A Right to Blame - 3
Jimmy was back at the Firecracker before Kevin ever was and he found Sean still tucked behind the bar, face tilted down over some book.
"Since when do you read?"
Sean raised his head. His brother was staring at him, a small smile on his face. It seemed foreign. Jimmy's appearance was marked by bloodshot eyes and disheveled hair but his face seemed relaxed. Sean let the worn book fall closed and sat up slightly. "I read."
Sean rolled his eyes and gave a small shrug. "We get quizzes."
"Quizzes?" Jimmy repeated. He smirked and grabbed the book. Of Mice and Men. He had had to read that once. He couldn't remember it. "What's her name?"
Jimmy raised an eyebrow.
"Becky," came the admittance.
"Falling for an intellectual there, Seany?"
"Very funny." Sean pulled the book away from him and leaned his elbows forward on the bar. He stared at Jimmy, wondering where he had been. What Tommy had wanted with him. "You want a drink?"
"Nah." Jimmy shook his head as he took a seat on a stool, seemed jittery.
Sean almost wanted him to take the offer. He didn't exactly like Jimmy coming off of alcohol. Or drugs. Whatever it was that was making his eyes red. The problem was that Jimmy wouldn't have just one. It was hard for him to find a happy medium. He couldn't stop just at a buzz. Then a couple drinks in and Jimmy wanted to start a fight. He got angry. Pissed at anyone he could find a reason to be pissed at. Sometimes anyone he couldn't find a reason to be pissed at.
But Jimmy said he could quit if he wanted. What Sean really didn't understand was how Jimmy thought that. If he thought he could quit—if he really did believe that—then why didn't he?
Jimmy was staring at the wall in silence.
"Tommy find you?"
Jimmy's eyes went to him. Watched him. "Yeah."
"What'd he want?"
"Don't worry your pretty head, Seany. It was nothing. You know Tommy."
"What'd he want?"
"I said it was nothing, Sean," Jimmy said. He shot him an irritated look and got up from the stool, seeming stiffer than his years. He limped toward the bathroom. "I'll be right back."
Sean watched his back, hesitated. Noticed the way he was already pulling up his sleeve. "Jimmy."
Jimmy turned, waiting for the rest of it. Nothing came. Just the look. Sean's uncertainty. Like he wanted to accuse him at something, but just wasn't sure. Jimmy's gaze hardened. "I need to take a piss, Seany," he said sharply. "What, you wanna come watch me?"
"That's not what…" Sean trailed off.
"That's what I thought."
Sean let out a breath as the bathroom door pulled shut. He didn't know whether he trusted Jimmy. Or if he even should.
The empty place setting reminded Tommy of when they were kids and his mother still accidentally set the table for six. Only that was a long time ago and there were five places now, with only Jimmy being the one missing.
He wasn't the only one looking at the plate. So was Helen Donnelly. "Where is he this time?" It wasn't really a question in her voice but more of an annoyed observation at Jimmy's absence.
Tommy looked away from the plate and at her. She raised an eyebrow, expecting an answer.
"I don't know, Ma," he said.
Helen turned her eyes on Kevin next, who gave a shrug and sank into a chair at the table. He glanced at the plate for only a second.
"He might be late." Sean spoke up before she tried him next. The three eyes shot to him. "He, uh…" Sean played with the end of his shirt for a minute. Jimmy's trip to the bathroom had loosened him up, and last time Sean checked he was drinking whiskey like it was water. "He had some errands to run."
Helen just shook her head with a mutter as she moved back toward the stove to check on their dinner. She knew Jimmy didn't run errands. Helen Donnelly wasn't dumb.
Tommy shot a look to Sean. "Jimmy at the bar?"
Tommy leaned back. He figured as much. He shifted in his chair and Kevin shot him a look.
"Leave him, Tommy."
"Just leave him there."
"I wasn't going anywhere, Kevin."
The conversation halted as Helen came back with the steaming casserole. Her mouth was in a tight line.
"That looks good, Ma," Kevin said. He reached to pick at a piece on the side of the dish and she swatted his hand away. Which was fine until she picked up Tommy's plate to serve first. Then he frowned. Sean gave him a smirk.
Dinner was quiet.
They were almost done eating when Jimmy decided to make an appearance at the apartment. They heard him first; the rattle of the door handle, the letting the door hit the wall. His footsteps sounded clumsy, halting every few steps. Knocking into something.
Tommy got to his feet, his intention to prevent any kind of scene in front of their mother. He heard another chair slide back as he reached the doorway.
"Stay, Kevin," he said without turning.
When Jimmy saw Tommy approaching him in the hallway, he threw his hands up in the air. "Tommy," he exclaimed. There was a big smile on his face, but it wasn't a friendly smile. Tommy's face remained unmoved. "If it isn't my favorite person..."
"Jimmy, not in front of Ma."
"What." Jimmy shook his head at him.
"You're drunk, Jimmy."
"Don't judge me, Tommy." The unfriendly smile was gone, replaced instead with a scowl. "Don't. It's… Better yet, don't get in my way."
Tommy was blocking Jimmy's path. He didn't move, even with the implied threat.
His brother wasn't going anywhere. "Ma doesn't need to see you like this."
"Fuck you, Tommy. God forbid I come home…" Jimmy trailed off, like he forgot what he was going to say. He was in Tommy's face now and Tommy could smell the liquor on his breath. He could see the unfocused pupils struggling to glare at him. The disheveled hair that looked like it hadn't been combed in days.
He missed the fact that Jimmy was about to shove him up against the wall. Seconds later, that was exactly what happened. It was a clumsy attempt and Tommy wasn't going to retaliate, but Kevin, who never listened, and who never stayed when you told him to, thought differently about the whole thing. He was there and he was shoving Jimmy back.
"Get off, Kevin."
"Kevin." Tommy grabbed his brother by the arm. His whole intent was to prevent a scene, or any amount of noise. The last thing he wanted was a drunken brawl in his mother's hallway. They didn't need to get her involved in Jimmy's latest problems.
"What the hell, Kevin." Jimmy's words were a little slurred. But then his eyes went to the doorway.
And there stood Helen Donnelly, eyes of fire, expression of stone.
"Have you been drinking, Jimmy?"
"No," Jimmy scoffed. His expression spoke volumes. He thought it was the stupidest question in the world.
Helen's face darkened at the lie. She glanced at Tommy, whose face was stoic and hard to read. And at Kevin, who looked ready to fight.
"Get out," she said, looking back at Jimmy.
"What?" Jimmy laughed. A dangerous thing to do.
"Ya heard me."
Jimmy stepped closer to her. "You're kicking me out?"
Kevin moved forward, as if Jimmy would ever lay a hand on her, but Tommy grabbed his arm again and pulled him back, though this time not as roughly.
There was a moment stare down between mother and son, an out of place comical expression on Jimmy's face. But it was Jimmy who blinked first.
As he left, Helen Donnelly rolled her eyes to the ceiling, but not having any words for God.
Jimmy slammed the door behind him and Tommy let go of Kevin, who didn't move away.
And Sean, from the doorway to the kitchen, knew he shouldn't trust Jimmy.