17th Century Letter

Dear King James VII,

I beg of you to arrest the men who assaulted my family. The ways of our society have been set in stone my entire life, but I have written you this letter to, hopefully, evoke compassion in you. Here are the exact events that took place on the day of the incident:

April 20, 1685

The heat of the morning sun warms my skin. I treasure these few seconds of bliss, basking in this split second of happiness before I awake to my reality. Reluctantly reminding myself of the strenuous day ahead of me, my heavy eyelids drift open to be greeted by a rich man’s polished boot kicking dirt into my bloodshot eyes. I open my cracked lips to yell at him, but all I can get out is a croaky squawk through my sore throat. I roll over in anger and the sight of my crippled brother lying next to me, helpless with dirt caked on his face, reminds me of my responsibilities. Muscles still aching from yesterday’s work, I force myself up from the rocky cement using my frail, bruised arms. Pulling on the same worn shorts and tattered, blood-stained shirt as yesterday, the clothes are in almost as bad condition as my body. I lean over to my brother, Cyrus, and gently sit him up. While supporting his back, I rub the scum out of his eyes and they gently creak open. Even though his face, and heart, is covered in scars, his lively blue eyes never lose their light. Cyrus inspires me to fight for our crumbling family. When Cyrus was just eighteen months old, my father was carrying him while grocery shopping in the food market. A horse nearby went rogue and trampled my father with Cyrus in his arms. That day, my dad died, and Cyrus became crippled for the rest of his life. Since then, we’ve been in severe poverty. My mother sleeps day-in and day-out, only getting up to eat. It is as if she is an empty shell of a body, just simply existing- leaving the responsibility to me, a fifteen year old, for the past seven years. I feed my brother, work any job I can get, and basically, keep us alive. I scrounge through our hollow food bag, praying to find food to feed my brother. My eyes meet a half-empty bag of stale bread, and I let out a breath in grateful relief. My dirt-caked nails grasp the bag and pull out a slice for Cyrus. I tear off a brittle corner for myself and feed the rest to my brother’s starving mouth. We are hunched on the side of a road, sitting on scrap pieces of cardboard with dust flying into our dry throats; but, the day is a good one because we have food to eat.

King, please imagine a life where you are grateful to eat a corner of stale bread, because that is mine.

Laying my brother back down in bed, I cover him in ragged blankets and place my jacket under his head for a pillow. I give him a quick kiss on the forehead, whisper goodbye to my mom, and head out to work. Elbows jab into my side as I get jostled around the busy street. I hear whispers muttering, “lazy,” “criminal,” and “waste of space,” from passing citizens. The bruises on my hip grow bigger as sharp pains flood through my body with every backhanded elbow. I chant to myself, “you’re almost there, do it for your brother,” as if that anthem will protect me from the cruelty. Hurrying through the crowds, I scurry to avoid the public torment as best as I can. Just as I turn a corner, a group of upper-class teenagers approach me, a telltale sign of trouble. Keeping my head down, I pick up the pace and hope with all my might that they don’t notice me. Sweat trickles down my forehead, and with my jaw clenched and mind occupied, I neglect to notice the leg stuck out in front of me by one of the teenage girls. I trip and spiral forwards. My head hits the ground and I hear their laughs echoing around me as they walk away in obnoxious privilege. With a large heave, I pull myself up and limp the rest of the way towards my job, keeping my brother in mind. There is no time for tears and pain when you are lower class.

The next few hours are a blur as I dutifully do my job, hauling bags of rice across town for 6 cents total- all while fighting through the pain in my leg. By midday, I head back to my, for lack of better words, dump of a home. Always, I must be with my mother and brother at this time of day, for the streets are the busiest and the abuse is high. The higher-class people enjoy hurting us, or how they see it, rightfully punishing us. At nine years old, I learnt they won’t pick on us if they think we will put on a fight. They like an easy target, so I make sure that they know hurting my family won’t be easy. Due to my limp leg, work ran later than usual, and I hurry home to get there before the rush of people. People begin to flood the streets and worry courses through my veins. I internally hope that no villagers pick on Cyrus or my mother yet, praying that today the villagers have a miraculous, newfound sense of compassion. I approach our little home and as soon as I get in eyesight, I see a group of middle-aged men and women surrounding them. Some part of my brain is triggered, and I run as fast as I ever have despite my limp leg. I pull out the metal crowbar in my bag, ready to chase them off like usual, but today there is a particularly large group. As I get closer, I see one of the men spitting on my mother. I hear her pleads to be left alone. Cyrus’s eyes are brimmed with tears and my mother looks more alive in fear then she has in years. I shove my way through the crowd and feebly wave my crowbar in the air. Through my scratchy, water-deprived throat, I yell “leave us alone!” repeatedly. I yell and I yell; they laugh at my useless attempts at defending my family- but still, I yell. The women in front of me spits on my face and calls me scum, but I keep on yelling. The people surrounding us begin to rear back their feet and kick us. I fall to the ground, trying to use my body as a shield for my family. I keep on yelling. They keep on kicking. One man picks up my crowbar and begins to use it. Blood fills my mouth, my vision becomes blurry, but I still yell. I yell until I fall unconscious.

King, this is a particularly bad case of hate, but torture and pain are not uncommon for us lower class folk. That night I lost my mother and my obedience. I demand rights.

Sincerely,
Charlie,
Lower Class

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