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June 2013

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Title: Exchange
Prompt: winter holiday/festival (R4C1)
Medium: fic – 1,166 words (exclusive of author’s notes)
Rating: G
Warnings: This is canon, so the future is not a happy one. The first three parts of the fic are just cute; enjoy! Stop after the pictures at the end of Part 3, and make up your own ending, if you like. Because Part 4 gets bittersweet. And Part 5 might require a hanky; or two.
Pairing: Jack/Ennis
Summary: Valentines Day cards.

* * * * * * * * * *
Author's Note: In July of 2010, I signed up for Schmoop Bingo, optimistically aiming for a blackout by the end of the year. On December 27, I had only completed one of the stories for the 25 prompts required to fill my Bingo card, so I just posted it (Tarragon, of Virtue, Is Full).

Now I find myself writing another little bit of schmoop for the Valentine’s Day “Love Letters” challenge, and I’m just shoving it here under my “Winter Holiday/Festival” prompt. (I expect they meant Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanzaa/Other Solstice Event, but, hey, February is still winter, isn’t it?

* * * * * * * * * *

Part 1 – At home…
In Riverton

How many did you say?” Ennis was incredulous.

“Nineteen in Jenny’s class and thirty-two for Junior. Plus three teachers. Fifty-four. They’ll prob’ly need three packages. Try an keep em away from the Disney and Barbie stuff; there’s less cards in the package and it costs more.”

“Right. Higgins’, I s’pose. Or the drugstore, maybe.” He raised his voice. “C’mon, girls! Let’s go get your valentines for school!”

“Yay! I want Barbie valentines!”

“Me, too!”

“Well, you can’t have Barbie valentines if I got Barbie valentines, an I said it first!”

“Well, all right for you then, Junior del Mar! I’ll get Snoopy!”

“No! You can have Barbie! I want Snoopy!”

Ennis sighed as he bundled his bickering daughters into their coats.

In Childress

“Twenty-four? Why’s he need twenty-four? He’s six years old an you’re tellin me he’s got two dozen girlfriends?”

Lureen sighed. “Jack, the school says one for every kid in the class. Every kid–boy or girl. It ain’t fair when the popular kids get a whole lot and the others only get a couple–or none at all maybe. Twenty-three kids in the class plus one for the teacher. Twenty four.”

“And what do I know about pickin out valentines for first-graders? Does he even know the names of all these kids?”

“You buy em in a package. Just let him get what he likes–dinosaurs or robots or whatever. And I got a list from the teacher. Just take him, Jack. I got all this year-end crap to close out the books and I’ll be workin on it all weekend.” She paused. “Unless you’d rather do the books, and I’ll take him to the store…”

“Awright, awright.”

Part 2 – Shopping…
In Riverton

Ennis had cleverly allowed the girls to continue their squabble over the licensed characters until they got to the drugstore, where he informed them that since they couldn’t be civilized over these so-desirable cards, they would have to forego them altogether. Exact quote: “That’s enough. I don’t like hearin you two go on in that way. We’ll just get some nice regular cards that you can be friendly with each other about.”

After a lot of careful consideration, they picked out two packages of thirty cards each, then went for ice cream. Of course they wanted to open the packages and look over all the cards right there and then, but Ennis made them wait until they got home. “Ya don’t want a have to give your friends cards that got ice cream dripped all over em, do ya?”

In Childress

Bobby bounced from one end of the display to the other, unable to make up his mind. Cowboys, spacemen, G.I. Joe, the Peanuts gang… Finally, Jack steered him to a big package of thirty assorted general cards. “Tell you what, son, you get this one where there’s a little bit of everything, and you can pick out the ones you like best for your best friends.” It was also one of the least expensive packs, particularly on a per-card basis, but that wasn’t really important–it just worked out that way.

Mission accomplished, they stopped at Braum’s for a small dish of butter pecan ice cream (Bobby) and a strawberry malt (Jack) and a pint of hand-packed French vanilla (to take back to Lureen). Bobby wanted to look at his cards, but Jack had left them in the truck,
so they had to wait till they got home.

Part 3 – Correspondence…
In Riverton

Sunday afternoon and Monday evening were devoted to deciding which card to give to each classmate. Should Lisa or Karen get a card with a puppy dog on it? Would Michael think the joke on the clock card was cute or dumb? Alma and Ennis were called in to advise, and Ennis was especially clueless, knowing almost nothing of any of these kids.

But eventually, all fifty-four of the little cards were signed, tucked into their little envelopes, and addressed appropriately. Alma stuck each of the two batches into its own paper bag, which she set on the top of the refrigerator, ready to take to school Tuesday morning for deposit in the big construction-paper-covered “mailbox” in the front of the classroom.

Among the six leftover cards, Ennis noticed one, and slipped it into his shirt pocket.

In Childress

Sunday afternoon and Monday evening were devoted to deciding which card to give to each classmate. Would Mark get the cowboy and David the funny monster? Or the other way round? And was there a card in the whole package suitable for Kimberly? She was certain to give Bobby a mushy one, and he really didn’t want to encourage that. Also, what about the teacher? Bobby didn’t like either of the teacher-specific cards included with the package, but was uncertain of the etiquette of giving one of the others instead. And, of course, Lureen’s list got called into play, and random cards were allotted to the unknowns.

Among the thirty assorted cards, Jack noticed one in particular, and when it didn’t get used, he sneaked it out of the trash after midnight and wrote on the back: “To my good fishing buddy,” and signed it just “Jack”.

