A Man's Job

April 25, 2011
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“Hazel Jane Jenkins! Please explain to me exactly why your beautiful new dress is dirtying on the ground!” my mother exclaimed, practically fuming. She used my entire name, which meant I was in big trouble.
“Sorry, Mother, it will not happen again,” I replied as I went over to pick up the dress off the floor, hanging my head in shame. The day before, my mother had dragged me and my older brother, Eddy, to town for some new clothes to prepare us for the new year. Of course, my mother decided that we also needed some clothes for church, so she took us into some fancy store in the heart of Boston and bought me the most uncomfortable dress in the store. Yes, I might have gotten a little angry and thrown my dress on the ground, but if you ask me, I think it was justified.
“What is this, a tear? This is brand new; you haven’t even worn it yet! I am very disappointed in you, Hazel,” Mother said with discontent written all over her face. “Why don’t you go to the tailor in town and get this fixed up for church on Sunday. Hurry along now.”
“Yes, Mother,” I muttered as I ran out the door, glad to finally run free. I was almost to the tailor when I heard a couple of Eddy’s friends whispering in the corner. I knew that this secretive muttering must be something important because my brother and his friends were always very loud and obnoxious, so I crept behind the wall next to them to hear what they were whispering about.
“The tea ships are coming today? This is huge! We cannot waste our time talking about it; we must take action!” Eddy’s friend, Jacob, explained, a worried expression slowly spreading across his face.
“There is no need to be worried about tonight. The word has spread that the English will not give up and we’ve decided to boycott the tea ships, so we will have numbers. The word is that we will meet at Griffin’s wharf by six dressed like Indians, so that witnesses won’t be able to tell who we are. Then, we raid the British ships, throwing all the tea overboard,” a boy named Calvin explained.
By now, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I desperately wanted to participate in this raid. Before I realized what I was doing, I jumped up and called out, “Can I come?” They all stared at me in disbelief.
“Why would you want to boycott a boat? You’re a girl,” Calvin questioned.
“I want to come because I…” I started, but suddenly got very shy and stopped.
“ Well, you sure aren’t coming with me. This is dangerous business, not the kind of work a girl should be doing. Now, don’t you be tattling to any loyalists, you hear?” I nodded my head, slowly backing away. Don’t cry, I kept saying in my head, over and over again. I couldn’t let those boys tell me what to do.
Gradually, a plan came into my mind. I would do the exact opposite of what Calvin told me to do, and fight for our rights. I planned to dress up and act like a boy. This wasn’t a very hard thing for me to do because the whole town knew I was a tomboy, and I hated most girly things.
As I continued on my way to the tailor, I couldn’t help thinking of the events that lay ahead. Even when I got home, it still wasn’t out of my mind. I said a brief hello to Mother, then hurried up to my bedroom. As I got to my room, I walked straight to my wardrobe and searched through the pile of clothes on the floor for ones that resembled those of a boy. Finally, I found what I was looking for: a pair of breeches that I had secretly bought in town without my mother’s consent. Mother didn’t approve of tomboys, so I had to hide the clothes that were most comfortable for adventures. I had purposely hidden them in the back of my wardrobe, underneath all of my various frilly dresses, skirts, and blouses, so that my mother wouldn’t find them.
I brought them out onto my bed, and looked for other clothes that I could wear that night. I took out my pea coat and one of my plainer blouses, and laid them out along with the breeches. Then I sat on my bed and waited.

* * *
I awoke to the sound of cheering. I peered outside through the evening fog to see a huge crowd stretching from the meetinghouse to Griffin’s wharf. Most of them were dressed like Indians, with face paint and feathers. After a moment of confusion, I realized that these “Indians” were actually the colonists getting ready to raid the ships. I yanked on the clothes I had set out onto my bed earlier, grabbed a hat from the hall, and ran down the stairs. There, Mother was cooking supper, and Eddy was polishing his musket.
“Mother, may I please visit my new friend, Anne?” I lied with an innocent look, as I held my ragdoll over my breeches. I glanced over by the hearth at Eddy and realized that he knew what I was up to.
“Well…” Mother started.
“I’ll go with her,” Eddy jumped in.
“All right, but be home by nine,” Mother warned.
“Yes, Mother,” I answered, and I followed Eddy out the door.
“How did you know about the English tea ships?” Eddy asked me, once Mother was out of earshot.
“I heard your friends talking about it in town.”
“All right Hazie, but stay close to me, and tuck your hair in your hat, so they won’t be able to tell you’re a girl. We’ll first go to the blacksmith to get some coal dust for our faces,” he ordered.
After we covered our faces and hands with coal dust, we joined the growing crowd of colonists. I peered over everybody’s heads to watch the tea ships slowly pull into the dock. After the ships were docked, the captain of each boat, along with his crew, left the port. In their exhaustion, they barely noticed the massive crowd ballooning in front of them. As soon as they had gone their separate ways, the leader in charge divided us into three groups, considering that there were three ships to raid. The ship I was assigned to was the biggest of all the three ships, therefore it most likely had the most tea stored in it. In that moment, I was so happy that I wasn’t home baking pies with Mother.
We stepped onto the boat with caution and looked around at all the sacks and chests of tea. There were hundreds of them. I looked to my right and started tearing open a sack. Surprisingly, it opened very easily, and I dumped the entire bag overboard. The strong scent of tea leaves wafted throughout the ship.
I looked around me to see everyone tearing open tea sacks, or smashing chests of tea into pieces, then dumping the tea overboard. I was so stunned at our ruthlessness that I almost walked off the boat and went home, but then I remembered why I was there; the English were making us pay outrageous taxes, and I ripped another tea sack in half.
When there was no tea left on the ship, everyone just stared at the water. It was littered with broken chests, and the water was black from all the tea. Then, after what seemed like eternity, a man said something that I couldn’t hear and everyone cheered. I felt victorious, as if I had just won the war.
After about half an hour of cheering and celebrating, I found Eddy and we walked home in silence. It wasn’t an awkward silence, though. It was a silence that signaled our triumph. Maybe not completely, but in our minds, we had won.
I got home still feeling invincible. I floated up to my room, briefly saying goodnight to Mother and Father, and fell into bed. That night, I slept the best I had in ages. I had just done the unthinkable, a man’s job, and it felt amazing. I knew that this was only the beginning of a great war, but it was also the end of an even greater victory.

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