Now on to Part 2 of our back to school drama, Spats for Sinistrus.
"Thank you for your help, Miss Quisling," Dean of Students Helen Wheels said as she took the strap from the co-chair of the Pan-Hellenic council, who had applied it to my delicate tush after Dean Wheels had literally broken the paddle on that portion of my anatomy. "Now that I've had a rest, I can take it the rest of the way. Mr. Hendricks, would you care to join us at the pommel horse?"
Terry Hendricks stepped uncertainly forward. From my position at the wall, where I was standing in disgrace next to Rosie and Lance, I peeked over my right shoulder. Dean Wheels seemed unquestionably correct in deeming Terry a weak link: not big, not strong, not an athlete, not used to pain -- a real possibility for chickening out. And of course if either he or Glencora wimped out on us by refusing to take their allotted two-dozen licks each, then all five of us would get social and academic probation after all, and Lance, Rosie and I would have gotten blistered butts for nothing. As Terry neared the pommel horse, though, I thought I saw a glint in his eye that suggested he had something in mind.
"Pull down your pants, Mr. Hendricks."
I assume he complied, although I didn't dare to continue peeking. A few seconds later I heard the sound of skin scraping canvas as he bent over the pommel horse. I risked one more quick glance, and saw that as Terry grabbed the cross-braces he didn't squeeze his eyes shut, as I had. Instead, he pried them wide open, staring straight ahead at the mottled, thoroughly chastened bottoms of yours truly, Rosie and Lance. He was going to draw strength and inspiration from the spankings we'd already endured.
Swish-CRACK! I winced at the first, ferocious report of the thick, leather strap biting into Terry's bare bottom, just as it had bitten into mine a few moments before. Then I couldn't help smiling and feeling a warm glow at Terry's instantaneous response.
"AAGHHH! Yes ma'am, and one!"
Dean Wheels was so startled by the words that she aborted the next stroke in the middle of her back swing. There hadn't been any rule that we had to count. On the other hand, there wasn't any rule against it, either. The Dean of Students took a few seconds to decide how to react, then just lashed him again, without commentary.
Swish-CRACK! "UHHHHMMFFF! Yes ma'am, and two!"
It was a brilliant strategy, although I didn't fully appreciate what he was doing until later, after I'd had a chance to think about it. Provoked by the superficially respectful but implicitly challenging count, Dr. Wheels unconsciously picked up the pace of the whipping she was administering. Without realizing it, she started swinging the strap faster and faster, subconsciously determined to lay the strokes across his bottom faster than he could count them. The faster she swung the strap, the less time Terry had to absorb the full impact of each lick's biting sting, and the less time he had to dread the next one. And because the pain and burn of the licks overlapped, their cumulative effect, though frightful, was diluted and less hideous than it otherwise would have been. It was roughly analogous to serving sentences for two crimes concurrently instead of consecutively.
As I stood there at the wall with my own bottom still throbbing and burning, the furious, trip-hammer iteration of Swish-CRACK!/Swish-CRACK!/ Swish-CRACK!/Swish-CRACK!/Swish-CRACK!, punctuated by Terry's groans, yelps, and increasingly frantic and high-pitched counts, seemed terrifying to me. But in less than thirty-five seconds, Terry had absorbed his twenty-four strokes and was limping over to take his place at the wall. Four down and one to go.
I like to think that Glencora would have upheld Pi Delta Lambda's honor by taking the strap as well as Terry and I had, but we never found out. Just as 'Cora was standing up to approach the pommel horse, Dean Wheels snatched her tweed jacket from Lisa May Quisling and turned her back on the place of punishment. I think she realized belatedly how she'd been had by Terry, and was disgusted with herself.
"I'm afraid this exercise has lost any meaningful disciplinary value it might have had," she announced. "If anything, in fact, I fear it has become counterproductive. I shan't take any further part in it."
Great, I reflected as I continued to focus my thoughts on my own scorched, striped, cross-hatched and thoroughly bruised posterior -- NOW she decides to take a powder. I wouldn't know until a few seconds later, in fact, but Dean Wheels had been so distracted that she'd walked out still holding the strap, instead of leaving it behind in the gymnastics room.
"Well, Miss Xenoves," Dean Watson (the Academic Dean) said as Dean Wheels' heel-clicks faded into the distance, "you've apparently lucked out. Discipline is the Dean of Students' prerogative, and as a male I wouldn't feel comfortable spanking a co-ed, so Dean Wheels' abdication has discharged your disciplinary account without your having to take any spats at all."
