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Of Dads, Sons And Razor Strops:
Moving to a small town, Mountain Grove, seemed a great idea at the time. Not one, but two horrible (and childless) marriages had ruined big city life for me. Fortunately, my regional manager had a nice quiet loan officer position with the local savings and loan branch.
And it wasn't that I was in a hurry to rush into a third marriage, but time stops for no man and neither was I the most patient man in the world. About five months into it though, I thought I had made a mistake and needed to make a quiet exit back to big city living when Claire Hodges showed up.
Claire had just moved to our small town as well and was snatched up by my branch manager for a vacant teller position at a front window. My prior two failures with the ladies had involved fellow employees, so I did not at all fancy that this beautiful lady should even be approached.
About two weeks later, I was browsing the many fertile nooks and crannies of my favorite Mountain Grove antique store, Carl's. It was not the town's only antique store but certainly the largest and often full of surprises on account that Carl's was run by the now deceased original owner's granddaughter, Helen.
Helen was an avid collector and always bringing in new items and would have them out for display every other Tuesday. Well, today was one of those Tuesdays and I hurriedly left work at 3 PM and sauntered down to the middle of Main Street, opened the door and Helen beamed at me,
"New eye-candy Mr. Price, towards the back," she pointed with a bright and knowing grin on her face.
"Thank you Helen!" I said excitedly and then noticed that Claire Hodges was in the store already. It was her day off of work from our S & L, but I had never noticed her in the store before. I even took a notion to approach her,
"Claire, fancy meeting you here, antique buff are you?" I smiled as she looked up,
"Oh, hello Harold, well, I'm not all that fond of antiques, I think I'm just wrapped up too much in the present, but Jack certainly is."
"Jack? Your husband perchance?" I said and thought aloud.
"Oh heavens no, Jack is my son from my second marriage. He's like a wisened little old man wrapped up in a boy's sixteen year old body and just loves antiques!" she said with a twinkle in her eye.
"Oh really!" I said acting bemused, but inside of myself thought Jack a very different sort of boy to like antiques at his age; then again Claire seemed exceptionally fond of her boy for doing something with him that she did not particularly care about.
"Well, if you'll excuse me Claire, there are treasures on the horizon!" I gleefully explained and proceeded to the back of the store and kind of forgot about her son's possible presence as my eye slowly scanned the new furniture pieces. I happily happened upon a particularly ornate settee as well as a tiffany lamp that both might look very good in my small home's spare bedroom.
Then I did see what must be Jack as there were no others shoppers in the store at the time. The handsome young man was leaning his elbows on an old display case's glass top obviously admiring something down inside.
I walked up in back of him and could see what he was staring at in the case, a very handsome (and rare) matched set of three old dark brown barbershop razor strops.
"Helen is always finding new and fun pieces, isn't she?" I commented and he jumped straight up, looking as if I had caught him stealing the items instead of merely looking at them.
"Oh sorry! I didn't mean to startle you … but you must be Jack, Claire's son?" I asked, a tiny bit embarrassed myself as the boy's face had grown crimson and sheepish.
"Um … oh yes! … um yea, I'm Jack Hodges … um …"
I looked away from him just then as he had self-consciously shoved his hands into his front pants pockets, hips twisted and feet shuffling a little. By the looks of it, Jack was a bit distracted by something in his trousers front. I had obviously interrupted a rather private moment between himself and the display case.
"You … you must work with my Mom? Are you Mr. Price?" he asked me instead of completely shying away.
I was impressed if not a bit shocked. Had Claire told Jack about me and if so, why?
"Yes, I am in fact …" and felt a bit distracted by all the thoughts racing through my head just then shifting my attention back to the strops and then to Jack,
"… I'm Harold Price, Jack," and extended my hand to him. He reached out a bit awkwardly and shook my hand; a barely firm effort, however.
"Nice to meet," Jack said still seeming a bit uncomfortable.
"Well, you don't often see a beautifully kept set of razor strops like that anymore Jack, I'll leave you to it!"
But before either of us could say more, Claire happened along,
"Well, I see you've met my young man, we need to get going Jack," she said.
