Poor sportsmanship on the field leads to penalties at home.
by Caroline Richards

Note: This is a real experience that happened to my cousin Rachel and me. It’s posted under fiction due to my adding some editorial commentary and reflection on what happened, so it’s kind of an essay about an experience. The dialogue is a combination of my memory of what was said, and my filling in the gaps with my memory of the gist of what was said, with the help of diary entries describing some of what happened. First and middle names in this account are real, last names are pseudonyms. To save a bunch of lengthy background explanations in this current story, you can read about my family situation on the memories site under, ‘A girl’s memories of growing up in California.’ Also note that in places in this recollection where Rachel is referred to as my sister, it’s metaphorical about our relationship. She is not my actual biological sister.

This took place in northern California in the early 1990s.

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This story is mostly about my cousin Rachel, although I got to be involved in it too. Involved in it much more than I wanted to be, much to my chagrin.

Rachel was, for all practical purposes, my little sister. I had been living with her, her older brother/my older cousin Mike, and their mom and dad (my aunt and her husband) since I was 12. My widower father’s active duty Army career made living with Rachel, Mike, Aunt Karen, and Uncle Steve the best and most practical choice for me. The de-facto family thing wasn’t just with Rachel, though. My Aunt Karen was my mother in every sense except actually giving birth to me. Since I still did have a dad around, who called and visited every chance he got, I thought of Uncle Steve as being like my stepdad. And Mike, two years older than me, was my effective older brother.

Aunt Karen was my dad’s sister. I’m putting this reminder here to avoid confusion, because at some point in this story, Rachel’s last name is going to be mentioned and it’s different from mine.

Rachel was a little over a year younger than me, and one grade lower than me in the high school we attended together. Ironically, I looked more like Aunt Karen’s daughter than Rachel did. I had the brown hair that seems to run in my family, including Aunt Karen, only my hair was a shade or two lighter than hers. And I had blue eyes, which are somewhat less common for the brunettes in our family tree. I still have brown hair and blue eyes, obviously, but this is a memory, so even facts that are still in effect are being written in the past tense.

Rachel, by contrast, was the spitting image of her dad, with dishwater blonde hair and blue eyes. I was 5’6″ and about half an inch taller than Rachel, and Aunt Karen was an inch or so taller than either of us. And whenever Aunt Karen found herself needing to give either of us what was sometimes called ‘a good talking-to’, she made the most of that extra inch. She seemed to loom over us at those times.

Rachel being my acting baby sister meant that I was likewise her big sister figure, and she had always wanted a big sister. I was told one time that when Rachel was little, she sometimes prayed that she could have a sister, and that was the kind of thing that was hard for me to hear and maintain my composure. She and I rarely fought, and on the few occasions when we did fight, it was little more than blowing off steam. We might tumble around a little and even push each other, but we absolutely never hit each other and never called each other names, though not to say there wasn’t some unladylike language involved. That doesn’t mean our quarrelling was tolerated. Rachel and I might have mutually understood that even our angry fights didn’t really mean anything, but Aunt Karen did not spare our behinds any less for it.

Aunt Karen and Uncle Steve were, in fact, believers in spanking. That wasn’t the only method of discipline in our home, but it was kind of the default one. Not only did that include when we were teenagers, we actually got more spankings when we were teenagers, because quite frankly, we were naughtier than when we were younger. Not quite so much with Mike. He was the ‘good’ kid out of the three of us. But he still managed to get into enough shenanigans to be on a first-name basis with Uncle Steve’s belt.

The way my family handled discipline was that generally, lecturing and handing down sentences were done by Aunt Karen and Uncle Steve acting as a team, but the same-gender parent was the one who administered any spankings that were awarded. Uncle Steve and Mike’s occasional father and son discussions tended, as far as I knew, to involve either Uncle Steve’s hand or, more commonly as Mike got older, the aforementioned belt. I never personally saw any of Mike’s discipline sessions, but we all definitely heard when one of us was being disciplined.

With Rachel and me, Aunt Karen most commonly employed the palm of her hand on our bare bottoms. For more serious offenses, she was a fan of the wooden spoon. And if she really wanted to make an impression, we got the hairbrush. Note that I said the hairbrush, not a hairbrush. The one to which I refer was a wood-backed oval-shaped one that Aunt Karen had bought from a beauty supply store for a specific purpose, and it had never once been used to brush someone’s hair. Similarly, the wooden spoon was somewhat stouter and made of higher quality material than the flimsy, throwaway kind one often sees. Like the hairbrush, the spanking spoon had never been intended for cooking from the moment it came home from the store.

Honestly, I couldn’t tell that much difference between the hairbrush and the wooden spoon as far as the sting and burn were concerned, except maybe that the burning sensation after the initial sting started sooner with the hairbrush. There’s only so much nuance you can notice between two different round-ish, hand-sized, wooden utensils smacking your behind. The difference was more psychological. If the hairbrush made an appearance, that was a message that you had been an extra bad girl. This is going to be relevant later, which is why I’m taking the time to explain it here.

As suggested by my saying that I never personally saw Mike get spanked, Aunt Karen and Uncle Steve believed that spankings should be in private between the miscreant and the parent correcting them. That doesn’t mean free from embarrassment. While I’m not in a position to say much about what happened between Mike and Uncle Steve, I am very qualified to say that Aunt Karen believed spankings are supposed to be embarrassing. I don’t mean degrading or emotionally harmful. My aunt and uncle are the most supportive and loving people I have ever known, and they were careful and conscientious of our feelings even when they disciplined us. I just mean we had a whole formal ritual to accompany the spanking proper, and it was designed to put you in your place and humble you, which is an experience a misbehaving teenager definitely does not want to endure. So the ritual of it both helped teach you a lesson about your misbehavior and was a punishment in and of itself, because whatever you had done wasn’t worth the humiliation.

