Louella Does The Math

A Satiric Soap Opera Published Monthly Since 1984 by Alice Cherbonnier

Strange people were milling around the used car lot, reverently caressing favored vehicles. Her 19-year-old nephew, Mason, was stroking a red one. Louella and her sister Candy huddled in a narrow trailer hallway as they waited for him to make a choice.

"He'd better not set his sights on a Lincoln Town Car or a Blazer!" said Candy, cracking her gum.

"What's he making now?"

"Well, he gets I think eight dollars an hour when he's hanging drywall, but only maybe five or six when he's doing site clean-up. It's not all that steady, either."

Mason came up the wooden steps into the crowded trailer, stamping his feet from the cold. "Good thing it's freezin' out there," he said. "The salesman's gonna make me a deal 'cause he says business has been off."

"Yeah? Like what kind of deal's he talkin'?" asked Candy, sweeping back a lock of dark-rooted bleached hair that needed a wash.

"Says he'll sell it to me at a hundred dollars over dealer cost."

"You believe that?" Louella stared at him. "You think this place is some kind of charity?"

"Come on, Lou! Let me make my own mistakes, okay?"

"Well, don't ask me to co-sign any loan that makes me out to be such a fool!" said Candy.

"I thought I'd ask Lou to co-sign, Mom, if it's all right with you," said Mason.

"What's the matter? You think there's something wrong with my credit? Is that it?"

"No, Mom, that's not it. It's just that Lou has a regular job and all, and that's easier to explain to the salesman than telling them your mother answers sex calls for a living. I'm sorry, Mom, but hey."

"You should let your Mom co-sign," Louella hastily interjected. "They'd rather have your mother on the loan than an aunt."

"No, they wouldn't! I already asked the guy and he said any adult would do as long as they've got good credit!"

Louella had that special sinking feeling reserved for disappointing family stories that continue on forever. "Well, let's see what's what," she said as diplomatically as she could, now realizing why Candy and Mason had brought her along.

The three of them were led to a tiny cubicle, and the salesman began rapidly writing figures on a sales sheet. He used his adding machine with a flourish.

"About how much did you want to spend a month?" the salesman asked.

Don't answer that! Don't answer that! Louella willed.

But Mason's car lust would not be denied. "I think about three hundred dollars a month."

Are you kidding me! You idiot! thought Louella. But she and Candy somehow couldn't bring themselves to interrupt the moment. The salesman left with the paperwork to consult with the manager, and the three of them had a chance to confer.

"At least you could ask the interest rate!" snapped Louella.

"Ah, Louella, you're such a spoilsport!" said Mason. "I can handle it."

"Yeah, sure you can."

"Look, I'm getting the car, okay? Just butt out."

Look kid, you want me to co-sign on a four-year loan you can't pay off? I'm outta here! Louella tried to say it, but she couldn't open her mouth.


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This story was published on March 7, 1996.