Car Trouble

“Fuck, fuck, fuck!” Taylor swore under his breath. He’d just looked up and seen the police car in his rear view mirror. It had appeared out of nowhere and was flashing its lights signaling him to pull over. “Shit!”

“What?” Zac whispered, confused by his brother’s sudden burst of expletives. Both boys were speaking in hushed tones in an effort not to disturb their sleeping mother in the back seat. Tay just jerked his head backwards, motioning for Zac to look for himself, as he pulled off the road and turned the car off.

“Get out the registration,” he mouthed to Zac, pointing to the glove compartment, then turning around to check that his mother was still asleep. With a dejected sigh he pulled out his wallet to get his driver’s license. As soon as the cop got to the window Tay quickly handed him the two documents, hoping no words would be necessary that might wake his mother. The cop just nodded, grunted “be right back,” then returned to his patrol car to check them out. “Oh god,” Tay moaned under his breath. “I’m a dead man.” Zac could only wince and nod sympathetically.

Diana felt herself slowly floating back to the surface of consciousness, the sudden stillness in the car alerting the deeper recesses of her brain. She was exhausted as she’d been up all night with a sick baby. Ike, Tay and Zac had planned a trip to Oklahoma City for the day to shop at a special musical instrument store there but Ike had woken up with the same crud as his baby sister and therefore couldn’t double as chaperone on the long drive. Neither parent would allow Tay and Zac to go alone as Taylor was not even quite 17 yet, and Zac was only 14, so Walker had suggested Diana go along instead. She needed a break from the younger kids anyway. Basically the day had gone well so far, although earlier Taylor had had to be scolded twice for driving a little too fast and carelessly. The three had lunched and shopped and now were almost home again. Almost.

Tay tightened every muscle in his body as the officer re-approached his window. “Son,” the officer said. “Do you know how fast you were going?” Tay frowned, looking up nervously, afraid to meet the officer’s eyes. He knew, but he sure didn’t want to say. When he didn’t respond the cop said, “Eighty-eight miles an hour! Eighty-eight!” Tay cringed. Why did he have to speak so loudly? “Do you know what the speed limit is here?” the policeman asked pointedly. Tay just looked at him with desperation in his eyes. Please, keep it down, he begged silently. “Sixty-five miles per hour! Sixty-five!” the cop barked. “That means you were going twenty-three miles an hour over the speed limit. Twenty-three!” Why is he repeating everything like that, Tay groaned inside? I heard it the first time. Loud and clear. Too loud and clear in fact. There was a shuffling of clothes and a murmuring from the back seat. Diana had also heard everything the officer had just said but all through a sleep fog so she was still too groggy to fully comprehend it yet.

“And it turns out,” the cop raised his eyebrows for emphasis, “this isn’t the first time you’ve been stopped for speeding, is it? Not the first time at all.” He shook his head disapprovingly. “This is the third time in less than a year. Third!”

“What!” Diana suddenly cried from the backseat, sitting bolt upright, shocked into wakefulness. “What? Did he just say you’ve been stopped three times for speeding in one year?” Tay’s whole body contracted into a tight coil as an explosion of adrenaline flushed every organ in his body. His heart started pounding, his stomach somersaulting, and his skin got all prickly and clammy.

“Oh, hello there,” the cop said, surprised to find another person in the backseat. “Are you this young man’s mother?”

“Yes, I am,” she said. “Diana Hanson. Did I just hear you say he was going 88 in a 65 mile per hour zone?” The tone in her voice made Taylor want to crawl in a hole and never, ever come out.

“I’m afraid that’s exactly the case, ma’am. And, as I said, this is not the first time either; it’s actually his third offense in less than a year. That’s gonna cost a pretty penny and a few points on his license as well. This boy apparently has a little problem with abiding by our local laws. And, if you don’t mind me saying, if he were my kid I’d not only make him pay out of his own allowance, but I’d take his license away for a good long time, and I’d take a layer off his hide with my belt as well.” Taylor groaned. This all had a sickening feeling of déjà vu.

