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A Crisp White Shirt
The senior schoolgirl plugs
in the iron, lays her shirt on the board. She glances at her
The iron wastes precious seconds heating.
She waits in her blue plaid skirt, socks - her tie and blazer
thrown on the unmade bed. Her ponytail still drips. She sprays
starch on the shirt's sleeves and collar.
The girl can feel time slip away as the iron
smoothes and sticks. Yet it is important the shirt be done right.
Wrinkles aren't acceptable. The collar must be crisp, smooth.
The time! Students are arriving at class.
Still the girl struggles to get it right.
What had he said last week?
"You've had your last detention for uniform
violations, miss. Your next infraction means a hard -"
The girl looks in surprise at the blister
burn from the iron.
No more time. No more time. She shoves her
arms into newly-ironed sleeves, throws on her blazer, simultaneously
fastening her shirt and tying her tie. Slipping on shoes, she
rushes to class with undone laces. She's halfway downstairs
as the last bell rings.
Her classroom door's now shut, locked. She
raises her hand to knock and feels a tap on her shoulder. It's
him of course.
He hands her a pink demerit slip. Her heart
sinks as his eyes pass over her uniform.
"Sir? . . . I . . . overslept?"
She bends and ties her laces, tries to knot
her tie, realizes her shirt's one button off.
He says nothing, but leads her down the hall
to his office. There, he first puts ointment on her blistered
hand, carefully examining the burn. Then he itemizes aloud the
state of her dress.
- Hair wet.
- Tie and shoes untied.
- Shirt incorrectly buttoned.
Her apprehension rises.
"This school's dress code is supposed
to teach students attention to detail. After three years you
have less and less. Your classwork and appearance reflect this
carelessness. Young lady, I made you a promise. Didn't you think
I meant it?"
"Sir, I -"
"No more. Remove your blazer."
My hands grasp the chair's rung.
My head's low; I can smell the shirt's starchy cleanness, feel
its tightness at the collar button. There's an unfamiliar coolness
as my skirt is folded up, my panties lowered. The paddle, cold,
smooth, pats my bottom. It swats hard: once, twice, six, twelve
. . . more than I can or want to count. Swat-swat-smack.
I can't believe I'm being spanked.
I hear someone - me - crying, sobbing. Blinded
by tears, my eyes squeeze shut.
Over. Gradually I realize it's over. Sobs
fade back to gasps. His gaze is kind, fatherly, as he wipes
my eyes. His gentle hands re-button my shirt, re-knot my tie,
adjust my collar, make it all right. We walk back to class.
The girl in her neat uniform
sits gingerly, wearing a crisp white shirt. Her head bends
over her assignment.
She notices the period on the wrong side of
the quotation marks.
to Mija's stories
to the treehouse