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 last 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 seventh episode, good news at last for Annie May...
“Listen, listen,” says Annie May. “Here it is — ‘Dear Ms Miller, we unfortunately cannot offer you the broadcast position at this time, however, we think that you would be a great addition to our team as a personal assistant.’ Huh? How about that!”
“Assistant to who?” asks Chris.
“Whatever his name is — DJ something — the radio guy.”
She closes the email, plugs her phone back in, and swears in relief.
“I think a celebration is in order,” says Mini.
“Tonight. You. Me. Chris. Town. Pints. Lads. Langers.”
“I’m in,” says Annie May.
“No can do, I’m afraid,” says Chris. “I mean I’m delighted for you, Annie May, but you guys promised to come to my play, remember?”
Mini did, of course, remember.
“You’re still into that theatre stuff?”
“Yes, that stuff is what I want to do with my life.”
“Yes, but how sure are you about that? Anyway, come on, it’s Annie May’s big day. A real job. Surely you can skip it, no?”
“I’m the lead role.”
“Supporting role,” says Annie May. “Hate to break it to you.”
“Well, yes, technically, but I have more lines than the lead, so...”
Annie May and Mini take a leisurely stroll into town so that Mini can collect the sweater she’d left at work. Even though it’s early in the afternoon, Cameron’s Bakery has a line that stretches around the block.
“Follow me,” says Mini, leading Annie May over to the employee entrance.
With the sweater retrieved, and coffee, the two of them head towards Peace Park.
“We have to get out of this play.” says Mini. “I heard him rehearsing. It’s actually shocking.”
“It can’t be that bad.”
“Yes, it definitely can be. Did you hear him yesterday?”
“Was that it? I thought he was breaking up with someone over the phone... I didn’t want to ask. Oh God no. No, no, no.”
“Plus, look,” says Mini. On her phone is a Tinder profile picture. Rodrigo. 23. Fotógrafo. “Hmm?”
“Yes. I see your point.”
“There are two of them. Are we good enough friends for a double date?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” says Annie May.
The plan was to ditch Chris’s play halfway through, so at least they could tell him that he’d done a good job. It was one of those plays. The kind where the actors mingle with the audience. Atrocious.
In the foyer, a character straight out of Peaky Blinders asks them if they had heard anything suspicious recently. “I know him. He’s from Midleton,” whispers Mini. She turns to him. “What’s the story, Brian?”
He looks panicked, then collects himself. “It’s Captain Bingham, love.” His new Scouse accent is questionable. Mini rolls her eyes. “Jeezus.”
The lights dim as they find their seats. A spotlight shines on the back wall. Chris enters, his olive uniform torn and stained with pasta sauce, and he stumbles through the audience towards the stage.
“They... They’re already here, Captain,” he cries, clutching at his throat and making choking sounds. “I’m not sure how long we can hold them!”
Oh no. It’s going to be a train wreck. Annie May’s head is about to explode; it’s all she can do to keep from laughing. She can’t look at Mini. Mini is biting her lip so hard it turns white. They’ve never seen him this serious.
On the stage, Captain Bingham (Brian) shouts at his daughter who has been hidden in the audience. To Mini’s right, a woman in a floral dress stands bolt-upright: “Yes, father. Right away, sir!”
Mini screams bloody murder. She hadn’t noticed the actress. Annie May bursts out laughing. Gasping for air, she tries to cover her face with the playbill. The actress shoots them a filthy look. Someone from the back of the audience yells at them to shut up. Annie May is in fits as Mini turns around to yell back.
Two frazzled ushers who look like budget Jedward walk down the aisle and tell them that this is their final warning. Annie May apologises, promising that it won’t happen again.
The daughter is back on stage. She has had a torrid affair with the dashing lieutenant played by Chris. They’ve been caught by Brian, no, Captain Bingham. It’s Chris’s Oscar-winning moment:
“Forgive me for being out of line, Captain, but the heart wants what it wants. I’m neither the richest man nor the strongest, but do you know what I do have? A heart. A heart, Captain, that bleeds — not for bullets or tank-fire — but for the noblest of reasons: for love.”
When the curtain is drawn, there is a hearty applause. Annie May turns to Mini, who has been watching through her fingers. “Did we miss out on the date?”
“Another time,” says Mini. “‘For love.’ Oh, he’s never going to hear the end of that.”