The few exceptions to being spanked in private were if Rachel and I had gotten in trouble together. Not if we simply by coincidence were both in trouble at the same time, like if I missed curfew and Rachel talked back or something like that. Rachel and I were only punished together if we had been acting as accomplices, or if the way we treated each other was the very thing we were in trouble for. Since spankings were very embarrassing for us anyway, in particular getting them panties-down, it took a lot for Aunt Karen to determine that there was some legitimate disciplinary reason to spank us together. Such as having one of our rare fights, as I discussed previously. Or if we went somewhere together we were not allowed to go, or if one of us covered for the other when we got in trouble. We had a family rule that obligated us to tattle on each other, or the witness would get the same punishment as the actual offender.

Or if, say, we acted like a couple of rambunctious little hooligans at a high school soccer game. But now I’m getting ahead of myself.

At the time the events I’m about to get into took place, Rachel was on our high school girls’ varsity soccer team. I was on the basketball team as well as in the drama club, and knew very little about the rules of soccer. Mostly I just vaguely understood that it’s preferable to have the ball on the other team’s half of the field instead of your own, that it’s even more preferable to have the ball in the other team’s goal, that a yellow card is bad, and that a red card is very bad. But I did like going to watch Rachel play, as well as being there to support her. I’ll admit that I don’t know the name of the position she played. When the teams line up for the opening kick-off, or whatever it’s called when they start the game, Rachel was on the middle row, left hand side as you face toward the opposing goal. Whatever that position is called, that’s what she was.

This story concerns one fateful Saturday morning in November and the soccer game Rachel was playing in that day. Uncle Steve and Mike had gone on a weekend fishing trip together, I guess because males bond over murdering aquatic animals. So it was just us girls at home, and Aunt Karen and I had come to watch Rachel’s game, which was at home for our school. The sky was darkly overcast, with heavy black clouds. It rained steadily, enough to make the field drenched and covered in mud. I have no idea what standard procedure is in soccer about games being called on account of weather, but it was not uncommon for Rachel’s team to play in the rain. So the weather was making everyone, even we spectators, pretty moody.

The opposing team was just another local high school as far as almost everyone at our school was concerned, with no particular feelings or standing either for or against them. Except in one very specific area. For some reason I never got a coherent explanation of, our girls’ soccer team and this school’s girls’ soccer team absolutely despised each other. I mean it was not a friendly rivalry, and way beyond any kind of rivalry at all. They were sworn arch-enemies. I doubt even Rachel knew why, unless there was some kind of secret soccer society that bound her not to tell me.

For the purpose of recounting this experience here, I’m going to refer to the enemy team as ‘Greenview High’. That’s a completely made-up pseudonym, but I don’t want to keep saying ‘the other team’ over and over. Anyway, the game against Greenview High the previous year had become legendary at our school. Rachel had been on the junior varsity soccer team that year, so we didn’t go to the varsity game. But I very much heard about it. Everyone did. Between our school and Greenview, five girls were ejected over the course of the game. Then, at the end, when the team members from each side walked across the field to shake hands, some player, no one could agree who, had thrown a punch, and coaches, referees, and parents all had to get involved to break up the resulting brawl. A bench-clearing brawl in girls’ sports must have really been something to see.

It was so bad that the league decided to penalize both teams and recorded the game as a double forfeiture. So this year, our school wanted to get even. Actually, that doesn’t quite capture the sentiment. This year, our school had a vendetta.

At most American high schools, football (American football) and boys’ basketball draw the biggest crowds for sporting events. Normally, the audience for girls’ soccer, or basketball, for that matter, is made up mainly of the players’ family members and friends. Not this year. After the oft-repeated tale of last year’s events, there was an unusually sizable turnout for this game, and everyone knew why; they wanted to see a fight.

As if all of this tension wasn’t enough, Rachel was having what one might charitably refer to as some ‘personal issues’ around the date of this soccer game. More to the point, Rachel, who was normally such a sweet, kind-hearted kid, was going through a really, really defiant phase, and had been for about 5 weeks. She was filling out every category on the standard aggravating teenage girl checklist. Challenging her mother’s authority for no particular reason? Check. Constantly talking back and arguing? Check? Starting arguments just for the sake of arguing? Oh my, check-and-a-half. Rachel would pick fights with her parents over things she supposedly didn’t have permission to do, except that she never did actually ask permission for any of it, which she likely would have gotten, because that wasn’t the point. The point was to have an argument.

And along with the talking back and throwing tantrums and defiance, Rachel was pushing all of Aunt Karen’s buttons with the non-verbal things. Stomping her feet. Slamming doors. Rolling her eyes. Folding her arms and staring off in some other direction while her mom was talking to her. A big, exaggerated yawn or sigh whenever her mother said anything.

The only person she was somewhat polite to was me. And she was tactful enough not to provoke her teachers at school. Beyond that, Rachel was really super moody. Combatively moody.

As anyone who has endured a teenager’s moods is aware, sometimes behavior like this can be a cry for help or a cry for attention. That was not at all the case with Rachel’s obstreperous phase here. She was doing great academically. I drove her to and from school every day, and I knew her well enough that if something was really wrong, I would have been able to tell, even if I might not have known exactly what it was.

Aunt Karen and Uncle Steve absolutely loved to shower us with positive attention and do things together, so Rachel could not possibly have believed she needed to do something negative just to get noticed. No, the accurate diagnosis for Rachel’s condition over the previous several weeks is that something had set her off and gotten her in the habit of acting like a total spoiled brat, and now she was stuck in it and couldn’t figure out how to reset. And Aunt Karen’s nerves were just about shot from it. Not just from enduring Rachel’s reign of terror, but from responding to it. I’ll put it this way; if we had gotten frequent flyer miles for time spent over Aunt Karen’s knee, then the last few weeks would have moved Rachel up to Diamond VIP status.

And yet, as exhausted as she was from this battle of wills, Aunt Karen could not afford to give any quarter, because it was her job to be the parent. It wasn’t a matter of ego. She had to make Rachel learn her place and learn that she needed to be obedient and respectful at home so we had some semblance of order and harmony. I firmly believed that even at the time it was happening, and fully agreed that Aunt Karen would have had not just a right, but an obligation to treat me the same way if I had ever acted like that.

