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.
Today’s Saturday. It’s Cinco de Mayo, which is Spanish for the fifth of May. We learned that yesterday in history. Ms. Jenkins told us about the Battle of Puebla victory against the French army that the Mexicans won, even though they didn’t win the war, but it’s sort of like how we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Mom helped me decorate the window with red, yellow, and green crêpe paper streamers, but she wouldn’t let me have a piñata, but at least we’re having tacos for supper and some fried ice cream for dessert.
I wanted to put some of the streamers around the stair railings outside, so I put on my favorite Hello Kitty cap, pulling it down so the sun was shaded all the way and went out. It was still morning but it was hot already. There was a green and yellow car with, Marble County Sheriff, in big white letters outlined in black parked outside Mrs. Pauley’s apartment. The sheriff got out of the car and went up the cement stairs to Mrs. Pauley’s apartment. Some other guy I’ve seen a couple of times was standing outside Mrs. Pauley’s too. He’s shorter than the sheriff, and the grey suit he’s wearing looks a little big on him. I hope Mrs. Pauley’s not in trouble, or maybe something happened to one of her kids? She’s got six kids, but they’re all grown up, and I only know George, who moved out last year. He was there a few times when Mrs. Pauley watched me. George liked building card houses with me, but I could never get mine to stay up as well as his.
The last time I saw George, and all of Mrs. Pauley’s family, was when Mr. Pauley died. It was the same day I started school last September, and I watched through the living room window that night when the ambulance took him away, and after that the Pauleys’ apartment was dark for a few days.
Mom and I went to the memorial service because the Pauley’s were nice to us – they were nice to everyone – but, like I said, Mrs. Pauley watched me sometimes when Mom worked late. I really liked going over to the Pauley’s with mom in the summer when Mrs. Pauley was weeding her flowers she planted on both sides of the stoop. All the flowers made her house look happier than all the other houses on the block. Mom would make up a batch of iced tea or, my favorite, lemonade, and we’d bring some to Mrs. Pauley. We’d all sit down and have a drink while Mom and Mrs. Pauley talked about the terrible Peterson’s next door, with their bratty kids who got in trouble for spray painting swears on the side of City Market at the end of the block, and stuff like that. Mrs. Pauley got sad talking about Mr. Pauley losing his job, and how they weren’t doing so good lately.
I felt bad for Mrs. Pauley, and started helping pull some of her weeds until she asked me to stop because I accidentally pulled up some things that weren’t weeds. I started watching the ants scurry around the sidewalk instead. One was pulling a dead bug that was way bigger than it was, and I wondered how it could do that. I liked being there with mom and Mrs. Pauley. I liked the way the breeze felt on my arms and legs, and how it ruffled my mom’s hair. Only a few of Mrs. Pauley’s grey hairs moved around because she wears it up in bun all the time.
Mrs. Pauley is my favorite neighbor because she doesn’t ask too many questions, and she likes baking chocolate chip cookies – the chewy kind that I never want to stop eating. I loved helping make cookies the last time she watched me because I got to eat one almost right out of the oven, and the chips were all melted and tasted so good. Mrs. Pauley also likes that I have good posture and that I keep my clothes clean. I guess she doesn’t see me much because I do not always keep my clothes clean! I didn’t like it when we were on sitting on the stoop and Mrs. Pauley said that someday I’d find someone ‘as good as her Harold to marry’. Eww, I don’t ever want to get married. Mom laughed and said, “Jeanine’s barely cut her second molars, it’s not time to start talking about husbands!” Then mom took off my hat and ruffled my hair, which she knows I hate, but I let her that time because she looked so happy sitting there with Mrs. Pauley, and she’s usually so stressed out.
Mrs. Pauley started crying after the sheriff handed her a piece of paper, and I decided to go over and see what happened. I pushed my hat up a little so I could see better, and went across the street as soon as there were no cars coming. I’ve been wearing my hat since I got in for my birthday last June, and it’s getting dingy looking around the brim, but I won’t let mom wash it because I’m afraid it will get ruined.
The sheriff was telling Mrs. Pauley that she had to have all her stuff out by Monday, and the other man said he was sorry, but the rent was long overdue. Mrs. Pauley didn’t even see me standing there. She just closed her door and the sheriff and the other man left.
I ran back across the street and told Mom that Mrs. Pauley was getting kicked out of her house. Mom’s eyes widened, and she said ‘oh, no’, and then she took out her phone and called Mrs. Pauley. They talked for a little while and mom had tears in her eyes when she ended the call.
I decided that we had to help Mrs. Pauley. I asked Mom what we could do and she suggested starting a collection to help, but Mrs. Pauley was going to need a way to continue paying her rent. I thought of calling George, and her other sons – maybe they could help. Mom helped me find George’s number off the internet, and we called him right then. He didn’t even know Mrs. Pauley was in trouble, never mind lots of trouble! I didn’t understand why George didn’t know, but mom said some people have too much pride to let others know when they’re not doing well.
The day I saw Mrs. Pauley almost lose her home was a terrible, horrible day – kind of like Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, which was one of my favorite books when I was nine. George must have called his other brothers and got their help too because Mrs. Pauley didn’t move out. Mom and I went to the City Market and they gave us a bunch of old plastic containers, and I used a red marker to write ‘Help Mrs. Pauley’ in my best lettering. City Market let me put a container on their counter, and we brought the others to the library, the Happy Bean coffee shop, and I brought one to the school office, while mom brought the last one to work.
We only got a hundred dollars the whole month, but Mrs. Pauley thanked me over and over. We’re going to keep the containers there, and try to find other ways to help too. I told Mrs. Pauley she should start selling chocolate chip cookies, and she thought that was a good idea. It may not be like the Battle of Puebla, but it did start on Cinco de Mayo.
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