boy with a lily

Three Strikes and I'm Out

A Short Story
by Ivor Slipper

Of course it would happen today of all days, wouldn’t it? Any other day it would have been a pain, but today it is going to be a mega disaster. What is it my Pop calls it – Murphy’s Law or Sod’s Law I think, or maybe they are the same thing – you know when something happens that is sort of pre destined but you really don’t want it to happen?

Guess I’d better try and explain.

Me and my friends, Jake, Danny, Raul and Sam, are all heavily into bowling. Well, let’s face it there isn’t a lot else for a 14 year old to do in the evenings at the weekend in a smallish Texas town. I guess we’re lucky to have a bowling alley and a cinema too as at least they are places we can go so we don’t spend the weekend indoors. You see we’re not really into sports, apart from Raul who plays soccer. Danny is in the band at school but Jake and me (I’m Callum by the way – Callum Underhay) are just on the swim team. So I guess we do some sports but we’re not with the jocks if you follow me; nor are we with the nerds who spend all their lives studying. We all do enough to keep up our Grades so we don’t get into trouble at home but none of us are ever going to be the class valedictorian.

I’m noted for having an impish sense of humor and being a bit cheeky. I think it must be something to do with the red hair that I’ve got. I’ve quite a lot of it which is straight and long and can fall over my face if I don’t use a bit of hair gel. Don’t want it falling over my face as if it did it would conceal my sparkly blue eyes – yeah, not green eyes and I do have a few freckles but I reckon just about the right number. Even though I’ve got this impish sense of humor I do manage to keep it under control at school. I’ve had a few detentions in my time and had to write lines on more than one occasion, but I’ve never had to visit the VP Mr Hendricks for a taste of his paddle. Danny and Raul both have and said it stings like a bitch, but then quickly turns to just a dull ache.

So, we’ve been bowling for a few years now and we go on a Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon when it isn’t too busy or too expensive. But the people who run the place came up with the scheme a few weeks back that on a Friday afternoon provided you started playing by 4pm, you could have 3 games for the price of one. Now this special deal was going to run for a month and it was too good to miss. We got our parents to agree to us going by promising that as soon as we got home afterwards we get straight on with our homework and chores – no computer games or Internet. Then Jake had this brilliant idea. He suggested that we should all put the equivalent of what we’d pay for one of those free games into a pool and whoever had the highest score over the four weeks would take the pool. Well, as we’re all pretty much about the same standard everyone though it was a great idea. Even if we didn’t win the pool we’d still be getting three games for the price of two and if we did win…….well, there was going to be a fair few dollars to spend.

Now today is Friday and it is the last Friday of the deal and thus of our pool. The scores are all pretty close as you’d expect, but I’m just in the lead by ten points from Raul who is about the same number ahead of Jake with Danny bringing up the rear. The places have changed a bit over the three weeks and of course could change today. Well, they are going to change today as a result of Murphy or Sod or to be more exact Miss Samuels.

She’s our English teacher and this semester we are studying Jude the Obscure. Now I quite enjoy reading and I reckon I gave that book a fair chance for a week, but it is soooo boring! I just wish Jude had been more obscure and then perhaps Thomas Hardy would never have written about him and I’d have been saved the agony. What’s made it even worse is that the other main character in the story apart from Jude is Sue Bridehead and when I saw that name it made me think of Brideshead Revisited which my cousin Mary Beth studied last year at her school in Arkansas. When I saw her last Christmas she told me a bit about it – she’s the same age as me by the way – and I was hoping we’d get to study it this year, but no such luck.

So there we were sitting there ‘enjoying’ Jude and I was so bored that I started digging around in the pocket of my jeans and there I found a tootsie roll. Reckon it must have been there for a week or so, but anything to relieve the boredom, so I quietly unwrapped it and put it in my mouth. Can’t have been more than half a minute and the old b…. – Miss Samuels that is – asks me a question. Of course as soon as I start to answer it she can tell that I’ve got something in my mouth.

“Are you eating something Underhay?”

“Yes, Miss. A sweet.”

“You know full well that eating sweets in class is not allowed. I pointed that out only last week to one of your classmates, but it seems the message hasn’t got through. Very well you can do an hour’s detention this afternoon and let that be a warning to the rest of you. If I find anyone else eating in my class this semester they’ll be referred to Mr Hendricks.”

“But, Miss…”

“No buts Underhay – unless you want to present yours to Mr Hendricks?”

That produced a little smattering of laughter from the rest of the class while I just blushed – something us redheads seems able to do with ease.

That happened during the morning and of course my buds all commiserated with me at lunch break. Jake, good friend that he is did suggest that we could defer the final bowling session until next Friday. But that didn’t seem right either as we’d set the rules weeks ago and anyway if we did we’d have to pay full price for the games. Raul then suggested we could end the contest and accept the current standings, but that didn’t seem right either and I said I wasn’t prepared to do that. So there it is, they’re going to be bowling and I’m going to be sat in detention. Even if I went to the bowling alley after detention finished they’d have got through at least one game so I’d be so many points behind I’d have no chance of winning. Sometimes I decided life just sucks.