You know, hypothetically. (Cough.)

Finally in this mix, there was me. In case the other experiences I have shared on this site haven’t made it clear, when I was a teenager I could be a little bit feisty and stubborn sometimes. And setting aside my total agreement that Rachel was being a spoiled brat during the last few weeks and needed her comeuppance, I was very protective of my effective baby sister. And I didn’t fully realize it until later, but Rachel’s attitude of late had set our whole family on edge, and she was starting to drag me down, too.

What I’m saying is, take the kind of weather we were having that morning and the way it affected people’s moods, the history between these two teams, the crowd agitating for something to happen, Rachel’s ongoing attitude problem, my hair trigger, and Aunt Karen’s battle fatigue, and this whole situation was a great big freaking powder keg waiting to go off.

So let’s set the stage. The game was being played on our school’s field that was used for both American football and soccer. Because of the rain, many of the spectators had brought umbrellas, including Aunt Karen and me, and those of us who brought umbrellas stood along the side-lines because it would have been considered rude to sit in the bleachers (rows of seating) and block someone’s view with your umbrella. Even though it was well before lunchtime, it looked almost like evening outside because of the heavy rain clouds. It was also quite chilly. Even though it doesn’t snow, northern California can get surprisingly cold. As Mark Twain supposedly once said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco.”

I was wearing black sweatpants, a light gray sweatshirt, and old, beat-up tennis shoes that I used for yard work, because I didn’t want to get mud on my nice white sneakers. Aunt Karen had on a teal-green tracksuit with a thin red stripe along the arms and legs, a white t-shirt under the jacket, and athletic shoes she apparently didn’t care about getting muddy, with a small blanket wrapped around her shoulders. She had worn this tracksuit to the gym early that morning. Among her hobbies were taking aerobics classes and working out on Nautilus machines. Aunt Karen wasn’t any kind of body builder at all, but she was toned and deceptively strong. This detail also will be relevant later. Suffice it to say that Rachel and I were pretty vigorous young ladies who both played sports, but if Aunt Karen needed to handle us, she could manage. Neither Rachel nor I would have even dreamed of actively resisting Aunt Karen or outright refusing if she gave us an order. Not even on the worst, most rebellious day of our life would the thought have occurred to us. But if we tried to be passive-aggressive and make it difficult for her; for example, if she wanted us to assume a certain position, let’s say, and we were reluctant, Aunt Karen was quite capable of bringing us into compliance.

Rachel had on her soccer uniform, of course, and a long-sleeved white T-shirt underneath her jersey because it was cold. Several other players did, as well. But they were all still just wearing shorts without any tights or leggings. Just the usual knee-length socks and shin guards. All three of the ladies in the family had our hair in ponytails. Rachel because she was playing soccer, Aunt Karen from getting up early and going to the gym, and me because I just didn’t feel like doing a lot with my hair that morning.

The total crowd was, my best guess, around 150 to 200 people. Aunt Karen and I huddled together under a big golf umbrella and shuddered now and then. She shared the blanket with me after noticing my shudders. I was glad to be there to support Rachel, but even still, I was starting to be pretty cranky from being wet and cold. I think it’s fair to say I was far from the only person there who felt that way. The girls playing in the game were much worse off, dripping wet from the rain and sweating despite the chill. Other than the goalies, a lot of the players had mud splashed on their legs and shorts and even the lower parts of their jerseys.

As I stood there on the side-lines, I noticed many hard looks and aggressive body language by opposing players on the field. At one point I was watching where the ball was and then started looking around to find Rachel. The player who I assume was her opposite number on Greenview was getting as close to knocking into Rachel as she dared. But as much as my inclination was to automatically take Rachel’s side, the fact was that the passive-aggression was mutual. Every time they got out of earshot of the referee, it was very clear, even without being able to hear them, that they were talking trash to each other. Except where we lived, teenagers didn’t say ‘talking trash’. Pardon the frankness, but what we all said back in the day was that someone was ‘talking shit’.

Rachel’s face was getting red, and not all of it was from physical exertion. At one point, I saw Rachel hold her hands up and beckon toward herself with her fingers in the ‘come on’ gesture. That was meant as a challenge to play rougher at best, and have a fight at worst.

A little while after this, Greenview scored a goal, and their team and fans went beyond simply celebrating and taunted our team, just enough not to be called for whatever the equivalent in soccer would be of a technical foul in basketball. The baiting and bravado between Rachel and her nemesis kept going and seemed to be getting more brazen, for both parties.

The game went on for a bit. Our side missed a goal, and Greenview got to in-bound the ball, and whatever position on our side whose job it is to be closest to the opposing goal got the ball back and started passing it around to set up another shot. Someone passed the ball to Rachel, and the girl she had been having a back-and-forth with the whole game ran up behind her and yelled something. Rachel dribbled up the field a little ways, and as a side note I’m sure it’s a special treat for you to be reading a play-by-play by someone who doesn’t understand soccer. Rachel’s nemesis yelled something again, and Rachel passed the ball forward to someone else on our school’s team.

Whatever Number 8 (the arch-nemesis) yelled at Rachel must have really gotten to her because after Rachel passed the ball, she whirled around and started charging at the girl. The girl raised her hands up like she was anticipating a fight. Now, I was half the width of a soccer field away and this happened really fast, and I was also biased in Rachel’s favor, so I am not completely sure about this, but I think I saw the girl yank Rachel’s ponytail, which had flipped in front of Rachel’s shoulder from running around. I had the impression of Rachel’s head jerking downward a little, which goes along with this girl yanking her by the hair. But as I said, I am not certain on that part. I’m very certain about the next part, though. Rachel grabbed this girl by the front of her jersey with both hands, spun in a half circle, and then slammed her into the turf like a judo throw. Hard.

Number 8 on Greenview crumpled on the ground. There’s kind of a stereotype of soccer players pretending to be hurt to get a foul called on the other team, but I don’t think this girl was faking it. My impression was that she had the wind knocked out of her at a minimum.

Aunt Karen and I, and 4 or 5 people around us, all gasped, “Oof!” in unison when this girl went down.

Rachel was standing over her like a prize-fighter gloating over someone they just knocked out and yelled something down at her.

This was exactly what the students in the bleachers had come to see, and when this girl hit the ground, a cheer went up from our school’s side as if we had scored a goal.

Rachel may have been a hero in certain circles at that moment, but plenty of other people did not appreciate her conduct. One of those people was the referee, who blew a loud screech on his whistle, held up a red card, and gestured for Rachel to leave the field immediately.

Rachel shrugged her shoulders and held up her hands at the referee in the ‘I didn’t do anything!’ pose, which was obviously disingenuous. He blew his whistle again and kept pointing for her to get lost. A boo from the opposing bleachers came up to match the cheers on our side, which was rich considering that the people from Greenview had come to see a fight just as much as the students from our school had.

The regular crowd of friends and family members just watched in stunned silence. A few people from the coaching staff on Greenview ran out on the field to check on Rachel’s victim, who still lay there unmoving. Eventually, three of them helped the girl limp off the field, supporting her under her arms. The Greenview bench and some of their crowd applauded for her making it off the field.

Rachel, meanwhile, jogged off the field toward her coach, who was about to have a conniption. Rachel tried her innocence-act b-s with her coach, too, who was a woman probably in her mid- or late- 30s with ear-length black hair and wearing sweatpants and a sweatshirt with our school logo on it. Aunt Karen and I were close enough to the bench on the side-line that I could hear the coach yelling at Rachel just as she got back to our side.

“What in the hell is wrong with you, Turner?” she demanded, calling Rachel by her last name. “I don’t know where you learned to play dirty like that, but it wasn’t on this team!”

Instead of playing innocent, Rachel tried claiming self-defense. “She was talking shit to me the whole game!” she yelled back indignantly. “She’s been trying to start something since…”

The coach cut her off. “Go sit on the bench and shut your mouth until the end of this game!”

Rachel did as instructed. The scowls all around suggested her team-mates were not happy with her. The yelling made it obvious her coach was not happy with her.

I heard someone standing near us say, “She’s going to be suspended for a game over that red card.”

Aunt Karen face-palmed as she stood there, mortified at how her daughter had made the family look. And now we couldn’t really do anything but wait until the game was over.

When it finally was, with a score of 1-0 for Greenview, the coaches ran across the field to shake hands with each other, and apparently made a mutual decision that, given what happened last time, it would be best if their teams did not do the same. Our side’s coach came back and had a brief huddle with the team, and then everyone started to file off except Rachel. She instead was still on the bench, head down, while her coach took a knee in front of her and talked to her. I knew quite well from playing sports myself that this was not genuflection. This was the coach trying to have a teaching moment and symbolically putting herself on your level. Rachel nodded a few times, still hanging her head, while her coach spoke to her. I couldn’t hear what was being said, but I could see tears in Rachel’s eyes.

The coach must have noticed us watching all this, because she got up to come talk to Aunt Karen, whom she knew from both seeing her at games and from parent meetings that happened every so often during the season. The coach shook Aunt Karen’s hand, and started telling us the situation. Yes, Rachel was going to be suspended for a game. That was a league rule, not the coach’s decision. The other girl was not injured but just got the wind knocked out of her, as I had guessed.

While she and Aunt Karen were talking, Rachel sat on the bench taking her cleats, socks, and shin guards off and putting them into her duffle bag. She then took out a pair of rubber sandals from the bag and slipped them on, and sat there waiting. There was maintenance going on all that week in the locker rooms because of a broken pipe or something like that, so that’s why the soccer team had to make do that day with changing as much as they could outside.

“Is she kicked off the team?” Aunt Karen asked, almost as if she didn’t want to know the answer.

“No, no,” said the coach. “Aside from that bad sportsmanship today, she’s a good kid. She’s going to have some consequences, though. For one, she’s going to have to apologize to the team for letting them down. And sitting out a game is going to be hard on her. And I’m going to tell her she’ll need to earn back her starting position, even though she’s got it and I’m only going to say that to make her think about what she did. And I would appreciate it if that stayed just between us.”

Aunt Karen agreed. Then the coach added, “And she’s going to be doing some wind-sprints and wall-sits at practice on Monday.”

It’s debatable whether forced exercise counts as corporal punishment. I personally believe that it isn’t, but in any case, being made to do extra exercises by a coach or a PE teacher was as close as California public schools were allowed to get to corporal punishment. Put a different way, if we had lived somewhere like Texas or Florida, I strongly suspect that Rachel’s coach would have paddled her. But we didn’t live somewhere like Texas or Florida, so Aunt Karen would just have to pick up the slack herself.

“Thank you very much, Coach. And I want you to know that as far as her father and I are concerned, her behavior during the game today was totally unacceptable, and she’s going to have serious consequences at home, as well.”

Rachel had by now made her way over to us and had put a windbreaker from her duffle bag over her soccer jersey. Muddy cleats in one hand, duffle bag in the other and rubber sandals on her otherwise bare feet, Rachel waited for someone to tell her what to do.

Her coach turned toward Rachel and put a hand on her shoulder. “I want you to think about what we talked about over the weekend, okay?”

Whatever that was, we parted ways with the soccer coach and walked to the parking lot.

While it was probably wise to keep the teams separate after the game, there was only one parking lot for everyone, which meant quite a few people from the Greenview crowd were still mulling around. And every one of them seemed to recognize Rachel, and a few of them started confronting her.

“Oooh, tough girl getting the red card! Come try that [expletive] on me!”

Then someone else: “Playing dirty and you still can’t win. Aren’t you embarrassed to be you?”

There were several more taunts like that. We were just about to our car when some girl, somewhere around my or Rachel’s age, came up within a few feet of us and yelled at her, “You’re just a pathetic, damn loser!”

