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redressed.jpg
Art by Steve Cartwright 2016

REDRESSED

 

By Lee Todd Lacks

 

Amy Maloney had been working at St.  Felicia's Hospital for just over a week, when several doses of valium went missing from the med closet.  It didn't take long for the other nurses on the unit to realize that pills seemed to vanish whenever Amy was on duty, and since she was scheduled to work the following day, they felt obligated to report to the nurse manager.  When Amy arrived the next morning, she was sent to the large, rectangular room, where the nurses often met during shift changes.  Upon entering, she was surprised to discover well over thirty nurses lined up along the far wall, at least a dozen of whom were not scheduled to work first shift.  The young nurse-in-training presumed that this morning’s meeting must be very important for these girls to have reported on their own time.  In the center of the room, there stood a tall examining table.   The younger girls spoke in hushed voices while waiting for the nurse manager to arrive.  All chatter ceased a few minutes later, when Nurse O’Brien walked through the door.  Despite being short in stature, Eileen O'Brien was a formidable nurse manager.  A fiercely principled  woman, she held her staff to the highest ethical standards.  Her demeanor seemed unusually grave that morning as she shut and locked the door.  Turning her attention to the matter at hand, Nurse O’Brien found Amy squirming in her seat. 

"Miss Maloney,” the nurse manager began, “it has come to my attention that several 40 milligram tablets of valium have gone unaccounted for during the past ten days.  The medication log indicates that you have been on duty each time this medication has been reported missing.  What do you have to say for yourself?"  Unable to withstand the disapproving glares of sisters, mothers, aunts, and grandmothers, Amy quickly confessed to her wrongdoing.  "Um…um…um…I'm sorry, ma'am." she stammered. 

"This is a very serious offense, Miss Maloney.  One which must be dealt with swiftly.  Come over to the table, please."  While Nurse O'Brien's request confused and frightened her, Amy slowly walked over to the table, and turned to face her fellow nurses.  "Please stand with your back to the staff, Miss Maloney." Though Nurse O'Brien's instruction confused Amy even further, she did as she was told, and turned her back to all those in attendance. "Nurse Fallon.  Nurse Cahill.  Will you join us, please." 

Bonnie Fallon and Donna Cahill were seasoned charge nurses, both of whom had worked on the unit for well over ten years.  They were strong, stocky women, who commanded great respect from the younger girls.  Bonnie walked around the table until she stood facing Amy on the opposite side.  Donna then approached from behind, and took her position just a few inches to Amy's left. 

At this point, Bonnie reached across the examining table and grabbed hold of Amy's wrists, tugging till the young nurse-in-training lay prone over the narrow side, with her feet still touching the floor.   Donna then proceeded to unbutton Amy's uniform skirt, which prompted the young woman to cry out, "What are you doing?!" 

Nurse O'Brien replied calmly, "Miss Maloney.  You have committed an unlawful act, and now, you must suffer the consequences." 

"Consequences?!" Amy inquired fretfully. 

"Yes," the nurse manager elaborated,  "on this unit, we prefer to resolve disciplinary matters amongst ourselves.  The choice is yours.  You can either choose to accept the punishment that I have in mind for you, or I can discharge you, here and now, and hand you over to the proper authorities." 

Amy gasped.  "Oh, no!  Please!" 

"What do you choose, Miss Maloney?" Nurse O’Brien asked.  After a long silence, Amy announced softly, "I shall suffer the consequences."

"A wise choice," the nurse manager remarked.  "Nurse Cahill, please proceed." Having unbuttoned the skirt of Amy's pinstriped uniform, Donna hiked it up well past her hips, subsequently revealing the snug-fitting cotton panties that she wore beneath her sheer white nylon hose.  Nurse Cahill then put her fingers inside the waistbands of these undergarments, and deftly slid them below Amy's knees.  With her bare bottom exposed to the entire department, the young nurse-in-training began to sob. 

Nurse O'Brien spoke again.  "Understand, Miss Maloney, that you will not be permitted to withdraw from your punishment once it has begun.  So, I shall ask you one last time.  Are you prepared to suffer the consequences for your gross misconduct?"  Overcome with shame, Amy could only manage a feeble nod. 

"Very well, then.” stated the nurse manager with considerable solemnity.  At this point, Amy heard the sound of Nurse O'Brien walking towards a far corner of the room.  When the footsteps stopped, Amy noticed the sound of a closet door creaking open.  The young nurse-in-training shuddered as she imagined what Nurse O'Brien might be retrieving from this closet.  Her fears were soon validated as several onlookers gasped in unison.  Nurse O'Brien walked back towards Amy carrying what appeared to be a slender wooden towel rod, nearly four feet long, and half an inch in diameter.  As the nurse manager drew within striking distance, she declared her makeshift implement of correction by swishing it through the air.  Amy instantly recognized the telltale sound.  Recalling those very unpleasant occasions when her grandmother had taken a switch to her, she sniveled in anticipation of her bottom’s sorry fate. 

