Here is part one of a story from 16 years ago penned by the incomparable mel b. owen. I just wish he’d written more.
Posted by melvyn b. owen on Monday, 13 September 1999, at 9:23 p.m.
Have you ever noticed that comments your spouse makes to you when you’re naked and she’s not sometimes have a resonance that they wouldn’t under other circumstances? That at least was the way it seemed to me around 4:00 p.m. on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend when Abbey said, joshingly but with a serious undertone, “You look a little troubled for someone on his way to a party. Are you worried about letting your team down at charades?” The two girls were at their grandparents’ house, and wouldn’t be home until Monday evening. Abbey and I were getting ready for the Labor Day Picnic staged annually by Miles, one of my colleagues from work, and his wife, Janet.
You’re probably wondering how long it could take us to get ready for a Labor Day picnic. Especially in a place like Omaha, where Abbey and I live, the image that that phrase probably evokes is a bunch of suburbanites in Hawaiian shirts and Bermuda shorts standing around a barbecue grill on someone’s patio. The bash that Miles and Janet threw every year was at the opposite end of the scale. A formal affair. Catered. Black tie. Last chance of the season for mean to wear white dinner jackets. It was always a great experience, and Abbey’s comment, as she brushed deliciously past me in a terrycloth bathrobe while I was on my way to the bathroom for my shower, should have drawn a lighthearted wisecrack. Instead, my expression actually got a bit more pained.
The reason for this was NOT the one-hundred dollars sealed in a plain white envelope in the inside pocket of my dinner jacket. I was going to turn this over to Miles to pay off the bet I’d lost when it became mathematically impossible for the Orioles (my favorite baseball team) to get to within 3 1/2 games of the playoffs by September 15th. (Hey, it seemed like a good idea during spring training, even if Abbey had expressed qualms and told me I was wagering at my own risk.) I compartmentalize. After I paid off the bet, I’d have an obligation to tell Abbey and accept the consequences. But I hadn’t paid it off yet, so I wasn’t concerned about that.
What concerned me was a friend of Abbey’s whom I’ll call Cyndi. She’d be at the party. For some reason, she had acquired the habit of unprovoked verbal aggression against me. Not teasing, but mean-spirited, gratuitious little shots that would have been demeaning if they’d been as clever as she apparently thought they were. The thing was, she wasn’t very good at it, and even though I’m a long way from being a master of repartee I never had any trouble coming up with a come-back that topped her. Cyndi tended to react to this by getting a stricken expression on her face as if she’d been slapped, and running to the bathroom for a good cry.
If you’re like me, you’re thinking, “Good enough for her. What’s the problem?” The problem was that Abbey had made a special and very emphatic request that I refrain from verbal retaliation against Cyndi at this party. Partly this was because she didn’t want to spoil the evening for Miles and Janet, who spent three months every year working on this thing. Partly, it was because Abbey (or Dr. Abbey Owen — she holds a Ph.D in psychology) viewed Cyndi as a therapy-project. There’s an old shrink joke that goes, “How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? One — but only if the light bulb really wants to change.” The way Abbey saw it, any head doctor could treat someone who knew she needed help and wanted to cooperate. Abbey’s specialty was helping people who didn’t know they needed help and didn’t want any. So Abbey had asked a special favor of me, and I wasn’t sure I could deliver. Cyndi knew exactly how to punch my buttons. I was afraid that at her first shot some lame Don Rickles line would be out of my mouth before I’d even had a chance to think about it. When Abbey made her comment, I decided to be up-front with her.
“You’re right,” I said. “I am worried about Cyndi getting to me. I can’t stand the thought of disappointing you.” She gave me a concerned and sympathetic look, so I thought I might as well up the ante. “I don’t know,” I added. “Maybe you should go and have a good time, and I’ll just stay home.”
I meant this to sound heartfelt, but I realized that it must have come out sounding a bit pathetic. Abbey’s expression was now no longer concerned and sympathetic. It was loving, laughing, and highlighted by a no-nonsense glint in her eyes.
“You’re better than that, Mel,” she said, putting the tip of her index finger on the tip of my nose. “You’re going to do fine. Now go take your shower.”
She helped me on my way with a brisk little pat to my bottom that was a little bit more than a love-tap and a little bit less than a spank — sort of a caress with attitude.
I rigorously limited my shower to seven minutes, then started drawing Abbey’s bath for her and cleared out of the bathroom as she went in, accepting a peck on the cheek from me on the way. I had already pulled on my underpants, socks, and ruffled shirt when I noticed the envelope, propped up on my dresser behind my cufflinks box. It was square, in the Parisian blue color of Abbey’s personal stationery. On the outside was written in Abbey’s almost calligraphic script, “Beloved”.
