Writing 101 Day 18: Misses Pauley
Today’s prompt: write this story in first person, told by the twelve-year-old sitting on the stoop across the street.
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.
Bad Days and Good People
Valerie clapped the ball into the far corner of my square, making me have to lunge backwards to get it. I barley caught the ball with a frantic left swipe but it went high and out of bounds and she won the game. I sighed. She walked up to me all perky-like. “Do you want to play again?”
“No.” I was getting hungry and feeling a little lightheaded so I walked over to the porch and sat down on the bottom step putting my elbows on my knees. “I wonder when dinner’s going to be ready?”
“Well, since you’re here until your folks get back, momma said we’re having a kid’s night of wieners and beans. She said whenever we’re ready we can make it ourselves.”
Valerie and I were almost neighbors. Between her house and mine lived the Pauleys, well, not many Pauleys these days, just the ol’ Misses. She let us cut through her yard to visit. Valerie’s about a year younger than me, but she’s good company. I’ll have to teach her how to throw a football sometime soon. In the backyard Mr. Pauley always kept a nice garden and some fruit trees and he never yelled at us neighborhood kids for kyping a apple or some cherries every now and then. Right now, the fruit was ripening and looking good.
Remember ol’’ mister Pauley?” I asked.
“Member how he’d sometimes let me feed their cat while he was gone?”
“Back when him and the boys were all living here, remember how the Misses would bake them pies and leave ‘em in her window sill just to test us?”
“Yep. Iffen one of us stole one we’d never get invited in for her cookies for two whole weeks.”
“I stole one once,” I admitted. “It was sure good but I felt so guilty. She caught me too.” I watched Valerie’s eyes grow big. It was like she was hearing a story from a real life criminal. I felt important, and yet I knew I should be teaching her a lesson, cause she looked up to me and all. “Yup. Never did it again though. Those two weeks were rough.”
I scratched my head. Mosquitoes were beginning to come out. Valerie swatted a few away from her face. She had some freckles and rabbit teeth, real long teeth, at least her eyes were in front and not out at the sides of her head, but that little bitty nose would crinkle up sometimes when she was miffed, and although her stringy hair, according to my big brother, was the color of dishwater.. I never did any dishes, momma always did those, so I just took his word for it, I still liked her. “Val, do you . . .” I was just about to ask her how she ever got dishwater hair when she let out a gasp as a black and white with a cherry on top pulled up in front of the Pauley house and stopped. Valerie sat down on the front steps and we waited and watched.
When two policemen opened their doors and stepped out, I stood up, frowning. “What’s they doing there, d’ya suppose, Val?”
She didn’t say nothing.
The shorter, fatter policeman walked around the police car, hitched up his pants, and glanced our way, like he was all business, then joined up with his partner and walked up Misses Pauley’s sidewalk and pounded kinda loud on her door.
“Misses Pauley, open up!” The taller one shouted.
“Val, Valerie, go and getcher momma. Tell her Misses Pauley needs her.”
Valerie stood and backed her way up the stairs without looking behind her. She grabbed the screen door handle and shoved it open, her green eyes glued to Misses Pauley’s front door. “Go!” I whispered, nodding my head towards Val’s house, trying to keep an eye on next door and Valerie at the same time.
Then, as the tall policemen was lifting his fist to pound the door again, I stood up and sprinted over there to stand behind him. “Mister, Sir?” he jumped, not realizing I was right behind him. “She can’t hear too good. Mister, Sir, she ain’t been doing too well these days since Mr. Pauley passed on. Whatchou want with her? Is her boys all right? It’s not Benny is it?” Benny was her youngest son and he was over fighting in some far away war right now. I know she’s been real worried about him cause he might be dead and killed at any second, just like Mr. Pauley went, only bloodier cause he’s in war. I didn’t think Mrs. Pauley could take that burden right now.
“No son. This is no concern of yours. Go home.”
I wasn’t liking the looks of this. I got a bad feeling. I ran around the Pauley’s house and up to the back door and cupped my hands around my eyes and peeked into the window. I could see her, sitting at her kitchen table, leaned over, her head in her hands and her back shaking like as if she had the hiccups. I tried the door knob. It opened. I slipped inside and ran to kneel beside her, putting my hand upon her knee. I whispered, “Misses Pauley, what is it? What’s the matter? What do those policemen want?”
She clutched my hand in one of hers while the other flicked a tear away from her wrinkled cheek. She sniffled once, twice, then lifted her white head, stood with my help, and grabbed me in a hug that felt so desperate, as if she was the kid and I was the grown-up.
“Pauley!” The officers continued to pound the front door. “Open this door now! You know damned good and well why we’re here. We’re just following the law, Ma-am. The law says we have to serve you this eviction notice. Open up Pauley, and let’s just get this over with!”
I looked up at Misses Pauley and glanced towards the door. “Misses Pauley,” I said, grabbing her hand, “Come on, follow me. Let’s get you out of here. Come on. My daddy’s a lawyer. I know they can’t serve you less they do it face to face. Come on, Misses Pauley, my daddy’ll help you just as soon as he gets home. Tonight even.”
She followed me out the back door. I led her over to Valerie’s house through the backyard and into the kitchen. Valerie’s mom heard us and shut the front door, running down the hallway towards us. I told her, “I grabbed her out of there, Ma-am. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Not at all, there Danny. You done good bringing her here. Have a seat, Misses Pauley. Don’t you worry none.” She patted her hand and sat beside her. “Valerie, sweetheart, could you make us all some tea, please?” Then she turned towards me saying, Danny, can you give your daddy a call, tell him what’s going on?”
She didn’t have to tell me twice.