Sometime during the ninth grade, a rebellious streak had come over me, earning me a trip to the principal’s office.

“According to the student handbook, which I’m sure you read, the punishment for repeated tardiness is corporal punishment,” Ms Moore, the high school principal, informed me as I stood in front of her desk, my hands clasped behind my back, my eyes drawn to that square, flat wooden paddle hanging on the wall. It had two rows of three holes drilled into it and a rawhide string attached to the handle.

“I’m going to give you five swats with the paddle,” she said. “Is there anything you would like to say before receiving your punishment?”

I wanted to speak, but I couldn’t push the words through my clenched throat. I finally shook my head, no.

“Please remove any items from your back pockets.”

I examined the seat of my Lee jeans and felt the bulge of my wallet. I removed it and placed it on the desk.

She rose, her short, hulking frame concealed in an out-of-style green pants suit, her short, brown curly hair threaded with gray. Behind her black-rimmed glasses were a pair of hazel eyes, which had supplied her memory with the images of countless bottoms. Her voice was raspy, phlegm-ridden, no doubt from thousands of cigarettes and gallons of Irish coffee.

She grabbed the paddle and began tapping it into the palm of her left hand.

“I want you place your hands flat on the desk and bend over,” she said, her eyes narrowing. “Spread your legs apart.”

I felt detached from reality. Anxiety blurred my vision. I found myself in the surreal position of bending over and presenting my backside to be spanked by a stranger!

She moved around to my left and stood behind me. She lifted the back of my red, Izod shirt and moved it away. I felt a sudden pull on my belt loop, accentuating my behind.

“Keep your hands on the desk and your feet on the floor, understood?”

“Yes ma’am.”

She touched the paddle to my butt, sighting her target. Through my jeans it felt cold, hard, and implacable.

My flesh prickled with trepidation.

“Brace yourself.”

She raised the paddle and delivered the first swat to my left butt cheek.

“One, ma’am,” I grunted, wincing from the awful sting.

“Did I ask you to count?”

“Uh, no ma’am.”

“Then let’s start over, shall we?”

She repeated the swat and smacked my left cheek again, initiating a burning sensation which would last for hours.

The second swat landed on my right cheek, causing me to grimace and throw my right hip to the left.

“Stay in position,” she said. “Or else I’ll swat you extra.”

The third swat smacked my left cheek again. My eyes began to well up with tears. I was sucking air through my clenched teeth.

She smacked my right cheek and I doubled my fists, holding back a string of profanities.

“This is the last one,” she said. “And I want you to remember this every time you sit down today.”

I expected the last swat would be the hardest, and I wasn’t disappointed. She swung the paddle and made contact to the base of my bottom, jolting me forward, twisting my face into a tragedy mask.

As the shock of that last swat faded, I swore to myself I would never get into this predicament again.

She released my belt loop and placed her hand gently on my lower back.

“Stand up, young man,” she said in a strict, motherly tone. “I hope this taught you a lesson.”

“Yes ma’am, it did,” I replied, rising uneasily.

She returned to her desk, hung the paddle on the wall, and scribbled out a hall pass.

“You may return to your studies,” she said, handing me the pass. “Be good.”

“Yes ma’am, I will,” I said, and those were the last words I spoke to Ms Moore.

AR