Herb Schneider had been a postal worker for nearly twenty years and he thought he had seen it all until one day he stopped to deliver a parcel at the MacDonald residence. Even as he walked up the path he knew something was wrong; he could hear the yells of a young man coming from inside the house.
By the time he reached the front door it was obvious to him: the cries were coming from the living room. Without thinking, he peered through the window and his suspicion was confirmed.
Mr MacDonald was sat on the couch and face down, stretched across his legs, was his son. The boy was easily as tall as his father, but not as heavy and Herb could tell, not as strong. The boy lay flat on the couch; his legs bent a little at the knees behind him: in front he clutched a scatter cushion to his chest. His bottom was raised over his father’s lap, in the perfect position to receive swats from a shiny wooden paddle.
The wood crashed into the seat of the boy’s jeans. He wore a wide brown leather belt which his father had gripped to tug the denim tightly across the bottom. Even at this distance Herb could see the outline of the boy’s underwear. The boy’s t-shirt had ridden up his back a little where his father held his own strong arm across the boy’s middle to hold him firmly in place.
As each swat connected with his buttocks, the boy screwed up his eyes, puffed wind through his mouth and wailed.
Did fathers still spank their sons, Herb wondered. Was it even legal? Should he be calling the police or social services?
MacDonald released his son who shot up to his feet, his face as beetroot as his backside probably was. He performed the spanking dance, hopping from one foot to the other while rubbing at his buttocks. His father said something, Herb couldn’t hear and the boy raced from the room.
“I hate you!” Herb could hear that as the boy stomped up the stairs to his room.
The postal worker was embarrassed, should he say something? Was it any of his business? He rang the bell and within seconds MacDonald answered.
“Sorry about that,” Herb might have been embarrassed, but MacDonald was not. “You shouldn’t have had to witness that.”
Herb handed over the parcel. He should say something. But what?
“I didn’t think people beat their children anymore.” He regretted it immediately; it was a confrontational thing to say and probably none of his business.
MacDonald flushed. “I do not ‘beat’ my sons, I spank them. It is not the same,” he said indignantly.
Herb’s silence encouraged him to say more. “I do not flail the living daylights out of them. When it is necessary, I give them a short sharp wake-up call.”
Herb had never before engaged in a philosophical debate with a customer and he wished he had kept his mouth shut this time.
There was no stopping MacDonald, “Boys, especially teenagers, need guidance; they need to have rules explained to them. They need to know where the boundaries are.”
“But, I thought we were supposed to let our children grow and develop as they want to, so they became happy individuals,” Herb said, trying to remember where he had heard that.
“Nonsense, if you do that they spend all their time seeking pleasure. They could end up as drunks or drug takers. It is our responsibility, our duty even, to teach them how to behave.”
Herb wondered if MacDonald had a point. He wasn’t sure, but he thought his own son Ryan might be taking drugs. Would a spanking cure him of that?
“We should not try to be our sons’ friend,” MacDonald was on a roll, “We are their parents and we have to act like that. And, when necessary that must mean we have to discipline them.”
“But, spanking?” Herb was not convinced that he would have the nerve to punish Ryan like that.
MacDonald was certain in his conviction. “Not only spanking. We have to show them that we love them. We give rewards when they behave well and we discipline them when they do not. It isn’t necessary to spank them often. I’ve spanked Baz a few times but only when he knows he has overstepped the boundaries and he has been warned about the consequences.”
Herb was still not convinced. He assumed Baz was the youth he had just seen paddled. How old was he anyway? Eighteen? Nineteen? “Isn’t Baz too old to be spanked?” he asked.
“No, not if he continues to misbehave. Kids are kids and from time to time they are going to push you to see how far they can go. When Baz does that, he goes over my knee.”
MacDonald was warming to his theme. “He still needs that maintenance spanking now and again, but it wouldn’t be right to smack him on his bare bottom. I got the paddle on the Internet, it works wonders. It’s heavy enough to do the job without my having to take down his pants.”
Herb could testify to that, it certainly looked like the teenager had been in some pain after his paddling.
MacDonald lapsed into silence as if expecting the mailman to respond, but anxious to be gone Herb simply collected a signature and hurried back to his cart.
Herb couldn’t get the incident out of his mind. He wasn’t too concerned about the teenager. MacDonald had been right he hadn’t flailed the boy; it was a good old-fashioned spanking, of the kind he would have gotten from his own father if he acted up back in the day.
Herb was more concerned about MacDonald’s certainty that not only was spanking the right thing to do; it was a father’s duty to lay down boundaries for their children and to punish them, with a spanking when necessary, when they defiantly overstepped them.
