When I was a junior in high school my parents were killed in a car
accident. My brother Dean was 18 years older than me and lived on
the other side of the country. He decided to move back home, and
together we would live in our parents' house. In the meantime I was
staying with my grandmother (my grandfather had died before I was
Dean was a great guy, and we got along really well. I loved my
grandmother, but she was very old and very hard to live with on a 24-
hour basis. I also had a lot farther to drive for school from her
house, but they weren't making me change to a different school
because my living situation was only temporary.
Dean was out for the funeral, but left immediately to arrange moving
back home. After about six weeks he finally arrived. Grandma and I
had kind of been fighting on and off that week, but we were both in
great moods because of his arrival. She made us a Thanksgiving feast
(even though it was only August), and we all sat around talking and
reminiscing -- all of us carefully avoiding referring to my mom and
As we were cleaning up after dinner I guess I snapped at my grandma
(I don't even remember what I said) and Dean said, "Christopher!
That wasn't nice."
"Oh, what? Are you going to start in on me too, now?" I asked,
"I was just ask -- "
"You were just sticking your nose where it doesn't belong, all
right?" I interrupted.
"Oh, boys" said my grandmother. "Let's not fight."
"We're not fighting, grandma" said Dean, kissing her cheek.
"That's grandma's good boy" she said, patting his arm as she walked
out of the room.
"That was mean" he whispered fiercely.
"She's been driving me nuts!" I whispered back. "She thinks I'm a
five-year-old or something."
"Chris" he said, laughing, "did you just hear what she said to
me? 'That's grandma's good boy?' I'm almost 32, and she still talks
to me that way."
"Well you haven't had to LIVE here" I said, sullenly.
"All right, I know" he said, "but you almost made her cry just now.
There was NO reason to do that."
"Whatever" I said, and started to walk away. He reached out and
caught my arm, stopping me.
"No, Chris" he said. "You go apologize to her right now. She's not
going to be with us very much longer, you know." That made me wince
with vivid memories of my parents' funeral. My nerves were really
frayed, and I was so exhausted and upset. I didn't want to fight
with him and ruin his homecoming, but just then I was pretty pissed
"Well maybe I don't give a damn" I said, not really meaning it, and
wiping at my eyes.
"You don't mean that" he said, and squeezed and let go of my arm.
"Well who are YOU to stick your nose into it anyway?" I said. "It's
between me and grandma, right?"
"Well for one thing" he said, "I'm your legal guardian now, and
you're going to do what I tell you to do." There was an
uncomfortable pause, and then he said, "You got that?"
My eyes narrowed on him and I said, "Go fuck yourself, Dean" but as I
turned away from him he grabbed my arm painfully and yanked me over
to stand almost up against him.
"Hey, you are not going to behave like this, you got that?" he
said. "Just because mom and dad are gone doesn't mean you get to do
anything you want." When he mentioned my mom and dad it brought
tears to my eyes and I was about to hug him, but then he said, "Your
whole attitude better improve in a hurry kid, or I'll put you over my
knee and spank you like a little boy. Is that what you want?"
I tried to pull away from him, but he held on and as tears spilled
out of my eyes his also watered up and he said, "I miss them so much"
and then we were both crying and hugging each other. It was a
relief, in a way, because it had felt very weird when he got there
earlier that day and we had both just acted like everything was
After we had pulled ourselves together I went and found my
grandmother and apologized. I had been sleeping in her guest room,
and Dean joined me that night in the king-sized bed. We both lay on
our backs, staring at the ceiling and talking.
"...so do you get the house?" I asked.
"We both get half of everything" he said.
"Really?" I asked. "The house and everything is legally BOTH ours?"
"Yeah" he said, quietly.
"Well I hope you don't think you're going to tell me what to do in MY
house" I said, half seriously.
"Listen, kid" he said, lightly punching my arm, "I meant what I said
earlier. You better just behave."
"What? You think I'd let you spank me?" I asked, incredulously.
"'Let' isn't really the right word" he said.
"Look, Dean" I said. "Come off it, okay? I would never let you do
that. Don't try to pull this dad thing on me, all right? You're NOT
"First of all," he said, "I'm old enough to be your dad. Secondly,
you are not too old to spank. And thirdly, you're my responsibility
now and I am not going to let down mom and dad by letting you turn
into a brat." I could hear the smile in his voice, and that was
accentuated by his pillow going WHAP across my head, but I was angry.
