Men, huh? Can't live with 'em. Can't strip 'em and spank 'em. Well actually, you CAN, in this little corner of cyberspace. Around here, fully grown males are at constant risk of humiliating bare bottomed correction - hence the 'humblings' of the title.

Monday 4 December 2017

In At The Deep End - Part Two

Hello again, everyone.

Thanks for all the comments on my recent picture post, and especially to those of you whose naughty imaginations fuelled a number of associated narratives.

As promised, here's my own take on preceding events. Hope you enjoy it!

************************************************************************************ Robert was prowling the bedroom, naked, engaged in a frantic search. As he always did when he couldn't find something, he was cursing steadily under his breath. He'd already tipped two drawers full of clothing onto the bed, and now began to rifle through a third.

"Debora," he yelled in the direction of the en-suite bathroom, "have you seen my trunks?"

His wife appeared at the doorway, dressed in her underwear and with her blonde hair wrapped in a towel. She regarded the tangled jumble of garments with a sigh.

"Right there," she said, pointing with her toothbrush at a pair of swimming briefs atop one of the piles of clothing. "There. Look."

Robert looked. "Not those," he said, irritably. "The shorts."

Debora had returned to the bathroom to spit toothpaste into the sink. "Oh, those," she called back. "I dropped those nasty old things into the clothing bank yesterday morning, while I was down at the supermarket - you know, buying food to make sure we don't starve, while you were still snoring in bed."

She leaned out beyond the door jamb. "And before you ask what's happened to that hideous shirt you brought back from Jamaica, I'm afraid that's also been donated to the homeless. God help them. As if they haven't suffered enough."

Robert looked dismayed. "I don't care about the stupid shirt," he said. "But I needed those shorts. You knew I only had those, and... these things... for swimming." He held up the trunks by one corner, and eyed them as he would something he'd found forgotten and putrefied at the back of the fridge. They were blue, but covered in a pattern of smiling yellow emoji. "And you know I've never worn these," he groaned.

Debora reappeared. She had thrown on a t-shirt from the airing cupboard.

"Well, it's about time you did wear those," she said. "My mother bought them specially for you two Christmases ago."

"Two Christmases ago I was thirty-three years old," Robert complained. "Not twelve."

He examined the trunks, front and back, with a scowl. The emoji grinned back at him. "These are like something you'd buy for a child - a very, very uncool child. In fact," he said, peering suspiciously at the label, "I'm guessing they are from the kids' section - they're at least a size too small."

Debora shook her head and began to towel her hair vigorously, her face now stern. "Then you should have taken them back or given them away, like I told you at the time, instead of leaving them in the drawer. That way I'd have known not to get rid of the other ones. Anyway", she said, "Here's an idea. How about you just try them on and stop being a crybaby? I think they're fun. And hurry up - we're already late."

She disappeared off down the landing in search of a pair of jeans.

With a deeply unhappy expression, Robert stooped to slip the briefs over his feet and then pull them up. They were already tight by the time he'd got them to the tops of his thighs. He winced as he worked them over his buttocks, and that made another thought occur to him - a fluttery, panicky kind of thought.

When Debora returned she found Robert with his back to the full-length mirror, craning his head around to study his behind. "Oh shit," he said. "Shit. Debs, we definitely can't go to the pool."

His wife stopped in the doorway, jeans in one hand and a disbelieving expression on her face.

"I'm sorry," she said, theatrically tilting her head to one side and and waggling a fingertip in her ear, "maybe I got some water in here and it's affected my hearing. Because I'm pretty sure - especially so soon after last night's little discussion - that you didn't just say something about not going to to the pool."

"But that's the thing," said Robert, waving his hands ineffectually to indicate the livid cane marks traversing his buttocks and extending well beyond the edges of his improbably skimpy costume. "Everyone..." His voice trailed off into bewildered silence.

"Well, yes. I expect they will," said Debora, stepping into her jeans and sliding them up her long legs. "But since it was you who earned a whipping by breaking your promise again about going to the gym this week, and you who swore you'd come swimming with me to make up for it, I don't really see how that's any of my concern."

"But, honey..." began Robert, and then stopped short as his wife approached him and reached up to put a finger to his lips.

"Shush," she said, and Robert did.

Debora leaned in close to his ear. "I don't want to hear any more about this. Are we clear?"

Robert nodded.

