Mr Harriet drove his car slowly up the drive of his house, switched off the engine and seethed. You could hear the heavy beat coming from his front room a mile away. It was a wonder the house itself wasn’t vibrating. Jungle music. Scandalous. Disgraceful. Ungodly. He hauled himself from his car and walking fast, but not quite running, he headed for the front door.
Inside his son Richard, eighteen years old and a high school graduate, gyrated to the music. From a disc a man was wailing. Mr Harriet couldn’t make out the words. “Cecile?” What was that all about? Richard was oblivious to his father’s presence. In ecstasy; hips gyrating, arms twirling, head waving, heart pounding. Mr Harriet stood aghast. Astonished. He rushed to the record player, swiped the arm from the disc, pulled it away and puce in the face smashed it once, twice, three times against the back of a wooden chair until it was shattered to pieces.
Richard stood eyes burning with distain and watched his father, sweat streaming from his contorted face, turn to a pile of discs and with his right forearm swipe them from the shelf. “Ungodly. Disgraceful. Jungle music!” he screamed.
Richard watched, his fists clenched. His father was drawing in gulps of air, struggling to regain equilibrium. He bent forward, hands on knees wheezing. A little calmer, he eyed his son with despair. The boy was dressed as if for the beach. A tee-shirt and shorts so short his thighs were visible. “Dear God,” Mr Harriet said aloud, “How has it come to this?”
Mr Harriet loved his children – all six of them. He had provided for them and his wife all his life. He worked long hours; hard work, done without resentment. He had brought them up as good God-fearing church attendees. And now this. Where did he go wrong?
He stood face to face with his son. The boy was maybe an inch shorter than his father and a hundred pounds lighter. He didn’t flinch. He kept his father’s furious stare. “How many times have I told you about this music?” his father said, attempting, but not quite achieving, stillness. “It’s the Devil’s music. It is sinful. Full of lust. Ungodly. Music of the jungle.”
Richard was impassive. He had heard it many times before. He knew his father’s next sentence. “And don’t think I don’t know you sneak off to those n______ clubs at night. Dens of iniquity. Drugs. Whores.” Spittle dribbled down Mr Harriet’s chin.
“Well ….” Mr Harriet left the sentence unfinished. Richard didn’t bother to follow his father with his eyes as the old man strode across the room. He knew where he was going. Mr Harriet reached up to a hook on the wall. From it dangled a stout wooden paddle. He took it down and tested it in his hand, as if he had never held it before. It was about fourteen inches long and five wide, not including the handle. It had six holes drilled in the blade. It was made of maple and heavy.
Mr Harriet brandished the wood at Richard. The feel of the paddle had a calming effect. Mr Harriet placed his hand on his son’s shoulder. He loved him so much. God loved him so much. Didn’t the boy see that? Why did he forsake his father and God? He must be saved. How would he enter the kingdom of Heaven?
Richard flinched at his father’s touch, his fists still bunched. Mr Harriet removed his hand from his son’s shoulders and rubbed it along the length of the paddle’s blade, emphasising is length and strength. It was an unnecessary gesture; Richard had felt the power of that paddle many times in the past. It was awesome. In his father’s hands it would tear his backside to pieces.
“Son,” Mr Harriet almost whispered. “You know you have sinned. You know you must be punished,” his eyes were moist. “I love you.” He rubbed the paddle once more. “The Good Book says ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’,” he choked back tears, “But if you promise me that you will never play that music again, nor go to those clubs, if you promise me that son, then I won’t beat you.” He wiped his tears on the sleeve of his shirt.
When his eyes were dried Mr Harriet watched astonished as his son without hesitation unbuckled his shorts and pulled the zipper. They slithered down his thighs. Richard parted his knees and they continued south to his feet. Not looking at his father, he hitched his thumbs into his underpants and tugged them down to his knees. He turned on his heels, faced the back of the couch and in one simple athletic movement he bent forward. He wriggled into place; head low, naked bottom high, legs slightly apart. A perfect target.
Mr Harriet took a deep breath and eyes heavenward, he muttered words that Richard could not decipher. The eighteen-year-old stared down at the couch cushion and tried to stop his heart rushing. He felt the cold wooden blade against his cool naked buttocks. He closed his eyes and clenched his teeth. The wood rose and fell with a terrific swipe into his pert bottom. A dark red image of the paddle seared into the flesh. Richard shook his head. That hurt. A lot. So did the next swipe. And the next. And the next.
His father had God and righteousness on his side. The paddle rose and fell. Again, and again and again. Richard’s buttocks were small and the paddle large in comparison. Not a single square inch of flesh was left untoasted. From the sensitive sit-spot where the buttocks meet the thighs, across the curves themselves and along the top close to the spine. The once creamy-white flesh turned quickly pink, then red, then mauve. Blisters formed wherever the edge of the paddle pounded flesh.
Two years later Mr Harriet knelt on his bedroom floor, forehead to the ground, tears streaming, his face awash with snot. He was incoherent. Inconsolable. “Oh God! Oh God!” he wailed. On the nightstand was a newspaper. Rickie Harriet and his band the Rebels had reached number one in the Billboard chart with their new disc “Rock n Roll is here to stay.”
Picture credit: unknown
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More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Charles Hamilton the Second