Michael slumped on the couch, legs dangling over the arm. He shifted from one buttock to the other. He couldn’t get comfortable. His thumb pressed the television remote. Three hundred channels and none worth watching. It didn’t matter, he couldn’t concentrate. He pulled his phone from his pocket. Checked the time. Dad would be home soon. Michael had ten minutes maximum. He tossed the remote onto the coffee table and hauled himself to his feet.
It was a small room, but he paced it anyway. Four steps this way, then four back. He stood by the window, hidden from the view of the street by net curtains. Carefully, fearful the neighbours would see, he twitched the nylons. Now he could see the front gate. Damn. A small red hatchback pulled up. Seconds later the driver’s door swung open. A large man lumbered out. He stood and stretched his arms before looking to right and left. Certain that no vehicles were coming he slammed the door shut and locked it.
Michael stood and stared, heart thumping. He had been waiting all day. Since eight that morning when the school examination results had been released.
He let go of the curtains and paced the room once more. He stopped and drew in a deep breath. The front door opened and closed. “Michael! Where are you!” his father called. Michael’s throat dried. Before he could croak a reply his father was framed in the doorway. “Ah, here you are.”
Mr. Fairclough stood six-feet four. He was broad at the shoulders and trim at the waist. His face was lined and his hairline retreating. He stood peering at his son. Michael in contrast was small and as thin as a bird. His hair fell over his chocolate-brown eyes, his skin was clear except for a small rash of spots under his chin, the result of an attempt to shave away non-existent hairs.
“Two F’s and a D.” Mr. Fairclough spoke calmly. The silence in the room was intense. Neither father nor son needed to say more. They had said it all on the phone that morning. Both knew the importance of the statement. “Bone idle. Lazy. Feckless. Useless. Hopeless.” Mr. Fairclough sounded like he had swallowed a thesaurus.
“But Dad. It’s the new A-levels. We never had a chance to practice.” Michael’s attempt at an excuse was thrown back in his face. Dad listened to the radio news like everybody else. Yes, the Government had changed the rules and sixth-formers now had to rely only on one exam and no coursework, but that hadn’t stopped other kids getting top marks.
“Go fetch Eric.” It was a cool command. Dad didn’t need to raise his voice, he knew his son would obey.
“Ohhh Dad,” Michael groaned, but he left the room nonetheless. Matters had to take their course. Shortly he was at the cupboard under the stairs. He knew where to find Eric. It would be exactly where he had left it after the last time. He leaned into the cupboard, mover the vacuum cleaner and two winter coats hanging on hooks. On a third hook hung Eric. Eric was the pet name they gave to a solid wooden paddle. Carefully, Michael unhitched it and weighed it in his hand. He had felt it many times before. In his hands and across his buttocks. It was about fourteen inches long and four wide and maybe a quarter inch thick. Many years ago, when his eldest brother was young, he supposed, someone had taken a permanent black marker and carefully imprinted the name Eric across the blade. Who? Why?
Michael straightened his back, pushed the door shut and stood silently. His pal Charlie had flunked his exams as well. Michael knew damned well he wouldn’t be showing his dad his backside for a beating.
“Hurry up,” his father called, “Let’s get this done before your mother gets home.”
Michael’s feet dragged across the vinyl flooring.
“Give it here,” his father reached out his right hand. Avoiding eye contact Michael handed Eric over. Mr. Fairclough gripped the paddle by its handle and swiped it through the air, testing its properties as if he had never handled the wood before.
Satisfied that it would do the job, he observed his son standing before him. It was high summer and even in the early evening the heat was intense. Michael wore a white t-shirt and cotton sport shorts. His feet were bare.
“You know what to do.”
Indeed, he did. Michael took a further pace into the room so that he was close to the far wall. Then, turning his back on his father, he put the both thumbs into the elasticated waistband of his shorts. In one continuous movement he had both shorts and underpants at his knees. He spread his legs wider and they slithered to his feet.
He sucked in a lungful of air and unbidden he bent at the waist. Keeping his knees straight, he gripped his shins. His bared buttocks jutted at a perfect angle to receive his father’s attention. Bent over like this, he was uncomfortably conscious of his bum. It seemed like a huge target, completely vulnerable to the big wooden paddle. At first he stared at his feet and the label in his football shorts. Twenty-eight inch waist. He heard a rustle behind him. He knew from experience it was Dad finding his own feet, taking up position an arm’s length from Michael’s left buttock.
The eighteen year old closed his eyes and shut his teeth as he felt the cool wood touch his bare bum. He breathed deeply. Any moment now.
Mr. Fairclough was in no hurry. There were still ten minutes before his wife was due home from work. Plenty of time. Michael’s creamy white hairless bum contrasted starkly with the rest of the boy’s nut-brown skin. He had been spending a little too much time in the sun. More’s the pity he hadn’t been in the library, his dad thought.
He sawed the blade across the centre of the two buttocks. They were small and pert. Mr. Fairclough pressed the wood into the flesh, there was no “give”. The boy had no spare fat. The term “buns of steel” could have been invented for him. Mr. Fairclough allowed himself a wry smile as the proffered buttocks twitched in anticipation of the hurt to come.
Then, he drew his arm back, twisted his body slightly and brought the paddle down with maximum force. A dark pink rectangle burnt into the white flesh. Michael’s body rocked forward and back but the teenager kept his balance. He scrunched his face, at first he felt only the force of the blow. Then the ache began to seep across his buttocks and throughout his body. He steadied himself. Ready for number two.
Mr. Fairclough sawed again. This time a little lower. Just under the cheek. The flesh that connected with the chair when Michael sat down. Wallop! Another red rectangle. Michael gasped, air expelling between his lips. He couldn’t help it. That was a scorcher. It had literally taken his breath away. The hurt was intense, it would be tender for a long time to come.
The third swat hit higher. Now the whole of Michael’s tight bum was dark pink, the outline of three paddle blades clearly visible.
Mr. Fairclough paused to admire his handiwork. From his vantage point his son’s bottom looked raw. He changed the paddle to his left hand and leaned forward and with his right palm he caressed his son’s buttocks in a circular motion. Michael tensed. His father’s hand reignited the pain. Involuntarily, he wriggled his hips.
“Keep still,” his father barked, pushing his hand into his son’s shoulder blades and forcing him back into position.
The paddle rose and fell three time in quick succession rap-rap-rap landing on the same spot; the fleshiest part of the teenager’s rear end. Michael gripped his shins. That hurt. That hurt a lot. His head shook up and down, rather a like a horse when it neighs. His lips pursed, then his teeth bit unto the lower one.
“Ouch!” Michael couldn’t help it. Dad had deliberately landed a swipe across the back of his thighs. The boy rose on his toes then stamped his feet up and down like a solider on sentry duty.
“Back down,” his father growled. “you stand up again and we’ll start all over.”
Tears filled the boy’s eyes. Reluctantly, he resumed the position. Head low, bottom high, knees straight. From across the room the ringtone of his phone chimed. That would be Charlie, he thought, seeing if he wanted to go drinking to drown his exam failure sorrows. The paddle crashed once more across his raw, naked buttocks.
Picture credit Tropixx Studios
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