Poverty is a cruel thing …

Day Eighteen: Hone a 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.

First person, second person, third person, whew! Point of view is a type of narrative mode, which is the method by which a story’s plot is conveyed to the audience. Point of view reveals not only who is telling the story, but also how it is told. Consider a recent short story published on The Worship Collective, “Funny Things,” in which the narrator is a child who has passed away.

Need a refresher on first-person narration? Recall Scout Finch, the six-year-old first-person narrator of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout tells the story through her eyes:

It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.

“‘Remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’ That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it.”

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.

Mrs Pauley was quiet but friendly neighbour. I had known her since I was old enough to recognize the inhabitants on this street. I thought back to Mr. Pauley. How he had used the garage for a workshop. The small battery powered small car, that he let the neighbourhood kids play on in the alley behind his house.

Once upon a time it had been a “Barbie” car. Pink. Yet for an eight year old, it was dream come true. Up and down the alley in a small cloud of dirt dust. I had revelled in the seeming freedom, that electric motion had given us. A small taste of what adult cars would bring. My sister, Adele, was a year and a half younger. We shared the rides, one or the other in the small interior seat. Squished up against each other. We would argue over who’s turn next to press the pedal, that made it go.

Mr. Pauley, then a small figure of a man. Stood patiently or sat in the plastic chair, from the workshop. Watching to allow us to play. Waving down any passing motorist along the alley. Thanking them for going slow, around the play area. The cones that depicted it.

Mr and Mrs. Pauley had children of their own. All grown and gone. To other parts. All except George. “Georgie boy”, who would visit once in a while. He looked a lot like Mr. Pauley. Slight build. Greasy hair, with a rag tag beard and blue jeans. He never stayed long.

Mrs. Pauley was grey-haired and dumpy compared to my mother. Mom was still young, vibrant and cheerful. Mrs. Pauley … Edna. Was bowed down with work and raising six boys we had never seen. Except for Georgie boy, of course. Their photos were all on the mantelpiece, for the world to see. Poses with smiles and children, that were their own. A few of the pictures were just young men looking out past the camera lens. No children. Just like Georgie boy.

Here I sat on my stoop watching. For this was a grown-up state of affairs. The police were there, as too Mr Davis. Landlord for these small houses of working folks. There was another car parked at the kerb. One that a small, heavy-set woman had emerged from. She was arguing with both police and Davis, the landlord.

Mr Pauley had died last spring. As too all the cheerful rides and happy hellos, given by him. It was now late summer and the air was hot and humid. Snatches of conversation drifted across the street. Fragments of a larger one. Recrimination and a pleading for some human sense of compassions. How the longevity of their stay should be recognized. The younger woman, was trying to be calm in the face of mounting tensions and emotions. It was difficult for her too. It seemed she was from social services? Here to stand up for Mrs. Pauley in the face of an aggression, from authority.

She had a phone in her hand, consulting with whoever it was on the other end. Mrs. Pauley, Edna, was grey faced and streaks of tears, ran down her normally placid face. She said things like, “if my husband were here”? The police too, looked uncomfortable. For they were reminded that this might be their mothers. Some of Edna’s furniture had been pulled onto the lawn. A lawn that was now shaggy from being uncut. A wooden chair lay on its side.

My mother came out and stood beside me, on the veranda. She held a cloth in her hand, drying them. She stood and said nothing, watching the scene across the road. Mom stood and pulled the clinging shirt from her arms and muttered something about rain later that day. She went back into the cool interior, to reemerge some minutes later with a tray of drinks. Lemonade, that she took across the street and offered around. The woman with the phone was grateful. The ruckus subsided as the participants drank.

The phone in the stout woman’s hand rang. After a brief but meaningful conversation. I could see her turn to the cops and Davis. “It’s arranged”, she said. The four of them lapsed back into more reasonable tones. They got back into their vehicles and left. Mrs Pauley dried her tears and began to look happy.

My mother came back with the empty glasses. “Mrs. Pauley’s been evicted”, she said. “Mrs. Lacey, has found her somewhere else to live”, my mother added, with a relieved tone in her voice. “What about her stuff, I asked”? “They will come and move it by the weekend”, my mother said with a grim look. Mom added, “that’s what forty years of living and being a part of our street gets you”. “Tossed aside, like so much garbage”. An odd thing for Mom to say?

I continued to sit and watch. Remembering those times when Adele and I barreled down that alley, in the old Barbie car. Realizing that I was almost grown-up and my childhood was disappearing fast. Like Mrs. Pauley.

Mom called out. “Wash your hands, kiddo”. “Time for lunch”.

My memories faded, as the prospect of food presented itself. I got up from my seat of the past hour and I limped inside to the cool room and our life on the street would not seem the same, without Mr. and Mrs. Pauley. The life of a polio victim, was hard enough for now.