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 on Monday and runs till Saturday week. Called Droid, this story is about a boy who designs a robot, and was written by Margaret Gillies, 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 third episode, Lucca’s robot starts to get noticed.
Read by Anna O'Donoghue. Listen here:
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Lucca Grimes is smoking a cigarette outside and thinking to himself.
While gazing down at Cork city, he slips into an old habit of mapping out a memoir piece in his head: Hollyhill is cold and humid. When you walk down the tall hill in the bone sunshine your feetsteps go like thud-thud-thud. When you walk down the tall hill in the rain your feetsteps go like smack-smack-smack. You breathe in Hollyhill and you breathe in concrete. Some people mark their territory by leaving flowers that are bright and smell good. People in Hollyhill leave cardboard and plastic that are black and white and smell staticky. There are very boarded windows and very green grass. There are shiny buildings and crumbly buildings. There is an atmosphere of technology and Old People. When you see a couple in trackies shuffling with a buggy, the high n’mighty c**ts in suits are positive that baby is never going to college. Walk through Hollyhill in a suit and you’re God. Except if you’re a politician, then you’re scum. I was a baby in a buggy once. Mam used to wear trackies but she’s grown up now. She hasn’t grown up, she’s just fat. She wears pants that look like trackies but aren’t. She wears baubly jumpers from Dunnes. Dunnes has women’s and kids’ clothes on a big, cold ground floor, sometimes with Arctic sections of meat and veg. The men’s clothes are upstairs or in a corner with the duvets and lamps. Mam likes Dunnes. Look at me and you think I’d never be in college. You’d also think I wasn’t Irish. I’m in my final year in UCC and I’ve built a robot. And I talk like this. Robot’s name is Grim McNally and he can talk too.
Professor Tracy Eppinger — the man dubbed “that Trinny Yoke” — is too beautiful to be walking among these mere mortals and too ugly to be called beautiful. He is the head of the Advanced Robotics MA that was rolled out in Trinity College Dublin last year.
Born in Toronto in 1951 to a largely single mother, ‘Trinny’ spent most of his childhood in Salford, Manchester, where he developed the confusingly friendly-but-aggressive Mancunian/Canadian accent.
Many Irish people will recognise Professor Tracy Eppinger from his appearance on RTÉ News discussing the new MA at Trinity College. He is the man responsible for putting Advanced Robotics forward as a Masters degree in Irish third-level institutes. It has made him a very wealthy man.
He has an IQ of 171 and is considered one of the most important academics in the world. Nothing excites him more than imagining the bright young minds who will join him in the quest to change the world with science and technology.
Professor Jonathan Hunter is a lecturer in Advanced Robotics at Trinity College. He is Trinny’s most trusted colleague and associate. He wears wrinkly white shirts and tight black tracksuit pants only marginally disguised as formal wear. His Adidas trainers go screet-screet over tiles and skrit-skrit over carpets, while his spindly half-moon glasses slide down his nose far enough to make them completely pointless.
It’s Hunter who introduces Trinny to Lucca Grimes from Hollyhill.
Hunter produces a copy of The Echo. It’s always a token of his visit to his mother in Mallow. He slaps it on Trinny’s desk.
Trinny stares at the headline and accompanying pictures. “Amazing, isn’t it?” says Hunter.
A young man around 20 dressed in grey Adidas tracksuit pants and a vintage jacket stands smirking with his hands in his pockets beside an android robot.
“What the f**k is that?” whispers Trinny.
“I know, it looks like a sex doll.”
Trinny scans the article. The young man — Lucca Grimes — is a UCC student. Not only that, but he’s undertaking the Advanced Robotics Masters, which has only been introduced to UCC the year after it was in Trinity College.
Hunter smiles sweetly. “It’s not quite what you had in mind, is it?”
The legs of Trinny’s chair drag deeply over the carpet. He rises slowly and walks out of the room. “I need a fag.”
“Jesus Christ, Trace,” snorts Hunter from behind, “I can’t wait to meet him.”