It was about 6 o'clock in the evening. Despite your well thought-out views, I hadn't yet found the nerve to speak to Abbey about what was troubling me. She was out for a run, and I had taken care of getting dinner for Brittany (who's 8) and Suzzanne (who's 6). They were down in the basement rec room. I would ordinarily have taken the opportunity to dive into ESPN, but I felt a bit restless so I busied myself cleaning the kitchen instead. I had the dishes properly pre-rinsed and the dishwasher loaded and filled with detergent. I was just about to press "START" when I thought, "HELL-O. What in the world am I doing?"
It took me about five seconds to analyze the situation (being married to a Ph.D in psychology for 10 years helps), and about five minutes to make appropriate preparations. These consisted primarily of digging out a video of "Madeliene" that I'd bought and been saving for a special occasion -- I figured this would qualify -- and bringing it down to the girls. They were instantly jumping up and down and squealing with delight, as they had on the day they saw the movie in the theater.
"Can we watch it, can we watch it, can we please, right now, daddy?" Brittany asked.
"Have you been good girls?"
"We've been very good," Brittany assured me. "We haven't done one thing wrong all day."
I looked around the rec room, which by now was strewn wall to wall with every toy they owned.
"Do you know who Cato was?" I asked.
"Sure," Brittany said. "He's the Green Lantern's friend."
"No, that's Kato with a K. Cato with a C was a statesman in ancient Rome a long, long time ago. And one day he was walking over his fields on his farm, and he saw one of his workers sitting under a tree. Cato immediately grabbed a switch and began whipping the man."
"Why?" Suzzanne asked, wide-eyed.
"That's what the worker asked," I explained. "He said, 'Master, why are you whipping me? I didn't do anything.' And Cato said, 'That's why.'"
Brittany and Suzzanne both looked carefully around.
"Suzzanne," Brittany said solemnly, "I think we'd better clean the rec room."
"Right," I said. "As soon as it's spotless, you can put 'Madeleine' in the VCR over there and watch it."
(I don't want the anecdote I told them to create the wrong impression, by the way. In their collective 14 years of existence, Brittany and Suzzanne's sum total experience with corporal punishment consists of perhaps a dozen open-handed swats allocated in roughly equal allotments to each of them. They haven't yet developed their father's instinct for mischievious perversity.)
With the little ones pinned safely in the basement for at least 90 minutes, I went back upstairs, found a cigar (a very rare indulgence for me), and took it out on the porch. I was enjoying it thoroughly when Abbey came back from her run six or seven minutes later.
"Would the irony be too delicious if I asked for a puff after a four-mile run?" she asked, wiggling her fingers at me.
I handed her the cigar and she took a hit, somewhat amateurish (this being perhaps the fourth first-hand experience she'd had with cigar smoke in her life), but apparently enjoyable.
"There's something you should know," I said then. She asked what and I told her about the dishwasher. I ended with a shrug and the catch-phrase, "Paging Dr. Freud."
"Right," she said. "If you'd started the dishwasher, it would have used up all the hot water, and I wouldn't have been able to take a hot shower after my run, which would have irritated me enormously."
"So your subconscious was trying to do something to get you spanked."
"That's the way I see it, Dr. Owen," I said.
"Do you know why?" she asked then.
"I really don't," I said. "I've examined my behavior for the past couple of weeks and I don't think I've done anything wrong. It's just a vague feeling of tension in the atmosphere, an intuition that somehow or other we should clear the air."
"You're being very open with me, and I know that's not easy," she said. "I owe it to you to be honest in exchange. For the past several days I have been a bit disappointed by your overall attitude. I've seen a sulkiness, a crankiness, a sullenness, even a self-pity that just isn't you. I'd been thinking I should bend you over the dining room table for a taste of the strap, just for general attitude adjustment purposes, but I couldn't quite bring myself to do it."
"Do you know why?" I asked, echoing her question to me.
"I'm not sure. I've only spanked you one time when you didn't deserve it, and I don't want that to become a habit. And even if in some sense you do deserve it now, I can't help feeling that I'm at least partly to blame for whatever your attitude might be."
"You couldn't be to blame," I said. "You're faultless." I could tell from the look on her face that she wasn't altogether comfortable with that completely sincere assessment, so I went on to something else. "Listen, Abbey," I said. "I trust you implicitly. I trust your instincts, I trust your judgment, and I trust your wisdom. If you think that a spanking is called for, I may yell and howl while I'm getting it, but I'll not only accept it without question, I'll accept it cheerfully and joyfully because I'll know I'm feeling your love in every stroke."
Her eyes glistened and she gave me her warmest smile.
"Finish enjoying your cigar while I take my shower," she said. "If you get through before I come back down, stand in the corner in the living room while you wait for me."
I finished the cigar in the sense that I smoked as much of it as I wanted to and put it down in the large ashtray I'd brought with me for the purpose. (Tip for rookies: You don't cruch a cigar out, if for no other reason than because of the phallic aesthetics involved. You put it down in a safe place and let it die with dignity.) Then I went into the living room and stood in the corner as Abbey had directed. I could have milked the cigar for another ten minutes, anyway, but I wanted to think things over. I knew I was going to be spanked, I knew it was going to hurt, and I was pretty sure it was going to do me a great deal of good.
But I wasn't sure exactly what I was being spanked for, and I felt I'd be more satisfied and the punishment would be more constructive if I could figure that out. I hadn't made much progress when I heard Abbey coming downstairs. I glanced over my shoulder to watch her approach. She'd showered and dressed in a rather prim blouse and skirt outfit.
