Writing 101 Day 18 – A Quiet Riot
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.
Maybe I didn’t use that point-of-view thing the way it was supposed to be – but this 12 year-old didn’t seem to be content to just sit there while old Grandma Pauley was evicted. He wanted to do something, and he did.
A Quiet Riot
Yesterday there was a riot in our street. Well, maybe not a real riot with violence and stuff, but sort of an uprising. A small one, but still.
I was sitting on the steps in front of our house, texting my BF about meeting later in the afternoon when I noticed cops on the other side of the street. Cops in our street? Weird. Nothing ever happens here. It’s a quiet neighbourhood. They had this official looking guy with them. Dark suit, white shirt, a tie, and a smooth face like a TV presenter. They were walking up to Grandma Pauley’s place.
Now Grandma Pauley is just the sweetest little old lady you could ever hope to meet. She has lived here her whole life, she’s been like a real grandma for all of us children here. Actually Grampa Pauley, her husband, was like a grampa for all of us too until he died of a stroke three months ago. I didn’t know what a stroke was then, but my mom explained it to me. She’s a nurse, my mom. She knows about all this weird medical stuff. It went real quick. Maybe better for him than if he had died of a long illness, like cancer or something. But Grandma Pauley was very sad after he died. They had been married like forever. The best thing about it was, they were old and still happy together. You could see it when they looked at each other. The warmth in their smiles. So when he was gone so suddenly she was downtrodden. That’s a word I’ve learned, downtrodden. It’s an old-fashioned word, but I love old English words like that. Maybe I’m going to be a writer some day. But I’m not sure yet. There’s more to being a writer than just knowing some unusual words.
Well, anyway – after her beloved Willy died, Grandma Pauley dressed all in black and stopped talking to people. It was weird because she always used to be so cheerful, chatting with everyone, baking cakes for people’s birthdays, telling stories to us children and all that. But the loss of him took all the spunk out of her, it seemed. She just withdrew inside of herself. We tried to talk to her, ask if we could help her in any way, but she just wouldn’t open the door or answer the phone. Mom told me some people get like that when they’re grieving. It’s called a post-traumatic depression or something.
But what did these cops want from her? It’s not illegal to be depressed, is it? I went across the street to find out. “That’s none of your business, son”, one of the cops said. He looked rather stern, as if he wasn’t comfortable with me being there. But the other one was more friendly. He was still young, he had grown up in this street and he knew Grandma well. He thought it was not okay to send police to her, but he had to obey the orders of his chief. It turned out that Grandma had not paid the rent for the last three months, ever since Grampa Willy died. Probably she didn’t even know how to go about it, because Grampa had always taken care of all the paperwork and she didn’t understand about all the legal stuff. Now they were going to evict her for not paying the rent.
Of course that was impossible. Where would she go if they kicked her out of her home? She’s been living here for the last 40 years. She’s over 80 now. I thanked the officer kindly for the information and went around the corner and texted everyone I knew about what was happening, and that they should hurry up and come to Grandma’s door and help before this sleek-looking guy could really get her evicted.
It worked like a charm. Within minutes, there were about a hundred people there asking what was going on. And more were coming. My friend Davy’s dad, Mr. Jones, is a lawyer, and he said he would represent Mrs. Pauley and all the paper stuff and claims should be directed to him. That was a low blow for the sleek-looking guy from the housing company. He’d thought if Grandma was too poor to pay the rent, she would never be able to afford a lawyer. He thought he could get it over with real quick and without a lot of noise. But he wasn’t from this neighbourhood. He didn’t know we all loved Grandma, and that we were all going to help her and stand up for her if she really got into trouble. None of us had known that she wasn’t able to pay the rent, or couldn’t figure out how it was done. She had been just to proud, or maybe too downtrodden, to ask for help.
The young cop actually looked quite relieved that he didn’t have to evict Grandma now. He had been feeling really bad about it. Mr. Jones told the bloke from the housing company that he would get in touch with Grandma’s children. Next of kin, he called them. They didn’t know about this either. They all lived far away. One was in Australia, one in New Zealand, one was in an ashram in India and one lived in a wooden cabin in Canada, without phone, internet or any other means of communication. The latter two were a bit difficult to reach, but Mr. Jones managed to contact the others. They had had no idea that their mom was in such trouble. They had been here for their dad’s funeral, but apparently she didn’t tell them anything about her financial situation. They sent enough money via cable to cover the debt, so Grandma was out of trouble for the time being.
Of course that wasn’t the end of it yet. Grandma needed to be covered for the future too. She had had a real shock when she realized that she would have to leave her beloved home if these things didn’t get settled. She had been buried so deep in her grief that she had always postponed the “official” stuff until the next day, and then the next, and then the next … Mr. Jones said that he would go through all the papers and see to it that the financial situation was cleared up. He wasn’t going to charge for it – he just wanted to help so she could stay in her home until the end. She could have lived with her son in Australia – he had offered to take her in when Grampa died -, but she didn’t want to. “I was born here, and I’m going to die here. My beloved Willy died here too, and I want to be buried next to him”, she said. We all had a big meeting in her living room after the cops and the housing company bloke had left. That was when she finally understood that you have to ask for help when something’s up. And she also finally understood how much we all loved her. She was really moved to see how many people cared about her.
One thing still remains to be told. A friend of my parents‘, Jim Cooper, works for the Morning Post. My mom told him the whole story, and this morning there was a big story about it in the Post. Of course they used it as a hook to write about the housing situation in general, and the desolate situation of old and bereft people. But something incredible happened – Grandma got dozens of calls and letters from total strangers, people came by to visit and bring groceries and stuff. Everyone wanted to help. She got so many donations that her rent for the next six months was secured. She was famous now! “The Granny of Old Cook Street.” It overwhelmed her a bit, actually. She had never wanted to be famous. But she was glad – as were we all – that she could remain in her home and in our street for the rest of her life.
Oh yeah – Jim said that he was going to do some more research on that housing company. He was sure that there must be some weird stuff going on if they were in such a hurry to get Grandma out of her house. It will be interesting to see what he can find out.