It niggled at the back of his mind; his own son Ryan, who he supposed was about the same age as the MacDonald boy, was off the rails. He was hardly ever at home and he skipped school. And he was probably dabbling in drugs. Herb loved the boy and he knew he needed to help Ryan, but he had no idea how.
He had never spanked the boy ever; not even a little slap. It had never occurred to him to do such a thing. Even though his own father wasn’t shy at whacking Herb’s butt and he knew most of his friends had suffered the same punishment, but now as a father himself he didn’t know any other parents who used corporal punishment.
Driving home, he tuned into Talk Radio and was astonished that the topic of the hour was ‘Should we spank our kids?’
An eighteen-year-old kid calling himself Andy was on the air. “I have broken the school rules and will probably be suspended but when my parents find out I know they won’t punish me in the proper way,” he was saying. “I really deserve to be given a paddling instead of just a grounding which mum won’t stick to. In a day or so she will let me off and it will all be forgotten. I think my dad should deal with me the old fashioned way. A proper spanking is what I need.”
Was this kid for real? Did he really want his dad to whack his ass with a wooden paddle to make him behave?
Herb never got to find out; he turned the corner and parked outside his home, silencing the radio as he switched off the engine.
But that wasn’t the last he heard on the subject. That evening ‘spanking’ was all over the news programs. It seemed the local board of education was debating bringing back the paddle in school. If the TV news was to be believed eighty percent of parents who answered a poll wanted it. A judge who was soon coming up for election jumped on the bandwagon making a speech calling for juvenile delinquents to be “spanked”. He made it sound like hardened thugs would be taken across a warder’s knee for a slapped butt.
Later, when Herb went to the bar for a beer he found friends and co-workers looking at the story in the local newspaper and comparing experiences. If they were telling the truth they had all spanked their kids at one time or other and some still did.
Herb had been quite wrong, corporal punishment was much more widely used than he had realised. MacDonald wasn’t the only customer on the mail route who blistered the backside of his sons. Well, who would have thought it? You never knew what went on behind the drapes in respectable houses.
The discussion on spanking was short-lived. All his drinking buddies agreed; bring back the paddle. Now, what about the chances of those Patriots in the Pennant?
There was bad news waiting for Herb the following day when he returned home from work. Ryan had been suspended from school for fourteen days. He had not been attending school, so they decided to make him stay at home as a punishment. Herb never considered himself to be an intellectual, but even he could see that didn’t make sense. Maybe if they did bring back the paddle the school principal could swat the boy’s butt and that might bring him to his senses, Herb hoped.
Herb’s wife Mary was not a happy woman. She had despaired of her son’s behaviour for years and was at her wits end figuring out what to do. She had even asked the advice of the family’s pastor. Given the chance the pastor would have taken the boy to the woodshed himself and whipped a razor strop across his bare ass, but he couldn’t tell her that. In his experience mothers were always reluctant for their sons to be spanked, regardless that the Good Book said, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” Was it any wonder the children grew up to be thugs, when mothers spoilt them like that?
Mary’s shame at her son’s behaviour and his suspension was real. What, she thought, would the neighbours say? Herb was embarrassed too, but this was mostly because he had no idea what he should do with Ryan.
“We should ground him for a month,” his wife said, “longer even.”
Those words pulled Herb up sharply. “Ground him.” That was what that kid said on Talk Radio. He had said his mother would ground him but she wouldn’t stick to it. “I think my dad should deal with me the old fashioned way. A proper spanking is what I need,” he had said.
Things could not go on like this. Ryan was wasting his life. He was lazy, disrespectful, and now he had brought disgrace to the family. Something had to be done. But what?
“You must speak to the boy,” his wife told him.
“Yes, alright,” he replied with great irritation. Why was he the one who had to do this? “But what am I supposed to say to him?”
Herb was expected to have a man-to-man talk with his eighteen-year-old son. He must tell him he had behaved badly and needed to be punished. Should he treat him like an adult and ask Ryan what punishment he thought he deserved?
What if he agreed with that kid on the radio? Herb blushed scarlet at the thought of it. He was too embarrassed to have that kind of conversation with his son.
The ringing of the telephone interrupted his thoughts. It was Matt McMillan calling to ask a very personal question.
Matt was the father of Dwight McMillan, Ryan’s best buddy. It was news to Herb, but Dwight had also been suspended from school with Ryan. Matt told him the two boys had been skipping school and the rare times they were in classes they were a disruptive influence.