"What about HER?" 'Cora demanded, pointing (as I surmised) at Quisling. She collaborated already with Sandra's punishment. She can do it for me as well."
"Maybe," Watson said with a genial shrug, "but why are you arguing?"
"Because my sisters took their punishment, and so did Lance and Terry. Even though I hate the idea of being spanked like a six-year old, I'll feel awful if I get off scot-free when the others didn't. As Dean Wheels pointed out, Sandra could have gotten away when we were busted, but she came forward when she realized the rest of us were in the soup. We're in this together, and I'd like to keep it that way."
"Don't talk too fast, Pi-Delt," Quisling said. (I don't think she liked that crack about collaborating -- she was a history major, and a little sensitive about her name.) "I don't need a paddle or a strap to give you all you want and a whole lot more besides. My open hand alone is plenty to spank you until you can't sit down."
"Are you going to talk about it or do it?" 'Cora challenged.
That tore it. Watson mumbled something vaguely acquiescent, but it didn't really matter. Peeking again over my shoulder, I saw Quisling grab 'Cora by the left bicep, pull her to the handiest folding chair, sit down on it, turn 'Cora briskly over her lap, and flip up her pleated, cream-and-crimson skirt. Things slowed down long enough to work 'Cora's panties down to mid-thigh -- an exercise that 'Cora cooperated with, I noticed.
That done, Quisling raised her right hand above her shoulder and started slapping 'Cora's bottom. She slapped it soundly, repeatedly, rapidly, and with almost fanatical determination. 'Cora, despite her brave words, quickly grimaced as her bottom and then her face quickly matched the crimson trim on her skirt under the SLAP!/SLAP!/SLAP!/SLAP!/SLAP! peppering that Quisling administered. 'Cora's squeals rose, her cries grew plaintive, and her delicate little fists and Addidas-shod toes joined in drumming the hardwood floor with a syncopation that did considerable credit to the Vanlandingham Music Department, in which 'Cora was majoring. 'Cora shook furious tears out of her eyes as the SLAPs! rained down. She yelped and squealed and wept. But she didn't ask for mercy. She absorbed spank after determined spank for a good four minutes.
Denby finally took out his gold pocket watch, opened the cover, and looked pointedly at the face. Watson took the hint.
"That will do, Miss Quisling," he said. "This is a disciplinary exercise, not an experiment in self-gratification."
A few seconds later, I saw 'Cora making her tearful but defiant way over to the wall. When she was there, I reached out and took 'Cora's hand in my left hand and Rosie's in my right. We all squeezed in one final gesture of solidarity and sisterhood.
We'd done it! We'd taken our punishment, gotten it over with, and avoided the Senior Year From Hell. I felt as if the sun had suddenly burst through to dissipate an enormous bank of black clouds hanging over us. I had such an ecstasy thrill when Watson started speaking that I had to concentrate hard to understand what he was saying.
"All right, you asked for spats in lieu of administrative discipline and that's what you got. I hope you're happy, and I hope you feel you accomplished something positive. This option will not, repeat not, be available to you if there's a second offense. Now, the pep rally starts in the field house in less than twenty minutes. You can have five or six minutes of privacy to compose yourselves, but I want to see all five you in the field house on time."
He and Denby left. Nurse Phillips came forward and applied soothing analgesic balm to our bottoms, in direct defiance of Dr. Wheels' instructions. Still elated, we pulled up our panties and trousers (respectively), smoothed our skirts (those of us wearing them), and stepped away from the wall. That was when we had our reality check.
Our faces were still deeply flushed. Our eyes were red-rimmed from trying to hold back tears and then from letting them come. And you should have seen our first steps! We walked with our hips unconsciously thrust forward, as if we could mitigate the lingering pain by putting some minute, theoretical distance between our underwear and our bottoms. No one who saw us walk into the field house would have any doubt about the punishments' physical effect on us. The ordeal of attending the pep rally, in a way, promised to be as challenging psychologically as the ordeal of taking the spankings themselves.
Still, there was nothing for it but to go ahead. We put our bravest faces on and trudged over to the field house. Every step was an exquisite agony of anticipation. In what seemed like no time we were there, inside the main doors, about to step into the basketball arena where the pep rally would be held. I braced myself for the mocking laughter, the pointed fingers, the whispered giggles, the sarcastic offers of pillows and cushions to sit on, the cruel jokes, the crude cracks.
