Summer Soap (Episode 2): A ride on a bus that’s full of city characters

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, running until Saturday week. 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. Catch up with previous episodes at echolive.ie. In the second episode, our heroes are on the tail of the missing dog
Summer Soap (Episode 2): A ride on a bus that’s full of city characters

“They spot a 208 bus parked up at the station. They hit the stop button and walk up to the front”

FIND Dodger at the bus station. Set up a spanking new PS5 in his house, and talk Barra into agreeing. How hard can it be?

They look out for Dodger, a massive dirt brown Labrador retriever with a red collar and a tongue that pants more than his tail wags. The bus chugs past Jerh. O’Connor’s Funeral Home and the Mayfield library, smelling of beer and baby formula. A woman shushes her baby, while Red FM announces the weather and asks listeners to call in with stories of their experiences using dating apps.

Only problem is, Cork city is big enough to be a city but not big enough to escape its small village feel. You’re as likely to bump into your neighbour walking the streets as you are walking round your estate. Since Mayfield is technically the city, these things often collide. And bumping into people is how Matt’s Mam will definitely find out he’s not in school.

The bus is packed with people they know, like it’s a removal or something. He squirms, Barra pressing him against the window.

There’s the delivery girl from Apache who always delivers to them. Glued to her phone and chewing loudly, her legs crossed and knees poking through massive rips in her jeans, guitar case seated next to her. There’s Sarah from round the corner, off to college in a green leather jacket and boots so long they’re like a super-hero’s outfit. She has a laptop case. Not a book on her. No wonder college is better than school. Sitting up front is Grahame, Mam’s cousin, in his blue Primark top and looking absolutely delighted to be alive. A few fellas wearing black beanies sit in the back, white plastic bags at their feet clinking. Humming to themselves, langers drunk already. Worst of all is Mr O’Callaghan sitting across the aisle, all suited and booted, cane across his lap and tie pin reflecting light around the bus. He leans forward, trying to peer around Barra. What a nightmare.

“Matt Hurley? That you?”

“Ah, Jesus,” he mutters and shoves Barra back. It doesn’t make much difference. “Mr O’Callaghan, how are we today? Spruced up well, aren’t you?”

“Ah, sure, not too bad, not too bad at all, you know yourself.”

Matt pokes Barra in the ribs. “He’s onto us. Distract him.”

“How?”

“I dunno, like.”

Barra looks Mr O’Callaghan up and down. “Do you have a date, Mr O’Callaghan?”

Mr O’Callaghan huffs. “I do not. And how come ye aren’t in school? Ye better not be acting the maggots.”

Barra turns back to Matt and raises his eyebrows. Matt curses. The lad can never think for himself.

“On the way to the dentist. Meeting Mam in town.”

“Ah right, right.” He points his cane at Barra. “How about yourself?”

“Off to the dentist too.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. I mean no.” 

Barra’s head swipes left and right, like doing a dance move on the Wii. “Not the same time, like.”

“Same dentist?”

“That’s the one.”

“Jesus, are you f**king thick or what, like?” Matt whispers, fingering the charging port of his phone.

Mr O’Callaghan frowns and settles back into his seat. Barra elbows Matt and winks at him, pointing at the door.

“How thick is the driving not noticing Dodger getting on the bus?”

“As thick as some people I know anyway.”

The 208 drives past St Luke’s, descends Summerhill, past the Chamber of Commerce and O’Donovan’s Off Licence. Mr O’Callaghan glances over.

“Meeting your mam in town, you said?”

Matt nods. “She had to rush into the, uh, the pharmacy.”

“Not unwell, is she?”

“Nah. Like, it’s the, umm. It’s the runs, is all.”

“Oh right.” Mr O Callaghan grimaces. “Had a bad turn myself last week. Bananas and toast be the thing for her.”

“Thanks, Mr O’Callaghan. I’ll say it.”

They beat the lights and drive past Leisureplex. Barra grabs his arm.

“There.”

They spot a 208 bus parked up at the station. They hit the stop button and walk up to the front.

“Lucky escape,” he says to Barra.

Grand job. They’ll collect Dodger from the station and have the PS5 set up by lunch.

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