That’s the one that set me off. I said earlier that I was protective of my baby sister, and I instantly went into fight-or-flight mode, but with no intention of flight. And for the express purpose of antagonizing this girl, I yelled something that I don’t want to repeat here. All these years later, and I am still embarrassed about what I said. All I’m going to say is that in the area where we lived, teenage girls had a very vulgar expression we would say to other girls when we wanted to either provoke them or dismiss them entirely, and it involved inviting them to perform an obscene act. And it was not something so prosaic as just saying the f-word.

This girl screamed that very f-word at me in response to the unmentionable thing I had yelled at her, and I started lunging in her direction. I had made up my mind to slap her face as hard as I could, but I didn’t get very far. I felt hands on each of my upper arms grab me and yank me backward so hard I nearly came off my feet. It was, of course, Aunt Karen, and she turned me slightly to look at her and said, “Get in the car. Right now.”

Our family car at the time was a silver Chevrolet Suburban, a very long and tall SUV. ‘SUV’ wasn’t a term in circulation then and we just called them trucks. I got in the front passenger seat, Rachel got in the back. I remember distinctly that Aunt Karen had a Billy Joel album on the stereo, and as soon as she started the car, the song ‘I Go to Extremes’ came on. That was a little too ‘on the nose’ at that moment. Aunt Karen must have thought so as well, because she turned the stereo off. Then the lecturing began.

“I hope both of you realize how much trouble you’re in.”

My dander was still up from nearly talking my way into a fight with the girl in the parking lot. “Me? What did I do?”

Aunt Karen glanced at me and then turned her eyes back to the road. “You have got to be kidding me! What did you do? Aside from that disgusting thing you said, you just about started a fight!”

I wasn’t ready to concede. “I was protecting Rachel!”

Aunt Karen wasn’t getting louder, but her voice was getting sterner, and there was starting to be a threatening edge to it. “You were not protecting Rachel. You didn’t help anything, you escalated it! Starting a fistfight in a parking lot because you lost your temper isn’t helping anything, young lady. We’ve already had one person hurt someone and embarrass this family in public today, and you think you’re helping by doing it even more?”

I folded my arms and made that kind of “Hmpff!” sound and turned sideways in my seat, away from her.

“You can huff all you want, Caroline,” Aunt Karen said, calling me by my formal name instead of ‘Carrie’ as a subtle indicator that I was indeed in trouble. “But that doesn’t change that your behavior in that parking lot was completely inappropriate. We will be addressing that issue at home, young lady, and your attitude between here and there can either make things a little bit easier on you or a lot worse.”

Translation; she was going to spank me when we got home, and if I kept throwing a fit, the spanking would be worse.

Then Aunt Karen glanced at Rachel in the rear-view mirror and said, “How about you, young lady? What do you have to say for yourself?”

Rachel had gotten to be more and more brazen with her attitude the longer she had been stuck in her spoiled brat phase. And she was still amped up from her confrontation during the game. So Rachel turned her voice to maximum volume to make sure Aunt Karen and I and people who lived in the next time zone would know her assessment of what happened.

“That [expletive that starts with an f] [expletive that starts with a b] started it! [Expletive that starts with an f] her, [expletive that starts with an f] that team, and [expletive that starts with an f] that ref!”

Aunt Karen flipped on the turn signal and started pulling over to the shoulder of the road. If you are from the UK, remember that American cars have the driver side on the left, and we drive on the right hand side of the road. So Aunt Karen was pulling over to the right. The place she pulled over was next to someone’s horse property, so it was a big meadow with some tall eucalyptus trees near the road as windbreaks (yes, there are eucalyptus trees in California). So it was relatively private, as far as the side of the road goes.

“Out of the car,” Aunt Karen told her.

Rachel slid across the rear bench seat, flung open the right side back door, hopped out and slammed the door shut behind her. Aunt Karen got out and went around the front of the car and over to the side to where Rachel was. Since I was in the front passenger seat with a large window, I only had to turn my head a little to see what was happening. Aunt Karen made Rachel put her hands on the car like she was being arrested. Then she gave Rachel something like 6 or 8 hard smacks on the seat of her shorts, which made Rachel whimper, despite trying to look like it wasn’t bothering her. The Suburban was long enough and tall enough that no one passing by us on the road would have had an angle to see what was going on.

Then Aunt Karen took Rachel by one arm and spun her around to face her. Since they were right next to the car, I could hear what was said.

“We do not use that word in this family, young lady, and you do not talk that way to me. Do you hear me?”

Rachel was still a little defiant, but much less so than a few seconds ago. “It’s not fair that I get that and you didn’t even do anything to Carrie after what she said.”

Oh, great. There I was about to hit a stranger for insulting my little sister, and then she goes and sells me out!

“You’re right. Get back in the car. Caroline, get out here!”

Where another family might wash your mouth out with soap for swearing, in ours, Aunt Karen gave you ‘warning swats’, which meant giving you a couple of spanks over your clothes while you were standing. Usually it was like two. But Rachel had dropped a string of f-bombs, which was the absolutely forbidden word in our home, so she got more this time. I opened the door and stepped out. Because I was at the front of the car, I was clearly visible over the hood from my shoulders up.

“Can we at least move down so people won’t see?” I asked, giving up any attempt to protest the incoming penalty itself.

I was allowed to get near the middle of the car, out of view from the road, and then I put my hands on the door and got 4 hard smacks over my sweatpants. What I had said to that girl had not technically involved any profanities, but it was vulgar enough that it more than counted.

In case I had forgotten the last 10 minutes of my life, Aunt Karen explained why she had just made my rear end a little warmer than it had been.

“I cannot believe that filthy mouth! And if I ever hear you say anything remotely like that again, you will get a lot more than just a few reminders!”

‘Thanks, Rachel,’ I thought. ‘Thanks a lot for taking me down with you.’