"Good boy," smiled Debora. "Now I am telling you for the last time that we are both going to the pool and that you are going to wear those trunks, and there's nothing at all that you can do about it. And when I remove my finger, there are only two words I want to hear from you. Are we also clear on that?"

Robert nodded again.

Debora dropped her hand to her waist and waited while her husband's shoulders slumped and he looked at the floor and said quietly and with some difficulty, "Yes, Ma'am."

Then after a moment he said, "Honey, I've said I'll come, ok? So please don't be angry." He gestured again at his vividly striped bottom. "But is there something we can do to cover up these marks?"

Debora finished fastening her jeans and glanced over at the dressing table. "I suppose we could find time for that," she said. "What would you like me to use - the strap, or the hairbrush?"

Ten minutes later, in the car and en route to the pool, Robert pointed hopefully towards a side-road and said, "You know, we could swing by the supermarket and get me some new swimming shorts. It's only ten minutes that way."

Deborah sighed. "Except that it's Sunday, and they don't open until eleven."

"Oh. Then maybe they have some for sale at the pool."

"Maybe they do," said Debora, "but we won't be buying any there. The mark-up on the stuff they stock at reception is nearly three times what they pay for it, Chloe said."

That only added to Robert's unease. He tried to think of all the Chloes that his wife might know.

"Chloe?" he asked. "You mean Chloe-on-my-team-at-work Chloe?"

Debora watched the road. "Yes, my young friend Chloe, who also has the misfortune to report to you as her boss. I met up with her for coffee yesterday."

Robert had the distinct sense that his woes were piling up in some way that he didn't yet fully understand. He tried out half a dozen questions in his head, and finally settled on "How was that?"

"Not bad," said Debora, "only she was a little bit subdued, which isn't like her. You know, she's normally such a gossip. But she did tell me about the public dressing-down you gave her last week for being all of three minutes late for a meeting."

Debora slowed the car momentarily to let another driver pull out at a junction, and took the opportunity to give her husband a cool sidelong look. "Three minutes! The poor girl was trying to make light of it, but it was obvious you'd upset her."

"It was a key meeting," Robert grumbled, "with a new client."

"But still just a meeting," said Debora, "and still just three minutes."

She acknowledged the other driver's thanks with a nod, and put her foot back on the accelerator. "Don't you think you could have cut her some slack? Maybe had a quiet word in private, or said nothing at all? She's still finding her feet, Robert. She's twenty-two years old."

"I guess so," admitted Robert. "Did you manage to cheer her up?"

"Oh, yes," said Debora, with a sly smile that Robert didn't like the look of.

"What did you say?"

"Hmm. I don't recall exactly. I think something about you not getting away with speaking to me like that."

"You're kidding," said Robert, his eyes widening.

"Why would I be kidding? It's true, isn't it? Oh, and I might have said something about you maybe being a bit of a bully at work because you don't get to wear the trousers at home."

"Oh God," said Robert. "Why would you say that?"

Debora reached down to change gear and said, "I may even have mentioned that you might not be sitting comfortably on Monday. But you know, Chloe just giggled at that, so I guess she assumed I was joking. After all, no little woman is going to be taking big, bad Robert Saunders in hand, is she?"

"Um," said Robert.

They drove on for a few excruciating minutes in silence, until finally Robert asked the question he'd been avoiding because he was now almost certain he wouldn't like the answer. "So how does Chloe know about the mark-up? I mean, about the stuff at the swimming pool."

Helen brightened at that. "Oh, didn't you know? She works there on Sundays."

"In reception?" asked Robert, as casually as he could muster while his heart threatened to beat its way out of his chest.

"Sometimes," said Debora. "But today I gather she's on lifeguard duty." She waited a moment while Robert considered this and then, as though the thought had only just occurred to her, said, "Oh! Just your luck that it's her who's going to be keeping an extra close eye on all the swimmers this morning. I mean, on the very day when you turn up with your well-wealed behind hanging out of your cute little swimsuit."

Robert stared. He opened his mouth to make one last plea to his wife, but what came out of it was little more than a noise something like a whimper. He sank a little lower into his seat and looked sideways out of the car window at the street signs as they passed. They were almost at the pool. He hoped against hope for something - a puncture, a prang, anything - that would curtail their journey.

"Oh dear, oh dear," his wife was saying. "Whatever will Chloe think if she notices? Perhaps she'll realise that I wasn't joking after all. Perhaps she'll tell the other people at work what happens to mean Mr Saunders at home when he misbehaves."