As soon as the five of us were all in the arena, the volume of normal pre-event student chatter and yelling went down. Went down to almost nothing. There was no doubt that we were the center of attention. Lance and Terry could take refuge among their Rho Omicron Delta fraters almost immediately, in the bleachers underneath the near goal. But Rosie, 'Cora and I had to walk all the way around the basketball court to the other side of the arena, because PDL was sitting in the far corner and I had to go on the platform with the other organization presidents.
One foot after the other, I told myself. That's all you can do. Leave your mind blank and keep walking. Set an example for your sisters.
Then, in what had become a creepy and unnatural silence, I heard a sound that made me jump. It sounded oddly like a spank. But it wasn't. It was a clap. A single person, clapping her hands.
I glanced over my shoulder. It was Sheila Davisson, a vegetarian who disdained alcohol for pot, an independent, damn near a hippie, someone who despised everything sororities stood for. She had stood up and was clapping for us. Then a guy two rows in front of her stood up and started applauding. Then PDL and ROD got the hint and stood up bodily to join in the clapping. Then, in groups and sections, the rest of the student body rose unevenly and added to the standing ovation we were receiving.
I was floating on a cloud of sheer happiness, buoyed by the plaudits of my peers. I won't deny that when I saw Dean Wheels disgustedly leave the platform and stalk out of the arena, I took a grim satisfaction in her retreat.
At the same time, though, as I neared the platform myself, I found that I wasn't feeling completely comfortable about this triumph. Some of the people who were now applauding -- people who would have been pointing and sniggering if the crowd mood had gone that way -- were red nosed and had unfocused, glassy eyes. Three o'clock in the afternoon, and they were close to drunk. Men and women students both. That was what Denby had meant when he'd told us that the rule we'd broken was a damn good rule. This was what Dean Wheels had been trying to prevent by punishing us for breaking that rule.
I was just about to carry my now mixed feelings with me onto the platform when one kid, a freshman, leaned forward from the bleachers, gave me a clenched fist salute, and yelled, "DY-NO-MITE! Broke the paddle, man! In the belly of the beast! DY-NO-MITE1" (Hey, it was the 'seventies. We wore funny clothes, we smoked funny cigarettes, and we said weird things.) The kid was grinning from ear to ear. Out of the corner of my eye, though, I could see Denby. He was not grinning. He was tense and frowning.
I've never before or since felt such a terrible sense of responsibility. I knew that whatever I replied to this frosh was going to be spread throughout the entire student body by the time of the bonfire that night. I had it in my power to destroy Dean Wheels as Dean of Students -- to make it impossible for her ever to do that job decently. That was what Denby was frowning about.
I wasn't the most mature twenty-one-year old you'd ever want to meet. But I understood loyalty. I owed Denby big time. When I looked at the frosh to answer him, I had a rueful expression on my face.
"Just be happy it wasn't you," I said, smiling grimly as I shook my head. "I'll tell you one thing: I've learned my lesson. This was like taking a calculus final: I survived, but once is enough for me."
Denby rewarded me with a quick grin and an A-OK sign. Feeling better, I sat down at my assigned place on the platform. And winced.
I enjoyed every second of the forty-five minutes that the pep rally took. Then, at the very end, someone passed me a note from Denby: Meet him immediately in the Academic Dean's office.
Oh, shit, I thought as a wave of nauseated panic lapped again through my stomach. They've found another way to nail me. Fury and fear were competing for control of my brain as I raced over to the Main Administration Building. I found Denby and Dean Wheels in Dean Watson's office.
"I hadn't expected you, Miss Martinet," Dean Wheels said, "but on reflection it's appropriate that you're here." She turned her attention to Watson and continued. "It has become clear to me that my effectiveness as Dean of Students at Vanlandingham College is at an end. In addition, on reflection, I see that I made some errors in professional judgment on matters at the core of my responsibilities, which can only impair your confidence in me. Accordingly, I have no alternative but to tender my resignation, effective at the end of the academic year or at such earlier time as a suitable replacement has been found."
I gulped. If this was winning, I didn't want to win. I was surprised when Watson looked at me.
"I'd like to hear what Miss Martinet has to say before responding myself," he said.
I didn't think about my words. I just let them pour out of my heart.
"With all respect, Dean Wheels," I said, "I think you're mistaken about losing your effectiveness. I know what you're referring to, but I don't think the students were cheering us just now because we'd broken a rule and gotten away with it. We didn't get away with it. We were punished, and rather more severely than any of them would care to be. I think they applauded us because even though we made a mistake, we didn't quit. We didn't give up. We didn't let it ruin everything for us. We found a way to make up for it and go on. I think they'd applaud anyone who did that."
"Hear, hear," Denby murmurred.
