|artwork by Hugh C.|
As eighth-graders at Holicong study American history, they work with their English and social studies teachers to craft lively historical fiction using facts gleaned from their studies and research. The project is called "An Ordinary American," and students are helped to assume the perspective of an early citizen in North America. This excerpt is from the story of a fictional character, Maria Gonzalez.
October 7, 1724
The galloping of hooves outside of my windows awakens me. I hurriedly get dressed, and rush downstairs, still groggy eyed. Black horses canter around my house. Miguel strolls up behind me.
“What’s going on?” he asks.
“I have no idea. Are the girls still asleep?”
“Good.” I breathe a sigh of relief.
The King’s minister strides over with a scroll, a menacing gleam in his eyes.
“What is the meaning of this?” Miguel demands.
“I’ve come for Maria Gonzalez. She’s to be branded for slander.”
I panic. “What? But I didn’t do anything! What happened?”
“It seems as though Po Daniels, the man you chose to be punished for vandalizing the King’s statue, was innocent. The real culprit was Eustice. The other day, as he lay on his death bed, a witness overhead his last words.”
“’Shame on King George II! I’m exalted that I desecrate his statue with pig manure!’”
“But… All of the clues lead to Po Daniels… It couldn’t have been …” I stutter.
“You’re to be branded on the tongue. The townsfolk trusted you. They had faith in your decisions. Now, you’re nothing but a shame to Chester, Pennsylvania.”
“This is not happening.” I stare at him in disbelief.
“You can’t do this!” Miguel argues. “What will become of our children? They have a whole life ahead of them!”
“You should’ve thought of that before.”
He grabs my arm, dragging me to a horse that’ll bring me to the town square’s punishment area. To my misery.
“Stay here, Miguel. Don’t let the children see.”
He has tears in his eyes as I ride away with the minister.
The crowd hoots and chants. Yelling echoes through the open area. I can’t believe it. Just a year ago, Po experienced the same. I was loyal to these people. They depended on me. I was the one they turned to in times of need.
I’ve fallen short of their expectations. Betrayed them without meaning to. I deserve to be punished.
Stepping up to the one who will brand me, I allow tears to slip down my cheeks. I tentatively open my mouth, instantly regretting it when the searing brand scorches my tongue. I’m marked with an S for slander. If I could scream or cry out, I would, but it burns too much. The rapid tears continue dripping from my eyes as the crowd cheers. The people I thought to be my fellow neighbors and friends pump their fists in the air.
I failed them.
by Alesandra T.