THE PERILS OF LOUELLA:

Chapter 158: Louella Gives Away Money

by Alice Cherbonnier

NOW I UNDERSTAND why people give money away! exulted Louella. It's so you can feel okay about what you keep for yourself! She was writing a $50 check for the Parish Relief Fund out of the first of twenty $32,500 annual installments of her million-dollar Lottery winnings.
The priest beamed approval as she handed him the check. "I hope this becomes a habit for you," he said brightly. "You might want to look at where else your money can do some good."
"Maybe after I get a job," she said. "I need this money to live on now that my unemployment's run out. Not to mention I have to pay medical insurance, and my car insurance is coming due-"
The priest's smile faded into resignation. "You have no idea how many people are in your fix," he said. "We priests don't have to worry about unemployment, thank the Lord, so it's sometimes hard to relate to today's problems. It used to be everybody worked at General Motors or Sparrows Point or Fort Holabird. Things were much easier for families back then. And that wasn't so long ago."
"Don't forget about Esskay!" said Louella. "My dad's been out of work going on twelve years already. It's been tough."
The priest nodded sadly.
"Well, it feels good to finally help out the church, Father," said Louella, standing to leave. "I'll try to do more later. Like I said, as soon as things get better."
"You know, one of the best jobs I've heard of out there is being a checkout clerk at one of the big supermarkets," he offered. "I hear you can make upwards of $30,000."
"Really?" said Louella, at once attracted and repelled at the prospect of such a position.
"Yes, we have several parishioners-single mothers," he said with delicacy, "who are supporting their families that way, though I hear nobody gets full-time work."
"I'll tell my sister," said Louella stiffly. "I'm looking for a more professional position, with a future."
"Just thought I'd mention it," nodded the priest. "I'll be praying for you."
That'll help a lot, Louella thought cynically. "Thank you, Father," she said aloud. She started to say she'd see him the following Sunday, but didn't want to commit herself.
Trotting along the sidewalk to her parents' Patterson Park formstone rowhouse next door to her own, Louella was amazed to realize she felt good. Maybe I will go again next Sunday, she thought as she went up the marble steps. She noticed her mother's steps were brighter and whiter than hers and allowed herself not to care. She opened the unlocked door and went in.
"So, what'd ya say to the priest?" said her father from his recliner as he vigorously applied a toothpick. "We went ahead with dinner without you, but figured you wouldn't mind. You don't eat nothin' anyway."
"No problem, dad. I'm not hungry. And what I said to the priest, it wasn't all that important."
"Well, you can always bring your problems to us, ya know," he said.
"Sure, dad," said Louella. Like I'd tell you I won the Lottery. She wondered if the Giant Food personnel office was taking calls on Sunday. I must be going nuts, she thought.

- TO BE CONTINUED -

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This story was published on March 5, 1997.