Summer Soap (Episode 1): Two pals bunk school - on quest for a PS5

Welcome to The Echo’s annual feature - Summer Soap. Now in its seventh year, Summer Soap is a daily fictional serial run over 12 parts, which runs daily in print and on - starting here... Called The Search For Dodger, this story is about two teenagers in Mayfield and their search for a lost dog, and was written by Luke Jeffers, from the MA in Creative Writing Programme at UCC.  In the first episode, teen pals are given a task by an elderly lady...
Summer Soap (Episode 1): Two pals bunk school - on quest for a PS5

“She scurries back into the house and comes back. Matt’s jaw drops. A PS5 the size of a carry-on suitcase”

MATT has been waiting for over 20 minutes. Twenty f**king minutes. The Mayfield mams stroll into Supervalu, searching inside their bags for a euro coin, finding near-empty fag packs and All Cash scratch cards. He peeks around the corner of Donatello’s. Last thing he needs is getting caught half an hour after bunking. He checks his phone and leans against the wall, the peeling paint like crinkled chocolate wrappers. He pulls at his jumper. Uniform is scratchy enough as it is.

He looks across the road and Barra waves, crosses over and sits down, rattling the shutter.

“Alright, Matt.”

Matt stares at him. How had he landed Barra during the divvying up of best friends in Junior Infants? Big-footed Barra ‘Crunchie’ Brannigan. Always the biggest lad in the class, walked like a drunken thunder god. Goofy smile, buzzed head, nose a boxer’s pride and joy. Didn’t take long for his secondary school nickname to stick (barra, bainne, and an bhfuil cead agam dul go dtí an leithreas the only Irish in their heads). He’s the kind of guy still watching the soaps with his Mam.

“Don’t alright me. Where the f**k you been? Shoulda been here 20 minutes ago.”

Barra hoists up his knees and rummages through his schoolbag. He pulls out a lunch box packed with sandwiches.

“Sure, I had to make the lunch.”

Matt scowls. “You’re some spacer. We’ll never make the reservation time now.”

“Why didn’t you hop on the bus?”

“’Cause you’re the one who got the reservation, you muppet!”

He drops next to Barra and hits his head off the shutter. Why does Barra not take the situation seriously?

“That’s it so. We’re never gonna get a PS5 at this rate.”

He groans. They hadn’t a chance first time round. Whole country went crazy, all the stock reserved in minutes. He’d tried doing it the proper way the second time. Got lucky and reserved one. Only had to pick it up. Begged Mam and everything. Nope. Told her all he’d miss was dumb war poems and a stupid biology test about the heart and that. Nope. Dropped him right off at the gate. This is their last chance. His last chance to impress Caoimhe Mulcahy, the only girl in Mayfield, maybe even Cork, who likes video games.

He looks up, the sky cloudless and so blue it’s almost white, the heat slapping them silly. Can’t even enjoy a nice day bunking off.

“It’s all that Brexit’s fault,” Barra nods, wise beyond his 14 years. He scratches his head. “I meant to do something else too.”

“Yeah, show up on time.”

Across the way in Knight’s Court, Mrs Higgins frets along the footpath. All the houses are like knights; painted a grey darker than armour and white garden walls pointing towards the green like lances, cavalry waiting to be released.

“Come on, Crunchie, we don’t wanna be caught.”

They cross the road. Barra glances at the garden. Matt rolls his eyes. The size of him, scared of dogs. In all fairness.

“How’re you, Mrs Higgins? Where’s Dodger?”

She’s a small, typical-looking grandmother with grey hair, face creased like the pages of school textbooks, and a stooped back as if carrying a bag of cement mix. Wearing a faded purple cardigan.

“He ran onto a 208 ten minutes ago.”

Barra blinks. “They let him on without a leap card?”

“Ah, sorry, Mrs Higgins. He’s all chipped though, ain’t he?”

Her little body shakes and she grips the wall. “That’ll take an age. Someone has to get him now.” She looks at them. “Ye could.”

“No, really...“

She scurries back into the house and comes back. Matt’s jaw drops. A PS5 box the size of a carry-on suitcase.

“Get him back before school ends and it’s all yours. My grandson prefers Xbox now. He’ll go ape if he sees this.”

Barra shakes his head. “I don’t really...“

Matt kicks him. “We’ll do it. Give us an extra hour and you’ve a deal.”

She nods, hands over Dodger’s lead, some treats, and poo bags.

“Just bring him back. He hates the lead, that’s why he ran off.”

“Ah.” Barra taps his nose. “Dodger.”

The next 208 pulls up and Matt drags Barra after him.

“A PS5 for finding Dodger! Easy! Come on!”

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