My spirits soared. In the middle of doing all those mysterious things women have to do to get ready for anything more formal than the grocery store, she’d taken time to write me an encouraging note with some inspirational comments. Just knowing it was there gave me a warm feeling. I decided to wait until I was dressed to read it — to savor in anticipation the thought of what she’d say.
I was whistling as I pulled on the black slacks with the silk stripe down each leg, fit the studs into the shirt’s buttonholes, threaded black onyx cufflinks into the French cuffs, clipped on the silk-faced cummerbund, and (literally) shoehorned my feet into highly polished black oxfords. I made short work of the bowtie and then, with only my dinner jacket left to go, opened the envelope and read the note inside:
“My Darling Mel,
“You are the most wonderful husband in the world. Aside from your penchant for perverse mischief (which is both a virtue and a fault), you have only one defect: You sometimes fail to give yourself enough credit.
You know perfectly well that skipping the party tonight is out of the question. You need a little perspective and some encouragement — some STERN encouragement, if you get my meaning.
As soon as you’re dressed, go downstairs and get out the strap or the riding crop (your choice). Put it on the coffee table in the living room. Then stand in the corner and think things over while you wait for me to come down. You need a taste of the lash, and you’re going to get one. You haven’t had a real whipping in some time, and I think you’re overdue. I realize that it will be an unpleasant experience for you in the short run, but I believe it will do you a great deal of good.
After taking a moment to absorb the full impact of the instruction, I immediately set about complying. In over ten years of marriage, Abbey has only given me one spanking that I didn’t deserve, and she had a very good reason for giving me that one. Abbey isn’t domineering or arbitrary or abusive, but she is strict. There are expectations. I’m supposed to understand them and live up to them. When I fail to do so, there are consequences — and those consequences typically involve the vigorous application of an instrument of chastisement to the appropriate portion of my anatomy. When Abbey told me I was going to get a spanking, I never argued or resisted, at least beyond an occasional, half-hearted attempt to talk my way out of it. I submitted to my punishment. Then, after it was over, if I thought she’d been wrong to discipline me I’d talk to her about it and she’d listen.
I got the leather strap that I’d made with my own hands out of the utility closet in the kitchen. (I described it in detail in “The Nine-Fold Path”, a story that I posted several months ago.) It hurts about as much as the riding crop, although in a different way. I chose it because it’s the most aesthetically satisfying corporal punishment weapon Abbey uses on me. It produces a sharp, thoroughly complete and satisfying pain, one that really reaches me and helps me understand whatever point Abbey is trying to communicate by using it. I far prefer it to the hairbrush, for example, which doesn’t hurt nearly as much, but inflicts a dull, thudding type of pain over a smaller area per stroke.
I laid the strap on the coffee table and started to close the living room drapes. Then I stopped myself. Abbey hadn’t told me to close the drapes. I certainly didn’t want to have some dog-walking neighbor see me getting my bottom warmed up, but I felt that I had to repose complete and unqualified trust in Abbey. With a last look at the strap, I walked over to the corner and stood in it, head bowed, hands locked behind my back, thinking things over.
“Have you had a chance to reflect on the situation, Mel?” she asked.
“Yes, I have.”
“Are you ready for your spanking?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Very well. Come on over here, and get what’s coming to you.”
I turned around. I saw her standing there, wearing only bra, slip and white, lacy chemise from shoulder to knee. The ebony of the strap that she held lightly in her hand contrasted strikingly with the wedding-gown white of her silky underwear. She smiled when she saw my surprised reaction.
“I came down early because I wanted you to have a chance for some corner time after you’ve gotten the strap,” she explained. Then she crooked an index finger at me to beckon me over. With steps that were reasonably steady, under the circumstances, I walked over to where she was standing.
Impulsively, hungrily, suddenly, she embraced me.
“You do understand, don’t you, beloved?” she asked in a voice that hid tears behind determination as she laid her cheek on my chest.
“I know that I will,” I said, returning her hug.
She broke her grip and stepped away, flicking the strap out casually away from me and offering me an encouraging smile.
“As you know, honey,” she said then, “I believe in spanking on the bare bottom. Pull down your pants.”
I turned to face the coffee table. Reaching under my cummerbund, I unfastened my black dress slacks and lowered them over my hips. They fell to below my knees. I lowered my underpants to just below mid-thigh.
“All right, Mel,” she said then. “Bend over, put your hands flat on the coffee table, and present your bottom for a sound spanking.”
I bent forward, keeping my legs straight, leaned a bit, and laid my palms on the surface of the coffee table. I braced myself.
“Mel,” Abbey said then in a desperate whisper, “I love you more than life itself. It is because I love you that I discipline you when you need it, and when I do that I must do it properly. I’m going to take this strap, and I’m going to spank you until you can’t sit down.”
