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 sixth episode, a letdown for Annie May...
You know those nature documentaries where the camera zooms in on a colony of ants? They’re all scrambling over one another, all rushing around, taking care of business. Some carry massive hunks of fresh fruit and flower petals, while others prefer more savoury, umami flavours. Regardless, they all have an agenda, a game plan, a strategy for collecting as much nourishment as possible.
That’s the English Market.
Annie May is buying cheese. She’s trying to buy cheese. It’s a nightmare. There’s screaming, crying, wailing, shouting — and that’s all from one family. Another family is buying enough cured meats to feed a small country, and the staff are visibly sweating. Annie May is dead last in line, but a few people peel off, tsking, annoyed with the wait, and suddenly she’s up next.
Aaand there’s her phone. It’s the station. She picks up in a panic.
“Yes, hello, yes?”
“Miss Miller? Is this a bad time?”
It is a bad time. But you can’t just say that.
“It’s a great time,” she says.
The cheese shop employee looks over at her.
Annie May puts a hand over the speaker and turns to the cheese shop employee. One second, she mouths.
“What?” the cheese shop employee asks.
“What’s that?” asks the voice on the phone.
“Not you,” she says.
“I’m sorry — is there an update on my application?”
“Which type would you like?” the cheese shop employee asks.
Annie May is shoved by a squat man in a peacoat. His cologne smells of grass clippings. She coughs.
“We’re sorry to inform you...” the voice says. “Miss Miller? Is everything okay?”
“Yes, yes,” she says, trying desperately to hold in another cough. “I’ll take the Morbier.”
“The... Miss, are you ordering something?”
“No, no, go on,” she says, gesturing at the cheese shop employee. There’s a little kid, six maybe, hitting her ankle with a plastic spoon.
“... As I was saying, we regret to inform you that you have not been selected for the broadcast position-“
“That’s perfect,” says Annie May to the cheese shop employee, who is asking her how large of a slice she wants. The crowd is so loud she has to shout.
“Perfect?” the voice asks.
“No, I was — I mean… tragic?”
“That’ll be €4.35,” the cheese shop employee says.
“Thank you, bye now,” she says, hanging up. She reaches into her purse for her wallet. It’s missing. Of course it’s missing. “One second,” she says. The couple behind her groan.
It hits her as she’s crossing Nano Nagle Bridge. She has been rejected. Now what? Start over? How tragic, she thinks. She’d half-expected to fail anyway. Maybe she’d been even less articulate than she’d imagined. But then again, she had done well, considering. Considering.
There’s always one little thing that gets you. It’s the moment when you miss the bus you need to get to your interview on time, when there’s a glaring typo in your CV, when you mix up the names of the companies in your cover letter. And even if you do well, there are a hundred others crawling over each other, all vying for your position. It’s never just a straightforward, “welcome aboard” sort of process.
She passes the window of Alchemy Coffee on Barrack Street. There’s a ‘help wanted’ paper taped to the window. There’s always work in a coffee shop, she thinks. Maybe she’ll work there for a while, just to get out of the red. And it wouldn’t be a bad gig, hell, fun even.
Under ‘help wanted’ is a line that reads, ‘experience necessary’. Oh joy! Even the coffee shop doesn’t want her. She smiles at the current barista through the open door. A cloud, dark and ghoulish, dumps rain over everything.
Back at the flat, she folds her clothes and pulls back her sheets. They’re freshly washed. Nothing like it. Some things, however small, make up for a whole lot. She wriggles in, switches off the light, and just lies there for a moment, breathing, staring up into the darkness. There’s one of those glow-in-the-dark stars plastered on the ceiling from the previous tenant. She smiles.
She sets the alarm on her phone and notices an email notification. It’s from the station. Her reverie is shattered. What do they want now? Had she done something wrong? Had she stolen something during her interview?
She opens the message.