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. 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 fifth episode, our trio of friends catch a movie...
The people at the station said they’d get back to her within a week. Annie May checks her emails constantly. There’s a little bar graph that tells her how many hours per day she has spent on her phone. Much to her chagrin, she has been regularly crossing the five-hour threshold.
“It’s addictive, no question,” says Mini. “They design the apps that way on purpose.”
“I know,” says Annie May.
“And the worst part is there will never be any accountability. All these stats make me even more stressed.”
“Exactly. Isn’t that right, Chris?”
Chris raises a finger without looking up from his phone. “Be right with you,” he says.
Patrick’s Hill is jam-packed with young people. One sunny day and they’re out like migratory birds. All waving and shouting, cans akimbo. A sliotar whizzes past her face, and a sheepish boy with racing stripes carved into his hair apologises. She asks Mini and Chris about PPS numbers.
“It’s like your work authorisation,” says Mini. “We all have one.”
“It’s the equivalent of a social security number,” says Chris.
Annie May feels sick. There are always lovely little pitfalls with immigration paperwork. When she was an undergrad, she was supposed to study in Paris for a semester. After she’d gotten into the program, her university told her to get a visa, so she contacted the consulate. She reviewed their checklists and saved up for their application fees. She gathered a whole mess of papers: scanned copies of her passport and driver’s licence, official letters from her university, and proof of health insurance. She’d taped them all up on the wall of her bedroom like a scene out of A Beautiful Mind.
Then, after waiting three months for an appointment, her application was denied. She had forgotten to print out her latest bank statement. Just the one. It’s the little things that make failure so fun.
The clouds roll in and everyone groans. The three of them pack up and head home for a movie night. Rock, paper, scissors. Chris wins the right to choose the evening’s entertainment. Annie May and Mini both roll their eyes. He’s into whispery arthouse films.
He picks a Spanish movie starring Penélope Cruz. Says it’s some great testament to the power of cinema. Mini scoffs.
“Just because it’s in a foreign language doesn’t mean it’s spectacular,” she says.
Chris looks hurt. “I’m ignoring that,” he says. “Trust me... this is something special, a real auteur film, you know?”
Annie May’s Googling how to apply for a PPS number. The search results are unclear. She can’t tell if she only needs an online form or if it requires an in-person meeting as well.
“Hey Chris, do you know if you need an appointment fo-“
“Shhhh — it’s starting,” he says.
The movie opens with a blind man. He used to be someone great. Then he asks a woman to describe her breasts for him. “Jeezus,” says Mini.
Chris is getting panicky. “No, no,” he says. “Just wait. It’s art.”
“We’re waiting,’ says Annie May. ‘Aaand there’s the top off.”
The sex scene is lengthy and explicit. The first sex scene, that is. The three of them stare straight ahead, trying not to make eye contact.
“So is this going to be the whole thing?” asks Annie May.
Chris won’t answer.
“You’re into blue movies, is that it?” asks Mini.
“Just. Wait. The dialogue here is class.”
“Sure, the dialogue,” says Mini.
“He’s a bit pervy for an auteur, no?” asks Annie May.
“They’re all a bit,” says Mini.
Chris is trying very hard to concentrate on the subtitles, which at the moment read, moaning.
Annie May has found the FAQ page for the application. It can be completed online. Perfect. But what about the proof of address?
“Hey Mini, how might I prove that I live h-“
“Would you two please be quiet?” asks Chris. “It picks up here, I promise.”
Mini makes a face at Chris and gives Annie May a helpless shrug.
“Let me look it up later, OK?”
The film moves on. It is revealed that the protagonist is himself a film director, a narrative technique that Chris is eager to point out.
“You see, it’s a film within a film. It’s about looking. Do you notice the mise-en-scène? The red colours of the set mirror the characters’ fraught relationship with lust and violence.”
Then Mrs Cruz takes her shirt off.
“It’s a blue movie all right. No question,” says Annie May.
“Agreed,” says Mini. “We could’ve been watching something good.”
Chris is about to explode.
“This is good,” he says. “It’s not about sex.”
Annie May and Mini exchange a look.
“Yes it absolutely is,” says Mini as the characters on screen begin to wrestle, nude, on the floor.
Annie May turns her phone off. Why does everything require so many steps, so many hours in front of a computer? She wants to work. Shouldn’t the government make the process as easy as possible?
Mini turns away from the TV. “On second thought,” she says, “why don’t we take a look at that application now.”
You can catch up on previous episodes on the link below.