Jack looked at his mom, "Sure Mom, nice to meet you Mr. Price."
"Yes, Jack, same here," I replied and I watched mother and son disappear before I turned my attention back to the strops.
* * * * * * * * * *
Forgetting the present, my mind drew back to when I was sixteen, me making a lot of mistakes in my young life from too much adolescent pride and willfulness. Had it not been for Dad's razor strop blistering my needful backside, I might not be as well off and content as I thought I was in life, my marital status not withstanding. I left the strops and the store wondering a bit more about Claire that day.
When I returned to the shop two weeks later, I saw that the strops were now gone from the display case. Whether shifted around in Helen's inventory or purchased I had no idea, I didn't bother asking her. I did briefly wish that I had purchased the strops as keep-sakes of an era gone by, but soon found something else that caught my eye and forgot about them.
About one month later, Claire had to leave work rather abruptly one late morning and when she returned, she seemed rather distraught. I admit that I had done a lot of thinking about her in the past month and though I had not formally approached her yet, I immediately went to her to ask her what was wrong.
It was Jack. He had been in trouble at school or troubled by school depending on one's point of view.
"Claire, come on, let's go down to the café, you obviously need to talk."
Another teller offered to take her place so that Claire took me up on my offer and we walked together down to the small coffee shop nearby. She opened up to me about Jack, told me some things about her beloved son that added clarity to the situation and helped me to understand what he was going through and she with him.
Well, one thing led to another over the following months and I got to know Claire quite well and she me. More and more time was being spent between she and I both outside of our homes and then in them including some comfortable intimacies.
Jack was another thing all together. He remained cool and distant, offers to talk to him refused, no surprise there.
What did surprise me was one early evening Jack caught me in a rare alone moment in his house as Claire was sequestered in her bedroom getting ready to go out on yet another date with me. He poked his head around the corner of the living room,
"Are you going to marry my Mom? Are you going to be my step-dad?" he said not a little defensively.
I was sitting at the time and bolted up to standing, both questions incisive if not a little shocking. Claire and I had both given his questions some thought, however,
"Would you be OK with all of that?" I asked, truly wanting to know.
"What difference would it make if I said no? Mom deserves to be happy. She seems to be happy with you. What difference does it make what I want?" some pent-up fear and hurt easily decipherable.
"What do you want Jack? You mother loves you so very much, she and I have talked about you a great deal and …"
"I knew it! I told her not to say anything about me! " and he stomped off just as Claire came into the room dressed to the nines for our date,
"What was that all about Harold? Was Jack OK?"
I sighed, "Jack seems quite upset about the thought of … well, you know … what we've been talking about. He thinks we're going to get married, apparently without his blessing," regretting revealing that last part.
Claire's face drew into a mild scowl,
"That boy!! First it's 'marry him mom! He seems great!' and then it's 'Maybe you should keep looking!' … he's driving me insane Harold!"
I was not at all surprised that there was a bit of chaos surrounding the situation, it was ripe for it,
"Give him time Claire, he's been through a lot," I tried to defend Jack.
"He's controlling us Harold, controlling me. I understand his problems, we both do, but enough is enough!" and strode purposely back towards Jack's room. I rushed after her,
"Claire, don't!" I urged her and she barely knocked on Jack's door before opening it and lit into him with both barrels,
"I have had enough Jack Hodges! Now you are just being rude to Harold and I will NOT allow ANY more of that! It will stop RIGHT now young man! If Harold and I are going to be married, and I am SURE that we ARE, then YOU are going to behave and get used to it or suffer! DO you understand me Jack?!"
The boy seemed taken aback. I both winced on Jack's behalf but was also quite captivated by the "I am sure that we are" part as well.
"All I asked Mom is if he was going to marry you, Mom, that's all," his innocence an obviously desperate attempt to stave off something worse than just a lecture.
Claire stared at me then, "Well, is that all he said Harold? I thought you said he was upset?!" she glared a bit at me.