Robert looked dazedly through the windscreen. They were just pulling into the pool's car park. "Christ, I hope she doesn't," he said.

But Chloe did.

Monday 20 November 2017

In At The Deep End

Just when you thought I'd sunk without trace, another picture trundles slowly into view... not quite a year on from the last one.

Hello, everyone!

There is a backstory associated with this drawing, and I'll post that in the next week or two (no, really!)

In the meantime, feel free to make up your own. :)

Thursday 29 December 2016

Do Your Bit If You Want To Sit

Those of you who remember me (because, yes, it's been quite a while!) may also remember my stepsister Wanda Ling, who's now been working at the female-led OSIRIS company for almost six years. When I say 'working', of course, it's in the loosest sense of the word - having risen through the ranks of OSRIS's all-woman management team, from what I can gather Wanda still spends most of her day dishing out any real work to her male underlings, and dishing out discipline to those of them who don't come up to scratch. It's clear from her emails that the latter is still her favourite part of the job, but no surprises there - she always did have an unashamedly sadistic streak.

Apparently progress has been slipping of late and a couple of projects have gone over budget, so things have been hotting up somewhat for the male employees while the plans are brought back on track - all of their Christmas leave was cancelled and there's now some serious micro-management going on, including unannounced spot checks and plenty of at-desk motivation provided for those who need it.

Not that Wanda minds putting in the extra effort, of course - she's always happy to swing into action, so long as it's a disciplinary implement that she's swinging. She's been sending weekly slogans to her team, too, by way of encouragement: 'When productivity drops, trousers are sure to follow'; 'Missed deadlines lead to hot cane lines'; and finally, 'Do your bit if you want to sit'. I think that last one might need some work, but I'm not about to tell her that - I'm meeting her for lunch next week, and I'm not keen to have my behind slapped in public. Again.

Anyway, Wanda's even shared her latest poster with me, and asked whether I'd feel inclined to work harder after seeing it.

I had to admit I would. Wouldn't you?

Saturday 14 March 2015

Hello, Sailor

In the navy
Yes, you can sail the seven seas
In the navy
Yes, girls will put you 'cross their knees...

So sang The Village People - well, nearly - way back in 1978.

Quite how much a cowboy, a construction worker, a biker, a soldier, a native American and a motorcycle cop actually knew about maritime military tradition is open to debate - the largely female crew of HMS Martinet, on the other hand, are well versed in it and are dedicated guardians of one aspect in particular: discipline.

Of course, it's not all about standing to attention and saluting - when a vessel is going to be at sea for weeks at a time there have to be opportunities to let off steam, and things can get a little boisterous. For the junior male ratings there are occasions when full uniform won't be required, as young Seaman Staines here - stop sniggering at the back - is just in the process of finding out. And since he's going to be stuck in the middle of the ocean with these ladies for the next month at least, he may just have to accept that some 'traditions' are newer than others.

So, any takers for a post aboard the Martinet? The crew are looking forward to giving you a warm welcome. All together now...

They want you, they want you,
They want you as a new recruit!

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Surprising Santa

Hello, everyone. At last, a new picture - albeit of a cartoony sort.

Wishing you and yours a very happy and peaceful Christmas. May you all have a wonderful time.

And, unlike young Annabelle here, may each of you get exactly what you've been asking for - one way or another!

Saturday 25 October 2014

Cross Country

The glider is high up - maybe three thousand feet over the hilltop, which is itself a good six hundred above the sea. Had he not been lying on his back and gazing contentedly into the late summer sky, Frank would probably not have noticed it at all. Now he is transfixed by the lazy progress of the slender machine as it climbs in a slow circle, riding a thermal, neatly framed by the circle of long grass in which he and Mary are hiding.

"Think he can see us?" Frank asks, shifting his position a little to escape a stone that's digging into his bare backside. His shoes, socks, jeans and briefs are in a tangle at the far corner of their picnic blanket.

"'He'?" asks Mary - up on one elbow now, straw-coloured hair in disarray, breasts revealed invitingly by the scooped neckline of her yellow cotton dress. "Stop press, sweetheart - just occasionally one of us little women gets out of the kitchen and all the way up in one of those things, you know. Sometimes," she says, reaching over to take a soft, teasing grip on her husband's penis,"they even let us handle the controls."

Frank closes his eyes at her touch. "They do?"