"C'mon, Mel," she said cajolingly as she took my hand. "Let's go upstairs for some spanking."
We walked up together, with our hand-holding about halfway between a naughty schoolboy being led to punishment and shy teenagers on their first date. She had mentioned the strap, which hangs in the kitchen utility closet along with the oval, leather paddle, so I was surprised when we headed straight upstairs without a kitchen detour. I figured this meant I was going to get the wooden paddle or the braided leather switch. I tried to get myself psychologically prepared for both.
When we'd gotten to the bedroom and closed the door, though, Abbey didn't get any instrument of correction out. She just took the straight-back chair from against the wall and put it at the end of the bed, with the back braced against the frame. Then she beckoned me over to her. Astonished, I realized that I was only going to get a hand-spanking, which was virtually unprecedented. A couple of times when I'd gotten pissy about shopping trips, Abbey had given me a swat with her open hand while we walked through the parking lot, but she'd always used something -- something very hard -- for full-scale spankings.
I approached her. We hugged.
"This is really going to smart, Mel," she said. "But we'll both feel so much better when it's over." Then she pulled back, locked her hands for a moment around my neck, and looked at me with solemn sympathy. "Mel," she said, "this isn't foreplay. This is discipline."
"Very well. I'm going to turn you over my knee, and I'm going to give you a sound spanking on your bare bottom. Pull down your pants."
I dropped my blue jeans and underpants. She seated herself in the chair.
"Bend over my knee," she said.
I obeyed. She asked me if I was ready, and I said I was. Then she raised her hand and gave me my first, full-bodied SMACK! across the very center of the lower half of my bottom cheeks. I took it without a murmur, although it stung more than I expected it to. She followed that one with a measured series, concentrating on the lower half of my bottom, generally taking pains to ensure that each SMACK! hit parts of both cheeks, not peppering my derriere but slapping it briskly and relentlessly at regular, two- to three-second intervals. Her spanks produced a crisp, clean pain and, of course, a quickly building heat that began to spread from my buttocks to my thighs and my loins. After about forty seconds of this, I heard involuntary little inarticulations coming out of my mouth: " . . . eh, ah, uh, woo . . . " I felt myself starting to squirm.
And I began thinking, "I don't care if it is just a hand-spanking, this really hurts!"
After about two-hundred seconds of SMACK! . . . SMACK! . . . SMACK!, I'd moved up (or down) to squeals and yelps, and I was drumming the carpet with my toes. To the extent I was thinking of anything except pain and whether I was going to cry, I was thinking, "So help me, I will NEVER again use the terms 'only' and 'hand-spanking' in the same sentence!"
The inexorable punishment continued, one sharp slap after another. Finally, as I sensed I was approaching my limit, I had an epiphany: I realized what I had done wrong! I'd done the same thing Cato's slave had: nothing. I hadn't spoken up to clear the air. I understood that I was quite properly being punished for it, and I was immensely grateful to Abbey for loving me enough to attend to the chore.
Still, the spanking didn't stop. I wanted to beg for mercy, but I could hardly do that credibly after blathering about how much I trusted Abbey's judgment. Besides, it's no disgrace to cry when you have something to cry about, and I was just about there. Tears were running down my cheeks and I was just about to offer my first sob when, without the usual coda, Abbey stopped.
"There," she said. "I think that should do the trick."
"Yes ma'am. I deserved that spanking, Abbey. Thank you very much for disciplining me."
"You're welcome. Now, go stand in the corner for a few minutes to think things over."
I climbed up from lap and shuffled to the corner for further penance. I was shocked when, a couple of seconds later, she stepped to the wall right beside me and hung her head in atonement. I looked at her in questioning surprise. She smiled, almost shyly.
"I was naughty too," she said. "I misbehaved the same way you did. I didn't open up and clear the air with you, any more than you did with me."
My eyes fell on her right hand, and I couldn't help grabbing and bringing it up for a closer look. It was dark red and swollen. I understood now why she'd decided on a hand-spanking. She'd been punishing herself as well as me. It was like a punchline from a Woody Allen joke: "I spanked her hand vigorously with my bottom." I realized that, during the last minute or so of the spanking, she must have been hurting herself four or five times as much as she was hurting me.
"It's a shame to direct corporal discipline at the hand when nature has provided a portion of the anatomy so much better suited to it," I said, kissing her throbbing palm tenderly.
"You're right. But using that other portion requires the cooperation of someone trustworthy who understands. Of course, I have that, don't I?"
And with that, she turned away from the wall, took two steps toward the center of the room, raised her skirt, rolled down her panties, and bent over at the waist. I hated the idea of visiting yet more pain on her, but I knew that doing so was the greatest kindness and greatest respect I could show. I put my left hand at the base of her spine and raised my right hand. She hadn't done the traditional coda with me, so I'd now do it with her.
"Have you learned your lesson, Abbey?" I asked.
"I certainly have," she said, ruefully shaking her right hand.
"Good. Then here's one to grow on."
SMACK! I saw the angry red mark mar her bottom as I pulled my hand away. (Omaha isn't exactly a no-tan-lines kind of town.)
"And one for good luck."
"And one on general principles."
"And one to make sure you don't forget."
"Thank you." She stood erect and turned around. "I deserved that spanking, Mel. Thank you for loving me enough to discipline me. Thank you for making me the luckiest woman on the face of the earth."
We'll end things there. The next forty-five minutes are none of your business.