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 ninth episode, opportunities beckon for Annie May...
There’s a funny thing about homesickness. It’s never the big things. Sometimes you miss the people and the places, sure, but the real heavy-hitters sneak in through the smallest gaps.
Crossing the bridge near the City Hall, Annie May notices a scent carried over the Lee. It’s almost sweet — nothing like the briny scent of ocean beaches. She’s taken back to the coast of Chicago, summer evenings sitting along the Lakefront Trail. The towering buildings lit up in gold behind her, and the lake, purple and cloudy, stretching away in front of her.
She remembers how the rough cement would cling to the fibres of her sweater, how the waves would send droplets high into the air, making fleeting stains of glowing colour against the Tarmac. She remembers the paletas she and her friends ate one night, sticky and sweet, running down their forearms, dripping onto their shorts. And the wind, warm, heavy, insistent, sending their napkins and cups flying away.
“...and that’s why I’m a few minutes late,” she says.
DJ Hot n’ Spicy raises an eyebrow.
“That was beautiful. The sort of thing could make a grown man cry.”
She has stayed on. She doesn’t know exactly why. She’d been lucky to get this far, she supposes. Why not? After all, it has only been a week and she has already picked up the rhythm of the place. Once, on her own, she’d prepared the entire day’s running order. Her bosses are thrilled.
In fact, there is a rumour that DJ Hot n’ Spicy is due to become a father, and that he might be taking a little time off for parental duties. This would leave an open, full-time position.
Annie May had thought nothing of it, until he sits her in the booth and tells her to give it a go.
“What? Why?” she asks.
“You’ve done it before, right? The Hit List, or something? I had to read your CV, you know.”
“Well, yes, but -“
“You’ll be grand. Take it away, Ernie!”
The producer counts down and the “On Air” sign lights up.
“Good morning and welcome to…” She hadn’t thought of a name. “The Hit Brigade? Sure, why not! The Hit Brigade! I’m your current host, filling in for DJ Hot n’ Spicy. Who’s ready for the super summer soundtrack? I know I am!”
DJ Hot n’ Spicy raises an eyebrow. Not bad.
She hits the tab and the first song begins. It’s horrible. And catchy. The worst kind.
She whispers: “Do I have to do the whole show by myself?”
“No, just a few minutes here. It’ll build character. Take a caller after this.”
“Take a… and speak about what?”
“They usually do most of the talking… Ah there’s the first one now — gowan.”
The song fades and she hits the answer key.
“Welcome!” she says. “You’re our first caller, go ahead.”
“Where’s the DJ gone?” the voice asks. “And who are you?”
“He’s taking a little break,” she says, trying to ask DJ Hot n’ Spicy what to say next with her eyes. Can she mention the child or not? “...because... he has… been fired?”
He shakes his head vigorously and raises his hands.
“No, sorry, that’s not it… because of personal reasons?”
“Are you asking me or telling me,” the voice says. “Anyway, tell him to come out for pints at four.”
“You called into the station to ask him out for drinks?”
“Yes, I did. And there’s nothing wrong with that now is there?”
“Thank you, caller,” she says. She fades into the next song, sweat pouring off her forehead like a waterfall.
That evening, Annie May joins Chris and Mini in the cramped kitchen for some homemade tiramisu that is somehow more soup than dessert.
“Guess who made it on the radio?” asks Chris.
Mini turns to Annie May. “No way. You were on?”
“That I was,” says Annie May. “Never felt better.”
“No. I barely knew what I was doing.”
“Ah you’ll get used to it,” says Chris, leaving for the bathroom.
“But you got the job?” asks Mini.
“It’s more of a trial, I suppose, but it looks like it.”
“Okay good. Can we celebrate now?” asks Mini. “The Spaniards are dying to meet us.”
The Spaniards live in a three bedroom house next to the Lough. Annie May looks over at Mini. She is leafing through an old Canon instruction manual. Over text, Mini had pretended that she was an avid photographer.
“Do you need me to quiz you?” asks Annie May.
“No, no… I’m just worried I’ll be caught talking f-stops,” she says.
Annie May knocks on the ivy-covered door. “You ready?” Mini tucks the manual away, checks the bottles of wine in her canvas bag, and nods.