The rest of the ride home was in a tense silence. And yet it was preferable to being home, because of what was awaiting Rachel and me once we got there. At home, we came in through the garage. The door to the garage led into a large area that was a combined kitchen and family room, with a kitchen table on a rug in the middle. In the family room part, we had a big couch shaped like a mirror-image letter ‘J’ that faced toward the TV, which was on a stand against the wall. I had expected our punishments to be carried out forthwith, but since Rachel was still drenched and had mud on her uniform from the game, Aunt Karen told her to go take a shower and change her clothes.

“And then I want to see you back in here because you and Caroline are going to learn a lesson about how we act in public in this family.”

Rachel got a scowl on her face and stomped her foot on the floor before turning to go.

“And just for that, young lady, you can bring the hairbrush with you when you come back,” Aunt Karen informed her.

Rachel continued stomping her way down the hall toward the bathroom. Then I was told to sit down so Aunt Karen could “have a talk” with me. I sat on the curve part of the couch, while Aunt Karen sat down in the middle of the straight part. My arms were folded in defiance as Aunt Karen tried in vain to reason with me. It had not been explicitly stated, but I could tell from the circumstances that Aunt Karen planned to spank us together, and I both dreaded and resented the humiliation of a third party seeing me spanked, and without the benefit of any modesty on the target area, no less. The fact that we were all females and in the same family didn’t matter as far as my sense of utter embarrassment was concerned.

“Caroline, I need to explain something to you, and I can’t say this in front of Rachel with the way she has been lately. You have an obligation to be an example to her. That girl thinks you practically walk on water. Look, I understand losing your cool like you did to those people saying rude things to Rachel. Even though the way you reacted is unacceptable, I could maybe have seen letting this go with a strong lecture and a promise from you to keep your temper next time. But there’s more to the circumstances than that. You saw how Rachel beat up that girl right in the middle of a game, and you know what she’s been like the last few weeks. What you did just now reinforces to her that her behavior was okay, because of how much she looks up to you. So I want to be clear that the real reason you’re being disciplined is for being a bad example in a moment when she needed you. You didn’t just let me down, young lady, you let her down.”

In my dead-set stubborn state of mind at the moment, I could sort of see her point, but I didn’t see why that meant I deserved the pain and the indignity of a bare bottom spanking, made exponentially worse by having it happen in front of my younger cousin.

“Then let’s just explain to her what I did wrong and let her see you scold me for it.”

Aunt Karen’s voice was firm but measured. Unlike my display after the game, she didn’t even have a hint of her temper flaring.

“Caroline, I am not negotiating with you. I am disciplining you and doing you the courtesy of telling you why.”

I folded my arms tighter and turned away from her on the couch. “Fine.”

“Look at me right this minute, Caroline.”

Defiant as I was becoming, I didn’t dare to push her on that. I turned around and noticed a subtle change in her demeanor. Aunt Karen had seemed exhausted almost to the breaking point during the last few weeks of battling Rachel. But when I turned back around, Aunt Karen seemed to have a sense of resolve about her. She was sitting up tall and straight, and had a look that my Army dad would have called steely-eyed’.

Still maintaining her calm while being firm, Aunt Karen said, “You don’t seem to realize the situation you’re in, little girl.”

Calling me ‘little girl’ was not meant as a put-down, but it was a major escalation of things. In my Aunt Karen’s way of giving verbal cues by her choice of words, ‘young lady’ meant I was in trouble. ‘Little girl’ meant we were at Defcon 1.

Recognizing that, my resentment at my pending spanking had turned into a tinge of fear. Aunt Karen pressed on.

“I am cleaning house today. I have had enough of this shit. Rachel is going to lose her attitude problem, I will make sure of that. We are going to get some peace and harmony back in this home. And I am not about to trade getting rid of her attitude for you to start getting one of your own. So you can decide for yourself how your little fit here gets resolved, but mark my words, it is going to get resolved. There’s already one girl in this house who’s getting the hairbrush in a minute. It’s up to you whether there will be two.”

Well, that was enough to straighten me out! Lowering my chin to look as contrite as possible, I answered, “Yes ma’am. I’m sorry.”

Aunt Karen rarely dropped a swear word, and when she did, it was a message. A message kind of like when a lioness or a mama bear roars when you are getting too close to her cubs. And now I understood what was really going on here. Aunt Karen intended to do more than merely give Rachel a spanking. Aunt Karen was going to perform an exorcism.

A few minutes later, probably not as long as it felt like after Aunt Karen’s speech, Rachel stomped, and I mean literally she was stomping all over the house, back in the family room. Her hair was still damp from having a shower, but towel-dried and combed backward, looking like she had slicked it back. She had put on a pair of knee-length fleece shorts that she sometimes wore to lounge around in, and a purple T-shirt. She had not stopped fuming since leaving the soccer field in what seemed like an age ago. When she got over to where Aunt Karen was seated on the couch, Rachel angrily thrust the hairbrush at her like it was a dueling pistol and she was daring Aunt Karen to have it out with her.

Aunt Karen remained level-headed but determined as she took the instrument that, unbeknownst to Rachel, was about to banish a demon from our home. Rachel folded her arms in the defiant pose that had become so tired over the last month and a half that it was cliche by now.

At first, this looked like things were going to go by standard procedure, as Aunt Karen began by instructing her daughter to explain why we were all here.

“Rachel, I want you to tell me why you’re in trouble right now.”

Rachel, however, made a slight breach of protocol. Nearly unhinged, she responded, “You’ve already made up your mind what you’re going to do! Just get this over with!”

Seeing that Rachel had forfeited any attempt to avoid making this any more difficult than it needed to be, Aunt Karen yanked Rachel’s shorts down to her ankles, grabbed both her arms and forcibly unfolded them, then tossed Rachel over her lap so that Rachel’s upper body was on the seat of the couch and her feet were on the floor. In one swift motion, Aunt Karen slid Rachel’s panties halfway down her thighs, and immediately started to smack Rachel’s bare behind like an almost-empty bottle of ketchup.