"They do, and have done for quite a while. Amelia Earhart? Ring any bells?"

"Sure it does - oh God, honey, that feels good - she's the girl from way back who flew across the Atlantic - or was it the Pacific? And then -"

"It was both."

" - and then took a wrong turn trying to find some island, and was never seen again." Frank opens one eye mischievously. "Probably got into trouble while she was fixing her makeup in the rear-view mirror."

Mary withdraws her hand abruptly, and uses it to brush crumbs from her skirt. "You'd know all about getting into trouble," she says.

That produces an uncomfortable smile. "Hey, sorry about earlier, love - but let's not spoil the mood. Look, the sun's shining. It's not supposed to be a school day." Frank puts his hands beneath him and slides his torso over until his head is resting on her lap. "Or if it is, how about you carry on with the history lesson? You know I have a thing for you intellectual schoolma'am types."

Mary regards him coolly for a moment. "Amelia Mary Earhart," she says. "No relation, before you ask. American, born around the end of the nineteenth century. Learned to fly. Set quite a number of records, became a celebrity proponent of female equality. And disappeared, like you said, in mysterious circumstances - most likely after running out of fuel. Which, by the way, as well as any 'wrong turns', would have been down to her highly experienced, and very male, navigator."

Frank is sceptical. "Male navigator, oil changer, heavy lifter, engine starter..."

Mary squints up into the sunlight. "Maybe so. But our friend up there doesn't need an engine," she says.

"I guess not," says Frank, eager to keep the mood light and the subject safe. "So, do you think he - or she - can see us?"

"I should certainly hope not," Mary says. "And if you mean, can he or she see your frisky little cock - since you're the one lounging around partly tumescent and practically naked - I'd say probably not without a very low pass and bloody powerful binoculars."

Frank looks hurt. "I thought you liked my cock," he says.

"Oh, I do, sweetie. But I like dragonflies and bumble bees and dormice too. Doesn't mean I'm in a hurry to put one in my mouth."

Frank sighs and sits up. "Guess I might as well get dressed, in that case. And then we can head back home to mother."

"Not just yet, I don't think." Mary makes a show of gathering up his discarded clothes and pushing them into a corner of their wicker picnic basket, where the plates and glasses and leftover food have already been put away. Then she fixes him with her gaze and says, "Not until we've had a little discussion about what happened this morning."

Frank rolls his eyes. "Come on, darling. You could see how she was needling me."

"'She' is my mother, Frank, and a guest in our house. Yes, she can sometimes be a little forthright. But she is not an 'interfering witch'. And next time you're tempted to address her as such, I want you to be thinking about the consequences."

Frank blinks. He opens his mouth to speak, but then thinks better of it, and in any case Mary is busy rooting inside the basket again.

"Let me tell you what's going to happen," she says. She retrieves the large, folded penknife whose corkscrew attachment they'd used to open the wine, and points it toward him for emphasis. "You are going to cut me a switch. Not too thick, not too thin, say the diameter of your little finger. Make it about a foot-and-a-half long. Nice, pale wood with plenty of spring - hazel or hickory or birch are all good."

Frank looks warily at the knife for a moment and doesn't move, almost as though he were considering saying no. Then he reaches out and takes it, as they both knew he would.

"Honey, she really was needling me," he says again, but this time without conviction.

"Less whining," says Mary. "More switch-cutting."

Mary's hunt for the knife has also turned up an uneaten banana. Now she uses her long nails to pry open its skin before peeling it slowly, thoughtfully. "Look on the bright side," she says, "Once we've got this unpleasant business out of the way, who knows? If you've shown me you can do as you're told, and after I've had the satisfaction of whipping your bare little behind, I might even be in the mood," - she slowly slides a good third of the banana between her full lips, bites off a mouthful and talks around it - "to show you some forgiveness."

She picks up the paperback book from the blanket beside her, opens it at the bookmark and reads half a page before looking up again as if in surprise that Frank is still in the same spot. "Or," she says, "we can head back to the car right now. And we'll do this at home, with the hairbrush, and with mummy listening in the next room."

Frank's face flushes instantly. "Wait... okay," he says.

"'Okay', what?"

"I mean, I'll do it. The switch thing."

"Yes," says Mary, still chewing, "you will."

Frank glances over to where one trouser cuff is protruding from the top of the basket. "I'll just put my..."

"No," says Mary, "you won't. Not until after you've been dealt with."

