Chapter 203: Louella Misses A Chance

by A.C. Cherbonnier
       LOUELLA felt decidedly odd. Here it was a Thursday, and she was having a day off. I can’t believe I’m doing this! she thought as she struggled onto a bar stool at a deli in Broadway Market. I’ve never just cut out from work to goof off!
       Millie Johnson, her co-worker and day-off instigator, settled in next to her and eagerly read the lunch menu. “Oh look! A Yo Baby Burger! I’ve just got to try that!”
       Louella read the ingredients: burger, slaw, thousand island dressing, swiss cheese, roll, chips. A thousand calories easy! She looked around for a rest room so she could throw it up if she ate it, but saw nothing. “I’ll just have some iced tea. I had a late breakfast,” she lied.
       “You party-pooper! Well, I’m going to have it!” She placed her order. “We have to celebrate that we’ve got our résumés out there with the Heritage Foundation!”
       She must weigh 175, Louella marveled, sipping her unsweetened tea, and she just goes ahead and eats! I could never do that!
       “You know, I think I’m also going to have that dessert they’ve got, too,” said Millie, finishing the Yo Baby Burger. “See that? ‘Mud’! Chocolate pudding, oreos, and cool whip! How about you?”
       “Oh, I couldn’t! But go ahead!”
       “Isn’t this fun?” said Millie. “You know, I think we should bag going to the BMA, even though it’s free today! I feel lucky! I think we should go to an auction preview in D.C. instead.”
       “Sure! Why not?” said Louella. “It’s lots more fun to look at things if you know you can buy them!”
       Within an hour they were browsing through elegant antiques and paintings. They’d been greeted warmly by the auction gallery manager. “That’s what this three-carat cubic zirconia engagement ring is all about,” Millie had confided. “They always treat you better if they think you’re rich!”
       Louella strayed into a side room containing objects that weren’t as fancy. As she browsed, two workers were talking in the corner.
       “You know, it ain’t right!” said the taller one. “That new receptionist, she’s gettin’ paid nearly as much as me, and I’ve been here twelve years!” The other man nodded resignedly. “Yeah, and I bet she’s got health insurance, too.” “It ain’t right!” the other repeated. “Ain’t none of us in the back room gettin’ treated right! But what ’cha gonna do? Where ya gonna go?”
       Louella felt a little sick. It’s too much like what happened to Dad, she thought. She joined Millie in a room filled with china and crystal. As they surreptitiously flicked it with their fingernails to hear it ring, a short man with an obvious toupee burst out of an office and rushed up to a well-dressed couple. “Look!” he said, flourishing some cards. “Pretty, huh?”
       Louella peeked and saw they were tickets to the Super Bowl, printed in color with a flashy hologram. The couple admired them as he added, “Yeah, four of us from here are going! It’s costing us two grand just for the hotel! But what are you going to do? We had the tickets, so we may as well go! You only live once, right?”
       Louella wanted to say, “Do you think it’s right that the business can send you to the Super Bowl and you’re not giving your workers health insurance?” But she couldn’t get the words out, and the moment passed.


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This story was published on January 31, 2001.