“Oh, don’t you worry officer, he’ll pay all right,” Diana replied, her voice tight with restraint. “In more ways than one. There’s no doubt about that.” Taylor slid down in his seat, dropping his head back in defeat. He was a dead man for sure. He had only just gotten his driving privileges back last week. His father had taken them away for a month when a neighbor had reported him for reckless driving on their street – twice. The guy was a pain-in-the-neck busybody who was always out to get the boys because he hated their “nosey” fans always coming by and parking in front of his house. But although Walker understood this, when Taylor had irked the man the second time by purposely speeding up and swerving back and forth when he saw him watching him, Walker had felt he had to do something. Yes, this was definitely going to cost him.

“Officer,” Diana said, “When you get back to your car you might want to hang around for a few minutes. I think you’ll be interested to see what’s about to happen.” Taylor froze. He looked at Zac in a panic, his eyes as wide as saucers. Zac just grimaced, then shrugged his shoulders weakly. There was nothing he could do to help. Tay was sunk. They both knew it. The officer seemed genuinely impressed by this piece of information, however. He gave Taylor a smug, knowing nod, handed him the ticket, and then left. Taylor stared down at his trembling, sweaty hands as he waited for his world to come crashing down.

“Get out of the car, please,” Diana said in an entirely too controlled voice. “Then come around to my side.” There was no arguing with this order but Tay had no idea how he’d find the strength to follow it either. Slowly, his legs and arms feeling like they were filled with lead, he opened the door and did as he was told. In the meantime Diana dug in her handbag for her hairbrush and then got out on the rear passenger side.

When Taylor reached her she gave him a tongue lashing that stung like alcohol in a cut. “I am stunned. And disgusted. I can’t believe this. This is completely unacceptable and you know it,” she scolded harshly. “Three times? You’ve been caught three times in a year? This is not only illegal but highly dangerous. You had our lives in your hands and this is how you treat us? You promised us! And you only just got your license back from your last offense. Wait ‘til your father hears about this. What do you have to say for yourself, mister? Huh? I would like to hear how you explain this to me. Let’s hear it.”

Taylor was shaking so hard he was surprised he could still see clearly. And there was no way he could answer her that would be even close to satisfactory. It was a set-up for failure and he knew it. He also knew he had to say something. But what? The cars whizzing by were setting his nerves on overdrive. His head hanging like a worn rag doll’s, he mumbled the only thing he could think of, “I don’t know.” Oh man, he groaned silently, that sounded totally pathetic. He had no idea what to do with his hands either; they seemed to have a life of their own, dancing from his hips to his pockets to each other, where they fumbled and fiddled nervously as he shifted from foot to foot.

“Not good enough!” Diana stated emphatically, making Tay shudder. “Not even close, young man. There is no excuse for this. None at all. And you know it. Well, you are going to be one very sorry boy, let me tell you. Take your pants down.”

Taylor looked up in shock. They were outside for god’s sake. There were cars driving by. That damn cop was watching. “Please Momma,” he whimpered, his voice cracking with panic. “Please, you can’t mean that.” He’d known he was going to get a very public spanking because she’d been waving her hairbrush at him the whole time, but he really didn’t think she’d spank him bare.

“I mean exactly that. Now pull your pants down, then bend over the hood of the car.” Taylor stood motionless, stalling for as long as possible just in case she might change her mind. Silly boy. She never changed her mind once she’d made her edict. Never. “I’m waiting,” she said, none too patiently.

In a trance Taylor slowly raised his fingers to his waistband, desperately hoping she’d stop him and say she’d made a mistake. She didn’t. He undid the snap, paused, nothing. Pulled the zipper down, paused, still nothing. A car sped by making his heart race furiously. He slipped his thumbs inside the top of his pants, and in slow, slow motion, slid them down in the back, as discreetly as possible. Still nothing. He turned then and bent over as he lowered the fabric just enough to expose the part he knew his mother wanted access too. Then he quickly covered his face with his hands and pressed himself hard to the car. He couldn’t think anymore. He just contracted every fiber of his being and waited.

