One of the things I noticed about working for yourself is that you never have enough time. For anything. Even for most of your work. Everything needs to be extensively planned, squeezed into the calendar, finished in too little time, crossed off the to-do list.
This seems to include punishment. Unless it’s planned ahead, or cramped into a tiny pocked of the day when neither Abel nor I happen to be running mental circles around our tasks – it’s not going to happen. Luckily, we’ve got pretty good at finding time for things like that – eventually, after much putting-off – but it has also come to mean that I’m losing any ability to worry about a punishment much beforehand – or else I’d spend days and weeks waiting for a snatched moment, fretting.
A few weeks ago Abel woke me up before going off to catch a train, and informed me I was in for it: I had let the credit on the gas meter run out again. (We are old enemies, that gas meter and I.) I sighed, and agreed, and fell back asleep until my alarm clock went, and then there was work, and more work, and over the next few days we remembered a punishment was supposed to happen, but we failed to find that small shred of time and aloneness that would make it possible.
Days went by, we went on a trip, and played with others, and worked more, and worked and worked.
And then we had half an evening relatively free. I was in a silly mood, and teased Abel about – well, something; I’m sure he deserved to be teased about whatever it was. He told me to stop being cheeky; I didn’t feel like letting some quality teasing go to waste just because he was going to smack my bottom for it.
Sure enough, he grasped me by the upper arm and dragged me to the living-room, where he manfully threw me over the arm of the sofa, and manfully whooshed his belt out of the loops, and manfully doubled it over. I was enjoying myself far more than my position dictated.
Three or four smarting licks later Abel paused and asked me if I had anything to say for myself. I decided to quit while this was still fun, and offered him my most humble apology (perhaps, not very humble by other people’s standard, but I did my best).
"While I have you here," he said.
I twisted around to look at him: "Yes?"
"There’s that issue with the gas meter we haven’t dealt with yet."
Oh, great, I thought, just when I was having fun. "Wasn’t it kinda long ago?" I said. "Isn’t there some sort of statute of limitation for punishments you never get around to giving me?"
"I’ve got around to it now," he said impatiently, "Let’s not waste any more time on it."
I saw him raise the belt and stuck my face into the cushions.
Three strokes – not much longer than two seconds – that was all it took. I didn’t even have a chance to get scared, or to cry out in pain. A brief moment of pain, like a lick of fire from a flame-thrower, and Abel was telling me to get up, and pulling his belt back through the loops.
"Is this it?" I asked in surprise, rubbing the sore spot on my bottom.
"Why, do you need more?" Abel laughed at my expression and put his arms around me.
I was really glad I hadn’t spent the previous two weeks freaking out over the upcoming punishment: the build-up was going to have been for not very much. Still, the punishment was proportional to the gravity of the offence, so making it worse just to rise up to the two-week wait wouldn’t have been an answer, either.
And then I had to wait another two weeks until I had a little time to write this account, but that’s another story entirely.