I was fourteen goin on twenty, and I had already been in trouble a bunch of times. This time I came real close to being arrested, but the sheriff knew my mom, and he brought me back home. It was a bit more serious this time. There was property damage. I wasn’t the one who did it, but I was there with the ones who were responsible, and if it went to court, I might have to share the blame along with the others. I had already been told to stay away from that bunch. Mom said they were nothing but trouble, and she was at her wits end with me.

My dad had taken off and left mom a few years ago. Her and Mr Ned had only been seein each other for a short while since she finally got a divorce. She really liked it when he would come over to see us. Mr Ned was a bit scary till you got to know him. He was a big rough lookin outdoorsy kinda guy, nothing like my dad. I guessed him to be about fifty. He was a bit older than mom, and he seemed nice most of the time, at least he did unless you got on his bad side. His own kids were grown up, and had moved away. One went to Alabama, and the other was out west somewhere in Colorado.  I heard mom say that he was really strict with them. She said they all turned out just fine though.

I sure didn’t want to go to jail, so, I reluctantly agreed to their plan. Mr Ned was gonna take me out to the woods and punish me. Least, that’s what mom said, anyway. She said that he don’t like interruptions, but really, I just thought that maybe he liked knowing that he was free to do as he damn well pleased out there.

I’d heard all about how he would punish his boys. He always wore a wide leather belt around his waist; you know, the kind of belt that you can remove the big ol brass buckle and just leave the strap part.  I’d heard that he was not shy about using that strap either. Mom already told him to do whatever he had to do! To treat me like I was one of his own kids. That’s all he needed to hear from her. Mom had already warned me that if I knew what was good for me, I would be very respectful to him.

“You about ready to go, Miss Amy?” he asked impatiently. I didn’t look up at him.

“Yes Sir!” I said, and I got up and followed him outside. There didn’t seem to be much use in stalling what was about to happen, no matter what. Mom waved as I got in his truck and he pulled out the driveway. After a little while, he stopped to get something to eat.

“You want anything?” he asked at the call box.

“No Sir,” I said, not looking over at him.

He ordered enough for both of us anyway, including two drinks, and we were on the road again.

It was about forty miles to his cabin, by a small lake, way up in the (North) Carolina woods, so it took a while to get there. I was not looking forward to it, though, cause I knew what was in store for me when we got there. It had been lookin kinda dreary all morning, but now the  sun was comin out real good.  I was glad of that too, cause I just wore cutoff jeans, sneakers and a flowered tank top, and it seemed like it was gonna be another hot day.

“When you gonna start talking to me?” Mr. Ned asked calmly. He pushed the bag of food over in my direction. “Eat!” he said, “You’re gonna be hungry.”

I hadn’t ate breakfast, so I really was getting quite hungry. I took a burger and fries out of the bag and started munching on them.

“Go ahead!” he said, “I know there are things you want to say to me! What’s on your mind?”

“Why are you bein so nice to me?” I asked. “You’re not gonna be so nice, once you get me up there!” I looked out the window, watching the trees and fields and houses go by. I just couldn’t believe mom was letting him do this!

He looked to be just a bit curious now. “Just what do you think I’m gonna do once I get you up here?” he asked.

I was too embarrassed to look back over at him, or answer him.

“You must think that I’m some real bad guy!” he said.  “You know, if your daddy was still around, he’d of already straightened you out,” he smiled. “This wouldn’t even be necessary.”

“If my daddy was here, he’d kick your ass!” I said defiantly. I guess I thought he would take that as a challenge, and make him feel like he had to defend himself. But, it didn’t work.

“Oh?” he responded, “And, how long has it been since you’ve heard from your daddy?”

 We rode on in silence for a while, then,

“We all talked about this, the last time you got in trouble,” he said. “It ain’t even my place to be doin this, but you and your mom agreed that you wanted me to deal with you, rather than you ending up in jail, or worse!”  He glanced over at me. “Now, ain’t that right?”