His mother yanked his underwear down, lifted his shirt tail up, and a second later the hairbrush exploded on his bare backside. He gasped at the pain. “OH! (spank), Momma (spank), please (spank),” he moaned. “Please (spank), oh god (spank), I can’t … (spank), I can’t … (spank), it hurts (spank), Momma (spank), please (spank), don’t … (spank), pleeeeeaase (spank). Stop!” He wasn’t crying, or even making much sound above a muffled whimper; he was just holding his head tight and gripping every muscle in his body trying to will it all to stop. To his surprise and relief, after only a dozen swats she actually did stop. A car speeding by honked its horn sending Tay’s heart into another tailspin. Oh my god, he thought, someone had actually seen what just happened. His whole body shrank at the idea. He swallowed hard wondering what he should do next.

“Pull up your pants and get in the back seat,” his mother ordered angrily. “We’ll finish this when we get home.” She knew she couldn’t give him what he really deserved out here in public like this but she had wanted to make a statement. Do something he’d never forget. Once they were in the car and driving again, she told him, “Every time you ever even consider doing anything like that in a car again, I want you to picture yourself like you just were - on the side of the road bent over the car getting your bare bottom spanked for all to see. Do you understand me? I don’t ever want to hear about you doing something like this again. Ever! Got it?”

Taylor’s cheeks burned with humiliation at the picture his mother had just painted. He couldn’t get any smaller than he was feeling at that moment but his body kept trying. He wanted nothing more than to shrink into a tiny ball and roll away. “Yes, ma’am,” he mumbled. It took all his strength to manage his tone of voice. He just wanted to scream. The rest of the drive was brutally silent. Diana was trying to get her anger back under control, Taylor was vacillating between steeping in self-pity and panicking about what he would be facing when he got home and his father found out, and Zac was just quietly trying to cope with all the tension in the car.

When they got home and walked into the kitchen, Diana immediately ordered Tay into the corner. “You wait there until I have time to talk with your father and decide what your punishment should be,” she said. Embarrassed, he slunk over to the corner she had pointed to and focused all his energy on not dissolving into tears.

Diana turned to Walker with an exasperated sigh. Her husband was more than disappointed that the day had clearly not gone well for her. He knew his wife had needed some rest and fun, not more kid trouble. “What happened, sweetie?” he asked, his voice filled with concern. Diana groaned, then took a deep breath and described the entire episode. Walker’s eyes grew wider and wider with each new piece of information. When she told him how fast Taylor had been going he cried out, “What!” just as she had done, making Taylor flinch. And by the time she told him that Taylor had also been stopped for the same thing two other times in the ten or so months since he’d gotten his license, Walker was ready to explode. She calmed him some by describing how’d she’d spanked Taylor right then and there, on the side of the road, bare-bottomed with her hairbrush, with the cop watching, not to mention anyone driving by, and had made it clear that he was to remember that experience anytime he even thought about disobeying the law again.

The two disappointed parents then moved over to the couch in the adjacent TV room, just out of ear shot, to discuss what would be the appropriate punishment for Taylor’s behavior. Taylor could only imagine what they might be planning for him. He knew it was going to be really bad. On top of today’s inexcusable conduct, there were the two previous speeding tickets to deal with, not to mention the fact that he’d only just gotten off a previous restriction for bad driving. Plus there was his broken promise. And what hadn’t even been brought up yet was the whole sorry story of his very first driving incident from a year and a half ago, where he’d been picked up for speeding, then discovered to be underage and driving without a license as well, not to mention being out in his father’s “borrowed” car when he was grounded and supposed to be confined to home doing chores and homework! Needless to say, that had been an awful episode. The cop hadn’t just watched that time; he’d taken a paddle to Taylor’s backside himself, at Walker’s request. And then Tay had had to deal with his father as well. That was the very first time he’d ever gotten spanked with a belt. Tay shuddered at the memory.

He stood in the corner moping and sulking and worrying for a very long time. Usually he didn’t find himself in this humiliating position until after the spanking, so standing there dreading what was still to come was rather unusual. And he hated it. Corner time was bad enough, but now, having it be associated with these feelings of anticipatory anxiety was giving it all sorts of new connotations he didn’t need to have attached to it. And there was entirely too much opportunity to dredge up the most creatively awful possible punishment scenarios as well. Worst of all, however, was the fact that his sibs kept coming and going. Knowing they were seeing him standing there in all his shame was making his skin crawl.

