A piece of fiction Writing 101:
“And don’t come back in ’til I call you! You hear me?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Sammy muttered under her breath.
“Babygirl! I said, do you hear me?!”
“I am not a baby girl!”
“Do. You. Hear me?”
“Yes, Mama. I hear you,” she grumbled.
Sammy let the screen door slam behind her, took a few steps and sat down on the front stoop. She kept to her family’s side of the porch. Mr. Johnson, who lived in the other half of the duplex, didn’t like anyone on his side of the porch, especially little girls.
Not that Sammy was a little girl, mind you. She was 12 and already a woman in the Biblical sense. If only her mama wouldn’t treat her like such a baby.
She heard her friends talking and laughing somewhere down the street, having fun without her…again. Sammy hated this time if year, when it started getting dark earlier. She wouldn’t be able to hang outside after school again til spring. Which was like six months away! All cuz her mama was worried she’d go missing like that Baker girl. But that girl was just a kid – only nine years old. Sammy could protect herself. She didn’t grow up across the street from the Pauley boys without having something to show for it.
The Pauley boys. Sammy missed them – all six of ’em. Of course, they weren’t boys anymore. They were men and had all moved away.
“Well, Sammy, they gotta go where the jobs are. And you know they ain’t many jobs round here,” Mrs. Pauley would say.
“But what about you and Mr Pauley and my mama? You’re still here.”
“Yes, honey, but Mr. Pauley and me, we don’t need much now it’s just the two of us. And your mama, well, she one of the few people got herself a good job. She don’t need to move. Though sometimes she want to. Ain’t safe here like it used to be. No place to raise a child, I say.”
Sammy picked at the weathered wooden steps under her feet, pulling up chips of sky blue paint and flicking them into the small flower bed next to the porch. The newly exposed wood was old and grey.
As Sammy sat there wondering why the Pauley boys didn’t visit more often, her mama hollered from the kitchen, so loud her voice carried down the hall, out the screen door, down the steps and into the street – where it still possessed enough power to split in two and barrel north and south – notifying the entire neighborhood that Sammy “better still be sittin’ on that porch, missy!”
Well, at least the kidnapper would know exactly where to find her.
The last time she saw the Pauley boys wasn’t so long ago, really. When Mr. Pauley died a few months back, all the boys came to the funeral. Some brought their wives and kids and some just their kids or just a wife and one brought his dog. Said she had “separation anxiety” – just like the babies in the church nursery where Sammy helped on Sundays.
That week the Pauley house was bursting to the seams and even though everyone was sad, they managed to have some fun, too. They stayed out late playing games along the street just like the old days and Sammy wasn’t scared one bit because nobody was dumb enough to mess with all the Pauley boys at once. Bullets are bullets, Sammy’s mama would say, and they don’t care how strong you are – but even she let Sammy stay out after dark with the Pauley boys.
The whole time they were in town, the boys tried to convince their mama to move home with them – every single one, but especially Jacob, the second to youngest, the one with the dog. He said he had a good job and plenty of room in his apartment. Sammy said she’d go with him if Mrs. Pauley wouldn’t but Jacob said she was too young. At that, Sammy stomped home but forgave Jacob later that night as she watched him through her window. Seeing him standing in Mrs. Pauley’s kitchen doing the dishes for his poor old mama made Sammy’s heart turn to butterscotch pudding. Besides, she was gonna marry that boy someday so she couldn’t stay mad at him forever.
The following day the boys left, one by one, with their families, packing up their cars or waiting for cabs which were always late cuz they weren’t used to coming to that part of town. Jacob was the last to go. He gave Sammy a great big bear hug, lifting her right off her feet. When he set her back down, she was so full of love she couldn’t say a word. She just smiled and waved as he drove away with that silly dog sittin’ in the front seat.
Sammy was still peeling paint when she heard them coming. She looked up and saw three cars – a big silver one, the kind old people drive, and two blue and white police cars – park in front of Mrs. Pauley’s house across the street. Without thinking, she jumped up and started toward them. Just before her right foot hit the concrete, she felt someone grab her arm and jerk her back.
“Oh no you don’t, young lady,” Sammy’s mama snapped. “Sit your butt down and don’t move, like I told you.”
Oh sure, so now she was a young lady.
Sammy did as she was told, watching as her mother hurried across the street in her pink scrubs. Worried, she strained to hear what her mama and the men were saying to each other but the men weren’t saying much at all.
Who is that other man, Sammy wondered, I know him from some….Mr. Sneesgull! (Or Mr. Sleazeball as Sammy and her friends liked to call him.) Mr. Sneesgull owned just about every house on Sammy’s street, including Mrs. Pauley’s, but he didn’t own Sammy’s house. Mr. Johnson did and on days like today that was just fine with her.
Mr. Sneesgull only came around for one reason and when he did, he always had the police with him. Mrs. Pauley was being evicted.
A storm of thoughts invaded Sammy’s mind making her heart and legs jumpy. Where would Mrs Pauley go? Who would take care if her? How did the boys let this happen? Where was Jacob and that stupid dog?
Just when she felt she couldn’t sit still for another second, she heard a voice behind her.
“Now what’d you’re mama say? Hmm?” It was Mr. Johnson talking through his screen door.
“I wasn’t goin anywhere,” Sammy protested.
“Could’ve fooled me,” he answered as he stepped out onto the porch. “So Mr. Sleazeball’s back in town, is he?”
Sammy whipped her head around and stared at Mr. Johnson. Did he just say “Mr. Sleazeball”? Mr. Johnson winked at Sammy and sat down in his wooden rocking chair. The porch floor creaked in time with his rocking, which Sammy noticed was a little faster than his usual sunset ride. That’s what he liked to call his time in the rocking chair – his ride. Sammy’s mama said it was cuz Mr Johnson missed driving his car, which he had to give up cuz he couldn’t see so good anymore.
