It was not long before the skin over my rope burn began itching so I knew it would be normal again soon. I figured that the boy would be gunning for me and just could not imagine what he would do to “pay me back” for what had happened to him because of my lie. I had hoped that he might think about it the way I saw it and realize that he deserved the spanking for the lie about the puppies and the time in the garage but, would he? What I had not counted on was the anguish I was suffering inside that wounded chest. I had been just so centered on paying him back for what he had done to me that it was all I could think about from the time I ran out of the garage until I stood in front of his parents, listening to the anger of his father. I had not expected that guilt I felt as my mother took my hand that day and we walked home from our meeting with the boy’s parents.
The elation I felt at the thought of him getting the spanking I had wanted him to have days ago was so short-lived that it shocked me. Equally surprising was the way that sickening feeling deep inside me kept growing. It was like a huge black ball that had begun as a small pebble and was now filling me up. What was this and would it kill me? It felt so bad. It did not give me a fever like when my older sister had the measles and I could see nothing on my skin that looked like a rash; I only saw the scabs from the healing rope burn. Still, it felt like pain, kind of. I reckoned that it was related to the lie I had told about the teenager because that is when I began to feel the little pebble of unrest. But, what to do about it? Boy, would I get in trouble if I told what I had done! I couldn’t tell anyone why I had done it because the boy had said I would be the one to get in trouble for being in the garage; oh, what could I do to get rid of the growing blackness inside me?
Then, it happened. I heard my mother with a friend. She was about to tell her the saga of the rope burn and her poor innocent little daughter (who was healing well now, thank you very much, while the real “innocent” party in this matter was probably still standing to eat his dinner, if they even gave him any!)
“Oh, no!” my conscience screamed at me. The gigantic mass of blackness stretched inside of me and I was certain it would burst if I did not do something fast! I pulled at my mother’s apron and said I needed to talk to her right now. Of course, she had to stop speaking to her friend to turn her head and tell me, “Later”, but I would not be dissuaded; I had to stop her from telling this story. I needed to talk to her now, right now. Admittedly, this was not a rare occurrence whenever my mother was talking with someone… whatever I needed, it was all-too-often when she was otherwise occupied and it was always urgent, of course. Mother tried to get back to her story but I just would not let her. Finally, she offered her apologies and said she would get back to the friend as soon as she dealt with whatever emergency I perceived just could not wait ten minutes. Needless to say, Mom was not a cheerful camper when she walked away from her friend.
“Now, what is it that just could not wait?” I began backing up until the dining table and chairs stopped me. I rummaged through my brain trying to find a way to tell her, as she faced me walking the short distance from the front door to the table.
“Uh, well, it is about the rope,” I began ever-so slowly as I pulled out a chair to sit down.
“What about the rope?” my mother asked with a little anxiety in her voice. What more was there to know?
“Uh, well, it is not exactly how I told you.” I was looking down as I twisted my intertwined fingers in my lap. Mentally I was trying to find the words to tell the story in alight that just did not make me look so bad but there just wasn’t any!
“That boy is always so mean to us kids. He hits me and says stuff to me and chases me and, well, I just don’t like him.” I offered as an introduction to my side of the real story.
“Yes, I know that. He is not a nice boy but what does that have to do with the rope? Did he make you swing on the rope?”
“No, he didn’t. I asked him to swing me.”
“Well, then, what is the matter with you? He hurt you and he got a spanking for it. That’s all there is to the story. Just stay away from him.”
“I will, Mom, but there is something I need to tell you,” I squeaked out with a shaky voice, knowing that I was about to dump the blackness on her. At least, it would be out of me!
“Whatever could be making you feel so sad?” she asked as her mother’s heart of compassion kicked in and she reached out for me.
“Oh, Mom, I just wanted to hurt him. He is so mean and I just wanted to hurt him. I am just a little kid and I could never hurt him and he hurts us and I just wanted him to get hurt, too,” I rushed out with a rather confused young mother looking on.
“Well, he did get a spanking…” but,” I interrupted her before she could finish her thought.
“But, Mom, it was my fault. It was all my fault and not his. I wouldn’t let him put the rope over my shirt. I made him let me put it under my shirt so I would get an owie to show you and he would get a spanking for it,” I poured out my transgression against the adolescent. The hand that had been gently caressing my shoulder stopped and went immediately to my mother’s mouth, joining the hand moving from her lap!