After awhile his parents got up and started preparing dinner as if nothing had happened. Walker had had most of it ready already so it didn’t take long – just long enough for Taylor to realize with a jolt what a part of his sentence was going to include. His parents had decided to wait until everyone was gathered for dinner to dole out his punishment. It was going to be one of those horrible family events where he was made an example of - for all the wrong reasons.

“Taylor, please set the table,” his mother suddenly said, making him jump. He was confused by her request but turned and did as she asked, unable to meet her eyes for even a second. His father went to collect the rest of the family and when they’d all arrived, minus the baby who was still sick in bed, he cleared his voice and got everyone’s attention.

“As most of you have guessed by now, Taylor is in serious trouble.” Taylor’s cheeks burned hot and red as he stood there trembling, seven pairs of eyes drilling him with their questioning, disappointed stares. “He was picked up for speeding today, and not just for going a little bit over the limit either, but for going more than twenty miles an hour over it!” He paused for effect. Most of the kids either gasped or gave each other stunned looks. Zac just kept his eyes down. He felt so badly for Tay. He’d kind of enjoyed the rush of going that fast himself. “This is not only totally illegal and unacceptable, as you all well know,” Walker continued, “but extremely dangerous as well. He put his own life at risk, not to mention his brother’s and mother’s and all the other drivers on the road too! He also broke his word – he took a family oath when he first got his license, as you all will, promising us that he would obey the laws.” He gave Taylor a look that burned like a laser straight though him. Tay dropped his eyes and stared at the floor wishing with all his might that he could just disappear in a pouf of smoke. “And, apparently, when the policeman checked his record he discovered that Taylor has also been ticketed two other times for the same offense in less than a year.” There was a collective shocked muttering making Taylor’s blood pound deafeningly in his head. “Three speeding tickets in ten months! Nine months really since last month doesn’t even actually count as he was grounded from driving that whole time!” Walker’s voice rose for emphasis on that last phrase and Taylor cringed at the double implication in this – so few months for so many offenses, plus having just been punished for something so similar. It never ceased to amaze him how, in the hands of his parents, one offense could multiply into so many others in so little time. This spanking was going to be a killer. “Taylor, is there anything you have to say for yourself?”

Every inch of his skin tingled. He shuffled uncomfortably, not at all sure how to answer that. He shook his head sadly. “No sir,” he mumbled. “I’m sorry, that’s all, … I guess.” It was totally inadequate but the best he could manage at the moment. It would have to do.

“I bet you are, mister. I just bet you are. Well, you are about to be much sorrier. Now, get the paddle and then take your pants down.” Taylor flinched. Here it was finally, and for some stupid reason he was completely unprepared for the order. He wanted to beg his father not to do this, and in his mind he was, but outwardly he did as he was told. He went to the counter, got the paddle from the kitchen canister, and then slowly re-played the embarrassing scene on the side of the highway earlier - a stop-action strip hoping any second his father would put an end to his torture. I wasn’t to be then, and it wasn’t to be now either.

His father pulled a kitchen chair out to the center of the room, removed his belt and took his seat. Then he let out an exhausted, discouraged sigh. The sound of that sigh broke Taylor’s heart. In that one simple moment, it all became clear to him. Up till now he’d been feeling nothing more than put upon and just plain unlucky for having been caught. Suddenly, like a punch in the gut, he was struck by how wrong he’d been. So wrong. On so many levels. And so selfish. He hadn’t considered all the ramifications of his actions for one second. That his mother had just been hoping for a nice day after a stressful night and he’d ruined that for her - all for a few moments of speed-fueled power. That he’d taken her life in his hands and put it at risk – Zac’s too. Other drivers as well. That he’d broken the law, but more importantly, his promise; he’d sworn an oath to his parents that he would drive safely and he’d proven time and time again that his word meant nothing. That his parents were overwhelmingly disappointed in him; they trusted him, expected him to behave, assumed he would do the right thing and he had totally taken advantage of that instead and let them down. And lastly, that they really and truly hated having to spank their children and Taylor had forced their hand once again.

He wanted to cry but he didn’t feel he deserved the right. In fact, he made a pact with himself right then that he wouldn’t feel sorry for himself, wouldn’t play the pity card, nor would he fight his father at all. He’d take the spanking, no matter how awful it was going to be – and he’d known it was going to be really bad as soon as he’d seen his father remove his belt – and he would show his father that he knew he deserved it. And afterwards he would apologize to everyone for what he’d done. All of it.

He took a deep breath, lifted his face and looked his father directly in the eyes trying to convey all this with one glance. Walker stared back at him with a confused expression for a moment, then took his arm, pulled him over his knee and slid his boxers down off his backside. In that few seconds Taylor recommitted himself powerfully to his intention. He would take his punishment without resistance or pleading.

Then the first spank landed and he cried out at the pain. Immediately he clamped his jaw tight shut and clenched his whole body, willing it to obey his order. His father blistered his bare bottom hard, first with his hand, then with the paddle, and finally with the belt. Taylor groaned and gasped and squirmed and struggled, but he didn’t beg or try to stop him. It took a strength of will Taylor wasn’t sure he had. It hurt so badly. He knew he could handle the hand-spanking without losing it totally, but when the first smack of the paddle landed he had to steel himself like never before. The paddle seared his backside over and over. Taylor just sucked his breath in hard and held it with all his might, his hands gripping the chair rung in a stranglehold. His father took a brief pause when he finished with the paddle and Taylor panted frantically, trying to replenish his determination as quickly as possible before the belt landed. The first lash of the belt was like a lightening strike though, his bottom was so red and raw by that point. Still, he held strong and refused to succumb. He was crying silently, tears pouring off his face, but nothing more – at least on the outside. Inside he was screaming.

Finally it was over. The silence that followed had an odd feeling in it. Everyone was confused by the way Taylor had handled that. Was he being repentant or simply defiant? Walker was pretty sure he knew and it had taken all his resolve to complete the punishment as planned once he’d realized it. Taylor had disobeyed on so many levels that Diana and he had decided he deserved at least three spankings to pay for all his misbehavior. And up until right before he’d turned his naughty son over his knee he knew Taylor was still only feeling resentful and wronged. But when he’d looked in Taylor’s eyes in that final second before he’d pulled him down he’d seen a change of heart. The look on Taylor’s face had revealed a newfound understanding – a sudden cathartic shift of belief. True remorse.

Exhausted, Walker let Taylor lay over his knees for a few moments as they both tried to get their emotions and breathing back under control. Slowly Taylor roused himself, sliding off his father’s lap and pulling his pants up as he came to standing. He hissed painfully as his clothes rubbed over his raw backside. Trembling, he put both hands over his face for a second, then he gave his head a sharp shake as if telling himself ‘no’, wiped his eyes, sniffed hard and took in a deep, quaky breath. He was not going to let himself wallow any more.

“I …, I … am so sorry,” he started slowly, still unable to raise his gaze, his breath hitching with barely contained emotion. “I totally deserved that, I know it. I … I …didn’t think.” He turned to his mom then. “I … can’t believe I did that to you,” he whimpered. “You were so tired. I knew that. And instead of giving you the break you needed, I did something really stupid and careless and wrong - and made you so mad you spanked me with the hairbrush, bare, outside, on the side of the road, in front of everyone – the cop, the people driving by.” There was another collective shocked gasp. That was the first most of them had heard about that and they were stunned their mother would go to such extremes. Taylor had felt he needed to confess it though, to punish himself further and to make amends with his mother. “I … I … don’t know what to say. I’m just so … sorry.” He paused, trying with all his might to keep himself under control. He turned back to his father. “I don’t know what I’ve been thinking really. Nothing, I guess. Except for trying to get away with whatever I felt like no matter who I hurt. Or what laws I broke. Or anything.” He stopped as the tears welled up again. He stomped his foot to shake off the self-pity and continued. “And maybe worst of all was that I took a solemn vow. I promised you all that I wouldn’t do any of those things and then never once looked back. I broke my word so many times I’m … I’m … ashamed of myself, from the bottom of my heart. I was so selfish. I’m … ashamed.”

The word echoed around the silent room, vibrating off the walls and setting Tay’s heart to throbbing. He stood there, eyes glued to the floor, feeling about as low as he could ever remember feeling. No one said anything for an interminable amount of time. He figured he deserved that too and just stood there waiting, not allowing himself to feel sorry for himself, but instead forcing himself to experience every painful, unpleasant sensation that was flooding his body to its fullest effect as more punishment. Eventually, when he couldn’t take it anymore, he looked up hopefully. His father looked worn out and Tay felt tears of shame rise up and burn his eyes. His throat hurt from being held so tightly for so long.

“Daddy?” he choked out. “Will you ever forgive me?” The tears spilled over then and he put his face in his hands and succumbed to the bursting dam of emotion. He was spent. There was an awful pause during which he felt sure the answer must be ‘no,’ then he felt his father’s arms wrap around him and he collapsed into them with gratitude and relief. Nothing had ever felt so good, so welcome, so desperately needed before. He was unbelievably thankful.

His father held him tight, rocking him gently. He knew that Taylor punished himself worse than he or Diana ever would, and part of him was glad about that as he knew Taylor would be his own best moral guide eventually, but part of him was sad for his son, whose sense of guilt was so overpowering sometimes. Taylor sobbed quietly for a few minutes, buried in his father’s warm, strong, protective chest, then he shook himself again, wiped his face and forced himself to stop. Enough already, he scolded silently. He pulled back and looked up at his father expectantly. He knew it wasn’t over yet. There was more to come.

Walker was proud of how Taylor was taking all this. He nodded, sensing Taylor’s question, and said, “You’re mother and I have decided that your driving privileges are suspended for the next three months.” Everyone gasped at this. Taylor winced, then nodded. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected but he’d figured it would be something like that. Still, it stung. That was going to be really hard. Three months was a long time. It meant being really very restricted in his freedom because unless he could convince someone to drive him where he wanted to go, he wouldn’t be able to get there. Clearly his folks were hardly going to be very accommodating about that, and he could only ask Ike for so much. He was going to feel this punishment for a very long time.

“And you are to write a letter to the officer who stopped you today, telling him how you were punished and what you have learned,” Walker continued. “And when your grounding is over you are going to re-take the family oath – and honor it this time! And if we find out that you have been stopped even one more time you won’t drive again until you’re eighteen! Do you understand?” Taylor swallowed hard, trying desperately to control his pounding heart. He sucked it up though. He knew he deserved it and he wouldn’t try to pretend otherwise to make his folks feel badly.

“Yes sir. I understand,” he said.

Afterword:

Dear Officer James,

I am writing to thank you for stopping me the other day. It was just what I needed; a real wake-up call. I’m also writing to tell you that I was punished very hard for it. And I deserved everything I got. I don’t deny it. I have learned a great deal from it all and I will not be doing anything like that ever again. I promise you that.

In addition to the speeding ticket you gave me and the two others you know about, there were a couple other offenses taken into consideration by my parents. I had only just gotten off of a month’s driving restriction the previous week for having done something reckless in the car twice before, so that was an issue. Plus, in our family when we get our license we are asked to take an oath that we will drive safely and obey the laws and I had clearly broken that many, many times.

I know you saw the spanking my mother gave me but, believe me, that was only a small taste of what was to come. When I got home I was put in the corner for a good long time to think about my behavior. Then, in front of my whole family, I was spanked again – three times. My father made me take my pants down, then he put me over his knee, pulled my underwear down and spanked me really long and hard - first with his hand, then with a paddle, and lastly, with his belt. I know I will be feeling that for quite awhile. Then they took away my driving privileges for three months, and told me I’d have to re-take the oath again to be able to get them back. And if I got stopped one more time after that I wouldn’t be able to drive again until I was 18. They also said I had to write this letter to you. My dad found out that the police station here has a really strong film about what happens when you drive recklessly, and he’s going to take me down there to watch it too.

I just wanted you to know that I didn’t get off lightly, nor do I take any of this lightly. Before my father even spanked me I had already come to realize just how serious it all was. And how wrong I’d been. You said I should have to pay for the ticket out of my allowance and I did, but that’s not much punishment for me as I have plenty of money. Taking away my license will hurt for a long time though. And the spankings were awful. My dad definitely “took a layer off my hide.” But worst of all was knowing that I’d broken my promise, and that I’d risked so many people’s lives in the process. I am very sorry.

Yours,
Jordan