Day 18 – 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. Write this story in first person, told by the twelve-year-old sitting on the stoop across the street.
“Can’t you do that somewhere else?”
With a sigh I looked up at the ceiling waiting for Mum to remind Mrs Malone that I had to practice.
“Can you play outside Munchkin? Just until your dad comes home?”
Gripping my flute I snatched the music off the stand and stormed outside. I couldn’t even slam the back door. It had a tricky catch. It wouldn’t shut if you slammed it.
I used to like Mrs Malone. But that was before she moved in with us. After that she didn’t seem so nice. After that she stopped being the nice old lady from downstairs. After that she became the mean old lady who took over my bedroom.
I didn’t care that Dad had been in the army with three of her sons. I liked her better when she used to come around for Christmas only and baked cakes and bikkies for the Jordans, the Ropers, the Wiskers and me.
I sat on the concrete ‘nowhere’ stairs. It was like that song in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ where the main guy sung about stairs going nowhere just for show. The stairs lead to a brick wall. But from here you could see the main courtyard between the apartments and the street too.
Hearing the wizz of wheels I looked up as Jak jumped off his board with a little hop.
“Hey. The bat lady send you out again?”
I held up my flute as proof.
Jak sat on the same step with the board across his lap. “Did you hear the Wiskers’ are moving.”
“Mr Wisker got a job in Sydney.”
“I wish my Dad would get a job in Sydney. That way Mrs Malone can have our house and I’ll get to go to the Arts Centre every other day.”
“You can’t do that. Who would I talk to?”
“You’ll have to actually find friends.”
I rolled my eyes. Jak liked using big words. Some of them I think he made up, but I couldn’t say for sure.
Suddenly Jak leaned over his lap. “Who are they here for?”
I followed his pointed finger.
“Maybe Mike Hutchens is growing dope again.”
“Nah, he hasn’t got out of jail yet.”
“Maybe Sissy Richards’ boyfriend stole some stuff like last time.”
“Maybe, instead of pontificating, we should just watch which apartment they go to.”
“I’m nowhere near a pond.”
Jak sighed and pushed his glass back up his nose. “We should stop talking like we know what’s going on and just watch.”
“Well why didn’t you say that?”
I smiled at Jak’s tone. He was so easy to ruffle.
We both watched in silence as the cops got out of the car and waited on the footpath.After a few moments a fat man in a brown suit lead them down the pathway toward us.
“Oh no. Mr Burnstein.” I breathed with my tummy twisting.
The last time the landlord had visited with cops, Mrs Malone had ended up moving in with us.
“Who’s he got it in for this time?”
They stopped at the apartment on the ground floor.
“Not Mrs Pauley, please not Mrs Pauley.” Jak whispered.
The door opened and I could see the silver glint of Mrs Pauley’s walker. After a moment the door closed behind the three men.
“If he keeps evicting people like this, there will be no one left to pay the rent.”
My eyes didn’t leave the peeling yellow door. “Dad reckons he’s going after the oldies.”
“Mum says that he wants to pull all the apartments down and build spiffy new ones so he can charge more rent.”
“But we’re still living here.”
“For how long? Mum says we might have to move soon too.”
I could only stare at him. We’d been friends my whole life. Ever since his mum had babysat me when Jak was two.
The yellow door slowly opened. Mrs Pauley shuffled out with her walker. She had a handbag and one of the cops held one of those old ‘Mary Poppins’ bags. She turned to face the building as Mr Burnstein locked the door. Mum had told me that Mrs Pauley had lived here for forty years. If Mr Pauley was still alive, I bet Mr Burnstein wouldn’t be doing this to her.
“Come on now. We don’t have all day.” Mr Burnstein told her as he placed a hand on her arm.
Lifting her head high Mrs Pauley shook him off and made her own way down the path. Her head might have been high, but I could see the silent tears running down her wrinkled cheeks. I felt like doing something. It was wrong just to watch her being herded away. Pressing my chin to my knees I ended up doing nothing. I just hoped she could go live with one of her sons. Our house was too small for another old lady, and I didn’t want Mrs Pauley to suddenly become mean.
Jak and I didn’t speak as she was helped into the cop car and it had disappeared down the street.
After a while, Jak nudged my shoulder. “Maybe you’ll get to move to Sydney after all.