Everything slowed suddenly. His arms and legs were light like air. Heard every hoof echo. When choosin' between hooves and horns, Jack'd take hooves any time. As time slowed more, he felt the bull's froth splash in his face and knew the horns were right behind. One caught him, felt the white-heat as it grazed his side, felt the warm, wet gush of blood. He rolled and rolled. Like in one of them slow motion dreams a his. Ennis hollered, but Jack yelled more, tellin' Ennis ta get back 'cause he heard him climbin' off the fence. Heard Bobby's voice too along with Benito's and Luis', but they was a safe distance away. It was Nina's bark right next ta him that made him jump. His only thought was ta keep rollin'. The fence. Had ta get under the corral fence and away; it had to be only inches. Knew he wasn't hurt bad, yet. Had ta get under the fence and away before somethin' bad did happen. And there it was, there, his hand touched it, and under he went, slippin' beneath the worn boards with the bull's horn whistlin' behind him. Face down in the dirt, Jack moved a bit, testin' ta see how he was. Benito and Ennis were right there, hoverin' over him.
"I'm ok. Nothin' broke," Jack said, as much to himself as to the others. Nina was lickin' his face, makin' Jack laugh, half out of crazy relief and half 'cause it tickled.
"Yer bleedin'!" Bobby croaked out.
Jack patted his side. No use kiddin' himself. It hurt fuckin' bad, still, "Just a nick," Jack said between clenched teeth. "Been hurt lots worse than this rodeoin'."
Benito inspected the wound closer.
"Señor Jack is right. He is not gored; it is only a graze, but he will need stitches."
"I take it that the bull's fine from that stinkin' burp I just heard in my ear," Jack said. "Must be all that activity got the gas out."
Benito laughed. Jack heard the doc speakin' ta Luis in Spanish.
Ennis got down next ta Jack. Felt Ennis' hand brush his forehead, then his mouth close, breath like a whisper. "Shit, Jack. Don't go scarin' me like that. Thought I was gonna lose ya again."
"Take more 'n an old bull ta do that," Jack groaned. "You should know that. Now help me up."
Ennis gave him his hand.
"Can I go to the doctor with ya and watch ya get stitches?" Bobby asked as they headed for the truck. "I watched when I got stitches in my foot. Remember? When I stepped on that broken glass. Can I, Dad?"
"Sure ya can," Jack said, stoppin'. "But don't need ta go to a doctor. Benito can do it here."
"Let's get you home to my office," Benito said, helpin' him into the truck, "then I will clean you up and see."
Bobby climbed behind the seats in the cab. "That was so cool, Dad, the way you saved me."
"Happened so damn fast," Ennis said, sittin' next ta Jack. "Was holdin' the bull's head by the horns, and the doc had the hose down its throat, next thing I knew the bull twisted. Boards busted apart like twigs, and the bull went chargin' at Bobby."
"That's when ya pushed me," Bobby said.
"Damn, Jack, ya moved faster than that damned ol' bull."
"Knew a lot of rodeo clowns in my life. Reckon I learned me a trick or two from 'em." Jack leaned back into the seat and groaned as they began the bumpy ride back to Benito's.
"You are sore now," Benito observed, "but you will be more sore tomorrow."
"You got that right," Jack said. "What I need is a drink. Ya got any whiskey at that place a yers?"
Jack relaxed on the bed. The stitches Benito gave him didn't hurt much; it was his side where the bull stepped on him that bothered him most. He heard Ennis movin' round the room, gettin' ready for bed. Was times like these that Jack missed seein' most. Remembered how he used to watch Ennis sheddin' his clothes near the campfire.
"Excitin' day," Jack said. "Done good for a blind man."
"It's ok. I was thinkin', 'bout the specialist--"
"Hell, Jack. Thought that was decided."
"Don't worry none-- I ain't goin' back on my word. Guess doctors are good for somethin'," Jack said, rubbin' his side. "Benito did a good job sewin' me up. Besides, goin' to the specialist is a good idea. Maybe they do know more. Never know. Maybe I will be able ta see again."
Ennis got all quiet.
"Yep," Jack repeated, "it was an excitin' day. Didn't know veterinary medicine was so dangerous. 'Course guess I should a knowed since they work with sick animals. Sick big animals. Imagine Benito's been hurt more than a time or two. He's a good vet. Did a right nice job sewin' me up too."
"And the bull got relief," Ennis laughed.
Jack licked his lip. "More than I'm gettin' right now."
Jack felt the bed dip as Ennis settled in beside him.
"Think I can do somethin' about that," Ennis murmured, gettin' on his knees next ta him. "But gotta go easy on ya, 'cause I know you're mighty sore."
"Hell, Ennis, not that sore. Shit!"
"How 'bout a mouth full 'o Jack Twist?"
Although Jack didn't believe that the doc would order that prescription, had ta think what Ennis was doin' was just what the doctor ordered. Felt Ennis movin' between his legs and his lips slip tight around his cock. Bed bounced in time ta Ennis' head. Best feelin' ever havin' his man's mouth wet and slick bobbin' up and down hot and hard on his dick. Bit his lip ta keep from cryin' out so's he wouldn't disturb Bobby. Came fast, like a rocket. Ennis crawled in next to him when it was over, nuzzlin' his neck and kissin' his lips nice 'n tender-like.
"When was the last time I said I loved ya?" Ennis whispered.
"Think it was about two nights ago," Jack smirked, "when I was puttin' it to ya good."
Ennis chuckled against his neck. "Well, guess I'll say it again: Love ya, Jack Twist."
"Feeling's mutual, cowboy."
Jack closed his eyes ta go ta sleep. Jack wondered on that before. Funny thing closin' yer eyes ta sleep when yer blind. Habit, he guessed.