July 23, 1896
“There will be a twenty dollar bill in it for each boy that brings me a 100 new subscriptions and extra five for the first one to do it.” My boss said.
I was loading my bicycle with the papers for delivery like the others and at the same time we were listening to our new mission. I really could care less about growing the subscription base for the newspaper but an extra twenty dollars was worth some effort.
After making my deliveries, I decided there was no time like the present to get started. I might even earn that extra five if I was lucky. Not that I was daring to hope for it. I thought it was likely that everyone else would be doing the door to door thing so I thought I would try something different and visit the businesses.
The first stop was a success in most respects. That is to say I actually sold three subscriptions in one stop. No one even bothered to comment on my voice which I did my best to disguise as manly. On the other hand it was a barber shop and the barber insisted on lifting my cap and imagine his shock when my far too long hair came spilling out. I was certain my secret was out.
“My God, boy! When was the last time your hair was trimmed?” The barber asked.
He sounded like he though my parents were abusing me.
“I, ah, I don’t know.” Was the best I could manage.
“Well, I’ll take care of that right now. Sit right down here, young man.”
“I couldn’t sir, please. I don’t have any money to pay for it.” I said, scrambling for any excuse to get out with my hair intact.
“Never mind that, I can’t in good conscience let you go around like that boy. Someone is liable to mistake you for a girl.”
Oh the irony.
“It really isn’t necessary, sir. I don’t want to be any trouble.”
“Sit down, boy. It not any trouble. You can plainly see I’m not busy today. Hasn’t anyone ever done anything nice for you before?”
“Not often.” I mumbled.
“It’s about time then. Sit down.”
I gave up. I sat down in the chair and closed my eyes. Fifteen minutes later my hair was bobbed and I was back on my way. I was struggling between crying and laughing when I saw my reflection in the windows on the street. I decided laughter was best, fortunately hair does grow back.
It turned out for the best really. Most of the business kept making a point about taking my hat off inside. I never realized how much of a hassle boys must go through for the stupid things. It took me about six hours going from shop to shop, but I managed to get a whole 105 new subscriptions for the paper.
When I arrived to see my boss, no one seems to know his name he is just the boss, there was all ready a boy inside with him. I felt a bit disappointed that I was not first, funny to think first thing this morning I did not even care. When I got inside and handed over my list and the envelope with the fees, the boss smiled for the first time in my presence.
“Well done, boy.” He slapped me on the back and nearly sent me to the floor.
“Thank you, sir.”
He pulled out his wallet and handed me a twenty dollar bill. I have seen them before but this was the first time I actually had one in my hand that belonged to me. I must have been smiling from ear to ear. Then he handed me a five too. I nearly started to cry. I blinked the tears back and stared up at the boss.
“I promised an extra five for the first one, and by God you came through and so then have I.” He said.
He must have taken my stare as one of surprise instead of shock.
“I thought I was not the first.” I said nodding my head to the boy who had just left.
“He didn’t take any money for the subscriptions. Foolish boy won’t go far thinking you can just take a man’s word.”
“I see. Thank you, sir.”
“Thank you. Now off you go, if you think you can manage another 100 I’ll give you another twenty for them.”
“Yes, sir. I’ll try my best, sir.”
The money in my pocket was just about worth losing my hair. That is what I thought anyway, until I arrived home.
Mother and Father were pacing the floor when I entered. They instantly stopped and ran to me. I found myself being hugged and dragged inside. Then all the nurturing came to a stop and Father grabbed me by both shoulders and looked me square in the eyes.
“Where have you been?” he asked.
“You should have been home hours ago.”
“The boss wanted us to sell subscriptions after deliveries today. It took a while longer.”
“And you could not stop by home and let your mother know?”
“I didn’t think of it.” I said.
“Your Mother was worried sick.”
Not to mention you too, father but we will keep that between us.
“I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”
I actually meant it. I had not given a single thought to my parents or what they might be thinking of me not coming home as normal.
“It had best not. Get into some respectable clothes and join us for dinner.” Father said.
He knocked my hat off as though disgusted I was still wearing it. I was feeling a bit of a relief that he was letting me off with a warning and then when the hat fell into my hands I remembered my hair.
“What in God’s name happened?” Father nearly shouted.
“I got a haircut.” I whimpered.
“I can see that! Why, Elizabeth, why?”
“It was that or admit I was a girl.”
“You made the wrong choice.”
“It will grow back.”
“And what about in the meantime? Do you think any respectable man will give you second look when you look like a boy?”
“It isn’t that bad is it?” I asked.
My father through his hands up in the air and walked away. Mother looked at me and nodded in the affirmative.
After dinner my father escorted me to my bedroom and took my hairbrush up off my dresser. I did not need to wait for instruction and so I began preparing my bottom for the imminent spanking.
“Since you won’t be needing this for your hair anytime soon, we can put it to some other use and maybe drive some common sense into you.”
“Yes, sir.” I replied meekly.
He sat down on the edge of my bed.
“Over my lap.” He ordered.
Carefully I laid myself down on his lap. My naked bottom felt cold under his gaze. It did not last long, soon it was a fire worthy of roasting almonds. Father swung the hairbrush so hard and fast, that I thought he would break it. He did not but he did break through my resistance.
At first, I kicked and squealed. I promised I would never do anything of the like again. None of it seemed to matter until I lay perfectly still and crying over his lap while he continued to beat what he called common sense into my backside.
“I love you dearly, Elizabeth, but sometimes I do not understand a single thought that runs through your head.”
“I’m sorry. I was only doing what I thought was best.”
“Best for the immediate moment but you have to learn to think beyond the moment. Tomorrow can be more important than today.” He said.
I am not certain I agree with him, but it is something to think about.