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Phil Byrne

P Kearney Byrne’s work has won the Francis MacManus Award (2012) and the Bryan MacMahon Award (2014). In 2015, she was a finalist in the inaugural 2015 Hamlin Garland Award for Fiction (Beloit Fiction Journal, USA) and in 2013 she was long-listed in the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Competition. She is currently enrolled on an MA programme in University College Dublin. Originally from Dublin, she and her partner now live in Co Leitrim, Ireland.
Phil Byrne

Phil Byrne

P Kearney Byrne’s work has won the Francis MacManus Award (2012) and the Bryan MacMahon Award (2014). In 2015, she was a finalist in the inaugural 2015 Hamlin Garland Award for Fiction (Beloit Fiction Journal, USA) and in 2013 she was long-listed in the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Competition. She is currently enrolled on an MA programme in University College Dublin. Originally from Dublin, she and her partner now live in Co Leitrim, Ireland.

The previous year, my brother and I had turned forty and both been divorced, me through no fault of my own, Dineen through a badly timed affair with one of his students, the fool.  Dineen and I are Irish Twins; we were born eleven months apart and as children were dressed the same and generally expected to behave as one boy rather than two, though I never knew which one of us we were supposed to be. As a child, I believed I was getting only half of what I deserved. And there’s probably some truth in that. Think about it; the fucker was conceived two short months after I’d taken my place in this world. How else would I feel?

In spite of my mixed feelings about his place in my life, no-one in this world can make me laugh more than my brother. Unfortunately, over the years, that’s brought me a shed-load of trouble, and by the time we were both divorced, I’d copped on that our paths needed to go in different directions. I reckoned I was maturing whereas he was still acting the bloody monkey and taking the piss wherever he went. When his missus gave him the boot, he moved to Belfast, which made it easier to keep away from him. I was missing him though. Funny how you can be driven demented by a fuckwit like Dineen, but still feel he’s your best mate?
After I got my marching orders, I moved into a scuzzy flat in the East Wall, within walking distance of the fancy new developments in the Docklands. That kind of area, new wine bars and so on, you see a lot of young skin at night. But it’s not so hot if you fancy a chat with someone your own age. Of the fairer sex, I mean. I’d been there about a year when a friend of mine, Owen Nyland, hoping to help both me and a friend of his wife’s out, offered to have a dinner party, casual, not so obviously a blind date, and introduce me to this bird, who was, according to his wife, a great gal; sassy, blonde and apparently with a truly magnificent set of tits. This last according to my mate, Owen. Naturally I was interested in meeting same.

‘Any problems with her I should be forewarned of?’ I asked Owen, knowing of a few on-the-shelfers who are there for good reason.

‘Nope. Clean bill of health,’ he said, ‘apart from a spot of narcolepsy, which, you know, is medically controlled.’

I was looking forward to the dinner party and to meeting this girl. Her name, for the record, was Tanya. Dineen would be down from Belfast, which meant he’d be coming along. There’s no way Shiv, Owen’s wife, could tolerate Dineen being out on the prowl in Dublin without having him come flash his wolfie-boy grin at her dinner table. Sure enough, next thing I get the call from Shiv.

‘Jack, sweetie, you bring that brother of yours along. His name’s already in the pot.’

What could I say? Shiv’s always had a bit of a gra for Dineen. Same old, same old; bloody Dineen turning up anyplace I wanted to have to myself. I guessed I’d manage as long as Tanya didn’t fancy him more than me, and anyways I reckoned, since Dineen was still pursuing student ass, he wouldn’t bother with a middle-aged chick.

What was becoming a more serious concern though, was that I’d started having these goddamn fantasies about Tanya, the Narcoleptic with the Great Tits. It was completely forgivable given my straitened circumstances, I knew all that, but it was definitely distracting, especially as it left me feeling less like meeting her as a person, and more interested in what it would be like to, you know, shag someone who was completely unconscious? I guess plenty of men have these fantasies and there’s nothing whatsoever to be ashamed of, but it started to make me a bit nervous of meeting her in real life.


