(The following story is based on actual experiences of the author. A few liberties have been taken for dramatic effect and the names of all innocent and guilty parties have been changed for no real good reason. This story is donated to the public domain.)
Seventh grade saw my entry into the world of Junior High School. In one year I went from being one of the big fish in a little pond to being one of the little fish in a big pond. Seventh graders were beaten on by everybody from the teachers to the upperclassmen. The eighth graders were the worst, of course. They had just got their lumps the year before and were dying to hand some out to the new underclassmen.
The worst part of seventh grade was gym class. Mr. Craddock, who taught Boys Gym, was one of the meanest people I ever met. The first day of class we had to strip to our underpants to have our height and weight measured. Then we stood at attention in the locker room while Mr. Craddock walked up and down our ranks, telling us in no uncertain terms what the rules were. He had our complete attention, since he was carrying his "enforcer," a golf club with the head cut off. We would all come to know the feeling the enforcer could impart to our buttocks during the next three years.
During cold or inclement weather we had gym class in the gymnasium proper. We would split up into teams, determined by the "count off" method. The teams would compete in volleyball, relays races, or whatever contest Craddock's warped mind could invent. All the boys were enthusiastic about their team doing well for two reasons. First, young boys are generally very competitive. Second, the last place team at the end of the day would have to "run the gauntlet."
A few minutes before it was time to hit the showers, all the teams would line up by teams. After the losers were determined, all the other teams would form two long parallel lines. The losers than ran between the lines, a few strides apart. As each loser ran between the lines, the boys on line hand spanked his backside as hard as possible. It was therefore advantageous to run as fast as you could. Occasionally a mean boy in one of the lines would "accidentally" be late on the back swing from the previous boy, and would hit the next boy in the crotch, rather than on the butt. Any boy caught doing this had to run the gauntlet himself, so it was only rarely (and cautiously) done.
In the showers after one of these sessions is was quite easy to determine who the losers were, as their ass cheeks were cherry red. Sometimes a clear hand print could be seen on some boy's nether cheek, which garnered comment from the pundits. Serious horseplay in the locker room was rare, since Mr. Craddock and his enforcer could make an appearance at any time.
Wet towel fights were the most popular sport in the locker room, and the activity most likely to get out of hand. When things got too noisy, the Ogre would storm out of his office. Everyone quieted down immediately, but it was already too late. If Craddock had to get "the enforcer" out, he was going to use it on somebody. When the Ogre called attention, all boys not actually in the showers had to immediately stop whatever they were doing and face the wall.
Everyone stood at rigid attention, facing the wall, desperately trying to look innocent. Fear hung in the air, a living thing. Each boy dreaded the touch of cold metal on his back, accompanied by the command to "bend over." Any boy the Ogre thought was involved felt that touch and received that order, which was followed by a few sharp cuts with the stick. Craddock included anyone with telltale "straw- berry marks" on his body. Thus boys who were victims of a towel flick without actively participating were beaten just the same.
Running in the locker room or the showers was another offense sure to be punished with a few cuts from the enforcer. Needless to say, the atmosphere in the locker room was subdued, at least for a bunch of 13 to 14 year old boys winding down from exercise. I dare say few of us ever took up the game of golf.
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