A Paddle in the Basement
I stayed the night with one of my best friends for the first time. The friend was named Osgood, an odd name. He and his family were nearly as odd as his name. His father was the son of a Dutch immigrant, and his mother was a woman who had been born in New York City.
They both ended up in my small, rural Ohio town because in college they had both had a religious conversion. They converted to an extreme wing of the Christian fundamentalist movement, having both met the group at their college in upstate New York.
So, the girl from New York City, and the son of a strict Dutch veteran of the Second World War, married. Osgood was their first born son, but below him their four other children. Each of them had a traditional Dutch name such as “Johanna.”
They lived in my small rural town, because they wanted to raise their children in a “Christian environment.” They didn’t want their children to attend school with non-Christians, Democrats, Homosexuals, or other figures.
Like the hippies of the 1960s who ran “into the city, where the truth lies” as the musical said, these children of the 1980s ran to the country. They were both highly educated. The father was an engineer at a local small motor manufacturing facility.
The mother was taking a correspondence course in order to become a full Minister in their obscure Christian sect.
Their children were all on the honor roll at school.
I had befriended Osgood because we were both “nerds.” We both spent many of our recesses reading a book, instead of gallivanting around the playground in tag, or pretending to be professional athletes as we tossed a football around.
We both read a lot, and soon our friendship was cemented together. By third grade, Osgood and I were the closest of friends. People often made reference to “Walter and Osgood.” We were the closest of buddies.
Finally, as a third grader, I was invited by this best friend of mine to attend a sleepover at his home.
It was at this sleepover that I first got paddled.
This was not the first time I’d ever been spanked, keep in mind. My parents had pulled my pants down numerous times to smash their open palms into it. These fits happened when they were angry.
I recall my father being angry that I had struck my younger brother. He lifted me by back of my shirt collar, dragging me back to my bedroom. He had thrown me on the ground, removed my pants and underwear, and proceeded to thunderously slam his open hand against my flesh.
I was not a “spoiled brat.” My parents were not the type who didn’t believe in spanking.
But the more I got to know Osgood, I knew that the kind of spankings he received were different. In a way, these kind of spankings were much better for him, than the ones I received in my father’s and, rarely, my mother’s fits of rage.
The evening was fun. We watched a movie together, and as third graders whose parents were extra-concerned about health, we enjoyed a rare pleasure, soda. We drank the heavily sugared, carbonated beverages. We watched a fun comedy film, and then it was time, at the late hour of ten o’clock, to sleep.
Because Osgood’s room was too small for both of us, we set up sleeping bags in the basement.
The basement at Osgood’s residence was nearly as big as the entire house. We slept in the guest bedroom section of the basement. However, the basement also contained a recreation room with a lot of the five childrens’ toys. Asside from all of this, there was the study.
The study, as Osgood had told me from the first time I ever went to visit him, was off limits. It belonged to his father. When his father was in the study, it was because he did not want to be disturbed and he was hard at work.
“Have you ever been in the study?” I asked him.
“Only once in a while,” he said, “when I get a spanking.”
Osgood explained to me that in the study, his father kept the wooden ping pong paddle he used for corporal punishment. This ping-pong paddle had the rubber shaved off of the blade, so that it was simple, hard wood. It wasn’t thick like the kind used for fraternity discipline. It was thin, and whippy.
When I heard about how Osgood got spanked with it, I shivered. It made me nervous. I was already greatly afraid of my parents’ hand spankings. The idea of being hit with a piece of wood terrified me. That was, of course, the point.
When Osgood and I were set up, in our sleeping bags on the floor of the bedroom of the basement, we were ready to sleep. Osgood’s father walked in.
He wore his horn-rimmed glasses. He was a skinny man, and tall. He wore a button down shirt, despite it being a Saturday night, and almost time for him to go to sleep.
He was the kind of man who took rules seriously. Like always, he had a pen in his pocket. His shirt was tucked in. His glasses were perfect.
He was not mean, or harsh.
“Alright boys,” he said. “It is almost ten o’clock. It’s time to sleep. We have church in the morning. No talking.”
He said those words, and then shut the door to the bedroom. The room, with the absence of windows was absolutely black.
We heard him walk through the rest of the basement, and up the stairs. As the saying goes, “boys will be boys,” We began to talk, committing one of the most serious offenses in any authoritarian setting, disobedience.