I sat up and flipped on the night stand light. He groaned and
shielded his eyes until they adjusted.
"Hey" he said, "why do you look so pissed?"
"Who the hell do you think you are?" I asked in a strangled voice.
"All right, look" he said, reaching over and patting my chest. "I'm
not going to fight with you, and this isn't some kind of power trip,
all right? Look" he tugged at the neck of my t-shirt, pulling it off
my shoulder and exposing my very lightly colored birthmark.
"You know what that is?" he asked.
"My birthmark?" I said, not sure if that's what he was referring to.
"That is NOT a birthmark" he said, letting go of my shirt.
"Yes, it is" I said.
"No, little brother" he said, sitting up and looking at his
lap. "That's where I burnt you."
"What?" I asked, startled.
"When you were two years old Danny Pierce and I were goofing around
in the kitchen after mom had told us to settle down, and you were in
your high chair" he said. "We knocked over a whole pot of stroganoff
and some of it splattered all the way over to you and landed on your
little shoulder and burnt you. It was so bad it blistered and mom
took you to the emergency room, and you've had that discolored mark
"Are you serious?" I asked. "You BURNT me?"
"Yeah" he said. "They always said it was a birthmark because they
didn't want you to be mad at me" he said.
In fact, I wasn't mad at him, but I said, "Well, I am now."
"Come on" he said, nudging me.
I laughed and said, "Okay, not really. But what does that have to do
with -- "
"My point" said Dean, "is that I was nearly 21 years old and dad
paddled my butt raw for that. So if you think your little high
school backside is too old to get it, I'm here to tell you that you
better think VERY carefully before testing me."
"He did not!" I said, disbelieving.
"Oh, yes he did" said Dean. "It was totally humiliating at swim
practice, too. Everybody could tell -- "
"Get out!" I laughed.
"I'm serious, Chris" he said. "I don't want to punish you, but you
gotta know that I will, okay?"
I turned off the light and stewed in that one for a long while. My
mind went through a thousand scenarios, all of them unworkable if I
was being super honest with myself, and I finally said into the
"Okay" he said, and his hand groped for my head, slid down to my
face, and then I felt him kiss my forehead. "Good night,
"Night" I said.
It wasn't long before Dean had reason to punish me. Not long after
we moved into our parents house he had let me take his brand new car
to school, instead of the old wreck I usually had to drive. On the
way home I got a ticket for doing 84 down a residential street, and I
knew I'd be in deep shit for it because I vaguely remembered
something similar happening with him when I was very young.
I kept it a secret, even though I knew he'd find out eventually
because I was a minor and you had to take a parent or guardian to
court with you. About a week and a half later as I got home from
school and as I walked up to the house Dean was climbing down a
ladder off the roof.
"Go sit in the livingroom, Christopher" he said. "I want to talk to
"Okay" I mumbled, sure that he now knew.
I sat on the couch, and a moment later he walked in. He walked over
to the coffee table, picked up an envelope, and tossed it at me. As
it landed in my lap he said, "84 in a residential?" He said it
totally calm, but something about that sent a chill down my spine.
"Look -- " I started.
"No" he said. "Just let me talk first." Then, amazingly, he wiped
at his eyes, then wiped at them again and I realized belatedly he was
trying not to cry.
"Christo -- " he cleared his throat, coughed, then started
again. "Christopher" he said, sighing. "You can't -- we're the only
ones we have now, okay? I mean, grandma will be with us a little
longer but, really, I only have you and you only have me."
"I know" I said, quietly.
"I'm not trying to be dramatic here, okay? But I want you to think
about this: what if someone, like a little kid, had ridden a bike
out of a driveway just then? You were going WAY too fast to be able
to stop in time."
"I know, D -- "
"Be quiet" he said. "What if a tire had blown out and you lost
control of the car? Hampton is a very narrow street, Chris. You'd
have smashed into a tree, or at least another car. Do you see where
I'm going with this?"
"Yeah" I said.
"Do you, Chris? You know, sometimes I walk around the house at night
and I just -- you know, I just cry and it feels like they're going to
come home any second." He wiped at his nose and said, "Have you gone
in their room yet?"
"Yeah" I said, looking at the floor and watching my tears splatter on
the wood floor.
