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Monday, November 11, 2013

A close brush. By John von Daler


                   Second drawer from the top. Left-hand side. I knew the sound of the drawer opening by heart. Seeing it there, bristles up, you would not suspect that it had other uses than lightly stroking long strands of freshly washed hair. Turning it over, though, you could see that the oval back of redwood, lacquered and smooth, might also be used as an intimidating weapon if needs be.

                And needs there certainly were: This was the spanking brush in our house. If you had broken the rules the brush could be brought out, not often, but enough times to keep you aware of its existence. You lay on the bed bottom up, hands clinched at your sides, ready for the first whack. You listened to the proclamation of your crime, the magnitude of the punishment, and the pronouncement of a statement regarding your intention never to repeat the offense.
                And then it hit. It was hard, the pain hurt as sharply as a wet towel, but the area of pain was larger, more homogenous. Your hands automatically sought to fend off the next blow, but they were caught and shoved aside as the hairbrush hit again. Finally you tensed your buttocks and counted the slaps through gritted teeth. At ten the punishment was over. You got to cry in Mommie's embrace. No, you would never do it again, you wailed.
                But then there was the time when the crime had been proportionately too large for even this punishment. Father was called in. Now he would administrate the blows. He was a man. This was going to hurt.
                He ushers you into the bedroom, closes the door, and tells you to sit on the bed. He says, You know that when your mother says to be home at a certain time, then you have to be here. Otherwise we worry, we don't know where you are. Right?
                You answer with a quivering yes, not spoken while breathing out, but swallowed into your throat and lungs, inhaled and hidden inside you with one sad little gulp.
                Then he sits on the bed beside you. Not together, but slightly away. He looks at the same wall you are looking at. You can see the drawer out of the corner of your eye. It is unopened.
                He waits a few minutes. Then he says the words that you will remember the rest of your life, words that regardless of whatever distance there may be between you will always make you give him the benefit of the doubt.
                He says, When we come out, if she asks, tell your mother that I spanked you. Then he walks over and looks out the window. You sit on the bed, your untouched fanny nestled into the soft mattress, your eyes fixed on the scab on your knee. After a few minutes you even start to think about going outside in a while. Somebody might want to play. Finally he opens the door and leaves the room. You follow ten steps behind and, keeping to the wall, get to your room without being seen.

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