We talked for a while. We whispered at first.
Most of our whispering consisted of dirty jokes we had heard at school.
As we noticed that we were not being heard, our volume increased to a less apprehensive tone.
We began to talk and laugh. This went on for a while.
But soon, we heard the thundering of steps down the stairs. Osgood gasped.
We both fell silent.
I had not been afraid at first, but when I saw how terrified Osgood looked, I figured that he was expecting something much more serious than a reminder to be silent.
The door opened up, revealing a chasm of light that fell into the room. Blocking this light was the outline of Osgood’s father.
“Didn’t I say no talking?” he asked.
“Daddy, I forgot!” Osgood moaned, with a tone of utter desperation.
“I’ll need you in the office,” his father said.
Osgood knew not to resist. He jumped up and began to walk out this small bedroom area with his father. He already began to cry, and despite his co-operation, sobbed out “I forgot! I forgot! Honest!”
I heard him enter the office across the basement. Then I heard the screams and crying get louder.
I also heard, though not as loud, the thud of the paddle.
Osgood’s father spanked and spanked.
Finally, it was over. There was silence for a brief bit.
Then, the door opened up again, with its bright chasm of terrifying light.
“You’re next,” he said.
When he said those words, it was as if every bit of moisture in my body jumped into my upper chest. I was nearly paralyzed by fear.
Unlike Osgood, I did not scream out.
I simply stood up slowly.
My motions were stilted, and I walked like a robot. I was so filled with fear. I clenched not just my buttocks, but my legs, my back, and my arms.
My knees nearly knocked together, as I was so tense and afraid.
I walked with him, out into the lighted recreation room, across into his office. He shut the office door behind me, and stood there.
The office was small. There was a wooden desk with some books stacked on it. There was also a bookshelf, and an old Apple computer from the mid 1980s in a corner, with a broken printer leaned against it.
The office didn’t seem to be a dungeon or frightening torture chamber. When I saw it, my fear subsided just a bit.
“Do your parents spank you, Walter?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said, still choking on my words.
“Then they shouldn’t mind me doing it for them,” he said.
It had never occurred to me that another friend’s parent could spank me.
Luckily, he didn’t require me to move. He simply picked me up from where I stood in front of him.
He wheeled his computer chair around, and threw me over his lap. My bottom was soon bared, and the spanking began.
He spoke as he spanked, “When a grown up tells you to do something, you do it!”
He thundered these words between swats.
The swats stung like a hornets’ nest.
I froze in fear, still trying my best not to cry.
He swung harder and harder. The paddle made a clapping sound against my rear end.
His voice seemed to growl as he spanked me.
“Disobediance is not acceptable! Ever!” he growled as he put more and more weight into his paddle swats.
Now, my heart rate thundered and I was on the edge of panic. The spanking seemed like it was nowhere near ending. The paddle thundered endlessly, and his anger roared in the voice behind the wooden board.
Inside, my mind burst. I began to cry, harder than I ever had before. My tense body limped as he spanked away.
I began to sob like Osgood had before. I no longer was full of fear, but a strange happiness. I had broken the rules, and now I was being punished. The world was right. There was comfort in it. I was receiving justice. I was getting spanked.
When finally the spanking ended, I stood up.
Osgood’s father looked me in the face and said firmly, but not harshly.
“I expect no more talking for the rest of the night.”
I obeyed. I walked back into the dark bedroom, and lay on my sleeping bag. My bottom ached, but my mind was at peace.
I lay down and fell asleep almost instantly.
The next morning, I arose at nine o’clock to attend church. I sat in a hard wooden pew, and heard the sermons and listened to the hymns.
The old building was full of people, singing away.
Marching to Zion! Beautiful Zion! Marching to Zion! Across the Seas!
I looked around, and I noticed that the people around me were happy. They lived in a world where right and wrong were simple. Authority was not derived by consensus, or rational reasoning but by obedience. The world was run by Gods, Parents, Bosses, Ministers, and Governments that were to be obeyed.
When you broke those rules, you got spanked, and put back into this perfectly designed, orderly world.
I thought of this as my bottom still smarted a bit.
I knew this psychological state they lived in could not ever be mine. However, if it had been, my life would be much easier.