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 on Monday 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 the third episode, Annie May finds Cork culture on tap...
The game plan: get a job. The problem: Annie May has zero work experience besides broadcast.
Mini says that her lack of professional expertise wouldn’t be a problem here.
“A cousin of mine’s an editor on a newspaper,” she says. “Guess what degree she got?”
“I dunno,” says Annie May. “Creative writing? English?”
“False,” says Mini. “Agriculture and waste management.”
Annie May raises an eyebrow. Duly noted.
Mini is nothing if not organised. Opposite of Chris. She has a spreadsheet up in seconds. Title reads, Annie May: Job Hunt.
“What?” asks Annie May.
“What are your skills? You know, Excel, Word, PowerPoint? Oh, I know, graphic design? How about internships? Marketing experience? Customer service?”
“Radio,” says Annie May. “And I used to watch my neighbour’s guinea pig on weekends. Does that count?”
Mini stares at her. “Well, it’s something,” she says.
Chris takes her out for mid-afternoon drinks at Mutton Lane. He had said that it was of utmost importance that she accompany him. She expects he would’ve gone anyway. At the bar she asks him what to order. He tells her to get a Beamish because it’s cheapest.
“I don’t know what you’d compare it to back home,” he says, “but it’s easy on the pocket.” Annie May orders one. It tastes, unsurprisingly, like stout. She assures him it tastes better than Guinness.
She overhears snippets of conversations that make her feel at home. A bald guy with a beagle is talking about the time he fell into a well somewhere in Normandy. A woman who looks like Sharon Osbourne tells her companion that she’d adopted a puppy over the internet. “Turned out to be a badger painted brown,” she says.
“What do you think?” Chris asks, gesturing around.
She could tell he was proud of it, that nothing pleased him more than sharing his haunts with someone new.
“I love it,” she said. “It reminds me of Canada.”
Annie May’s uncle had bought a cottage in Ontario before they got expensive. She’d spent every summer of her childhood in the Muskokas, tramping through forests thick with dogwood, spruce, and pine, diving into deep, amber-speckled lakes. In the evenings, all the neighbours would come over, Labatt Blues in hand, and tell filthy jokes throughout the night. They seemed to her the happiest of people.
Chris orders a fourth — or fifth — round for the two of them. She’s having a ball. He convinces a group in the seats next to them to sing The Boys of Barr na Sráide with him. An hour later, they’re still at it. Annie May joins in, guessing the lyrics from context and humming along when she can’t. She doesn’t understand much of what they’re saying, but there seems to be a recurring theme. She makes a mental note to look it up later.
The two of them cross the road and stumble down Cornmarket Street. Annie May’s phone won’t stop ringing.
“You gonna get that?” asks Chris.
“Are you gonna get that?” she asks. “Okay, okay, fine. Hello?”
“It’s me. I’ve been trying to reach you for ages.”
“We were out for pints,” says Annie May, trying very, very hard to concentrate. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah, grand. I was just calling to say that a friend of my aunt’s told me that there is a position at the station that just opened up. No joke. They said that you should come in for an interview.”
“Ohmygosh, Mini! Yes! Thank you so much!” she says. “When do they want me to come in?”
“Well, that’s why I’ve been trying to get a hold of you — they want you to interview today because the programme director is leaving to visit family out in Donegal tomorrow.”
“Yes, of course! I — wait. Did you say today?”
Annie May’s brain is working so hard she can hear it.
“Like today, today?”
“Today, today, Annie May.”
New game plan: get home. New problem: no cash, no taxi. Chris is in no state to help her, so she leaves him by the Bodega and legs it through town, across Nano Nagle bridge, up Barrack Street.
Back at the flat, Mini looks concerned. “Are you sure about this?”
“Don’t worry about me, pal. I’m ready,” says Annie May. “In fact, I was born… yesterday.”