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.
Refer to some of the exercises we’ve done on character, dialogue, and even sentence length to help craft this person. All of these storytelling elements can combine to create a strong point of view.
The chewing gum doesn’t taste good. Strawberry and orange really don’t complement each other. Complement? What a weird word. Mom’s been using it to describe food; I think it means that they go or don’t go well together. Well strawberry and orange really don’t go well together in a chewing gum. I should tell that to the guy at the grocery store. His chewing gums aren’t good. I’m almost tempted to spit it out but Mr. Whitman is mowing his lawn and if he sees me do that, he’ll throw a fit and yell at me. And probably at Mom for not raising me properly.
It’s Saturday and everyone’s doing their own thing. Ms. Riley is walking her dogs, stopping by Mr. Stokes to flirt with him. She’s totally flirting. She always wears tiny strips of clothing when she walks her two dogs by his house. He doesn’t seem to notice because he always looks in her eyes. I think he’s not into her but she doesn’t appear to notice. I’m into her; she’s beautiful. She has big boobs. And sometimes, when I think of her my… you know… well it gets all tense. Her shorts are really close to her butt. Mrs. Pauley will probably tell her she’s dressed like a woman of the night – whatever that means – when Ms. Riley passes in front of her house.
I look back at Mrs. Pauley’s house; she’s so old, like older than my grandmother, and my Granny is really old. She’s 60; I mean. Wow! How old is that? But she’s nice. She always offers me cookies. They’re the best. And that’s a big compliment because I think my mother is the best at everything. But Mrs. Pauley’s cookies are better than mom’s. Mrs. Pauley’s been sad lately. Mr. Pauley is gone. To a better place Mom says. Whatever that means. I think he’s dead.
And Mrs. Pauley, well, she looks sadder every day. She used to smile all the time; now she doesn’t as much. I think she’ll die here. After all, she’s been here before I was even born. Before my stupid sister, Leslie, who dresses like Ms. Riley but is so much more uglier than her, was born. And she’s 16. So that’s a long time. Mom said she’s been here for more than 40 years. Wow! That’s a long time. It’s forever. Can you imagine? Forty years?
“Sean, come back here. Lunch is ready.”
I stand to get back into the house. Maybe I should spit that chewing gum into Mr. Whitman garden. It will stick to his mower. It’d be fun. But he’ll have my hide. And he scares me a little. He has a doberman; a big dog. And he’s threatened a couple of times to release it on me, if I was a bad boy. But there’s a police car coming towards our house. In fact, they stop right in front of the entry way. I didn’t do anything. Why would they come here?
“MOM.” I call back.
The policemen actually turn towards Mrs. Pauley’s house. Another man, in a suit, is with them and he looks happy. But it looks like a bad happy. You know, like when you’re happy your archenemy – I learned that word in a book – failed his math exam. Mrs. Pauley can’t be going to prison. She’s everyone’s nice granny in the neighbourhood. Mom has come out. She stands behind me, her hands on my shoulders.
“Get inside Sean.”
“What has Mrs. Pauley done?”
“I don’t know honey. Go inside.”
I know Mom. She’s trying hard not to cry. She pushes me away but I can’t help it. I need to see. They knock at the door. They call Mrs. Pauley. They yell.
“If you don’t come, we’ll knock down the door.” One says.
The man in the suit looks scared at that and shakes his hand. Mr. Whitman has turned off his mower and is walking towards them.
“Give her a chance, officer, she’s an old lady. She doesn’t walk fast like you and me.”
“Go away Sir, it’s none of your business.”
But Mr. Whitman doesn’t move. He looks as angry as I’ve ever seen him. I don’t hear what he tells them but one of the policemen takes his arm. Mr. Whitman shakes him away. He says he can walk by himself. The man in the suit says something about the house being his. How can it be his house? He’s not even 40 years old. Mrs. Pauley has been here before he was born too. That makes no sense.
“Sean, I told you to go inside.” Mom repeats. I don’t want to go inside. I want to know what they’ll do to poor Mrs. Pauley. I can see Mrs. Pauley opening the door, and the man in the suit giving her something. She looks from the paper to him, to the police officers. She doesn’t understand. I do the same thing when I don’t understand. I’m like Mrs. Pauley. And I don’t understand why they’re speaking to her. What can she have done this kind old lady? And where are her boys? I’ve seen them before. She had 6. Mom sometimes says she doesn’t understand how she had the strength to raise 6 kids. Three were enough. Why aren’t they here to protect her from the mean man in the suit? I’ll never leave my mom alone. Never. At least if dad goes away, I’ll take care of her.
“Sean, don’t make me tell you another time.”
Mom takes my hand and pulls me towards the house. I look over my shoulder as she does. Mrs. Pauley is crying, but the police officers don’t seem to care. They pull her, just like mom is doing to me, towards the police car. And the man in the suit smiles as he turns towards Mrs. Pauley’s house.