Aunt Karen’s disposition wasn’t exactly anger. It was more like righteous indignation. The hand spanks were delivered as firm, sharp slaps, alternating from one bottom cheek to the other, then across both cheeks, then repeating the cycle, with the spanks punctuating her syllables as she scolded.

“Rachel Abigail Turner, I am not!” SLAP! “Putting up!” SLAP! “With any!” SLAP! “More!” SLAP! “Of your!” SLAP! “Crap!” SLAP!

Rachel was already yelping from that opening barrage, and her bottom was starting to have pink splotches.

“Your bratty little attitude is ending right now!” SLAP! SLAP! SLAP! “Not tomorrow, not later today, now!” SLAP! SLAP! SLAP! “And we are done playing this game of telling you you’re going to get a worse spanking if this attitude keeps going! Your attitude is over! You are done with this, do you hear me?”

Another flurry of spanks that must have stung unbearably precluded Rachel from trying to answer the rhetorical question. All she could manage was a series of “Aaah!” and “Oww!” through her increasing tears. But amazingly, Rachel wasn’t struggling at all. There was some involuntary wriggling from the pain, but mostly she was just taking it, her hands clasped under her head as if she was praying, and jerking forward a little each time a spank landed.

Then Aunt Karen picked up the hairbrush from where she had set it down on the couch, and rested it on one of Rachel’s reddening cheeks while she lectured some more.

“You have absolutely no right to create this kind of atmosphere in our family, Rachel Abigail! Your tantrums and talking back and arguing have made it miserable around here. That is not fair to your father, it is not fair to your brother, it is not fair to your cousin, and it is not fair to me! And when I finish giving you a hot red bottom, we are going back to the way things are supposed to be. No more time to work this out, no more of your dad and me threatening you, no more excuses. It ends, right here, right now! Tell me you understand that.”

Rachel managed to whimper, “Yes, ma’am!” before collapsing back into sobs.

Then the whacks with the hairbrush started. Despite her indignation and severity of her scolding, Aunt Karen remained completely in control of herself. The hairbrush spanks were measured and deliberate, a sharp, wicked tap without a big wind up, and a pause in between to make sure each spank was fully experienced. As I knew from being in her place, Rachel would have been feeling a terrible biting sting, which would then become a searing burn, which then spread across each bottom cheek. By this point, Rachel’s butt was becoming that sunburn red shade that I was all too acquainted with from seeing it in the mirror behind me after learning the error of my ways.

Aunt Karen was not just completely in control of herself, she was completely in control of Rachel. It was kind of an amazing thing to watch. During the 5 or 6 weeks of Rachel’s reign of terror, in which spankings were getting increasingly routine, Aunt Karen had treated each instance as if it were a separate, unrelated event. Talk back, spanking. Throw a tantrum, spanking. Act defiant, spanking. And so on, and with each instance, a threat that if it happened again, so would the consequences. But now Aunt Karen had decided to approach this defiant phase as one whole, ongoing problem and discipline for it as such. And oddly enough, Rachel obeyed. Like an exorcist telling a demon, “Get thee hence!”, once Aunt Karen informed Rachel that this spanking was going to end it once and for all, Rachel almost immediately surrendered, physically, mentally, and emotionally, and accepted her punishment.

Rachel’s face had turned into a reddened puddle of tears and sweat and snot, and I’m sorry that’s kind of gross, but I’m just reporting what I saw. Her uncontrollable bawling was interrupted by a screech or a wail each time the hairbrush connected with her tender buns.

Whap! “Aahh-huhh!” Pause. Whap! “Unnh!” Pause. Whap!

The red splotches on her bottom from being spanked by hand were now overpainted by a darker red oval on each cheek.

As I sat on the far end of the couch watching my baby sister being thoroughly disciplined, I didn’t feel any joy in watching her suffer. What I did feel was a warm, cozy feeling that even though this was very strict, there was nothing but love and concern for her daughter and her family behind Aunt Karen’s actions. This was healing, it was cleansing, it was the way back from disrespect and disobedience to the loving and harmonious family we were supposed to be. And honestly, as I looked at this girl I so dearly loved laying across her mom’s lap to be corrected, I thought it was cute. But I mean the way that babies and puppy dogs and kindly old ladies are cute. I just wanted to hug her and tell her it was for her own good and it would be over soon. I’m sure that seems weird, but at least I didn’t feel any spite or schadenfreude at the embarrassment and the scorching bottom I knew she was enduring.

I never counted spanks, my own or Rachel’s, so I don’t know how many she got. Maybe 30 with the hairbrush, and close to that with the hand. Rachel had gone almost limp and her crying was less energetic because she was just about drained emotionally. Aunt Karen put the hairbrush down, and her voice was soft as she told Rachel that she was going to get a few more spanks to help her remember, and then instructed her, as if it was a post-hypnotic suggestion, that when she got up, her attitude problem of the last few weeks was going to be gone. And then Aunt Karen told Rachel she needed to stand against the wall for a few minutes after to get herself together while Aunt Karen took care of me.

Oh dear! I had almost forgotten about the small matter that I was next. And I began to appreciate the depth of my own hypocrisy. As content as I was to see Rachel being disciplined, I was absolutely dreading the idea that she was about to see me get it.

Aunt Karen gave her daughter six good, solid smacks with her hand, and then gently told her to get up. Normally, at that point she would have been comforting whichever girl had just been spanked, but I had the impression that Aunt Karen wanted to wait a bit to signal the punishment was over to make sure that the treatment took.

Curiously, there was no scolding about hurting that other player during the soccer game. But I sensed that less was more on that one. By not specifying that incident as being the cause of Rachel’s punishment, Aunt Karen was signaling that she considered the assault and resulting red card as simply the capstone of a weeks-long problem.

Aunt Karen helped Rachel get her panties back in place and gently helped her stand. Rachel’s shorts had fallen off her ankles and remained on the floor, forgotten. Whatever warm fuzzies I was feeling from the nurturing maternal correction I had just watched started to turn into icy terror as Rachel limped over to the wall opposite the couch, clutching her bottom and weeping, leaving Aunt Karen’s lap vacant for me.

