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Sean was angry. He tried to engage in light conversation, but his demeanor felt otherwise. How dare he, he seethed. Cramming a spoonful of egg in his mouth, he glared thunderously at Tomas over his tea.

It has been three months. Three, long drawn out months and then he waltzed in here as if he owned the place. Laughing and chatting, as if nothing was amiss.

He looked intently again at Tomas. His face was bent towards Josh and he was answering one of the boy’s questions. Sean would give him credit for one thing, he was good with the little ones. He always had them hanging on his every word, whether it was a falsehood or truth. Even Abigale was lost, looking up at Tomas and laughing at one of his silly jokes.

This was how it had always been with Tomas. He had a way with the women, and people felt at ease when they were around him. From a very tender age, Sean had realized that this was a behavior which came naturally to Tomas. His old man called it a gift.

Sean could hear Tomas chewing loudly on the cucumbers. From a child he had that bad habit. Crunch, crunch. Whenever he was eating cucumbers, he just chewed that particular vegetable really loudly. He was also licking all five of his fingers. This never ceased to irritate Sean; after a few minutes of listening to the continuous crunch it was really getting on his nerves.

Tomas was his brother, his only brother in fact. It is not that he did not love or care for him. It was impossible not to, after all he was his blood. They had another brother, but he had died at the age of fifteen. A rusty nail had pierced his left foot whilst playing with some of the young men in the neighborhood and he never said anything to any of them about the injury. By the time he got ill with the fever, it was too late. The tetanus infection had spread throughout his body. He did not last three days. So Sean knew how important family was; it was now him and Tomas against the world. Sean's little brother had changed a great deal when he took that job and relocated to the village. He had turned into an irresponsible rogue. He and Tomas were not as close as they had once been. He was not sure he could trust him. Forgetting to blow on the hot tea Sean, accidentally scalded his tongue.

‘Damn it!’ he exclaimed slamming the cup on the table. The hot tea splashed on the green and white tablecloth, leaving a brown stain. ‘Why is the tea so damn hot! He shouted angrily, pushing the cup away from him and rising abruptly from the table. ‘I need some air.’

‘You did not finish your breakfast...,’ Abigale started.

Slamming the door behind him, Sean drowned out the rest of her words. He cringed as the door shuddered in the process. He hoped that it did not fall off its hinges.

Suzie avoided her uncle’s eyes and heard Josh mumbled, ‘what is wrong with Pa? He said a bad word.’ Josh’s look encompassed Ma, Suzie and lastly, Uncle Tomas.

Getting up from the table uncle Tomas answered. ‘Nothing buddy. He is just mad that his tea fell.’

‘Oh, but Ma can get him some more, right Mama? If there’s none left, Pa can have mine. I don’t like the brown things in it,’ he continued wriggling his nose.

‘Maybe later, little one. Lemme go and check on him.’ Dipping his hand in the bowl of plums, Uncle Tomas left the kitchen.

Sean knew the moment that Tomas came outside. The old mongrel of a dog they kept as a family pet barked once, then after scenting that Tomas was no danger, it sauntered away.

‘Where did y’all get that piece of shit?’ Tomas asked, dropping his small frame under one of the mango trees.

‘One of the boys found it by the river, almost starved to death. It was skin and bones. He has come a long way,’ Sean muttered.

‘It looks likes it has not eaten in ages if ya ask me. What are ya guys feeding it? I hope de chil’ren are not touching it, they might get rabies.’

‘Yea. We have already spoken about that; they know the rules. The mongrel is not allowed in the house until it gets better.’

‘Good,’ Tomas answered. After an awkward silence, Tomas picked up an old stick and with his eyes glued to the ground, drew something in the dirt.

Sean silently watched his brother struggled to get his thoughts together. He was building courage to say what was on his mind. Sean waited. He was not going to make it easy for him, not this time. Clearing his throat, Tomas dropped the stick and looked up at Sean and cried brokenly, ‘I am sorry, Sean. I messed up. I meant to come sooner wit’ de money, but I had a few glitches.’ He shrugged, ‘ya know how it is at times.’

Sean looked at him and answered, ‘No. I do not know, Tomas. Why don’t you enlighten me? You are a selfish person. Do you know that? Where did you think I got that money to pay your debt? I stripped myself of all of the little savings we had and gave it to you. You promised, dammit!’

Tomas fumbled in his pocket and pulled out a couple of bills. ‘Here man. Dis is all I have. I will bring de rest next month. I promise, on Pop’s grave.’

Sean glowered dangerously at Tomas and felt like punching him in the face. ‘Your promise means nothing to me anymore, Tomas. Do you hear me? It means anyen. How can I trust you, when you cannot keep your word?’ Getting up abruptly from the coconut stump, Sean started pacing.

‘Great, just bloody great! What am I to do with two hundred dollars?’ Sean shouted.

Tomas glanced guiltily towards the house and mouthed. ‘Keep ya voice down. I duh want Abigale to overhear our conversation.’

Ignoring his comment, Sean continued on his rampage. ‘I gave you five hundred dollars, Tomas. You screwed up big time! I borrowed that money, Tomas. Do you hear me? I borrowed that money to bail your tail from the joint and for what? You have not changed. You are the same old Tomas thinking the sun sets and rises from your arse.’

Tomas remained silent, staring solemnly at the vast meadow before him.

‘For once in your life, be a man. Start taking responsibility for your actions.’ Sean continued.

‘I am taking responsibility.’ Tomas answered soberly. ‘I have a legitimate job now. It does not make much dough, but it is a start.’

‘A job huh? Where have I heard that before? Well you better not be lying this time, because if you are…’ he left the sentence unfinished. What was the use? Bending awkwardly, Sean grabbed the few bills from Tomas’s outstretched hands and whispered in his ear. ‘You have one more month to deliver little brother. Or else both our asses will be fried.’

‘What ya mean? Tomas exclaimed. Sean, what are ya talkin’ about?’

Refusing to look at him or acknowledge his question, Sean made his way down the dirt path away from home. In his haste to get away, he slid onto his bum. Cursing, he rose quickly to his feet. There was a tearing sound. He had ripped his favorite pair of jeans at the back. Things could not have gotten any worse. He continued his descent down the valley with no destination in mind. All the way, he silently prayed that he would be able to handle one more month. Before disappearing completely out of view of his home, he craned his neck, looking at the spot where he had left Tomas. He was still sitting in the same position, legs apart, his head in his hands.

‘Welcome to real life little brother,’ he muttered.

Libre Baskerville
Gentium Book Basic
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