Evicting Mrs Pauley

Writing 101, Day Eighteen: Hone Your Point of View
Craft a story from the perspective of a twelve-year-old observing it all.

They’re sending Mrs Pauley away. The police is there, with Mr Johns, dressed in his suit and tie like it’s a wedding. He’s the landlord. He owns a lot of the houses on this road, like ours too. So I know him. I know what he’s like when rent is late. He’s there on the step next day, no waiting, frown on and hand out. It’s not like the people here wants to cheat him, but mostly they works at the factory, and sometimes there’s trouble, and it closed for a few days, and then there’s no pay. And then rent is late. Like Mrs Pauley’s.

But Mrs Pauley, I don’t think she gonna be able to pay rent ever again. Mr Pauley, he was the one who worked at the factory, and he’s dead. Died from a heart attack three months back, just collapsed there at his machine. He’s just lucky he never fell into it, that’s all. That would have been a worse way to go than he did. And a worse corpse for his wife to bury. When I grow, I want to get out of this town; I don’t want to work in that place. There’s too many accidents, and one way I don’t want to die is in a machine, or later on, all mangled and crying out for the end.

But anyway, Mr Pauley went an easier way. It’s his wife it’s gonna drag on for. I don’t know where they’re sending her, for sending her is what it is. She don’t want to leave. She been in that house across the way from us with her family all my life, and much, much longer. All her boys was born there in that house and I hardly remember the older ones. Steve, the youngest, he only left last year for the city. He got away; all her boys did. I think she made sure they did, though it made her cry when they left. She can’t go to Steve; he don’t have a place of his own yet, she says. She says Robert’s wife doesn’t want her with them, only because there’s no room or money with all their own little ones too. Nobody can blame them, neither does Mrs Pauley. I guess she’ll go to one of the others, but she hasn’t heard from any of them yet.

Mrs Pauley is crying now as she brings her brown suitcase out to the car (black like the hearse that took her husband) that’s waiting to send her away; the tears run silent down her face and drop in big drops onto her chest. Her face is puffy and pink in the wrong places; no more cheerful smiles like she used to have on, when her kitchen smelled like a bakery and she’d have a biscuit for good kids who done her some favour, back when Mr Pauley would come whistling back from factory. I think I’ll always remember those biscuits of hers, better than me own mum’s, though I’ll never say. After Mr Pauley died, she stopped smiling, but she had no time for tears then. Then she had to work real hard, baking and baking, and trying to sell to the markets where they sells to the people who got money for treats. I guess baking makes a person smile less when you got to do so much of it. That and worry over rent. And after all the baking and selling and worrying, it still weren’t enough to pay Mr Johns. I don’t know why he need the money so bad, seems like he got enough, with his new clothes and his big car, shinier than the police one. He look like he got enough to eat too, and more than enough.

But Mrs Pauley been crying probably a week straight, since Mr Johns said she gotta go. Our neighbours is standing on their stoops and in the street, watching. They don’t say nothing, even the little ones like my sister Ginny, leaning into my folded legs; we all know there’s nothing to say. The police is there, and Mrs Pauley hasn’t paid her rent. It ain’t fair, and we all knows it, but we got no voice in this world. Voices are for people like Mr Johns, who owns their own places, and other people’s too. So we just watch. And Mrs Pauley cries, but she don’t say nothing either.

 

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Lost, Found… Discarded, Part 3/3

I’ve lived here for many years, but I couldn’t tell you exactly how long any more – time isn’t the same once you’re dead. I don’t completely remember how I even came to be here, I just feel a connection with the place, so I stay. The family who live here, they don’t know I also do. Probably just as well, they’d think it was spooky to have a silent, unseen watcher amongst them. So it’s best they don’t know, although the boy caught a glimpse of me once; a mistake on my behalf. I hoped they would think he had imagined it, the way children do…they seemed to have forgotten that incident anyway.

I don’t want to worry them. It’s not as creepy as it may sound, hanging around them like this, it’s only that I’m lonely. I enjoy being around the living, being near the warmth of their everyday. I vaguely recall the emotions they seem to feel so sharply. I suppose you could say it makes me feel more alive, being near the force of them.

It’s winter now, and there’s a fire in the grate. The woman is sitting before it, looking into the flames. She has a name, but it never stays in my mind. Names….they don’t mean too much to me now either. I think they mean something when the lives of the people who carry them have a continuity to you. To me, though, the existence of individuals drifts in and out of my consciousness, much as they drift in and out of rooms.

