LOUELLA'S FATHER held the baby girl tenderly as he walked in a circle in the crowded living room, making little cooing noises at her.
"Dad, I've got to talk to you." Louella whispered so the others, devouring pizza in the adjacent dining room, wouldn't hear.
"Wazzat?" he looked up as if roused from a dream.
"Do you know they're stiffing the hospital for this baby's bill?"
"You don't seem upset, Dad! I thought you'd be really ticked off. I mean, we're Polish. Cash-on-the-barrelhead people. Remember?"
"Them days are long gone, Lou. Live and let live, I say now. If they can get away with it, more's the power to 'em."
"Come on!" Louella hissed. "This is your own great-granddaughter, and you're okay about her being a welfare case?"
"Look, Lou, if you're lookin' for me to make an offer to pay, you're dreamin'. No, I don't like it, but it's not my business after all, is it? It's Mason's and Angie's business, and maybe Candy's. But it's not mine. Or yours either, come to that."
"What's all this whispering about?" asked Candy, coming in to relieve her father of the baby.
"Oh, nothing," said Louella. "We were just talking about what they'll be naming her."
"I thought you knew, Lou. They're naming her Ella, after you and Aunt Ella."
Louella felt like something had been given and taken away from her at the same time. "After me?"
"Yeah! You've been so good to them about the house and all. They want her to grow up and be like you." Candy wiped the baby's mouth with a diaper. "Ain't she just the cutest little thing?"
"She sure is. Got all her fingers and toes." And the wrong parents, Louella thought. You poor sorry little kid.
Mason strutted into the living room-there was no other word for it-as he tilted his third beer to his mouth. "Everything okay in here? How's little Ella doing?" He chucked her under the chin.
"She'd be doing a lot better if she knew she had responsible parents!" Louella blurted.
"Just what do you mean by that?" He's getting to look real mean, like his father, thought Louella. Good thing he never knew his father. Then he'd probably be even worse. Wonder if he's beating up on Angie yet.
"I mean, how's she going to feel someday to find out you cheated the system to avoid paying her hospital bill?"
Candy and her father stood back, making motions meaning, "Don't go there!" to Louella.
"Well, I'd sure hope nobody would find it their business to tell her," snarled Mason. "It's nobody's business but ours."
"Mason, she's named for me, and I feel like I've got to tell it like it is. You've got bills to pay, including my past due rent, and if I have to take you to housing court to make you act like the grown-up you are, then I'll have to do it."
Mason stormed out of the room, yelling at her, "You just go ahead! But don't expect to be welcome in our house!""
"You mean myhouse, don't you?" Louella shot back.