“You and mom have been getting kinda close lately!” It was almost a question the way I said it.

He smiled. “Yes ma’ am,” he said. “And we’ve been wanting to talk to you about that. There just never seems to be a good time to do that.” He looked over to see my reaction. “Your mom is a real nice lady. I’d take her for a wife in a heartbeat!” He looked over at me again.  “And as much shit that you get into, I’d take you on too!”  Our eyes met and he smiled. I managed to force a smile too. “But, I can’t take the place of your daddy. Nobody can do that unless you decide that you want it to be so.”

I was just sittin there, quietly stewing. And the trouble was, I knew he was right.

He pulled over off the main road onto a little dirt road that wound its way back through the woods. It got smaller and smaller until it was not much more than a path through the trees. Then, you couldn’t tell exactly where the road was at all, but Mr Ned seemed to know his way. He wound his way through there, dodging trees and bouncing over rocks and stumps. Finally the woods opened up and his cabin was right there next to the lake. The lake was sunny, and the cabin shaded and nestled there amongst the pine trees. It was beautiful.

Mr Ned pulled up, and got out, then, leaning on the door and looking in through the open window, he looked in at me.

I turned my head and met his gaze.

“I don’t want you to be scared of me,” he said. “And I promise you, right here and now, I won’t do anything to hurt you, and I won’t do anything at all, unless you ask me to do it first!” He turned and walked toward the cabin. “You comin in, or you gonna just sit there all day?” He went into the cabin, leavin the door wide open, and his voice getting fainter as he walked away.

I just sat there for a bit thinkin about everything that was happening. ‘Is he fuckin serious?’ I wondered. He seemed like he believed everything he was saying. So, what was the point in bringing me up here? Does he think I’m gonna ask him to punish me?

After a while, I got out and walked up on the front porch. Mr Ned came out and sat down in one of the wicker chairs that were there. He had what looked to be an old fishing rod in his hands.

“You ever do any fishin?” he asked, lookin up at me.

“No Sir!” I said, but I knew he was just stallin, and I was sure he didn’t bring me way up here to go fishin!

A cool breeze was blowin, birds were chirpin and singin, and there were wildlife sounds all around. Squirrels were chasing each other, and gathering acorns.

“You’re momma says that you’re totally out a control!”

I just stood there kickin acorns off the porch. “Momma says lots of things!” I said.

“Why do you think she says that?” he asked, still playing with that rod and reel.

I shrugged. “Probably cause of all the shit I get into!”

“Nope!” he says. “That’s not it at all.” He looked up from his toy. “I think its cause she can’t talk to you like a mom should be able to talk to her own daughter. You know, when she looks at you she sees herself at your age. And she don’t see you as a bad kid neither. She just thinks that she has failed you somehow.”

I sat down on the porch, step throwing them acorns and tryin to get one as far as the lake.

“Do you love your mom?” he asked.

“I reckon I do!”

“There ain’t  no reckoning to it,” he said. “You either love her, or you don’t! Does it bother you to say that you have feelings for her?  That’s ok,” he said, “I get that, and I know deep down, that you don’t want to hurt her.”

I knew he was right. I would never want to hurt her, or cause her any grief, but now he was somehow getting to me in a way that a belt never would.

Suddenly he jumped up. “Let’s go fishin!” he said.

By this time, I was thinkin he was totally nuts, but there wasn’t anything else to do. So, in just a few minutes we grabbed a couple rods and some bait and snacks and, without another word, we headed down to the lake where his runabout was docked.

For the next couple of hours we went out on the lake and fished, and we talked and he was chattin with me just like I was his own kid or something.

“I reckon you never got in much trouble growin up huh?” I asked.

He got a real good laugh out of that. “Are you kidding?” he asked, “I got into all kinds of stuff! Me and my two brothers were always getting punished for something or other.”