Owen and Shiv have a great gaff down there in Sandymount. A comfortable family home which, as soon as Owen opened the door to me and Dineen, made me miss my old set-up; my ex, bitch though she could be, and my two daughters.

Dineen had to drop off some gear at his mate’s office in Belfield, which meant we were late. The pre-dinner drinks were over, people were already sitting in the dining room and the chat was full on. The light was low, big purple drapes opened onto the view of the bay and the long, oval mahogany table all dickied-out, covered with silverware. No-one stopped talking when Dineen and I came in. No-one that is, except this terrific looking blonde with, it has to be said, a totally majestic set of ta-tas. Tanya, no less, who turned and smiled straight at me; no bones about it, no ‘let’s pretend we’re not here to suss each other out’ horse-manure… I was utterly smitten. My kind of girl. She’d kept a place beside her at the table for me – now there’s confidence! Dineen took a seat across from us, between a red-haired guy I’d met once before and Shiv.

Owen Nyland never stints on the grog and Shiv’s the same with the chow, so there’s always plenty to go around, and plenty of time given over to sitting there at the big table, dishes arriving from the kitchen, bottles passed around, glasses filled and re-filled, the noise of the chat going on at full swing.

The Nylands hadn’t seen Dineen since his divorce and my brother’s an entertaining guy, no doubt about it, so Tanya and I could go under the radar for quite some time while he entertained the troops – about seven or so others – some of whom I knew well enough to know they were of no interest to me, and one or two new faces.  I can’t tell you what was said around that table for the first couple of hours because Tanya and I were straight into it, and I mean the deep stuff; you know, what makes us tick. We were, I’d hazard a guess, like a couple of teenagers, heads bowed in really close to hear what the other was saying, only talking to the others out of common politeness when we had to, and complimenting Shiv whenever she brought in more food. But, as far as I was concerned, there was just me and Tanya in that room.

I was putting away a fair bit of booze – so was Tanya incidentally- and my sixth sense told me this was fast becoming one of those magic evenings when the chemistry is just right and the vibe gets high and energised. It was turning out to be the best night I’d had in some time actually. Reminded me of student days across the way in Belfield. It’s often like that when there’s a terrific shagging pending in the air between two people, and it was most definitely pending between me and Tanya, let me tell you. That can infect a whole goddamn room and everyone starts feeling high and powerful and giddy, though they don’t know the reason for it.

I’d say we’d been there a few hours, when there was a lull between me and Tanya, and we sat looking at each other, smiling, pretty much knowing this just might be worth doing again. And I have to say, there was a clear and distinct separation in my mind between the two Tanyas; Tanya the Narcoleptic with the Big Tits versus this real life Tanya; full on chemistry, gorgeous brown eyes, (how often d’you get an Irish blonde with brown eyes for Chrissakes?) and, not to be too dramatic about it, the definite possibility of a second shot at Life and Love for Yours Truly.

Shiv brought in desert, some sort of big meringue thing, popping with strawberries and cream, and Tanya got up to go to the loo. As soon as she’d left the room, while all eyes were on the desert, I heard Dineeen trying to get my attention.

‘Oi! Jack! Jacko!’

