The neighbourhood has seen better days, but Mrs. Pauley has lived there since before anyone can remember. She raised a family of six boys, who’ve all grown up and moved away. Since Mr. Pauley died three months ago, she’d had no income. She’s fallen behind in the rent. The landlord, accompanied by the police, have come to evict Mrs. Pauley from the house she’s lived in for forty years. (Wait, rent for forty years, on a house? They mean mortgage, right?)
Today’s prompt: write this story in first person, told by the twelve-year-old sitting on the stoop across the street. Today’s twist: For those of you who want an extra challenge, think about more than simply writing in first-person point of view — build this twelve-year-old as a character. Reveal at least one personality quirk, for example, either through spoken dialogue or inner monologue.
I used to be babysat by the people across the street. Old Mrs. Pauley would watch me while I was in diapers, and used to give me ice pops for using the toilet when I started potty training. She had a lot of lemon ones, but back then I guess I didn’t mind. When I started kindergarten, my mom talked to Mrs. Pauley and she told her youngest son to walk home from school with me. He was in sixth grade back then, and used to be teased for walking with a little girl. I never told my mom (or his) how, but boy did he get them off his case quick!
Mrs. Pauley is the kind of old lady that everyone likes. She is helpful and likes to share. She likes to give candy to little kids… even when they get bigger. Nobody has anything bad to say about her. I want to be just like her when I get old, except that I’d like to have daughters, too, not just sons. Can you imagine raising six boys? The woman must be part angel!
I was sitting on the doorstep with my CD player the day that the ambulance came for Mr. Pauley. It was the middle of summer, and his heart had given out while he was helping his wife with the garden hose. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the stretch being taken to their backyard. He was not even seventy yet! Besides that, if Mrs. Pauley had been an angel, her husband was a saint. My father used to go on and on about he was honest and giving, how he never stopping helping the community even when he got old.
As I watched the ambulance pull away from the house, its ties crunching on the gravel, it hit me. What was Mrs. Pauley going to do? That was the love of her life in that boxy, lit-up vehicle! He was everything to her. She was going to need help to get through it, and I was not going to just sit there and hope it came to her.
That was why I spent time at her house every day, helping her with whatever she needed. Sometimes one of her sons would come by, and I would just sit on my stoop and watch in case she sent him to come fetch me for some big project. Even when I started the sixth grade, I made sure she knew I was there for her. I did my homework out front, keeping an eye on her house just in case.
That was how I was the first person to see the brown car that pulled into her driveway, followed a police cruiser. I ran across the street to ask the man who cot out of the first car what was going on. He wore a suit and had a sleek hair-cut, and he gave me a weird feeling, but I had to know.
“Mind your own business kid,” he told me. I hated that tone, the old that meant that he thought as little of me as though I were a bug on his path. He looked down on me, and that made me like him even less.
“Do you know Mrs. Pauley?” I chimed in as he rang the doorbell.
“I do,” the police officer said, even though I was not asking him. I didn’t mind, because anyone who knew her had a right to be proud of it. It figured that the other man didn’t answer me.
It took Mrs. Pauley a couple minutes to get to the door. She greeted the office by name and gave me a warm hug… but her smile faded when she saw the man in a suit pull a thick packet of papers from his briefcase. He started asking her a lot of questions, and as she answered them, she started to shake. I wanted that man to leave.
“Mrs. Jane Pauley, you are being evicted from this property due to failure to make your required payments,” he said in a tone of finality as he handed her the papers. “You have thirty days to evacuate this property and empty it of all possessions. If you are still after thirty days, I will return with law enforcement to have you removed, and anything left inside will be forfeited.”
“No…” she began, her voice trembling. I could tell that she wanted to say more, but was too stunned to get the words out. “Oh, no…”
I held Mrs. Pauley’s hand as the man finished saying what he had to say. When he left, the officer stayed behind with us.
“I am so sorry, ma’am,” he told her.
“What am I going to do now?” she wondered aloud as she went to sit on her couch. I sat beside her, and the officer too an armchair.
“I didn’t know you still owed on the house,” he said, not sure what else to say.
“Henry refinanced it a couple of times… to put the boys through college, you see.”
“But after forty years, you can’t be too far from done,” I replied. Even though I was only twelve, I had listened to my parents talk about houses plenty of times.
“Well… yes… I think so.” Mrs. Pauley looked to upset to speak or think clearly. I probably would have been the same way, if I had just lost someone I loved and was about to lose my house, too.
“Ma’am, I don’t mean to be nosey,” the officer said, “but you should be able to make your payments on the house. Have you gotten your Social Security checks yet?”
“Ummm… I don’t know. I haven’t been down to the office yet….”
The officer frowned and looked across the room. I followed his gaze as he stood up and walked over to the kitchen counter. Mrs. Pauley had collected a huge pile of mail, which the officer stared at for a long while before saying anything about it.
“Ma’am, have you not read your mail for a long time?”
“Oh…” Mrs. Pauley sighed. “That was always something that Henry did. With him gone, I simply didn’t know how…”
I stood up and went over to the counter, and immediately started sorting the mail. Junk mail, letters from banks, cards from family members, a few things from an insurance company, some from the government.
“Mrs. Pauley!” I exclaimed with a smile. “You can probably save your house!”
“How is that, dear?”
“She’s right, ma’am. If you tell the bank that you’ve been in mourning, I’ll bet you can set your account straight. Your husband probably had an insurance policy, and these look like some of his retirement checks.”
“Well, I don’t know…”
I was hard watching her act so confused. Losing her husband had really hurt her deeply; she could barely function without him. “Mrs. Pauley, my mom and I can help you go through your mail, if you want. We can help you deposit any checks you have– we can even help you talk to the bank and get a chance to fix this. They have to understand what you’ve just been through!”
“That’s very nice of you, dear,” she said, but her voice sounded so distant. I guess she needed even more help than I had thought.
“You should pay a visit to the social security office, too,” the officer added.
“I’ll go get my mom. We have to get this fixed!”
I ran out the door, a smile on my face. I was angry that the bank would do something like this to the elderly, but I was not about to sit idly by and watch Mrs. Pauley get evicted. I was glad to be able to help. After all, whatgood were neighborhoods and communities if we did not look out for one another?