“What are you going to do to Ryan?” Matt asked. Herb understood the question, but pretended not to.
“I think Dwight needs a warm whipping, but what do you think? Is he too old? I don’t know what to do,” Matt asked, genuinely wanting help.
Herb’s mumbling was no reply at all, so Matt continued, “I’ve whopped his ass in the past. I think it worked most times. But, I’m not sure now. He’s way out of line. Maybe he needs another trip over my knee. What do you think?”
Herb did not know what he thought and he wished Matt wasn’t asking him these questions. He hardly knew the man. They met sometimes at a bar or occasionally in church, that’s all.
Matt rang off the phone, still unsure what to do.
Herb’s wife poured him a cup of coffee and went into the next room to watch her program on TV.
As he sipped the hot coffee, Herb recounted in his mind the past day or so. It had never once occurred to him to spank his son, but he was not sure why. He had supposed that nobody did that kind of thing these days and everyone thought it was unacceptable to punish children that way. He had learned a lot recently. Rather than be the norm, he now realised he was the one out of step. They all spanked their kids and they all thought it was not only acceptable, but it was their duty to make sure they grew up to become respectable adults and good citizens.
He was coming round to the idea that maybe just this once he ought to spank Ryan. He would do it too, he told himself without much conviction. But Ryan was getting to be a big boy; would he submit himself to his father’s will? If he would not and it came to a fist fight there could be only one winner: Ryan.
An hour later the telephone rang: it was Matt McMillan back again. He seemed a bit breathless as if he had been on a long run. Herb imagined sweat was pouring off the man’s body.
“I gave him a switching,” he said, still trying to regularize his breathing.
Why are you telling me this? Herb kept his thoughts to himself, but he really did not want to hear this.
Mr McMillan had cut a switch from the back yard and confronted Dwight with it. Dwight knew that what was to happen next was inevitable and he gave no resistance. That was how he came to be dressed in his pajamas, in the bedroom, kneeling on the bed with his chin on the mattress and his butt pointing to the sky.
His father would have liked to have whipped Dwight’s bare ass, but his son was clearly a man now and a degree of modesty had to be observed.
Matt McMillan’s own father had no such scruples. He knew that a bare-assed switching was a very effective punishment even for the older teen. So like father, like son. Matt had himself once been an out-of-control jock always trying to impress his friends and the girls. One night he stole his dad’s car – he didn’t even have a drivers’ license – and raced it around the town at high speed, executing handbrake turns at every corner. The inevitable happened, he was doing eighty and lost control and smashed into a tree.
He came away unscratched, but he didn’t stay that way for long. When his dad found out he cut a long switch and with the eighteen year old sprawled across the kitchen table he lashed into the boy’s naked buttocks. “You could have been killed! You could have been killed!” his father wailed as he cut into the boy’s flesh.
Matt thrashed his own son with less emotion, but he hoped the beating would be equally effective.
It took Herb another day to pluck up the courage to talk to Ryan. The boy had been away from the house for hours and had just returned from who-knew-where. They sat at the kitchen table sipping juice.
“Did you know Dwight’s father gave him a switching last night?” Herb did not know how he had plucked up enough courage to ask such a question. If the boy answered where might this conversation end?
Ryan grunted and sipped at his drink some more.
“Dwight was suspended from school with you. You were both in trouble for the same thing,” Herb looked intently at his son, hoping for some reaction from him so that he did not have to finish his sentence.
Ryan was in no mood to help out his father.
Herb’s heart was racing; he was entering unchartered territory. “If that’s how Dwight was punished. How do you think you should be punished?”
Ryan had spent much of the day with Dwight and had inspected the thin welts on his bottom. There were a dozen clear cuts; it would take weeks before the lines cleared. Ryan’s mum had only grounded him for a month: he knew he had gotten off lightly.
Ryan thought the world of Dwight. They were best buddies in the way that only teenaged boys could be. Dwight had chewed him off all day about that grounding. It was not a proper punishment and he said Ryan was scared to take a whipping.
They wrestled a bit over that, but it was only pretend fighting. It was not his fault, Ryan said, that his father never spanked him. It had always been like that. The worst Ryan got from his parents was a scolding before being sent to bed early. Ryan would like to prove himself to his buddy, but it was not his fault he father did not believe in spanking.
“So how should I punish you?” Herb asked again, trying to keep this one-sided conversation going.
He would wish that he had kept quiet.
Ryan spoke for the first time, very quietly. “I really deserve to be given a paddling instead of just grounding. A proper spanking is what I need.”
