Sean felt like shit. Here he was at the Pennant again waiting for his brother to show up. It had been a month since he’d been home last and in that time he had seen his daughter only twice. Both times Keira had agreed to meet him at a park not far from their house. Jasmine was pleased to see her dad and clearly didn’t understand what was going on. Keira kept a brave face and stood her ground insisting that he choose between his brother or his marriage and child. For Sean this was no choice at all. Truth was Sean wanted desperately to go home, but didn’t know how to do it without giving Keira the victory she seemed so hell bent on having. He was a coward, afraid of his wife, afraid of his brother. The last few weeks were a blur now. The nightly drinking led to daily hangovers that could only be eased by more drinks. Sean was drinking a vodka martini and he was ready for a second one.
“Kathy, another one,” he said to the redhead passing by with a tray loaded with food.
“Sean, I’ll be right with you.”
Sean had been seeing a lot of Kathy over these last few weeks. Her green eyes and that creamy freckled skin were so different from Keira. That little diamond ring in her nose that caught the light and seemed to wink at him suggestively - Keira would never do that. She’d never have her nose pierced, or get a tattoo. Sean imagined a simple vine twisting up from the white base of Kathy’s spine, or maybe a single pale red rose on her inner thigh.
“Here you go,” Kathy said, placing the long stemmed glass in front of Sean. “Shaken, not stirred.”
“Just how I like it, thanks.” Sean squeezed and then dropped the lemon into the clear cold liquid.
“Will there be anything else?” Sean thought of things he might say. He wasn’t particularly good at flirting, and was only slightly better after a few drinks. Besides, Kathy hadn’t waited for an answer - she was gone. Sean slowly lifted the glass to his lips breaking its icy surface. The vodka seemed to steady him. He was calm now as he surveyed the crowded restaurant. He looked again for Kathy, but she had disappeared into the kitchen.
“Yo, bro-ho-ho,” Terry said pulling a chair back from the table with a flourish. “Looks like you got a head start on me.”
“Sounds like a good idea. Where is that little redheaded-piece-of-ass?”
“Christ, Terry.” Sean felt himself blush hearing his brother so brazenly articulating the thoughts he’d been having. “I’m sure she’ll be right back.”
“Well I’m celebrating. Finally finished the Moody place and my last job for fucking-Ted-fucking-Fournier.”
“And what would you be having this evening Mr. Dugan,” Kathy asked, one hand on her hip, the other pushing her red curls to one side.
“I know what I’d like to have a little later this evening.”
Sean watched admiringly as his brother looked the waitress up and down and dared to stare so deliberately into those emerald green eyes.
“Sorry, Terry but that’s not on the menu.”
“Oh well, then I’ll have what he’s having, thanks.”
“Better bring me another one too,” Sean said downing the remainder of his drink in a single gulp. “You better hurry bro if you wanna catch up to me.”
“You’re in rare form tonight Sean. What gives?”
Sean was speechless. The cold dry shiver of vodka against the back of his throat, followed by the warm explosion in his stomach, made his tongue heavy and words useless. His headache gone now, everything was suddenly clear. The air seemed to shimmer with clarity. Single voices emerged from the vibrating din of the room. People happy to be done with work or on vacation, laughing and eating as if it were all that mattered. The salty late afternoon sun and sea mixing with the warm aroma of crispy fried seafood. This was Newport in summer. The sparkle of glasses and silverware clinking like punctuation at the end of a clever sentence or the punch line of a good joke. Sean wanted to stay in this moment forever, to inhabit it completely. The certainty of who he was and the sense of confidence which overcame him mustn’t be wasted. He looked across at his brother’s handsome face. He watched as Terry, lifted the martini glass from Kathy’s tray and tipped it silently towards him in a toast. He was filled with admiration for his brother who had always dreamed big. In that moment Sean felt that the two of them could do anything, that the brother’s Dugan could have anything they wanted.
Hours later the two brothers sat in a dark bar on the harbor just off lower Thames. Luckily they had the sense to eat before leaving the Pennant, though Sean couldn’t quite remember how they’d gotten from there to here. Terry drove of course. He had sold the Mustang and replaced it with a brand new cherry red Ford pick-up. Sean was supposed to talk to Keira about a logo for the new company, but each night too many drinks stopped him from picking up the phone.
“So little brother, what are you gonna do?”
“About what?” Sean was drinking bourbon now, the red meaty flavor in tight contrast to the glacial Grey Goose of earlier.
“Let’s not talk about them now. Let’s talk about Kathy some more.”
“You might want to be careful about that.”
“What do you mean?”
“Bro you almost got us thrown out of there, and we can’t have that.”
“What the fuck,” Sean asked, scouring his memory and coming up short.
“I’m not going to repeat it and I’m sure chicks like that hear that kind shit all the time, but,”
Sean felt a wave of shame like vomit rising in his throat. “Oh shit, you’re kidding me.”
“No, no not to worry. I fixed it all. She was fine when we left.”
“Oh Christ don’t even tell me. I don’t want to know.”
“Let’s just say you got a little graphic regarding a tattoo. Anyway, forget about it.”
The two sat in silence. Sean studied his glass as if there was an answer that he’d been looking for at the bottom. Terry signaled to the waitress, a gray haired woman with tattoos of sea monsters crawling along both arms.