"I haven't" he said. "I keep trying, but -- " we were suddenly
hugging each other, comforting each other, and then he was patting my
back and saying, "All right. Let's take care of this."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Get your pants down" he said, sternly.
"Oh, come on" I said.
"Right now, Chris" he said, and his whole manner had changed. I
struggled with myself internally for only a few seconds before
resigning myself to my fate. I undid my pants and pushed them to the
floor as he sat on the couch.
"I can't believe you're really going to do this" I said. Without a
word he reached up and pulled me over his lap, and as he grabbed the
waistband of my jockeys I said, "Hey! Don't!" but to my chagrin he
yanked them down to my thighs.
"Come on, Dean! Not like this!" I said, but in response his hand
landed with a loud WHACK right across the middle of my cheeks.
"Ow!" I said. WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! WHACK!
WHACK! WHACK! WHACK!
"All right! That's enough!" WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! WHACK!
"Come on!!!" WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! WHACK!
WHACK! WHACK! WHACK!
"PLEASE STOP!!!" WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! WHACK!
WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! His hand fell relentlessly down on my
butt, a slightly different place each time. My ass was on fire, and
I finally gave up pleading and just buried my head in the couch and
Finally he stopped, and I was so angry and humiliated. I started to
push myself off his lap but he pressed firmly down on my back and
said, "Stay there a bit."
"No!" I said, sobbing.
WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! WHACK!
"You want some more, or are you going to do as I say?" he asked. I
stopped struggling and plopped my head back on the couch, totally
giving in and crying hard. He ran his hand up and down my back,
massaged the back of my head, massaged my back, and it made me
remember the last time my father had put me over his knee. He had
done exactly the same thing, and I realized that Dean himself had
been in this position several times over our father's knee, and I
missed my dad then so much that I bawled even harder.
I let Dean maneuver me, pulling up my shorts and helping me stand. I
put my arms around his neck, my head pressed to his shoulder, my
pants pooled down around my ankles and just cried my head off. I
think he knew my tears, at that point, were not from the spanking and
he held me tightly and said lots of nice things like how good it was
to be living with me again, and how he looked forward to all the time
we could spend together.
When I had calmed down and started to pull up my pants he said, "You
know for 84 in a residential dad would have put your nose in the
corner for a LONG time."
I slouched but said, "Oh, all right" but as I headed for the corner
he grabbed my arm and said, "No. It's all right this time. I think
we've both had plenty of unwarranted punishment the last few weeks."
I sniffed and said, "All right. Thanks."
Much later that night after dinner we were cleaning up the kitchen
and I said, "I thought I'd hate you if you ever -- you know, if you
ever spanked me."
"And you don't?" he said, throwing a dishtowel on the counter.
"No" I said.
"I used to lean on dad a lot, Chris, when I was your age" he
said. "I'd push things to the limit all the time, and I knew that if
I went too far he'd be there to snap me back. I didn't like being
punished, but I think I had more fun than a lot of guys. I want you
to be a kid, Chris. You're still very young, and I want you to know
that you can rely on me the way we both relied on mom and dad. I AM
old enough to be your dad, you know."
"Just barely" I said.
"I know" he said, "but old enough still. Just let me do all the mom
and dad stuff, all right? I'll pay the bills and take care of our
money and the house and everything else. You just keep your grades
up and do what you would have normally."
When I just stood there staring at him he stuck out his hand and
said, "Is it a deal?"
I loved him so much. I had always looked up to him, and I had always
thought of him as an adult/equal to our parents. It wasn't hard for
me to take his hand and say, "All right, yeah. Deal."
"Good" he said, but I didn't let go of his hand when he tried to pull
away. "What?" he said, as I pulled him with me, out of the kitchen.
When he saw that I was headed down the hall to our parents' bedroom
he forced me to stop and said, "Wait. Hold on."
"Come on" I said, trying to sound mature and comforting. When we got
to the doorway of their room Dean suddenly ran forward and leaped
onto their bed. As he lay there, utterly motionless, I heard him
sniff loudly and I walked over and laid down beside him.
He turned over on his back, and we lay like that, shoulder to
shoulder, looking up at the ceiling. We didn't look at each other,
though it was obvious to both of us that the other was crying, our
hands laced behind our heads.
We fell asleep like that together, fully dressed on top of our
parents' bed, one hand lazily thrown above our heads, the other hand
firmly grasping the other's.
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