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 and concludes today. 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 last episode, our heroine’s final thoughts...
Prime time. The big show. Annie May struts into that booth like she owns the place. She has even got her own researcher now, another sad-sack right outta university. Even the chair feels right. She lowers the microphone and places her water bottle next to the notepad on the desk. She sits up, adjusts her tee shirt, gives a few red leather, yellow leathers for good measure, and watches the producer give the count down.
“... That was, of course, the late, the great, Dolores O’Riordan… And a big welcome back to 101.1’s The Hit Brigade — thank you for joining us tonight! Remember, callers can win an all-expenses paid trip to Ballinspittle, where I’m told you can see the Virgin Mary move. Here’s someone now — Welcome to Hit Hysteria! Go ahead caller.”
“Annie May? This is Deirdre calling, how are you?”
“Deirdre! Welcome. You’re live on air — do you have a guess for today’s Hit Hysteria?”
“I do, yes… Is the answer the Kavanagh girl?”
“Ouch, Deirdre, you’re so close. One year off. No cigar, I’m afraid.”
“Now don’t you be playing games with me — is that not the answer?”
“It’s not, but look — I’ll give you another go if you’d like.”
“Well, it’s hardly a victory now, is it?”
“We can always go on to the next caller…”
“I said one year off, Deirdre.”
“Martin, then. Linda Martin.”
“There you go — congratulations, Deirdre —you’ve won!”
“And what’s the prize?”
“What have I won, girl?”
“Oh — the trip to Ballinspittle, remember?”
“Oh, no. That’s alright. I’ll pass on that.”
Annie May stares at the microphone. Behind the glass, the producer cackles.
“We’ll be right back,” she says, “after this.”
The afternoon is grey and foggy. She walks down Patrick Street, over the bridge, and heads West along Lavitts Quay. The rain is heavier now. She opens her umbrella and the whole top comes off and flies into the river. Heavier still. It’s a proper downpour. The shopping crowd runs for cover under alcoves and storefronts.
Annie May just keeps walking, her wet hair sticking to her eyes and mouth. Her shoes squelch and one ankle sock has slipped under her heel.
She crosses the river at Pope’s Quay and walks up the steep steps of Saint Mary’s. She leans against a column, her head resting against the grey stone, and watches the rain ricochet off the surface of the Lee.
Sometimes, a new city is a walk across a frozen pond in flip-flops. You can’t quite get your feet beneath you. Even without a language barrier, there are a million other challenges.
Bank accounts to set up, leases to sign, identity cards to apply for. And every step has a price. It’s expensive and daunting, and if you mess up, guess what? You could be sent home, fined, or carted off to prison. Or all three!
And she is one of the lucky ones. Americans are coddled in Europe — just imagine everyone else. It’s just that any transition, whether it’s work, a relationship, or travel, is frightening.
And it’s also delightful.
The road signs in Irish and English. The connected homes with their colourful plaster facades. The Lee, interrupted by the city centre, uniting at the Port of Cork sign. It’s unlike anywhere else, all worth observing.
She cherishes the moments when she is aware of her own little period of history. She can almost observe herself, as if from above, winding through the labyrinthine streets and back alleys of the city.
She will stay here for a while, maybe not forever, but for now.
There’s Chris and Mini off in the distance. Sometimes it’s not even about the place.