The neighborhood 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.
That’s what Mom just told Mrs. Jenkins, who lives next door. This is big news in the neighborhood. The Pauleys are old—like Gramps and Gran. When Mr. Pauley died, Mom went to the funeral, but Dad had work, and I had school. Since then, Mrs. Pauley almost never comes out of the house. For a while, I thought maybe she had died, too, and that Mom forgot to mention it. Or something. Mom said that the Pauleys’ children didn’t even come to the funeral—of their own dad! Mom says that happens sometimes.
I’ve lived here all my life–all twelve years of it. Mom says they moved here a few months after she found out she was going to have me. The apartment they had was too small for the two of them, she said, and definitely too small to raise a baby, too. So she found this house, and I was born, and I think I saw Mrs. Pauley almost every day my whole life. She always had a nod and a smile for me. I always nodded back. But I never really knew her—not like I know some of the other people around here, especially with kids who go to my school.
Huh. Why aren’t Mrs. Pauley’s sons—Mom says there were six—coming around to help their mother? Why did they all leave town? Why haven’t I ever seen them? Even Mom says that once the last of the sons moved out—not long after we moved here—she’s never seen any of them visit. Why wouldn’t they want to visit their own parents? Why wouldn’t they come home? Do they know that their father died? Did Mrs. Pauley call them to let them know? If she did, didn’t they care? Even if they didn’t like their father, what about their mother? Don’t they care what happens to her, either? What’s she going to do now? Will she become homeless?
Wow! Six sons and none of them care?? What will happen to her now?
The furniture is being moved out of the house. It looks so old and ratty. Mom would never keep furniture like that at home. She buys a new sofa every few years because the cat scratches it up and the dog makes it smell like—well, dog. By the looks of the sofa the men with the police and landlord are putting at the curb, every cat in the world has had a shot at that sofa. And the round burn marks all over it…and all over the table and chairs they’re bringing out now. And why is Mrs. Pauley wearing a long-sleeved sweater now, in the middle of June? Is she cold? Did the landlord cut off her heat? Wait. That’s stupid. It’s too hot to need heat.
Still. I don’t know what to think. They’re taking some clothes and throwing them over the furniture outside. Why is there almost no food? There are a couple of tins of stuff in a small cardboard box, but… Maybe the workmen got hungry and ate all her food? Nah. No one could be that mean, could they?
I watch until the landlord put padlocks on all the doors and the workmen finished boarding up the windows. Mrs. Pauley is just sitting on top of the clothes—all really worn and raggedy—and just staring into the street. I don’t know if she can see me watching from the porch.
Mom comes out, walks past me, and goes over to Mrs. Pauley. She’s too far away for me to hear what she’s saying. But Mrs. Pauley isn’t answering. Mom tries to take her arm, but Mrs. Pauley pulls her elbow away as though she’s mad at the world. She’s still staring at the street. Mom stands looking down at her for a few minutes, then turns to come back home. Her face—Mom’s face—looks like a stone statue. No smile. Jaw shut tight. Eyes facing directly in front of her. She comes up the porch steps without looking at me. I watch her walk in the front door, and hear it slam behind her.
I look back at Mrs. Pauley, still sitting and staring at the street—not really at the street, just at sort of nothing. As I get up to go back into the house, I hear Mom talking to someone on the phone. “But you have to help her or find a place for her. You can’t just leave her on the street. Can’t you police do anything for her? Is there some agency that I can call to help her? Why don’t you know? Is this the first time someone has been evicted from a home in this town? Shouldn’t you know an agency or charity or something…someone I can call to help her?”
I go to my room and dig out the earphones I tossed onto a pile of stuff last night. I put them on and plug them into my iPod. I don’t want to see any more of Mrs. Pauley right now. I don’t want to hear that no one can help her. I know Mom will try calling everyone she can. I just get the feeling there’s no one that will take care of her. And I don’t want to hear Mom get angry or start to cry because she can’t do anything to help Mrs. Pauley.