Welcome to The Echo’s annual feature — Summer Soap. Now in its sixth year, Summer Soap is a daily fictional serial run over 12 parts, which started yesterday and runs till Saturday week. Called Annie May And The Hit Brigade, this story follows a young woman from the USA to Cork, and was written by Mahito Indi Henderson, from the MA in Creative Writing Programme at UCC. Catch up with previous episodes at echolive.ie, where you can also hear a podcast of the story. In this second episode, Annie May reaches Cork...
The cab from Dublin Airport smells of vinegar and sporting equipment. The window is cracked open, but the tab is stuck and it won’t go down any further.
“Are you absolutely positive you can’t lower this any more?” she asks the cabbie. She’s trying to breathe all shallow.
“Broken,” he says.
As they cross the Liffey, she asks him to let her off at the corner. Bridgefoot Street and Usher’s Quay. She figures a walk might do her good, even if it means lugging her suitcases along. She’s wrong. It takes her nearly an hour to get to Heuston Station.
The train to Cork is sleek and European. She assumes. She has never really been out of North America. She has seen movies and TV shows, of course, but they’re all of London and Paris and places where you can drink outside at ten in the morning. Come to think of it, she has only seen one Irish show, Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope, and all that gave her was an irrational fear of Dublin’s housing scene. But she likes the show because they absolutely nailed those snobby students from Vancouver.
The train ride is a breeze. Over before it started. Annie May can’t believe it when a voice announces that they’ve arrived. In the States, two and a half hours is nothing — your closest neighbour’s house is that far away. But here she is, halfway across the island, pulling into a place called Kent station.
The McCarthys are all there, waiting for her near the exit. The mum and dad, the parents’ favourite in his UCC shirt, the bored-out-of-her-mind teenager staring at the ceiling, the two snotty toddlers taking turns slapping each other with bendy straws. When Annie May comes through the sliding glass doors, they all rush towards her.
“I can remember when you were in nappies,” says Mrs McCarthy lovingly. “You were such a round little girl. Like a football, wasn’t she Peter?”
“She was!” says Mr McCarthy.
“In a nice way!” says Mrs McCarthy.
It’s decided that Annie May will stay with the McCarthys’ eldest, Chris. He’s a year younger than Annie May, just finishing up a Theatre and Performative Practice degree.
“I thought that you’d have more fun staying with Chris and his friends,” says Mrs McCarthy.
“We have an extra room,” Chris adds, giving her a thumbs up.
Annie May is delighted.
The flat above the pub is so filthy that the mould is growing mould. Somewhat sheepishly, Chris shows her around the place. In one of the bedrooms, a young woman is carefully editing a wordy to-do list on a whiteboard. When she notices the two of them, she comes to the door.
“Chris! Who’s this?” she asks.
“She’s the American I was telling you about.”
“Ah, April May.”
“Annie May, nice to meet you.”
“And you’re stuck living with us?” the young woman asks. “What a tragedy.”
“Well, I like the flat,” says Annie May. “And you seem alright so far.”
“Cheers,” says the young woman, smiling.
“I’m Aoife, by the way, Aoife Murray, but they call me Mini.”
They call her Mini because she’s nearly six foot two. Works in Cameron’s Bakery on Washington Street and is doing a master’s in accounting programme. She’s the type of person who watches Countdown and actually plays along.
The first few days with her new room-mates are incredible. Nights out, Lennox’s, cans by the Lough. A week in, she nearly has a panic attack when she checks her account balance. She had figured that her uncle’s loan would go a lot further than it has. The conversion rate is killing her.
According to her (questionable) math, one euro must equal about four hundred US dollars. At this point, she couldn’t even afford a ticket back home. She needs a job, any job, fast.