Cathh-22, I had a choice to make! I blew out my cheeks and looked at Claire and then at Jack and then back to Claire feeling a bit helpless and rushed out my response,
"Um … yes dear, perhaps I was mistaken, no harm done, hey? So why don't we just go to dinner, I'm starved, aren't you?" I said feeling lame; but when my eye caught Jack's he looked a little surprised and a lot relieved that I had not ratted him out. The moment actually felt good to me as long as Claire bought it well enough.
Claire sighed, "I have my eye on BOTH of you now, so beware! … Come on Harold, let's go," and then glared at her son, "Don't think I don't know what you're up to young man!"
* * * * * * * * * *
Well, wedding bells did indeed ring, Jack seemingly OK with my presence, at least at first. We were a family of three now, all problems solved, right? Well, not exactly.
As time passed, Jack still seemed to struggle with issues, both with himself and at school, but also concerning me, behind Claire's back that is. She vowed that we two would get along or she would have both of our necks; but it wasn't as if we were fighting or harboring open animosity either.
Most of it was just Jack's need to protect his tender feelings about himself. That he still could not open up to me, I could well understand.
But … the day finally arrived when things came to a more useful head …
Jack had come home from school about the time I came home from work at the bank. Claire was away for the day visiting her sister. Jack shoved a pink slip of paper in my hand,
"There! Happy … Harold!?" he sarcastically chirped at me. Something was afoot and not the first name calling either.
Yes, I had insisted that Jack call me what ever he chose. Claire thought it not a good idea, that Jack should be calling me "Dad," but allowed that it was "none of her business." Naturally, Jack and I both knew that was female code for "do what I think, not what I say."
As for behavior, Claire had intercepted a few phone calls from Jack's school as of late about Jack's behavior and none of it to do with Jack's prior problems at school. These seemed more normal arguments he had with a very few teachers, we thought disagreements with teachers about history facts for papers or a simple grade here and there.
No, this was very different now as the new complaint read,
"Outrageous verbal abuse of Mrs. Marks in social studies. Please address."
Recall, I had no such experience with child rearing from a parent's point of view, only my own somewhat strict upbringing. I had seldom spoken a single cross word at a schoolteacher and the most Claire could cop to was flirting with her high school math teacher for an entire semester, not a real defined offense really.
I looked at the paper and then at my step-son, "Jack, what did you say to her?"
"I called her a fucking moron!" he smirked in a most strange and delighted way seeming to dare my reaction!
"A what?!" I stared incredulously at him forgetting to further probe, I was so taken aback,
"You can't do that Jack! And please stop smiling, it's not funny!" I said, finding it hard to not be really angry with the boy.
"Yea, so I'm told Harold and I think it's fucking hilarious," he added, but in a way that seemed more a bitter frustration than even rebellious. Nonetheless there are lines that one does not cross. I put on my game face,
"Stop calling me Harold, Jack! I think you had at best call me 'sir' if not 'Dad' and you are completely out of line mister!" I replied, hands on hips and somewhat regretting having tried too hard to become Jack's friend rather than a parent up till then.
Jack froze, forehead furrowed and pondered my response a moment before saying,
"You're not my real dad, you're just my step-dad," and as soon as he said the self-deflating words, I watched his face fall, and not a little.
If he expected me to feel hurt or put off by his words, I was not. In fact, I felt for him. He had deserved better in my book, but I could not let his piteous look deter me,
"Fine! Now back to the subject of Mrs. Marks! I cannot let you get away with this verbal abuse thing. Did you apologize?"
"Yes, I already did, so what's the big deal, anyway, it's just words!" he defiantly tried for a come-back.
Finally a chord was struck with me. I once had given my Dad the "what's the big deal anyway" over words. I don't even remember what it was about, I only remember how swiftly the old man responded, so I did as well.
"Your attitude is the big deal … SON! And words do count!" I said with some ironic relish. If he for instance did not wish to use the "dad" –word with me, then I was not going to stop calling him using the "son"-word and use do it a lot, by golly!
There was another long pause. I could see that he knew that I was right and not being a rebellious kid by nature, he began to crumble, but not before one last half-assed effort,
"Fine, so what are you going to do about it … DAD!?" he blurted I am sure with sarcastic intent; however, Jack's face changed instantly.