Herb spluttered into his juice. That was exactly what that kid had said on the radio. Could it be? No, Herb tried to reassure himself; Ryan never listened to anything except music radio.
“I don’t have a paddle,” Herb’s voice was a soft as his son’s.
“I could cut you a switch.”
Herb could not meet this son’s eye. Some strange reversal of roles had taken place. He should have been the one talking about switches.
“Alright then, son.”
Ryan scrapped back his stool and still not daring to look at is father, he slowly walked the length of the kitchen. He had made his decision hours ago; nothing now should make him change his mind. He opened the door and went into the back yard.
A couple of minutes later he returned with a freshly-cut switch in his hand. Herb could see it was about three feet long and quite thin. His heart rate quickened and his mouth was drying.
Ryan walked through the kitchen and out into the living room next door. Herb took this as his cue to follow.
Still without speaking Ryan handed his father the switch. Herb’s hand shook slightly as he took hold of it, immediately noticing both its suppleness and whippiness.
Ryan face was flushed. If Herb had been a more astute man he would read his son’s inner turmoil. Ryan knew he had to do this for the sake of his friendship with Wayne, but he was not sure, now at the last minute, that he could go through with it. He too had noticed the springiness of the switch. As he was cutting and shaving it, he got the measure of the little beast. It might not look much, he thought as he had swished it through the air, testing its suitability, but it would leave an impressive cut. Wayne’s sliced buttocks had been testimony to that.
Ryan took a deep breath. “You should give me twelve,” said as he unbuckled his belt, before unfastening his jeans and dropping them to his knees. Then, turning his back on his father, Ryan bent across the back of the couch presenting his ass to his father for his first-ever spanking.
If Ryan had passed his point of no return, Herb had not. There was still time to call this off. He ran his fingers across the length of the switch at the same time observing how his son’s tight briefs highlighted the round curves of his buttocks.
Herb was not sure what was happening here. His son on his own initiative was offering up his backside for severe punishment. He wanted, no probably needed, to make penitence for his misbehaviour. Did Herb have any right to deny him this?
Ryan’s buttocks twitched nervously, waiting for the first cut. He had never been beaten before, but he expected the pain to be awesome. Years of fingering Wayne’s wounds had taught him that.
Herb was not sure he could go through with this. Perhaps, he should call Matt McMillan and ask his advice.
But ask his advice on what exactly?
Damn it Herb, be a man, he told himself. Get on with it.
He had never whipped a boy with a switch before, but how difficult could it be? He stood to Ryan’s left and tapped the rod across Ryan’s two buttocks. Instinctively he knew that if he was going to beat the boy, he needed to do it with some force. He raised the switch and slashed it down right across the centre of Ryan’s bottom. The teenager let out a gasp and stamped his legs. Yes, Herb recorded, that one had stung.
He lashed down again and again until twelve thin stripes ranged across Ryan’s globes. Mercifully, for both of them, Ryan managed to stay reasonably calm and steady throughout, so no strokes missed the target by too much. A slash across the back of the boy’s naked thighs could have put him in hospital.
As soon as number twelve landed, Ryan removed himself from the back of the couch. Herb could see he was breathing heavily and he must be in considerable pain. His eyes were moist, but no tears were flowing.
He pulled up his jeans and tightened the belt, clearly in much discomfort. Ryan clenched and unclenched his fists in an attempt to manage the pain that was coursing through his body. He desperately wanted to rub his buttocks, but not in front of his father. It was obvious to him that welts had formed and he suspected some of them might be bleeding.
Neither man knew what they were supposed to say now. “Thank you,” Ryan whispered, it seemed the right thing to say.
Herb mumbled something that could have been, “OK.”
Ryan took that as a cue to go to his room. Once upstairs, he inspected he damage. There were twelve clear lines criss-crossing the buttocks. Herb’s aim had not been so good after all. Some were turning from cherry red to blue. There were spots of blood where cuts intersected, but a damp facecloth dealt with those. The agony had receded, but they were very painful to the touch. Soon the throbbing would turn to a warm glow, but the marks would stay for many days to come. Ha! Ryan exclaimed, now he would have something to show off to his buddy Wayne.
Downstairs, Herb stood alone in the living room, still holding the switch, unsure what to do next. Five minutes must have passed before he went and threw it in the trash can.
The motion to reintroduce paddling in school was passed by a huge majority: public opinion had won. The next time Ryan and Wayne acted up at school, the principal could whop them himself and for that Herb was extremely grateful.
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More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Charles Hamilton the Second