The fire would be hot on her face, she is sitting so near. I can’t feel its heat, but I still watch the writhing flames. They appear more alive than me, but it’s an illusion born of movement only. How ironic. Now, though, they’re eating letters the woman is feeding them. This is curious. I remember letters. Usually they are kept if important, and discarded if not. To burn one is symbolic, the giving of a memory, or a promise, to the flame as if it were a funeral pyre. The woman opens a letter and reads it, while others burn. I am interested enough now to wonder what she is thinking. There was a man who lived here once also. I don’t remember when I last saw him, but he was with her when they first came here. There was emotion like a tumult in those days. It blew like a wind through the rooms of this house. Oh yes, I felt almost alive then. But not happy…

She crumples the last letter, the one she has read, and she puts it into the mouth of the fire without another pause, and we watch it burn.

 

Disfunction

David

David was annoyed. He was having to work hard lately. Sarah had been a bit off. Last week they’d moved in together, into a nice flat beside the park; she had been hesitant, wanting a bit more time to “think about it”, but he’d brushed aside her reluctance. She’d been banging on about meetings of minds and whether theirs did – god, seriously? Why did some people insist on playing those games? She suited him, and he looked after her; what more did she want, silly cow? Why not just cut the pretenses and sort things out so that they could get on with life? Once she was busy with kids she’d have no time for gabbling on about “empathy” and “rapport”, and he could settle down, relax.

But now here she was, moping along beside him as they walked. He grabbed her hand, and grinned at her, forcing her to look at him and return the smile. He disliked having to make the extra effort, but he kept his frown to himself.

A girl walking her dog in the opposite direction caught his eye. A half-smile played over her lipstick reddened lips as she passed, tucking her hair behind her ear and pretending not to notice him. But she had, of course. David was good-looking. He could see it in the mirror in the morning (and in any shop window), and reflected in the admiring glances of girls in the street. Sarah used to laugh about that when they first starting dating, but she’d gone all quiet and suspicious more recently, despite his spewing all the required crap about her being the only one for him, blah blah blah. He could vomit that rubbish as convincingly as the next guy. Only she didn’t seem all that convinced anymore.

She’d even been rather taciturn when he’d begun to hint around the subject of marriage. He silently ground his teeth. He was going to have to pull out some stops on this one if he wanted to seal the deal. But he had just the thing in mind. He’d even spotted a convenient extra for his little play, sitting on a bench ahead – an old woman knitting a tiny red jumper in the morning sun, no doubt for some grandbrat. It couldn’t be a more perfect prop.

Sarah

Sarah was worried. There was a knot of misgiving growing in her gut. She was more and more uncertain these days; about her life, her expectations, her choices…..David was putting pressure on her – or was he? Sometimes it felt like he was, but then in the next moment, she couldn’t be sure she wasn’t imagining things. He was so nice about things, like when she hadn’t been sure about moving in together. He’d deftly brushed aside her concerns with such worldly-wisdom, she’d felt all the foolishness of her silly doubts. What did she expect? This was real life, not some story, 50 Shades of Gray or something. He’d laughed gently at her and she’d hidden a blush. Had she always been so thick, so uncertain? She hadn’t used to think so – at least she didn’t think she had. But maybe she’d just been cocky with the confidence of youth then…

David took her hand and smiled down at her, his handsome face crinkling good-naturedly, bringing her back to the present. She smiled a rusty smile in return, feeling guilty for her apprehensions, her mistrust. At some point, she would have to stop questioning everything, he’d said, and learn to trust someone. He was right.

Marjory

Marjory was enjoying the warmth of the morning sun. She’d brought out her knitting, as she did most mornings, weather permitting, into the park beside which she’d lived for 35 years. She and Don had moved in here within 2 months of coming from England, and they’d not moved since. There was no need. There were good schools nearby, and the beach within a stone’s throw. It was a pleasant neighbourhood then, and house prices had shot up over the years, to the point that she was a millionaire in assets now. Don had passed away 5 years ago, but truth be told, she didn’t really miss him. He’d been an ornery old prick. Given her the odd bash when in his cups. Nothing too bad in the scheme of things, but still, life was frankly easier without him to look after. She could sell up and use the money to do a bit of globe trotting (it was all the rage these days), but she was happy enough pottering around the garden, just enjoying the peace and quiet, the company of her cats and her kids when they came to visit, and her knitting club.