It softened and so did his body language. It seemed as if something very deep had just been touched or un-roofed. I needed to take advantage of anything I could get from him and be Jack's Dad,
"What every good Dad who loves his son should do, certainly what my dad did with me during my teen years … a good old fashioned spanking … with this!" I said and started to whip out the leather belt from my pants.
His eyes grew large and he stood, "Mom wouldn't … " and then he stopped.
"She wouldn't what?" I challenged, both of us knowing full well that Claire would indeed approve of corporal punishment for Jack.
Jack visibly gulped, back-peddled and with his hands flying back to protect his rear just as I would have done in my day, blurted,
"Are you serious? I'm sixteen! I'm too old for a spanking!"
I nodded now feeling stronger and enabled,
"Sixteen! Good God Jack. I was eighteen the last time my father put me over his knee, so you certainly are not leaving this room without a very sore behind!"
I whipped off the belt, doubled it up and folded my arms, deciding to wait for his next words.
Jack's face softened again, I thought he had finally gone done for the count. He sheepishly looked at me,
"Are you angry with me … Dad?" he asked in a most respectful way. It pleased (and relieved me) a great deal as well as gave me a chance to give him a proper reply,
"No, Jack. I am not angry, I am just insisting that you … my son … have standards of behavior that will help you grow and be the man you want to be for yourself, that's all."
He sighed, looked quite thoughtful for a few long moments and then with a daring little smirk said and pointed to my belt,
"You gonna use that wimpy thing?
Now that was a most curious comment, bold or foolish, I was not sure but now I was curious,
"Do you have something else in mind, Jack?" I said with my own little smirk!
He nodded and I watched him go to his bedroom closet and pull out the matching dark brown antique leather razor strops that we had looked at together for those brief moments months before at Carl's Antiques. One of them had a handle attached now.
I just gawked incredulously at him as he ran his hands lovingly over their well cared for surfaces. Jack was, if nothing else, doing a good job of charming me at the moment,
"Was that handle there before?" I asked, my eyes wide, but my smile widening. So, it was Jack who had bought the strops after all.
"No, I had that put on later. Can't properly handle one of these beauties without it. I oiled them all as well, here, look!"
I did look and he showed me the cloth and small bottle of leather dressing that he had used. He was as proud of those oiled strops as any collector of any antique.
"I don't know much about leather Jack … son … but you sure did yourself proud with these."
He looked at me, even a little wistfully,
"Thanks … Dad … but they're not just for show, at least not this one. This one is yours," and he solemnly handed me the one with the finely milled wooden handle.
My eyes misted. Jack was sharing something deeply intimate with me. I carefully fisted the handle, appreciating the craftsmanship, appreciating its former owner as well.
I sighed, "Son … I wish I didn't have to use this, but I do."
"It's OK Dad … I know … I've been kind of asking for it for a while now. Time to pay up, right?"
"Pants off … shorts off … put a pillow on the end of your bed, go over it," I said calmly from memory.
"Yes Dad, is this the way you had to do it? " he asked with an appealing curiosity.
I swallowed hard, the flood of memories coming back to me, "Yes, how did you know?"
He shrugged and smiled warmly, "Just a good guess."
By the time he was in position, his head turned towards me resting on a second pillow, I saw a look of worried respect.
"This is going to hurt, a lot" I said stepping up to his side.
"I'm afraid … of disappointing you, Dad."
I was both touched and impressed by his insightful admission. I had always known that true love of any kind means risking and withstanding the discomfort of disappointment. I now knew that Jack and I would be more than just OK from now on.
"You won't son … you can't … you've already pleased me by your … honesty … you're just trying to grow up to be yourself."
He looked at me just then and I knew he was ready. So was I, but I asked him one more thing,
"So Jack, why did you call Mrs. Marks what you did?"
"Does it really matter?" he replied with a small shrug. Actually, it did not. There could be no really good excuse for that kind of language to a teacher so I did not press the point.
