from bad to worse

April 4, 2017
By , Shenzhen, China

“Oh Johnny?Please don’t go!”

The words echoed throughout my head, bringing me back to a time of desperation.

“It’s for the best. You should know that, Alex. King George and his barbarous army is treating us like livestock. We shall not stay under those harsh taxes and cruel acts. A true army is supposed to fight for something else, not for interest or comfort. Alex, it is my duty to fight for our homeland. I will join the Colonial Army for the love of our family and the independence.” , said my dear brother, Jonny.

The unforgettable words of my brother stuck in my head for the rest of that chilly November. Mum and Dad acted as though nothing had happened. Dad visited the town for trade while mother stayed at home taking care of my little sister. But I knew they just tried to cover up their wounded hearts. Pitifully, I was doing the same.

My father, Abraham Smith, was always enthusiastic over the events in the colony. His skin bore signs of scorched marks from the riots against the British troops. He was a hard-headed New York merchant known for swindling those “cowardly” loyalists. Today, however, was different. He was exhausted when he got home, complaining about the influence of the trade strike which made his job more stressful than ever before. Mum tried to comfort him, but it didn’t work. Nothing could extinguish his ever-growing fire.

Mornings in my house usually meant for hard work and preparation of the day. Sometimes I would fetch water from the town’s well. Sometimes I would hunt for breakfast. Each day was different. Today, mum hurriedly woke me up and asked me to go and fetch some water. I didn’t really understand what she was so frantic about, but I obeyed her rules and slipped on my linen shirt, stockings, and breeches. After greeting my sister Alice at the main door I, with a bucket in my hand, set off to the well.
Walking through town used to be a joyful and merry time. Hearty laughs and competitive bargains filled the streets, making New York a merchants’ dreams. But ever since the war started, British patrol scoured the streets, silencing merchants and closing windows. It seemed to me that the only ones who didn’t cower away were those traitorous loyalists.

When I reached the well, I saw it was sealed shut by a solid blocked ice. I looked around to see something that I could use to break through it. I looked around to see the head of a pipe laying half-buried near the entrance of the pub. Scraping at the thick snow, I was stopped by a firm hand on my shoulder.

“Son, what are you doing?”

I turned around seeing a British general towering over me, with a musket lazily drooped over his shoulder.

“I...I...I am retrieving water from this pump, see?” I pointed to the frozen pump in the alley.

“Why are they arrested, sir?” I asked, pointing my fingers to the arrested men standing behind his back. Some soldiers were leading a group of furious merchants by rope.

The general laughed scornfully ,“Oh nothing! Nothing at all! Just a bunch of merchant rioters. They always grumble at the shipments coming from Britain. Today they even hung up an effigy on city hall to scare us. Hah, those foolish patriots, how dare they!”

The General stomps back to his platoon. Now I could see the rioters faces. I didn’t recognize any of them, but when one of them sat up, I saw my Father!

“No! Father!”, I shouted in shock. Dad looks my way with a feeble smile. He opened his mouth: “I love you, my child!” Immediately after, he was shoved by one of the soldiers leaving my view with a sad yet proud smile. I understood, as father always said, if he was going to be thrown into the depths of prison, it would be for rights and liberty, just like my brother Johnny did. I hurried home, finding my mum weeping in her bedroom. She already knew about it!

November had ended and December was settling in. I spent my whole day walking around looking for help-wanted signs. But nothing could be found. No one wanted to leave their jobs, as they were the only means of survival at that time. Eventually, I had no choice but to beg on the corners of busy street, getting only a few copper coins per day. I lay there helplessly, pleading to wealthy loyalists all day long. Sometimes, Johnny's face would appear in my mind. I dreamed him coming home with a grin on his face putting his arms around me. Then my darkest fears would take over. My dear brother was shot at the battle of Fort Washington!

Even though I didn't know it yet, those dark thoughts had already come true.

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