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.
Mini’s date opens the door with a flourish. “Welcome, welcome,” he says, fiddling with his tight silk dress shirt. It’s unbuttoned all the way to his stomach. He gives Mini a light kiss on either cheek. He greets Annie May in the same way, his jaw like sandpaper on hers.
In a dim living room, they sit on a couch that is too low to be a real couch, and watch as the other Spaniards lay out brown bread and cured meat on a charcuterie board. Reggaeton blasts from tobacco-covered speakers. It’s perfect.
“¿Jamón ibérico?” the boy who opened the door asks, holding the platter like a waiter. “It is from my family.”
“From your family?” asks Annie May.
“Yes, from home.”
“What, they sent you ham by post?” asks Mini.
“Yes, what is strange?”
“Nothing,” says Mini. “It’s just my ham’s delivered by courier.”
They dance until the wee hours of the morning; cheap, portable strobe lights throw colours onto every drink-stained surface. Around four in the morning, Annie May notices the clock above the oven.
“I gotta get out of here,” Annie May whispers to Mini. “I’ve got work first thing tomorrow.”
“Good timing — I’m all out of camera terminology.”
A stocky lad from Bilbao has taken an interest in Annie May. His grin shows tobacco-stained teeth yellower than tea cake. They inform him of their departure. “Oh, come on,” he says, shaking a carton of eggs. “We are just about to make omelettes!”
They tell the Spaniards that they really must be going. The stocky one nods, disappointed, and offers her some jamón as a parting gift. She takes the sweaty parcel and smiles, as Mini types the photographer’s WhatsApp number into her phone.
The work week’s a whirlwind. The radio station has, unbeknownst to Annie May, been interviewing other people to fill DJ Hot n’ Spicy’s temporarily vacant position.
On Friday, it’s announced that it has been given to a young former intern named Eugene. Mr O’Connor is making a big song and dance about him.
“This lad is really something,” he says to the staff.
“I mean, look at him. A real industrious fellow. A get-your-hands-dirty-then-dust-em-off-and-get-back-to-it type of man. Our little station is proud to have you, boy.”
“For Christ’s sake,” Linda whispers to Annie May. “I mean, the kid is his nephew, not Jesus.”
Annie May politely claps with the others. No one had told her anything — would she be his PA? Would she be moved on? Was she now, as they say, redundant? And not to be petty, but him? He is a textbook mumbler. What sort of respectable radio station would have the gall to hire such a person?
After the announcement, her co-workers file out of the meeting room and return to their desks. She decides to speak up.
“Can I have a word, Mr O’Connor?” she asks.
“You can of course — how does Tuesday suit?”
“I was thinking more along the lines of immediately,” she says.
He checks his Apple Watch.
“I’m afraid I’m off my feet at the moment, but why don’t you get to know your new host?”
“Well, that’s what I want to talk to you about,” she says.
Mr O’Connor sighs and lowers his voice to a whisper. “Is this about the photocopier thing?”
“Ah, nothing. Good. Listen, I’ll talk to my assistant and we’ll find a time, okay?”
She looks him right in the eyes.
“I’d prefer to discuss this now.”
She asks Mr O’Connor about the station’s decision to go with Eugene. Though he neglects to mention their connection, Mr O’Connor makes some decent points. His nephew has experience with Irish radio — and not only that — Cork radio. A whole different beast.
“I recognise the position you’re in,” he says.
“You’re over-qualified to be a researcher, but you’re too new to be a presenter. If you can manage it, hang in there.”
Annie May sits in the hallway, nibbling on a burrito that’s still frozen in the centre. It tastes like a sawdust popsicle. She sees a package sticking out of her bag — ham from the Spaniards. She walks back into the studio.
“Congratulations, Eugene,” she says, holding out the meat. She wants to get off on the right foot, even if that foot wants to boot him across the goddamn room. A simple, kind gesture. People like ham.