“Who punished you? Your dad, or your mom?”

“Dad, most of the time. He had an old leather strap hangin in the shed out back. That’s all it was there for too. If daddy told you to go out to the shed and wait for him, you knew you were in trouble.”

“He get mad at you boys a lot?”

“No,” he said. “In fact, I never saw my dad get mad. He didn’t have to get mad. If you did something wrong, he’d take you out and punish you, and that was it. No rantin or fussin, you just took your punishment and that was all.”

“What about your mom?” I asked. “Did she ever punish you?”

“Momma was a whole different story.” He sat back remembering how it was back then. “Momma would never get mad either, but she would use a little switch on ya. Kept it layin right there on the window sill in the kitchen where it was real handy. Least, that’s where it was when she wasn’t usin it on one of us boys.” He chuckled. “She didn’t do it real hard either, just a little flick of her wrist, and that little thing would really sting on bare skin. It seemed like she always went for bare skin too, so you better hope that you had a shirt, and long pants on when she caught up with ya.” He laughed. “I used to hate goin to school with little switch marks on my legs, and some girl that I really liked would see ‘em and know that momma had got onto me again.” He went on and on about how it was for them back then.

Nothin was biting at first, and we talked about school, and mom, and music, and boys. I think we covered just about everything. The sun was getting hot, so he put the canvas canopy up on the boat. I could look down through the water and see fish swimming around. Then he got a bite, and pretty soon I got a bite, then we both were getting bites. We caught a couple of nice bass, at least that’s what he called them, anyway. Damn fish all look the same to me.

We got back to his cabin and he cleaned them and by the time the sun was goin down, he was fryin them up.

He didn’t seem like such a bad guy now, but I was still wondering what he was gonna do cause he hadn’t mentioned any kind of punishment since we got there this morning.

After dinner, he said, “Well, I guess it’s about time to head back home.”

I couldn’t believe how dark it gets up here in the woods, once the sun goes down. All kinds of night sounds were coming out of the woods, and frogs croakin down by the lake.

As we loaded up the truck, I spoke up. “You know, if you really like my mom, I can maybe put in a good word, you know, tell her what a great guy you are!”

He liked that. “Would you really do that Amy?  Well, thank you, I sure appreciate that!”

We were just about to lock up and head out. Somehow I knew I should just let it go, but I couldn’t. I just had to ask.

“Ain’t you forgettin something?”

“What’s that?” he asked turning part way around.

“What we came up here for!”

“Oh, that!” he said, sounding a bit surprised.

I wondered now, if he really forgot cause he sure didn’t seem to be absent minded at all.

“The whole point in bringing me up here was to punish me, wasn’t it?” I asked.

He stopped for a moment, just thinkin about it. “That’s what your mom thinks you need!” He took a few steps toward the door.

“So? What are you gonna do?” I asked. “Maybe, just tell her you punished me?”

He laughed at that. “I don’t know, Amy. Your mom is a smart lady,” he smiled. “She’ll know right away whether you been punished or not. Besides, I couldn’t lie to her about that, no ways.”

“Last night,” I said, “after the sheriff brought me home, him and mom talked, and he told her all about what happened. I went upstairs and I heard her down there cryin.”

“I reckon that made you feel pretty bad huh?” he asked.

“Mom is a strong woman,” I said. “I never heard her cry about anything before.” I felt like cryin myself just from thinkin about it, and I turned away cause I couldn’t look at him. “You know,” I said, “She seems to think that you can straighten me out! I heard what she told you!”

“What was it you heard?”

“She told you to treat me like I was one of your own kids didn’t she?”

He stopped again, and looked back at me.

“But, I’m not your dad, Amy! It’s not my place!”

“My dad ain’t comin back Mr Ned!  And, the guy who straightens me out will sure be the man in her eyes!”