Frank lowers his gaze and pushes out his bottom lip, like a scolded child. He spends a minute or so fiddling with the knife, popping a blade in and out. Stalling. Finally he looks around, and nods hopefully at the small stand of bushes a few yards behind them. "Are any of those hazel or... what was it again?"

"Those are laburnum," Mary says, and points over his shoulder. "Try there."

Frank turns and gapes at the open ground between their hidden location and the wooded area that Mary is indicating. "You're kidding, right?"

Mary ponders briefly. "Nope," she says.

"But that's miles away. What if somebody walks past?"

"Then you'd better be busy inside that wood, or safely back here with my switch, when they do."

"But what if they're around when I come out?"

Mary sighs and closes her book. "I suppose we mustn't frighten the locals. We'll need a secret signal, to spare your blushes."

"Secret signal?"

Mary raises her eyebrows. "Did you read even a single adventure story in your youth? Or did you progress straight from picture books of moo-moos and baa-baas to the lingerie pages of your mother's catalogue?" Frank begins to protest, but she cuts him off. "Yes, dear, a  secret signal. Like an owl hoot, or a cuckoo call. Or a whistle."

"A whistle?"

"Good God," sighs Mary, "I've married a parrot. Yes, a whistle. You know how to whistle, don't you Frank? You just put your lips together, and blow."

"I know how to whistle," says Frank. "But how will this work?"

"I'm coming to that. Once you've cut yourself a switch, you stay nice and hidden but you give me a whistle. Like this." She  demonstrates, with a low sound that glides up and down in pitch. "Now you do it."

Frank looks pained, but manages a fair imitation.

"Hmm," frowns Mary. "Well, that will have to do. Now, when I hear that, I'll stand up and have a little look around. If the coast is clear, I'll answer you with the same whistle and you can come scurrying back with your weapon of choice."

"And if the coast isn't clear?"

"Then I won't answer you."

Frank looks unhappy. "We don't need to do this, honey."

"Fine. Then you can take a chance on an impromptu audience."

"Um, I actually mean...we don't need to do this at all."

Mary greets this suggestion with an icy stare. "I do hope we're not entering a period of defiance, Francis. But if we are, I daresay my mother might enjoy hearing it brought to an abrupt end."

Frank's shoulders slump visibly. "No," he sighs. "It's just... could you point? I wouldn't know any of those types of tree..."

"...if they bit you on the ass?" Mary allows herself a smirk. "Tell you what, we won't worry too much about the species. You just keep examining nice, whippy little branches until you say to yourself, 'That one looks like it'd really, really hurt.' Then you deliver it back here and we find out how right you were." She leans over and places a finger beneath Frank's chin to lift his face toward hers. She's no longer smiling. "You'll want to take your time and choose carefully, little man, because if I don't like the switch you bring me then you'll be going right back to cut another. Now, do we understand each other?"

It's the question Frank always struggles with, even though it has only one permissible answer and he has had plenty of practice at providing it.

"Yes, ma'am," he says with difficulty.

"Good," says Mary, "then there'll be no more debate."

Frank would like more debate - a whole afternoon of it, if he thought he could wear Mary down; which long and painful experience has taught him he cannot. During three years of courtship and another two of marriage he's lost count of the number of times she's found it necessary to 'deal with' him - never quite without reason, but always with an enthusiasm bordering on glee. Mary has made good and frequent use of the hairbrush, the belt, the slipper; in the bedroom, the lounge, the kitchen and, on one occasion that he still blushes to recall, the rear patio of their semi-detached surburban house while their neighbours entertained friends on the far side of their six-foot fence. Are his wife's ministrations good for him? Do they strengthen their relationship? Frank doesn't know, and has long since given up wondering. He does know that the force of her personality intoxicates him in exactly the same way as it did in their first few months together; and that when she instructs him to do something and she means it, he cannot say no.

Frank does not say no. Instead he rises cautiously to his knees, and peers across the space between the edge of the long grass and the woods. Lord, that's got to be at least a hundred-and-fifty yards. He eases himself up a little further, self-consciously tugging down the hem of his t-shirt as he does so. He cranes his neck to look up the path as far as he can see, to where it disappears over the rise. He turns to his left and for a few moments watches the opening at the far corner of the field. Nobody appears, but that doesn't mean nobody will.