Part 4 – Waiting…
In Riverton

Of course he didn’t dare mail it to Jack. Who knows who might see it, what interpretation they might put on it, what the consequences might be? He thought about maybe giving it to Jack next time they met up, but it just felt too dumb and girly. Maybe Jack would laugh and tease him about it. Could he hide it in Jack’s stuff for later discovery? No, that was as bad as–or maybe worse than–putting it in the mail.

Still, he carried it around for a few days. Then he put it in the box where he kept Jack’s postcards.

And there it stayed.

In Childress and Lightning Flat

Jack cursed whenever he thought about sending it to Ennis. He knew it would bring no happiness but only fear. He thought up different ways of presenting it on the next camping trip, maybe with a joke like: “We don’t never catch any real ones, so I figured this one would have to do.” He even brought it along on the next trip, but never found the right time to hand it over.

So after the trip, when he paid his visit to his parents’ ranch, he just tucked it into the pocket of Ennis’ shirt, hidden in the closet of his old room.

And there it stayed.

Part 5 - Aftermath…
In a Trailer Park outside Riverton

He’d had the shirts for months before he discovered the little Valentine. He scarcely knew whether it gave him more comfort or pain. He fished his own Valentine out of the box where it had laid for the past decade and stuck it in Jack’s shirt pocket. He wrote on the back: “You bet. Ennis”.

* * * * * * * * * *
More Author's Notes: The cards are genuine early 1970s Valentines for school children. I found them on eBay. (I just copied the pictures, I didn’t actually buy the cards.) If you want to see more, you can go to http://collectibles.shop.ebay.com/ and select Paper, Vintage Greeting Cards, Valentine’s Day from the sidebar.

Braum’s Ice Cream and Dairy Store is a long-established chain in Texas, Oklahoma, and other states. Unfortunately, there isn’t one in Childress. The two nearest are in Altus, Oklahoma and Vernon, Texas–both about 50 miles away–but artistic license…

The names of Junior’s Jenny’s, and Bobby’s classmates are all in the top 10 most popular names for the assumed year of their birth (Junior 1964, Jenny 1965, Bobby 1966). Robert was #5 for 1966; Jennifer was #20 in 1965; and Alma was #388 in 1964. (Did you know that the name Junior–for a girl–has ranged in popularity from #3146-#10078 between 1997 and 2011?)

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Beautiful. And poignantly sad.

Thanks for sharing and for the research behind it, nice postcards!

A real good job, Sid.

x x x

Thank you. I really enjoyed paging through the eBay valentines, remembering my school days.
I liked this alot!. I really wished they would have shown the cards to at each other :/ I know Ennis was totally against it but it would have been so cute to read that exchange!.

Thanks for the info, cool!.
Yes, it sure would have been a cute scene, with each of them embarrassed to present the other with the silly kid's valentine, and then their surprise and delight the the other one had the same thought.

But I just couldn't see Ennis breaking through his paranoia enough to do it.

Too bad.

I remember those valentines, which were very similar in the 60s. The messages varied in tone and I recall agonizing over which to give to whom, and going through the ones I received, hoping to find one with at least a somewhat better than neutral message.

Kimberly was a hugely popular name in the 70s. My parents were way ahead of their time.

Very poignant and sad, just the way I like 'em. :)


ETA: I signed up for that Shmoop Bingo and immediately forgot about it -- until now.

Edited at 2012-02-14 09:50 am (UTC)
I sent em in the 50s, and they were the same then.

I got THE most popular name from 1949, with the result that every year of my entire school life, there were at least two of us in the class. Once there were four of us.

At the rate I'm going, I project that my Schmoop Bingo card will be filled by November of 2018.

yep tears

Oh that was special and sad and well had me crying until red in the face. Joe

Re: yep tears

I'm not sure whether to say "I'm so sorry" or "I'm glad you enjoyed it"! I admit to tearing up considerable when I first contemplated the idea of the two cards in the two shirt pockets.
I'm glad I didn't stop after no.3
it's sad yes but beautiful
Thank you so much. It was originally supposed to be a bit more light-hearted. When I found those two cards on eBay, I knew that I had to connect them to Ennis and Jack somehow. Then I thought to end the story with something like, "Of course, they never sent them." But then I got to thinking what would they do with them then, and once Jack told me that he'd sort-of deliver it by sticking it in the stolen shirt's pocket, I knew what had to happen then. So much for light-hearted fluff! The story goes where it will, and the author just hangs on for the ride.
Oh, that was so touching, Sid. That last part gave me a tear- not easy to do these days!

Brilliant job!

Damn... I think I signed up for AU Bingo somewhere on LJ an year or so ago... oops!

Oops indeed. At my current rate of production, I calculate that my Schmoop Bingo card will be filled by November 2018.

So glad you enjoyed. I admit to a tear or two myself.
sid, this was the highlight of my valentine's day... for the last frikkin five years. seriously... so clever and well thought out, and the formatting!

i love that jack got a strawberry malt. ;)

thank for the entertainment, and for reminding us what brokeback is all about.

XOXOX <3 <3 <3
Ditto all this about content, but especially about formatting! Whew!

Thanks for a great read.
I just love this. I like the glimpse into their parellel lives...

Just great, thanks
Sad but beautiful.
Usually I don't read canon but the pictures captured me and I read it.
Very well written.
A big hug

Whatdsaya mean, "Niot perfect?

Thy ARE perfect

Isn't that one way to put the whole damn problem? Ennis would never give Jack a valentine, so Jack...
I wish they had sent those small valentine's day cards to each other.
It's just so sad.


Well of COURSE I had read this--and commented.

Gave it the full literary treatment....and it's still real sweet.