My brain was reeling. One part of me was begging for attention and guidance from someone who seemed like they really gave a damn, and the other part was tellin me to shut the hell up, you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. But that last thing I said left him no choice.

“It would be kinda selfish for me to punish you, just to seem like the man to her.”

“Maybe that’s what she needs though,” I said, “Maybe that’s what both of us need; for someone to be the man!”

He came back and set the stuff he was carrying down, and then he closed the door.

“I sorta know what your mom wants, Amy, But, Is that what you want too? Are you sure you want it to be that way?”

“Yes Sir, I think I do!”

There was no electricity up there, so Mr Ned went around and lit a couple of kerosene lamps and turned them up, filling the cabin with an amber light that danced a little, now and then.

He took me by the arm, led me over into the small den area and told me to lower my cut-off jeans and bend over the back of the chair. My brain was screaming at me. It was calling me a fool as I heard him unbuckling his belt and pulling it from the loops of his pants.

“Amy,” he said, “I’m gonna give you something that will help you to remember to do as your momma says, and make her proud of you.  Have you ever had your butt warmed with a leather strap?” he asked.

“No Sir!”

“Your daddy never once took his belt to ya?”

“My daddy was always either drunk, or gone,” I said.

“I’m sorry that it was like that for ya, Amy. But, I’m not a drunk, and if the good Lord and your mom are both willin,  I’m gonna  be around for quite a while, ok? I ain’t gonna promise to go easy on you, but I will take it slow, and I’ll always listen to whatever is on your mind.”

He removed the brass buckle and doubled the strap in his hand. I could feel my heart pounding, seein that loop of leather belt danglin almost to the floor, and knowin what he was about to do with it. But, it was way too late to turn back now!

“I’m gonna give you a dozen licks now, Miss Amy, and  I want you to count em as I give them to ya.  I won’t give you the next one until I’ve heard you count the one I just gave you. OK?”

“Yes Sir!”

I lowered my pants like he told me, bent over the chair and waited!

“Panties too!” he said.

I looked back at him, wonderin if he was serious!

“Go on now,” he said! “This is a thick heavy belt. You’ll have some welts, but I don’t want to lay it on too hard and cause bruises! I have to see what it’s doin to ya.”

It was embarrassing, and I know that my face musta turned a few shades of red as I reluctantly pulled my panties down too. Mr Ned waited patiently while I got back into position.

The first one was the worst, probably cause I had no idea what to expect. I really think I saw stars from that one. I Gripped the chair cushion real tight, started counting them, but it was hard to concentrate. True to his word, he waited each time for me to count the last one before he would give me another, and DAMN, did he ever lay them licks on hard! It was all I could do to stay in place, and hold back the tears, but I was determined not to cry out loud. I did lose count a couple of times but he didn’t hold that against me, he just corrected me on how many I had gotten. I gritted my teeth and squirmed around the whole time while he was layin them licks on me, and when it was finally over he told me to go to the bathroom and freshen up. The little bit of eye makeup I had put on that morning was running down my cheeks, and damn! Was my ass striped and red!

He gave me a soft pillow to sit on as he drove us home. We didn’t talk much at first, and I thought it might be tense between us, but it wasn’t long before we were talking and laughing again and, except for my sore welted ass, it was just like it never happened.

Mom knew, though, as soon as we came in the front door. I apologized to her for being such a brat, and I promised to do better. Then I went up to my room.

I could hear them talking, though, cause the walls are kinda thin. She asked him what happened, and he just told her that he laid down the law. That’s all he told her and she didn’t ask for more.

“Good for him!” I thought.

He and mom got married that fall, and me? Well, let’s just say, I did a whole lot better after that, but I certainly didn’t become no angel. Mr Ned, (Dad), took me back up to that cabin a few more times after that for guidance, but it’s all good! I hope he’s willing to take me back up there again, if him or mom ever think I need it.

That was ten years ago, and yes, him and my mom are still together.

Thanks for reading.

Miss A L