“Do you ever fuck up, Terry? I mean really, do you ever screw up so bad that you’re ashamed or embarrassed? All my life I’m trying just to get out of my own way. To not over think, to be just a little bit spontaneous and pull it off like you do.”
Terry took a long drink. Sean continued. “It’s like I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. I’m married, I got a kid and I’m sleeping on your fucking couch. Why, can’t I be what I want to be? Earlier tonight, I felt like we could do anything. Now, I’m not sure I’m worth shit.”
“Look Sean, don’t be so hard on yourself. Christ, you’ve always been like that. No matter how much you say it or think it, you don’t want to be me.”
“Fuck, why not? You’ve always been the center of attention. You always get the girls. If you’d hit on Kathy tonight you’d of got exactly what you wanted, and then some. I do it and come off looking like a drunken jerk.”
“Again, I think you’re being a little hard on yourself. Hell, I make mistakes too.”
“Like what? Tell me what the fuck does Terry Dugan not do right? Mr. Dudley-fucking-do-right.” Sean was getting his second wind now. Though the clarity he experienced earlier was now only in his head. He felt he knew the truth about himself and now he wanted to know what his brother’s secret was? How did he do it? How did he live and love and not look back?
“Listen, I’m just saying. We all fuck up. I’ve done some pretty stupid things myself. Things that I’m ashamed of.”
Terry was silent.
“Come on, level with me. I’m tired of being the only fuck-up and frankly I’m tired of living in your shadow.” Sean took a drink of his bourbon and waited. The place was nearly empty. He suddenly realized he had no idea what time it was and refused to pull out his phone and check. He didn’t want to see that Keira had called, maybe with Jasmine, to say good night.
“Ok, so I fucked up big time. You know that girl I live next door to, the one who works at The Coffee Shop, Summer.”
“Yeah sure, the blonde.”
“Yeah well anyway, she and I were fooling around some.”
“What do you mean?”
“Oh you know, kind of, what do they call it these kids? We were fuck buddies I guess, you know friends with benefits or whatever.”
“Christ, she’s pretty hot right?”
“Yeah, well that’s part of the problem. The truth is for once old Terry was falling hard. It was like I couldn’t get enough of her. And it wasn’t just the sex. She’s funny and smart. It was like she saw me for who I was.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know, probably the way Keira sees you. She made me feel like I was real, like I didn’t have to live up to some image of myself.”
Sean had never imagined his brother might be jealous of what he had.
“Anyway, I finally told her how I felt. That I couldn’t live without her, that I wanted her for real. I didn’t want to be fuck buddies. Hell, I didn’t want her sleeping with anyone else but me.”
“And she said no. She said she was young, and wild, and free. And that’s what she wanted to be, at least for now. She wasn’t looking for a long term relationship.”
“Oh so for once, Terry didn’t get what he wanted,” Sean felt glad. There was no other way for him to describe it.
“That’s right, I didn’t.”
“I’m sorry, that must be hard for you.” Sean, said, biting back a laugh at his brother’s expense.
“Yeah well, I showed her.” Terry’s face was red now with bourbon and anger.
“What do you mean?”
“I killed her fucking dog that’s what I mean.”
“You what? You killed her dog? Are you fucking crazy?”
“Jesus Christ, keep it down.”
“Terry, this isn’t funny. You killed her dog?”
“That’s right, I did. I don’t know what came over me. I just wanted her and if I couldn’t have her.”
“You couldn’t have her so you kill her dog?”
“The fucking thing barked all night long. She wouldn’t see me anymore after I told her how I felt. She said that it would be better that way. All the time, I knew she was just next door. I just wanted, I just wanted…”
“Wanted what Terry? Did you think killing her dog would make her love you more?
“You don’t understand, it’s not like that, I just wanted her to love me.”
“No I understand Terry. You fucking selfish son-of-a-bitch.” Sean put his glass down hard on the table and pulled himself out of his chair.
“Where the fuck are you going? I drove.”
“I’m going home. That’s where I’m going and I’d just assume walk.”
“Sean, please look, I’m not proud of what I did.
“That’s a start I suppose. You got the check right, Bye Bro, big-fucking-shot."
Sean lumbered to the door and out into the street. He could hear his brother calling but he didn’t look back. He headed down Thames and then up Memorial Boulevard. Along first beach the sea was quiet and gun metal grey under a moonless sky. It was cooler then Sean had expected and the drinks made it hard to put one foot in front of the other. He made his way up past St George’s to Paradise Ave. toward home. He passed the Police Station where he would go later this morning to turn his brother in. On Wyatt Road he threw up in the bushes along the stone wall that bordered the vineyard. It was shortly before dawn when he got to his house. He fumbled for the keys, making sure to be as quiet as possible. He didn’t want to wake Keira or Jasmine. In the dark living room he found a blanket and laid down on the couch surrounded by his daughter’s toys. The birds were just beginning to wake. The first flutter of Robins singing, like a present being unwrapped, the staccato warble of a goldfinch and the hollow who-who whisper of a Morning Dove Sean pulled the wool blanket up around his neck and fell asleep. It would be light soon.
If you missed the previous installment of Success Through Failure click here: