Ashley’s always telling me to mind my own business, but that’s probably ‘cause she hates it when I listen in on her phone calls.
“Katie, I can hear you breathing I know it’s you. Hang up now or I’m telling Mom you’re spying on me again.”
Boy would she be surprised if she knew Mom doesn’t care. I think she kind of likes having me as her snitch.
But today I was just sitting there on the porch waiting for the mailman to show up (my birthday’s tomorrow and I just know there’s gotta be some cards coming my way – hopefully with cash or checks in them) when instead of the mailman’s truck I saw a police car pull up across the street. That’s when I noticed there was another car parked in front of Mrs. Pauley’s house. The man in the other car got out, wiping his face with a handkerchief. His face was red and he was dripping in sweat. Guess he didn’t have any air conditioning in his big, fancy car.
He walked over to the police car and started talking to the policeman who was now getting out of his car. He was pointing to Mrs. Pauley’s house but I was too far away to hear much of what he was saying. I walked down to our mailbox – you know, to check the mail.
“You have to do something, Officer,” the man was saying. “She won’t answer the door and I’ve tried everything I can. I don’t want to do this but she hasn’t given me any choice.”
The policeman stood and stared at the house a while before turning back to the man, shaking his head. “Let me see your paperwork. Is this the notice?”
“Yeah, you can see right here it’s all signed and official. I have the right if she’s behind. I haven’t seen a penny in four months.”
The policeman was shuffling the papers in his hands, looking at the house, back at the man, and then back to the house. He took a deep breath and started walking to Mrs. Pauley’s front door, with the man one step behind. “All right,” he said. “Let’s see what we can do.”
He knocked on the door and waited. The man reached around him and started to knock on the door again but the policeman stopped him by pulling his arm down. “Hang on a minute. Give her a chance to get to the door. Just let me do my job and stay out of the way.”
“Fine,” the man grumbled. “Just make sure she does what it says. I need to get my people in here. She’s been here so long I have no idea what kind of shape the place is in.”
“The house is fine. I mean, just look around the yard out here. Seems to me she’s been taking good care of this little house.”
I looked around Mrs. Pauley’s yard to where he was pointing as he spoke. It’s the prettiest yard in our block, probably the whole neighborhood. She’s always out here trimming and tinkering in her yard. Now that I think about it, normally she would be out here this time of day, cutting flowers to put on her table. Hope she’s not sick or something.
Out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw someone pass by one of her bedroom windows. I looked back just in time to see the shade go down. Deciding to investigate further, I crouched down so I could avoid being spotted and slipped into the side yard behind some bushes and then I was in the back yard. I stepped onto the back porch and peeked through the kitchen window.
Mrs. Pauley looked perfectly healthy to me. Cheerful, even. Maybe she didn’t hear the knocks on her front door (she is pretty old, after all; maybe she’s gone deaf.) She was setting the table with three place settings. As she walked over to the stove she looked toward the window and spotted me. Busted, I thought. Before I could get off her porch she’d opened her door.
“Come on in Katie. There’s enough for all of us. You may as well come in and join the party, but come in quick before they hear you.” She was whispering as she stood there with the door open, ushering me inside.
“I didn’t mean to snoop, Mrs. Pauley. I was just worried about you and wanted to make sure you were OK. Are you going to let them in? Are those cookies in the oven?” I sat down while she set another place at the table and went back to the oven, pulling out a cookie sheet full of steaming chocolate chip cookies.
“Oh don’t you worry about those men out there, hon. I just need to finish this up here and then I’ll go invite them in.” She looked around the room, sighing. “I suppose I may as well get this over with.”
I followed her out of the kitchen and through the house to the front door. While the kitchen had been bright and cheery, the rest of the house was dark, dreary. The lights were off and there were boxes stacked everywhere.
“Don’t mind the messes, dear. This day has been coming for a while, much as I tried to pretend it never would. I’m afraid I just can’t move as quickly as I used to.”
She stopped at the front door and took a deep breath. They were knocking on the door again as she swung it open.
“Hi Andrew, I knew it would be you.” She was talking to the police officer, a sad smile on her face. She turned to the other man. “Hello Mr. Stephens. Can’t say I’m glad to see you, but I guess this is just the way it had to be.”
As the man and I stared, the policeman stepped through the door, removed his hat, and wrapped his arms around Mrs. Pauley. They stood there like that, hugging, for a long while.
“What is going on here,” the man cried. “Shouldn’t you be escorting her out the house or arresting her or something?”
“Mr. Stephens, I probably should have said something earlier. Mrs. Pauley is my mother. I’m afraid it’s been a long time since I saw her, too long, and I didn’t know how she would feel seeing me at her door again.” He was looking at his mother as he said this, waiting for some kind of sign from her maybe.
“Say what?” asked Mr. Stephens, “Does that mean you’re not going to evict her?”
“That won’t be necessary,” answered Mrs. Pauley. “I’m ready to leave this place. It’s not same without Bill. It took me a while but I finally figured out what I needed to do. I’ve made other arrangements and I’ve got movers coming for some of this furniture and my stuff; I’m donating the rest to Goodwill. ”
She took the policeman’s hands in hers and led him into the kitchen, asking us to follow them.
“Now let’s sit down for some fresh-baked cookies and I’ll get the milk. We’ve got some catching up to do while we wait. Mr. Stephens you’re welcome to join us…you too Katie. There’s plenty. “
She took a gallon of milk out the fridge, set it down at the table and sat down.
“Now, Andrew, tell me. Why haven’t you called or come by in so long? Is this what a mother has to do to get your attention?”