by Alice Cherbonnier
LOUELLA HUNG UP THE PHONE with a grin. After so many rejections, she'd been hired as a part-time check-out clerk for Giant Food. Her heart was racing. Boy, I didn't feel this great when I won the Lottery! she marveled, grabbing her house key and heading for her parents' house next door.
They were less than overwhelmed at the news. "But honey," said her mother, "are you sure that's the best you can do, what with all your education and all? I kinda liked being able to tell my friends about you having a big job with the CIA and stuff like that, and now this-"
"I hear it's no picnic being a check-out clerk," chimed in Louella's sister Candy as she swigged Dr. Pepper from a can. "You could get, whaddayacallit, you know, that muscle thing in your wrists-"
"Carpal tunnel syndrome," said Louella primly. "And there are ways to prevent that. They give you good training."
"Well, it ain't what I would've picked for you, darlin'," said her father, shifting from his recliner-based focus on the television to look at her. "But what's it pay? What's the bottom line? That's all that counts these days!"
"Spoken like a true union man, Dad!" said Louella. "Actually, if they give me enough hours, I'll be doing pretty good." Especially considering my $32,500 annual after-tax Lottery income you'll never know about, she thought. "I figure now's the time to simplify my life. It was getting really weird out there in public relations. This job ought to be a piece of cake."
"Yeah, stand all day long moving packages over a scanner, that's way cool," cracked Candy. "Have all those people breathing down your neck. I considered it myself once, but thought better of it."
"Maybe you should think about it again," said their mother, uncharacteristically direct. "Your phone business is falling off."
"Hey, bug off!" said Candy. " It's not your worry! I pay you plenty for house expenses!"
Louella was surprised to hear that. "How much?" she demanded before she could stop herself. The subject had long been taboo in the family.
Candy stared defiantly. "None of your business! It's between me and the folks!"
"Oh yeah? And what do you pay extra for using the basement for your sleazy little business?"
"Butt out!" screamed Candy, throwing her can across the room into a trash can and storming out of the room.
"Now Louella, you shouldn't oughta done that," fretted her father. "No call for that."
"Well, I think she's taking advantage of you guys. She's thirty-five years old and still mooching off you!"
"It's between us, Lou," said her mother with finality. She changed the subject. "What'd Giant think about your having a college degree and a master's in business administration?"
"I didn't tell them. I wanted the job. I only went as far as CCB as far as they're concerned."