Rachel had been told to stand against the wall, not face the wall, the implication being that she was supposed to watch my discipline. So when she got over to the wall, Rachel turned around to face the room, hands alternating between wiping her eyes and her nose and rubbing her behind over her underwear. And when she turned around, we looked at each other and for the first time in a long time, I saw my baby sister again. During this defiant phase she had been stuck in, her face had seemed to be sort of hard and furrowed and angry all the time, and her features seemed somehow darkened slightly. All of that was gone now. Her face was soft and at peace like it used to be. Despite being red and damp from bawling, there was a light in her eyes that had been missing. And through her sniffles and crying that she was trying to get under control, she gave me a faint smile. I knew very well what that was. It was intended to comfort me and let me know everything was going to be okay, even though I had some unpleasantness to undergo first.

That moment was when I finally got it why I was in trouble, too. I realized that some of Rachel’s attitude problem had been rubbing off on me. I had been increasingly cross with Aunt Karen and Uncle Steve over the last few days. My mouth had been getting a little too smart for its own good. I had been dipping my toes in that sort of inexplicable anger at everything like Rachel had. And that’s where my eagerness to beat up some girl I didn’t even know and would probably never see again had come from. All of that was bad, but what really nailed it is I had affirmed to Rachel that this was acceptable and normal.

Even though I had started to understand in my heart what I had done wrong, I knew I was still due to have Aunt Karen make it really sink in for me. I decided to try Rachel’s way and just surrender as much as I could right from the start, and hope it would be over quickly. Without being prompted, I stood up and went to stand at Aunt Karen’s side.

“Can I say something to Rachel, please?”

Since Rachel had been ordered to stand against the wall until released, her punishment wasn’t officially over yet, so I didn’t feel at liberty to talk to her without permission.

Aunt Karen nodded. I looked at Rachel and came really close to getting through what I had to say before the tears started flowing.

“Honey, I’m sorry I let you down today. I will always stand up for you, but there’s a better way to do that than how I acted after your game. I could have told those people off in a more dignified way, I could have helped you show that we were not paying attention to them, I could have done a lot of things. But I shouldn’t have said that vulgar thing I did, and I shouldn’t have let someone get under my skin so much that I almost got in a fight. I was a terrible example to you, and I hope you understand that how I acted isn’t okay. Because it’s not. It was wrong, and I will do better for you next time.”

Before Aunt Karen could say anything, I bent down over her lap, then decided to just get it over with like ripping off a band-aid, and slid my sweatpants and panties together down to my knees. As heartfelt and honest as what I had just said to Rachel was, it didn’t make the embarrassment any less excruciating, not any more than accepting I deserved it made the flat of Aunt Karen’s hand sting any less. But I just wanted it to be finished and could not endure the anticipation one more second.

I was in the same position as Rachel; feet on the floor, middle on Aunt Karen’s lap, upper body on the couch and resting on my elbows, with my hands clasped in front of me. Aunt Karen put her left hand on my lower back and gently asked me if I understood why I was being punished.

“Yes ma’am, and I’m sorry we need to do this.”

Then, almost whispering, she told me she wanted me to think about that and it would be over soon.

For once, there wasn’t any scolding during the spanking. Just steady, rhythmic slaps, like the way you might slap someone across the face, except on the cheeks on the other end. I didn’t even try to hold in my reactions, even though my pride was telling me to be at least a little brave about it. I was gasping after the first three or four, which turned into whimpers, then yelps, and then sobbing. As usual, the spanks went from one side to the other, and then one across the middle, which stung the most, in my opinion. Aunt Karen went methodically from the lower curves of my butt to about halfway up, and the burning was starting to be more than I could take. Every so often, Aunt Karen would rub my back or my shoulder with her left hand, letting me know by touch that she was also trying to just get this over with. Finally I got to the point where I couldn’t put up even a feeble struggle, and I felt the last bit of tension in my body give out and I more or less flopped limply over her lap.

Aunt Karen whispered to me the standard line to indicate she could tell I was done, that I would get a few more to help me remember and then I could get up. I think she gave me four more spanks, and the next thing I knew my sweatpants and my panties were back up and I was in her arms. She soothed me for a couple of minutes and I wondered why she was making Rachel wait.

When I had sort of gotten a hold of myself, Aunt Karen guided me to sit down on the couch next to her. Sitting was a difficult proposition at the moment, so I kind of lay on my side instead. Then Aunt Karen turned toward Rachel, still obediently standing with her back to the wall.

“Do I have my good girl back?” Aunt Karen asked her gently.

Rachel’s sobbing opened back up. “I’ve been so horrible! I’m so sorry, Mom!”

Aunt Karen held her arms out, and Rachel practically ran the few feet across the room from the wall to the couch and fell into her arms. Yes, Aunt Karen had her good girl back. We all had her back now.

Uncle Steve and Mike were not due back until Sunday, so the three of us girls spent the rest of the night relaxing and watching a couple of chick flicks. Rachel conked out pretty early, which was understandable after everything she had been through that day. As Rachel lay there asleep on the couch with a blanket over her, Aunt Karen and I were finishing ‘Barefoot in the Park’, which was one of our favorite movies.

In the light of the TV in front of us, Aunt Karen looked at me and talked just above a whisper so she wouldn’t wake Rachel.

“After everything that happened, I’m proud of you for the way you handled it in the end, sweetheart. Being the older sister to someone is a big responsibility sometimes. But it’s not all bad.”

I looked at Rachel’s peaceful, sleeping face.

“Yeah. Yeah, it isn’t.” (‘Yeah, it isn’t’ is correct grammar in California-ese when you’re affirming something.)

All in all, that very long day ended much, much nicer than it started. It was the better part of a month before Rachel or I did something naughty again. Considering our track record, I’d have to call that a win.

The End

© Caroline Richards 2021

If you would like to contact me, my email address is carolinerichards6789@gmail.com