Pain exploded throughout my backside as soon as the paddle made contact. Like a lightning strike leading a battalion of angry bees, it struck with a pop and bit with a massive sting. My hands worked quickly to rub the burn while my body went into an instinctive, pain-driven hop.
“Turn back around and face the wall,” demanded Mr. Strickland.
“But Mr. Strickland I…”
“Silence! Face the wall!” I did what I was told while he continued in a voice teetering between sinister and comic. “It hurt didn’t it? It’s all in the wrist you see. Oh, I rare back and swing hard, but the trick comes right before contact. I snap my wrist forward for a little extra pop. I played a little baseball back in my day. I was a power hitter, so I know all about a good wrist snap.”
“Mr. Strickland, please, I…”
“Enough! You think as a seventh-grader you’re too grown for a paddling. I checked, your parents didn’t put you on the ‘No Corporeal Punishment’ list. I’ve paddled bigger and tougher than you. Believe me, I may be a first-year principal here, but this paddle and I have lit up the backside of a hundred boys in three different counties over the past fifteen years. Yes sir, this is the true board of education.”
I turned to speak but he once again ordered me to put my hands back on the blue cinder block walls of his small office.
“One lick down, two to go,” he stated coldly. “Those nerve endings in your rear should be settled down by now. Let’s give them something to cheer about.”
I heard the paddle slice through the air in the split second before the wood made contact a second time. Somehow the pain tripled. My knees buckled, my eyes watered, and an embarrassing high-pitched squeal escaped from my throat. The thin, nylon athletic pants I wore offered no protection. I rubbed…hopped…rubbed…hopped…rubbed.
“I had a real good snap of the wrist on that one,” gloated Mr. Strickland. “That was at least a double, but I’m predicting a homerun on the next swing.”
Before I could catch my breath I was pleading with the Sultan of Swat standing before me. “Mr. Strickland…listen…I’m not…”
“No you listen Tommy! No student is going to treat a teacher the way you…”
“My name is Brent,” I finally blurted out. “Brent Worley.”
Mr. Strickland turned pale and his paddle fell to the worn, maroon carpet. His bulging eyes stared my direction, but he seemed to be lost somewhere inside himself. After a time his right hand traveled from his stomach to his chest and back to his stomach. I took a slight step back anticipating that he might be getting sick.
When his words finally broke the silence, they were slow and distant. “I called over the intercom for Tommy Baxter….where is Tommy Baxter?”
“We couldn’t understand you,” I told him as I wiped a streaking tear with the back of my hand. “It was mostly static. Mrs. Whittaker sent me to your office to see what you needed. I tried to tell you but as soon as I walked in you started…”
A slight grimace flashed across his frozen face. “And what was your last name again?”
“As in…as in…” He couldn’t finish, but I knew where he was going.
“As in Larry Worley, the mayor. He’s my dad.”
For the next several minutes Mr. Strickland didn’t seem to move, blink, or breathe. Finally, after a flicker of life appeared in his eyes, he reached and pulled a sleek brown wallet from his back pocket.
“Mr. Worley, I would like to propose a deal.” I listened as the stack grew in his hand. It was a profitable offer, a very profitable offer, but I couldn’t accept. Perhaps it was due to the absurd idea forming and growing in my own mind.
“Mr. Strickland,” I said in a voice that startled even me in its confidence. “I would like to make you a different offer.” Well before I finished pitching my odd proposal, Mr. Strickland was nodding his head in silent agreement.
Mr. Strickland adjusted his lavender tie, then turned and placed both hands on the wall between two fancy framed diplomas. I picked the paddle off the floor and took a few practice swings, making sure to snap my wrist at the end just like I had been taught. I was known for playing a little baseball myself.
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