Mary glances at her watch. "The village market closes at four, doesn't it?" she says casually. "Probably be quite a few people heading home this way soon." Frank doesn't answer, but pulls harder on the fabric until he more-or-less manages to cover his crotch. "What I mean is," continues Mary, "if I were you I'd stop making like a meerkat and run, rabbit, run. Oh, you'd best leave your shirt here too. I paid good money for that, and you're stretching it all out of shape." She extends a hand. "Take it off please, and give it to me."

Frank stares at her in dismay. "I can't," he says, feebly.

"'Can't'?" says Mary. "Of course you can, sweetie. Just pull up that hem...come on, up, up, higher... now over your head... there you go."

A minute later Frank, perfectly naked now except for the running shoes that Mary has tossed him at the last moment - "We can't have you scratching those pretty feet" - is crawling to the edge of the long grass. Slowly, head on a swivel, he rises to his knees and finally balances on his haunches.

For a few moments he just crouches there, swaying slightly, caught between the resolve to get this over with and the queasy fear of putting distance between himself and the dignity of his clothing. He looks back at Mary and opens his mouth to say something - anything - but she's already engrossed in her book.

"You're supposed to be keeping a look out," Frank hisses.

"I am. Off you go, nature boy."

Frank's mouth tightens and he closes his eyes for several long seconds. When he opens them again he is still there, still naked, and still - but not for much longer - hidden from view. Reluctantly, giddy with adrenaline, he gets to his feet and then catches himself momentarily, ridiculously, looking for a pocket in which to stow the knife. Finally he grips it between his teeth. Then, genitals clasped in one hand and with the other trying ineffectually to cover his bare bottom, he begins to run.

Frank makes it halfway to the trees before he falls. A rock, or a root, or something - he's not about to stop and investigate - catches his toe, and he loses his balance and sprawls full length in the dirt. Cursing, he scrambles to his feet and then stumbles on, one hand still cupped over his groin and the other rubbing at a graze on his knee. The knife has been jettisoned ahead of him, and he scoops it up without breaking his stride.

As he nears the treeline he realises the way into the woods is blocked - stinging nettles, hundreds of them, standing chest-high along the perimeter as far as he can see. His pace slows to a stop and he backs up a little to get a better view. "Shit," he says. "Shit!" Hands jammed between his thighs, bouncing on his toes, he turns this way and that in an agonised fit of indecision.

The barking of a nearby dog breaks the spell. There's no telling where it's coming from, but every chance that the animal and its owners are heading this way. Alarmed, Frank plunges straight ahead through the dense vegetation, ignoring the hot sparks of the stinging hairs breaking over his skin.

Now inside the wood Frank feels a little better, if not exactly at ease. The trees are densely packed and there's plenty of low-growing foliage, and once he's a few yards in, the field is completely hidden from him - and thus he from it. He crouches experimentally, and decides that he could probably make himself mostly invisible if anyone came along the path within the wood. Probably. Mostly. "Shit," he says again. Best to keep moving.

At first Frank can't find what he's looking for. There are branches everywhere, of course, but all of them somehow wrong; too thick, too thin, too bent, too dead. "Choose carefully, young man," he reminds himself bitterly. He rubs vigorously at the nettle stings peppering his thighs, and watches his exposed penis bobbing in response as if mocking his predicament. Twice he's heard voices within the wood, thankfully none of them nearby but more than enough to make him jittery.

After several minutes of activity, much of it spent ducking into bushes at the slightest unexpected noise, Frank comes across a promising-looking tree with a dozen small branches radiating out from its trunk. Crouching, he bends a couple of them to test their flexibility and then chooses one. After a furtive glance over each shoulder he uses the knife to saw away at its base, twisting and tugging at it until it suddenly comes free. He topples backwards onto his behind, not hurt but nonetheless left with a dismal vision of himself - a thirty-four year old man, stripped to his birthday suit in the middle of a public wood, holding the instrument of his correction in one hand and using the other to pick away the dead leaves that have attached themselves to his bare buttocks and scrotum. The knife has skittered away into the undergrowth, and after a brief search Frank resigns himself to having lost it. Sullenly, he hacks at the undergrowth with the switch, and it cuts the air with a menacing thwip. At least that will help to fend off the nettles for the return trip.

Frank makes his way carefully back to the spot where he entered the wood - or thinks he did, since it all looks the bloody same by now. He finds a patch of bracken and hunkers down within it, as close to the tree line as he dares. If he can make it back to Mary without being seen, then at least he's past the worst of this. He might even laugh about it later, especially if the promise of that thing with the banana comes to fruition. He's not looking forward to the whipping, of course, but it will hardly be his first.