“Here they come,” Mr Johnson said, lifting his grey-whiskered chin toward Mrs. Pauley’s house.
Sammy turned to look and there they were: her mama and Mrs. Pauley and Mrs. Pauley’s bags, crossing the street. Mr. Sneesgull and the police were locking up the house but Sammy knew they wouldn’t leave for awhile – not til the locksmith came and changed all the locks so Mrs. Pauley couldn’t get back in.
“40 years,” Sammy could hear Mrs. Pauley’s wrinkly voice, “40 years we lived in that house and paid that man rent and this is how he treats me. Not that I should be surprised, mind you.”
When the women reached Sammy’s porch, Mrs. Pauley looked tired.
“Well, don’t just sit there, Samantha. Help us with these bags,” her mama said.
Sammy, still trying to figure out what exactly was going on, stuttered, “Wh-wh-what?”
“I said, help us with the bags, please.”
Mr. Johnson started to stand up and the loud creaking of the porch floor snapped Sammy back to reality.
“I got it! I got it, Mr. Johnson. You just enjoy your sunset ride. I can help Mrs. Pauley.”
Not that she knew what they were gonna do with her once they got her inside.
“Hello, Sammy,” Mrs. Pauley wheezed as she climbed the porch stairs, holding the railing for support and pausing on each step to catch her breath.
Unsure what to say, or what not to say, Samantha just replied, “Hello, Mrs. Pauley.”
Normally she would ask, how are you? But that didn’t seem right under the circumstances.
After she and her mom got Mrs Pauley settled into the recliner with a cup of hot tea, Sammy went to her room to do homework, but mostly she listened to her mama and Mrs Pauley talking.
Turns out Mrs. Pauley hadn’t paid rent since Mr. Pauley died. She said she felt terrible about it but just didn’t know where to start. Mr. Pauley had always taken care of the money. Also, Mr. Pauley had worked part-time bagging groceries at the market and they’d counted on that money, even though it wasn’t much. And, well, she was just plain sad. Somedays she didn’t even want to get out of bed.
‘I miss him so much,” Mrs. Pauley confided in Sammy’s mama. “It’s like I lost a part of myself when he died. I know I should’ve called one of my boys but I didn’t want to be a bother. And now look at me! I’m bothering everybody!”
“Now, don’t you say that,” Sammy’s mama said, patting the back of Mrs. Pauley’s hand. “You aren’t bothering me one bit. I’m glad to have the company. I just wish you would have come to me sooner. To think of you over there suffering like that and me just going about my day…”
Sammy heard Mrs. Pauley shush her mama. “You’ve already got plenty to worry about with Sammy and your job. You don’t need to be worrying about me.”
“Well, maybe I want to, hmmm?” Sammy’s mama retorted. Sammy knew that tone of voice.
“Now, you rest here while I fix dinner and after we have something to eat, we’re going to call one of your boys. So you be thinking about which one you want to call. OK?”
But she wasn’t really asking.
After dinner, Sammy changed the sheets on her bed and cleaned up her room so Mrs. Pauley would have a place to sleep. Then she took a shower and climbed into her fuzzy pajamas. It was still a bit warm for winter jammies but she felt the need for something soft and cozy against her skin. Mrs. Pauley was already sound asleep in Sammy’s bed, so Sammy walked down the hall to her mama’s room. She stood in the doorway, watching as her mama sat up in bed reading.
“Yeah, baby?” She answered without looking up.
“Can I um…” Sammy said, looking down at her hands which were busy wrapping and unwrapping her left index finger with the drawstring of her pajama bottoms.
“Can I sleep in here with you…instead of on the couch?”
Her mom looked up from her book and studied her daughter. Then, with a warm smile, she pulled back the covers and said, “Of course. Come on.”
Bolting through the doorway, Sammy crossed the room and jumped under the blankets. Her mama set down her book and let Sammy snuggle right up next to her, just like she used to do when she was little.
“Is Mrs. Pauley gonna be ok?”
“This is a hard time for her but yeah, she’s going be fine.”
“Did you call one of her boys?”
“Yes, we called Jacob. He’s coming down tomorrow to pick her up.”
“That’s good. I’ll miss her though.”
“Me too, but it’s the right thing for her. Besides, Jacob said we can visit anytime.”
Sammy perked up a bit. “What time is Jacob coming?”
Her mama eyed her sideways. “After you’re home from school if that’s what you’re getting at. I invited him for dinner. Though I’m beginning to wonder if that was a mistake,” she said with a smirk.
Sammy buried herself deeper in her moms arms and kept her face partially under the comforter, hiding a smile.
She thought about Jacob for awhile…how she couldn’t wait to grow up and marry that boy before some woman snatched him away. And she thought about his dog. She was a little jealous of that dog, actually. Then her mind drifted as it always does just before falling asleep and she thought about Mrs. Pauley alone in the other room, and how she struggled to climb the front steps. And she thought of Mr. Johnson and his rocking chair and how he had to give up his car. And she thought of the Baker girl, who disappeared before she even finished up being a child.
Sammy nestled in closer to her mama, who leaned down and kissed her on the top of her head. A few minutes later, just before Sammy drifted off to sleep, she heard her mama whisper, “That’s my babygirl.”
And Sammy didn’t mind it one bit.
In a combined response to Writing 101: Hone Your Point of View & Writing 101:The Things We Treasure, I wrote a longer piece of fiction based on the following description provided in the Hone Your Point of View challenge: 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.