Writing 101:Hone your Point of View: Staying in Focus: A Case of the Shabbies

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.

A Case of the Shabbies

Our neighborhood has a bad case of the shabbies.  Our street is not only a dead end that is its name, Dead End. Well, they sure got that right. We all pay our rent, mostly on time, yet Mr. Dregg refuses to paint or repair anything. Leaking roofs and sagging porches abound, and the tired grey paint is mostly peeled away. Inside, however, we keep our houses neat and clean, with what pride we have left after life has taken its due, says Mama. Mrs. Pauley’s is the neatest, She is a quilter and a master at all needlework. Her beds are draped in the most colorful quilts I have ever seen, and pictures in embroidery and cross stitch cover the walls like paintings in an art museum. Best of all, she makes clothes for my doll, Sally Mae. I know I’m getting a little old for dolls, but Sally Mae has seen me through some tough times and I’m not ready to move on without her yet.

Right now, I’m sitting on the front stoop, watching for an unfamiliar car to, wait, here it comes. I hide behind a nearby hedge. A sleek black car is turning onto our street. The car moves slowly down the street and stops in front of Mrs. Pauley‘s house. Mrs. Pauley is the nicest, kindest person I know. She brought up six boys, all who have moved to faraway places like Sitka, Alaska and the Philippines. They never come to visit, they just send e-mails asking for money. Now that Mr. Pauley has passed awa,y they are knocking at the wrong door if they want money. Mrs. Pauley doesn’t know an e-mail from an elephant and until today she was short the rent money. The front car door opens and a man steps out – it is despicable Dregg. The driver comes out next. He is wearing  a three piece suit with a silk hankie in the jacket pocket and not a drop of sweat on his brow, unlike Dregg whose face glistens with sweat, not to mention his armpits. Phew! Gotta stay downwind of him.  My guess, Dregg brought a police lieutenant to frighten Mrs. Pauly even more. Lastly, a grim-faced lady in an ill-fitted business suit joins the two men. Social Services for sure. They approach the house and Mrs. Pauley answers the door. I can’t hear their exact words but I’m not an idiot. I know they have come to take Mrs. Pauley away to some awful place. Well, not on my watch.

As they enter the house I jump from the hedge. I run into my bedroom. I push my unruly red hair into a wide-brimmed straw hat and pull on a pair of white gloves. I glance at myself in the mirror.  Instead of my usual summer shorts and a tee-shirt, I’m wearing the full-skirted summer dress that Mrs. Pauley made for just this occasion, socks and patent leather shoes. I’m pretty sure I look nothing like the real me, Tallulah Banks. Mr. Dregg may have seen me maybe twice in his life. I just hope Mrs. Pauley remembers her lines.

I pick up an envelope from my dresser and Sally Mae, dressed in an outfit identical to mine. I leave the house and skip happily down the street. I enter the house allowing the door to bang loudly. That is Mrs. Pauley’s cue.

“Sally Mae,” she says, “I’ve told you not to let the door slam when you come in.”

“Sorry, Granny,” I say keeping my face turned away from Mr. Dregg. If he recognizes me, the jig is up.

“Just try to remember next time, dear. This is my granddaughter. She and my son are moving back here to live with me.”

I catch the look of surprise in Dregg’s eyes. “Your rent is behind 2 months, lady.” he says. “You’re out of here today.”

“Oh, Granny, I almost forgot. Daddy says here is your money from grandpa’s insurance”. I turn to look at Lieutenant Suit and try my best to look sad.  “I miss grandpa so much. Daddy says he’s tied up with paper work but will be home for dinner.”

Mrs. Pauley hands Mr. Dregg the envelope. This should cover the last two months plus two in advance so you know I can pay now.”

“Well, Mr. Dregg, let’s leave these two ladies to their visit,” says Lieutenant Suit. “I see no cause for eviction.  She has not only paid up but paid ahead as a gesture of goodwill. I suggest you accept it in like manner.”

Mr. Dregg scowls at us as he leaves the room and we hold our breath until the car turns off our street.

“We did it, Mrs. Pauley!”

“But what about three months from now? How will I pay?”

“Mrs. Pauley, you have enough quilts and needlework in this house to pay your rent for at least a year and, in the meantime, all the girls at school want Sally Mae clothes for their dolls. So, where do you keep that sewing basket?”


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