Moments later, a heartrending wail echoed across the unit, as Nurse O’Brien stung Amy’s backside with the dreaded towel rod.  Subsequent strokes induced similarly distressed wailing, until the cadence of Amy’s outbursts became a drone of heaving sobs.  As her caning continued, Amy struggled desperately to pull away from Nurse Fallon.  Though Bonnie had the utmost compassion for the young nurse-in-training, she nevertheless refused to let her go.  Few understood the perils of substance abuse better than she, having tended to countless overdose patients during her twelve years on the unit.  Several nurses in attendance, who had once found themselves in Amy's position, couldn’t bear to witness.  By the 1950’s, nurses at St.  Felicia's rarely received anything worse than demerits for minor conduct violations.   However, those accused of snatching pills were still subject to corporal punishment.

Nurse O'Brien administered another thirteen strokes before determining that Amy had been sufficiently chastened.  By this point, Amy felt as though her rear end had been singed with a branding iron.  The nurse manager knew from experience that most girls needed a few minutes to compose themselves before they were capable of engaging in any sort of meaningful dialogue.  After what seemed like an interminably long time, the nurse manager admonished the rueful girl.  "Miss Maloney, I sincerely hope that today's proceedings will lead you to reconsider, should you ever feel the impulse to pilfer medicines from this hospital again."  Amy replied between whimpers, having ruled out the possibility of sitting anytime soon.  “Yes, m…m…ma’am.  Most definitely.”  Bonnie held on to Amy’s wrists as Nurse O’Brien concluded.  "Now, Miss Maloney, have you anything to say to your fellow nurses?”  With her thoroughly punished bottom still turned towards them, Amy declared, "I'm so…so…sorry, ladies!"

"That's alright, Amy," came the assuring refrain, as women who understood the necessity of painful procedures offered their support.  Noting the thin, crimson welts that crosshatched Amy's buttocks and thighs, some of the older nurses quipped, "Now, that's a candy striper!"

 

 


gratuitystrap7.jpg
Art by Lee Todd Lacks 2016

GRATUITY

by Lee Todd Lacks

You know your waitress works sixty hours a week

before she tells you her name, and her feet and her

back never cease to complain about all the night

shifts she has to take.

 

Your white cane and glasses bear a mixed message.

She thinks you’re not blind, so you must be malingering,

ordering your breakfast at half past noon.    

 

Your waitress rushes to reverse her judgment as

she stands with her back to your darkening eye.

mortified for you to see her leaning

over the counter with her dress up high

peeling her pantyhose down to her knees,

baring her rear end out in the aisle,

sorely in need of your firm reproval,

letting your strap sting her out of denial.

 

 

 


maybethen.jpg
Art by Lee Todd Lacks 2019

MAYBE THEN

 

by Lee Todd Lacks

 

i.

 

Maybe then, I could have taken it,

if they had let us lay across

opposite sides of the desk

or the table

or the bench

or the tree stump,

so that we could face one another

as we held hands.

 

Maybe then, I would have been

less afraid,

even after you watched me pull

down my pants, and I watched you

lift up your dress,

and we stood with our underwear

at our knees,

just before we got spanked

again

by your mom

or my mom

or the principal

or the pastor.

 

Maybe then, our souls would

have been forged together by

the fires they were lighting

beneath us.

 

Maybe then, I would have been brave

like Tom Sawyer

proclaiming, “It was all my fault!

She doesn’t deserve to get spanked!”

with the paddle

or the hairbrush

or the strap

or the switch.

 

“God gave her the freedom

to choose,” the adults would say,

“and she chose wrong.”

 

I might not have been able

to take it

when the miserable sting

made you cry,

not until I was blubbering

“I’m so sorry!” over

and over again.

 

“It’s all right!” you’d wail,

like you really meant it,

as our tears puddled

on the desk

or the table

or the bench

or the tree stump,

until my heart hurt

even worse than your bottom.

 

But when it was my turn,

you’d squeeze my hands tight and

stare into my eyes,

whispering,

“You’re so brave!”

like you really meant it,

as I bawled

on the desk

or the table

or the bench

or the tree stump.

 

Later, we’d meet

beneath the tree

that we believed to be

well out of sight

hugging and

crying ourselves out,

until all the pain

and the shame

and the guilt

were gone.

 

Maybe then, I could have taken it.

 

 

ii.

 

The grown-ups would know

enough to let us presume

that we were well beyond their

tear-blurred sight as they watched us

hug and cry ourselves out

beneath some carefully chosen hickory tree,

each of us trembling from a

thousand different sensations

as we absorbed each other's

pain and wrung it out like sponges.

 

 

iii.

 

Will you be that girl who

lays across the table from me?

Will you hold my hands?

Will you suffer and prevail with me?

Holler, weep, and wail with me?

Will you stare into my eyes

so that I can count all of your tears?

Will you let me be strong and brave with you?

Let me misbehave with you?

Will you forgive me when we

lay across that table, yet again?

Will you help me find the words

so that I can speak your deepest truth?

Will you help me find the words

to name the truth that shames and frightens me?

Will you answer if I ask you to stand beneath that tree?

Will you believe me if I tell you all that I believe?



Lee Todd Lacks seeks to blur the distinctions between rants, chants, anecdotes, and anthems.  His experience of living with significant vision and hearing deficits often informs his writing and artwork, which have appeared in The Monarch Review, The Quarterday Review, Crack The Spine Anthology, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Yellow Mama Webzine, Liquid Imagination, and elsewhere. In May of 2017, Lee Todd presented selections of his poetry at Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) in collaboration with a group of multimedia artists from the United States and Romania. In August of 2018, HellBound Books Publishing released his second book, entitled Nothing Between Friends.

In Association with Fossil Publications