Paul was a timid boy. Polite and small, almost delicate one might say. He had no friends that I knew of. But I did go over to his house once. He lived with his mother and his old grandparents in a house full of old dark overstuffed furniture that smelled of dust and staleness. All my friends had young parents and all their houses were furnished with 50s modern furniture, not things from the 20s. In Paul's house the shades were drawn and the main source of illumination in the combination living/dining room was from a dim ceiling fixture and an old-style floor lamp. Everything was very quiet. I don't think Paul was allowed to play outside. But Paul did have a parakeet which was a novelty for me—I didn't know anyone who kept birds. The bird was allowed to fly around the house, which it did, landing on my head. Paul coaxed it onto his finger and then put him in a cage.
Why he lived with his grandparents, I didn't know. At the time I didn't understand the concept of broken families, or single mothers. Even though I was only nine or ten, it struck me that Paul was a very sad child. The picture above is from our third-grade graduation ceremony. Paul moved away the next year, perhaps his mother got married and Paul had started a new life in a different part of town: in a new house, with new things, with a regular mom and a regular dad—like all the other children that I, in my limited existence, knew.