In our school there is one classroom that is always used for detentions every day. On Fridays the teacher who supervises is the VP; I don’t know why but he always does Fridays. There is also a set system for what you can or can’t do in detention. Basically it amounts to you having to do some sort of work, but you aren’t allowed to do your homework nor to write out any lines or essay you may have been given as a punishment. With most of us kids that really means we sit and read, but naturally it has to be an ‘educational’ book or some sort of textbook. And naturally you aren’t allowed to use your phone or talk to anyone else during the time you’re there; just come in, sit down at a desk, get your book out and start reading.

During the afternoon I’d had this sort of weird idea come to me. I’d probably never had tried it, but when I got to the assigned classroom I found no other student there and nor had Mr Hendricks arrived. So, I decided I’d give it a go and see what happened. Mr Hendricks had a reputation of being strict but fair and had been known to take a relaxed view on some of the student fun activities and anyway I reckoned I didn’t have anything to lose.

Instead of sitting down at a desk I decided to sit on one instead. I didn’t even take off my backpack, but I did extract from it a lolly. My aunt had given me a jar of these at Christmas. I guess some people call them ‘suckers’ but I didn’t go much on that name – sounded a bit gross to me – and anyway it said on the jar that they were lollies. They are this round hard boiled sweet that is on the end of a thin stick about three inches long. I often stick one in my mouth when I’m riding home from school on my bike; sort of rounds off the day nicely.

So there I am sat on this desk all nonchalant like, my right hand wrapped over the edge of it keeping me upright and my right leg sort of folded underneath me while my left leg is bent into a sort of v shape with my sneaker clad foot resting on the side edge of the desk. And my left hand is holding this lolly while my mouth is open and my tongue is just about to lick it. Oh, and I’m looking at the door just waiting and then Mr Hendricks comes in……

“Underhay isn’t it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And according to the note I received you are here for an hour’s detention for eating sweets during your English class – correct?”

“Yes, sir.”

“But here you are not sitting reading as prescribed, not even sitting properly and eating a sweet again.”

Here we go I thought……

“Not eating sir, but licking” I put a bit of emphasis on the last word.

“Is there a difference? Eating, sucking, licking?”

“Yes, sir. Licking is definitely different.” Again I emphasised that word.

He looked at me and I thought I saw the start of a little smile begin to form at the corners of his mouth.

“Licking is indeed different Underhay. It is what you get for repeating the same offence which it seems to me you are deliberately doing. Are you trying to tell me something?”

“Erm….Sort of, sir.”

And then I told him about the bowling pool and how I was going to miss out unless perhaps he’d paddle me rather than give me detention and then he needn’t sit here for an hour and could go home and……

I’d startled to ramble when he put his hand up.

“Whoa! I get the picture. You really want me to paddle you so you can go off and enjoy yourself as you originally planned?”

That didn’t sound so good put that way, but…..

“Yes, sir.” What else could I say?

“Hmmm. Not sure I’m keen on boys choosing their own punishment. Have you been paddled before?”

“No, sir.”

“Thought I didn’t recall your name in that respect. You must really want the chance to win that pool.”

He stood there for some seconds.

“What are you expecting this afternoon Underhay – three strikes?”

“It’ll have to be more than that or I won’t win.” I blurted out.

 As I finished though he started to chuckle and I realized what he’d meant.

“Oh shi…..” I stopped myself just in time, but his chuckle continued.

“Strikes, licks – funny how words have different meanings isn’t it. Perhaps you should raise that with Miss Samuels some time, eh? I was considering two licks for the original offence in lieu of the detention and one extra for the second lick. How does that sound?”

I’d reckoned on at least three and possibly four if he’d agreed, so that sounded fair to me.

“Three strikes and I’m out, sir?”

Now he really did laugh.

“You’re a cheeky young man, Underhay. Don’t push your luck too far. We need to go to my office; follow me.”

It wasn’t far to his office and once inside he closed the door and went to sit behind his desk. He opened a drawer, pulled out the paddle and laid it on the top of the desk.

I’d heard about it but never seen it so I gulped at first sight. It was a shiny light brown colour as if it had been varnished. The business end was about a foot long and about three inches wide and it looked about a quarter of an inch thick. There was also a handle about four inches long so he could get a good grip. My right hand went to my butt and rubbed it. Was this such a good idea I asked myself?

“Take your backpack off; remove anything from the back pocket of your jeans; then come and put your toes on the strip of tape in front of my desk, bend forward and lay your forearms on the desk.”

