The BendsBy: Art Zeeton
domestic discipline behind closed doors
1. A Caning for Connie
The reality of life in the Bends came home to Constance McKinley one Saturday afternoon in early September. Her family was so new to the neighborhood that she still had to drive slowly on Sycamore Trace to watch for the tiny sign that marked the Bends from the other gated communities.
She pulled up to the hut where the guard normally waved her through, but this time he signaled her to stop. She slid down her window.
"Is there a problem?"
"A small one, ma'am. Would you mind parking and stepping out of the car?"
Her heart fluttered a little. The Homeowners' Association Guidelines - a massive volume - contained a section on security gate protocol, which she had given just a cursory read. She glanced at Kelli, who was in the passenger seat bobbing her head to something on her ear-buds.
"I'll be just a minute," she said.
The girl, who Jake had begun calling ‘Mini-Mom’ because she had inherited her mother's red hair and soft freckles, ignored her.
Connie stepped out of the van and faced the guard, a fireplug of a man who stretched the buttons on his khaki shirt and was a head shorter than she. 'Rollins' was emblazoned on his name-tag.
"What's the trouble, Mr. Rollins?"
"Got a report of some things left in your front yard: a soccer ball and goal."
She frowned. She had told Kelli to put those things away before they left, but because the McKinleys' home had a rear-entry garage, she hadn't noticed the lawn when they drove off to the store. Her initial inclination was to argue that they had only been away for a couple of hours and a soccer ball and goal left in the yard wasn't a big deal. But she checked herself.
This, after all, was what the Bends was all about. More than the security, the lush green space, and the tightly restricted architectural standards, the Bends was about rigorously imposed community discipline. After hours of soul searching, Jake and Constance McKinley had decided it was right for them.
For the first five weeks nothing had happened, but Connie knew that had to change. And it was obvious it was going to change that day.
"I've got ice cream in the car, Mr. Rollins," she said softly.
"Then we'll make it quick. Please step over to the screen, Mrs. McKinley."
The screen was a decorative barrier of rustic planks nailed across posts and engraved with Willowbends - Welcome! on the side that faced the entry. A grab bar was attached to its backside.
"Is this your first experience at the Bends, Mrs. McKinley?" She nodded. "Well, in the event you've forgotten what the guidelines say - or maybe you haven't read them - violations reported to the gate earn you a ticket. One copy goes to your husband, to deal with as he sees fit. The second goes to the Association Directors - to deal with as they see fit."
"I see. Is that all?"
He took a slender length of polyurethane hanging by its handle from a hook on one post. He flicked it through the air, producing a sound not unlike the ripping of a sheet.
"Not quite, Mrs. McKinley."
Connie nodded slowly and shoved her shades up on her head.
"I see. How many, Mr. Rollins?"
"Five, Mrs. McKinley."
She walked behind the barrier, glancing over her shoulder to be sure Kelli was still engrossed in her music.
"We've only been in the Bends a few weeks, Mr. Rollins. I haven't been through this - procedure."
"It's pretty meat and potatoes, ma'am. Just take those shorts down."
She felt the prickle of a flush begin on her neck and work its way up her face. This special corner of her existence had until this moment been lived in the privacy of her home with just her husband. She fumbled at the buttons, which normally she could open in an instant. Mr. Rollins waited patiently.
Finally the khaki walking shorts opened. She paused for an instant, then slid them down the length of her legs.
"Those, too," he said, pointing the tip of his device at her cotton briefs.
"Mr. Rollins, my daughter is -"
"I'm sure she'll be fine, Mrs. McKinley."
She took a deep breath, then pushed her panties down to join the shorts at her ankles. She stood, naked from tee shirt to white socks, her right hand moving instinctively to cover the thatch that was only a shade darker than the hair on her head.
"Now, ma'am, turn and grab the bar."
She hesitated. She could say no, pull up her shorts, and walk away. But that really wasn't an option, so she complied, turning and grasping the metal pole that was positioned just low enough that she was forced to bend at the waist.
"And put a foot on each stone," Mr. Rollins said, a hint of military rote entering his voice.
She looked down to see two paving stones, identical to ones she and Jake had put in the backyard flowerbeds, positioned about a foot apart. She kicked shorts and panties free of one ankle and placed her feet on the stones. She knew from the dresser mirror in her bedroom the view she was presenting to Mr. Rollins.