This story originally appeared in my first blog, Express.
Sarah ran as fast as her legs could carry her. Off in the distance she saw her mother waving at her. Sticks smacked her arms and legs. Mother! Darkness quickly fled over the forest.
The newspaper under her arm was clutched very tight. Finally Sarah’s feet hit the wooden porch. She swung the door open and saw her family waiting for her at the table. She tossed the newspaper on the table. Papa carefully unfolded it and asked Sarah, “Did you run all the way here from town?”
Sarah nodded shyly. She was a very fast runner and always wanted to know EVERYTHING in the newspaper. Her dad smiled at her and read one of the advertisements to the family.
The Golden Paper, Wyoming 1872
Looking for young boy to work as paperboy. Pays 1 shilling a month.
Papa looked at Sarah with a grin. “Papa…what are you thinking?” She asked. Sarah’s father continued. “We need some money, and you’re a fast girl…but not a boy,” Sarah listened intently. “Yes?” “Well, we could dress you up like a boy and sign you up. It’ll be easy!”
Sarah’s face brightened. “It just might work! But what if I fail…mess-up?” Sarah’s mom hugged her daughter. “It will be okay, Dear.” Sarah took a deep breath. “Okay. I’ll trust you.” She sighed. “Good!” Papa exclaimed. Then he shoved the newspaper into his pocket. “I hope this works!” Sarah thought silently.
The next morning, Sarah woke up to the sound of a loud knock. She slowly got up and went to her door. When she opened it, she saw Papa in the hallway. “Rise and shine!” He sung. Sarah yawned and shut the door behind her. Instantly the smell of bacon and eggs caught Sarah’s attention. The Lue’s table was adorned with delicious things to eat: Eggs, bacon, orange juice, and buns with honey on them. Mmm!
Eagerly she sat down and unfolded her napkin. She stuffed every last bite into her mouth. Finally, after silence her father spoke. “Well, Sarah. Today’s the day! You’re all signed in and ready to sell!” Sarah almost choked on her bun. “I’m already set? You have everything ready?” Papa smiled and said, “Here are your clothes. You can change into them in your room.” Sarah nodded and got dressed.
First, she tucked her hair into the silky hat her father and given her, tied the hanky around her neck, put on some jeans, and yanked on her black cowboy boots. She stared at herself in the mirror. She looked just like a boy! Happily, she walked to her dad. “What do you think, Papa? Mother?” Sarah’s mother stifled a laugh. Papa patted “Mr.” Sarah on the back. “Nice work, Sarah!” He said. Sarah tried to talk like a man. “Thanks Mr. Lue!” She said, jokingly. Papa laughed.
“Get on your horse and let’s sell some papers!” He said.
Sarah jumped onto her horse. She kicked her heels into her horse, Hurricane. Papa mounted Ginger. Both galloped faster than they had before. Papa looked at his daughter and hoped his plan would work. “Let me hear your…man voice.” He said, awkwardly. Sarah sat up as straight as her tiny body could, and said in her best, man-like voice, “Hello. My name is…” she turned to her father and switched to her girl-voice. “I don’t know what my name should be.” she said.
The steady clip, clop, clip, clop of the horses hooves was the only noise present. Finally, Papa began again. “I think you’re name should be…Peter.” Sarah was puzzled. “Peter? Why on earth Peter?” Papa laughed happily.
Suddenly they had gotten into town. A man came up on his horse and looked at them. “You Peter and Mr. Lue?” the man asked, with a strong, western accent. He spit tobacco on the sandy ground. Sarah nodded, and Papa continued. “My…Son is here to do his paperboy job. The man’s long beard bobbed up and down. “Right.” he said, blankly. Sarah didn’t like this man. “‘K, Son. I’m Jerry. I reckon you wanna’ start now?”
Sarah nodded. “Boy doesn’t talk much.” He muttered. Papa was silent. “Well, now that we’ve gotten a bit acquainted, we can start. Here’s yer’ papers.” he said, plopping eighty-three copies of the Golden Papers into Sarah’s arms. Then he eyed her curiously. “Not much of a boy…but you’ll work. Nobody’s gonna say you’re any kind of model, but I guess you-” “Please just show him how to do it!” Papa yelled, impatiently.
“Alright!” He yelled back. Then he rushed through the instructions, and left. Sarah looked at her father for help. “Here comes a Miss,” he said, pointing at a lady. Sarah cleared her throat, and screamed, “EXTRA, EXTRA, READ ALL ABOUT IT!” with her best boy-voice. The lady smiled at Sarah. She screamed again. A little boy laughed at her. “EXTRA, EXTRA-” She began. A man walked up to her and interrupted her. “I’ll take one paper,” he said. Sarah gave the stout man a paper. Person after person walked by. Only ten people had actually bought an issue of the Golden Paper. Most had just walked by.
To be continued…