I winced as I heard the strap hissing through the air, and then gasped as it slashed across my bare bottom. SwissshhWHIP! “AGGGH!” With most instruments of chastisement, you get the sting first, and then the burn. With the strap, the burn comes instantaneously, right along with the sting. It’s dry, lacerating, scalding. I already felt as if I’d backed into a hot stove.
A pause. Two seconds, three seconds? Then the sound repeated. SwissshhWHIP! “UHHHMFF!” Another pause. Reiteration. SwissshhWHIP! “OWWW!”
No lecture. No commentary, at least for the moment. Just pause, Swish, WHIP!, pain, yelp, repeat. For the next several minutes, an eternity to me, the strap splatted down on my blazing behind.
I went up on the balls of my feet, reflexively clenched my buttocks, felt my knees start to give way, unconsciously canted my hips to the right, as the thorough, workmanlike whipping continued. My bottom felt as red as a stoplight, and seemed to be radiating a fiery, angry glow. I could even feel the beginnings of welts toward the outside of my cheeks, where the end of the strap had fallen.
“I know that it hurts, darling,” (SwissshhWHIP! “OWWW!”) Abbey said sympathetically in response to my pleas as she panted with exertion. “But spankings are supposed to hurt. (SwissshhWHIP! “YEEOWWW!”) You have to be taught a lesson.” (SwissshhWHIP! “YEEEOWWWWW!”)
Another pause, but this one didn’t end with yet another descent of the unforgiving strap. Abbey took a few seconds to catch her breath as I watched tears and sweat fall from my face onto the surface of the coffee table. I was astonished that I could tell the difference.
“I think you’ve learned your lesson, Mel,” she said tenderly. “Am I right?”
“Yes,” I said simply, staying carefully in position. “I was wrong to doubt myself. I know I can come through for you.”
“I know you can too. Now, before you pull your pants up, go stand in the corner in disgrace while I finish dressing. Reflect on your punishment and your conduct, explore remorse for your failings, and resolve to do better in the future.”
I stood up and turned around. I reached out for her, putting one hand on her shoulder. Gently, she held the strap up to me. I bowed my head and kissed it.
“Thank you for that whipping, Abbey,” I said. “I deserved it. I deserved every stroke. Thank you for loving me enough to spank me when I need it.”
“You’re welcome,” she said with a big, sunny smile.
I returned to the corner. My bottom felt as if I wouldn’t sit again for a week, although I knew from experience that the pain of the strap (in contrast to the paddle, for example) doesn’t linger more than twelve to twenty-four hours. Bathed in intense pain and soothing warmth at the same time, almost sobbing simultaneously from physical suffering and spiritual joy.
I was there almost twenty minutes before I heard her again. I felt her putting a towel over my lowered pants and around my ankles. Then she began carefully to rub aloe into my blistered bottom.
“We’d better get a move on,” I said, even as I sighed from the blessed, soothing relief. “We’re going to be late.”
“If we’re a few minutes late we’re a few minutes late,” Abbey said. “You took your whipping like a man, and you’re entitled to some tenderness.”
Five minutes later we were walking out the door. I’d picked up the small house gift we were taking along.
“What are we bringing to the party?” Abbey asked as she looked at the slick, black bag.
“Courvoisier,” I said. “Of course, we’re also bringing rump roast, but we’ll keep that to ourselves.”
Lame as that line is, we both got a much bigger laugh out of it than it deserved.
Cyndi was on the attack almost from the instant I walked through the door at Miles’ and Janet’s.
“A Dagwood!” she squealed, pointing at my non-butterfly bowtie. “I haven’t seen a bow tie like that outside the comic strips in years!”
This was particularly clumsy on Cyndi’s part, because as it happened our host was wearing the same type of bow tie I was. Instead of pointing that out, I said, “You’re looking particularly lovely tonight, Cyndi.”
She wasn’t put off. “You’re so BRAVE to ignore fashion, Mel,” she said loudly. “I really envy you your courage.” There’s a snappy comeback for that one, too, but I didn’t use it.
“Thank you,” I said with an ingenuous smile instead.
Cyndi retreated, in confusion but not in tears. Janet hurried up to accept the bottle of Napoleon brandy. I was warmed to see Abbey’s smile, and I was glad to see a dinky little elegant black handbag — one that wasn’t big enough to hold a paddle, for example. The bet payoff was still to come, and I was glad Abbey wasn’t prepared for consequences right then and there.
“Mel,” Janet whispered, “thank you so much for restraining yourself with Cyndi. I know you could have squelched her — stomped her like a tomato can. But it would have gotten our party off to kind of an awkward start.”
“Thank Abbey,” I said. “She made me understand how important it was.”
“You know,” Janet said, “you’re absolutely right. Abbey just has a special way of really putting things across. When she explains something to you, it’s as if you see it in a whole new light.”
“A brand spanking new light,” I agreed.
End of Part 1