"As for professional misjudgment, well, maybe you did get a little emotionally involved in the punishment you meted out. Nobody's perfect. But, no pun intended, the bottom line is that we deserved every lick we got. All five of us. Long after the swelling in our rear ends has gone down and the bruises have healed, we'll remember the lesson we learned up in the gymnastics room."
I turned then to Watson.
"And so, Dean Watson, I hope you won't accept Dean Wheels' resignation. I think that by making a mistake, realizing it, and doing something positive about it, a person becomes more valuable to an organization rather than less. I know I don't have a vote, but you asked for my opinion and that's the way I feel, for what it's worth."
Watson looked reflective for a moment. I noticed tears in the corners of Dean Wheels' eyes. Watson spoke next.
"One of the privileges of being associated with a college is that, every once in a great while, you're associated with a process in which someone actually learns something. It's really quite thrilling when it happens. Dean Wheels, it seems to me that what you've just heard from Miss Martinet reflects wisdom beyond her years -- and I think you deserve some of the credit for imparting part of that wisdom. I hope you'll reconsider your decision to resign."
"I will most gladly reconsider it, Dean," she said in a voice choked with emotion. "On one condition."
"Well, our five student offenders were given a chance to expiate their error in a dramatic and cathartic way. I'd like the same opportunity."
Watson began slipping out of his suit coat.
"That's a highly irregular request, but then this has been a highly irregular day," he said. "I believe we can accommodate you."
Denby turned gallantly toward the window. He hadn't had any qualms about watching my fanny get spanked, but that was because, as a student, I was simply totally outside his sexual universe. I was intrigued by the implication that he didn't feel the same way about Dean Wheels, who at forty or so was apparently still fair game in the eyes of the sexagenarian lawyer.
"If there's nothing more for me, perhaps I'll be leaving," I said as Watson came around his desk and perched on the front right corner.
"No, Miss Martin," Dean Wheels said. She had begun the laborious process of pulling up her sheath-like tweed skirt and her slip. "I think this will be a more constructive disciplinary experience for me if you stay to observe it."
I stopped obediently. She got the skirt and slip up, and then rolled her pantyhose fastidiously down to just below her bottom. Then, at a subtle tug from Watson, she bent forward over his right thigh.
Watson raised his right hand and swung down forcefully with it. He smacked her in the lower center of her bare bottom, covering a good part of both cheeks. This wasn't a slap, like Quisling had given 'Cora, but a genuine smack. The sound startled me, for it was eerily close to the SPAT! that the paddle had produced in the gymnastics room. As he delivered further smacks in a steady rhythm that quickly reddened the Dean of Students' bottom, he smiled at the surprise showing on my face.
"It's all in the wrist," he said with a wink. Then he addressed the stoical but gently squirming Dean Wheels. "This is (SPAT!) punishment (SPAT!) but not (SPAT!) humiliation (SPAT!). Accepting (SPAT!) deserved (SPAT!) chastisement (SPAT!) is not (SPAT!) abasing (SPAT!) but ennobling (SPAT!). Think of this (SPAT!), in fact (SPAT!), as a (SPAT!) particularly (SPAT!) sincere and (SPAT!) impactive (SPAT!) form of (SPAT!) peer review (SPAT)."
Dr. Wheels genteel reaction to the spanking would have been almost comical if it hadn't been so poignant. Her squirms stopped just short of writhes. She mouthed fastidious little ejaculations -- "Oh, dear! Oh my word!" -- in reaction to the pain. At one point she delicately lifted the lower half of her right leg from the floor.
Watson paused in the spanking, implicitly inviting Dr. Wheels to end it by standing up. Instead, she inched forward a bit on the desk, offering her bottom more conveniently to him. He took that hint too, peppering the academic derriere with a flurry of well-aimed SPATS! Then he relaxed the pressure on her back and she stood up, quickly moving to cover her cardinal-red bottom.
"Gracious," she said. "What a thoroughly bracing experience. Thank you, Dean Watson."
"You are most heartily welcome, Dean Wheels," Watson said.
Then Dean Wheels turned to me, glancing at her watch as she did so.
"At this time of the afternoon," she said, "I usually allow myself a cup of tea and a cigarette. I know you have responsibilities with your sorority, but the bonfire is still more than three hours off. Would you care to join me?"
"I'd be delighted to," I said. "I'll certainly enjoy this cigarette more than the one I had this morning. And I'd suggest we go to the student union. They have chest high tables in the Rathskeller -- so we can drink our tea standing up."
"Good thought," Dean Wheels said. "Because we'll both still be smoking in more ways than one."