When I looked over he had his hands, palm upwards, at chest level, dipping them up and down slightly as if he were weighing a couple of melons, head indicating the departing Tanya. I knew the routine. As kids, it was a favourite in our house anytime there were well-endowed ladies in the vicinity. My old man did it all the time behind my mother’s back; getting the heavies in the two hands, a real considered weighing of each one, eyes widening in deep appreciation, then the exaggerated mouthing of the catch-phrase; ‘Big Bazookas.’ It brought us all to tears every time, me, Dineen and the old man; laughing our heads off, truly spastic with hilarity, while my mother… I don’t know how she felt actually. I know she tried to get me on her side, warning me not to follow my father’s ways, telling me to be a good influence on Dineen, rather than letting Dineen be a bad influence on me. She always reckoned Dineen and the old man were the spit of each other. ‘You can do better than that, Jack,’ she said to me dozens of times, and ‘You can’t have it both ways, Jack,’ whatever the hell that meant. Not to be too intense about it, but I used to wonder, Why me? when Dineen, the jammy fuck, got off scot-free every time. Maybe she hoped I’d be different, or maybe she just wanted an ally in a house full of boys?
Whatever, resurrecting the ‘Big Bazookas’ routine was Dineen’s way of trying to lure me back in with him, the bastard. It was a sure-fire way to kick start the whole ‘mates’, ‘brothers’, ‘twins’ shenanigans. But I was damned if I’d fall for it this time. Lose my own moment, yet again, just to be involved in a piss-take with Dineen? No way, Jose! He had his hands going up and down and Shiv caught sight of him to her left just as he did the eye-widening and the mouthing; ‘Big Bazookas.’ She hit him on the arm, laughing in mock disgust. He rolled his eyes, and started again. Shiv took the red linen napkin and threw it over his face, where you could see his tongue protruding, making lapping motions. Christ Almighty! I didn’t want La Tanya coming back in to see this. And I have to say that, all credit to Tanya and our conversation, I actually hadn’t been entirely focused on her boobs. They were hovering below my sight-line sure enough, the whole splendiferous Double-D-cup marvel of them, but I was no ways suffering the magnetised-eyes that can happen to any man in the face of such glory. The connection between me and this girl was for real. Here was my first chance in a long time, and I wasn’t going to let that joker fuck this one up for me. I just shook my head and looked away from Dineen. I picked up my drink, a top class Muscat to go with the desert – I’ve got the hooer of a sweet tooth – and kept my eyes glued to the door for La Tanya’s return. Luckily, by the time she came back – she’d obviously brushed up some in the loo and looked pretty damn good considering the amount of booze she’d packed away – Dineen and Shiv were in hoiks of laughing at some other rubbish with the red-haired guy beside them.

I helped Tanya to some desert and topped up her glass. There was no doubt we’d made one of those invisible contracts. We’d hooked up silently. We’d be starting something together and we were now free to hold that between us while we took a bit of time to chat to the assembly.

Talk was flirty along the whole table. Outside, a full moon, gliding high over the bay. The flat sea, silver and black. You couldn’t paint a nicer picture. Everyone there feeling that they were in loved-up company, that we’d had a great evening together, that we’d meet again and do this same stuff over and over. Life suddenly seemed good and rich again, and I felt myself filling up with warmth and hope for my future. I’d busted out finally through the arse-cheeks of the hard times and into a whole new phase. La Tanya’s thigh was laid right along mine – can you believe this girl could go stocking-less in April? None of that static nylon snap against your trouser leg – and I had my arm along the back of her chair.


The night wore on and the company was mellow, and we were all slowing down some.

‘You gotta try this liqueur, Jack,’ Owen said, leaning across the table and filling a glass for me, ‘Limoncello. Got the fucker in Sorrento. You too, Tanya.’

As he was filling Tanya’s glass, I couldn’t help but be drawn – sitting alongside her as I was and having a fair quantum of top quality grog on board – to Tanya’s assets, into silent veneration of the sheer grandeur of that chest. We’re talking the full mammalian here; sallow-creamy pillow-tits; the kind you know you’ll fall asleep on; where you’ll struggle to breathe in that warm cleft, that stupendous cleavage. I knew I was getting a little hot under the collar, in danger of an attack of the magnetised-eyes. I wanted to keep the warm glow of future possibilities alive, so I thought I’d best take a trip to the jacks, cool off, get some perspective. It occurred to me that it was probably what Tanya had been doing earlier; getting a grip on the situation so we could hold the potential, not blow it all in one night.

