Writing 101, Day Eighteen: Hone Your 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.

Write this story in first person, told by the twelve-year-old sitting on the stoop across the street.

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 has always been one of those angry old women. She liked to sit on the porch, glaring at all the new houses like something smelled bad. I didn’t like it. She kept to herself most of the time. Unless someone walked up to her she didn’t start a conversation. She wasn’t the long winded type, like my uncle Frank, so i appreciated that at least. She brooded all the time though. She frowned and glared, and whenever my mom made my go over to give her fruit or pie or whatever she’d smile for a second before making a snide comment about my clothes, or make up, or my hair.

“You’re a beautiful young girl, not some cheap slump dog. Dress like you’re worth something.” Then she’s say something sad like, “Enjoy your youth and use it to your advantage. If you waste it on this esoteric phase you’ll regret it.” I didn’t understand most of the things she said, but when i repeated them in class my teachers always looked so shocked. “esoteric” was so esoteric. I looked that one up.

My mom liked to give her things, “It lets her know some people remember how much she’d done for a place like this when it just started out. She’s about your grandmother’s age, Emily. You should respect that.” My mom would say, peaking out of the blinds to see if Mrs. Pauley went back inside her house smiling. She liked to make Mrs. Pauley smile…no matter how impossible it was. My mom also liked to tell me over and again about the story of how Mr. and Mrs. Pauley lived here for nearly 30 years. Mr. Pauley passed away a little while ago though. Yeah well. I didn’t care how long she lived anywhere. She needed to respect me and my clothes choices. It isn’t a phase, and i’m old enough to make my own choices.

I was sitting on the porch one day, eating watermelon, watching Mrs. Pauley carve up the rest. While she stood there, lip pulled into her mouth, and her yellow old lady sleeves rolled up, a car rolled up. The watermelon juices were rolling down my arm and my mom had come back from the house with napkins. I looked up and reached for them, but my mom seemed fixated at across the street.

“Mom.” I say, the napkins just out of reach.

My mom’s mouth hung open as she stared, lost somewhere. I frowned and stood up, took the napkin and slid it down the pinkish lines of juices on my arm, muttering a sarcastic “thanks” that my mom was still not paying attention to. I finally turn and see two men standing in front of Mrs. Pauley house. Suddenly i see Mrs. Pauley, nodding sternly. She’s biting her lip like she’s angry, and then i see these tears rolling down her face.

“Mom…what are they saying to Mrs. Pauley?” I asked, watching the woman who seemed so tall and stiff and stern,  lean over the watermelon like an old hook, crying her eyes out.

“Emily, get back in the house.” My mom says suddenly, taking a few steps into our lawn.

“Mom?” I take a step, and my mom turns to look at me. She was serious and scared.

“Emily, please. Just go inside. And lock the door behind you.”

I step back into the house, and my mom puts one hand on her hip and the other over her mouth, for a moment. I lock the door and watch from the window. My mom is walking to Mrs. Pauley. The men leave in their car, and then Mrs. Pauley is crying on my mom. Mom stays out there for a few hours, sitting and talking to Mrs. Pauley, who had stopped crying after a few minutes.

Mom doesn’t talk about it when she gets home. I ask her about it, and say, “grumpy old lady” and my mom burst into tears

“Don’t talk about her that way! You don’t know what she’s going through!” and my mom stared at me for a long time, until i started crying. She came to me and hugged me, “I’m sorry for yelling at you. You don’t know. Mommy’s sorry. Mommy shouldn’t have yelled at you like that.”

She doesn’t tell me about it.

A week later Mrs. Pauley was moving her things out. Mom and Dad helped her. I was forced to too. I don’t know where she was going, but mom and dad were helping her a lot. They gave her money, but she didn’t take it. She sold a lot of her things at garage sales. When i got her alone during one of them and asked her about what was happening, she smiled at me. A long smile, that made me feel sad.

“You’re a good enough kid. Don’t let those horrible clothes change that about you.” And then she patted me on the head. I don’t know what about it all made me cry, but i cried, “Don’t cry. You must despise me.” She said, patting me on the head.

“I don’t despise you.” I say to her, and that makes her cry.

She left and i didn’t hear about her. MOm didn’t like to talk about it, but she talked to Mrs. Pauley on the phone some days, but soon Mrs. Pauley wouldn’t take my mom’s calls. That made my mom cry.

A year later,  mom gets a phone call and cries on the phone for a few minutes. Then she cries with dad on the couch. I stand by the living room door way and i’m crying, because i know what the call was for.



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