Dad distracted me from Diana, forcing me to move out of his way as he took up position behind Becky. He whipped the switch through the air twice, listening to it whistle and watching Becky tense in anticipation of the first strike. I hated when he had done that to me, but watching it, I could appreciate the gesture if not the humor. Becky looked ready to bolt and had she been wearing even a speck of threads, I suspect she would have been long gone before the first strike of the switch.
The first landed across the center of her pale cheeks. Her breath quickened. She wriggled her buttocks and shifted her feet in the grass. The first is always deceptive. It stings like expected, but it lacks intensity in the moment. Only in the aftermath, in the waning seconds before the next strike does the discomfort build. The full realization of the switching’s effect arrives too late and often only an instant before the switch makes contact again.
Becky felt the burn. She jumped, both feet temporarily leaving the ground, with the worst timing. The switch cut through the humid air. It lashed against the tender flesh just below the curve of Becky’s bottom and then gravity brought her feet back down. She crooked her head back, moaning in discomfort. Fresh tears wet her embarrassed cheeks. Her hair flopped as her body shook trying to free herself from the intensity of the moment. Stray strands glued themselves to her damp cheeks and she lowered her head, ashamed.
Dad laid the switch on Becky with an expert hand, fast and accurate. She jumped and hopped and gyrated. They were all futile reactions that did nothing to ease the pain, the embarrassment, or even to avoid the next strike. Her moans turned to yelps, turned to cries, turned to incoherent pleas. Again, none of it aided her cause. Dad aimed to teach a lesson and no amount of fuss would distract him from his goal.
I watched, mesmerized by the growing collection of thin, red stripes decorating my cousin’s naked buttocks. Each whir of the switch proceeded a new stripe rising to the surface and turned her once pale, white cheeks into a flaming mass of red. I was fascinated by the way the force of the strikes would ripple through her flesh, causing every loose bit of her naked body to move back and forth. It was difficult to enjoy in the moment, a sense of guilt still plagued me, as if I could have changed her behavior by somehow changing my own. And yet it was a beautiful sight.
The end came with abruptness. A final whir and then the echo of snap as the switch broke in half, impacting across Becky’s bottom. Dad dropped the broken switch in the grass. Becky’s body shook with a sob. Dad stepped back onto the patio, out of the sun. Becky clung to the post with white knuckled hands, her punished bottom spotlighted in the sun. I watched the quivering as she bounced up and down on her toes.
Dad said, “Stand up and face me.”
Becky obeyed without hesitation. Her hands, no longer concerned with modesty, went directly to raised, red flesh behind her. Dad looked at me and then at the discarded swimsuit bundled on the ground. I picked it up and handed it to him. He unbundled it and let it hang by the straps from his fingers between Becky and himself.
“Stop rubbing,” Dad said. “It’s meant to hurt and to remind you that the kind of behavior you’ve displayed thus far today is simply unacceptable.”
Becky stopped massaging her buttocks and let her hands dangle freely at her sides. She bit her lip and kept her chin down. Her voice was quiet and rattled. “Yes, sir.”
Dad stepped next to the post and held her swimsuit in front of it, against the wood. “You’re going to stand against this post and think about your actions for the rest of the afternoon while serving as a warning to everyone else here about what happens when they don’t behave. Is that understood?”
Becky nodded and stepped up to the post.
“Hands behind your head and I suggest you stand close and still enough to hold this swimsuit up, unless of course you’d rather just be completely naked,” Dad said.
Becky looked up into my Dad’s eyes for a moment and then stepped closed to the post until her body was pressing the swimsuit into it. Dad let go of the swimsuit and walked away even as Becky was raising her arms up to put her hands in the prescribed place. The backyard remained eerily silent for a moment, no doubt all eyes were on Becky and her precarious position holding up that yellow swimsuit. It hid nothing beyond her nipples, bellybutton, and perhaps a few hairs none of us were ever meant to see. Then someone splashed in the pool and the backyard party resumed.
I wandered away from the scene. Diana found me with a spare cup of Mom’s punch in her hands. She smiled as she handed it to me. Her eyes traveled to Becky and mine followed before returning back to Diana.
Diana said, “She brought it on herself, you know? It’s not your fault.”
I shook my head. “I could have been nicer, and you didn’t help either.”
Diana looked shocked. “Me? What did I do?”
I laughed off my nervousness. “What did you do? You antagonized her and you knew you were doing it.”
“Are you saying,” Diana asked, “that you think I should be punished too?”
I forced myself to look Diana in the eye. “Maybe.”
She glanced toward Becky. “You wouldn’t do that to me, would you?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “Why not? It seems only fair, considering.”
Diana kicked her feet in the grass and glanced at Becky again. After a quiet moment she looked up into my eyes. “If you really think so, I’ll do it.”
“Yes,” I said, “but would you ever talk to me again, if I did.”
She flashed a teasing smile at me. “Does that mean I can get away with anything so long as I promise to keep talking to you?”
“No,” I said and held up Dad’s pocket knife that was still in my hand. “Do you know how to cut a switch?”
“I can manage,” Diana said and reached out to take the knife.
I held it back for a moment. “You’re going to get exactly what Becky got, exactly like Becky got it.”
Diana nodded. Her cheeks turned a little red. “I know.”
I nodded. “Just to be sure, you can take the knife when I have your bikini.”
Diana blushed brighter. She took her hand away from the knife and quickly stripped herself of her bikini. I couldn’t help but stare as she handed me the two individual brown pieces of her swimsuit. She took the knife from my hand and tried not to meet my eyes as she turned and started walking toward the fence line and the trees.
I liked watching her white bottom as she walked. “I’ll be waiting for you on the patio.”
She glanced over her shoulder and nodded.
“Don’t dawdle,” I said, “or we’ll do this again tomorrow.”
It wasn’t long and Diana returned to me with a fresh switch in her hands. I used it on her bottom until it broke, just like Dad had done on Becky. Afterward, I wiped some of the tears from Diana’s cheeks and led her to stand on the opposite side of Becky’s post. I couldn’t find a way to keep Diana’s bikini in place like Dad had for Becky’s swimsuit so, Diana just had to stand there with her hands behind her head, naked and sore for all around to see.
Part of me figured that was the last time I was ever going to see Diana and if not it was still probably going to be the last time she spoke a civil word in my direction. That’s not how it worked out though. Diana became my girlfriend soon after that backyard party. Becky and I even became better friends after that day and Becky and Diana, well they’re still the best of friends to this day. As for me, I’ve got a beautiful wife who still knows how to cut a switch and loves to tell everyone the story about how we fell in love.