“What? You did what? No, you didn’t do that, did you?” Mom took a breath and continued, “And I went to Mr. and Mrs. Jones* to show them what their son had done! But he had done nothing to hurt you? You had made him do it and not the other way around? How could you do that? Why would you do that?” I could see my mother’s hurt and it did not take long to escalate into anger. I had really messed up. I just couldn’t tell her the real reason; I was in enough trouble already.
“Well, we are going over there right now and you are going to tell them the truth. Then you are going to tell them you are sorry for telling them this story and you are going to tell the boy you are sorry that you said those things and that he got a spanking because of you and you just wait until your father gets home. You are going to get a spanking now!” She was changing my shirt and shorts as she spoke. Each angry phrase was punctuated by a rough pull on the sleeve or leg of the shorts. (Wouldn’t do to go confess and apologize in dirty clothes, would it? I need to look my best when I admit my wrongdoing, like they would even notice.) Next came the wash cloth and the scrub that left my face red before she started in on my hands. With my mind reeling to keep up with her words and her actions, I felt myself being propelled through the living room and out the front door.
Mom did not speak all the way down the block, clutching my clean hand even after we had reached the Jones’ front door. “Knock, knock, knock,” even sounded angry to me. Sadly, they were home and a smiling lady greeted us, with surprise. In response to her gesture and moving away from the doorway, we entered their home.
“Is your husband at home? And your son? Is he at home?” my mother asked very nervously, I thought. The perplexed lady said that they were and she would fetch them for us. No doubt the poor dear was wondering what their boy had done now.
“My daughter has something to say to you all,” began my mother as she saw the men join the lady in front of us. My mother, then, pushed me out away from her and told me, with her nod, to ‘fess up.
I began with my eyes inspecting the wood floor of their entryway but soon found my mother tipping my head to make me look at the adults. I did not look at the teenage boy but only at the shocked parents. They listened to my side of the story, the truth this time and asked me why I did that. I wasn’t sure if they meant why I made him hurt me or why I told them he did.
“Because he is mean to us and we are so little that we can never hurt him no matter what he does to us.” I glanced over to the tall boy for just a second and his eyes locked with mine. He did not smile or sneer or anything that I could notice but I wondered if he knew what I meant when I said that. My mother prodded me again, and I responded.
“Anyway, I am sorry that I lied to you Mr. and Mrs. Jones. I am sorry that what I said made you spank your son, Mr. Jones. I am sorry that you got a spanking because of what I said you did,” I said with not even a glance at the boy who knew very well I had just told a half-truth. I was not one bit sorry that he had been spanked; only that it was for what I said he did with the rope and not for what he did in the garage!
Walking back from this home this time was a very mixed blessing, indeed. I was free of that awful blackness that just would not stop growing inside of me and that felt so good that I wanted to skip all the way home. My dear mother, however, was smarting at the embarrassment I had caused her and my confession did not liberate her the way it had me. I was sad about that, really. I had hurt her and that did make me sad. Then there was that ever-familiar phrase looming, “just you wait until your father gets home.”
I had to tell my father what I had done and, as I had expected, he reached for the old razor strap from under the sink. My father spent a lot of years as a company commander in the military, both in regular army and in the National Guards /Army Reserves, but, in reality, Daddy was a pacifist. It was a lot harder on him than on us when it came to times like these. Oh, the strap did hurt, but the stripes were few and did not hurt for long. Both the rope burn and the spanking with the strap were far less painful than the growing blackness, which I later learned was called “guilt”.
This episode would find a place, permanently, amongst the memories of my childhood, though all wounds healed just fine, for both the teenage bully and his six-year-old nemesis, who proved to be a worthy opponent. This incident was never mentioned between us and he never did try to “pay me back”. I do not know if he stopped harassing us little kids or not. I only know that this is the last incident I recall so if he did, it was “no big deal” to me!
In fact, I did not tell anyone about the incident in the garage that began with the promise of puppies, for a couple of decades. My own mother would be in her late fifties before she ever learned what had been the cause of my most premeditated transgression against “the boy at the other corner.” If you know my mother, you will know that she was ready to go after him as though it had just happened! Well, for her, I guess it had since she had no knowledge of it decades earlier!
*Family Name changed.
****Speaking of Revenge… Coming Tomorrow