“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.”
“Ooh boy..” my mother cooed as she looked out the window. Yellowed drapes pulled back by her strong hands. “That Mrs. Pauley been livin’ here since I was a girl,” she sighed, “shown me how to hem a dress, collect eggs from the coop. Awful.” She closed the blind and shook her head as she dragged her feet to the next room. I creeped toward the door and blinked as I saw the men in black uniforms stopped in front of her house. We were taught to be wary of the men in uniform. Them folks aren’t on your side, love. Strange world we be livin’ in. I heard my mothers voice in my head. Carefully, I opened the door and slinked outside. I plopped my unusually round bottom down on the cold pavement. I played with the untied laces on my shoes. The ends of the laces black from being drug through mud. My cheeks felt hot. Watching Mrs. Pauley’s house, I felt like an intruder, but I couldn’t look away.
The men in the black uniforms stepped out of the white car. Adjusting their belts around their waist, I saw the reflection of silver. One of them tipped their hat at me. Flushed, I turned away. I heard my mother through the screen door,
“Lord knows if a rich ol’ white woman be livin’ in that house, they’d be leavin’ her alone.” Must be talking to Aunt Liza again. They squawk on the phone with each other all day. Before daddy left he used to roll his eyes at my mother, lips glistening from his drink.
“You know if she did somethin’ other than talk on that dang phone all day, we’d get somethin’ done ’round here.” he’d exhale and return to his can.
What sounded like screams brought my gaze back to Mrs. Pauley’s house. Through the red front door I heard the muffled shouts of the men in the black uniforms, the helpless cries of Mrs. Pauley. Don’t ever let anyone control you, Miss Sandra. Once they control you, they own you. She had told me that while we picked onions in the garden a few years ago. And she’d tell me again and again. Don’t let them control you, Mrs. Pauley, I whispered to myself. Don’t let them take you.
The door opened slowly. Mrs. Pauley appeared in the front door, dwarfed by the men in the black uniforms. Her hands were behind her back. She tried to struggle, but was quickly defeated. In anguish I ran over to her. I heard the screams of my mother from the kitchen window.
“Mrs. Pauley! Mrs. Pauley! Dont let them control you!” I screamed as I approached her. She looked up at me with weary, defiant eyes.
“Go on now! Go!” She shouted back at me. Terrified, I slowly backed away back toward my front step. She didn’t look at me as she was escorted to the white car. The men in the black uniforms pushed down hard on her head and she fell into the back seat of the car. I saw her face in the back window as the car drove into the street. Her hand on the glass. Don’t let them control you. I saw her mouth move as she said the words she’d so often had said to me before.
I won’t Mrs. Pauley. I won’t.