Chapter 211: Louella Gets A Blemish

by A.C. Cherbonnier
LOUELLA’s mother eased a lozenge into her mouth. “You sure this is the same medicine as what you buy here?” she asked.
      “Yes, Mom, it’s just a different name. It was made in Europe and now they’re selling it in Mexico. It’s guaranteed.”
      “A lot of good a guarantee is, all the way from Mexico!” grumped Louella’s father from his battered recliner. “Tell you what, though—you were such a big help with your mother’s medicine and all, how ’bout you help us get the best deal on having all our teeth pulled?”
      “What? Is something wrong with your teeth?”
      “Nah, it’s just that Medicare don’t cover dental stuff, like it don’t cover no medicine or glasses, and you know it’s over a thousand dollars just for a root canal. We figure we’ll be ahead if we just pull ’em all out, that’s all.”
      “Well, there’s the dental school clinic,” mused Louella. “but it might take a while to get it done.”
      “Honey, we ain’t got nothin’ but time these days.”
      Good thing I’ve got a lead on a new job, thought Louella. Meeting Carolyn on the plane to Mexico really helped me out. At least if I have some consulting money coming in, I can help the folks without having to admit about my Lottery income. That would be a little awkward, seeing as how I never told them about it.
      “Well, I’d better get on up the road,” she said, putting on her camel hair coat and picking up her Coach briefcase. “Duty calls.”
      “You have to go all the way to Philadelphia to find work?” asked her father. “You’d think there’d be something for you here!”
      “Well, it’s a good opportunity. If they hire me, I get to help convince people in Washington to do business with our company’s client.”
      “Oh, it’s all too much for me to understand!” wailed her mother. “Why can’t you just work in one place for twenty-five years like your father did?”
      “Those days are gone, Mom.”
      “What kind of company will you be lobbying for?” asked her father.
      “It’s a huge outfit that wants to lay an oil pipeline from Turkmenistan across Afghanistan.” She pecked her parents on their cheeks and dashed out of the Patterson Park rowhouse to her aging Miata convertible.
      She gunned it, made her way down Eastern Avenue to I-95, and set the cruise control to 75. God, I love the open road, she thought as she tapped her polished nails in time to the beat from the radio.
      It seemed like no time before she reached the I-95 toll plaza. She had two dollars ready on the passenger seat and was stunned to see a sign saying the toll was four dollars. Say what? When did that happen? A one hundred percent increase! She fumbled in her purse and paid.
      “What’s with the new toll?” she asked the toll-taker.
      “Something to do with building new ramps at Route 22, I hear,” was the reply. “You know, where they’re putting that new Ripken stadium?”
      Sports! It’s always damned sports! Like I want to pay for sports! As she pulled back into traffic, Louella glanced in the rearview mirror and noticed an angry red spot over her left eye. You don’t suppose it’s Anthrax? she wondered, suddenly scared.


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This story was published on February 6, 2002.