It's only when Frank attempts to whistle that he realises how dry his mouth is. He swallows hard and tries again, and this time the result sounds, if anything, too loud. At least that ought to do it, he thinks - except that it doesn't. Only sporadic snatches of birdsong break the stillness of the afternoon. Frank tries again, then suddenly thinks: shut up, you idiot - no response means the coast isn't clear. And here you are drawing attention to yourself.

Frank squats and listens and waits, fingers drumming against his pink-skinned knees, until eventually he can no longer bear the suspense. Creeping forward, he straightens up until he can just see over the top of the nettle bed. There is indeed someone walking there, out towards the stile at the far corner of the field - a young blonde woman in a yellow dress, carrying a picnic basket.

"Mary!" Frank exclaims in an absurd stage whisper.

She has to be teasing him, of course... doesn't she? She's heard him whistle, probably guesses that he'll be looking, and she does have a fondness for pranks. Any moment now, she'll look round and flash her trademark grin in his direction.

Any moment now.

Frank waits for Mary to turn back at the stile. Then he waits, a little less certainly, while she hoists the basket - the basket containing his clothes - and climbs over it into the roadway. And then she is gone.

Oh, God.

Suddenly gripped by anxiety, Frank briefly considers making a break out of the trees and straight through the meadow, and dignity be damned - but that's before a brown labrador, nose to the ground, trots across his field of view. Following it are a middle-aged man and woman, deep in conversation but still unlikely to miss a stranger clad in running shoes and nothing else sprinting across an open field - so Frank stays put. Cursing furiously under his breath, he peers through the leaves and watches the dog walkers saunter along the path, taking their time; for all the world as though they were only out for a pleasant stroll and not actually intent on ruining his life.

Finally, inexorably, the walkers disappear from view. Frank counts to ten, glances briefly behind him and begins to swing at the nettles with the switch. Twenty seconds later he is edging sideways through the gap he's created and thinking, thinking hard. The car is parked about half a mile away and Mary has a head start of five or six minutes, which means she'll be most of the way there by now. It's unthinkable - isn't it? - that she'd drive off without him. So yes, yes, she'll be waiting in the car. He won't want to waste any time, though - the field has been quiet enough for most of the afternoon, so he'll cut across to the far hedge as fast as he can go, and then be more careful once he gets to the road.

For a while, Frank is lucky. Nobody yells or screams as he races across the field, arms and legs pumping, testicles bouncing uncomfortably. Next he follows the line of the road but keeps within the edges of the fields as best he can, hurriedly pressing himself into hedgerows whenever he hears an approaching car. At one point he spots a farmer's tractor in the distance, but there's not much he can do about that. Probably doesn't care so long as I'm not trampling his crop, Frank thinks - then, a second later: who am I kidding? More likely he's on his cellphone to the police right now, reporting a dangerous pervert in the top pasture.

As Frank watches the tractor it seems to turn in his direction, which gets him moving again. He vaults over a gate and out into the lane at the same moment that a blue Toyota convertible, top down, is rounding the bend. Frank gets a glimpse of the driver and her passengers - three young female faces, all sharing one astonished expression and all turned in his direction - as the car cruises past. He turns away and retreats down the lane at a brisk walk, as if to run would make him somehow more conspicuous. Behind him the Toyota slews to a stop, and from within it come a shrill wolf whistle, raucous laughter and a girl's voice. "Hey, sexy! Need a lift somewhere?" No, thinks Frank - just a sack to cover my head and a hole in the ground to swallow me up. He quickens his pace and after a few seconds hears the car pull away again, a double tap of the horn and more laughter fading into the distance. At least, thinks Frank, they probably don't have room to turn around.

Another five hundred yards, another bend in the lane and there, thank God, is the couple's white Ford saloon. By ducking his head Frank can see Mary in the driver's seat, one foot propped up against the dashboard, reading her book. She looks up as he approaches, her expression hard to read except that there's a definite hint of amusement at the corners of her mouth.

Frank stalks up to the car, yanks at the handle of the passenger door and finds it locked. His wife cocks an eyebrow, but makes no move to open it.

"Christ, Mary," Frank says through the closed side window.

She's smirking openly now, and when she speaks her voice is muted by the glass. "Enjoy your walk?"

