Maybe the Glass Is Half Full

We wondered how James ended up in San Francisco.
Turns out his older brother Kevin had something to do with it. Enjoy!

“Another whiskey, laddy?”

Around him, the atmosphere of the bar muttered, clinked, and scraped as the afternoon crowd went about its business. At the back, around the bend of the long mahogany bar, Jimmy Cavanaugh stared morosely at the few remaining drops of amber in his whiskey glass.

Looking up at the man behind the bar, he shrugged. “Yeah. I guess.”

As the man turned away, Jimmy felt someone slide onto the stool next to him. Peering sideways, saw a uniformed cop beside him. Tall, black-haired, stern—the very picture of one of Boston’s finest.

Frowning, Jimmy asked, “How’d you find me, Kevin?”

Jimmy’s oldest brother Kevin threw an arm around his bowed shoulders. “Finn, Kil and I started checking all the Irish pubs when we heard about Cathy leaving you.”

Jimmy sighed and shook his head. “Just my luck to have you find me first, Kev. You, the big family man and all. Six kids.”

The big man chuckled. “Six kids so far.” His brother’s stern face softened as he leaned toward Jimmy and lowered his voice. “Maire’s got another bun in the oven..”

“Another…?” Jimmy reached for the other man’s hand and shook it heartily, momentarily distracted from his own troubles. “Congratulations!”

Looking a little abashed, Kevin told Jimmy, “We were waiting to tell the whole family on Sunday.”

Slumping again, Jimmy sat back down on his stool and reached for the new glass of whiskey the bartender had brought him. Sunday. When the whole Cavanaugh clan gathered around a long, groaning table laden with the finest Irish food this side of the Atlantic. When his sister, three brothers, and their assorted mates and children gathered at their parent’s home for a traditional Sunday dinner. When the whole clan brought their news of the week, all of their triumphs and sorrows, to Fergus and Caity Cavanaugh for their approval or comfort.

Only now he would have his own problems to add to the family mix. They’d welcomed Cathy into their home when Jimmy started dating her, after Diana Kahn stopped coming around in high school. Cathy had drifted in and out of their lives for a few years, until Jimmy married her. She’d never quite clicked with his large clan, though, being an only child from the elite of Boston while the Cavanaughs were part of the Irish hoi-polloi. Still, when she’d presented him with Morgan, a fine, strapping son, they’d been elated to have a new grandson. But they worried over whether the boy would follow the Cavanaugh tradition and go into law enforcement or join Cathy’s family on Wall Street.

Speaking into his glass, Jimmy said quietly, “She left me, Kevin. Took Morgan and went home to her parents’ open arms.” He huffed. “I’m sure they were glad she’d seen the error of ways, falling for a commoner like me.”

“She give you any reason, Jimmy? It seems kinda sudden to me.” The big man looked sharply at his little brother. “You been keeping your troubles from us?”

Jimmy couldn’t look his brother in the face. The family saying was, ‘Troubles shared are troubles halved.’ But he hadn’t shared with them the late night arguments, Cathy’s spendthrift habits, and his own desperation to provide for his little family. He also hadn’t shared the nightmares that dogged his sleep, making him wake up shouting at insurgents or his own men. Worse were the dreams that took him to surreal landscapes fighting against strange-looking creatures. Where he felt more than saw the energy weapon that took his life.

“She said she couldn’t take my PTSD anymore. Said I scared her. Said she was afraid I’d hurt Morgan.” He slammed his hand on the bar, sending his now-empty glass skittering across the bar and almost over the edge. “Like I’d hurt my own kid! I’d never do that, Kev!”

“Shhhh, now, Jimmy boy. Get a grip on yourself.” Awkwardly, the big man patted Jimmy’s hand, his mouth hardening. “The PTSD isn’t your fault, now, is it? Just like you never asked for that bullet wound that sent you home. It just takes a while to get over those things.”

Jimmy said bitterly, “Well, I’m out of time now. She’s gone and taken Morgan with her. I went out to her parent’s place to talk to her, but her father, the high-and-mighty Norcross, refused to let me in. He ordered the butler to slam the door in my face from somewhere inside their castle. He couldn’t even come to the door to do it himself.”

He swung around to face his brother. “What am I gonna do now, Kev? How am I gonna face the family? And the cops at the precinct. I’m a failure, Kev.”

The big man’s eyes went distant, like they did when he was thinking deeply. Jimmy waited, hoping Kevin would come up with some pronouncement that would fix his situation or at least make him feel less like a loser.

“Hmmm,” Kevin began. “Don’t tell Ma I said this, but I think you need to get away from here. Away from Cathy, away from the family, away from everything. Somewhere new to start over again.”

Stunned, Jimmy could only gape at his brother for a moment.

“Away? Nobody’s ever left the family to be on their own.”

“Oh?” Kevin said, raising an eyebrow. “You think Da and his brothers were born here? They left Ireland when they were younger than you are, to make a new life here in America. They created new lives and built a new clan here in Boston.” His eyes bored into Jimmy’s eyes. “You can do it too. Find your own place in this world and build your new life.”

“A new life?” Jimmy said slowly. He cocked his head, looking at the idea from all sides. In theory, he could just pull up stakes. Find a new place to live, far away from Boston. Maybe even start a new family.

Finally, he nodded. “Yeah. I could do that.” He grimaced. “Ma’ll be mad as a wet hen, though. Even madder than she was when Kilian told her I fought with Bryce over Diana.” He smiled ruefully. “Grounded me for a month.”

Kevin laughed in his big, good-natured way.

“She did, for a fact.” He sighed deeply. “You’re right, she’ll be mad, but I think she’ll understand. And who knows, maybe someday you’ll come marching home with a new family in tow.”

That earned him a smile from Jimmy. “It’s possible, I guess, somewhere down the road a bit. But the question is where? I’ve lived in Boston my whole life, except for when I was in the military.”

“Ah, now, I have a suggestion for that. San Francisco.”

“California?” Jimmy gasped. “So far away?’

The man patted Jimmy’s hand again, like he’d done when Jimmy was a boy and came home with a bloody nose from fighting or a bad grade in school. “In this day and age? You can Skype the family whenever you want. Ma’ll be wanting to give you her input on every little thing anyway. You know she will.”

Jimmy sucked in the corner of his lip, then nodded. “I know.” He cocked his head at Kevin. “But why California?”

Kevin counted off his reasons on his big calloused fingers. “First, it’s nothing like Boston. Second, the weather is grand there. Third, I know another cop that moved out there. He can give you a recommendation to join the force in San Francisco.” He looked over at Jimmy. “You remember Sean Callahan? Married that Mexican girl he met in college? She finally convinced him to move closer to her family out there in Oakland. I hear he just made detective on the San Francisco PD.”

“Hey, I remember him. Your college roommate, wasn’t he? Joined the force when you did.”

“Ah, that’s him. He’s got five kids now. He’ll do right by you, he will. So what do you say? California or moping around here and seeing Cathy around every corner?”

Jimmy straightened and exhaled, finally shaking free from the nearly-unbearable weight he’d been carrying since Cathy announced she was leaving him.

“Yeah, Kev. California.”

He stood, threw some money on the bar, and linked arms with Kevin.

“Let’s go tell Ma.”

Jimmy laughed as Kevin’s face lost all color.

“Ya mean, now? Tell Ma now? Together?” The big man shook his head. “Aw, Jimmy, you know she’s gonna blame me. What’d I ever do to you? You get to leave, but I have to stick around to suffer Ma’s wrath.”

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