Chapter 205: Louella Faces ‘Progress’

by A.C. Cherbonnier
       LOUELLA shifted in her seat on the MARC train as she felt a familiar feather-like tingle on her right side. Drowsily, she retrieved her new cell phone. Surrounding D.C.-bound passengers gave her the evil eye as she flipped the lid.
       Well, so what? thought Louella, staring down a prissy-looking middle-aged woman. It’s not like I’ll be talking while driving an SUV or something. She checked the incoming number and felt a mixed pang of guilt and resentment: It was her mother. Her partially deaf mother.
       “Yes, Mom!” she said forcefully into the receiver. “Can you hear me?”
       “Let me switch to the other ear,” said her mother faintly. “There! That should do it! I’m sorry to call you so early, honey, but we’ve got troubles here. We’re thinking maybe you can help.”
       Oh great. At six-thirty in the morning! Just what I needed! “What’s wrong?” she bellowed.
       “They’re bulldozing all the houses on the other side of the alley! They just started doing it a few minutes ago! And the racket’s something awful! It’s giving me a headache!”
       “Behind my house, too?” Louella didn’t want her tenants being upset, now that the rent was finally getting paid regularly.
       “Yes, yes! Of course! I told you! The whole block is coming down!”
       “Didn’t you have any idea they were going to do this? No signs or anything?”
       “Well, you know that all the neighbors back there got bought out by some developer last fall, and the last ones moved out a couple of weeks ago. But we thought they was just gonna fix them up real nice and sell ’em. You know, put decks on the roofs and call it ‘Canton North’ or something. We thought our places would be worth more, what with the fixed-up houses, you know?”
       Guess I should visit over there more often, Louella thought, biting her lip. “So what are they going to do now? Build apartments?”
       “No, no! Not at all! Turns out the land isn’t zoned residential like our street. So it’s going to be some kind of bar, one that has bands and all. That’s what we’re hearing.”
       “What about the neighborhood association?”
       “Oh, you know me. Never get to those meetings. I suppose they could help, but it looks to me it’s kind of late, what with the bulldozers and all. But Mr. Lefkowitz next door, he said the city is backing a loan to this developer. They think there’ll be jobs with it. Your sister thinks it’s great—she could just walk out back and barkeep for ’em. But I’m not so sure I like this. It could be real noisy. And Mr. L. says it might be staying open to all hours. So what can we do to stop it?”
       “Geez, Mom, I don’t know at this stage! I can’t imagine what any bureaucrat could be thinking, to allow somebody to put a bar like that backing up so close to houses.” Louella’s seatmate ostentatiously turned up the volume on his CD Walkman.
       “And there’s something else, Lou. Mr. L. says it might not be a normal kind of bar. That’s what’s got me really upset.”
       Finally! The real point! Louella sighed. “So what kind is it?”
       “One of those—what d’you call it?—Goth places. Weirdos. You know. The kind that have those rings stuck all over their privates.”
       “The ones with all the leather?”


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This story was published on April 4, 2001.