It took me about six strokes of that old beautiful antique strop across Jack's bare bottom to get into the strop's momentum. Jack tried very hard to not cry, but he did. Jack tried very hard not to yell, but he had to. My son tried not to kick, but he could not stop himself. He tried not to plea for mercy, but he was forced as all boys are,
"Please DAD!! .. DADDY!! IT HURTS TOO MUCH!" in a clear and honest voice, my own words decades ago, quite similar.
I stopped at ten hard licks as his buttocks now bore wide crimson stripes of the leather, his entreaties seemed appropriate and it was his first time.
"Am I done? Please?" he asked me in a shaky and earnest voice, his face red and tear stained.
I looked at him and remembered my own upbringing. No belt or strop whipping was complete without a good hard spanking across Dad's knee with his hand. There was room for that with Jack,
"No, get up, get your chair over here!" I sternly commanded.
He got up, "But why??" he asked, looking as if he knew why.
"You're getting a spanking, just like … just like your ol' man got when he was growing up and the leather had softened me up!"
His face furrowed into a classic disappointed frown but he got the chair and instead of complaining, simply whimpered and wiped his eyes of tears,
"OK Dad, I'm ready, please let's just get this over!"
I sat and Jack flew over my lap as quickly as he could. He squared up his throbbing red backside at the corner of my knee and I pushed that knee up just a little like my Dad had done with me and then I hand spanked my son, hard and fast!
"No! Nooo! Owwwie!! Daddy! Stop please, it hurts, OH PLEASEEE NO MOREEE!" he complained after about ten hard smacks, his hands flying back for protection and his legs starting to kick, but he did not try to escape.
I caught Jack's hands and held them to his lower back ever more convinced that my son Jack would be much better off after his punishment. I blistered his butt until he was limp, verbally resigned and no longer kicking, just bawling his eyes out.
I stopped the spanking and looked down at a very well stropped and spanked boy's bottom. It brought back memories to be sure.
"I'm proud of you son, you did great! You can get up now."
He got up slowly but rubbed his throbbing backside furiously for a few moments, his face runny with tears and snot. I handed Jack my hankie.
He took the hankie, blew and then said, "Um … thanks, I guess … Dad."
I laughed a bit and then we both looked down. My son's penis was already on a path upwards.
"Crap," was all Jack said and looked up at the ceiling rather sheepishly but did not try and hide it from me either.
"No worries son, come here, hug," and recalled all of my conversations with Claire over her concerns for Jack.
Jack hugged me, even ignoring his erection. I didn't mind, why would I?
After the hug, Jack stood back and sheepishly fidgeted with fingers, his manhood humorously bouncing about,
"I guess Mom told you about me and all."
"Yes, Jack. We can talk about that any time you wish or not. I just want you to be happy."
He nodded and looked down. I grinned,
"I'll leave you two alone … have fun, you've earned it son," and I left the room.
* * * * * * * * * *
Months later, the old-fashioned bell-triggered door to Carl's Antiques went off and four persons entered the store, me, Claire, Jack and Steven, Jack's boyfriend. Helen looked up,
"Oh it's SO good to see you all. We miss you guys! How's life in the big city?"
"Oh well, sometimes not as quiet as I like, but we're doing well Helen!" I said as Claire and the boys started to walk through the store as we had stopped for a rest just passing through before we returned to our big city suburban home.
Yes, it turns out that I like my antiques as objects to collect in the rooms of my home, not as small town ideas that cause my son to not be all that he needs to be. No matter, Mountain Grove and Carl's was just a long drive away …
I watched Jack and Steven walk about the store by themselves for awhile before joining them,
"Find anything you like boys?" I asked.
"Like a nice antique razor strop, Mr. Price?" Steven knowingly grinned at me. Jack gave him an affectionate shove,
"We don't need any more antique strops, my ass is doing fine with the one we have!" Jack proudly smirked.
Indeed so. It would seem that Steven and Jack enjoyed a certain kind of relationship, one that Claire and I both approved, but that is perhaps a story for another time.
"Oh come on Jack, be a sport, one cannot have enough strops, they're just antiques after all, right Steven?" I winked at Steven.
He grinned. I grinned and so did Jack.
© Copyright PJ Franklin May 3, 2011
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