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 penultimate episode, Annie May goes live...
There’s panic at the station. DJ Nepotism, on his first real day of work, hasn’t shown up.
“I mean, the kid’s incredible,” says Mr O’Connor. “There has to be a good reason he didn’t come in.”
“I just got a hold of him, Mr O’Connor,” says Linda. “Hospital!”
“Oh God, what’s happened?”
“Had to get his stomach pumped. An allergic reaction.”
“An allergic reaction — you know, it’s like when you get sick from-“
“I know what an allergic reaction is, Linda, I’m asking what he’s allergic to.”
“The hospital said it was some meat. Apparently he can’t handle pork?”
Jamón. Annie May stands stock still, her mind whirring away. She focuses on her cuticles.
Linda turns to her.
“Hey, what was it that you gave him the other-“
Annie May raises her eyebrows and slides her fingers in front of her throat. Linda nods. ‘Nuff said.
“I can’t believe this. You’ll have to fill in, Annie May,” says Mr O’Connor. ‘Can you handle that?”
Is this luck or fate? Did she subconsciously know the ham was off?
“Poor Eugene...” she says.
It’s her first full programme, complete with ad breaks and silky-smooth transitions. She’s nailing it — really putting her degree to use — until the callers.
“Good morning, caller! You’re on air — go ahead.”
The caller says he runs a dairy farm. He’s complaining about the quality of the radio reception. Says the static bothers the heifers.
“Have you tried using earbuds?” asks Annie May. From the doorway, Linda shakes her head. Annie May realises this is a stupid question.
Ten minutes later, she has learned about his family, who he knows at the station, and the recent, difficult birth of a calf in excruciating detail. By the end of the conversation, Mr O’Connor is standing next to Linda with his arms crossed, frowning. She’d lost track of time.
During a break, Linda enters the booth.
“A little advice,” she says. “Be careful not to get caught up in cattle prattle.”
“Well, some of us like to talk a bit, if you haven’t noticed.”
It’s true. Even at the Spaniards’ house, Mini didn’t let a moment of silence go without a joke, anecdote, or carefully timed bon mot. When she’d gone to the bathroom, the awkward American silence seeped in like a gas leak.
“Your shoes,” she remembered saying to one of them, “Adidas?” When the Spanish boy nodded, she’d contributed the titillating follow-up: “That’s neat... I think I had a pair once...”
Nowhere to go with that one.
After work she calls her old room-mate from back home. Stella’s complaining about the hail in Chicago.
“They’re the size of frickin’ golf balls,” she says. “Cracked the hell outta my windshield — it looks like spiderwebs.”
Stella asks if she’ll be back anytime soon.
“That’s a good question,” says Annie May.
It’s not an easy thing to answer. There’s a part of you that wants to go home, that finds it comforting to have a home to return to. It means you can live abroad but always have an out. But Annie May has been asking herself what she would be going back for. Rent. Utilities. A job search from scratch. W-2s, 1099s, health insurance. And if she could ever afford a car, car insurance. A phone plan. Free upgrades that aren’t really free. Groceries — expensive but healthy or cheap and toxic. It’s the same everywhere.
She feels alright in Cork. Not great, but alright. That goes a long way. It’s what makes these aggravating bills worth paying, what makes her return to the station. She feels alright because she can explore, and she finds comfort in exploration. Different brand names and regional foods always make her smile. Rocket, for example, is called arugula back home. She has discovered drisheen too, but hasn’t worked up the courage to eat it.
It’s the little things that make setbacks at work, social mishaps, and family arguments manageable.
She tells Stella that she’ll be back home one day. For now, that’s enough.