Day Eighteen: Hone Your Point of View
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.
Today’s prompt: write this story in first person, told by the twelve-year-old sitting on the stoop across the street.
“What are you doing there ?” Screamed my mother from inside the house. ” Come inside at once!”
I picked up Pussy, the stray who had adopted me and sighed as I went inside the house. Things were just getting interesting when she called me in. Father was right, mother was always the spoil sport. Mr. Joseph had just come in his shiny black Ambassador with a police Inspector and two policewomen. There was a rickety police van trailing them. I was shocked out of my twelve-year-old mind. This had never happened before and the entire neighbourhood was slowly gathering around to see what would happen next.
“Ma, things were just getting fun,” I grumbled “Mr. Joseph has just come and I had a ring side seat. How could you call me in?”
“It’s not nice, what’s happening, ” said Ma. “Poor Mrs. Pauley. Living here for forty years. Six boys, she brought up with no help from her in-laws or her parents. And now just because the rent is six months’ late, this rascal is throwing her out?”
I couldn’t understand what was wrong in that. “But Ma, didn’t you always say that you should neither be a borrower or a lender? And don’t you always insist on paying your bills exactly on the first of every month? So why can’t Mr. Joseph expect the same?”
“Don’t talk like that! That is different,” continued my mother in the logic that only she could understand.”
“Mrs. Pauley is not a beggar. She will pay. Her sons will send her the money. They are not like that.”
I couldn’t really understand my mother’s line of thought. If the boys were so concerned about their mother, where were they all this while? Why didn’t they send the rent after their father died?
My mother guessed what went on in my mind and she said ” You won’t understand. Mr. Pauley fought with all his boys. He didn’t want them to do what they are doing. But what is wrong I ask you? They are all working hard in the Gulf.”
‘Working in the Gulf’ was a phrase I’d heard all my life. Every second home had someone working in the Gulf and suddenly, the family’s fortune seemed to change. But not the Pauley home. It continued to remain the way it was, neatly painted and well maintained. No ACs sticking out. No shiny new tiles.
Our little neighbourhood was the last pocket of the past. At one time it was the only part of town with proper houses – small verandah in front, proper tiled roof and neat little garden at the back. But with everybody slowly leaving for jobs in the big cities, the homes had acquired a look of abandonment. Now only old people lived in the houses with their old memories. Sometimes there would be sounds of laughter – when the grandchildren came to visit. Otherwise, the street was so quiet you could hear the flies buzz.
“Let me see Ma??” I pleaded. This was too good an opportunity to miss. It was better than all those soaps she used to watch on TV.
Without waiting for her reply, I ran back to my prime place on the steps of our verandah. There was a lot of noise coming from across the street. I could hear loud sounds of people arguing. Then the door opened and Mrs. Pauley was brought out by the police women, her hair a higgeldy piggeldy mess, her hands gesticulating wildly, as she was taken away kicking and screaming, ” You’ll regret Joseph, ” she said as a parting shot as she was shoved into the van.”
There was a nodding of heads as everybody watched the van go down the street. Mr. Joseph got into his car with the Inspector, looking embarrassed and slightly defensive as the people raised their fists and shouted “Shame.”
My mother came out then and stood behind me watching the crowd slowly melt away as the car roared away.