Jack wished his guardian, Abe, weren’t so old-fashioned. This was the 1970’s, not the 1870’s. He shouldn’t have to face a strapping in the barn. It was barbaric… just barbaric.
Abe had been Jack’s caretaker since he and his wife decided to take in the young orphan after the flood that had killed his birth parents and destroyed their home. At age six, the adjustment wasn’t easy for Jack or his new parents, but they had grown to become a close family.
Recently Abe, had learned by accident of Jack’s plan to evade being drafted to Vietnam. Abraham had gone to the bus station to look into a potentially cheaper mode of transportation for he and his wife’s upcoming vacation. He ended up chatting with his old high school friend, Vera, who worked the ticket window and she casually mentioned that seeing Abe was a nice coincidence because she had recently seen his boy, Jack. Abe managed to get out of her that he had been pricing tickets to Canada. Of course it didn’t take long for him to work out that Jack intended to re-locate there before the U.S. Army located him here.
When next they met, Abe confronted Jack about his plan. Having been a Korean war vet, Abe had mixed feelings. He was old-fashioned in the sense of having a strong belief in duty and loyalty, but the idea that they could just pluck a man involuntarily from his family had never sat well with him. After they talked about it for a while, Abe came up with a way to help Jack out with his plan and also resolve his mixed feelings about it.
Jack needed money to begin his new life. While he could have continued to work and save up, the longer he waited, the greater the risk he took of not being able to go at all. So Abe offered to give him the money to get started on one condition. He had to learn the lesson of responsibility and consequences. He didn’t want to see Jack end up in prison, but he felt in his gut that some type of punishment was needed here, otherwise Jack wouldn’t learn, because he would have gotten away scott free.
“I’m going to give you the money, Jack, but you’re going to get whipped,” Abe said.
Jack blinked in disbelief. “Why? Why would you whip me? I thought you agreed with what I’m doing?”
“No, I agreed that you’re choosing the only option you can, given your circumstance and what you believe in. But your last lesson before you go out into the world is to know that every action has consequences. You’re not getting a free lunch here.”
Jack thought for a moment and said reluctantly, “Okay. I guess you’re right.” He thought for a moment more and asked, “How bad is it gonna be?”
“Kathy’s not going to like this, so I’m going take you to the barn. You’ll bend over the work bench… a hundred licks,” Abe answered.
Jack shook his head and began walking towards the barn. He knew he could take that much. He had taken more before. But it was going to hurt like hell. He knew Abe would use the heavy razor strop.
The two men walked into the barn and closed the heavy wooden door behind them. Jack walked over to stand in front of the tool table. He cleared an area for himself by sweeping aside a couple of screwdrivers and a hammer. Wanting to get it over with he shucked down his jeans to his upper thighs as was the expected procedure. He then bent over the table and grabbed the opposite side.
Abe grabbed the heavy razor strop from one of the nearby shelves and waited for Jack to assume the position, as the heavy strap dangled from his hand. Once Jack was in position, Abe walked around behind him and stepped back the necessary distance so as not to create too much wrap. He drew back and delivered the first of the 100 strokes.
Jack’s eyes widened and he uttered a gasp. So Abe was taking this whipping very seriously. This was going to be quite an ordeal. Soon a second and a third stroke followed, as Abe established a steady rhythm. Jack held on as tight as possible not wanting to sacrifice his own pride by standing up or trying to avoid the lashes. The boxers he wore offered almost no protection at all of course.
Abe did feel some sympathy for Jack. Having had similar whippings growing up, he knew how much pain the boy was going through. But he was determined to teach him this one last lesson. Jack would need to learn to take it like a man.
Jack lost the count after twenty-seven, the pain having reached a level that put him into another head space. He would just have to focus on getting through it, riding it. He was never certain, anyway, if counting really helped. Some of his friends had said it did. Others had scoffed at the idea. As the whipping continued on relentlessly, Jack was determined that no sound louder than a grunt would escape his lips. But tears began to roll down his cheeks.
Abe, thinking in practical terms, realized this punishment was going to make it very difficult for Jack on his bus ride. With that fact in mind, he felt assured that the punishment would not soon be forgotten, and began putting less than full force behind the heavy blows of the strap. The last thirty strokes would be mostly to keep the pain going and not to deepen the bruises that were certainly covering Jack’s bottom.
“Abe, what are you doing?” Kathy, Abe’s wife, had heard the lashes falling as she passed by outside the barn.
“I’m teaching him a lesson,” Abe answered.
“I can see that, Abe. What I meant was why? What’s he done?”
Abe hadn’t told Kathy that the boy she loved like a son was soon going away for an indefinite period of time. He tried to think of a way to tell her.
Jack said, “Ma, just let him finish!”, his voice filled with emotion.
Kathy shook her head and said, “Okay finish it then.”
She watched as her husband strapped Jack another twenty-five times. While Jack had been glad to have the break, it was also hard to start taking the heavy lashing again. But finally he knew he gotten through it. He stood up, quickly pulling up his pants and wiped his cheeks. He looked over at Abe and Kathy standing there – one knowing but not being able to say anything, and the other intensely aware that something big was transpiring but not knowing the details yet.
Jack walked over to Abe and hugged him tightly around the neck. With his left hand he reached towards Kathy and pulled her to them to join the embrace. The three of them staid there in the moment, tears beginning to role down all their faces.