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.
Challenge: Write this story from the perspective of a 12 year old sitting on the stoop across the street.
Something bad is happening to Mrs. Pauley. I have never seen the police or that man at her house. Maybe she’s in trouble for not taking care of her flowers. Since Mr. Pauley died, I never see her outside watering the flowers in her yard. She used to go outside with her big pink hat to garden and I’d often see her kneeling on the ground when I came home from school. Lately I haven’t seen her and the flowers are brown and crispy.
Mom says the entire neighborhood is falling apart. Ever since the interstate was built behind the pond, people have been moving in and out like a game of musical chairs. I used to know everyone who lived here, now I only know Mrs. Pauley and Jack. Jack is four years younger than me, and he’s in a wheelchair so I don’t have any friends who will ride bikes to the pond with me anymore.
Mom wouldn’t let me anyway. She thinks it’s too dangerous to go there without an adult which is stupid because I used to ride my bike there when I was nine. She calls the people that live there “junkies” and tells me they’ll steal my bike.
I don’t know why the police are at Mrs. Pauley’s house and not at the junkies’. Mrs. Pauley would never steal. She’s kind of kooky in an old lady way, but she would never steal or hurt anyone. I used to go trick-or-treating at her house, and she would always pretend to not know who I was which was annoying because for the past two years I was the only kid walking around the neighborhood in a costume. Ever since I was old enough to go alone, Mom made me come home before dark. I used to go to Mrs. Pauley’s house last before I crossed the street for home because she gave out the best candy in the neighborhood. Mom says not to expect that anymore.
That’s when Mr. Pauley was alive. He used to pull pranks on Mrs. Pauley, like turning on the sprinkler when she was gardening. She would jump up with her arms flailing all around like a moth on a lightbulb screaming a roller coaster of “Aaahhhs!”. I couldn’t see him from my spot on the steps, but I knew he would be laughing his chesty cat laugh, the one that resembled a cat being run over and laughing about it at the same time.
It sounded that way after he got pneumonia and had to go to the hospital for four days. When he was back home he was too weak and tired to mow the lawn. Mrs. Pauley tried mowing it once. She wore her pink hat and I thought she was going to die by the way her chest slumped into the handle. When she was done the grass looked like a four year old’s self-done haircut, all jagged and slanty.
When he died the grass was as high as my knees. It seeded and died so now it looks like a scarecrow’s filling. Mr. Pauley would be really mad if he saw the lawn like this. Mom used to say the lawn was his kick, and that he could use a good kick from Mrs. Pauley.
I wonder if the men are at her house because she can’t mow the lawn. Last week Mom said, “The day she gets evicted from that house is the day I walk onto the interstate.” When I asked what “evicted” meant she told me it means “kicked out”. When I asked her why Mrs. Pauley would be kicked out and what that had to do with her going to the interstate she just said, “Because life’s a bitch.”
Mom swears like that now. I never heard her swear until I was ten and now she says things like “This neighborhood is shit.” or “They’re all worthless fucks.” I think she’s talking about the junkies. I want to tell her about the police over at Mrs. Pauley’s but I’m afraid she’ll run over there calling them “shitheads” and get arrested.
The police are taking Mrs. Pauley to the police car. Her face hangs down which she rubs with both hands tied in handcuffs at her wrists. As she is getting into the back seat her eyes look directly at me. Her face is barely recognizable, as if it were papier-machéd with regret and sorrow.
The man in the suit walks to his shiny black car which hardly makes a noise as it leaves.
When the police car drives away, Mrs. Pauley leans her head on the window and keeps it there until it’s out of sight.
I wish the interstate was never built. And I wish Mr. Pauley never died. I don’t like it here anymore.