Mum always tells me to be grateful for all we have. When I go to school, John Reinhart and Tristan Andrews pick on me for all we haven’t got. I’ve seen those episodes of A Current Affair where they talk about the “battlers” in the worst streets, in the worst suburbs and it always makes me sad that whatever they show is not as bad as here. Mr. Pauley used to tell me that the neighbourhood was once respectable, with hard working people, who looked out for one another and took pride in their homes. Him and Mrs. Pauley have lived here for over 40 years. Well, had for him. He’s been dead for three months – I know cause the day of his funeral was the day of Tristan’s 12th birthday party at the go kart track that I wasn’t invited to. Seeing as every other kid I know was at that party, I had no one to hang out with and was sitting here on the verandah like I am now when the creepy looking car came by with Mr. Pauley’s coffin in the back. I decided not to go to school today. I just wanted a break from the assholes telling me how much better than me they are. After breakfast, I put on my uniform and headed out so mum wouldn’t be the wiser, and now I’m back before the first bell has gone. I forgot my key though, so I’m stuck out here till mum gets home. I’ve run out of triangles to count on the verandah tiles, so I dug into my pockets to see what I’ve got in there. Sometimes I luck out and find something I hadn’t thought about in a while- well, at least since the last time mum washed my shorts. Apart from lint, there is a spent matchstick, a pebble I picked up on my way to school this morning and a hubba bubba wrapper. Grape. I can still smell it on the wrapper. Just when I think the most interesting part of my day was going to be smoothing out the creases in the wrapper, a cop car pulled into the street. Now that wasn’t surprising – there was always a domestic or a drug bust, sometimes a domestic during a drug bust, but this time it was odd. The car was pulling into Mr. Pauley’s drive. Well, Mrs. Pauley’s now, seeing as she is the only one there. Not sure what they’d want with her. Maybe they have some bad news about one of her sons. There are six Pauley sons, one is even called Paul. Him and Justin are the only ones whose names I remember. Paul Pauley is kinda unforgettable, and Justin dated my mum for a while. He was alright, but I just hated the way he called me “son”. So what is the cop doing there? I don’t know much about Mrs. Pauley. Everyone says she’s a bit strange, but I’m not even sure what they mean by it. I know when people use the word “strange” there is always an added meaning that they just don’t want to get into, or they try to be polite and not say any more than that. I only ever saw her through the curtains she’d pull back a bit when I was helping Mr. Pauley out – washing his car or doing the lawns for five bucks every now and then. The best part was using the whipper snipper on the hard to get strips of grass along his drive. Now his dirty car was sitting in the overgrown grass with stacks of pamphlets, local papers and envelopes all over the place. After the mailbox got full, I guess the postie just started chucking the mail over the fence. Shit! The cop just turned and looked this way! I hope he hasn’t seen me. I’m kinda half behind the rosemary bush that’s right near the steps where I’m sitting so I might be okay. What’s Mr. Finnegan doing there? He owns a lot of the houses in this street. He’s always coming around to remind mum that we’re falling behind. It took mum a long time to explain what “falling behind” meant when I asked. I never asked her why Mr. Finnegan always put his hand on her butt when he left. It kinda grossed me out, and I wanted to tell him to fuck off, but what made it worse was that I knew mum wouldn’t let most blokes get away with that. Maybe Mrs. Pauley was falling behind in her rent? I could see her when she finally opened the door, after all the banging the cop was doing. She was in the same bright pink gown I used to see her in when I was standing in their driveway. I couldn’t hear what she was saying, but from where I was, she looked really upset. Mr. Finnegan stood tall and straight the way my mum always tells me to. It was just the cop and Mrs. Pauly who were talking, then the cop put his arm around Mrs. Pauly’s shoulder. Mr. Finnegan still didn’t move. I wonder if that will happen to us if we keep falling behind? I can’t let that happen. Maybe I’ll just get a job. There’s always something going in the neighbourhood. What’s the point in going to school anyway, with those assholes always on my back?

Prompt from Writing 101 Day 18. 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. 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.

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