I excused myself, stood up. She looked up at me, and boy, was I glad I was going to cool off some! That blonde hair! Those big brown eyes! Those magnificent beasts of breasts! Yep! Time for the big white telephone. I staggered a little getting out of my chair, but I’ve been far worse for wear at other times, so I was still feeling pretty much able to manage the situation.

The loo was definitely a cooler, all low-key lights and smokey mirrors. To be honest, I’d imagined the urgent necessity to – in the vernacular – jerk off in there to maintain some distance and dignity with La Tanya. Turns out – and it made me wonder just how much we’d actually been drinking – there would’ve been something of a problem if I’d been required to perform just at that point. Man! That’s depressing! Not being able to get it up exactly where and when you want? Pondering same – and these were sobering thoughts indeed – I had a good long slash and then inspected myself as well as I could in the huge, I mean epic, mirror. What do Owen and Shiv need to look at for Chrissakes? I wasn’t looking bad, as far as I could see, though I spotted some meringue mashed into my tie. I washed my hands, not something I always do, to tell the truth, figuring it’ll all help give me some time to get a grip, work out my next moves and so on. Then I made my way back to the dining room.

I came in the door and there was that hushed feeling; you know something’s happened and you’ve missed it and everyone else is all absorbed in it. Looking around the room, I saw that I wasn’t the only one heading for a humungous hangover. There was a general air of stupefaction and wooziness in how everyone was looking towards where I’d been sitting. As I got closer, I saw what was happening, or had happened. La Tanya was either passed out from drink or was having a narcoleptic episode. She was sprawled forward, her arms hanging down at her sides like plumb-lines, while on the table, below her sweet, slumbering face, her marvellous bosoms billowed, held in by nothing more than the frilly edge of her frock and the straining captivity of a lacy bra.

As I got to my seat there was general ‘shushing’ and low level laughing. It seemed to me that we might just sit there quietly and admiringly until Tanya came around. But Dineen stood up slowly and leaned over the table like a father lovingly bending over a sleeping child. With an expert movement of his hands, he flipped the sides of Tanya’s dress outward exposing her bra. Then – as if he did this for a living – he ever so gently, delicately, released her sumptuous breasts. He put his fingertips under them and carefully arranged them on the table, where they resembled nothing so much as the fragrant meringue we’d scoffed earlier. Though her nipples, rather than being strawberry, were toffee coloured with a velvety hint of purple, just like the drapes behind her.

There was a stunned silence around the table, brought on, I suspect, partly by the quantities of drink consumed, partly by just how delicately skilled Dineen’s work here had been and partly in reverent respect for the splendid creatures who lay purring before us on the mahogany table. There may also have been some dim registering by each of us that at some point Tanya was going to wake up and find herself looking directly into her own knockers, slumped there with her gazongas propping her up and the rest of us gawking at her. There was some nervous laughter from the women.

I knew well that no-one should be left alone in La Tanya’s current predicament. I also knew that, in terms of our future together, how I responded next would be a deal maker or breaker; simple as that. I was paralysed, I can tell you, sitting there, trying to think straight. A number of scenarios whipped through my head; I could try to get Tanya’s hooters back where they belonged. But what if she woke up to find me with my paws all over her baps? Then I thought maybe I’d just stand up and drape my red linen napkin over her exposure, like a cape? That seemed like a gallant and heroic thing to do. And plausible.

I didn’t want to look at Dineen. In stroboscopic millisecond flashes, I saw the possibilities of my life with Tanya; a new life full of goodness, conversation, beaches, cocktails and laughter. And then I saw the sick alternative; me and Dineen, like fucken Siamese twins, joined at the dick for the rest of our lives, tossing off to porn in our skanky bedsits until we can’t find our todgers anymore. No way, Jose! I wanted the deal clincher and I wanted it fast. I wanted to drape Tanya’s tits under cover. Where the fuck were the red linen napkins?