There was no going back now and I was suddenly glad that I was wearing jeans today and not shorts as I often do. I slipped off the backpack before taking my wallet and comb out of my back pocket and placing them on his desk. I moved to the piece of tape and then bent forward as instructed. 

Mr Hendricks picked up the paddle, stood up from his chair and walked round the desk to stand slightly behind me and to my left – he was obviously right handed. I felt the paddle sort of rub across my jeans a couple of times and then……Wham! There was this sort of thuddy noise and suddenly my butt felt as if it had run into a brick wall at eighty miles an hour, not that it ever has, but I just don’t know how to describe what I felt. I’m sure I yelped ‘cos it hurt and it sorta surprised me too. There was a pause and I guess he was allowing me time to sorta recover and prepare myself for the next lick. Ha! – lick didn’t do it justice; strike was much nearer the mark. Then the second one came in, hard and low and lifted me onto my toes. I grunted at this one, but at least I wasn’t crying although I could almost feel the tears beginning to form at the corners of my eyes. Fortunately though there was only one more to come. Once again there was a pause and then the final strike came, landing pretty much where the first one did. Either I was getting used to it or that one hadn’t been so hard.

I was still gathering my thoughts when I heard his voice,

“Okay, that’s it – you can stand up now.”

I levered myself off the desk. I wanted to rub my butt and try and get some of the sting out of it, but I also didn’t want to do that in front of him, so I busied myself putting my comb and wallet back in my jeans.

“How are you getting to the bowling alley? You’re too young to drive aren’t you?”

“I’ve got my bike, sir.”

He laughed but not unkindly.

“I think you may want to ride standing on the pedals!”

I thought he might have a point and I hoped it wasn’t going to affect my bowling.

“Okay Underhay, you can go and I hope you get some more strikes.”

“So do I, sir, but perhaps more spread out.”

He chuckled as I bent down to pick up my backpack. As I started to lift it off the floor he said,

“Have you got any more of those lollies in there?”

Oh, shite…..he’s not going to confiscate them is he. I’d got a few as I intended to give one to each of my buds after the game.

“Yes, I have sir.”

“Can I have one – I fancy a few more licks.”

He was smiling as he said it, so I opened the relevant pocket of my backpack and pulled out a couple. As it happened one was green and the other red, so I gave him the red one, hoping I wasn’t pushing it too far.

He took it with a further chuckle adding

“I guess that’s the right color for me, or do you want to keep it for yourself?”

I managed a smile back, hefted my backpack onto my shoulder, turned and walked to the door. Just as I put my hand on the handle to pull it open I heard his voice again,


I half turned to look at him wondering what he wanted now.

“I hope you get more than three strikes this time; and let me know Monday how you got on.”

“I will sir – and thanks!”

Jeeze, I thought to myself as I opened the door, had I really just thanked the VP for paddling my butt! But if he hadn’t I’d still be sat at a desk reading Jude the  Friggin’ Obscure instead of which….. I made a rapid exit from the school building while at the same time giving my butt a few good rubs and found my bike.

When I got on it I made the mistake of sitting on the saddle which wasn’t padded. Mr Hendricks had been right, sitting down wasn’t going to be easy, but walking hadn’t seemed too bad. The bowling alley was only a couple of blocks away and I made it there in only a few minutes standing on the pedals nearly all the way. I locked it and then dashed inside.

My buds were of course astonished to see me but all I wanted to see was how far they’d got in the game. Fortunately for me they’d got off to a slow start and had only had two rounds.

“How the hell did you get here?” asked Jake.

“Yeah, you’re supposed to be doing an hour’s detention” added Raul.

“You didn’t cut out, did you?” asked Sam.

“Okay guys. You ain’t gonna believe this, but I got Hendricks to paddle me!”

There was a chorus of ‘No Ways’; ‘You’re kidding’; ‘Don’t believe you’ and similar. So I told them what had happened from start to finish. When I’d got there, Danny says,

“Still not sure I believe you, Callum. Reckon you’ll have to show as well as tell.”

“Hey, guys – that’s not fair. Neither you or Raul showed when you got licks.”

“True, but you all knew we were getting paddled. We’ve only got your word for it.”

“Yeah – show and tell” the rest chorused.

“Okay, Okay!” I said with a laugh. “But not here. You can come back to my place after and I’ll show you there. Now add me on the board, I’ve gotta get into this game – and I’m gonna lick your butts!”

That brought groans and jeers from them, but they were glad to see me. I started off bowling like a demon and soon got those three strikes. A few more came my way too and I didn’t start to feel my butt until we were into the third game. Towards the end of that though it was beginning to ache and I wasn’t moving quite so freely, but I just managed to hold on and win the pool.

I’d intended to use that money to buy a new game for my x-box, but instead I told the guys I’d take them all out to the cinema and for a burger and ice cream on Saturday as I didn’t fancy sitting down tonight. Still didn’t get me out of showing them my butt though!