The boys weren’t far, just flatting in the city while they studied at uni. Jon was studying engineering. He’d always been a bright boy. He had a nice girlfriend. They were well-matched, and Marjory would be surprised if they didn’t end up married, with 2.8 children, living in the central suburbs. Connor was going to be a chef. She couldn’t work out where that had come from; he’d never been one to spend time in the kitchen growing up. She was fairly certain he was gay, but he hadn’t come out, at least to her. She smiled and shook her head to herself, casting off the last row of the little red jersey she was making for the local church fete. The knitting club generally made a few hundred for the church with their goods – people ate up handmade stuff these days. “Granny chic” they were calling it.

She glanced up briefly as she held up the little garment to examine her work. A young couple she’d noticed earlier were strolling toward her. He was looking intently at Marjory. She hid a grin and a roll of her eyes. She knew what he thought he saw. Assumptions. People were full of them. Being gray didn’t make you a granny, but she didn’t care to dye her hair just to set them straight.

But then she saw that the young man had started crying, slightly ostentatiously, to her mind, and she discretely observed them with more attention while tucking away her knitting. The girlfriend was looking horrified and was attempting to console him, but the source of the guilt mixed in with her expression was unclear. Snatches of their conversation reached Marjory as they walked a bit stumblingly by.

“…s wrong, David?”

“Nothing, Sar……..well……..baby brother died……Mum….heartbroken……..always hoped….grandchild…..love you, Sarah…….why wait? …..get married…….so happy…….have a baby……..”

By this time, Marjory was smelling bullshit. She knew the odour well. The cheeky bugger even had the front to look back at her over his girlfriend’s supporting shoulder and wink at her – just as if she were a co-conspirator.

But she wasn’t that. No, she wasn’t. Oh, the assumptions people made about old ladies.

She watched with sharp eyes as the young couple crossed the park and went into their flat.

 

 

Storm

Writing 101, Day Seven: Contrasts

A bit of fiction from me today folks.

Andy stood before the broad window, a parted curtain in each hand, caught in the moment between closing out the night and the storm, and watching in fascination the wild forces on the loose. Trees would be down tonight, she thought. The wind blew across the surface of her children’s rain-wet trampoline in fierce gusts. It looked like the surface of a distant sea. Water smacked angrily against the glass in front of her face. Reluctantly she drew the curtains together, and the warm light of her daughter’s bedroom wrapped snugly around them, shutting out the whipping and heaving world.

Aoife* was just starting to grizzle at Andy’s feet when she turned back into the embrace of the room, bottle of milk clutched in one small fist, looking up at her mother out of a face scrunched in infant concern. Andy gathered her youngest daughter up and sat with her in the rocking chair beside her cot. Aoife’s head immediately found the sweet spot on Andy’s shoulder.

“I’ll rock you to sleep tonight, little monkey,” she said. Third children didn’t usually get rocked to sleep; life was on fast forward. Even now Andy could hear the older children bickering their way up the stairs.

“Quiet, you guys, please!” she called out as they passed Aoife’s door. “I’m putting your sister to bed.”

The squabbling abated for the span of a second, then continued further down the passage. Andy rolled her eyes.

Tonight, with the tempest rampaging outside, sounding as petulant as her children, she felt like slowing down and shutting out conflict and disturbance. Her daughter’s small body was warm and unwriggly against her chest, her blonde head tucked under Andy’s chin. Little puffs of milky breath exhaled against her neck, slowing; both of their breathing slowing as they rocked together.

The world shrank, its borders were four walls lined with shelves on which were baskets and books, quiet objects. The lamp shone down on the sole inhabitants of this universe-room, doing its best to stand in for a sun, but they were oblivious, wrapped in themselves for this moment.

 

*Pronounced Ee-fa

on exile: million miles

heat-laden

sun-addled

air weighs like one blanket too many

 

And storm comes

air hums

thunder

like distant drums

 

hot rain like

absolution

(or the Flood)

 

Slow straight run

of brown river

and shark-haunted waves

and wide skies

and dark eyes

 

and fear of the snake

 

And I swear

 

the poison entered my vein

And I had to run

from the searing stare of the sun

the sun

as her fury burned down

compacting the land

 

the drumbeat

the heartbeat of the band, the land

But the pounding feet

the heaving thighs

the deepthroat cry

They menaced me and I had to

run

From the iron glare of the gun

the gun

You have to run, son,

from the heat of the sun

A million miles you’ll run

 

 

 

But in my heart

beat

the drums and heat

(burning cradle

never stable)

that harsh land still holds my hand

 

 

A million miles

 

I say a million miles from here.