"No, not really. What the hell were you thinking?"

"That you'd like the chance to show off your superior male navigation skills. What happened, did you take a wrong turn?"

"Very funny."

Mary taps the face of her wristwatch. "Anyway - ten minutes, I said. You were fifteen, at least. A girl gets bored, left alone for too long."

Frank scowls, searches his memory. "What do you mean, 'ten minutes?' You said no such thing!"

"Didn't I? Oh. Well, I meant to. You probably distracted me with all that sulking."

Frank pulls at the handle again, uselessly. "Could you open the door?"

"What's the magic word?"

 "Please," sighs Frank.

"And where's your magic wand?"

Frank stares at Mary for a moment, and then lifts the switch for her to inspect. He'd almost forgotten he had it.

"Very nice. Very nice indeed. So, are you ready for your whipping?"


Mary reaches over and cracks the window an inch. "I said, Frank: are you ready for your whipping?"

Frank shakes his head weakly. "Please, love. Look, I'll apologise to your mother. Unlock the door and let's go home. I've... learned my lesson, alright?" He looks up and down the lane and then takes a step back, spreading his arms to indicate his nakedness. "Hey, I've spent the last half hour like this. I've hidden in bushes. I've been stung to buggery by nettles. I've been chased by farmers. I've been damn nearly abducted by predatory women. Now, come on. You've had your fun."

Mary sits back, opens her own door, and swings her feet out onto the dusty unmade surface of the lane. She pushes herself up from her seat, steps around to Frank's side of the car and takes the switch from his hand, flexing it until it forms an almost circular frame behind which her pretty face resolves itself into a tight-lipped smile.

"No," she says. "No I haven't."

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The hilltop is bathed in sunlight - maybe four hundred feet below her, Margaret calculates, with a glance at her altimeter. The shadows are longer than they were on her outbound trip, but it's still a beautiful afternoon and the sky is a flawless azure bowl stretching from horizon to horizon. She studies the aviation map on her lap: six miles back to the airfield, which at her current glide ratio should leave her about two hundred feet of altitude to spare by the time she crosses the perimeter. Cutting it a little fine, admittedly, but then twenty years' experience has given her plenty of confidence in the cockpit. She checks her watch. She'll be in the clubhouse by six and she's already looking forward to flirting with the new bartender, Matthew - twenty-three years old, and with a cute little arse that has her adding snacks to her order just because he has to bend down to get them. He lives locally, too, and he did blush very prettily when she told him what happens to naughty boys who miscount her change. Perhaps she'll take him to bed at the end of his shift - his bed, that is - and then he can bring her back to pick up her Jeep in the morning.

A glint of reflected sunlight below her catches Margaret's attention.

Down there in the lane, pointing off towards the distant town, is a solitary, white parked car. Probably a couple out for an intimate drive, Margaret smiles to herself, although it seems they might be having some trouble. He, shirtless by the look of it, is bending over the front of the vehicle as though to inspect the engine - but the bonnet is closed. She, a couple of feet behind him, seems to be gesturing with something. No, she's swinging her arm rhythmically back and forth.

As the glider draws level with the vehicle, and just before the scene disappears from view beneath her starboard wing, Margaret sees that the man isn't only bare from the waist up. He's actually... and the woman appears to be... "Oh my," she says aloud, "Well, there's one for the log book." Intrigued, Margaret considers going around for a second pass, and even as she looks behind her the glider begins to drift a little. Best not to risk it, she decides after a few moments. Not so many thermals at this time of day to help her home, and in any case she'll have a young man of her own to play with before the evening's out. She spots the drift and applies some corrective rudder and stick, and the aircraft obediently responds. Smiling, she pats the control column with a gloved hand. "Good boy," she says. "Good boy."

Monday 31 March 2014

The Dog Ate It... thousand-word assignment, that is, on the theme 'What Mary did to Frank during their picnic'.

Actually, it's not quite as drastic as that. The story I'd intended to publish this month is merely somewhat delayed, and I promise to get it posted just as soon as I can.

Meanwhile two of my favourite fellow bloggers have been kind enough to feature some of my work this week, which always makes me improbably giddy.

First up is Qbuzz, who's included a couple of pictures you won't find here; and then there's the lovely Ronnie, who's even written her own delicious text to accompany an illustration.

Both sites are rather ace, so if you're not already familiar with them do take the time to look around and say hello while you're there. :)