The Perils of Louella:

Chapter 190: Louella Enters Academia

by A.C. Cherbonnier
      LOUELLA calmed herself as she waited outside the office of the Dean of the School of Social Work by leafing through a back issue of The Journal of Family Sociology.
       Good grief! I didn’t get back to school a minute too soon! I can hardly understand this stuff! she thought as she struggled with words like “anomie” and “cohort.”
       Another woman, dressed in an outdated business suit, was waiting in a chair opposite. She looked nervous as she glanced in Louella’s direction. “Are you applying to the school, too?” she asked.
       Louella nodded. “What have you been doing up until now?” she asked.
       “Parole officer for ten years.”
       Louella couldn’t think of a ready answer to that. She continued to pretend to read, then came up with something. “What will a social work degree do for your career?”
       “Don’t get me started! Let’s just say I’m sick of dealing with people’s problems once they’re already in trouble. Maybe I can help people stay out of trouble. You know--give them counseling, stuff like that.”
       “Yeah, I know what you mean,” said Louella. “My own family has given me plenty of experience with counseling. It sure would be great to get paid for it.”
       “Yeah, and if you’re paid for it, maybe the people will pay attention to what you say. If they think advice is free, they don’t take it seriously. At least, that’s my experience. Make them pay maybe fifty bucks an hour to figure out why their marriage is on the rocks, and they might just make some changes.”
       “That much?”
       “Sure! Of course, it used to be you could make out a lot better before those insurance programs started cutting the hours. Now it’s better if you just get a counseling gig at some nonprofit.”
       “Oh.” Louella gestured at the journal. “Have you read any of these?”
       “You’re kidding, right? Not ’til I have to!” The woman tapped the arm of her chair. “Studying was never my bag, you know? I’m more of a person of action.”
       “I know what you mean,” nodded Louella. “I even got tired of office work in public relations, and worked as a cashier at the Giant.”
       “No way! I did that too! Out at Taylor Avenue! Look, I’m Cassie McGraw.” She reached over to shake hands, revealing chewed fingernails. “Glad to meet you. And you are?”
       “For real, I’m Louella Pryzbylewski. But I usually go by Eleanor Preston. You know, people can’t deal with something they can’t pronounce.”
       Cassie laughed a smoker’s laugh, gagging at the end. “Yeah! So what do I call you?”
       “Just ‘Lou’ will be fine.”
       “Real good, then.” Cassie glanced at her imitation Rolex. “Wonder what’s holding things up? My appointment was for two o’clock, and it’s two-fifteen. How about you?”
       “Hoo, boy, the trains aren’t running on time already! I’m on lunch break, but it doesn’t really matter so long as I’ve got my digital phone.” She patted her purse. “They never know where I really am.”
       “Sounds like a dream job, if you put it like that.”
       “Oh, yeah? You just try and be a parole officer and see what fun it is.”


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This story was published on November 3, 1999.