Chapter 156: Louella Talks To The Priest

by Alice Cherbonnier

THE ENTIRE PRYZBYLEWSKI family attended church together twice a year, at Easter and at Christmas. Other times, Louella's mother represented them at Mass. At least, that's how the others saw it. They even figured they were attending Confession vicariously, as Mrs. P. could be counted on to give the priest the full story on all of them.
Today was different. All during the service, Louella found herself actually praying. At least she thought it was praying, because she was looking for answers from somewhere other than from people.
I can't believe this! Here I've won the lottery and I can't enjoy it! If I tell anybody they're going to want it. They'll beg me for it, or they'll sue me for it, but they'll find some way to get their hands on it. I just can't let that happen!
She stole glances at her marginally employed 56-year-old mother, who was wearing the same old coat for maybe the tenth straight year, and at her unemployed 60-year-old father, whose lone dress-up tie bore gravy stains from holidays past. Beside them were her sister Candy, with no future ahead and a checkered past, and her nephew Mason, a laborer who at 19 was barely literate (though he'd gotten through his junior year at Patterson High without even attending class), and whose credit was already wrecked.
As they went through the motions of mumbling responses to readings from the pulpit, Louella felt troubled and guilty. If I spend my money on them it'll be just like throwing it away! she rationalized. It'll be wasted! Mom wouldn't know the difference between a coat from Goodwill and a coat from Nordstrom's! And Dad couldn't care less about a new tie. He's happy with his recliner and his TV. Candy would just want more, more, more, same as Mason. I wouldn't get any peace until they had it all.
After her talk with Ms. Gerryman, the financial counselor, she knew what she should do with her $32,500-a-year after-tax winnings for the next 20 years: invest it to secure her retirement. Louella wanted to take that advice, she really wanted to, but she was afraid she couldn't do it. The thought of all that unearned money falling in her lap was causing her to lose sleep. She thought of world travel, luxurious clothes, a house in Bel Air instead of Highlandtown. Maybe even Fallston.
Her reverie did not take into account that she was still unemployed, and that her latest raft of mailed resumes had produced no responses.
As the Roman Catholic service continued, Louella allowed herself to daydream. Perhaps a new kitchen with a granite countertop in that new house...or a Jacuzzi bathtub.
She was roused when the music indicated the service was over. The family filed into the aisle to greet the priest. When it was her turn to face the priest, Louella amazed herself by leaning toward his sweetly smiling face and blurting in a whisper, "Father, I need to talk to you right away!" No one heard but him.
"Meet me in my study in a quarter-hour," he said gently. "Whatever it is, you won't need to deal with it alone."
That's what I'm afraid of, thought Louella grimly.


Recent Chapters: