I can’t quite tell you what I was thinking. All I know is that it began with a tube of Crest … and ended with the worst whupping of my life.
For some reason, I thought it’d be a good idea to play Picasso with toothpaste and use a bathroom wall as my canvass. Let’s call it childhood boredom. Maybe I should have read a book, gone back to playing Super Nintendo or anything else besides plastering the plaster with plaque-fighting paste.
The one thing I didn’t do? I didn’t remove my work from the wall before my mom got home. Bad idea, I know. She walked in and made an unfortunate beeline for the bathroom. She caught a glimpse of my personal Sistine Chapel and didn’t think much of it. She did, though, believe it was my brother’s handy work, though. See, I was certified as a Goodie Two-Shoes. Ryan will tell you himself that he could have passed as Dennis The Menace’s black clone.
Mom assumed he was the wannabe Michelangelo of Crest, not I. I probably wouldn’t have gotten in much trouble, but she looked steamed. Thus, I didn’t speak up. Ryan didn’t snitch. So she blamed him, although he denied it with conviction, which meant he was snitching. Mom didn’t believe him. She became so infuriated with his lying that she pulled out “The Belt,” — you know, the thick brown leather strap that often woke you up from your nightmares — and proceeded to blast his backside.
I … sat by idle … wincing with each stroke. I can’t remember how many licks she put on him. I just knew that her stroke of anger petrified me. Still, my thoughts were clear and somewhat rational: Let her finish and calm down. Then, I’d tell her the truth (y’all know I have a conscience *smh*).
When I did, I got a whupping, too. But nothing like Ryan’s. I apologized, but it meant little to him. My slow-to-come confession caused him pain and tears.
And see, Ryan knew about vengeance. Not only did he know about it, he was ghostriding the whip revenge bandwagon — without license or proper instruction — by age 5.
A few weeks later, we had a scheduled weekend with our father AND newly minted stepmother. With them, we often spent Sunday afternoons at Klamm Park watching my father play softball. We’d hang with the other kids or sit in the stands with our stepmom. We did the latter on this day.
At some point, Ryan’s 20/20 vision eyed one of my dad’s ex-girlfriends. His loose lips pointed the ex out to my stepmom in some egregious manner. To this day, I do not know what Ryan said. He doesn’t remember, either. I do know that whatever he said so enraged my stepmom that she told our father between innings, but failed to point out who said what, a major no-no for my hind side.
After the game, my father warned us of what was to come. One of his teammates asked him what his evening looked like. His answer? “I’m going to whup some ass,” declared my father, a man who hadn’t laid a hand on any of his children before.
He said he was going to satisfy our stepmom’s unrelenting rage get down to the bottom of the dilemma and figure out who said what. Ryan, knowing what he had done, said nothing. When we got home, my father’s words were few.
“Who did it,” he asked?
I said “not me.” My conniving little brother refused to confess, and repeated after me. Dad upped the ante.
“Pull down your pants … underwear, too,” he said. “I’m going to get this belt and we’re going to go stroke by stroke until I get an answer,” he said.
He returned, soon-to-be legendary strap in tow. Dad’s brown bomber made mom’s look like a shoelace. He again asked: “Who did it?” and I replied “not me.” … Stroke. I think I started crying at the same moment the leather hit my skin. His crushing, precise stroke made mom’s feel like a lovetap from your schoolyard crush.
Same question to Ryan. He denied, yet again. Stroke. … Then, with no query and answer, there was a third stroke. (My stepbrother Nick was getting a “just cause” whupping for his Dry Cleaners’ list of transgressions. Some of y’all know about them.)
This “Q&A/just cause” whupping went on for 10 good strokes before Ryan caved. Dad gave me a half-hearted apology, told me to go upstairs and he commenced to blasting my brothers for another 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, I started the lengthy healing process. I won’t even go so far as to explain the battle wounds. Let’s just say that he’d have done Joe Jackson proud that day. When Ryan came upstairs and all of our tears dried, I asked him why he left me hanging?
His response: “Remember the toothpaste.”
I’m not even sure he knew what the Alamo was.
Neither of our parents remember the story or either whupping. But we both get a great laugh out of the story at least once a year. This isn’t where our dislike of each other began, but it’s one of its unmistakable peaks. The lesson learned: Toothpaste isn’t paint. Confession is good for the soul your backside, especially before the parental units lose their cool.
This story sets up tomorrow’s letter. So TMCY faithful, what’s your worst whupping or punishment? What did you do to deserve it?