morrobay1990: (Default)
[personal profile] morrobay1990
Title: All-American Boy
Author: [ profile] morrobay1990
Genre: Jack, before
Word count: 1550
Disclaimer: Jack & Ennis are AP's.
♥ Jack

Inspiration: All-American Boy, Steve Grand

all american boy

By the time he was seventeen and out on his own, he figured he was just like any other all-American boy except for that one thing...but he was gonna fix that...somehow.

It wasn’t easy following the rodeo circuit, but then, he was used to not easy. He fell into the routine and bull-riding seemed the right choice. There were a lot of guys his age, they’d hang out between rides and watch the older men, try to pick up pointers...thing is, the old guys weren’t any better than the kids he was watching with...not many eight second rides.

He fought his feelings as much as he fought the bulls he rode. But one night was night that he thought everything might be all night, along with countless others not yet seen, that would remain in his memory until his last breath.

After his last ride of the day - six seconds, third place - he’d cleaned up best he could in one of the bathrooms in a gas station near the rodeo grounds...his intent was to go to the nearest bar, order three shots and pass out in his truck...what passed for entertainment on the road.

At six-thirty he pulled up to Red’s, the only bar that would serve the kids on the rodeo circuit who were under twenty-one, and saw there was already a big crowd outside...turns out that the place was having a barbecue to celebrate the last weekend of the brought in big money for the town and all the businesses, and they were trying to draw as many as they could to give the rodeo a good send-off.

The parking lot in back had been transformed with picnic tables, complete with red and white plastic tablecloths, chairs on both sides to accommodate the crowd, strings of lights criss-crossing the parking lot, running from the bar to an old barn further back, a makeshift stage where local boys were tuning up to play home-grown country songs that featured slide guitar.

On one side of the lot stood two giant waist-high freezers side by side, full of big ice chunks floating in frigid water, where dozens of bottles of beer bobbed. But what was on the other side was the star.

A row of smokers and barbecues stood there, manned by country chefs joking back and forth about their prowess at the grill and cooking up the best the west had to offer: slabs of pork ribs thick with dark red sauce slathered on using long-handled mop-like basters...brisket slowly cooking until the meat was so tender no knife needed, the smokers billowing aromatic clouds every time the lid was raised...dozens of hamburgers two inches thick, and hot dogs and bratwurst with thick black grill marks.

A separate table held huge bowls of homemade side dishes cooked by the women in town, things Jack hadn’t had since he’d left home...stacks of cornbread and plates of butter softening in the heat, covered with saran wrap to keep the flys off...baked beans sugary with molasses and simmered the whole day with bacon and chunks of onion, corn on the cob roasted on the grill and piled high waiting to be drenched in salt and butter, creamy potato salad and vinegary cole slaw, plates of deviled eggs, dozens of loaves of bread.

Next to the savory, were the desserts, the pride of so many of the women and featured at the fair year after year...three layer chocolate cake, pineapple upside down cake, brownies an inch thick, every kind of pie – apple, blueberry, cherry, rhubarb.

There were all the makings of a country feast.

Jack stood on the edge for a minute taking in the scene, then made his way to the cooler and plunged his hand in the icy water to grab a beer, used the built-in bottle opener and took a long cold swallow. This was better than anything he could think of to do tonight, so he’d get a free meal, couple beers and call it a night.

As more and more people showed up, he recognized a bronc rider he’d seen a few times during the week. He was hanging back by the barn, outside the main circle of activity, sipping a beer, holding the neck of the bottle in two fingers, bringing it up to his lips and drinking without tilting his head back, and doing the same as Jack – watching.

Jack knew him by his rodeo name, Chase, because everybody knew he was chasing all the big-name winners, sure he was going to be one of them...chasing the perfect ride, rode like his life depended on it, always asked for the rankest horse...ready to do whatever it took to make the bell.

Chase looked like a kid, even younger than the others, his body tall and lanky, freckles across the bridge of his nose made even darker by the sunburn he’d got since being on the circuit.

Jack finished his beer, tossed his empty in the provided garbage can, then grabbed two more cold ones and walked over to Chase, leaned up against the barn and, eyes still on the crowd, held out the beer and said, “Sure is better than beans out of a can.”

Chase seemed surprised to see him there, like maybe he’d been in a world of his own, but took the bottle, looked at Jack and focused, “Yeah, better than’re Jack, right?”

“Right.” Chase must have been watching more than the broncs.

They drank in silence for a few minutes, then Chase said he was starving and made for the grill, looking over his shoulder at Jack, saying, “Come on, before the best is gone.”

Jack stood in line for the brisket, stomach suddenly growling as he watched the country chefs slicing slabs of meat for the hungry crowd...made his way back to the barn, carrying two plates stacked on each other and heavy with smoking brisket, potato salad, four pieces of Wonder Bread, corn on the cob, and beans - homemade.

Chase was already there, sitting on the ground, trying to balance his heavily laden plate in his lap, stabbing at the food with a cheap plastic fork, washing it down with another icy beer.

For several minutes the only sound came from the crowd around them, and a few non-verbal grunts indicating they liked the food…as they got full, the forks from plate to mouth went slower, plates emptied, stomachs filled.

Finally Jack put his plate aside, wiped his face with a paper napkin, and downed the rest of his beer, took out a smoke and offered one to Chase, who declined.

“Don’t smoke, don’t daddy said don’t waste your money.”

“When’s your next ride?” Jack lit his cigarette and blew the smoke out forcefully.

“Tomorra morning, 10:42, goin on Randy.” He laughed, “How you like that for a bronc name?”

“I’m out for the last day...guess I’ll follow on to the next place when they pack up and leave tomorra.”

As the sun set and darkness settled in they talked off and on, general and worst rides they’d ever had, hometowns (Chase did pretty much all the talking on that one), what they would do if they won top prize...then the talk died out and they just sat, leaning up against the old barn, legs stretched out, getting up for beer once in a while, listening to the whiny sounds of the slide guitar and the sad lyrics of the country songs...until Jack was pretty drunk.

“Hey, I don’t think I can see straight to drive…you think you can drive me back?”

“Don’t know...I’m pretty shit-faced myself…give it a shot..”

They stumbled to their feet, each unsteady, and Jack tried to remember exactly where he’d left his pick-up.

“Nah, it’s over here...” He found the truck and got in the passenger side, passed the keys to Chase, who bent over the ignition trying to get the key in.

“Wait a minute...I got it...I got it...” He put the key close to his face to see how to line it up, squinting and starting to laugh at his inability to do this simple thing.

“I think I got it...”

Jack leaned over to try to help align the key and suddenly it slid in and Chase turned his head, smiling at his success...they were so close the kiss was almost unavoidable.

For Jack it was as if everything he’d ever told himself was wrong, suddenly felt like the most natural thing on earth...his fear fell away as he leaned softly into this kiss, this kiss that would change his world forever.

Chase pulled away, but didn’t pull back, their lips separated but their bodies were still close, and each stared into the other’s eyes.

Chase whispered, “I don’t know..I don’t know about this...”

Jack was euphoric, adding a natural high to the artificial alcohol one. In that instant, he knew what he was, knew who he was...he wished they could stay like this forever...but he was a realist.

“It’s okay...I’s okay.”

They sat back in their seats, Jack turned facing Chase, suddenly sober and making a conscious effort to remember every second.

“Hey, you okay?”

Chase lowered his head, not meeting Jack’s eyes, voice soft, the blend of that and Jack’s own feelings making Jack’s heart break.

“Think we could go somewhere?”

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August 2013

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