Tommy's Baby - Annie J. Rose
We had a big crowd at the pub, with the line snaking out the door. It was a forty-five-minute wait for a table when I sent the servers out with another tray of shot glass sized samples of my signature drinks: The St. Martin Sizzler with its kick of sriracha and the Paradise Punch which was sweet and tropical as anything at a kids’ birthday party but could knock you on your ass. I trailed after them with small bites—a single tortilla chip topped with our loaded nacho sauce, one firebomb shrimp on a toothpick with a dollop of wasabi on top, a good old potato skin topped with cheese and scallions. I worked my way down the line, telling corny Irish jokes and dropping a naughty limerick here and there, playing up the theme of the pub and promising a good time at the Irish jig lesson later. I kept their spirits up and made sure they sampled the best of the appetizers and drinks. It kept them mellow and having fun.
For a while there it was five deep at the bar, but I finally got Connor to take over so I could go into the crowd. It was almost time for dancing. But first I had a wild group to take care of. I swaggered over to the table of beautiful women and leaned on the back of the booth.
“Ladies, either you need to settle down, or I’ll be forced to cut off your alcohol for the evening,” I said with my most charming smile.
“Put a sock in it, baby brother,” Karin hollered, “and get me another St. Martin Sizzler.”
“Yeah, don’t be a party pooper. You’re supposed to be the fun O’Shea,” Elise added.
“No mentioning poop! That was the deal,” Brandi chimed in.
“I didn’t say poop. I said party pooper. God, maybe you need to cut her off, she’s getting bitchy,” Elise laughed. They all hooted and made a show of placing bets on who would win in a Brandi vs. Elise Smackdown.
Morgan put twenty on Elise. Karin said she’d known Elise too long to bet on her, she would back down at the last minute. While they squabbled, I rolled my eyes.
“Don’t crap on our good time,” Karin said, “Your nephew Lucas has been up the last four nights trying to cut a goddamn tooth and I’m gonna kick somebody in the nuts if I don’t get a refill soon.”
“Now I know why Mickey loves you,” I teased. “It’s your elegance. A true lady.”
“A true lady who’s gonna put a Birkenstock to your scrotum if she doesn’t get another St. Martin Sizzler pronto,” she laughed.
They raised their glasses and toasted to Karin who shot me a look because her glass was empty. I chuckled and gestured to a server to bring the girls another round. I was the youngest of five Irish-American brothers hailing from Chicago—all of us retired Navy SEALS who came to the island of St. Martin for the good life. So I’d spent all my life surrounded by men. Until Brandi came into my oldest brother Connor’s life and turned the gruffest, crankiest man alive into a lovesick puppy. Well, okay, not a puppy. More like a lovesick grizzly bear, fierce and protective and taking no shit, but doting on Brandi and their daughter Lilly.
Then along came Elise who married Brendan, my second oldest brother, and her best friend Karin fell for Mickey, our soft-hearted middle brother who was an expert medic in the Navy and now ran the surf business in our growing entertainment empire on the island. Billy met Morgan, a travel writer, last year and that left me as the lone single O’Shea brother. I liked to have a good time, and I didn’t mind being the doting bachelor uncle.
Except once in a while something happened like glancing over at the table full of my brothers’ wives or seeing their babies playing out in the courtyard of the old resort where we lived while we were redoing it, that I felt an ache in my chest. If my mother knew about it, which she wouldn’t, she’d say it was my biological clock. That I spent plenty of time sowing wild oats and it was time to settle down. But she’d be wrong. I wasn’t not feeling my age or any urge to have a Tommy Jr. anytime soon. It was just the pressure of envy on my chest, the fact that I could see how happy my brothers were, how complete