Playing House

Writing 101 Day 18: Hone Your Point of View

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.

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.

I sit there on the stoop across the street wondering. What’s gonna happen to poor Mrs. Pauley? Will she be homeless now? Can’t anyone do something? Where are her sons? Don’t they care about their mother?

Mrs. Pauley is a gentle, sweet lady. I haven’t really talked to her but whenever she sees me, she would wave and smile. Now why would life be cruel to someone as nice as she is. Life is unfair. I can’t say that for myself. I’m one of the lucky ones. Well, Mom and Dad say so.

You see, I’m a Filipino. But I was brought to America when I was just a baby. Something to do with jobs and opportunities, and life being difficult in my homeland. America is a land of milk and honey, I once heard. I don’t know what that means but it’s supposed to be better here.

Mrs. Pauley’s situation reminds me of the Philippines, especially the unfortunate ones. Mom loves watching shows on the Filipino Channel. I think it’s her way of not losing connection. I watch these shows with her. A lot of it are in Filipino and there are subtitles and Mom would be translating. Sometimes I can’t keep up.

Anyway, one time we were watching this documentary about Filipinos living in the slums. People living in shanties, in patched up box-like houses made from rusting iron sheets, wood, and plastic scraps. It’s like they’re playing house except this is as real as it can get.

Mom began telling me about how those moms and dads don’t have any real job. How could they possibly survive? And they have kids. Not one, not two, but more. Naked kids just running around, unmindful of the filth around them.

It’s dirty, it’s noisy, it’s sad. I’m really lucky. How can I live like this while other children in the world experience poverty? I can’t understand. Whose fault is it? Am I also at fault?

I look at Mrs. Pauley. She smiled and waved at me. I waved back. I could see the uncertainty from her face. But she seems hopeful. Maybe one of her kids would take her in. Maybe there’s a place she could go to. Maybe life is fair after all. Maybe.

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Author: Ryan Bestre

Environmentalist. Teacher. Writer.

3 thoughts on “Playing House”

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