Dineen had sat back down and he was looking over at me. All eyes were on him, then on me. I could hear my mother’s voice, ‘Come on, Jack, you can be better than that.’ Dineen put his hands, palms up, under his own nipples. Then the little arse-wipe opened his eyes wide and mouthed ‘Big Bazookas’ at me. There were some sniggers. Shiv sputtered Limoncello onto the table and put her hands over her face. Still weighing the invisible melons with his hands, his head appreciatively tipped to one side, his floppy hair hanging down over his eyes, Dineen said it again, but this time not just mouthing it, whispering it, so softly, ever so tenderly, for the full benefit of his hushed audience; ‘Big Bazookas.’ And the whole table, including the women, pissing themselves with suppressed, wheezing, laughter. As per usual, I was the only sorry sod in the room with anything to lose, and in my head, my mother’s voice imploring me; ‘Come on, Jack, make a stand. Come on, Jack!’

I turned to where the sleeping Tanya lay, God bless her, with her head nestled in her own cleavage. Around me, I could hear the group, led by Dineen, beginning a whispered, tittering, barely restrained sing-song; ‘Big Bazookas.’ I felt hot rage and cold fear at the same time. That Bastard! Making a mockery of everything I held dear… that fucker! Invading and staining every decent corner of my life… I felt an upsurge inside my guts and a Roaaarrrggghhhaaa sound exploded out of me, and I rose up, bellowing. My chair smashed backwards onto the floor and I lunged for the drapes behind La Tanya’s chair. I lifted them and threw them in the general direction of her tits. I knew she could come-to and panic, but this was pure instinct – then I lurched around the oval end of the table and swung across Shiv. The thunderous silence of the room was rent apart by a high shriek from Shiv and another primal roar from Yours Truly; this time a Gnaoogggghhhmafffff which was entirely focused on propelling me onto that little shit-stirrer Dineen, grabbing him by his fancy, swaggering lapels and socking him one straight in the mush.

I should have figured Dineen’s own instincts wouldn’t let him down and sure enough, he threw his old one-two at me, came towards me with his arms flung wide and closed in on me, tight as a clam on a rock. It’s what he used to do when we fought as kids; move in and wrap himself around me so I couldn’t get a swing at him. But I’d learnt a thing or two since then. I drew my head right back, far as my neck would carry it, then snapped it forward and nutted him straight on the snout. I heard a crunch of bone. I was blasted with a hissing spray of bright blood which splattered my shirt before it squirted across my shoulder and reddened the room. I’d broken his nose for sure. I let him go and the room leapt to his defence. I stood, alone and triumphant, knowing that the social consequences of this barbarity would be heavy. But for once in my Godforsaken life, I was ready for them; I was equal to them. I moved towards the muffled bundle that was La Tanya…

Actually, as it happens, Tanya and I have been back to Owen and Shiv’s. And Dineen comes here for Sunday dinner when he’s in town. You can tell he’s had his nose broken, but he says it goes down a treat with the ladies. Last time he came, Tanya was wearing a screw-tastic lacy number. She looked the business and I was enjoying just looking at her while she and Dineen were chatting.

‘Great scoff, Tanya,’ Dineen said to her. ‘This fucker’s landed on his feet again,’ he said, jerking his thumb in my direction.

‘Let me clear away the plates,’ Tanya said. ‘I didn’t make the desert, it’s from Fallon and Byrne though, so it should be good.’

‘Bring it on, babe,’ Dineen said. ‘I’ll give it a whack.’

Tanya stood up and picked up her plate, then mine, and then she leaned across the table to take Dineen’s from his hands. As she did that, he got an eyeful of those sweet dumplings of hers. She left the room and Dineen sat there rolling his napkin between his fingers, the other hand rubbing at his stubble. I wasn’t saying anything, but I felt my shoulders cramping up a bit waiting for what he might say and what I might have to do to him if he made some crack about Tanya’s breasts. Then without looking at me, fiddling in his pocket for his fags, he says to me, ‘So, Jackie. Fair fucks to you. You’re well sorted.’

And you know how I felt when he said that? I felt fantastic. I felt like a man.





Phil Byrne asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work



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