Writing 101 (Day 18)
They said Mr. Pauley died; just like that, he did. One day he went off to his job at Pratt’s Shoe Store and didn’t come home. My mama said they found him in the storeroom on the floor surrounded by some boxes of shoes that they thought fell around him when it happened–the heart attack I mean.
My mama always took me to Pratt’s for new shoes, which was quite often, my feet grew so fast. “Honey your feet are growing again. We have to go to Pratt’s and get you some new shoes,” she would say. She’d make me put on clean socks, ones without holes and we’d walk the two blocks to the shoe store.
I liked going to the shoe store. I got to sit and have my feet measured in this little metal thing that had a slider on it and told the clerk the correct size. That was Mr. Pauley. He said I had bigger feet than any twelve year old he’d ever known. I never got to choose. The size of my feet dictated the type…sturdy leather oxfords. The only thing that changed, besides a size larger, was the color–black or brown, whatever was in stock. We haven’t been in a while and I’m wearing the brown ones, that no amount of polish can help cover scuff marks from when I played kick the can with Frank in the back alley.
My mama says we don’t have enough money for new shoes. Mr. Pauley used to give my mama a discount because we were neighbors and he liked us a lot. I realized later that he paid the discount part out of his own pocket, but never said anything, because my mama was too proud to take charity.
My mama was always nice to the Pauleys. She’d bake two casseroles, one for us and one for them. Sometimes she took over a pie. Cherry was Mrs. Pauley’s favorite. When she went over to deliver food, I liked to go with her because we got to sit on the porch swing and drink lemonade that Mrs. Pauley served in tall glasses with lots of ice.
I liked their place. It had a real front porch across the front of the house. Not just a stoop…a set of steps that led down to the street. Their house was one of the last houses that lined Fifth Street. The houses were gradually being torn down and replaced by stores and apartments. My mama said it was due to greedy developers. Our apartment had a stoop. When Mrs. Pauley came to visit us she and my mama liked to sit on the front steps with the other ladies and gossip about what was happening to the old neighborhood. They all agreed on one thing: their dislike of the developers.
And they all talked about their children. Mrs. Pauley talked about her six sons who never came to see her. It’s sad that they don’t come, my mama said when Mrs. Pauley told us she missed them.
Those boys did not even come to the funeral, but she’d make excuses for them, saying that they have jobs and their own families to attend to. We all went to the funeral at the Freewill Baptist Church down on the corner. Some of the developers wanted to tear it down, but all the people protested, so it got to stay there. It was crowded in there with all the neighborhood and some of the business people. People told stories about how kind Mr. Pauley had been. We learned he had paid the Brown’s rent for three months when Mr. Brown got laid off at the factory. He always bought groceries for the widow Jones, who lived on the first floor. I wished my mama could have told about the shoes, but we didn’t know then. Mr. Pratt told my mother that the next time we went to get shoes that she couldn’t get a discount. He said that the store did not give discounts and we would have to pay the full price. That’s why I’m still wearing my old scuffed up shoes.
Mr. Pauley didn’t leave much of anything valuable behind. Poor Mrs. Pauley must have been having a hard time without the small income her husband brought home from the shoe store. But because she never complained, no one knew about any trouble until the morning a police car stopped in front of the Pauley’s house.
We were, as usual sitting on the stoop. Frank said, “hey, what’s going on?” I looked over and saw two men getting out of the squad car. They went to the door and when Mrs. Pauley answered they each took hold of an elbow and marched her down the front steps and put he in the back seat of the car. Several people had come out to the streets. No one went over to where one of the police was standing by the car door. Nothing was said to the other one went up the steps and posted something on the front door.
Later, Frank and me, we went and looked at that paper. It was a notice that said “this property condemned.”
We didn’t ever know what happened to Mrs. Pauley. My mama said that maybe one of those good for nothing’ sons maybe took her in. I hope so. Mrs. Pauley was a real nice lady.
Those developers are at work, building a new bank across the street.